What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Having stated his thesis in the last section, Paul moves on now to prove it; what better place to begin than the story of Abraham? After all, all Jewish history begins with Father Abraham. Abraham found favor in God’s sight, but that favor wasn’t the result of his works, it was found because of his faith. He was no more perfect than you or me, in fact he made some bizarre mistakes, and still he was righteous in God’s sight because of one thing and one thing only: He believed God. God offered Abraham a promise, and Abraham decided that he would believe God, and God decided that Abraham was righteous when the only thing he had done was to make a decision to believe God.
Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness
Paul illustrates this idea with an example. A man who works has earned his wage as an obligation on the employer’s part. The employer pays the worker nothing until the payment has been earned through work, and when the obligation is paid, the employer has no obligation whatsoever to pay anything else. A gift is different, for it is given freely− if it isn’t given freely, then it isn’t a gift. In the same way, grace is not earned by working because if it was it wouldn’t be grace; it would be a payment for services.
David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord will never count against them.
David had a sense of what was to come when he wrote this, for there is no specific provision in the Law for what he referred to here. David, like Abraham, believed God and was a man after God’s own heart even though he was far from perfect. Believing God, he perceived a time that was coming when God would provide for outright forgiveness for those who would place their faith in Him and so he decided to do his best, as had Abraham long before, to live as though God’s promise was already fulfilled: We call that faith.
Oh yes, and God, through Jesus Christ, took care of the rest!