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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Barcus & Laura Neal

May 12th, 2024: Counted as Righteousness- Romans 4:12-24

After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:1-6).

The fourth chapter of Romans starts by sharing the history of the faith- beginning with Abraham.  It was essential for the church in Rome and now for us, spiritual descendants of Abraham, to understand the promises made by God.  After all, Abraham is the father of the Jewish nation. Through him came the twelve tribes, more importantly, the line of Christ, and also a promise that whoever blessed him would be blessed and whoever cursed him would be cursed.  God’s promises are still good today.  Abraham had a son with Sarah named Isaac. Then, Isaac’s son Jacob was the father of twelve sons. His family grew into a tribe, and the tribe grew into a nation.

The whole of the Old Testament uses Israel’s family to teach us about God and to point us to the Messiah. The church in Rome, in Paul’s day,  is made up of both Jews (born into the family of Abraham) and Gentiles (born into the family of God by a spiritual birth).  This spiritual relationship is vital to our understanding of what it means to be a child of God. Paul is patient and methodical in his teaching.  As we will see in our lesson today, the key is the righteousness that comes from faith. 

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

In the first few verses of chapter four, Paul shows that Abraham was considered righteous and faithful before the law was even given.  Some commentators like to suggest that Abraham somehow knew the law, making it plausible that he kept the law. Paul disagrees; keeping the law did not save him and cannot save us.  Abraham did many courageous works, but his works did not earn his salvation. We sometimes get things backwards concerning works and faith.  God is not indebted to us, or required to let us in to his Heaven because we have done so many righteous things. Our righteousness is as filthy rags.  Instead, we are indebted to God - because without His righteousness, we are not fit to enter God’s perfect Heaven. God initiated a relationship with Abraham, as He does with us, and we respond to his lovingkindness and grace. 

For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.

Adam’s sin was not believing what God said- Adam lacked trust (faith); he chose to believe the word of the enemy. Adam leaned on his own understanding and righteousness. The law of the Lord is Perfect-converting the soul (Psalm 19:7a).  Human beings are not able to keep the law (words of God) perfectly. The law exposes our inability to think or act or be like God.  The law shows us our sin, and sometimes we rebel against it, multiplying our guilt.  If there was no law, we would have nothing to condemn us. But the word of God has been given, so we don’t have any excuse of ignorance to hide behind. Abraham believed God. In God’s eyes, Abraham was a sinner, but Abraham trusted the word spoken to him by the Lord.  Paul called it faith, and God counted it as righteousness. 

Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

Abraham’s faith is made known by his trust and demonstrated by his obedience. Grace comes from God.  The measure of faith God gives every man provides a way out of our lost condition.  Receiving grace requires a relationship of trust and dependency in which we respond with loyalty to God.  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians2:8-9).

Abraham is a picture of how faith and Grace go together. Not just for the Jews but for all - including the gentiles.  

(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. (Romans 4:17).

And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

The advanced age of Abraham and Sarah staggers our ability to comprehend. They were far past the time to have children, naturally speaking.  Both struggled to understand what God was telling them, a son was coming to them that they did not have the ability to produce.  Recall the mess of things that arose from their trying to figure out God’s intentions. They misused Hagar to have Ishmael, who came through the flesh. They (Abraham, who was 100 years old, and Sarah, long past the age to bear children) later did have a son of promise - Isaac.

Abraham believed God, though he couldn’t understand the plan, and tried to fix things for God. God meant exactly what He said. The birth of Isaac is miraculous.  The birth of the church would be the same. A very serious lesson to keep in mind when we are tempted to “fix things” for God.  He is more than able to perform what He promises, without our help.  Do we have the strong faith required to put away what we understand and open the door to what God is able to perform?  

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, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.

Don’t miss the word Impute, or imputed. It means ascribed to, labeled with. This faith in God that Abraham had was not recorded just to brag on Abraham.  It is a lesson for us also.  Today 5000 plus years later, we still are blessed by and can be covered by the righteousness of God. If…. if what?  If we believe that Jesus died on the cross, was buried, rose again, and is the son of God.  If we confess that He is God and also that we are sinners, God goes to work, bridging the gap between us and heaven. Paul includes all who believe into the family of Abraham.  Our sin labeled us enemies to God, permanently separated from God, but Christ changed our title, labeling us Christian - not through our righteousness.  We are sons and daughters of God through our faith and belief in Jesus Christ.  Our title changes to Christian by faith in Him.  And He graciously imputes (covers us/labels us) with His righteousness.  When He looks on us- He doesn’t see our filthy rags.  He sees the righteousness of His Son.  

Thank you for studying with us! God Bless!



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