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More on the righteousness of God and the justification of believers

Some pertinent questions were asked by Jon and Geoff in the comments in response to my last post on Wright and White on the “righteousness of God” in 2 Corinthians 5:21. This is an extended answer to them. The questions overlap a little, so I may be repeating myself in a couple of places.

It may help before we start, though, to clarify two assumptions that I make.

First, I think that the underlying correlation in 2 Corinthians 5:21 is practical rather than than abstract, historical rather than theological. The lived realities would have been much more alive to Paul’s mind than they are to ours. On the one hand, Jesus, despite being God’s son, was forced to suffer as a “sinner”—to be condemned by the Pharisees as a lawbreaker, by the high priest as a blasphemer. On the other, the apostles are ambassadors, servants, co-workers with God, agents of the righteousness of God.

The language is certainly condensed, to the point of abstraction: “sin” is set against “righteousness”. But I would argue that this is a rhetorical encapsulation of the realistic historical account.

Secondly, as will become clear in my answer to the first question, I think that it is misleading to discuss righteousness and justification in Paul apart from a pressing eschatological framework shaped by Old Testament narratives of judgment and vindication. Reformed theology struggles to give a coherent account of Paul not least because it tries to make his argumentation work in a post-eschatological—indeed, Christendom—setting.

So, to the questions….

How do you define “righteousness” and “justify” in general and as Paul used the words?

Setting aside the matter of righteous Gentiles for now, I think that Paul addresses two fundamental questions regarding righteousness that arose from his understanding of Israel’s condition. These are theologically plausible questions, but they are also historically plausible.

1. In view of the intensifying crisis of Israel’s existence in the ancient world—the volatile situation in Judea, the wretched state of diaspora Judaism, and the long hegemony of imperial paganism—Israel’s God faced a massive credibility problem. How would YHWH show himself to be righteous? How would he vindicate himself? How would he prove himself in the eyes of the nations? How would he act to put things right?

This is the righteousness of God issue.

God showed his righteousness to the world, vindicated himself, apart from the Law, by putting Jesus forward as an atonement by his death. This was how he dealt with the problem of Israel’s former sins, and on this basis he would eventually vindicate those who had faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:21-26). This was how he demonstrated his commitment to the promises made to Abraham and gave assurance that he would turn the ancient world on its head.

2. How would the people of this God be justified? What did their rightness consist in? What type of behaviour would mark them out in this period of eschatological transition as legitimate representatives of the one true, living and sovereign God? Not adherence to the Law. Not circumcision. Not any works of the Law, because over and over again the Jews had fallen short of the standards of righteousness required by the Law. Instead Paul insisted that only those who believed that Jesus had died for the sins of his people and been raised to the right hand of the Father would be found to be in the right as the crisis of the wrath of God worked itself out.

This is the righteousness of the believer issue.

So Paul repudiated whatever “righteousness” he formerly had under the Law and chose instead to identify with Christ, knowing that no matter how perverse this course of action might appear to Jews and Greeks alike, in God’s eyes it was the right thing to do for the sake of the future of the family of Abraham. Because at this difficult time he had put his faith in Christ rather than in his Jewish identity, he would gain the “righteousness from God” (cf. Phil. 3:2-11).

A similar question might be asked today, in our own “eschatological” crisis at the end of the Christendom. On what grounds can the church claim to be in the right? We certainly don’t have much of a righteousness of our own to boast of—it appears that we don’t even tip generously. We are justified in setting ourselves up in the world as the people of the true and living God only insofar as we believe in, trust in, and conretely identify ourselves with the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

So in answer to the next question….

How is one “reconciled to God?”

We are reconciled to God by believing in the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection and by acceding to the new reality which his death and resurrection have created. We are reconciled to God when we understand and accept what he did to transform the status of his people in the world. We come to see it his way. Therefore we are reconciled to him.

What does it mean that “he made him to be sin?”

My suggestion, as noted already, is that we should understand this not in abstract theological or ontological terms but realistically. Paul is thinking quite concretely of the fact that Jesus suffered and died as a sinner, judged by the Jewish authorities to have brought the name of Israel’s God into disrepute by his ambiguous attitude to the Law and his implausible pretensions to kingship. God had sent his Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3). By Israel’s best standards he looked like a sinner, a bad man. He was thought to have deserved crucifixion—to be cursed according to the Law, marked as an apostate, a lawless person, outlawed from the community of Israel. Paul himself had for some time been convinced that Jesus, even when dead, was a serious a threat to the political-religious security of Israel and that any movement in his name needed to be suppressed.

