What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? 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 reckoned to him as righteousness.’ 4 Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. 5 But to one who irrespective of his works trusts Him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. 6 So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness irrespective of works: 7 ‘Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.’ (Rom4:1-8)
Faith reckoned as righteousness
In the context of the previous post, this is a passage often cited by those who believe God’s own righteousness to be imputed to the believer in Christ. It centres on the word λογίζεται which, as above, is best translated in this context as “reckons” (as righteous) or “regarded” (as righteous). That same Greek word appears in vv3,4,5,6&8. But in some Bible versions (e.g. KJV), when λογίζεται appears in verses 6 and 8 it is translated “imputes” and is generally understood in the sense of something that is transferred from one Person to another. Yet in verse 8 it is obvious that cannot be the case for God would not transfer sin to the transgressor for it is already present! It can only mean that God does not reckon sin, and the same applies to verse 6 with regard to God reckoning those with faith as righteous.
Paul cites Abraham, who believed God concerning His promise of a son in old age, and this was credited to him as righteousness (v3). But as is made clearer in Hebrews 11 (v8), it was Abraham’s obedience to God’s call to leave his home country that first evinced his faith. For faith that justifies is never alone but is accompanied by a measure of obedience. That is obedience to God and His promises, to Christ as Lord and Savior or at the universal level to the divine light provided by Christ to every man through the workings of conscience. Unlike the many for whom gospel salvation does not avail, indeed cannot avail without God’s personal intervention (Jn6:44), those who utterly reject God’s universal witness via the faculties God has provided to them are without excuse and are heading for perdition. Devoid of conscience, compassion and truthfulness, they are described in the Old Testament as “having left the paths of uprightness to walk in the way of darkness” (Prov2:13); by Jude as “those without fruit, plucked up by the roots, twice dead” (Jud12). The Apostle John defines them as “ek tou ponerou”, i.e. derived from the Evil One (1Jn3:12 cf. Mt15:13). Their defining features are, that lacking a working conscience, they have no qualms, indeed positively delight in practicing evil, have no concern for truth and fail to show compassion towards those in need (1Jn3:10 cf. Mt25:35-40).
Through the Church’s rejection of a positive role for natural law affirmed by many of the earliest Church Fathers (earlier post), the satanic herd has for centuries been lumped together with the rest of unsaved humanity. But the majority of these are like Isaac’s half-brother Ishmael, who though blessed and circumcised by his father Abraham (Gen17:20-23) and living under God’s loving protection (Gen21:20) were simply not elected to the exclusive Covenant of Promise** (cf. Gal4:28). As Paul wrote, it is the Church who like Isaac are the children of promise (Gal4:28). Apart from what it implies about non-Christian nations, communities and individuals (as hated or rejected by God), this soteriological misclassification has resulted in a disfiguring of God’s munificence and intelligible justice. It is primarily a result of a misreading of the Apostle Paul’s writing such as we are currently reviewing. I have come to understand that the sustaining of this providential mystery is nevertheless in accordance with the divine will and that its resolution has been foretold in Scripture (Rev10).
**As opposed to the inclusive Universal Covenant of Life (earlier post)
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Related post: The reward of faith