I have learned and am learning that much of God’s truth for us is quite subtle. In Romans chapter 4, Paul makes some statements that are quite easy to gloss over, but when you ponder them, they are quite profound. In Romans 4, Paul uses the case of Abraham to argue the concept of being justified before God by faith in Jesus rather than through the practice of religious works. It is commonly summarized as “being saved by grace through faith”. While this phrase is very true, Paul implies other things about us in his explanation of what Jesus does for us. Pride can have no place in God’s kingdom. Regarding those who are justified through faith, Paul wrote that God is the one who justifies the ungodly. In other words, if anyone has been “saved by grace through faith”, that individual also acknowledges that without God, they are ungodly. Nothing they possessed was worth anything. Later, Paul would write as much to the Philippians when he said that all his previous accomplishments, he considered as loss in comparison to knowing Jesus. On the other hand, those who believe that their good deeds can outweigh their bad deeds and make themselves acceptable to God, don’t really grasp what they are saying. They are saying that through their own efforts they can justify themselves before God, that they can make themselves righteous before God. In such, they are literally the definition of being “self-righteous”. This is what Paul explains in Romans 4 as being impossible. We cannot be “good enough” to make ourselves righteous. Why? Because by definition, without God we are ungodly. We need Jesus to transform us from being ungodly to godly, we can’t do it on our own.
Perhaps it is easier to understand this concept when considering our physical bodies and sickness. When we have a physical condition that we cannot not address by exercise, diet and rest, but we remain sick and possibly get worse, we go and see a physician. Our self-help and self-treatment are not sufficient, because our condition is greater than what we can accomplish. However, the physician can help us find a cure. In the same way, Jesus is our physician, who transforms us from our ungodly condition to one of godliness. This is why pride has no place in God’s kingdom; we have nothing to be proud about in ourselves, because anything of value that we’ve done has been received through Jesus. This is why it is tragic that the world considers Christians to be self-righteous, harsh and judgmental, when in fact we should be the most humble, kind and gracious people, because we understand from where we have come and what Jesus has done for us.