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Righteousness in Romans (11) Abraham

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Abraham was not a righteous man. He never became righteous. Throughout his life, he lied about his wife to avoid the threats of powerful kings. This got him into trouble on a couple of occasions. Most Jewish teachers believed that God had called Abraham because he was a righteous man. Paul explained that was not true. Abraham was not righteous. He could not be righteous because only God is truly righteous. However, election does not require righteousness.

Abraham did not need to be righteous for God to choose him to be the father of his chosen nation. Calling does not require righteousness because election does not depend on character (Rom 9:11) but on the will of God. God promised that Abraham and his descendants would be the heir of the world (Rom 4:13). Abraham responded to God’s calling by faithfully obeying his leading.

We first hear of Abraham when God came to him and told him to leave Haran and move to a country that God would show him. God told him that he would become a great nation and that he would bring blessing to the nations of the world.

So Abram went, as Yahweh had spoken to him (Rom 12:4).

Abraham trusted God and moved to Canaan, a massively risky journey into the unknown. God responded to Abraham’s trust and faithfulness by declaring him to be right with him. Abraham was put right by trusting in God. Once Abram was in Canaan, God spoke to him again and promised that he would father a great nation. When Abram pointed out that he was childless, God told him to look at the stars in the sky and attempt to count them. He said his offspring would be as many as the stars. Genesis records that Abram trusted God.

Abram believed Yahweh, and he classified him as righteous (Gen 15:6).

God responded by solemnising a formal covenant with Abram (Gen 15:18). The main risk to Abraham’s destiny came from the spiritual powers of evil. It seems that when he was in Haran, they deemed him to be insignificant, so they ignored him. Even when he first arrived in Canaan, they did not understand his role, so they left him to his own devices. However, once his household and wealth grew, they realised something was up and tried to attack him.

God had declared Abraham to be right with him, so it was difficult for them to get at him. They attacked Lot as a means to get at Abraham. They deceived him into having a son with his wife’s servant Hagar. They got him into trouble with Abimelech and sent a famine to destroy him, but God protected them from all these troubles. The birth of Isaac was proof that his situation had been rectified, as it allowed Abraham to fulfil his calling.

God thought about Abraham as if he was righteous. The spiritual powers of evil were unable to destroy him because God was able to rescue him and his family from their power.

Faithfulness was all that God required of Abraham. He did not need anything more. He didn’t need a sacrifice. God did not need Abraham to fully obey him. Hid did not need Jesus’ death. All that he needed was faith. That was enough to put him right with God.

Abraham probably did not care that much about righteousness. He just wanted to survive his adventure into a new land. He wanted to keep his family safe from his dangerous neighbours. However, without Abraham knowing it, God’s decision to consider him righteous was hugely important, because it prevented the spiritual powers of evil from attacking him. Once God declared that he was righteous, they could no longer use his sins to hold power over him. The declaration that Abraham was righteous in God’s eyes was a huge defeat for the spiritual powers of evil, because they lost their authority over him, as it was based on his being a sinner. God’s decision destroyed their power over Abraham.

The same is true for us. God did not declare us righteous so we would feel good. He did it so that the spiritual powers of evil would lose their rights over us. Because God has declared that those who are called by Jesus are righteous, they have lost their right to attack us.


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