Abraham Justified by Faith
4 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
I hear the banks are in trouble with the public again, well with a certain section of the public who its fair to say are the more mature clients, people who are reluctant to embrace internet banking. That novel concept where you do all the work involved and the bank charge you for the privilege. Ahh I jest of course, but then I’m not one who uses internet banking so maybe there is a little cynicism there after all. The reason for the outcry in the news last night is the decision of one banking group to close yet more branches and deprive yet more communities of this vital facility. Gone forever are the days when you knew the staff in the bank by name. when you had a dedicated member of staff in the branch to look after your account and when you wanted to borrow money to change your car, or fit a new kitchen you made an appointment to see the manager. No forms to fill in, no affordability questions a bit of a chat, the manager had a quick look at the ins and outs of you account, a peek at your balances at the end of each month and asked you how long you needed to repay the loan, and before you were back to the bus stop or your car the money had been credited to your account. At least that’s how I remember it! It wasn’t your money, you hadn’t worked for it or accumulated it but it was credited to you on the authority of the manager.
I thought about all that as I read the portion of the bible above from Romans 4, how Abraham wasn’t in himself righteous but because he believed God he was credited with righteousness. A righteousness, a right standing that came for outside his person, from God himself. However, its here that the analogy breaks down where the image of the bank loan parts company with the bible. Even when we borrowed the money it was not our own but credited to us for a distinct purpose and for a limited time, the loan still had to be repaid in full. God however credits us as righteous, not because of any ability by which we may repay him, or in anyway work off the debt of sin. It is covered by his mercy alone, a gift. This is sheer grace. We don’t deserve it, we can’t repay it but he in mercy counts us righteous in Christ and promises life, freely, simply as we believe and follow him.