Romans 4:3- “For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” NKJV
Paul concludes chapter 3, as we would reference this part of the letter, with these words:
“Since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.Romans 3:30-31 NKJV
Have you ever been in a conversation with yourself? You are preparing an “argument” that you are thinking you may have and you try and think of all the things that person will say to you and how you can respond? This is what is happening in this letter thus far. Paul is raising questions that he believes he would be asked by these believers and even non-believers, if they had a chance to speak with him. He has explained the truth that righteousness is given to us by the Father as a free gift and that we can not earn it. As he makes the point that all are justified by faith, he realizes that some might think that this means that he thinks faith nullifies the law. Paul, anticipating this thought, tells them that faith establishes the law!
However, he also knows that any good Jewish young man would know that God declared Abraham righteous long before Jesus was born or had died. Therefore, he now makes the point that Abraham was made righteous by faith! But it was on credit!
Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.Genesis 15:6-NIV
Paul asks the question:
What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.Romans 4:1-2 NKJV
Jewish rabbis, when teaching on the righteousness of Abraham, attributes it to his keeping the law. In spite of the fact that the Law had not been given yet, they argued that Abraham kept it by intuition or anticipation. Therefore, when God said that righteousness was credited to Abraham, it was because he had perfectly performed the Law without knowing what the Law was. And because Paul was such a great student of the Law, he argues the point before it can be made. If Abraham was justified by his works, then he truly has something to boast about, because that’s not how we obtain righteousness. It is by faith, and it has always been by faith, even in Abraham’s case!
When something is purchased on credit, you get to enjoy the object before it has been paid for. For example: When we purchased our home, we took out a thirty year loan, meaning we bought it on credit. We call it our home! We say that we bought a house! We declare ourselves the homeowners. And because it was credited to us, it is so! Abraham’s righteousness was accounted to him, by God, as done. It was done because of Abraham’s faith!
How did Abraham believe God and obtain righteousness on credit?
Now the Lord had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.Genesis 12: 1-4 NKJV
Abraham was told by God to leave all that was familiar to him: his multitude of gods, his family and friends, and his country when he was 75 years old. And Abraham did what God told him, demonstrating that he believed what God said. God would make him a great nation! God would bless him! God would make his name great! God would cause him to be a blessing! It all sounded good to Abraham, and he believed that God would do it!
And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.Genesis 15:4-6 NKJV
God and Abram were having a discussion. God told Abram that He was his shield and his exceedingly great reward! Abram responds by basically saying, “That’s great Lord, but I don’t have anyone to leave all of these blessings to except my faithful servant, so….” Then God promises Abram that he will have a son of his own to leave his blessings to and Abram believes God! At this point, God accounts righteousness to Abram!
We all know that Abram got ahead of God and had Ishmael! How many Ismael’s have been produced because we got ahead of Him? Any confessors? Exactly! But God had already “credited” Abraham with righteousness, or as they say in the Greek, “calculated” him righteous, and therefore, it was so!
After Abraham received this word from God, he didn’t stop believing God. He continued to believe God. Remember when Abraham and Isaac took a trip to Mt Moriah to sacrifice to God?
And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.Genesis 22:8-10 NKJV
For me, this is the greatest example of Abraham’s absolute trust in God. Let’s recap a few details I didn’t copy and paste into my post:
- Abraham finally had his son of promise-Isaac!
- God tells Abraham to take Isaac and offer him as a sacrifice
- Abraham obeys
- When he gets close to his destination, he tells his servants to wait for him and Isaac to go and make the sacrifice, telling them that he and Isaac would return
- Isaac notices that they don’t have a burnt offering
- Abraham says that God will provide for Himself a lamb
This is a powerful picture of faith. Abraham intended to obey God by sacrificing his son, if he needed to. But in carrying out God’s command, Abraham believed in his heart that if Isaac died, God was obviously planning on resurrecting him because he had a nation to build through Isaac. He also had such confidence in God that he instilled that same confidence in Isaac because Isaac didn’t fight to keep from being restrained and laid on the altar. What a wonderful faith Abraham taught his son!
But somewhere throughout the multitude of centuries and obeying God and disobeying God, Abraham’s people lost their ability to completely trust God. Now Paul, in Romans is trying to ignite the faith of their father Abraham into their hearts! Believe God, become righteous! Disbelieve God, remain unrighteous!
The same cry of God’s heart that Paul proclaimed in Romans remains His cry today! Believe God, be made righteous! Disbelieve God, remain unrighteous! I close with this very special verse in another of Paul’s letters:
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV
Here’s what I believe happened: When Jesus died on the cross and became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, Abraham was made righteous! It was no longer credited to his account, he was righteous! Abraham discovered that God’s credit was just as good as he believed it would be! His credit was good enough for Abraham who didn’t have a Bible, a church, a cloud of witnesses, nor the Blood of Jesus as a constant reminder of all that God had done for him. It’s even better for us! Righteousness isn’t accounted to us, we become righteous when we believe! Hallelujah!! Wonderful, wonderful Jesus!