That’s how things had appeared, but the outcome of Jesus’ willingness to accept this humiliation proved to Paul that this assessment of Jesus was entirely mistaken.

Are you suggesting that we stand before God on our own righteousness?

It seems to me that for Paul the idea is very simple one, once we get inside the eschatological mindset. Both the Jew and the Greek faced the wrath of God—judgment against Israel followed by judgment against the Greek-Roman oikoumenē, the pagan world. Some Gentiles would be found righteous qua Gentiles because they had lived according to the standards of the Law even though they did not have the Law by nature. But that is not Paul’s main area of concern. His main concern is how God’s people would escape destruction.

He is convinced that under such conditions of eschatological crisis the Law was powerless to save because Israel had proved itself incapable of living according to its statutes. The Law, therefore, only condemned. YHWH, however, had proved himself to be in the right—the “righteousness of God” had been manifested—apart from the Law through the faithfulness of Jesus (Rom. 3:21-22). Those who believed that this was the case, whether Jews or Gentiles, would be found to be in the right when judgment came first on Israel and then on the pagan world.

In this simple argument there is no requirement for righteousness to be imputed or imparted or infused. Abraham was judged to be in the right because he believed in the promise. David was judged to be in the right because he trusted in the God who forgives the sins of the ungodly. Nothing is imputed or imparted or infused from one person to another. Likewise, those who believed that God had acted to vindicate himself by raising Jesus from the dead, etc., would be judged to be in the right, and would therefore be part of God’s future. Jews who, out of loyalty to the Law, did not believe that God had done this, would not be judged to be in the right. They would be left in the outer darkness, where there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Or is it simply that this particular verse does not speak to imputed righteousness?

As I said, I question whether Paul has any notion of imputed righteousness at all. The grace of God was demonstrated in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Those who believed in or had faith in this fact received the Spirit of God and so became part of this movement of renewal.

What Paul means by “we might become the righteousness of God” is indicated in 6:1: it is a matter of “working together with him”. Or in view of the reference to Isaiah 49:8 in 2 Corinthians 6:2, the apostles are servants of YHWH in bringing about the restoration of Israel.

Could you please do a better job explaining the connection between the first part of verse 21 with the last part?

Probably not, but I’ll have a go….

God did something in Christ that made it possible for the apostles to “become the righteousness of God”, to work together with him in reconciling his people to him, to become the means by which he fulfilled his righteous purposes.

As far as the passage goes, there appear to be two ways of explaining the connection.

First, it has something to with the participation of the apostles in the suffering of Jesus: they carry in their bodies the dying of Jesus, they are always being given over to death, so that the life of Jesus might be manifested in their bodies (4:8-12); Jesus died for all, therefore all have died, which means that the apostles might live no longer for themselves but for the churches (5:14-15).

Secondly, Paul says that God reconciled the apostles to himself through Christ and gave them the ministry of reconciliation—of reconciling the wayward Corinthians to God, which is what Paul means when he speaks of becoming the righteousness of God. We have a similar argument in Romans 15:8-21. Christ became a servant to Israel so that the nations might glorify God for his mercy towards his people. The task given by God to Paul is “to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles… so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable”. Paul fulfils the purpose entailed in Christ’s servant role as one who suffered because of Israel’s sins.

So it seems to me that the argument runs something like this: by reconciling the world to himself through Christ God made it possible to involve the apostles (and, of course, others) in the work of establishing his righteousness in the eyes of the nations; but the manner of their involvement is by way of participation in the sufferings of Jesus; there is no way for YHWH to be vindicated at this time of eschatological crisis other than through the suffering of his servants.

What does it actually mean that we become the righteousness of God if not imputed righteousness? Especially since parallelism seems to be a common Hebrew manner of communicating.

This is answered in the previous question: Christ in his death as a “sinner” made it possible for God to use his followers—the apostles most prominently—to reconcile his people to himself and establish his rightness among the nations. Paul does not talk about the imputation of righteousness here, and there is no need to introduce the idea. We could, of course, make use of it ourselves as a metaphor, if we find it helpful. But it is not a Pauline metaphor.

