What does Romans 4:1-5 really mean?

Romans 4:1-5 is about the relationship between faith and righteousness, emphasizing that faith, not works, is what justifies a person in the eyes of God.

1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?
2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.
5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,


Setting the Scene for Romans 4:1-5

In Romans chapter 4, the apostle Paul sets the scene by discussing the faith of Abraham. Picture a serene evening in the ancient city of Ur, where Abraham, then known as Abram, resides with his wife Sarah. The sun is setting, casting a warm glow over the city as Abraham ponders the promises of God. He is troubled by the fact that he and Sarah are childless, despite God’s assurance that he will be the father of many nations.

As the scene unfolds, Abraham is visited by God in a vision. The Lord reaffirms His covenant with Abraham, promising him descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. Abraham, though advanced in age and Sarah barren, chooses to believe in God’s promise. His unwavering faith in the face of seemingly impossible circumstances is what Paul later highlights in Romans chapter 4. The scene captures the essence of Abraham’s faith, a faith that was counted to him as righteousness.

Surrounded by the ancient architecture of Ur, with the evening breeze gently rustling through the palm trees, Abraham stands as a testament to faith in God’s promises. His willingness to trust in the unseen and hold fast to the word of the Lord serves as a powerful example for believers throughout the ages. As Paul reflects on Abraham’s faith in Romans chapter 4, he challenges readers to emulate that same unwavering trust in God’s promises, knowing that faith, not works, is the key to righteousness.

What is Romans 4:1-5 about?

This verse captures a central tenet of Christian doctrine – the idea that righteousness is not earned through good deeds or works alone, but rather through faith in God. The example of Abraham, a figure revered in multiple faith traditions, is used to illustrate this point. Abraham’s trust in God’s promises, as described in the book of Genesis, is seen as a demonstration of his faith that justified him in God’s eyes. This faith – not his actions or works – was credited to him as righteousness. We are challenged to consider the nature of our own faith as we contemplate this verse. Do we believe in God’s promises and trust in His guidance, even when circumstances are difficult or unclear? Are we seeking to earn righteousness through our actions, or are we resting in the assurance that our faith in God is what truly matters? The message here is one of grace and salvation freely given to those who believe, rather than something we can achieve through our own efforts. It reminds us that our relationship with God is based on faith and trust, not on trying to earn our way to His favor.

Understanding what Romans 4:1-5 really means

In Romans 4:1-5, the apostle Paul delves into the faith of Abraham, a pivotal figure in the Bible, to illuminate the concept of justification by faith rather than works. This passage is crucial for believers as it underscores the foundational principle that righteousness before God is not earned through human efforts but received through faith in Him.

Paul’s letter to the Romans was addressed to a diverse audience of Jewish and Gentile believers in Rome. By using Abraham as an example, Paul bridges the gap between these two groups, emphasizing that both are justified by faith alone, not by adherence to the law or works of the flesh.

“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter?” Here, Paul prompts us to consider what Abraham’s experience teaches us about faith and righteousness. If Abraham were justified by works, he could boast, but not before God. This highlights the futility of relying on our own achievements for salvation.

Scripture affirms, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” This pivotal verse from Genesis 15:6 underscores the significance of faith in God’s promises as the basis for righteousness. Paul contrasts earning wages through work with receiving the gift of righteousness through faith, emphasizing that it is God who justifies the ungodly through their trust in Him.

In today’s society, the pressure to prove one’s worth through accomplishments is pervasive. However, Romans 4:1-5 offers a counter-cultural message, assuring believers that their value and righteousness stem from faith in God, not from their own striving. This truth brings freedom and peace to those burdened by the relentless pursuit of validation through works.

Consider a person who, despite their hard work and achievements, grappled with feelings of inadequacy. Upon grasping the concept of justification by faith, they found solace and a renewed sense of worth. This narrative resonates with many, urging us to place our trust in God’s grace rather than in our own merit.

In conclusion, let us reflect on the profound truths unveiled in Romans 4:1-5. May we deepen our faith and reliance on God’s promises, understanding that our righteousness is a gift received through faith. As we journey in faith, may we grow in our trust in God’s unfailing grace and find rest in His unmerited favor.

How can we be justified before God by faith?

We can be justified before God by faith because faith is counted as righteousness. This means that when we have faith in God and believe in Him, our faith is credited to us as righteousness. It is not our works or deeds that justify us before God, but our faith in Him. This is because we fall short of God’s perfect standard, and no amount of good works can make us righteous in His sight. It is only through faith in Jesus Christ that we can be justified. Paul uses the example of Abraham to illustrate this point in Romans 4. Abraham believed in God and his faith was counted as righteousness. It was not his works or obedience that made him righteous before God, but his faith in God’s promises. Our faith is counted as righteousness when we have faith in Jesus Christ because we are putting our trust in Him and what He has done for us on the cross. This is why faith is such a crucial aspect of our relationship with God and our justification before Him.


In the hustle of this digital age, remember that your worth does not stem from achievements, but from your belief in a higher power that guides you through life’s challenges. Understand that your faith is the anchor that keeps you grounded in a world of constant change. Let this knowledge fuel your actions and decisions, always rooted in trust and grace. Will you take up the mantle of faith and stride confidently through each day, knowing that you are truly seen and loved by a higher power, regardless of worldly standards?