“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 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.”
From the beginning, God has prescribed that men relate to Him by faith. Some have the idea that those in the Old Testament were saved or accepted based on their works or obedience to the law. This is not true. No one has ever been justified by his deeds. Even in the Garden of Eden, we see that Cain’s sacrifice, which was from the fruit of the ground, was rejected; however, Abel’s animal sacrifice was accepted. Abel’s offering represented worship that was by faith, not his good works.
We cannot produce, on our own, that which meets God’s righteous standards. It requires the sacrifice of another and our faith in that sacrifice. God made promises to Abraham, and he believed God’s promises. When Abraham believed God’s promises, God counted that “unto him for righteousness.” Righteousness was accounted to, or imputed to Abraham, because of his faith. We are not accepted before God because of our works.
Our text declares, “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” If someone is trying to work for His divine favor, it is not of grace, but of debt. There are those who are trying to earn or merit righteousness, but it is not possible. Their attempts are not of grace. Salvation is and always has been of grace. Abraham’s righteousness was not self-righteousness, but imputed righteousness through faith.
Likewise, our faith is counted for righteousness. We believe “on him that justifieth the ungodly.” God promises salvation, forgiveness, eternal life, justification, reconciliation, sanctification, and glorification through Christ’s death on the cross. By faith, we trust in Christ and the promises made to us. When we believe God, it is accounted unto us for righteousness. When we admit our unworthiness and receive God’s promises, God imputes righteousness upon us. We are not striving to earn God’s forgiveness; but by faith, we are receiving it. We want to work and serve the Savior because of what He has done for us, but never in an attempt to earn His acceptance.