3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. (Romans 4:3–4, NKJV)
Obedience to Christ is not a work of merit that nullifies grace. The theology of Calvin has persuaded untold millions that obedience is a work that “earns” or merits salvation. If true, then James contradicts Paul, for he said, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God” (James 2:21-23). Faith is made complete by obedience. There is no contradiction in Scripture, only with Calvinism’s faulty definitions of faith and works. Like us all, Abraham was a sinner in need of grace. Only perfect law-keeping (sinlessness) would nullify grace and make salvation a debt (Romans 4:4). The faith that saved Abraham was not sinless, but it was obedient (as witnessed in the matter of Isaac). Through the gospel, it is obedient faith that God counts for righteousness today. Obedience earns nothing; it is the action of a dutiful servant (Luke 17:10). Obedience is the work that justifies the ungodly, for without it, faith is dead (James 2:20). Obedient faith, not faith only, justifies sinners (James 2:24).
8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. (1 Timothy 1:8–11, NKJV)
Why is there such resistance to law? The apostle drives to the heart of the matter: People’s sin is exposed by law. Law unmasks our sin. That is its job. The law (command) of God is “holy, just and good” (Rom. 7:12). God’s law is not at fault when we sin against it. We will never be saved by law-keeping, because “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23). This is why we are not justified by works (of law). We are justified “freely by His grace through the redemption that we have in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). Do not make the mistake of thinking this nullifies being under law. “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (Rom. 3:31). Law does its work by shining a light on sin. Sinners are called by the gospel to come to Christ to be saved. If you do not like God’s law, is may be that you prefer sin. We urge you to repent of such thinking and living, for it leads to eternal death. The “sound doctrine” of the “glorious gospel” of Christ will save you (Acts 2:37-41).
7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.” (Galatians 3:7–9, NKJV)
The apostle boldly states that sons of Abraham are now identified based on faith, not flesh. This flies in the face of the belief that the nation of Israel continues to this day to be the people of God. The gospel teaches Christians are the sons of Abraham. Justification is reckoned on the basis of faith in Christ, not upon fleshly descent from Abraham. Paul later explained that “if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). Christians are “sons of God” (Gal. 3:26). You became a child of God and seed of Abraham when you were “baptized into Christ.” That is when you “put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). Thank God today that your salvation does not depend on your physical pedigree. It depends on Christ, and your faith to believe and to His will. As Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother” (Mk. 3:35).