World English Bible translation
4:1What then will we say that Abraham, our forefather, has found according to the flesh? 4:2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not toward God. 4:3 For what does the scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." 4:4 Now to him who works, the reward is not accounted as of grace, but as of debt. 4:5 But to him who doesn’t work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness. 4:6 Even as David also pronounces blessing on the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works,
4:7"Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven,
Whose sins are covered.
4:8Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not charge with sin."
At this point, Paul stops and gives an example from history of the righteousness that God gives that is based on faith. The example that he raises is Abraham. Abraham is the historic figure whose story is told in Genesis Chapters 12-25. He is revered by the Jewish, Christian, and Moslem faiths. He was the first of the patriarchs that led to the creation of the Jewish nation. What does the Torah say of the righteousness of Abraham?
The scripture says, "'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.'" Paul argues that Abraham did not work for the righteousness. It was accounted to him as a gift, not as something for which Abraham worked and earned in the nature of a debt. Grace is not earned; it is given. That which is earned is not a gift; it is a debt.
Paul reasons that therefore Abraham was accredited righteousness in the same way that is open to all men today. God revealed Himself to Abraham and Abraham believed what God told him. In the same way, God reveals Himself to us today through His Son, Jesus Christ. If we believe the revelation that God gives to us then God will count it as righteousness for us as well. The God of Abraham will become our God and we will be His people.
Paul also gives an example from the Psalms of King David. "'Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, Whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not charge with sin.'" The Psalm is thought to be one of the penitential psalms written by David concerning his sin against the woman Bathsheba. Surely David did not earn righteousness in his works during this period of his life. But, David's sin was forgiven because of his faith. God revealed David's sin through the prophet Nathan and David repented and cast himself upon the mercy of the Lord.
Paul is showing by the lives of Old Testament saints that the righteousness that God is revealing through Jesus Christ is the same righteousness by which God has justified man from the beginning of time. This is not a new way of dealing with sin. Paul had come to realize that this is the way that God had always dealt with sin.
Paul had believed, as many Jews of Paul's day had believed, that the sacrificial system of the Law of Moses was God's means of dealing with sin. But the Risen Christ had revealed the reality for which the Law and its sacrifices were only a shadow. The reality was that God had always dealt with man on the basis of faith. It was man's faith that God affirmed or condemned.
In the lives of Abraham and David, Paul saw that God appointed them and forgave them of their iniquities because they were first men of faith. Each of them made mistakes and had periods of doubt and indecision. But, their lives were marked by their eagerness to follow the voice of God. Here were men of faith for whom the approval of God was more important that the approval of men.
The faith of Abraham and the faith of David. Do you have this kind of faith? Is there anything more important to you than following the voice of God? Are you willing to listen when He speaks to you today?
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