Salvation by Works or Faith?

Salvation by Works or Faith?

What Saith The Scripture?

Salvation, is it by works or by faith? This is the question addressed by Paul in this chapter and it is curious that there remains still so much confusion. The answer is plain, but many have sought to confuse the words in the chapter to make them not mean precisely what they say.

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 whereofto glory; but not before God.     For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 

Romans 4:1-3

There was a question asked the other day on a website called Quora. Question was “how can I know if I am believing a lie?”

 Well that is the ultimate question,  how do you know if you are believing a lie?

 The answer I gave related directly to the Bible,  because there is no other source of truth found in anything else.  

In order to know if what you are believing is true you must have a standard by which everything can be measured.  Without this standard you have no ability to know if you are believing a lie.

 The greatest question a person can ask is the question respecting everlasting life.  

I don’t know anyone who does not want to go to heaven when they die.

There is no other question greater than this, this is the question of all questions. 

Second to this is the question of howyou can go to heaven when you die? 

This question is the foundation of every religious system on Earth throughout history.

If that is true then you can know that the vast majority of people in the world want to know how to get to heaven.

 Perhaps that’s a good question to start a conversation.  Do you know if you’re going to go to heaven when you die?

 Well, if most of the religions in the world through history, are created  by the people of the world to answer this question,  you might find the majority of peopleyou ask will also want to know the answer to this question. 

 Many are the variations which men have devised that might give answers to how one is to attain to everlasting life,  but each of them boil down to one of two methods.

  1. Works
  2. Faith

Is it by works or faith? The world is divided in opinion but its not an even split,  by far all the world believes works will save them. only biblical Christianity teaches that it is by faith in the works of Jesus Christ that will save. 

 Nevertheless only one of these two options can be true, both cannot be true because they are opposed to one another.  Either a man is justified by the works of the law or by faith.

 How then can we know that we are believing is a lie or is true?

Do we get to heaven by works

Or is it through faith in the Works of Jesus Christ?

How can we know?

What standard are we to employ?

Paul provides the answer in verse three: For what saith the scripture?

 But he begins the passage with the question in the first verse Romans chapter 4

What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?

Abraham is the beginning of the Hebrew Nation.  All Israel count this man as righteous,  but how did he attain to this righteousness?  That’s what Paul is asking.

What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?

Paul then follows on with the statement     For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereofto glory; but not before God.

Certainly if Abraham is justified by works he would have we’re off to glory.  If it were possible for any man to be justified by works Abraham would be that man.  You recall that God have asked Abraham to sacrifice his own son and Abraham immediately obeyed.  The Jews hold this man in great esteem, because his works were great. 

In fact many believe that’s because of the righteous works of Abraham they too may be saved claiming his righteousness.  But as we recognized last week man’s righteousness can only count for himself and for no one else. 

 Indeed if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereofto glory; but not before God.

God knows Abraham perfectly and no man can glory before God.

But now the answer comes and Abraham is the key and that key is found in scripture,  how can a man be just before God the Bible gives the answer and Abraham is the key.  Paul desires to express an understanding of salvation by using Abraham as the example to the Romans and it to you and I, to be sure that we do not come to  Believe a lie.

      For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 

Do you recall the event?

Genesis 15:1

After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: Iamthy shield,andthy exceeding great reward. 

And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my houseisthis Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the LORDcameunto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

Turn to Gen 22

22:1   And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, heream        And he said, Take now thy son, thine only sonIsaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. 

Genesis 22

What is happening here? Offer for a burnt offering? How does Abraham reconcile this with Gods promise?

Did he think that the Word of God has contradicted itself? Did he think that God had changed his mind? Did he think that God lied? 

Didn’t God tell him that, in Isaac Shall thy seed be called Gen 17 and Gen 21? That reminder was only a chapter earlier!



How did Abraham deal with this? Did he say, “no way God, you said …..and that cant happen if you make me kill him” No;

And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. 

So fully did Abraham believe God, so completely did he trust in his word that it did not contradict, that even though he was limited in his knowledge and understanding, it did reconcile somewhere some how, that he was willing to perform even this command. 

In fact we have a hint in the next two verses

      Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.       And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

Would they both come again? How both of them if one is dead?

Even when Isaac asked the most important of questions, Abraham showed no sign of flinching;

      And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid itupon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.         And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here amI, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where isthe lamb for a burnt offering?    And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. 

