What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to him who works, wages are not given as a gift, but as a debt. But to him who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. Romans 4:3-5
How was Abraham righteous in God’s eyes? Was it by his own works and devotion to God? Or was righteousness graciously credited to him by faith?
Many look at Old Testament saints like Abraham and draw the conclusion that they lived a righteous and holy life and, therefore, God loved and accepted them as His own. Yet, when we look at the life of Abraham, the Scriptures reveal flaws and mistrust.
He more than once called his wife Sarah his sister out of fear that he would be killed so that another might take her. He listened to Sarah when she gave him Hagar as a concubine to bear children rather than trust fully that God would do as he promised. Though Abraham was certainly a man of faith who sought to walk in the ways of the LORD, he was not perfect and without sin.
So, how was Abraham righteous before God? St. Paul quotes from Genesis 15:6: “Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”
The apostle Paul explains further: “Now to him who works, wages are not given as a gift, but as a debt. But to him who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom. 4:4-5).
If Abraham were righteous by his own works, righteousness would not have been credited or imputed to him; it would have been earned by him and his own by right. But the Scriptures say that Abraham believed God’s promises and that righteousness was credited to him by God.
Notice, too, that David, in Psalm 32, speaks of the blessedness of the one who confesses his sins and receives in faith God’s mercy and forgiveness (Rom. 4:6-8). David, as well, speaks of God’s forgiveness and the imputation of righteousness as God’s gracious gift received through faith and not earned by our own works.
How then are we righteous and acceptable in God’s eyes? By our own works? Or, by faith?
Though many assume the way to be righteous before God is by our works and our obedience to God’s commandments, the Bible teaches us that we have all come short and that even our best righteousnesses are like defiled, unclean rags in God’s eyes (cf. Rom. 3:9ff.; Isa. 64:6).
The only way for sinners like you and me to be righteous before God is through faith in Christ Jesus. When we believe the Word of God which tells us that Christ fulfilled all righteousness for us and then was sacrificed for us to make full atonement for all our sins, God credits it to us for righteousness. He forgives all our sins for the sake of Jesus’ blood, shed upon the cross, and He imputes and credits to us the perfect righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 3:21-28; 1 John 1:7 — 2:2).
It is as the Bible says: “But to him who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (v. 5); “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law” (Rom. 3:28; cf. Eph. 2:8-9; Gal. 3:6ff.; 3:26-29; Phil. 3:8-9).
Grant that I cease attempting to be counted righteous in Your eyes by my own works, O LORD, and place my faith in Christ’s perfect righteousness and in His atoning sacrifice on the cross for my sins that I may be counted righteous and holy in Your sight through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.
[Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]