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How Were Abraham and David Justified?

In Romans chapter four the apostle Paul gives two examples of how God saved people before the coming of Jesus Christ to die on the cross.

Genesis 15:6 tells us Abraham “believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” This reckoning by faith Paul tells us was fourteen years before God commanded Abraham to be circumcised and over four hundred years before God gave the law to Moses. Therefore, he was not justified by works or Law keeping.

“Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3). The word “reckoned” is an accounting term. God credits in the ledger of life what is actually true of the individual. God removed the list of Abraham’s sins and transgressions from the ledger book of his life because He first transferred it to the ledger book of Jesus Christ. Jesus took those transgressions on Himself and in time when He became incarnate paid the full price by dying for them on the cross (2 Cor.5:21; Rom. 6:11). “The wages of sin is death.” All of Abraham’s sins were not reckoned or charged against him because they were reckoned to Jesus Christ instead. Abraham believed “in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5).

Abraham did know Christ and looked forward to His coming. “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad,” Jesus said in John 8:56-58. By faith Abraham saw that day of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Galatians 3:16 tells us the promises spoken to Abraham refer to one person, Christ. One person, Jesus Christ, would achieve the blessing. Abraham looked forward to His coming and believed what God had revealed concerning Christ and the righteousness of Christ was credited to Abraham as if it were his own.

Moreover, in Romans 4:6-8, Paul gives King David as an illustration using the same accounting term. “David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD will not take into account.’” Paul is quoting David in Psalm 32:1-2 after David’s great sins of adultery and murder.

Paul uses the same accounting principle in David’s life saying, “Blessed is the man whose sins the LORD will not count [reckon, credit] against him.”

David looked forward to the day when the death of Jesus Christ would cover all his sins by His blood (Rom. 4:7). God placed all his sins on Jesus Christ and punished Him (Heb. 9:26-28; 1 Pet. 2:24; 1 Jn. 1:6-9; Zech. 3:8-9; Isa. 38:17; Jer. 31:34; Ps. 103:12). This is also the way God forgives us.

Not only does God remove all the sins from the ledger of Abraham and David, but He also reckoned the righteousness of Jesus Christ to them. God took the pure, perfect, true righteousness of Jesus Christ and wrote it in the ledger of all who believe. The righteousness of Jesus Christ was credited to Abraham, David and all who believed in His coming in the Old Testament.

That is exactly what He does for you and me. The only way anyone can be saved, both in the Old and New Testaments is by the imputation of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ to our account.

Abraham had the promise of Christ’s coming, but we have the Good News of His arrival. Abraham looked forward to what God said He would do, and we look back on what He has already done in the completed work of salvation.

Abraham believed “in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” The God whom Christians believe in is the same the God Abraham believed in. Old Testament saints looked forward to the coming of the Savior. We look upon the same Savior and are saved by faith in His finished work of atonement. They were saved by believing on Christ, and we are too.

The only way for anyone to be saved, both before and after Jesus Christ died on the cross, is by faith in God’s work of atonement on the cross. Robert Haldane correctly said, “The apostle shows the way of justification was the same from the beginning, both under the old and the new dispensations.”

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). From the moment I believed on Christ I was clothed with God’s gift of righteousness of Jesus Christ. God provides His perfect righteousness for us because our self-righteousness is as filthy rags.

The prophet Isaiah saw this same truth when he wrote: "I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels" (61:10).

Since salvation is by the gift of God, apart from human effort, we can be saved right now. Salvation is based on what God has already done for us. The only ground of our being declared right with God is the righteousness of Jesus Christ. God saves everyone the same way—by grace through faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We are saved by the gift of God’s righteousness and we receive it by faith or trusting in Christ.

Paul stresses two important applications in Romans chapter four. Because God has forgiven us of all our sins through the atonement of Christ, He will never, ever bring it up again in this life or in eternity. God does not remember any more because of the atonement of Christ. And when God looks at us He sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to us.


Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

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(c) 2006  Message by Wil Pounds. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent.

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