Wednesday, 27 March 2013
Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. Romans 4:4
Paul now brings up the subject of wages. When a person goes to work in a job as an employee, it is under the premise that he will receive payment for his efforts and that the pay will be comparable to his level of output, skill, knowledge, etc. Some people may work for their food and a place to sleep, some may work for currency, some may work for a precious metal like gold, etc. The first time “wages” are mentioned in Scripture it was work in exchange for a bride –
“Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?'” … “Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.'” Genesis 29:15 & 18
An agreement was made and the wage was paid based on the work performed (with a little cunning on the part of Laban…)
The concept of earning something for accomplishing deeds is found throughout Scripture and it is found throughout human history. The word for “work” in today’s passage indicates the doing of something by which something else will result. The word for “wages” is translated exactly as noted, wages. It is dues paid for working. The word for “counted” is also well chosen. It is to reckon, impute, or account. And the word for “grace,” which is found throughout the New Testament speaks of unmerited favor; it is “getting what one doesn’t deserve.” Finally, “debt” is something that is due – either for the sake of what is just or what is legally necessary; something is owed.
Taking all of these words and considering them from what Paul has been teaching us, there is a contrast between working to receive wages and demonstrating faith in order to obtain grace. A person who attempts to be justified by deeds of the law feels that God somehow owes him and that he has merited good standing in His presence; his salvation is earned. On the other hand, a person who understands that God’s grace cannot be earned places his trust completely and entirely in the hands of God, knowing that what he deserves is condemnation, but what he seeks is God’s pardon.
This is the contrast between the two – 1) Wages – The law looks to a trial based on merit. The trial will be perfectly fair and it will lead to condemnation. 2) Grace – Faith in Jesus seeks God’s favor through the work of another and the receiving of a pardon based on His accomplishments.
Life application: The choice is given to all – will we attempt to merit God’s favor by our own works, or will we place our trust in the work of Jesus? The biblical record stands – Jesus fulfilled the law on our behalf if we are willing to accept it. Either way we will be judged by the same standard – it will be fair and it will either condemn us or justify us. Choose wisely. Choose Jesus.
Oh God, You have done for me that which I could never do. You have fulfilled the law in my place through a Substitute. Now, by faith in His work I stand justified in Your presence. The work of the Messiah is hinted at throughout Your word… and then He came! He was offered once to bear the sins of many and to those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. Hallelujah and Amen.