Faith and Righteousness
“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” (Gen 15:1-6)
Our God is He who began all things. Hence, He is the One who will bring an end to all things and even judge and reward them. For this reason, it is important that we all become those whom God is pleased with. Otherwise, we won’t have life. Regarding Jesus, God said, “He is the One I am well pleased with”. In the same way, we all need to be the ones in whom God is well pleased. In order to be pleasing to God, we have to satisfy God’s standards. So, what is that standard? It is righteousness. God’s righteousness. However, that is such a high standard that no matter how hard a person tries and cultivates himself, he cannot satisfy God’s standard. The Pharisees were they who were deemed distinguished out of the most rigorously trained men in the world. Yet even the Pharisees fell short of God’s standard. Instead, God said to them who felt pleased about themselves, “Woe to you!” And to the rest, He said, “Your righteousness must exceed the righteousness of them.” These words demonstrate that by his own means, man can never please God.
No matter how well a person does before God, that will not please God. But people mistakenly think that if they have zeal, God would be pleased, and if they are not zealous, God wouldn’t be pleased. However, it is impossible to please God no matter how much effort one puts in. “That can’t be true. As long as I have zeal, God would surely be pleased”. No, not at all. If you are outside of Jesus, then though you are zealous and observe the law of God, you cannot please God. It is impossible. Still, people think to themselves, “Well, I’m sure God will be happy if I make a lot of effort”. However, it is not your zeal that God is pleased with. It is because you are in Jesus, trusting and obeying His words; it is not that you have attained a certain level that God is pleased with you. This is the difference between a religious life and a faith life.
We need to be deemed righteous by God. But what is righteousness? We are studying the book of Genesis to confirm what is the DNA of our faith. We know that all the promises God made with Abraham have been given to us, which is why we are trying to determine what it is that God gave to Abraham.
God had promised Abraham great possessions which he would then inherit to his heir. Not only that, God said early on that Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. But Abraham knew that he had no son. So, he thought the word of God would be fulfilled through Eliezer of Damascus, who was to be his heir out of the servants in his household, and all the inheritance would go to him.
However, God said that would not happen. Instead, he promised, “One who will come from your own body will be your heir”. Once again, He promised, “Your descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the dust of the earth”. So how could Abraham believe that? He was almost 80 years old and left with hardly any strength, but more importantly, his wife was past the age of childbearing. Although the promise appeared inconceivable in his circumstances, Abraham didn’t consider his circumstances and believed that God’s promise would surely come true. And God credited Abraham’s faith as righteousness. God was pleased with his faith. God gave his faith a score of 10 out of 10. That is faith.
What is faith? It is not by one’s merits or efforts that God approves one’s faith. Rather, when one confesses that he has no strength, his situation and circumstances don’t allow, and he has nothing to please God with and yet believes God’s promised words will be fulfilled because they came from His lips, that faith is deemed righteous. The faith to believe in God’s words is considered righteous. Abraham was in no circumstance to believe in God’s word, nor did he have any proof that it would come true. Nevertheless, he believed. And God accounted that to him for righteousness.
What is the faith which is pleasing to God? If you had done something and earned money from it, that is not a gift but remuneration. Actually, it’s more like pay – wages. You are being rewarded. Yet without having done any work, you are brazen and determined to receive something. Others would regard that as being impudent. But God deems such as righteousness. When you have such bold faith – to receive when you are undeserving of – God accounts that for righteousness.
When a woman came to Jesus asking Him to heal her child, He said to her, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs”. She didn’t have any rights. Nevertheless, although undeserving, the woman was determined to receive help and boldly said, “Yes, I don’t have any right, but I would even eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table”. There God saw her faith. God promised us already a long time ago that all the grace will not only be for the descendants of Abraham but to all the Gentiles too. Hence, this woman’s faith and hope didn’t come from her own confidence. God had promised so with His words. So, when she asked Jesus, despite her being undeserving, Jesus didn’t ignore her but approved her faith and healed her child.
