Ever done a favor for someone; perhaps even for a stranger, someone who may have knocked at your window at a stoplight to ask for money? Paul says this is what God does for us, strangers, even enemies. God does a favor for us! He makes sinners “just men.” We are not due this favor; we do not earn it. In other words, our salvation is not a reward. Rather it is a favor.
4 The reward given to one who works to earn it is not reckoned as a favour, it is reckoned as his due. 5 When a man’s faith is reckoned virtue in him, according to God’s gracious plan, it is not because of anything he does; it is because he has faith, faith in the God who makes a just man of the sinner.
We gain God’s favor by recognizing, if you will – by believing that it is a favor. We recognize and believe God does us this favor “according to [His] gracious plan.” Paul says that “it is not because of anything [we do].” Yes, it’s a favor.