And we know the end of this part of the story;

You know, Abraham believed God to the point where he was convinced that if God were to demand he kill the promised son, through whom nations as vast as the stars of heaven where to come, that he may even resurrect him.

Hebrews 11:17

         By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son18    Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19   Accounting that God wasable to raise himup, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

The point to this first point to answer the question of Salvation whether it be by Works or Faith? WHAT SAITH THE SCRIPTURE?

 Abraham believed in God’s words, he did not think and That God would contradict his own promise, and as such he was declared righteous.

 Now what about you?  Do you believe in God’s words? 

 As you cast your mind upon everything that you have ever done in your life,  can you believe god will save you simply by your trust that he died for all your Sin?

  Or do you believe you must earn that righteous?

Works Reckoned As Debt

      Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 

The logic is plain as Paul presents in this passage,  if you are to work you naturally expect wages for that work,  the reward of righteousness is then  not a given as a gift that is required for a debt.

 Is God to be indebted to you?  This is the belief that all people Think they are justified by their work Believe. Are they believing a lie?

 Well, what saith the scripture?

Turn to Luke 17:7

But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?  Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. 10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. 

There is a passage in the book of Job where Elihu chastises that suffering man who  has come to declare himself even more righteous and God because what has been done to him is unfair in his eyes.

So in Chapter 35:5-8 of that book Eluhu says to Job

Look unto the heavens, and see; and behold the cloudswhichare higher than thou. If thou sinnest, what doest thou against him? orifthy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto him? If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand? Thy wickednessmay hurta man as thouart; and thy righteousnessmay profitthe son of man.

Job 35:5-8

What level of arrogance must it be to think we have somehow rendered benefit to God to the point that we could claim he must be indebted to us?  This is the mindset of all who believe in their works will save them.  This is why Isaiah tells us that all their works are as filthy rags unto God.

Now back to our passage;

Rom 4:5

      But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.          Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,          Saying, Blessed arethey whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.      Blessedisthe man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

We could spend so much time on this passage.  But for the multitude of people who think they can be justified by the works of the law, this passage stands so strongly against them

to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

Just as Abraham’s faith was counted for righteousness, Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,

And yet all you hear from the crowd of people  Think you must work your way to heaven,  who read this passage  and saying “yes but” “yes but” “yes but” and begin to confuse the readers with the mixed metaphors,  saying that face is just the beginning and now we must work to remain righteous, completely ignore even Davids claim  

Blessed arethey whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 

And here so early in the book of Romans we find one of the greatest heresies already given an answer.  And throughout is this wonderful book continues to confirm that’s salvation is by faith alone. 

It is God justifies the ungodly.

 It is faith that is counted from righteousness

 They are blessed whom God imputes righteousness without works

 Who’s iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered.

Indeed, Blessed isthe man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

Righteousness Reckoned By Faith

Now Paul asks how this righteousness is reckoned or counted.

      Comeththis blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. 10  How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. 

Recall that Abraham was not a Jew, Abraham was a gentile.  Abraham was the first to receive the sine of circumcision.  When do he receive this sign?

Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.

Abraham was not the first circumcised and then began to do righteous works.  He was first declared righteous and then circumcised.

11      And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yetbeing uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: 

The sign of circumcision was a sign of separation of the people to God.  They would be people distinct from all the nations over the world,  only those who are the children of God received this sign.  We know that this is the picture of the circumcised heart, the heart that has been changed by the Lord. 

 The spirit of God now it dwells all who are born again,  this separates them from all others.  

 There is no more Jews nor Gentile in the Lord,  all are one in Christ. 

 Nevertheless verse 12

12      And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he hadbeing yetuncircumcised.

All people are to be saved as Abraham was saved.  This is why Abraham was considered the father of us all.  We are to walk in the steps of that faith  of Abraham.

But Consider for a moment that what Abraham did,  was motivated by faith but his works was the evidence of that faith. 

 James is often misrepresented as teaching that we’re justified by our works. James sites Abraham that he was justified by works,  but consider the context is in light of the motivation of faith.

 Turn to James 2

And in order to receive understanding from this passage we will need to consider the context of what James is teaching, so let us read from verse 14.

14 Whatdoth itprofit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, beyewarmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; whatdoth itprofit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sentthemout another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Everything did you believe the bible teaches is true you will live your life actively making decisions based on that which you believe is true.  Actions always follow faith,  if that faith is real.

