THE DOCTRINE OF IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS
In the fourth chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul clarifies the doctrine of Justification by faith by calling our attention to the fact that both Abraham and David were justified by faith. The doctrine that he sets forth in this chapter has to do with the nature of justification, and the fact that we are not justified by our own righteousness, but by the righteousness that is imputed to us through faith in Christ.
RIGHTEOUSNESS WAS IMPUTED TO ABRAHAM
3 For what does Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was counted (imputed) to him for righteousness.
4 Now to him who works is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
[Comment: In verse three Paul reminds his readers that righteousness was imputed to Abraham through faith. Verses four and five then apply that knowledge to us by pointing out that those who seek righteousness through works wind up owing a debt, while righteousness is imputed to those who are not working to keep the law, yet trust in Christ.]
RIGHTEOUSNESS WAS IMPUTED TO DAVID
6 Even as David also describes the blessedness of the man, to whom God imputes righteousness without works,
7 Saying, Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
[Comment: In these verses Paul cites David as someone who was justified by faith, and the fact that he equates imputed righteousness (verse 6) with forgiving sin (verse 7), tells us that forgiveness is what makes us righteous in the sight of God. Because of that forgiveness, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus // For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believes" (Romans 8:1 and 10:4).]
RIGHTEOUSNESS APART FROM THE LAW
9 Does this blessedness only come upon the circumcised, or also upon the uncircumcised? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.
10 How was it reckoned? when he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not circumcised, but uncircumcised.
12 And the father of circumcision to those who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, that he had while still uncircumcised.
[Comment: In these verses Paul points out righteousness was imputed to Abraham before he had been circumcised. Therefore, one does not have to be circumcised or keep the law in order to be counted as righteous.]
13 The promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of no effect:
15 Because the law works wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.
[Comment: In verse 13 Paul points out that Godís promise that Abraham would inherit the world, was not given to him, or to his descendants, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. In verses 14-16 he then explains that if one had to keep the law, the promise would be made of no effect, because the law brings only wrath. (See Romans 3:19-20.)]
RIGHTEOUSNESS TO ALL WHO TRUST IN CHRIST
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
24 But for us also, to whom it will be imputed, if we believe on him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
[Comment: In these verses Paul reminds us that what the Bible says about righteousness being imputed to Abraham was not written for his sake alone, but for our sake. For just as righteousness was imputed to Abraham, it will be imputed to all who believe that Christ died for their sins, and was raised again for their justification.]
In the preceding verses, Paul stressed the fact that righteousness is imputed apart from the law, in order to make it clear that it is not the law, but the forgiveness we have in Christ, that makes us righteous in the sight of God. In chapter ten he put it this way, "if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and will believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation" (Romans 10:9-10).
Gary Ray Branscome