Justification by Faith Evidenced in Old Testament
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather [a]humanly speaking, has found? [Has he obtained a favored standing?] For if Abraham was justified [that is, acquitted from the guilt of his sins] by works [those things he did that were good], he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed in (trusted, relied on) God, and it was credited to his account as righteousness (right living, right standing with God).” Now to a laborer, his wages are not credited as a favor or a gift, but as an obligation [something owed to him]. But to the one who does not work [that is, the one who does not try to earn his salvation by doing good], but believes and completely trusts in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is [b]credited to him as righteousness (right standing with God). And in this same way David speaks of the blessing on the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed and happy and favored are those whose lawless acts have been forgiven,
And whose sins have been covered up and completely buried.
“Blessed and happy and favored is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account nor charge against him.”
Is this blessing only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say, “Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.” How then was it credited [to him]? Was it after he had been circumcised, or before? Not after, but while [he was] uncircumcised. He received the sign of circumcision, a seal or confirmation of the righteousness which he had by faith while [he was still] uncircumcised—this was so that he would be the [spiritual] father of all who believe without being circumcised—so that righteousness would be credited to them, and [that he would be] the [spiritual] father of those circumcised who are not only circumcised, but who also walk in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had before he was circumcised.
For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through [observing the requirements of] the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. If those who are [followers] of the Law are [the true] heirs [of Abraham], then faith [leading to salvation] is of no effect and void, and the promise [of God] is nullified. For the Law results in [God’s] wrath [against sin], but where there is no law, there is no violation [of it either].
- Romans 4:1 Lit according to the flesh.
- Romans 4:5 Faith is not an equivalent or substitute for righteousness, but God graciously treats it as if it were the same. Otherwise, no one could be saved from sin and have eternal life.