Believing the Promising God

Pentecost 12 Friday

Genesis 15:6

“Abram believed the Lord, and this the Lord imputed to him as righteousness.”

I do not argue about the Hebrew word “chashab,” which we have translated as “impute,” whether it should be translated as “impute” or “think,” for the result is the same. For if the divine Majesty thinks of me as being righteous, as having my sins forgiven, as being completely free from eternal death, and if I accept such divine thoughts in faith, I am truly righteous, not based on my works, but based on faith by which I grasp and take a hold of God’s thoughts. For God’s thoughts are the truth that does not betray or fail anyone. Thus, when I grasp them by my conscience and constant thoughts, but not with an uncertain and doubting delusion, I am righteous. For faith is a steadfast and certain thought or trust concerning God, that he is gracious because of Christ and that he for Christ’s sake has thoughts about us how we might have peace, not how he might be angry at us and punish us. For these two belong together, God’s thoughts or promises and the faith, by which I grasp God’s promises. This is why St. Paul correctly translates the word “chashab” as “consider” whereby he looks to the thinking as well, just as we did with the word “impute” or “attribute.” For if you believe the promising God, he considers or counts you as righteous. And there is no mention made here of the law, circumcision, or sacrifices, that God wants to consider them as righteousness. Instead, such is done only by his counting and thinking of us, how he wants to be gracious to us. For Abraham is given righteousness, not when he does works, but when he believes. Also, righteousness is not given to faith as our work, but because of the thought of God which faith grasps. This is why it is very good that Paul urges the word “impute” in this manner. He says in Romans 4:4-5 that
to him who deals with works, his wages are not imputed by grace but as his due. Yet to him who does not deal with works but believes in him who justifies the godless, his faith is imputed as righteousness. And just before in 3:20 he says that no one can be righteous by the work of the law. Now we know what the works of the law are, namely, the greatest and most beautiful virtues. Should they not contribute to righteousness? Not at all, says Paul, but here only the mercy of God counts and all our works are rejected.

St. Louis ed., 1:943-944.

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