Whenever we get saved, we are overwhelmed by God’s grace when we think of all our sins we are forgiven for. But should we not live every day with this overwhelming sensation? A lot of Christians fee that even though it took God’s grace to save them, that somehow it is on their own merit that they will sustain their salvation.
1 Corinthians 15:10 – But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain, but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
Romans 4:1 – What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? (Verse 2) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something of which to boast, but not before God. (Verse 3) For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” (Verse 4) Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. (Verse 5) But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.
This is a great passage if we’ve ever done anything wrong, and we all have. Because it says, “He justifies the ungodly by grace. It is extremely important that all Christians understand grace and legalism. We basically look at everything in our lives either by grace or by legalism. We look at everything in our life either as a gift or as earned!
We all see God according to our understanding of grace. We see ourselves according to our understanding of grace and we see others according to our understanding of grace.
Once we are forgiven, we strive to live according to God’s word. Legalism strives for perfection. The problem is that once someone is saved if they move toward a legalistic system and think everyone should follow it too, they will certainly fail. No one can keep the whole law.
If a person slides toward legalism, it will affect every area of their life. If you ask most people what they have to do to go to heaven, they will answer, “Be a good person.” Or they may say, “Do more good than bad.” Here is the main problem with that answer: God’s standard of good is perfect. So even if we do more good than bad, we still haven’t met the requirements.
James 2:10 – For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. God’s standard is perfectionism. That’s why Jesus says, “I fulfilled the law,” because we couldn’t do it. So the amazing thing though is that we get to believe in the One that was perfect, by His grace. Abraham believed God and it was put in his account to him for righteousness.
So, what exactly is righteousness?
If I told you that someone is righteous, what would you think of them? Well, most would think they are a good person. A lot would say that they are righteous because they live righteous lives. They aren’t perfect but they don’t lie or steal, they live righteously.
That’s a good assumption of a righteous person. But are they righteous because they live righteously? Or do they live righteously because they are righteous? Those two questions change everything. That’s grace versus legalism. They aren’t righteous because they live righteously, they live righteous because they have been made righteous, so they are righteous.
“Righteousness” is right standing with God. What makes every believer in right standing with God is because Jesus did all the right things according to God’s standards. He is perfect, and because of my right standing with God, I now have the desire to do the right things! However, we don’t always do the right thing, but we want to.
Can an unrighteous person do a righteous deed? This is a person that is not in right standing with God. They are not saved. But the answer is yes, they can to righteous things, but do these right deeds make them righteous? No. Now, do unrighteous acts of a believer make that person unrighteous? No. However, unrighteous acts by a believer will follow with consequences. Does our righteousness depend on our performance or on our position with God?
Did Abraham earn his righteousness?
If Abraham was justified by works, if he earned it, then he would have something to boast about, but not before God. The only reason that anyone will be in heaven is because of the blood of Jesus.
Verse 4 in Romans 4 says that to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but debt. We are saved to do good works, not saved by good works. If Abraham would have worked to earn righteousness, then God would have owed Abraham, but God doesn’t owe anyone anything! God put righteousness into Abrahams’s account because he believed God.
Isaiah, in Chapter 64:6, says that “But we are all like an unclean thing…” So none are righteous on their own. Our righteousness in comparison to God’s standards of righteousness is like “filthy rages, according to Scripture. However, after we accept Jesus, He gives us His righteousness.
So then here comes “Grace!” One day we got saved, believed in Jesus Christ and He took our sins, filthy rags, and exchanged our sin for His righteousness. So now every believer is in right standing with God. Jesus took all our sins from our account and put them in his account and replaced our sin with His righteousness.
Now the Father looks at our account and says, “You live!” But when Jesus hung on the cross and God looked at His Son’s account, He said, “You must die for them.” That is when and how the exchange took place. All believers now live because the Father took His Son’s righteousness and put it in every believer’s account! So when Abraham believed God it was accounted unto him for righteousness.
Plain and simple, Abraham believed and received. John 6:28 – Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? (Verse 29) Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” There is only one work, belief in whom He sent – Jesus!
When we think of Abraham, we think of the father of our faith. The only problem with that is most of us don’t think about what Abraham was like before God came to him. Abraham was a heathen. Don’t be shocked, Abraham wasn’t even “Jewish” before God came to him because there were no Jewish people then (Genesis 12).
This was hundreds of years before Moses and the law. Abraham was not part of a godly nation as of yet. He was part of a heathen nation and God called him out of that nation. Israel had not even been born yet.
So God shows up because He had a plan. We can only imagine what Abraham was like before meeting with God, but we can read what he was like “after his meeting” and believing God. He lied about his wife by telling a king she was his sister, twice. He was going to let a king sleep with her to save his own skin. This took place after Abraham believed. After he believed, Abraham slept with his maid and had a child out of wedlock. Doesn’t sound like he was much better after his encounter with God, does it?
After these things, God could have shown up and judged Abraham, but that’s not what God did. God showed up to Abraham for one reason, to bless him! And Abraham believed what God said and it was accounted to him for righteousness and he didn’t lose his righteousness after he believed.
In the same way, God comes to us. Jesus didn’t come to judge or condemn us, He came to bless and forgive us. And if we believe, God takes all of the sins out of our accounts and puts righteousness in our accounts.
Even though Abraham went “off the rails” a few times, it did not change God’s faithfulness. Our God is continually and forever faithful!