Have you ever missed part of a conversation and wondered how the discussion progressed to the conclusion? What did you do? Did you not think back through the process of reasoning? What happened if your reasoning was faulty or incomplete, but you did not know it? Such is true with the misinterpretation of Scripture and following after a false doctrine. We may think that we understand, but if we do not understand how the Scriptures conclude, our understanding will be somewhat flawed or may be completely flawed.
What do you do when you have lost something? Do you not search backtracking over your previous steps and think of where you were going? If you find yourself lost while traveling, what do you do? Most observe their surroundings and back up. Such is the case for finding our way in God’s Word, so that we are sure to follow Jesus’s footsteps.
An example of a misunderstood scripture and a text of great meaning: “Now to the one working, the wages are not counted according to grace but according to debt, but to the one not working but believing on the justifying of the undevoted, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom 4:4–5). Essentially, believers are saved and made right before by faith and not by their own working. Otherwise, the one working and expecting wages sees his salvation as God giving what is owed to the worker.
To understand the text, the reader should step back into the previous scriptures. How is faith being counted for righteousness by grace different from one working to earn wages? The preceding verses of Romans 4:1–3 had established,
“What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified out of works, he has a boast, but not to God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him unto righteousness.‘”
Why would Abraham’s faith exclude boasting? Romans 3:27-28, 31 states,
“Therefore, where is boasting? It is excluded. But through law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we conclude that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law. […] Do we then make void the law through the faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.”
How can God’s righteousness justify apart from the law? Why are believers made righteous being justified by faith apart from the works of the Law? Romans 3:21–26 reports,
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an atonement by His blood, through the faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.“
What then is the purpose of the Law? Romans 3:19–20 says,
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are in the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore out of works of the law, no flesh will be justified before Him, for through the law is the knowledge of sin.”
What was the whole purpose for Paul writing these words? Romans 3:9 declared,
“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.“
Now, what is the meaning of Romans 4:4–5? “Now to the one working, the wages are not counted according to grace but according to debt, but to the one not working, but believing on the justifying of the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom 4:4–5).
What is the conclusion of being justified by faith?
“For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore it is out of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Rom 4:13–16).