What then shall we say that Abraham, our earthly forefather, has gained?
For if he was held to be righteous on the ground of his actions, he has something to boast of; but not in the presence of God.
For what says the Scripture? 'And Abraham believed God, and this was placed to his credit as righteousness.'
But in the case of a man who works, pay is not reckoned a favour but a debt;
whereas in the case of a man who pleads no actions of his own, but simply believes in Him who declares the ungodly free from guilt, his faith is placed to his credit as righteousness.
In this way David also tells of the blessedness of the man to whose credit God places righteousness, apart from his actions.
'Blessed,' he says, 'are those whose iniquities have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered over.
Blessed is the man of whose sin the Lord will not take account.'
This declaration of blessedness, then, does it come simply to the circumcised, or to the uncircumcised as well? For Abraham's faith--so we affirm--was placed to his credit as righteousness.
What then were the circumstances under which this took place? Was it after he had been circumcised, or before?
Before, not after. And he received circumcision as a sign, a mark attesting the reality of the faith-righteousness which was his while still uncircumcised, that he might be the forefather of all those who believe even though they are uncircumcised--in order that this righteousness might be placed to their credit;
and the forefather of the circumcised, namely of those who not merely are circumcised, but also walk in the steps of the faith which our forefather Abraham had while he was as yet uncircumcised.
Again, the promise that he should inherit the world did not come to Abraham or his posterity conditioned by Law, but by faith-righteousness.
For if it is the righteous through Law who are heirs, then faith is useless and the promise counts for nothing.
For the Law inflicts punishment; but where no Law exists, there can be no violation of Law.
All depends on faith, and for this reason--that acceptance with God might be an act of pure grace,
so that the promise should be made sure to all Abraham's true descendants; not merely to those who are righteous through the Law, but to those who are righteous through a faith like that of Abraham. Thus in the sight of God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and makes reference to things that do not exist, as though they did, Abraham is the forefather of all of us. As it is written, 'I have appointed you to be the forefather of many nations.'
Under utterly hopeless circumstances he hopefully believed, so that he might become the forefather of many nations, in agreement with the words 'Equally numerous shall your posterity be.'
And, without growing weak in faith, he could contemplate his own vital powers which had now decayed--for he was nearly 100 years old--and Sarah's barrenness.
Nor did he in unbelief stagger at God's promise, but became mighty in faith, giving glory to God,
and being absolutely certain that whatever promise He is bound by He is able also to make good.
For this reason also his faith was placed to his credit as righteousness.
Nor was the fact of its being placed to his credit put on record for his sake only;
it was for our sakes too. Faith, before long, will be placed to the credit of us also who are believers in Him who raised Jesus, our Lord, from the dead,
who was surrendered to death because of the offences we had committed, and was raised to life because of the acquittal secured for us.