I want to talk to you about a man named Abram, whose name was later changed to Abraham [father of a multitude]. (Genesis 15:2-6) “But Abram said, ‘Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!” And the Lord said, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” Then He said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them, so shall your descendants be.” And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. Notice, Abram had no children, yet he believed God, and God called him righteous. To be righteous means you are right with God, or as if you have never done anything wrong in your entire life. However, if you look at his life, he did a lot of wrong. So we see here, Abram was not righteous because of the right things he did, but because he believed God.
Let’s follow this story over into the New Testament: Romans 4:2-4 says, “For if Abraham was justified (righteous) by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? Abraham ‘believed’ God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.” It is very clear in these verses that it had nothing to do with what Abraham did, because God is not going to owe anybody anything! No matter how good we are we can’t earn God’s goodness, grace, or righteousness! Just like Abraham we are righteous simply because we believe God’s word and that’s what the Word of God teaches.
Now, I want to take you to some scriptures that appear to be a contradiction to what we just read but it’s actually not. James 2:20-22, “But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father ‘justified’ by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” The word ‘justified’ here is the same word we saw used by Moses in Genesis to describe Abraham, but here it’s being used in a different sense. The word ‘justified’ here means being right before men or an outward appearance. Abraham was going around telling men, “I’m a father of a multitude and God is going to give me this super-natural seed.” Then all of a sudden, he gets this super-natural child and God tells him to lay him on an altar for a sacrifice. Abraham obeyed God, and started to sacrifice him but God stopped him and provided a ram to take his place. So what we’re actually seeing, in James 2, is Abraham being justified before men, God knowing what he would do, but men need to see that we really believe what we say.
Being created by God, through Jesus Christ, we’re righteous by faith, and we now produce good works as Abraham did. In John 14:12, Jesus tells us, “the works that I do, you’ll do also……..” He cast out devils, healed the sick, raised the dead, and taught the word of God. These are the works we are to do because we have also been justified before God through Jesus Christ our Lord!