Summary: This message answers the question, "How do you obtain, accrue, get righteousness? How can you go from having no righteousness to being declared full of righteousness?
How to Become Righteous
Romans 4:1-5; 13-15
Americans are more in debt than ever before. It’s worse than you think…
Last week we talked about the debt we owe God; how we all start out in life in a hole, so to speak, with God.
God declares us unrighteous because of sin – Romans 3:10. This starts at birth – Rom. 5.
Think of it as your spiritual bank account. Your spiritual bank account contains your amount, your level, of righteousness. You start out with your spiritual bank account empty, and there is a note due. You have no righteousness in your account, according to God. Your sin wipes it out.
This creates a problem – in order to gain approval from God, have eternal life, live forever with God, etc., you must have a balance in your spiritual bank account. You have to have enough in your account to cover your debt of sin when you meet God, or you enter eternal bankruptcy.
The question is, how do you obtain, accrue, get righteousness? How can you fill up your account to cover the debt you owe? How can you go from having no righteousness to being declared full of righteousness? How can you stand before God approved?
That is the question our text answers for us today. Paul is covering this same subject, the same question. When he gets to chapter 4, notice what he says as I read Romans 4:1. He says, “Let’s see what Abraham discovered about this matter”. Paul appeals to an expert, a giant, to speak to the matter. “This matter” is this whole subject of how does one obtain righteousness to satisfy God?
Ah, Abraham. Talk about a spiritual giant. In the New Testament book of James, it says Abraham was called the Friend of God. The story of his life occupies several chapters of the book of Genesis. Three of the world’s major religions revere him – Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. If anyone should know something about this subject, it should be Abraham.
Paul calls Abraham “our forefather,” and truly he was – the patriarch of the entire Jewish nation. He was, in fact, the first Jew. Father Abraham was a true example for the Jewish people of someone who followed the Law, who obeyed God, who lived a righteous life.
And that brings us to one of the main ways to go about accruing righteousness in your spiritual bank account. There are two primary ways to fill your account up with righteousness, and one of them, perhaps the one we are most familiar with, is living a righteous life. Overcoming the unrighteousness in your life with ample amounts of righteousness: obeying God, following his commands, doing right, etc. – that is living a righteous life. And Abraham is often held up as the epitome of such a life. Back in the book of Genesis we are told some pretty amazing stuff about Abraham. Consider:
• He obeyed God and left his homeland, his relatives, his life when God asked him to, even though God did not tell him where he would end up.
• When God promised him he would be the Father of a great nation and inherit the land of Canaan one day, he acted on it and bought land there for the future.
• When God gave him a son in his old age, the son of the promise. Abraham obeyed God when he asked him to sacrifice that son – he would have done it if God hadn’t stopped him at the last instant.
If anyone has what it takes to make some righteousness deposits in his account, Abraham is the one. I mean, this guy is an example! Now let’s see what the text says about this as I read Romans 4:2-3.
Paul turns our thinking upside down. If Abraham was justified – that means declared righteous, his bank account brimming with righteousness – by works – that means by his efforts, his accomplishments, by what he did – that would be something to boast about. But not with God. God just doesn’t see it that way.
Well, then what made Abraham such an example? How did he get to be called the friend of God? What got him in good with God? His faith. Paul quotes Genesis 15:6, which says that Abraham believed God. He believed what God told him. He had faith in God. And his faith was credited to him as righteousness. When Abraham believed, God credited righteousness to his account. It’s like the moment Abraham had faith, there was a giant “Ka-Ching” and his spiritual bank account, which was empty, became full. Abraham was considered righteous, his debt of sin overcome.
What Abraham discovered, what he found out, was that approval with God doesn’t come from works. It isn’t gotten by what you do, how much you accomplish, etc. If anyone would be approved by God, if anyone could accrue righteousness by how he lived, it would be Abraham. But the Scripture says that was not the case. It was not his work, it was his faith that earned him God’s approval, and got him declared righteous. Abraham found approval with God by his faith, not his works. Paul says this again in Romans 4:13