March 1, 2010

Give me Some Credit

Who would have thought that the word “credited” would be one of the most important words in the Bible? But it is! Paul uses this word (or it’s KJV equivalent “counted to”) no less than ten times in Romans chapter 4. So it must be that Paul (along with the Holy Spirit in back of him) really wants us to pay attention to this word. Again and again we are told that Abraham’s righteousness (as an example of the kind of righteousness that you and I may possess), was “credited” to him.

Why is that important? First because Abraham’s righteous was not earned by him, but credited to him! He was not inherently righteous, or good, or godly. Righteousness was something that came from outside Abraham’s spiritual bank account and was credited, or deposited, into it. Abraham’s righteousness was not his own, but came from God as a free gift of grace. And the same is true of any saving righteousness that you have. It is certainly not your own; not something that you worked up. For Paul just finished saying that “there is none righteous, not even one” (Romans 3.10). So if there is anything right about you, it is not actually about you! God did it! God, from outside of you, “credited” righteousness to your account.

But secondly, the word “credited” is important because it is an accounting term rather than a medical term. In other words, Romans 4 does not teach that we are injected with righteousness, but that we are credited with it! Righteousness is not something that God infuses into our spiritual bloodstream, as it were … making us suddenly good, godly people who are qualified to go to heaven. Righteousness is not injected, but credited – meaning that God credits right standing with Himself into our account, rather than infusing it into our souls. Based on what Jesus has done, He declares us right with Himself … though in actual behavior, we are not at all right. So we are not saved because we become righteous, but because, based on the merits of Jesus, God has decided to treat us as though we were righteous. He credits righteousness to our accounts rather than injecting righteousness into our souls.

Now it is true that, in Christ, we become new creatures. God causes us to be born again with new desires, and loves, and hopes, and eventually behaviors. So He does inject something into us … new spiritual life. But even with that new life, our behavior is not fully “righteous”. We do not change enough to make ourselves worthy of heaven. We do not become perfectly good. If we are to be right with God (even as new creatures in Christ), we still need a righteousness (a moral perfection) that comes from outside ourselves and is “credited” to our accounts. We need God to treat us better than we deserve.

So, even once we have been born again, our standing with God is always based on a “credited” righteousness; on a right standing with God that we have not earned … and not on what we do or become, even with God’s help. Or, to put it another way: our right standing with God is always based on what Jesus has done for us … not on what we have done for Him, even through the power of the new birth. Saving righteousness is credited, not injected; granted, not earned; externally declared, not intrinsically worked out. And aren’t we glad it is! For all the righteousness that is worked out in our actual behavior (even the righteous behavior that God enables us to perform by virtue of the new birth) is tainted by the leftovers of our sin. We could never make it to heaven solely on an infused righteousness … because sin remains. But if we are relying on the right standing that God gives, from outside ourselves and as a free gift, then our abilities and performance do not come into play. And we are safe!

So let me ask you: Are you safe? Are you relying on the righteousness that you can work up within yourself … or on the kind that is “credited”? Do you want credit for your salvation? Or do you want a salvation that is credited?

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