 This is why they say “actions speak louder than words”

Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

When faith moves from our head to our heart it is then and only then that our actions follow.

 Recall that Abraham was declared righteous in chapter 15 of Genesis but his actions were tried in Chapter 22 of Genesis. God is the one who knows the heart, god knows when faith has moved from the head to the heart.

 Our works are the outward demonstration of what we believe in the heart. 

 Sadly, the fickle state of our heart is betrayed by our actions.  Praise God he takes that mustard seed of faith when we first believed the Gospel, and saved us.

 Let that same faith therefore grow that we may be continually changed

That The Promise Might Be Sure

 13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world,wasnot to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if they which are of the lawbeheirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is,there isno transgression. 16 Thereforeit isof faith, thatit might beby grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed;

By whatever means you are justified, you are kept. 

  1. If you are justified by works, then you are kept by works.
  2. If you are justified by faith, you are kept by promise.

 Beloved of that which is the more sure?

 Consider the Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost.  Would he risk you left to your own devices?

 Last week I had you imagine a small child, on the other side of busy intersection.  An infinite Number of things could prevent that child from getting to the other side of the road.  The likelihood of that small child making it across is limited at best.

 But if a responsible parent would take the child by the hand and lead it,  the chance would be much greater that The child would survive. 

Interestingly the responsibility for that child passes directly onto the parent for the child safety.

Clearly I am making the presentation that you are the child and that your heavenly Father is the parent.  If it was your faith  that got you to the intersection but it is now your effort to cross it,  the risk then you will not make it is infinitely greater than the promise that has been done for you.

The Bible says that you are saved if you believe in your heart.  But you still have this life to live.  Positionally, you have already crossed that intersection (you have a place in heaven reserved for you and are given the Spirit of God as the “earnest [deposit] of your expectation”).  

Practically however, you are holding the Lord’s hand for the journey across.

You are kept by the promise of God, not by the works of the law.

 Faith is the only way God can keep his promise!

 If faith has saved you, and God has promised to keep you, how shall you then live?  Do you now grow by your works? 

Turn to Galatians 3;1-3

         O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?    This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?        Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

What is Paul dealing with here? These have begun in the faithbut now think that they shall maintain by the flesh. The Galatians have met with false teachers who are determined to have them circumcised telling them that now they need to follow the Law.

This is all about growing,  but it is your faith that has saved you and not your works.  

Pauls argument in this passage is simple

  • If Salvation is God’s work, then it cannot be lost. 
    • If Salvation is man’s work, then it cannot be kept.

Let Paul speak in his words, consider the same points in light of verses 14 & 16

  • If you are SAVED BY WORKS, it must be KEPT BY EFFORT For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Rom 4:14
  • But if you are SAVED through FAITH, it is KEPT BY PROMISE. Rom 4:16  Thereforeit isof faith, thatit might beby grace; to the end the promise might be sureto all the seed; 

Now this latter part of verse 16th,  to tell us plainly that it is not only for the Jew but for us all

16 Thereforeit isof faith, thatit might beby grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

“that only which is of the law”refers to the Jew, the synonymous phrase in verse 14 helps make that clear where it says“For if they which are of the law beheirs, faith is made void…”  they’re also referred to as the circumcision in verse 9. 

Its an interesting use of words that the Lord uses, finally the Lord is referring to a people group.

 But he goes on and says but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

 That is that he is the father of all those who believe not only those who are the direct descendants of Abraham.

 Three the next few verses that we can close out this chapter with respect to the faith or Abraham and that we might be sure that the righteousness that was given to Abraham is the same righteousness that we inherit believing by faith.

How clear can Paul be on this matter?

17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed,evenGod, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. 18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. 19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: 20  He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 22And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. 

23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

In the passage that we read in Genesis chapter 15, God said to him in verse five “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.”

If those which are of faith are also Abrahams seed,  there is no question that’s a god had meant what he said literally,  the seed of Abraham will be as the stars of heaven.

Remember I said to you a while ago but the only real mistakes that I’ve made in the Bible is not taking Gods word literally enough. 

Nobody is excluded from this promise, if you believe in by faith let Jesus Christ is Lord,  you will be counted is the seed of Abraham,  and that righteousness Will be imputed to you.

 How will I know if what I believe is a lie?

If you have believed that you can gain access to heaven by your works,  then you have believed a lie  because that is not what the scripture says,

For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 


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