Grace vs Works – Romans 4:1-5


Romans 4:1-5 “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?  For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 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.”

In this passage of Scripture, Paul addresses the issue of Grace versus works.  This issue is one which is as relevant in the 21st Century as it was in the 1st Century, when it was written.  While there are a plethora of religions and denominations that exist in the world today, the simple truth remains that there are only two actual religions.  The first is Biblical Christianity, in which men trust totally in God’s provision through the redemptive work of Christ (salvation by grace through faith).  The second includes all other religions, regardless of the banner under which they may exist, in which man attempts to work or earn salvation or the favor and approval of God.  The difference between the two is this: Biblical Christianity rests in the finished work of Christ; while all religions of man trust in what he attempts to do. This is the very issue with which Paul deals with in this passage of Scripture.





VS 2 “For if Abraham were justified by works,”  Paul presents this hypothetical argument that he might further point out the futility of such an idea. For if Abraham had been justified (that is to say made right with God) by his works Paul declared, “he hath whereof to glory;” Paul argued that if  Abraham’s works were the source of his justification then he could boast and take pride in what he had accomplished. Yet, Paul further explained: “but    not before God.” In other words, had this been true, although Abraham could boast before men, he still would have no reason or right to boast before God.  In the end, what difference would it make if Abraham could boast before men when it is God Who is the Judge of Eternity?

VS 3 “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”  Paul wasted no time to discredit the assumption that Abraham could have been justified by his works, by going straight to the Scriptures. “For what saith the scripture?”  This is really all that mattered.  These Jews could argue all they wanted, and they could debate until their hearts were content, yet, the truth lies in the Scriptures.

So, concerning Abraham and justification, what saith the scripture? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” The Scriptures declared that God credited Abraham with righteousness because Abraham believed God by faith. The word of the Lord came to Abraham, Abraham heard by faith, received by faith, and acted by faith.  It was this faith, which was accounted as righteousness by God.


VS 4-5 “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 debtrighteousness.”  Paul argued the real crux of the matter in these two verses. If justification were to come by works, then God owes the man who works towards righteousness.  Yet, if one believes on him that justifies the ungodly, then it is this faith that is credited to him as righteousness by the righteous Judge of eternity. How arrogant it is for any man to believe that God is a debtor to him.  God owes nothing to any man – yet, man owes everything to God!  Paul stated in verse four, “to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” The word reckoned means: “consider; count; or to be credited.”  So Paul declared that one who attempts to work for justification reckons, that is he considers or counts, his reward as that which God owes him. Yet, for those who believe by faith, that it is God Who justifies the ungodly, he considers or counts the reward as that of grace, or God’s unmerited and undeserved kindness towards him.

To understand the significance of grace, it is first necessary to understand the true meaning of grace, which is best defined by contrast.

  • Justice – is getting what one deserves.
  • Mercy – is not getting what one deserves.
  • Grace – is getting what one does not deserve.

I reckon grace!  This simply means that I credit grace and grace alone as the means by which I have obtained salvation and favor of the Lord.  It is only by grace through faith that we receive God’s provision of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Galatians 6:14)

– Pastor T



Photo credit:  Art4TheGlryOfGod via Visual hunt / CC BY-ND (Resized and cropped image.)