“Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:4-5).
In our witness for the Lord, Romans 4:4-5 are good verses to commit to memory. The reason is that they state the opposite of what most people think about how to be saved. Most believe that the way to be right with God is to be good and to earn your way to heaven by doing good things. These verses say something different.
When people work at their jobs and get their paychecks, they are entitled to their wages. They earned them. They worked for it and have a right to expect whatever they have coming based on an agreed-upon salary. And the employer is indebted to pay employees for their work. People don’t go to their employers after receiving their paychecks, thank them for the gracious gift of money, and protest that they didn’t deserve it. Instead, people take that check and go home, knowing that they earned it and are being reimbursed for their time and labor.
Many want to believe it’s the same way for going to heaven, that you work for it and earn it, that you get what’s coming to you, and salvation is a reward. But that is not the way it is with salvation. It is the complete opposite way. Salvation is “to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (v. 4).
No one receives salvation and God’s righteousness by working for it. It is given “to him that worketh not.” We have nothing to offer God in our unrighteous state. And God’s righteousness is not and cannot be earned. It’s not something we work for and so God owes it to us; it is something we receive by faith alone in Christ.
Work yields wages that the person working deserves or earns. Faith receives a gift that the person believing does not deserve or earn. To have God’s righteousness imputed to our account, and to be justified and declared righteous by God, we simply “[believe] on Him that justifieth the ungodly.” We trust in the Lord. We take God at His Word. We place our faith in Him when His Word tells us that Christ died for our sins and rose again (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Trusting God and His good news, we are made righteous by God.
God justifies, not the godly or the good, but “the ungodly” by their faith in Him. Romans 3:10,23 tells us, “There is none righteous, no, not one” and “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” We are all unrighteous sinners. God justifies the ungodly because there are no godly for Him to justify! All are ungodly in His sight. God justifies any who believe in Him.
You don’t need to clean up your act first or repent and turn from your sins to be saved, as is commonly taught. You just come as you are, as an ungodly sinner, throw yourself on the grace and mercy of God, and believe. You just trust Christ as your personal Savior and that’s it. The righteousness of God is received by faith alone strictly as a free gift from God. Have you believed?
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.