by Norma Koehne
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Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (Romans 4:3).
In chapter three of Romans, Paul spells out clearly that God comes to sinners, and through Christ, they are made right, justified, in his sight, by faith and not the works of the law. So why, then, does he begin chapter four by asking, ‘What then shall we say that Abraham … discovered in this matter?’ The reason is that over the years, to make sense of why God chose Abraham, Jewish rabbis had surmised that Abraham had kept the law so well that God was pleased with him and blessed him. If the rabbis were correct, then Abraham was saved by works and not by faith alone.
One of those supposed works was that Abraham obeyed God and was circumcised. However, Paul shows that circumcision happened many years after God made a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15). God promised him that his descendants would be as many as the stars in the sky. Abraham believed, and it was ‘credited to him as righteousness’. It was a true gift of grace, and with an open heart, Abraham accepted the gift and believed.
Paul’s other example of salvation by faith alone is King David, the penitent sinner, who had nothing to offer God but his many and heinous wrongs. He repented and believed that he had been freely forgiven and that God would not count, or credit, his sins against him.
What does our balance sheet of credit and debit look like? Praise God that through his word and sacraments, we too believe in Christ’s full atonement for our sins. The debt is gone, and God credits us with righteousness. We are covered with the righteousness of Christ so that when God the Father looks at us, he can say, ‘Welcome, my beloved sons and daughters, into my family as descendants of my friend Abraham, that man of faith’.
Father, we thank and praise you for the free gift of faith that you have put into our open hands and hearts through the work of your Spirit. Amen.
Norma grew up at Koonibba in SA. She was a teacher at Concordia College in SA and then served in various roles in Papua New Guinea with her husband. Returning to Australia, Norma worked as an International Student Advisor and, after completing a PhD, worked in administration at the University of Divinity. She has been privileged to serve the LCA on the General Church Council, Seminary Council, and as president of Lutheran Women of Victoria and Lutheran Women of Australia. Currently, she is happily retired.