What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”
Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
I sometimes feel that as an American born into a family that I and people all over the world could only call good and decent and modest and loving, that I have something to bring before God. Or that I have abstained from certain kinds of wickedness. Or that I have done some things for the Lord. Or that now, in the Lord, I am holier than others. But actually I have been redeemed outside of my family and outside of my works and gifts and all these things I have not been faithful with. I have been pulled out of the deep mud, totally naked. If it doesn’t seem to me that I was naked, that doesn’t make it less so. When I think my life was evidence that God was not too angry with me, I am a hypocrite. When I think I am working for God’s favor, I am not talking about the same God. Why do I think anything about me is not obvious to God? Why do I avoid the blood of Christ which does not condemn me?
Before I was circumcised by the world and to myself, approvable – but to God uncircumcised, now circumcised only by faith. When I look in the world for something to cover me, I make Christ a liar. I am clothed only by Christ. He has covered me and death has passed over me. To others I may still seem to be naked, but by faith they will also be able to see Christ. Everything in my hands can slip away, my body can grow older, I can suffer and feel bad, I can seem clean or unclean – but the truth is with God, the truth is my Holy One, Jesus Christ seated at the right hand of God. He was cut and bled for me. I must face the fact that everything else but the life of Jesus is dead to me.
I have to believe what I don’t want to believe, what I find impossible to believe about God like Abraham did. I feel condemned by every word more that I read in the Scriptures, but by faith I know I am not condemned. I am less allowed to believe in myself and less able to think I can do on my own power what my Lord asks me to do. I have to not share around my sense of salvation. I have to keep my faith, it is precious. God is jealous for my heart.
One word: only Jesus is life and I only have him by faith.