What Does Romans 4:2 Mean?

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.

Romans 4:2(NASB)

Verse Thoughts

Abraham is often called 'the father of faith' because he believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. We first read about this accreditation in Genesis chapter 15 and the apostle Paul confirms this in both Romans and Galatians. We find a third reference relating to the faith of Abraham in James chapter 2 for we read, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."

Abraham did many good works that were commended by men. And down through centuries of time, Jewish leaders proudly proclaimed that being Abraham's physical descendants, they too were imputed with some of his righteousness and meritorious acts. They taught that because they were the physical descendants of Abraham - through Isaac - they were automatically reckoned to be justified in God's eyes.

They believed (incorrectly), that because Abraham was declared righteous before God, they were also righteous - by association! They taught that Abrahams's offspring were automatically justified. They proudly boasted that being in his ancestral line they too were declared righteous by default! But righteousness is not inherited. Justification is not is it gained by doing good works or keeping the Law nor it is passed on from our parents. Righteousness is a gift of God - received through faith. We are justified by faith and not by works of the Law.

Paul pointed out that, "if Abraham was justified by works, he would certainly have something to boast about." However, he quickly pointed out that although he carried out many commendable works which merited man's approval, they certainly did not justify him in the sight of God. Although Abraham may be justified - or considered righteous in the eyes of man, good works will never justify a man in the eyes of God. 

Abraham did many admirable things that justified him in the eyes of men!! One of these righteous deeds that demonstrated his faith in God and caused him to be justified in the eyes of man was the offering his son Isaac on Mount Moriah - referred to in James chapter 2. However, it is important to realise that although this deed caused Abraham to be justified in the eyes of man, it was not the offering of Isaac that caused Abraham to be justified in the sight of God.

"For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God."

None of his works caused God to declare him justified. Abraham had placed his trust in God many years earlier (Genesis chapter 15) when he left his birthplace and set out to go to a land that God had promised to give him, not knowing where he was going. When Abraham trusted God's promise and obeyed His instructions... that was when his faith was counted as righteousness by God - as Paul records.

Many years later, he demonstrated his faith through his actions (Genesis chapter 22) when he obeyed God's instruction to offer his only son to the Lord on Mount Moriah. In Genesis 22, he demonstrated his faith in God and it was counted as a righteous act by man - as James records.

Throughout Scripture, we discover over and again that a man is not justified by works of the Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. God declared Abraham righteous because he trusted God - he believed His Word. He was not declared righteous because of what he did but because of what he believed.

There were many in Paul's day, as there are today, that continue to believe that we are justified by performing good works, by keeping rules, or by performing rituals - but this is not what the Bible teaches. Similarly, there there are many that like to believe that their Jewish ancestry or Christian heritage justifies them in the sight of God and automatically assures them a place in heaven - but this is not what the Bible teaches - for if a man is justified by works, the keeping of rules, the performing of rituals, through physical birth, or by any other meritorious thing, he would certainly have something to boast about, but as Paul makes very clear, such boasting would not stand up before God.

Praise God that we are justified by grace through faith in the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and not because of any good deeds we have carried out.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You that like Abraham I have been justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, my God and my Saviour. Thank You that I am accepted in Christ and have been declared righteous - not because of what I have done, but because of trusting in what Christ did on the Cross for me. May my life become a living testimony to the truth of the glorious gospel of Christ to everyone I meet, and may all I do, be done to the glory of God. In Jesus' name I pray, and for His greater glory, AMEN.

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