Comments

Andrew,

Your answer to “What does it mean that “he made him to be sin?”” I think is spot on and well articulated. Thanks for your words. Actually this whole entry by you was fascinating. I really appreciate the way you keep questioning the status quo.

With that said, you also stated under the section “Or is it simply that this particular verse does not speak to imputed righteousness” the follow:

What Paul means by “we might become the righteousness of God” is indicated in 6:1: it is a matter of “working together with him”. Or in view of the reference to Isaiah 49:8 in 2 Corinthians 6:2, the apostles are servants of YHWH in bringing about the restoration of Israel.

The part that I what to pick up on is the ending of your stated, i.e. “the apostles are servants of YHWH in bringing about the restoration of Israel”. I think there are two important facets to this statement of yours.

1) The “restoration”of Isarel” is code for “resurrection” is it not? I found it interesting that bskeptic on your other blog entry The Coming of the Son of Man: theology or history? did a very good job of connecting the dots of (Israel’s) resurrection to the destruction of Jerusalem and the coming of the Son of Man (which I agreed with 100% and acknowledge is a valid connection to make).

2) The usage of the present passive “bringing about” in your statement. I agree whole heartly with you that the apostles were “bringing about” (progressive action on their/God’s part) the restoration of Israel in the 1st century. But I also think:

A) that “restoration” and “resurrection” are, indeed, one and the same, which means that if restoration was a progressive action then resurrection would also have been presented as a progressive action too. So, the question to be answered is can a progressive resurrection be found in Paul’s teaching, such as 1 Cor. 15? Of course this means that, if true, the nature of Israel’s “resurrection” also needs to be (re)considered. Does Paul teach an individual physical bodily resurrection as Christendom teaches, or did he teach something different? Perhaps a corporate body resurrection?

B) that bskeptic’s observations are spot on; outside his demand for a physical bodily resurrection.

I, many times, as I read your blogs (and books) have thought about confronting you with this trail of “dots”, that you seem to ignore, and then when I read bskeptic’s post I thought, ah, here we go. But you were silent.

I know this is off topic to for this blog entry but I’ve got to put it out there. So, I am doing my best to perhaps lure you into perhaps addressing the connection between the coming of the Son of Man and resurrection or the lack thereof. Perhaps you can address this in some future blog posts?

Rich, I’ve been meaning to go back to bskeptic’s argument. It may or may not happen. For now, since this is off-topic, as far as the Gospels go, it could perhaps be argued that resurrection is a figure for the restoration of Israel. This does not mean that Jesus’ resurrection was not real, but there is certainly in sense in which it embodied the resurrection of Israel on the third day, as in Hosea 6:1-2.

I think that the early church—Paul and Revelation most clearly—taught, in effect, a real resurrection of the martyrs in conjunction with the victory of Christ over Rome.

I would also make the general point that the coming of the Son of Man from Jesus’ perspective is not quite the same as the coming of the Son of Man from Paul’s perspective. Jesus is concerned with the renewal of Israel, Paul is concerned with the rule of God over the nations.

I love this especially this part:

What did their rightness consist in? What type of behaviour would mark them out in this period of eschatological transition as legitimate representatives of the one true, living and sovereign God? Not adherence to the Law. Not circumcision. Not any works of the Law, because over and over again the Jews had fallen short of the standards of righteousness required by the Law. Instead Paul insisted that only those who believed that Jesus had died for the sins of his people and been raised to the right hand of the Father would be found to be in the right as the crisis of the wrath of God worked itself out.

It seems to me that so many in the Church - especially those in the emerging and missional movement - are trying to say it is our Kingdom living (i.e. obedience to the law) which sets us apart and is our witness in this age. But our obedience to the law is often worse, or no better, than many non-Christians. This can result in three conclusions. 1. There is nothing special about Christianity or Christ; let’s all just be moralists. 2. Hypocrisy in the Church. 3. Belittlement of the obedience of non-Christians; not acknowleding the goodness that is in them.

That said, I get a little uncomfortable with what you’re saying towards the end of this post, because it seems like we started with simply trusting in Jesus, but by the end we might be exchanging one set of works with another - that is our building of the Kingdom and sharing in Christ’s suffering.

