By Keri Folmar
What does it mean to be counted righteous?
Abraham was by no means perfect, but “[h]e believed the Lord, and [God] counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen 15:6). Abraham believed God’s promises. He believed the gospel that was preached to him that “’In [him] all the nations shall be blessed’” (v. 8).
Abraham looked forward to the promises of God being fulfilled. We, children of Abraham, look back at the cross of Christ (v. 1) and see that, indeed, God fulfilled his promises. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (vv. 13-14).
On the cross a great exchange took place. Our sin, the sin of believers, was transferred to Jesus, and he was cursed. And Jesus’ righteousness was transferred to us so that we might be blessed. Jesus lived a perfect life. He was tempted in every way, but he never sinned. He always obeyed his Father in Heaven. He never even desired to disobey. All of his perfect obedience was transferred to us when we believed on Jesus. God the Father looks at us as if we are righteous the moment we believe, and he gives us the blessing of the Holy Spirit to enable us to live righteous lives here and now.
How, then, can we desert this glorious gospel of grace for the law? Exchange freedom for slavery…rest for hard labor…fatherly love for ceaseless striving to earn favor…forgiveness for debt and blessing for curse? Foolishness! But we do it.
God calls us to rely on Jesus Christ alone, and not on our good deeds…our reputation…our moral performance—only on Christ. We begin the Christian life “by hearing with faith” (v. 2). And that’s how we continue in it to the very end.
What does living like this—by faith—look like?
We can look our sin in the face: Admit it, instead of being in denial, defending ourselves, hiding, excusing, or blaming others for it…because we know we are completely forgiven and righteous in Christ, and God is working in us to fight our sin.
We don’t despair over our sinfulness or the sin of others…because we know the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is working in us to make us like him and that same Holy Spirit can work in the lives of others also.
We don’t compare ourselves to others with either shame or pride…because we know only God’s standard matters, and he loves us like his Son.
We love others who mistreat us…because God loved us while we were still his enemy.
We don’t let difficult circumstances sap our joy…because we are in relationship with the God of steadfast love who is in control of our circumstances and will do what is best.
We tell others about the good news of how they too can be righteous in Christ…because we cannot keep it to ourselves.
Daughter of Abraham, live like this—by faith in Christ who redeemed you from the curse for the glory of God!
Keri Folmar is the wife of John Folmar, pastor of the United Christian Church of Dubai, an evangelical church in the Middle East, and the mother of three children. Keri disciples and teaches women in addition to leading and writing Bible studies. Her Bible study, Joy! A Bible Study on Philippians for Women, is available from Cruciform Press. Before marrying John, Keri was a lawyer and served as the chief counsel for the House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Constitution where she was the staff writer of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban.
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