What shall we say then? A rhetorical question is used to teach a point of doctrine in the same way as the dogmatic approach is used. This is a Greek idiom and it should be translated, “Therefore to what conclusion are we forced.”
That Abraham our forefather according to the flesh, hath found? The Greek word for found is “heurisko,” which means to find out, to obtain or to discover. Abraham is recognized as the father of the Jewish race and one of the greatest believers of all time. Since Abraham had maximum adjustment to the justice of God, he becomes the perfect pattern for what is being taught. The pattern is taken from the Old Testament, indicating that there is no difference between New Testament and Old Testament salvation, it is always the same.
Abraham is a test case for salvation. Salvation adjustment to the justice of God is the same for Old and New Testaments. As goes Abraham so goes the principle of salvation adjustment to the justice of God. How Abraham was justified or how he adjusted to the justice of God at salvation indicates the pattern for Old Testament salvation. If Abraham was justified by faith apart from works then it follows that all salvation adjustment to the justice of God is the same pattern.
For if Abraham were justified by works begins with the conjunctive Greek word “gar,” which is used to introduce a hypothetical supposition. This supposition is the viewpoint of the Judaizers. Using a debater’s technique, Paul now assumes the erroneous position of legalism, specifically the legalistic Judaizers who contend for justification by works in order to be saved. The fallacy of the theory of justification by works is refuted by first of all assuming it to be true and then showing that it cannot be true. Paul agrees with the legalists, at the moment, in order to show them the fallacy of their position. With the legalist there is no such thing as instant adjustment to the justice of God. They contend that you have to keep the Law over a long period of time. It takes a long time to develop self-righteousness by observing the Mosaic Law. The subject is Abraham and he did not use the Mosaic Law for salvation (it wasn’t given yet).
He has something to boast about, but not before God. The test case, Abraham, has a basis for boasting to others if he was justified by his own human good works. God, however, is not impressed with human ability, human personality, human good or human works. God is impressed only with His righteousness and His works. Salvation by human good works is man competing with the work of God. Salvation by works is man declaring his self-righteousness to be the equivalent to God’s perfect, eternal, infinite righteousness. Therefore salvation by works is blasphemy.
For what does the Scripture say? The Scripture is always the final authority on any subject. The Scripture is the absolute authority. It is a good idea to knock down the “straw man” using the Scriptures, because both Paul and the Judaizers accept the Old Testament Canon as the final authority. Hence, the appeal to the Scripture settles the matter, either way. Even the Judaizers would recognize the authority of the Old Testament.
And Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness. The object of Abraham’s faith was Jehovah, which refers to the Second Person of the Trinity. The perfect tense indicates that Abraham had already believed in Christ before the event in Genesis 15. In fact, he had believed as a Gentile while he was residing in Ur. The mechanics for his adjustment to the justice of God are clearly defined as believing. His faith in Christ is compatible with the grace principle in salvation adjustment to the justice of God.
The Greek word for reckoned is “logizomai,” which was used commercially for crediting to someone’s account. Here it means to impute or to credit to the account of someone. Abraham is a perfect illustration and we will see that it was designed to knock the Judaizers over in a debate - as goes Abraham so goes the situation. No Judaizer is going to argue with Abraham or Moses. The problem with the Judaizers was that they considered themselves experts on Abraham and Moses. In reality they had rejected the God of Abraham and Moses, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Abraham was a Semitic type Gentile, an Acadian living in Ur. Instead of worshiping the moon god, Abraham was positive at the point of God-consciousness. The means of gospel hearing is unknown, but the result of gospel hearing is clearly stated in Genesis 15:6, as quoted in Romans 4:3. Abraham believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is instant adjustment to the justice of God. Paul will verify this in Romans 5:1. The justice of God pronounced Abraham righteous. Christ was revealed in different ways in the Old Testament history but however He was revealed positive volition always responded in a same way.
Now to the one who works begins with the conjunctive Greek particle “de” used to emphasize a contrast between what the Scripture says and what the legalists say. Plus the Greek verb “ergazomai,” which means to do, to work or to work for.
His wage is not reckoned as a favor, but what is due. The Greek word for wage is “misthos,” which means pay, gain or reward. The Greek word for due is “opheilema” meaning his payment, compensation, reimbursement – what is legally due. Favor is the Greek word “charis” meaning grace, something that is not earned or deserved.
But to the one who does not work begins with the conjunctive Greek particle “de,” once again, to emphasize a contrast between the two clauses. Here is a contrast between the grace system of faith in verse 5 against the legalistic system of works in verse 4. Grace and works are always mutually exclusive.
But believes in Him Who justifies the ungodly. Again, the conjunctive Greek particle “de” separating two opposing clauses. Positive volition at the point of Gospel-hearing produces non-meritorious action — believing in Christ. God the Father provides justification from His justice in conjunction with the imputation of divine righteousness at the moment that anyone believes in Christ. The Greek word for ungodly is “asebes,” which means godless or without God referring to the unbeliever.
His faith is reckoned as righteousness. Faith in Jesus Christ is non-meritorious, therefore faith in Christ is the only way to receive credit from the justice of God. God supplies the credit in the form of one half of divine integrity — God’s perfect righteousness. Logically that is the first thing that we receive from the justice of God after believing in Jesus Christ. (The 40 spiritual assets are received instantaneously at salvation). At the moment of faith in Christ the justice of God gives the believer the righteousness of God. Having received from the justice of God the righteousness of God, the justice of God then pronounces the believer righteous. This is a judicial act we call justification. God’s grace accounting is perfect. The result is eternal salvation with the result of other potential blessings.
The word “righteousness” is translated from the Greek word “dikaiosune.” Righteousness is an attribute of God that denotes His perfect character. Originally it was spelled “rightwiseness,” which clearly expresses its meaning. It also means “right action,” which in the case of God means that He always does the right thing.
In order to fully understand righteousness we must go back to the etymology of the word. Interestingly, the meaning of many words evolved into more complex and abstract meanings as the great thinkers of Athens sought to expand their thinking beyond the accepted norm of the day. This is exactly what happened to the Greek word for righteousness. There were two words originally: one a noun (dike) and the other an adjective (dikaos). Those thinkers of Athens simply added a suffix to change the meaning slightly (-sune). At the time of the writing of the New Testament “dikaiosune” (righteousness) no longer meant simply being “good,” but rather a principle that would lead one to the correct thought and action based on a standard (God’s integrity or holiness). In other words, righteousness in the New Testament means adjusting to God’s integrity, first in thought then followed by action.
Righteousness is one half of God’s holiness and justice is the other half. Many times in the Scriptures God’s righteousness and justice are interchangeable because they are so closely associated. Righteousness is the standard or principle of God’s integrity and justice is the function or action of God’s integrity. Because God is righteous, He must condemn sin wherever it is found. God’s justice carries out that condemnation. And God always does the right thing, whether condemning sin or providing salvation in the Person of Jesus Christ. Justification is the theological term for declaring the believer to be righteous before God. Christ was condemned in our place. God’s righteousness was satisfied (propitiated) on the Cross, as His justice carried out the sentence of spiritual death. (Romans 3:26-27)
Jesus Christ is the personification of God's perfect righteousness and the Gospel reveals this perfect righteousness. Prior to Christ coming to earth, God’s perfect standard of righteousness was the Law. Christ, of course, fulfilled the Law by keeping it perfectly (the only human being that ever has). By fulfilling the Law, Christ in sinless perfection reveals God’s standard of holiness. Christ is the standard to which the Church Age believer compares himself.