Robert Jeffress - The Most Important Verse In The Bible
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. I hope you, your family, your friends, are having a wonderful thanksgiving. The most important question a person can ask in life is this: how can I have a right relationship with God? It's literally a matter of life and death. And the verse with the answer that, in my opinion, best answers that question is the one we're going to look at today. Today we're going to answer this critical question with the help of Romans 4:5 my message is titled "The Most Important Verse in the Bible" on today's thanksgiving edition of Pathway to Victory.
"The most important verse in the Bible". Now, people have been guessing for weeks or months what that verse is. I've heard a rumor that some Sunday school classes actually had betting pools. Surely not for money, not here. But they are trying to guess what the verse is. Now, admittedly, a pastor's setting himself up for trouble when he announces he's gonna talk about the most important verse in the Bible because everybody has a different idea of what that verse should be. Maybe for you the most important verse in the Bible is one you memorized as a child. Maybe it's one that your mom or dad taught to you. For others of you it may be a verse that helped you through a particularly difficult time in your life. But I think you would agree with me that if you had to select the single most important verse in the Bible, it ought to be one that answers the most important question in life, and that is, how can a person have a right relationship with God?
Today we're going to look at the verse of scripture, it's actually one sentence, that I think most clearly answers that question, and it's found in the book of Romans, chapter four, verse five. Turn there if you would as we discover the most important verse in the Bible. In the first three chapters of the book of Romans, Paul explains how nobody is in a right standing with God. There's not one righteous person among us. No, not even one.
You say, now wait a minute, I'm not sure I believe that. I mean, what about the pagan who has never heard the name of Jesus Christ? Surely he gets a pass and is allowed into heaven? No, Paul says, not the pagan. He is condemned by God. Well, then surely the moralist, the person who lives by a good moral code, who lives by the golden rule, he's exempt from hell, he gets into heaven, doesn't he? He says no, the moralist is condemned. Well, what about the sincere follower of religion? What about a religious person? He's allowed into heaven, isn't he? Paul says no, not the religious person. There is none righteous among us and, Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God".
Well, if religion won't do it, if morality won't get you into heaven, if ignorance is not an excuse, then how do we have a right relationship with God? And that brings us to Romans chapter four, verse five. Paul says, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned, it is counted, as righteousness". And what I want you to notice in this simple sentence are three characteristics of the person who is in a right standing with God. And what's interesting is these three characteristics are completely contrary to our human reasoning. They turn our expectations upside down because they're God's wisdom and not man's wisdom.
Will you notice what those three characteristics are? First of all, whom does God forgive? Who is assured of heaven? First of all, God forgives those who admit they are ungodly. Look at verse five again. "But to the one who does not work, but believes in him", and underline this, "Who justifies the ungodly". That word justifies simply means, it's a legal term that means to declare not guilty. Imagine a judge in his robe taking that gavel and pounding it and declaring, "Not guilty". The Bible says the people whom God declares not guilty are the, who? The ungodly. When Paul says the ungodly, he's talking about people who are opposed to God. And guess who that is. Everyone of us. We are born with an inclination to oppose God. We are born with this inclination. When God says yes, our first inclination is to say no. When God says no to something, our first inclination is to say yes. And we've all inherited that sin tendency.
Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned", not just some have sinned, all of us have sinned, "And fallen short of the glory of God". You know, we don't understand that. We like to point to people who are worse than we are to measure our morality by them. We compare ourselves to other people but God sees no difference in humanity. We are all on the same plain. There is no difference in God's eyes between the pastor and the prostitute, between the governor and the gunman, between the lawyer and the lawless, between the sophisticate and the savage. We are all sinners who need a Savior. And the first step to being forgiven is to recognize, to admit that we are ungodly. But the one who does not work but who justifies the ungodly.
The second characteristic I want you to notice here is that God forgives those who realize they are incapable of earning salvation. Notice in verse five again. "To the one who does not work". God forgives those who refuse to work for their salvation. Now, again, that turns our expectations topsy-turvy. We think just the opposite. In fact, we're taught from early in life that any good thing that comes into our life is because of our hard work. You say, "Well, pastor, why is it that God doesn't allow us to work, to earn his forgiveness"? Well, Paul explains that in verse four, the verse before verse five. Paul says, "Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due". When he uses that word, wage, you understand what he's talking about.
Let me ask you a question. How many of you, when you get your check on the 15th and/or 30th of every month, how many of you go into your employer and say, "Thank you so much for this! I can't believe you would do such a thing. I wasn't expecting this". Anybody ever do that? Sometimes I wish the staff did come in and do that, but they don't. Why? Because what they receive is not a gift. It's not a favor. It is an obligation. You have an obligation, your employer has an obligation with you, you've made a deal with them. You work and he pays you for what you do. It's not a gift from him, it is a wage, it is what you are owed.
And ladies and gentlemen, if we work for our salvation, then salvation is not a gift from God, it is what God owes us. And God refuses to owe any man or woman salvation. But some people say, "Well, I can accept that most of the way, but surely we play a little bit of a part in it. Maybe our salvation is 90% what Jesus did for us on the cross in dying for our sins but it's 10% my effort". No. Because even if salvation is 10% or 1% what we do, it changes the whole nature of a gift and makes it an obligation. See what I mean? It's either all a gift, or it's an obligation. It can't be both. And that's why the Bible says God doesn't allow us to do anything to earn our salvation. It is those who do not work who earn eternal life.
