Does Romans 4:5 teach that works are not a requirement of salvation?
The "Iglesia Ni Cristo" teaches that works are a requirement for salvation. However, many verses in the Bible, such as Romans 4:5, seem to teach that works are not a requirement for salvation. Does this verse really teach that faith alone can save?
Romans 4:5 (ESV) - 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
When we look at the verse and its surrounding context, we see it does indeed teach that works are not a requirement for salvation.
The verse clearly teaches that works are not required to be counted as righteous.
The verse is so clear, it almost seems excessive to walk through what it says.
The one who does not work but believes is counted as righteous. To appear right in God's eyes, we do not need works. We need faith in the one who justifies us.
Works are not required because they would give us a reason to boast.
Looking at the context that immediately precedes, we see that Paul's point in telling us that we are saved apart from our works is that works give us a reason to boast.
Romans 4:1-3 (ESV) - 1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
Abraham cannot boast in his salvation because he did not do any work that brought him his justification. It was only through faith that Abraham was justified. The INC may say that James says the opposite about Abraham, that he was justified by his works, but this makes the scriptures conflict and it's clear from James 2 that James is speaking of Abraham's outward justification before men
Romans 4:4 (ESV) - 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.
In other words, if works were a requirement for salvation, then salvation would be given to us as something we were owed. However, salvation is not owed and we have no reason to boast. Therefore, works most not be a requirement for salvation.
The surrounding chapter is all about salvation through faith alone.
Anyone who carefully reads Romans 3:21-5:21 must admit that Paul argues for salvation through faith alone. Verse after verse after verse he tells us that we are saved through faith in Christ and not by our works. He says this so much that in chapter 6 he must finally ask the question:
Romans 6:1 (ESV) - 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
In other words, he has made it so clear that works are not a requirement of salvation that his audience might be confused into thinking that a sinful life might even be encouraged. Of course, this is not the case because we who have been freed from the bondage of sin should live lives of holiness. Paul answers his own question in Romans 6:2. However, why would Paul feel the need to ask this question unless he had taught that salvation comes through faith alone. He would have no need otherwise!
Romans 4:5 teaches that works are not a requirement for salvation. When the INC teaches that God accepts us on the basis of our works in addition to our faith, they ignore this verse. Additionally, they replace Christ with themselves. We are accepted as righteous on the basis of Christ's work on the cross, not our own.
Galatians 2:21 (ESV) - 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.