In Romans 4, Paul talks about how Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. This is a fascinating word and the concept it describes is a key feature of God’s Good News.
The Greek word translated as “credited” is logizomai, which was a common economic term in the Greek world. It was typically used to convey the meaning of “calculate” or “count” or, in some cases, “to impute.” Basically, it means to put something in someone’s account. Just as Sunny’s grandparents credited our account to cover our debt, so did God credit Abraham with righteousness through his trusting faith.
And Paul isn’t simply concerned with proving Abraham’s imputed righteousness. No, Paul’s greater concern is that we understand God’s interaction with Abraham as a template for His own gracious action toward us. We no longer come up short because of our sin. Instead, we have God crediting our account with His own righteousness in place of our unrighteousness.
And this is definitely Good News.
But there’s something else I find interesting about this word. Logizomai comes from the root word logos, which means “word.” You might be familiar with this term from the prologue to John’s Gospel as the writer applies the term to Jesus. But when Paul uses the verb form, he expresses something along the lines of “Abraham’s faith was worded to him as righteousness.” Paul literally says that God “words” Abraham into righteousness. Perhaps a smoother translation in English would be to say that God “speaks” Abraham into righteousness.
And again, Paul’s point isn’t to simply demonstrate an arbitrary point about Abraham. No, Paul sees this as a key piece of what God is doing on behalf of all who trust in Him. God similarly “words” us into righteousness, speaking righteousness in place of our unrighteousness. Just as in the beginning when God created simply by saying, “Let there be,” so now God speaks a new creation into existence by “wording” us as righteous.
Abraham was not righteous based on his works. In fact, though he is called the father of faith, he also had his moments of unrighteousness just like anybody else. He lies about Sarah, telling people that she was his sister rather than his wife — and he does this on more than one occasion in the book of Genesis! He also tries to take matters into his own hands by taking Hagar as his wife, as if God needs help in fulfilling His covenant promises. These examples show that sin cuts through each of us, even someone as faithful as Abraham.
But God makes a new declaration. He says, Let there be a new Abraham, a righteous Abraham in place of the unrighteous one. He “words” Abraham anew.
And the glorious Good News — the best news of all — is that God continues to do the same thing today. When we turn to God in trusting faith — when we trust in the sufficient work of Jesus on the cross to save us completely from our sin — God says Let there be all over again. We become a new creation.
That leads us to a final word from Romans 4 — the word “justification.” This notion of being justified calls to mind a courtroom scene and this is where God’s “wording” us as righteous takes on even greater meaning.
The Old Testament prophets spoke frequently about “the day of the Lord,” a future day of God’s judgment. On this day, the prophets declared, the entire world would be called to account. The Day of the Lord was envisioned as a trial scene with God — the ultimate judge — rendering the final verdict. On our own, we stand guilty because our sin condemns us. And we have all sinned before God, whether we acknowledge it or not. As the Word of God says, None is righteous; no not one (Romans 3:10, quoting Psalm 14). And so the verdict spoken by our sin is one of condemnation. “Guilty!”
But this is precisely where we meet the Good News of Jesus. In an audacious and unexpected move, Jesus takes on our sin and our unrighteousness so that we might be worded anew. 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. In the cross, God is wording us into something new! Whereas our actions declare, “Guilty!” the cross is a bold statement of what is possible: “No! Not guilty! Now Abraham is righteous because of his trusting faith. Now Jason — through he is thoroughly unrighteous — is declared to be righteous in the eyes of God, the Judge!” We need not fear the day of the Lord anymore, not if we have put our trust in the work of Jesus, the Messiah.
As we’ve said for weeks now, it all hinges on putting our trust in the work of Jesus on the cross.
Have you put your trust in Jesus?
Have you repented of your sin and confessed your need for what only Jesus can do?
In order for Sunny’s grandparents to credit our account with what we needed, we first had to confess that need. We had to let them know that we couldn’t pay that bill and open ourselves up to their help. I’ll admit, that was a bit humbling. But this is the way of the Kingdom, is it not? Doesn’t Jesus say, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven? We had to trust that there was someone else who could deliver us from the burden of our debt.
Likewise, Jesus stands ready to deliver us from the debt of our sin. But there is a crucial move that begins this whole process — and it is a move that begins with us. It is the move of repentance and confession.
Trusting in Jesus requires repentance: a turning away from the dead end of sin and a turning back toward God.
Trusting in Jesus requires confession: confessing our inability to save ourselves and our great need for God.
Would you turn to Him in repentance today?
Would you confess your sins before God and ask for His forgiveness?
Would you confess the lordship of Jesus and enter into the waters of baptism to receive the gift of eternal life? Would you come to the table to receive bread and wine, body and blood?
Would you ask Him to “word” you anew, to declare you to be righteous because of the redeeming work of His Son?
The Good News of Jesus is that He justifies those who trust Him enough to repent in faith.
In the name of Jesus Christ, the Sovereign Lord who makes all things new, he who has ears, let him hear.