In the same way, when Abraham’s circumstances were not permitting for him to have his own child nor his descendants to become as numerous as the stars in the sky, he didn’t despair on account of his circumstances but trusted in God’s word and pursued it to the end, God credited it to him for righteousness. That is exactly the faith we need to have, and when we do, God will be pleased, and He will give us life and glory. Hence the person with such faith is truly a blessed person. What sort of person does the Bible say is blessed? It does not say that person who doesn’t do anything wrong or who doesn’t sin is blessed. Rather it is written that the person who committed wrong is actually blessed. If the person himself tries to bear the cost of his wrongdoings, he will be cursed. Yet if he receives forgiveness of his sins, he will be blessed. In other words, when a sinner is forgiven of his sins, he is a blessed man.
Faith like this was what God had expected from Abraham and which Abraham did have. Likewise, we who have the faith of Abraham – who believe in God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead – are also justified. Our God, who raised Jesus from the dead, promised Abraham early on that, although we are sinners and undeserving, it is not by our own righteousness or strength but because of our faith in God’s word that we are made righteous.
Some people feel as though God doesn’t like them and that He has left them. But they are saying that based on their circumstances and conditions. However, God clearly said, “I will be with you forever.” And He said that giving us His Son was God’s love being poured into us and that love is everlasting. Even so, when people are in difficult circumstances, they start having doubts – does God really exist? Is He with me? But because it’s hard to doubt God, they doubt themselves – does God not like me because I did something wrong? However, God surely said that despite your wrongdoings, if you come to God brazen faced and believe that His promise will be fulfilled in you, God will deem that faith as righteousness.
That is why we need to be brazen with our faith. If a person thinks that God doesn’t like him because he hasn’t been praying recently, what he needs to do is repent. Repentance. Repenting not about how he hasn’t been praying, but of a greater sin. He must repent of his unbelief that resulted from not praying. The fact that he was worried if God might not like him or leave him because he didn’t pray, in other words, his unbelief that arose from his lack of prayer is a worse sin. Hence, he needs to repent of that.
In some ways, our faith is straightforward. Isn’t it too easy? Yes, it is very easy. At the same time, it’s so hard. Why? Because people keep trying to display their own righteousness. Their own values and judgment become a law; their own conscience becomes a law, and they are condemned by their own conscience. Thus, anyone who lives by his conscience is under a curse and cannot be pleasing to God. Such a person cannot lead a faith life. We need to be thick-skinned when it comes to our conscience and fully trust in God’s promise.
The devil tempts us through our conscience saying, “How can someone like you become a blessing? How can you possibly be a blessing to others?” And that’s true – there’s nothing great in me. However, I believe that the promise which God already made with Abraham is given to me through Jesus Christ. God didn’t appear to me and make a promise with me a long time ago. Yet God has shown that the promise He made with Abraham will be accomplished in everyone that believes in Jesus. So, I believe that in Jesus, that promise will be fulfilled in me also. God never came to me and said into my ears in Korean, “I will bless you”. Nevertheless, as I’ve come to understand the Picture of God’s Will, I’m confident that I have this blessing in Jesus.
For anyone who believes this, God’s word will be at work. The word is active, which means if you have the word, you will see the word at work. However, many people are unable to believe this and keep abandoning the word. Before the word even has the chance to do something, they throw it away. If you sowed a seed, you need to let it alone to grow. But many people pull it up so as to check if the roots are intact and growing well and put it back in the ground. And then when it does recover and sprouts and begins to grow, they pull it up again to check the roots and put it back in the ground. Because they keep doing that, the seed cannot properly grow, although God is doing His work. So, no matter how unworthy a person may be, if he has this faith – the righteousness which is pleasing to God, he can become a source of blessing. It is assured for everyone. This promise is not confined to one particular person but granted to all who believe. Aren’t we so glad? Are we not thankful that we can receive this without self-mortification? That is why our faith life can be full of thanks and love for God.
This is all summed up in Romans chapter 4. Let’s read that together before we pray. Let’s start from Romans chapter 4 verse 1. Begin.
What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”
Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.
For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.
Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore, “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. Amen.
Let us not forget the grace our God bestowed on us in order to make all of us righteous, and pray, “Lord, help me to be found as the righteous one in God’s eyes, and be pleasing to God”.
God our Father, thank you for giving us the name Jesus and justifying us to become a source of blessing. Though we are always lacking, help us not to live by relying on our conscience or our emotions, but truly be the descendants of Abraham’s faith who trust and rely on God’s word. Thank you God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center