2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works.
Romans 4:9b (NASB95)
“For we say, “Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.”
Romans 4:11b (NASB95)
“…that righteousness might be credited to them,
Romans 4:22-25 (NASB95)
22 Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness. 23 Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.
I wrote last week about the apparent foolishness of certain parts of scripture. On first glance, there are passages that make us think, “That can’t be right.” Part of the reason I addressed this, is that I would like to write over the next few blogs about a few sections of scripture that fit into the foolishness category, or at least did for me when I first studied these truths. The first is here in Romans chapter 4.
Paul uses the verb “credit” over and over again in Romans 4. His main thesis for this section of Romans is that what we do or don’t do has absolutely no bearing on our justification. It never has in past history. In fact, Abraham is Paul’s primary case study in this chapter. It meant nothing in the first century when he was writing. It means nothing today. In fact, in the believer’s life, our past, present, and future efforts to please God do nothing to gain His favor. If you are anything like me, my mind starts screaming, “But what about…,” and, “Then how does…,” and, “Well why would I…” You see it is foolishness. It contradicts everything our world system says. Its foolish premise is why there has never been, and I doubt there will ever be, a man-made religion that adopts such a premise. They are all built in some way on our efforts for God, yet in God’s foolishness, the reality is that it is all about God’s efforts for us.
Many people throughout the centuries have looked at Abraham as an example of a righteous life. The interesting thing is that we have very little information about Abraham’s good deeds. What we do have is a record of Abraham’s faith. Unfortunately, the idea of faith gets twisted into something it is not all too often. It is simply and completely the idea of trust. In fact, the Greek word used for faith could just as easily be translated “trust.” The significance of Abraham’s life was not that he trusted, it was in whom he trusted and the degree to which he trusted. He was credited righteousness that he was not owed.
God’s foolishness is this. All of our efforts for God do nothing to make us more acceptable to Him. No single act of disobedience nor all of our worthless deeds will ever make us less acceptable to Him. His favor and the righteousness which brings about our justification is a credit not a payment. A payment or wage is the expect result for a job well done. His credit is given to those who abandon their efforts, in recognition of how futile they are, in exchange for His efforts. Believers are those who have quite their jobs (metaphorically) and are living on welfare. We know that every time our balance increases, it is because of His work. It is His paycheck deposited regularly into our account.
The moment we believe that we even slightly deserve what we get is the moment in which God’s freely offered credit becomes the payment due in our minds. That line of thinking has led to the greatest perversions of truth since God’s laws were first recorded. The Jewish people embraced this folly. The Catholic Church has fallen into this folly. Most unfortunately, some evangelical bible-believing churches have become partakers in this folly, mandating things from baptism to communion to required manifestations of the “spirit-filled”. In each time and in every way, they make God’s blessed credit into a payment, in turn abandoning the gospel of grace.
May we resist efforts around us and in our own hearts that take God’s credit freely offered to those who trust in Him and turn it into what is due those who have earn it.