Grace means the kindness of God; our works mean our own efforts. The difference is that grace depends entirely on the goodness of God. Our works, on the other hand, are what we achieve without God.
So therefore, we cannot obtain a right relationship with God by our own human efforts (4:1-5). Instead, we must depend on God, and that is called faith. That faith does not come from us, but God gives it to us, in his great kindness, his grace. He gives faith to us by his word, the Bible; and in particular by the gospel, the message about Christ (1:16-17; 10:17).
All people must come to God in faith; all people, therefore, must depend on his grace, and not their own works. These facts are true whether people belong to Israel, or to the other nations. However, Paulís particular subject here is the people who belong to Israel.
Paul explained the problem that many of Israelís people had in Romans 9:30-33. They wanted to have a right relationship with God. However, they thought that they could achieve it by their own efforts to obey Godís law. These people did not come to God in faith because they were depending upon themselves. Therefore, they were not yet ready to receive Christ; and they were not ready to put their trust entirely in God. They had not realised how much they needed Godís grace to change their lives.
Paul understood this problem from his own personal experience. However, by Godís grace, God had done wonderful things in Paulís life (1 Corinthians 15:10). So Paul knew that God could do the same thing in other peopleís lives too. For that reason, Paul prayed much for Israelís people (10:1).
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© 2017, Keith Simons.