Nathan, thanks. I take your point, but surely the trust in Jesus is not an end itself; it’s the basis on which we function as servants? Paul seems to have been extremely concerned that he should be judged in the end to have performed well. 2 Corinthians is actually a good illustration of the personal struggle to maintain integrity while serving the purposes of God. I would have thought that the problem is not works per se—churches have to do something in response to the calling of God. It is how and why we do things.

So in response to your three points—and I fully agree with your concerns here:

1. Our “works” should arise out of obedience to Christ as Lord, out of a “fear of the Lord” (cf. 2 Cor. 5:11); they are underpinned always by grace; and they are always a prophetic sign of something other than ourselves.

2. That is the grace part: we can afford to be transparent about our failings because God is faithful to forgive us our sins.

3. This is what I like about Romans 2. Paul fully acknowledges the righteousness of Gentiles who were doing what the Jews should have been doing—performing the “works” of the Law even without the Law. Paul expected that righteousness to be honoured in some sense on the day of wrath.

Your explanation of Jesus being considered a sinner as “being made sin” is very problematic. I would think you want that conclusion because you don’t want imputation on the other end.

Not only do you passages like Isaiah 53, you have the entire typology of the Old Testament sacrificial system. Then you have Romans 3 talk about Jesus as a propitiation and that God may be just and the justifier.

That last Biblical verse shows it was necessary. And I don’t know how your paradigm makes Jesus’ death necessary, since I’m not sure what it is actually accomplishing. But speaking it being necessary so God could be both just and the justifier also points to justness (righteousness) being a bigger concept than just covenant faithfulness. God could have just made a covenant that didn’t require blood sacrifice.

In terms of positive imputation, I would go back to the Old Testament. Jeremiah giving the name of Messiah as Jehovah Tzidkenu. And Zecharaiah 3 talking about the priest with dirty clothes being given clean clothes.

Geoff, I have no problem saying that Jesus suffered for the sins of Israel, that his death was an atonement for the sins of Israel. What I am having a hard time understanding is where the idea that the righteousness of Christ is imputed or imparted to the believer comes from.

It is clear that the suffering of the servant in Isaiah 53 has a redemptive effect. But is the idea of imputation there? Verse 11 reads:

By his knowledge the righteous one, my servant, will make many righteous…

The Septuagint is rather different: God justifies a righteous one who is a good servant to many.

The closest parallel to this may be Daniel 12:3, where we also have the hiphil of tzdq:

And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (ESV)

The idea here is not that the righteousness of the wise is imparted to the many. Rather, through the example and teaching of the wise, many Jews are brought back to the covenant.

The argument in Romans 3:21-26 seems to be that Jesus died for the sins of Israel, and God justifies those who believe or trust or have faith in this as a gift (dōrean). Where is the thought of imputation. They are justified in the same way that Abraham was justified, that is, because they believed.

I thought I made the point clearly enough that righteousness in Paul is not just about covenant faithfulness. Where we speak about the “righteousness of God”, it makes sense to think in terms of the faithfulness of God towards his covenant with Israel. But the righteousness of God’s people has to do with their standing before on the day of his wrath.

Finally, what does Zechariah 3:1-5 demonstrate? God simply chooses to take away Joshua’s iniquity because he has “chosen Jerusalem”. God forgives Joshua out of faithfulness to his covenant with Israel. There is no sacrifice, no transfer of righteousness, no imputation, no impartation. Joshua is given a fresh start, but he is still expected to walk in God’s ways and keep his charge.

“There is no sacrifice, no transfer of righteousness, no imputation, no impartation. Joshua is given a fresh start, but he is still expected to walk in God’s ways and keep his charge.”

I would argue that the new clothes are type of the imputation. And that the Messiah’s name as Jehovah Tzidkenu is a direct reference to our righteousness.

But as to “expected to walk in God’s ways and keep his charge”… If you summarized your exegesis of Romans 1-5 to someone, would their natural reaction be “so can I sin all I want?” (Romans 6:1)

I would argue that the new clothes are type of the imputation.

But that’s only because you already have the idea that righteousness is imputed. It looks to me like an allegorization of the Old Testament text in order to make it function as a type of a later doctrine.

You’ll have to explain the Jehovah Tzidkenu reference or at least provide a reference.

If you summarized your exegesis of Romans 1-5 to someone, would their natural reaction be “so can I sin all I want?”

