Have you ever been in significant debt? Each month the statement shows an increased negative sum on your account, often in red and with a sad minus sign preceding it. Attempt to borrow more money using that statement as a reference and the loan officer would refuse to meet with you—financially you are out of favor.
That’s how we are with God in the absence of a relationship with Jesus. The Bible calls it unrighteousness, a pile of sin-debt accumulated against our account and destroying any favor with God. Want an audience with the Divine? Not a chance, with that record.
According to the picture, righteousness is good standing with God—a positive balance on the account. The logical path to spiritual solvency involves some simple mathematics: minimize the negatives and maximize the positives. Religion follows that arduous path. Religion works hard to avoid sin-debt, erase unfortunate oversights, and build credit through pleasant attitudes and good works.
The Bible says that everyone starts life in the red with God—unrighteous.
So, what a surprise Abraham had one day when his statement suddenly showed a positive balance. He never could have accumulated the credit by his own religious works, and God doesn’t make clerical errors. No, because of his faith Abraham received a massive account adjustment that the Bible calls “justification.”
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 credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Rom. 4:2-5)
The back-story is in Genesis. God promised Abraham a legacy in the form of land and a family of descendants. Abraham lived in the land, but kick-starting a clan with even one son proved impossible—he and Sarah were too old by far. Once more, God patiently repeated His promise and, this time it stuck—Abraham believed God.1
That simple attitude of believing God’s promise (“having faith in God’s promise” is another way of putting it) had more power than a lifetime of religious work. The Justifier2 noted Abraham’s faith and immediately altered Abraham’s account, giving him good standing with Himself—the righteousness we all long for.
Abraham is important to us. He’s a member of the Hebrews hall of faith and Paul used his example to explain the nature of faith and righteousness. Where people had strived religiously for centuries only to find that path was futile, Jesus brought good news of a shortcut. If we believe God’s promise that He will justify the ungodly simply because of Jesus’ death on the cross, then our account is cleared and we receive His righteousness. We’re back in favor with God.
Now, in case you are thinking faith is a new system, remember that Abraham’s faith came before the Law. Faith pre-dates religion. Faith is what God has always looked for. Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, came to restore faith to its position as the currency of God’s kingdom.
Do you know anyone who would benefit from Bible devotions like this? Please share Bible Maturity with them.