Paul sets forth a very important principle as he writes to the Romans concerning the calling of Abraham and the RIGHTEOUSNESS which was imputed to him through FAITH. To miss this principle is to err concerning the timing and basis of this imputation. “(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.” (Rom 4:17) This is the very same principle which is the basis of what Paul writes later in the ninth chapter. “(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, the elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” (Rom 9:11-13)
The LORD called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees, not when he was “in faith”, but rather when he was in unbelief. Thus, the blessing of GOD came not upon him because of something found in Abraham but completely due to the grace of GOD which singled him out from his heathen peers. “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.” (Rom 4:8-10)
Though the context of Paul’s argument is to show the Romans that the blessing of GOD does not come on the sons of GOD through circumcision, this same premise can be applied to the timing and application of righteousness to the sons of GOD, Jew and Gentile alike. The blessings of GOD upon those HE has loved with an everlasting love has been applied to them from the beginning. Even though it did not appear that Abraham was the inheritor of GOD’s blessing when he was sojourning among the Chaldeans, he was no less an heir of righteousness before he believed than after he was given faith to believe the promises of GOD. Indeed, the LORD “calleth those things which be not (to man’s understanding) as though they were”. All things must be done in accordance to the predestined purpose of a Sovereign GOD.
How else would it be possible to speak of CHRIST as being the SAVIOR of sinners and at the same time to agree with the Psalmist when he speaks of the salvation of the righteous, if HE did not consider those for whom HE died as being righteous even before HIS sacrifice? Were not the Old Testament saints “righteous” before CHRIST’s atonement? Those for whom CHRIST shed HIS precious blood; while they were yet sinners in the earth, unthankful and disobedient, were nonetheless those whom HE called righteous because HE imputed CHRIST’s righteousness to them before they drew breath. They were considered by HIM as HIS righteous children from before the foundation of the world. HE “calleth those things which be not as though they were.”
Considering this fact, it would be a great blessing to contemplate how it is that the saints are said to be righteous, when they are clearly unrighteous by any measure which men might look upon them and seek to quantify.
First, we can say that they are “righteous” by the eternal decree of the Sovereign of the Universe who does all things well and according to HIS immutable purpose. To be “righteous” is to be perfectly acceptable unto HIM as a Holy GOD. HE approved HIS people well because HE chose them in CHRIST. Their union to CHRIST is from the beginning and not a condition which they have acquired by human endeavor. Thus, they are accepted in the BELOVED and are the “righteous” which CHRIST came into the world to redeem insofar as they are seen in HIM.
Secondly, we can say that they are “righteous” in the sight of the law, according to the justice of GOD. This is the point that Paul clearly makes when he says, “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Rom 3:26) He is careful to set this matter in the context of “HIS righteousness”, in order to show that the saints are made “righteous” in the sight of the very law which HE ordained unto condemnation. HE did not sidestep the law (though HE most certainly could have if it had pleased HIM) but rather sent HIS only begotten SON into the world to satisfy every jot and tittle of the law and to pay every penalty which the law of sin and death demanded, from HIS children. HE subjected them unto vanity according to HIS purpose and HE would demonstrate both HIS mercy and HIS justice in rescuing them from that same curse.
By CHRIST’s obedience and death HE has forever set them free from any and all claims which the Holy Law could mandate, since HE has imputed their sin unto HIMSELF and HIS righteousness to them. Thus, as they stand before the judgement bar of GOD where only the claims of the law shall be heard, they are adjudicated as a righteous people, just and holy, without sin of any kind. HE is their MEDIATOR and ADVOCATE.
Thirdly they are considered as “righteous” because they are given “faith” to believe the promises of GOD which are made manifest in JESUS CHRIST. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb 11:6) The “righteous” shall indeed believe, because they are ordained unto eternal life even as Luke records, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48) Is this not what Paul said to the Romans: “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.” (Rom 3:22) HE is the “AUTHOR and FINISHER of our FAITH.” For this Paul was willing to cast off all else, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (Php 3:9)
Lastly, (and certainly not least) the saints are made “righteous”, as HE applies the certainty of the finished work of CHRIST to the conscience of those who believe. The sacrifices demanded by the law could never satisfy the conscience of those who were exercised by the law, because these continual sacrifices served to remind them of their ongoing sin. The purpose of the preaching of the gospel is to bring glad tidings, to those who are mourning in Zion, that CHRIST has completed their salvation. “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” (Isa 40:1-5)
“Therefore, the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” (Isa 51:11) HE is indeed the SALVATION of the righteous who are so because of HIM. HE has “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”(2Tim1:10) mam