How on earth did you arrive at that idea? The whole argument of Romans is premised on the conviction that God was about to judge both the Jew and the Greek. Justification makes us members of God’s people. God’s people are called to obedience.

So if you expressed your exegesis of Romans 1-5 to someone on the street, would the natural response you would get be “Can I sin all I want?”

Still not sure I see what you’re driving at. Has this got something to do with hell? I do not think that the New Testament gives us warrant for frightening people on the street with warnings of eternal conscious torment. The wages of sin is death, simply put. There might be some ground for saying that modern western society faces divine judgment, analogous to God’s judgment on the Greek-Roman world, but that would be rather speculative. I certainly think that part of our “gospel” to the modern world is a denunciation of its peculiar follies and idolatries. But I would hope that the natural response of a person on the street to my exegesis of Romans 1-5 would be: Wow, can I be part of this community of God’s new creation that owes its existence to Jesus’ act of faithfulness?

We are reconciled to God by believing in the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection and by acceding to the new reality which his death and resurrection have created. We are reconciled to God when we understand and accept what he did to transform the status of his people in the world. We come to see it his way. Therefore we are reconciled to him

This is where your argument keeps hitting the buffers. When you try to sum up exactly what the implications of right belief are for people’s lives, it keeps coming back to believing something that happened ‘out there’, ‘the new reality which his death and resurrection have created’, and ‘back then’ for someone else. What exactly is this new reality, and how should it affect me, or anyone?

More pertinently, if God transformed ‘the status of his people in the world’ then, how does it work now, for those whose ‘status’, depending on geo-political realities in the 1st century apparently, does not need to be so transformed?

I think a great deal needs to be transformed, on a much deeper and more personal level than you describe, and that this is pretty clear from the story early on, Genesis 1-11, and in God’s calling of Abraham for purposes which evidently Paul thought were only being fulfilled in his own time and in his own life, 2000 years later. Abraham was not simply an example of right belief, as you seem to suggest, but one through whom God initiated promises which were to find their fulfilment in Christ and those who believed in him thousands of years later. This is narrative historical reading par excellence.

I’m mystified by all the imparted/imputed/infused language, and don’t understand where it is coming from in this discussion. Impart/impute are words reflecting complex theological ideas which are constructed on interpretations of the phrase “credited as righteousness” in particular. I simply don’t see why they need to be part of this discussion.

On the other hand, there was something of an inclusively representative nature taking place in the death of Jesus, which is reflected in the servant allusion in 2 Corinthians 5:21. That, and the fact that the Galatians 5 fruit of the Spirit, for instance, are regarded as fulfilling the requirements of the law, indicate that something more was happening through Jesus in relation to those who believed in him, than simply a change in a ‘realistic’ or ‘concrete’ state of affairs out there in the world.

A much better way of interpreting ‘righteousness’ language is to start with its covenant significance, which really begins in earnest with Abraham, but actually is a fundamental key to opening up the way in which God is seen as working throughout the scriptures. This is historic covenant interpretation, and not the theological covenant language of 16th century Europe.

Historic covenant language has profoundly personal, ontological if you like, consequences in the lives of those it affects, both in terms of ‘righteousness’ (what it meant to be included in God’s covenant when the terms of that covenant had been repeatedly violated), and personal transformation, as the connection between the ‘new covenant’ and the laws placed in minds and written on hearts of Hebrews 8, recapitulating Jeremiah 33, demonstrate.

This is also the ‘life and peace’ of setting the mind on the things of the Spirit of Romans 8. It is the hope that does not disappoint us because ‘God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit whch has been given to us’ of Romans 5. These are profoundly personal and inward realities which point to God’s plans and purposes beyond a change in status or concrete realities of an outward nature, which is where your argument constantly seems to want to take us.

What exactly is this new reality, and how should it affect me, or anyone?

The new reality is that God’s historical people are no longer subject to the condemnation of the Law of Moses, they are filled with the Holy Spirit, they live under Jesus as Lord, the new life they experience now is a foretaste of a final new creation, they have a calling from the one true, living God to be part of a corporate witness to him, collectively they live in relationship to him, they worship him, they experience his grace on a daily basis. How does it affect me or anyone else? We can either be in it or out of it.

