You Can’t Earn Righteousness
Paul continues his discussion on the cure for sin and in Romans 4 he emphasizes that justification, being made right before God, cannot happen by human effort or works, but by faith in Jesus. Paul focuses on the life of Abraham, a sort of hero of the Jewish religion. Paul’s argument is that Abraham is stated to have believed in God even before he was given the practice of circumcision and Abraham pre-dates the giving of the law that we have in Exodus. The Bible says that “Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness.” The righteousness that comes from God does not come through human effort or works. It is really a great argument that Paul makes and I think it is an argument that needs to be made today.
In my experience the vast majority of people, more than 90%, believe they will go to heaven when they die. Have you ever been to a funeral where it wasn’t assumed that the person who died was “in a better place”? or “with family that has gone before”? But when I ask people a question like this, “Why do you believe you will go to heaven when you die?” the answer is almost always, “because I’m a good person, or at least a not so bad person”. The human mind appears to be hard-wired to think that human effort is the key to salvation…that we can earn our way to forgiveness of sin and justification before God. But the Bible couldn’t be any clearer that this is not possible. In my study I believe that every other religion, outside of Christianity, teaches that the path to favor with God is through good works. That makes sense because every other religion is man-made; so, man is going to come up with that idea. However, even Christianity is infected by this disease. Even many who would identify as Christian, and even some teachers of the Bible, emphasize works and human deeds over the grace of God available through Jesus Christ. The “pull” of human works is strong.
As we continue to read Romans, you will be convinced that there is no way to receive forgiveness of sin based on human effort. The best effort of man falls way short…but the work of Jesus on the cross satisfied the sin debt of all of us…trust in Jesus. Paul ends the chapter with these words: 24 …It (justification) shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. I’ll let Paul have the last word today!