The righteousness of Christ must be spoken of often in Christian circles. The tendency within man is to look within himself for some good that will somehow recommend him to God. If one needs proof of this, he need not look far. Look to all the major religions of the world. The common thread that unites them all is the belief in a works-based system that will, in the end, supposedly be meritorious. If that is not enough, all a person needs to do is look into his own heart.
If someone were to walk the streets and ask the first ten people he saw, “Do you have any kind of spiritual belief?”, the majority of people would most likely say yes. If the questioning progressed into, “Do you believe that there is life after death?”, the average person would most likely say yes, as well. However, if the conversation continued and the question was asked, “If you were to die today and stand before God and He were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’, what would you say?”, the vast majority of the people would look within themselves rather than outside of themselves.
What is meant is this. The majority of people would say, “Because I am a good person.” In some form or fashion, that would be the general response of mankind. He would tell of his good deeds and his good works, all the while not recognizing the fact that it is not good works that gets someone to heaven.
Since there is such a great misunderstanding on the matter, why don’t we make sure we have this right? Paul can help us on this topic – he has much to say about it in Romans 4:22-25.
Why was Abraham’s faith counted as righteousness?
Referring to the headings will be helpful, as questions will be both assumed and answered throughout. Why was Abraham’s faith counted as righteousness? What was it that God delighted in that caused God to credit Abraham with a righteousness that Abraham did not earn or deserve? Scripture says, “And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness” (KJV, Rom. 4:22). One need not be intimidated by the word imputed; it simply means credited.
The word imputed or credited is an accounting term. The whole accounting method operates on a debit and credit system. The debit is the counterpart to the credit. If you were to go to a bank, what would you use to take out money? A debit card, right? When you take out money in any fashion, the bank “debits” your account. It is deemed a withdrawal whether you use your debit card or not, and it is also deemed a debit whether you use your debit card or not.
On the other end, when money gets put into your account, the bank “credits” your account. Thus, your account increases. This can help us to gain a picture of what is at stake with the words imputed and credited. God basically puts into the believer’s account the righteousness of Christ, thereby crediting the believer’s account, and thus we are recognized as having the righteousness of Another. As an example, someone could put money into someone else’s account, and the bank would credit the recipient’s account. The money was not the recipient’s, but when the money gets placed into the recipient’s account, the money is now recognized as the recipient’s money. In the same way, God credits the believer’s account with the righteousness of Christ, and then Christ’s righteousness becomes the believer’s righteousness.
But why does God do this? While this question may have a number of answers, we see one in the context of our passage today. Scripture says, “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith…” (Rom. 4:20). The point here is not a perfect faith that gains righteousness, but rather faith in the promise of God. Remember, faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain. But we also see that true faith is a growing faith. Thus, it was Abraham’s faith in God’s promise that caused God to credit Abraham with a righteousness outside of himself.
Who is justified like Abraham?
This brings us to our next question. Scripture says, “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed…” (Rom. 4:23-24). Here we can see that the justification of Abraham was written down for everyone so that everyone can see the way in which God justifies those who came after Abraham. In speaking of imputed righteous, we are merely addressing the topic of justification whereby God declares someone “not guilty” – and hence, righteous.
How is someone justified like Abraham?
Therefore, it should be known and widely held that those who would be righteous before God must also believe in the promise of God. But what is the promise of God? Scripture says, “But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him…” (Rom. 4:24). It is clearly stated that God is willing to impute the righteousness of Another to the believer. However, God does not do impute the righteousness of Another to the believer without the believer’s responding to God’s promise.
Under heaven, there is only one name by which man is saved. The Bible also tells us that Jesus is the way, truth, and life and that there is no other way to get to the Father except through Christ. Here in Romans 4:24, we see that it is belief “on him” (believing in Christ) that brings about the imputed righteousness that is required to stand before God.
Abraham was not different than we are today. He looked toward the cross with whatever revelation God gave him at that time concerning God’s plan of redemption. God promised Abraham that Abraham would have a son and that Abraham would be the father of many nations. This was a part of God’s redemptive plan, and in it, Abraham was able to see Christ from afar, albeit not as clearly as we can see Him today. Abraham believed the promise, and God credited him with righteousness. On this side of the cross, the people of the earth are called to look to Jesus and believe in the promises that are found within the Gospel message.
When is someone justified like Abraham?
Justification happens at the beginning of salvation. When someone believes in Christ, he is then credited with the righteousness of Christ, and as a result, he is in right standing with God. This position before God remains throughout time and all eternity. Thus, the believer is righteous and justified at the first. Justification is not a process that takes minutes, hours, days, months, or even years to complete. It happens in an instant and lasts forever.
What events secured our justification?
But what events secured the justification of the believer? Get ready to be encouraged! Scripture says, “But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:24-25). Did you catch it? It is Jesus Who secured the justification of the believer.
Man does not need to look within himself to find some good that will somehow recommend him to God. No, man needs only to look to Christ with the eyes of faith and see the God-man in all His splendor taking upon Himself the offenses of mankind and being raised from the dead triumphantly.
It is Jesus Who secured the salvation of man. It is Jesus Who took upon Himself the sin of man. It is Jesus Who was buried in a tomb after being crucified on Golgotha’s hill. It is Jesus Who rose from the dead and secured the believer’s justification as a result.
Rejoice in Christ this day. He has done it. He has conquered the grave. He has secured the salvation of those who turn to Him in faith. Believe in Christ this day. Be justified in Christ this day. Look outside of yourself, and fix your eyes on the risen Lamb.
Father, I thank You for the many blessings that are mine in Christ. I thank You for justifying Abraham by faith and for showing me, through Abraham, how I too could be justified. Thank You, Lord, for making a way for me to be with You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.