In our study Romans chapter four, we look at justification by faith. We will see that this is the way it has been since the calling of Avraham.
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Then what should we say Avraham, our forefather, obtained by his own efforts?
In chapter 3, Paul showed us that our relationship with God is based on faith and that is the only way that we are declared not guilty of our sins (justified). Now, he looks to the Old Testament and the father of the faith which is Avraham.
For if Avraham came to be considered righteous by God because of legalistic observances, then he has something to boast about. But this is not how it is before God! For what does the Tanakh say? "Avraham put his trust in God, and it was credited to his account as righteousness."
Here, Paul quotes from Genesis 15:6 which is the story of God's covenant (promise) to make his offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky. He was declared righteous because of his belief (faith). As an old man, Avraham was told to demonstrate his faith by offering his only son as a sacrifice. By faith in God, he went to obey but God stopped him from actually doing it. Not many of us would be willing to give up our only child as he was but, by faith, he went to obey. He was already justified by his faith before he even took one step to sacrifice his son.
Now the account of someone who is working is credited not on the ground of grace but on the ground of what is owed him. However, in the case of one who is not working but rather is trusting in him who makes ungodly people righteous, his trust is credited to him as righteousness.
Righteousness comes by faith and not from works as we see here. Even Avraham who was willing to give up his only son (which is a beautiful picture of what God was going to do for all of us) did not earn his right relationship with God. By faith, he believed that God would provide another son to keep his promise and, even though he did not have to really give up his son, God provided his own son to be our perfect sacrifice.
In the same way, the blessing which David pronounces is on those whom God credits with righteousness apart from legalistic observances: "Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered over; Blessed is the man whose sin ADONAI will not reckon against his account."
Paul gives us another example from the Old Testament by quoting King David and Psalm 32. We see in this that David understood that we are not justified by works as he speaks of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a gift that is given from the one who was offended to the one who committed the offense.
Now is this blessing for the circumcised only? Or is it also for the uncircumcised? For we say that Avraham's trust was credited to his account as righteousness; but what state was he in when it was so credited - circumcision or uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision!
We see, from this example, that the physical does not determine righteousness. The blessedness that Paul is talking about is the forgiveness of sins and it is for all who will accept it in faith.
In fact, he received circumcision as a sign, as a seal of the righteousness he had been credited with on the ground of the trust he had while he was still uncircumcised. This happened so that he could be the father of every uncircumcised person who trusts and thus has righteousness credited to him,
Avraham is a picture of the coming of Messiah in that, by faith, we are all brought into the family of God. Avraham received a seal (circumcision) so that others would know that he was a child of God. We, too, receive a seal when we accept Yeshua Messiah by faith but our seal is the Holy Spirit.
and at the same time be the father of every circumcised person who not only has had a b'rit-milah, but also follows in the footsteps of the trust which Avraham avinu had when he was still uncircumcised.
Jews also are children of Avraham and justified by that same faith. Though they are circumcised, we see here that it is still their walk by faith that makes them Avraham's children and justified before God.
For the promise to Avraham and his seed that he would inherit the world did not come through legalism but through the righteousness that trust produces. For if the heirs are produced by legalism, then trust is pointless and the promise worthless. For what law brings is punishment. But where there is no law, there is also no violation.
This passage makes it clear that it is only by faith that we are saved. It also gives us a clear understanding of the purpose of the law. The purpose of the law is to make us aware of our inability to live up to God's standard. Because of this inability to do so on our own, we can see the need for a savior that could do it on our behalf. You cannot add anything to faith for salvation because, if you do, it is no longer by faith. This is the same thing that Paul said in Ephesians 2:8 & 9.
The reason the promise is based on trusting is so that it may come as God's free gift, a promise that can be relied on by all the seed, not only those who live within the framework of the Torah, but also those with the kind of trust Avraham had - Avraham avinu for all of us.
We are one with God's people (Israel) because of this promise. Both Jews and Gentiles share the promise by faith.
This accords with the Tanakh, where it says, "I have appointed you to be a father to many nations." Avraham is our father in God's sight because he trusted God as the one who gives life to the dead and calls nonexistent things into existence.
This verse speaks about the promise that God made to Avraham. It also reminds us that God is the creator of all things as they are created simply by his words.
For he was past hope, yet in hope he trusted that he would indeed become a father to many nations, in keeping with what he had been told, "So many will your seed be."
With God there is always hope as we see with the example of Avraham. We also see that, when God promises something, he keeps his word. If we trust and believe, we can confidently wait for his perfect timing.
His trust did not waver when he considered his own body - which was as good as dead, since he was about a hundred years old - or when he considered that Sarah's womb was dead too. He did not by lack of trust decide against God's promises. On the contrary, by trust he was given power as he gave glory to God, for he was fully convinced that what God had promised he could also accomplish.
Faith as demonstrated by Avraham is belief in God's promises even when it does not make sense to us. Avraham and Sarah were too old to have a child in earthly terms but with God all things are possible. We too can simply trust God or we can "waver through unbelief" but that does not please God as we see in Revelation 3:15.
This is why it was credited to his account as righteousness.
There is a big difference between wages and credit in accounting. Wages are payments that are received based on your physical efforts while a credit to your account does not require your own efforts. Avraham simply believed God and so it did not require any work on his part. Therefore, his righteousness was credited to him as a gift.
But the words, "it was credited to his account . . . ," were not written for him only. They were written also for us, who will certainly have our account credited too, because we have trusted in him who raised Yeshua our Lord from the dead - Yeshua, who was delivered over to death because of our offences and raised to life in order to make us righteous.
If we believe that Yeshua died for our sins and was raised from the dead by God, we will have righteousness with God. Justification is where the one that has the right and authority to make a decision about guilt declares that the accused is not guilty. It is like being charged for a crime, going to court, and being found not guilty.