The following is an excerpt taken from the twentieth and final lesson of Bible First.
“But without faith it is impossible to please [God]…” (Hebrews 11:6) Historically, men have sought God’s favor through their works. While this pursuit is theoretically legitimate, it is always found inadequate due to the presence of sin. Although righteous works are indeed pleasing to God, they cannot undo evil works.
When God promised to give Abraham a son under impossible circumstances, Abraham believed that God would do exactly as He said. As a result of Abraham’s faith, God chose to attribute His own perfect righteousness to Abraham. Abraham’s deliberate belief in God’s promise became the standard by which all men would eventually have opportunity to be reconciled to their Creator. For this reason, the story of Abraham’s faith, as recorded in Genesis 15 and later expounded in Romans 4, represents the most foundational doctrine in all of Scripture. The great significance of Abraham’s faith is found in its result: imputed righteousness.
Prior to Abraham, sin was well-known as a universal scar on the human race, and righteousness was merely a relative concept. A man might be more pious than his neighbor, but no one was actually righteous in the fullest sense of the word, that is, completely pure in character and devoid of sin. Indeed, the Bible declares in no uncertain terms that “…There is none righteous, no, not one:” (Romans 3:10)
With Abraham, God revealed a completely new kind of moral standing, a righteousness not earned but given. Faith became the currency of heaven as God chose to accept it in exchange for pure, saving righteousness.
Proverbs 11:4 presents a simple and solemn warning for all who seek deliverance from God’s coming judgment: “Riches profit not in the day of wrath: But righteousness delivereth from death.” To this we have a joyous response, for the righteousness we cannot attain by works is freely given by faith! “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” (Romans 3:21–22)
Abraham’s Faith in Genesis
“And [the Lord] brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And [Abraham] believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:5–6)
Righteousness Imputed by Faith in the New Testament
“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:3–5)
“[Abraham] staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;” (Romans 4:20–24)
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:16)
“And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” (Philippians 3:9)