“When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.” Romans 4:4-5
The idea of grace stands opposite to the principle of works; grace has to do with receiving the freely given gift of God, works has to do with earning our merit before God. Paul wants us to understand that God’s grace is making us righteous without any work. A system of works seeks to put God in debt to us, making God owe us His favor because of our good behavior. In work-thinking, God owes us salvation or blessings because of our good works. We can never work our way to heaven. It is only by the grace of God that we are made righteous. God’s grace does cost us. “Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” “Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer) Our faith in God is why God counts us righteous, but with this righteousness come a commitment to Jesus Christ and a change in our behavior.