There is a chorus we sing in church on a regular basis which goes like this:
For from Him and to Him and through Him are all things…
The chorus was written around the words in Romans 11:36, but if ever a piece of scripture bore out those words it is this section of Romans 4.
This website and blog are titled the Free Gift From God and those words too are made clear in this short section of scripture in Romans 4. For it is made abundantly evident what and how much we have been given and what we do for it in these few verses.
The primary message in these few verses is about the free gift of righteousness that we are given as a gift from God.
Paul uses the example of Abraham to show that the gift of righteousness was given to him as a gift. It was freely given by God, not on the basis of anything that Abraham had done, but on the basis of what he believed.
And Paul goes on to show later that we stand in the same place. Just as Abraham was deemed righteous by God on the basis of his faith, we too are deemed righteous through faith also.
Faith is the key to being able to stand before God. God has established His kingdom for us to be able to enter now, and it is by faith that we gain entry into His kingdom.
Faith is the leveller for all of mankind because every person has the capacity and ability to believe and thus we are all equally able to receive the free gifts from God. And when we believe, God freely gives us His gifts so that we can grow and learn and advance and become mature in Jesus Christ.
It is by faith that the journey starts and the most wonderful thing about the free gifts from God is that we DON'T have to work for them. God gives us the free gifts from the beginning of our walk.
We do not have to struggle, strive and work to become righteous. As soon as we believe, God bestows His righteousness on us, forgives our sins and takes them away and releases us from the bondages of sin and law. This all happens on Day 1 when we have faith and believe what The Lord has done for us in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Faith is the only way we can stand righteous before God because that is what God established as the mechanism by which we can come to him. And one of the first gifts we receive by faith is righteousness, just as Abraham was declared righteous by God.
The simple fact is that what stands between man and God is sin. It is because of sin that worldly man has fallen from God's grace and fallen short of the glory of God.
It was also because of sin that God gave up on man. If you read Romans chapter 1 you see it says on three or four occasions that God gave up on man because of the sin of mankind. You can almost imagine God throwing His hands in the air in frustration while looking at the evil men commit and saying, “I give up! Why did I make this people who continually choose the evil path rather than what is good!”
So if God gave up on mankind because of sin, and assuming He wanted to help those of mankind that wanted to seek what is good and to learn how to do right again, then God needed to develop a process by which He could overlook His decision to give up on man and help those who sought Him out.
That is where faith came into play. Faith is the escape clause in God's contract with the world. The contract says, if you sin you will bear condemnation and die, but if you have faith in Jesus Christ you will live.
Those people who really want to find God and to understand, learn and do what is good must first believe in Him before they can seek Him out. And as people make the decision to believe and seek God out and learn to obey Him and do what is good and right and true, then God blesses their initial spark of faith.
God says, “Because you choose to believe in me and my words and to seek me out, I will declare you righteous!”
Why? Because if God is going to help us the barrier of sin must be taken away. He already said He has given up on man because of sin, and He proved how much He gave up on man with the destruction of the sinful world apart from Noah and his family and again with the destruction of sinful Sodom and Gomorrah with the exception of righteous Lot and his daughters.
So when God declares a person righteous, he overlooks their sins and removes the law so they cannot break it in the future and adds His grace to them to cover any of the inevitable mistakes and misdeeds a person will commit while they are learning and growing to maturity as they walk with God.
The point of the declaration of righteousness by faith from God is not just for our benefit, but for God's benefit also. In this declaration He is saying, “I accept you and release you from sin and am now prepared to help you to learn my ways.” In the free gift of righteousness God is opening the way for us to stand before Him, and also opening the way for Him to help us.
Have we not always said that our walk with God and coming to The Lord is all about a relationship? Well a relationship is a two way thing that is meant to be beneficial to both sides of the relationship. And by giving us this free gift of righteousness by faith we get the gift and God gets a people who are desiring to do His will and to obey Him and be prepared to learn how to be reformed into the image of God through Jesus Christ.
