Rom 4:4-7 “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. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.”
It is clearly understood from the scriptures that we are expected to labor in God’s kingdom. We are told in James 2:20 that faith without works is dead. The problem comes from not understanding when and why we work. Our works are not about self-justification.
When we rely on our work, we can expect to receive according to our work. Without God first coming into our hearts, we will never work for the good of His kingdom. In the Galatian letter, Paul clearly tells us what the work of the flesh (man without God) is. Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and others things in this vein are the works of man.
Until God and His Son come and take up their abode in our hearts, our work sows to the flesh, and we shall of the flesh reap corruption. If we take these things to heart, then we do not want to be paid according to the debt. Without the grace of God through Jesus Christ, revealed in us by the Holy Spirit, we have no hope of innocence. According to Strong’s, this is the meaning of the word translated as righteousness: to render (show or regard as) just or innocent.
Notice that righteousness implies rendering one just or innocent. If we are rendered innocent, that should tell us that innocence was not our original state. When Paul told us that if we relied on our works then the reward was not reckoned of grace, the “not” used here is the one that is referred to as the absolutely negative adverb. There is no mixing of works and grace when it comes to our being justified before God.
In the phrase “To him that worketh not,” this not is from a different Greek word and implies a qualified negation. In other words, work is not absolutely excluded from our lives, but it is absolutely excluded from impacting the grace of God. When, by God’s grace, we believe (entrust our spiritual wellbeing to Christ) on Him that justifies us, our faith (reliance upon Christ for salvation) is imputed to us for innocence. We are no longer seen before God as guilty of iniquity.
Finally, we see that it is God that imputes the justness of His Son Jesus on us. He does so according to His grace and not because of our works. The grace of God and the righteousness of Jesus Christ cannot be bought by our good works, because until God comes and quickens us by His Spirit, we do not do good works. God has never, nor will He ever be, indebted to us to grant us justification and salvation.
May God reveal to our hearts that we are not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16)!