A popular children’s song goes: “Father Abraham had many sons / Many sons had Father Abraham. / I am one of them and so are you. / So let’s just praise the Lord!” Today’s reading explains why those who are in Christ can rightfully say that they are one of Abraham’s sons.
Paul calls Abraham “our forefather according to the flesh” (v. 1). Abraham, from whom the Jewish people trace their lineage, was believed to have obeyed the law before it was given. When Abraham entered into a covenant with God, he was told to circumcise, “every male among you” (Gen. 17:9–10). Yet Paul points out that this came after “Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:9). The order indicates that Abraham obtained righteousness by faith before action. Circumcision and obedience followed his faith. Paul’s opponents had it backward. They taught that righteous standing before God was attained by first being circumcised and keeping the law of Moses.
Paul cites Psalm 32, where David speaks of the blessedness of forgiveness (vv. 7–8). These two examples are connected by the use of the word “count” in Psalm 32:2. Together, Abraham and David show the two sides of God’s action toward believers in justification. The Father counts our sin as forgiven and considers us to be righteous because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The cross is the only payment that satisfies the debt of sin. Christ’s righteousness is the only righteousness that God will accept. Still today, many people believe they must complete a checklist in order to earn God’s approval. They try to become good enough for God. Paul reminds us that our journey begins with the simple act of faith.
>> Today’s word is “righteousness.” Have you followed Abraham’s example by trusting God to make you righteous through Jesus Christ? Take the next step by sharing that decision with your pastor or another believer today! They will be happy to welcome you into the family of God.
Sometimes we live as if we can be righteous by checking off a list of good works. But our rules do nothing to save us, Father. You have given us your Son Jesus, and we joyfully lay claim to His righteousness.