Why not Works?
Paul also talks about why Abraham was made righteous by faith and not by works in the start of Romans 4. He says that if Abraham actually DID anything to receive the gift of righteousness, then he would have a reason to boast.
And therein lies the problem with righteousness by works.
If righteousness were received through works, then some people would be in a better position to receive than others. Some people are more able, capable, talented, creative and so on than others and therefore would be more able to do the works to be righteous than others.
Also if it were based upon works then righteousness would not be from God but by a person's own will and exertion. They would and could literally say, “I made myself righteous!” And that is the point about the boasting that Paul writes about here in Romans 4.
Boasting is not driven by humility but by pride. One who boasts is not doing so by or from the will of God, but from their own will. When a person boasts they become haughty and they look down upon others saying to themselves, “I am better than you.”
And because it is based in pride, works fail to achieve the will of God for what makes a person righteousness. Pride led to the downfall of man because in the garden Adam and Eve chose through pride to listen to satan rather than to obey God. Pride is the antithesis of all that God stands for and seeks from His people.
And works lead to pride. When a person does something with which they are pleased, they can become proud. “Look at me! Look at what I have done! Look at what I have achieved!”
Such works and such thinking is focused on me…me…me. Not on God and not on other people. And that thinking is not of God.
Thus works are a failure when it comes to seeking out and receiving the blessings of God because in the weakness of man works can lead to pride, arrogance and the very things that God hates.
Look at the religious leaders of Jesus' day when He walked on the earth. They prided themselves in their works, how they followed the letter of the law, how they tithed even the herbs of their gardens and so on. But Jesus saw them as hypocrites because they were deluded believing their works made them righteous rather than obedience to God. They thought that by following the letter of the law they were good people and better than others, and that is pride and arrogance, the very things God does NOT want from His people.
And it is for that reason that God chose the path of faith to be the path to righteousness rather than any form of works, even following the goodness of His laws for men twisted those and became proud as Jesus showed.
All good things come from God. The free gift of righteousness by faith was established by God to enable us to stand before Him in readiness to receive His gifts.
As I said earlier, this is just the starting point for the Christian. All other gifts come later as we learn, grow and mature in Christ. And it is by faith that we receive these free gifts from God.
And like Abraham we receive the free gift of righteousness by faith when we first believe. We begin with righteousness when we first believe. Look at Abraham. When did God declare him righteous? Was it before or after the promises of God that he would become the father of many nations came to pass? It was not after but right at the beginning when he was first told of this wondrous gift of a son that he would receive. It was at the very start of his faith journey that God declared Abraham righteous by faith.
And so it is with us too. As soon as we declare our faith in Jesus Christ and the power of salvation and redemption we receive through His sacrifice, which we put on in our baptism into the death of Jesus Christ, that is when we too are declared righteous by faith. Right up front. Right at the beginning of our walk.
So if God says you are righteous when you start your walk, should you go against what He has declared righteous and call it something evil or filthy? That is, if God says you are righteous, will you call yourself an unrighteous sinner? Do you not recall also the words of Romans 8 which says there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ?
So do not condemn yourself as a sinner when God says you are clean and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Do not degrade His sacrifice, which was made to remove your sins and make you clean to stand before the Father in righteousness, for when you say you are a sinner, that is exactly what you do.
Does this mean you are perfect? No! You have a long walk ahead of you to be tested, tried and slowly transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. And that does not happen overnight. You need to learn how to walk in the spirit, and then walk in love. You need to understand that even though you will fall down and make mistakes and do the wrong things, it is grace that covers you and keeps you in the righteousness that God has given you by faith when you first began your walk.
The free gift of God is a wondrous thing. Be sure not to ruin it by calling what He has made clean into something filthy. Accept His gift because without it you cannot progress and learn to be like Jesus and be transformed into the image of God.
(Drawing sourced from stock.xchng provided by Cecile Graat)
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