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God Forgives Those Who Realize They Are Incapable Of Earning Salvation

To the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.
–Romans 4:4

Romans 4:5 reveals that God forgives those who realize they are incapable of earning salvation. Paul said that the person whose “faith is credited as righteousness” is “the one who does not work.” God forgives those who refuse to work for their salvation.

We think just the opposite. In fact, we are taught that any good thing that comes into our lives is because of our hard work. We are taught as children that if you study hard, you earn a good grade. We are taught that if you work hard, you earn a promotion or a bonus. We are taught as athletes that if you train hard and compete hard, you win the trophy. Not long ago, I was invited to say the opening prayer and wave the green flag to start the Talladega NASCAR race. Before the race, I had an opportunity to say a few words to the drivers. I told them, “Congratulations, you are here at the most prestigious NASCAR race in the world because of your hard work. And God rewards hard work in every area of our life except one. The one area that God refuses to allow our good work to achieve anything is our salvation.” And I quoted Romans 4:5: “To the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”

Why doesn’t God allow us to work to earn His forgiveness? Paul explained in verse 4, “To the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.” When you get your paycheck, do you go into your employer and say, “Thank you so much for this. I cannot believe you would do such a thing”? Of course not. Why don’t you do that? Because what you receive is not a gift; it is an obligation. Your employer has an obligation toward you. You have made a deal with them: You work, and your employer pays you for what you do. Your paycheck is not a gift; it is a wage. It is what you are owed. And if we work for our salvation, then salvation is not a gift from God, it is what God owes us; and God refuses to owe anyone salvation.

Some people say, “I can accept that most of the way, but surely we play a part in our salvation. Maybe our salvation is 90 percent what Jesus did for us on the cross in dying for our sins, but it is 10 percent my effort. Maybe it is faith in Christ plus getting baptized that gets me into Heaven. Or maybe it is trusting in Jesus and giving to the church. Or maybe it is trusting in Christ and keeping the Ten Commandments. My salvation is God and me working together.” No, your salvation has nothing to do with your works. If salvation is even 1 percent what we do, then it changes the whole nature of a gift and makes it an obligation. Salvation is either a gift, or it is an obligation. It cannot be both. That is why the Bible says God does not allow us to do anything to earn our salvation. It is those who do not work who earn eternal life. That is why Romans 4:5 says, “To the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Most Important Verse In The Bible” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2018.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (

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