“Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
What a simple, short statement. I have been reading the first part of Romans lately, and re-examining the connection Paul makes to the Old Testament. It’s amazing how he draws on Abraham’s life and the promises God made to him.
One of the major reasons Paul draws on this example is to confound pharisaic Judaism, which placed a great emphasis on Law-keeping. He was concerned that his hearers not become caught up in the idea that keeping laws made them righteous before God. And, the main reason for this is that it nullifies the cross. For Paul, Abraham proved to be a powerful example. He pre-dates the giving of the Law, and thus, pre-dates Judaism. Yet, even the most reluctant Jewish scholar would have acknowledged that Abraham was credited with righteousness based on faith. And, this happened before his circumcision (please don’t get me wrong; he was circumcised, and it was significant).
Think of the promise of a son given to Abraham. As I have said earlier, Abraham was given this promise four times starting from the age of 75 (Martin Chemnitz wrote on this in his book, “The Lord’s Supper”). At first, he seemed to take the news with some shock. In fact, Abraham attempted to fulfill the promise through his own efforts by having a son through Hagar (definitely not his aging wife). His action reveal faithlessness. Ishmael was the result, but he most definitely was not the heir.
He wasn’t the only one who responded in faithlessness at the proclamation of God’s promise. In a similar situation, Zechariah is given a lengthy promise about his future son, John. He responded by saying ” … I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years”. Then, he lost his voice until he wrote that the name of the boy would be John.
And, how about Jacob? The guy who basically stole his brother’s inheritance. When this same brother comes to meet him some twenty years later (Esau), Jacob divides his family into two groups in an act of desperation. The funny thing is that Esau didn’t grow in his murderous anger, but instead showed a transformed love. This transformation was due to faith. Esau had it, Jacob did not (how do you like them apples?).
Sarai laughed at the promise of a son when she overheard the promise. Why? Because God’s promise is so outlandish. Think of it. You are invested in living a moral life according to the Bible. You don’t do anything that would make your mom frown. You keep your nose clean (with great effort). And then, God says, Abraham believed … and it was credited to him as righteousness.
So much for the mind. Like these examples, we respond in disbelief to the extra-ordinary promise of God. What is that promise? That Jesus Christ has purchased your redemption through his death on the cross. He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf that we might have the righteousness of God.
Look at yourself. Do you look like God? Are you pure, Holy, Righteous; perfect? Do you love, forgive, support, sacrifice and help people perfectly? How about your enemies? Do you love them enough to walk with them an extra mile? Would you touch a leper? Would you talk to a prostitute? Would you call a religious leader a viper? Would you die for someone who absolutely hated you? (A more thorough evaluation can be had by looking at the ten commandments).
I don’t know about you, but I lose. I am a selfish, self-preserving, searching for glory kind of guy. I fail to even love my own wife and children the way God would want me to. And, I don’t want to be like this. In fact, I hate it. I long to love the way Jesus loved. I long to be faithful the way Jesus was faithful. But, I am a long way from that. So, until that time comes, Jesus is my righteousness. He is my forgiveness. He is my justification.
Heavenly Father, I am unrighteous. Thank you for sending your Son to deliver me from the darkness of sin, death and the devil through the cross of His death. Thank you for giving me righteousness in exchange for my sinfulness. Please transform me, and overwhelm my reason with your promise in Christ.