It works now because the people that was renewed through the death and resurrection of Jesus still exists, ands it exists because God is faithful to his covenant. That is the righteousness of God. Anyone can be part of this new creation people. If they believe in the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the life of God’s people, if they repent and leave behind their old way of life, they are forgiven, they receive the Spirit of God, which is the power of God in them, and they learn a new obedience in Christ.

What more do you want?

Impart/impute are words reflecting complex theological ideas which are constructed on interpretations of the phrase “credited as righteousness” in particular.

The problem is that “credited as righteousness” introduces an idea that is not there in Paul’s argument. Paul does not say “credited as righteousness”. The verb logizomai means “count, think, calculate, reckon”. God counts a person righteous for believing in his Son. What is the use of complex, impenetrable theological ideas that are built on an error?

That’s odd! I was just making a much shorter reply to a comment which seems to have disappeared and been replaced by the one I’m now responding to.

In your (replacement?) comment, there are still some things that don’t make sense to me. First you describe what God did for His historical people, ie the people at that time in that historical situation, not we who live in a different time and situation:

The new reality is that God’s historical people are no longer subject to the condemnation of the Law of Moses, they are filled with the Holy Spirit, they live under Jesus as Lord, the new life they experience now is a foretaste of a final new creation, they have a calling from the one true, living God to be part of a corporate witness to him, collectively they live in relationship to him, they worship him, they experience his grace on a daily basis.

Then you say: “How does it affect me or anyone else? We can either be in it or out of it”. End of paragraph.

Your next paragraph says that this historic people “renewed by the death and resurrection of Jesus still exists” … “because God is faithful to his covenant”. This does not, however, provide the explanation, which according to you is this:

Anyone can be part of this new creation people. If they believe in the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the life of God’s people, if they repent and leave behind their old way of life, they are forgiven, they receive the Spirit of God, which is the power of God in them, and they learn a new obedience in Christ.

The word which throws things into confusion here is “significance” in the sentence: “If they believe in the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the life of God’s people”. You conclude the paragraph with “What more do you want?”

I’m actually looking for an adequate explanation. My understanding of you is that “the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection” was for His people at that time. What does that have to do with a significance for anyone else? You are begging the question, en arche aiteisthai, in the sense of assuming an explanation which is actually only repeating your conclusion. There is still no explanation of how the benefits that were given to God’s people at that time should now be available to God’s people in subsequent times. Actions of Jesus were specifically relevant to people at that time, according to you, and, as described in gospels, Acts and letters, not for anyone else. How can the benefits described in the NT then be available for others for whom those actions and conditions of belief no longer apply?

You then raise a separate issue:

“credited as righteousness” introduces an idea that is not there in Paul’s argument. Paul does not say “credited as righteousness”.

When Paul uses the phrase “credited as righteousness”, which is an English translation of what he does actually say in the Greek, he is directly repeating the Hebrew sense of the phrase used in Genesis 15. He is repeating the same thought which is in Genesis 15, which is that the covenant is sealed by the faith of the recipient or beneficiary. As it was for Abraham, so it is for those in the NT (and us, I argue), who have faith in God on the basis of “the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ” - Romans 3:22a - which is “to all who believe” - Romans 3:22b. (“There is no difference” - 3:22b, ie it’s for Jew and Gentile).

The verb logizomai means “count, think, calculate, reckon”. God counts a person righteous for believing in his Son. What is the use of complex, impenetrable theological ideas that are built on an error?

Yes, exactly; we don’t need to resort to complex theological explanations introduced especially in the 16th century, which are implied in misleading words like “impute” which have been freighted with enitirely misleading theological meaning.

So what does “credited as righteousness” mean?

Here follows my response to the comment which has disappeared, but which is now relevant, as an explanation of why “credited as righteousness” is a covenant term, even if it’s not a theological term in the reformed theological sense:

The promise to Abraham of an heir is God’s covenant promise. When Abraham “believed God” in Genesis 15, he was fulfilling his side of the covenant promise. “Credited as righteousness” describes God sealing the promise. A covenant has been put into effect. “Credited” means no more in this context than “counted, thought, calculated, reckoned” - to use your words.

“Righteousness” is a covenant term throughout the OT and NT. God’s righteousness is His faithfulness to the covenant which He has made. The righteousness of His people is their faithfulness to Him.