That is what the Bible says. "To the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness". Whom does God forgive? Who can be assured that they're gonna be welcomed into heaven one day? First of all, those who admit that they are ungodly and need God's forgiveness. Secondly, those who realize they are incapable of earning in any way their salvation. And then finally, and this is key, God forgives those who trust in Christ to save them. Look again at verse five. "But to the one who does not work, but believes in him", underline that, "Believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness". Earlier in chapter four, Paul has been explaining to this mainly Jewish audience how salvation is God's gift, it's not of works, lest any man should boast. And as exhibit a of that truth he uses Abraham as an example.
Now you have to understand, to a Jewish audience, Abraham was kinda like George Washington is to Americans. He was the father of the country, the father of the Jewish people. There is one guy who certainly could inherit heaven based on his works, couldn't he? Not according to what Paul says. Look in verse three of Romans four. He says, "For what does the scripture say? And Abraham believed God. And it", that belief, that faith, "Was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness". A right standing with God.
The event that Paul is referring to goes back to Genesis 15:6. Remember, before Abraham had done anything good, before he had become circumcised, which would be like us being baptized today, before any good thing Abraham did, God said to Abraham, "Abraham, I'm gonna make you the father of our great nation". "Me? I'm 75 years old. I can't be the father of one, much less a multitude". He said, "Abraham, go outside. Look into the heavens and count the number of stars. Can you count them"? No. He said, "So shall your descendants be". And then, Genesis 15:6 says, "And Abraham believed God". And God took that belief of Abraham and in the great accounting room of heaven that faith of Abraham was exchanged for God's righteousness.
At that moment, Abraham was declared not guilty. He was in a right standing with God. And Paul uses that same word, believe, to describe how we're in a right relationship with God. The word believe doesn't just mean intellectual assent to a set of facts. It is a belief that means to trust in, to cling to, to put your full hope in. To believe in Jesus Christ for your salvation doesn't mean just to believe intellectual facts about Jesus. It means to believe, to cling to, to trust in what Jesus said about himself, that he came and died on the cross to forgive us of our sins. It means to trust in that and that alone for our salvation. Perhaps this illustration will help you even more understand what biblical belief is.
Some of our folks have seen this before but it so well illustrates what the Bible means when it says believe. Believe isn't just a set of intellectual facts you agree to. I could believe that this chair is sturdy, that it is well made, that it is capable of supporting my weight. I believe that intellectually. Is this chair supporting me? No, intellectual assent is not enough. I could say, well, I kinda believe that this chair can hold me but I wanna hedge my bets, and so I sit down, but I also put some weight on my feet. I don't wanna put my whole weight on it 'cause this thing could break. Is it really holding me? No, it's my feet as well as the chair. To really believe in this chair means I put my full weight in this chair. No weight in my feet. I transfer the responsibility from my feet completely to the chair to support me.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, it is the same way with believing in Jesus Christ. To believe in Jesus Christ doesn't mean to believe certain historical facts about Jesus. You can believe that Jesus is the Son of God, you can believe that he died for the sins of the world, you can believe that he rose from the dead on the third day, and still split hell wide open when you die. Did you know that? How do I know that? Because you know the demons and satan believe all of those things about Jesus? They believe that he was the Son of God. When the demons confronted Jesus, they said to him, "Why are you here, oh Son of God"? They understood who Jesus was. They believed that he died for the sins of the world. They believed that he rose again from the dead.
In fact, they believe those things more than you do. More than I do. Because they were there, they were eyewitnesses to those things. But that kind of belief is not what saves you. It is when you are willing to appropriate that faith in your own life, when you come to that point of desperation, when you believe that Jesus is your only hope of heaven, when you kneel before our holy God and you say, God, I know I am ungodly. I know I have sinned. I know I deserve your eternal punishment. But I believe that you sent your son Jesus to die for me, to take the punishment on the cross that I deserve to take from you.
And right now I'm trusting in Jesus and Jesus alone, not my good works but in Jesus and Jesus alone to save me from my sins. And the Bible says the moment, the instant you say that to God, just like Abraham, God takes your faith, no matter how small it is, and in the great accounting room of heaven, God exchanges your little bit of faith for his everlasting forgiveness and righteousness. "To the one who does not work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness".
As a young girl, Charlotte Elliott had heard that truth all of her life. One day, when she was nine years old, her village pastor came by to see her. He said, "Charlotte, are you ready to come to Jesus today"? She said, "Pastor, I'd like to, but I don't know how to come". He said, "Just come the way you are". And that night little Charlotte Elliott knelt beside her bed and she prayed this prayer. "Dear God, my pastor said I don't have to wait any longer to come to you. If you would take me just the way I am, I'll come to you now".
Years later, as an adult, Charlotte Elliott used that experience to pen one of the most loved hymns of all time. "Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidd'st me come to thee, o Lamb of God, I come". As a little girl, Charlotte Elliott understood a truth so simple that wise men have stumbled over it, and that truth is this. To the man, the woman, the boy, or girl who does not work, but believes in him who forgives, justifies the ungodly, God takes his faith and counts it as righteousness.