We often hear the phrase, “Faith without works is dead,” quoted from James chapter 2, in sermons and lessons about the importance of DOING. Now these are a wonderful set of verses, however, Romans 4 clarifies that works without faith are also dead. Our works, and the goodness of our works, are measured on a human scale; any good deed one might do could have any number of motives. God looks at the heart, not our outward performance, in order that we may be saved by grace and not by our own works.
“And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteous” Romans 4:5
Paul admits that Abraham’s works are impressive; he displayed his righteousness in the way he lived. However, his works alone were not what made him righteous in God’s eyes. God sees much more than we ever could. Abraham was promised that he would be the father of many nations because of his righteousness of faith, for it is true belief in our LORD that determines godly righteousness, and God saw that Abraham truly believed.
This is such a beautiful thing, because this process of forgiveness and redemption and justification applied to Abraham “not just for his sake alone, but for ours also” (Romans 4:23-24). We are justified not by works, but by faith, because 1. our works could never cut it, and 2. our works are a faulty means of character assessment. Because God looks at our hearts to determine our righteousness, our hearts are what we need to keep in check. Don’t sully your good works with a hardened heart. Every good work we do should be done for the sake of serving our Father, and not for the purpose of serving our own selfish desires, greed, and self-centeredness. Good works need to sprout from a pure motive, or else it’s no longer a good work. I thank God that we, like Abraham, may be counted righteous by our faith, and hope that we all will strive to be just as intentional in our inward thoughts, emotions, and faith (what God sees) as we are in our outward actions, words, and works (what man sees).
- How do verses 5-8 give us hope? Who is justified under this blessing?
- If godly righteousness does not come through the law or works, but by faith, then why is it sometimes so hard to attain godly righteousness?
- How can you grow in godly righteousness?