Read Romans 4:1-15
“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Digging Deeper: I have a confession. As a college student, whenever I would come to a page in a textbook that carried an illustration or a table as an inset, I’d skip it! Rather than taking the time to allow the example to actually reinforce the point being made in the written material, I would just flip past it and hurry on to more the important extra curricular activities that awaited me. But that’s a whole “nuther” story!
Similarly, you might be tempted to skim past Romans 4, since the whole chapter is pretty much an illustrative inset to the case the Apostle Paul has been making so far: that we are justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the Jewish law. And now, to drive his point home, he presents the example of Abraham. But don’t skip over this, because within Abraham’s example is a core principle of what it means, and what it takes, to be in right standing with God.
Eight times in this chapter alone, Paul uses the word “credited”, to deliver a theological knockout punch. The New King James Version uses the alternative terms “accounted” and “imputed” nine different times. This is a big deal to Paul—as it is to our faith. This is ground zero to salvation. Here is was theologian R.C. Sproul says about it:
“Imputation is more than central; it’s essential to the New Testament gospel. Friends, I beg you never to negotiate the concept of the imputed righteousness of Christ. That’s the article upon which we stand and fall because without His righteousness all we have to offer God is filthy rags…”
Sproul goes on to say what Paul is declaring is that “the righteousness by which we are justified is an alien righteousness—a foreign righteousness.” In other words, our right standing with God was, is, and always shall be only possible through a righteousness outside of ourselves—what is referred to as “alien righteousness.” Our righteousness before God is only possible because God credited Christ’s righteousness to us. Says Sproul, “the only righteousness that will justify us is the righteousness of Christ. We are naked and helpless without the cloak of His righteousness covering us.”
Paul took the word “credited” or “imputed” (in the Greek language, it is (“logidzomahee”) from the legal or financial world of his day. The term meant to credit to the account of another; in this case, to take from the account of one and legally credit it to the account of another. Once it was in the other’s account, it was legally his. In this case, righteousness became Abraham’s by faith; in your case, right standing with God becomes yours by faith.
And here’s the mind-blowing part of this. Even the faith it took for you to believe in Christ’s work of imputation was not your own. That, too, was a free gift from God (see Ephesians 2:8-9). You see, if the faith it took to believe was your own, that as well would be a meritorious work—but righteousness with God just doesn’t work that way. (Romans 4:2,5) God’s act of declaring Abraham (as well as you and all other believing sinners) righteous is completely apart from any kind of human effort; otherwise God would owe us our wages (Romans 4:4). Our believing, then, rather than being something with which we impress God into saving us, is simply the conduit through which this alien righteousness flows to us, and thus credits us with Christ’s righteousness and produces for us right standing with God.
I know that is a mouthful, but I want to challenge you to check it out here in Romans 4—our FreeCreditReport.God, if you will. Study it, meditate on it, absorb it, and glory in it since this is the core of what it means, and what it takes, to be right and righteous with God.
“We are foul in God’s sight until He imputes
to us the righteousness of Christ.”
This Week’s Assignment:
- Memorize Romans 4:16, “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.”
- Read Romans 4 in several different versions. I would recommend the version you normally use, plus The Message and The New Living Translation.