Romans 4:1-12 – The Example of Abraham
What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.”
Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised.
I don’t pretend to fully understand how banking works. All I know is that I can look in my accounts, keep track of them, know how to transfer funds between accounts, and so forth. I do realize that much of what happens for me (and all of us) financially is just bits and bytes on computers. When I transfer money from one account to another or one bank to another, its not like a stack of bills physically moves from one place to the other, but instead records of funds go from one place to the other.
By the same token, I don’t fully understand how God’s transfer of righteousness works – I just know that it does. Where Paul speaks of “Abraham believing God and it being reckoned as righteousness”, he is using a banking term in the original language. A term of transferring funds from one party to another. So, not by what we earn, what we do, or how well we perform, but instead simply because of who we are in God’s sight and our believing in God, righteousness goes from God’s account to us. Simply a gift.
To me, it’s like this picture…I have a sense of what is happening and what it looks like, but it’s not entirely clear. There is still beauty and wonder even if it’s not totally understood.