Imputed Righteousness Rom. 4:1-15 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
“Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness,” [Rom 4:3]. That is imputed righteousness; righteousness was imputed or accredited to Abraham by faith because he believed God’s promise that his seed would be as the stars of heaven for multitude [Gen 15:5-6]. Thus, God established a pattern for New Testament salvation in the Old Testament. The pattern is that righteousness is imputed to us by faith and not by works [Rom 4:5].
Paul has already concluded in the first three chapters of Romans that “a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,” [Rom 3:28]. So, in Rom 4 he is not trying to further “prove” that point. He is now illustrating the fact that righteousness is imputed to a man by faith by referring, principally, to Abraham in the Old Testament. When we study Abraham we find the following:
The imputed righteousness of Abraham – Rom 4:1-3 – There was nothing that Abram did or could have done in the flesh to bring forth a child by Sarai [Rom 4:19]. There was no work that God gave Abram to do as a precondition to God giving him a child by Sarai. God had promised Abram a seed [Gen 12:7, 13:15-16] apart from any work that he might do to “earn” a child. In Gen 15:2-6, when Abram questioned God about his child, the Lord showed him the stars of heaven and told him his seed would number that many. And Abram “believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness,” [Gen 15:6]. Abraham’s righteousness was imputed to him strictly by faith.
Imputed righteousness apart from works – Rom 4:4-8 – Practically speaking, when a man works he earns the money he is due. In other words, his employer is indebted to him for the hours that he has worked. His “reward” is earned; it is not given by the grace of his boss. Conversely, righteousness is imputed to a man, not because of his works, but because of his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who justifies the ungodly [Rom 3:22]. You are just as hopeless to justify yourself by good works before God as Abraham was to have a baby by Sarah.
David confirms this truth of imputed righteousness without works in Ps 32:1-2. If David’s righteousness had depended upon his works, he would have been condemned for what he did to Bathsheba and Uriah. However, in 2 Sam 12:13 David said, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan replied, “The Lord hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” His sin was covered. As David said, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”
Imputed righteousness apart from circumcision – Rom 4:9-12 – the interesting thing about Abraham’s righteousness is that it was imputed to him before he was circumcised. Righteousness was imputed to him in Gen 15:6, yet he was not circumcised until Gen 17:26. His circumcision was a “seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had being yet uncircumcised.” Therefore, imputed righteousness is available to those who have been circumcised and to those who haven’t been circumcised as long as they “walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham.” He is the “father of all them that believe.”
Imputed righteousness apart from the law – Rom 4:13-15 – when Paul stated that Abraham should be heir of the world, he was referring to the promise that God made to Abraham in Gen 17:4-6. This promise was made to Abraham “through the righteousness of faith.” It was a promise that Abraham would be “a father of many nations,” that is Jews as well as Gentiles. Furthermore, it was a promise that was made more than 400 years before the law was even given [Gal 3:17-18]. Therefore, it is not a promise to them “which are of the law,” only (Jews) but to them who are of the faith of Abraham [Rom 4:16]. The law, therefore, which “worketh wrath” (not a promise) did not make faith void and didn’t nullify the promise. If it had, then the promise would now only be to Israel and not to “many nations.” But God made the promise to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. So, the promise is still in effect and we have access to it through the righteousness of faith.
Conclusion: we need imputed righteousness to be saved. We have righteousness imputed to us when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. This righteousness is imputed not by works, not by circumcision and not by the law, but by faith.