Staff Corner: Greg Spires,Teaching Pastor Something to Brag About
A middle school student wrote a story for an English assignment given by his teacher. When the teacher returned his story, he was elated to note a perfect score on the top. On his way out of class, the teacher mentioned the high quality of his story. The teacher suggested that he enter the story in the district-wide writing competition. Buoyed by this encouragement, the student entered his story in the competition.
To his surprise, the student’s writing won first place in the district writing competition. He had always enjoyed making up stories and writing. However, he had no idea that his creative work held such promise. His mind raced with dreams of being a writer. He pictured himself sitting in a worn armchair in his study, overlooking a misty meadow through a huge window. He imagines pulling a smoking pipe from his lips as he continued his work on an old-fashioned typewriter. Indeed, this could be the future his life would hold.
He figured he had to start somewhere, so he marched into the local newspaper and handed his story to the editor. He regaled the old newspaperman with a summary of his award-winning story. He promised to provide a story a week for a modest fee.
The frowning editor peered over his glasses after skimming the story. “Kid, I wouldn’t run this in my paper if YOU paid ME a fee! Your writing might win awards at school, but you have a long way to go before I would run it.”
Romans 4:1-2 says, “What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.”
These verses wonder what it would be like if Abraham’s righteousness was a result of good works instead of faith. Earlier in Romans, it is clear that Abraham was righteous because he believed God, not because of works. But hypothetically, would Abraham have something to brag about if his righteousness was the result of good works?
Surprisingly, the answer is, “Yes!” However, there is a catch. Abraham would have reason to boast, but not before God. Like that middle school author, Abraham could brag about being good if he compared himself with others like him. Consider the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Certainly, compared with them, Abraham was very righteous indeed.
But Abraham’s righteousness would mean nothing in God’s presence. Trying to impress God with good deeds would be a great deal more challenging than that middle school student trying to win over a seasoned editor with a story. God’s righteousness is overwhelming in its perfection.
To try and be righteous through good works will always drive us away from God. Why? To be righteous by works requires that we only spend time with those we deem to be less righteous than us. If we spend time with those more righteous than us, we will discover our works aren’t making us righteous enough. Since God is perfectly holy and righteous, to be in His presence will always reveal that our righteousness is nothing. So, works righteousness doesn’t bring us to God; it drives us away from God.
But righteousness by faith is different. Through faith in Jesus, by grace, we gain God’s righteousness. As a result, we can boldly enter God’s presence and enjoy Him. There is no room for boasting. But better yet, there is no reason to fear because Jesus made the way.
I look forward to being with you this Sunday as we celebrate the work of God in Jesus Christ together! This Sunday, we will be seeking God through His Word in Romans 4:1-12.
Praying with you,