The covenant ceremony of Genesis 15:10-21 is not separate from the covenant-making in Genesis 15:1-9. The ceremony is about inheritance, which can only come through a son and heir, and includes the history of the exodus, which was the defining story of Israel’s identity, and which was finding its way to a climax in the passover sacrifice of Jesus.

The phrase “credited as righteousness” is the heart of the covenant with Abraham, which provides the springboard for the argument in Romans 4, linking 3:21-26 with 4:23. We believe as Abraham believed, but the passage (Romans 4), and the story, are, as you would say, diachronic as well as synchronic.

Abraham (diachronically) “announced the gospel in advance” … “All nations will be blessed through you” - Galatians 3:8. That blessing was released through Jesus, into the lives of those who (synchronically) believed in him, and through them into the world, through the same principle of faith, and fulfilling the promise which came by faith.

I don’t understand why this should be in question, unless you are coming up with a new interpretation of Genesis 15 and “credited by faith”.

My understanding of you is that “the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection” was for His people at that time. What does that have to do with a significance for anyone else? … There is still no explanation of how the benefits that were given to God’s people at that time should now be available to God’s people in subsequent times.

It seems pretty obvious to me. What happened in Jesus changed the state of God’s people. God’s people still have that changed state—Jesus is still Lord, ruling over this people at the right hand of God; God’s people still lives by the Spirit. So anyone who wants to become part of that people has to reckon with its changed state.

When Paul uses the phrase “credited as righteousness”, which is an English translation of what he does actually say in the Greek…

But it is a mistranslation. “Credited” does not mean “reckoned” or “thought”. It entails a metaphor in which something is transferred to another’s account.

So why have you not addressed the issues I was raising in both cases?

I think I answered your first question. The benefits of the New Testament are available today in the fact of the church’s existence as a renewed people of God.

As for the second, I agree more or less with your account of righteousness and covenant, though I still think “credited” is a mistranslation which lends support to the imputation argument. But my main point would be with regard both to 2 Corinthians 5:21 and 1 Corinthians 1:30 that his concern is not with God’s covenant faithfulness alone but with God’s covenant faithfulness under eschatological conditions, at a time of historical crisis. This is where I disagree with Wright. I don’t think he takes seriously enough the narratives that Paul invokes through the Old Testament quotations.

Hi my name is joel from new zealand,and I was just wondering what translation you are quoting from as to why you say abraham believed God and it was imputed as righteousness.you have discussed imputed and righteousness but have failed to see the detail is in the mistranslation of the word “as”.the kjv translates it as”for”.both sides of your guys arguments draw wrong conclusions because the basis of both sides are flawed because of the misunderstanding and mistranslation of the smallest word in the phrase.
Sorry for this but now I have to insult your intelligence in hopes that this will draw you into further discussion on this matter with me so that you will not just flag me off because of the way I write.just because I am not as literate as yous does not mean that I do not posses an answer.so here goes.you fullas are dumb.
Lol
Abraham believed God and it was imputed as righteousness
Abraham believed God and it was imputed for righteouness
The difference between these two phases will redirect both of your whole theology towards the function of Gods righteousness.

Joel, I’m not sure what you’re getting at. In Romans 4:3 Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 in the Greek translation: “it was counted to him eis righteousness”. The preposition eis normally means “towards, into, for”, which is why the KJV has “for”. The Hebrew of Genesis 15:6, however, reads literally “he counted it to him righteousness”. There is no preposition. The BDAG dictionary regards the Greek translation of this Hebrew expression as an example of eis replacing the predicate noun. So instead of “it was counted to him righteousness”, we have “it was counted to him eis righteousness”. The same construction is found in Romans 2:26: uncircumcision is regarded as (eis) uncircumcision. So what exactly are you trying to say about the small word eis? What difference would “for” make?

Oh man, your awesome.i love the way you dig for treasure.You write books,can we go halves if you publish my stuff.lol.Alright here goes.I will explain by an analogy.If I promised you ten dollars and you believe that I will pay I now am obligated to pay you because if I do not I have exposed myself as a liar or unrighteous.i commit an unrighteous act.On the other hand when I give you the ten dollars I prove myself tuthful or righteouss,I have splken the truth.i commit a righreous act.
Abraham beieved God and it (another overlooked little word.it being the promise that God would make him the Father of many nations.not pay him ten dollars and also not put or equate believing as righteouness towards abrahams account.lol) was imputed for (the sake of) righteousness.Analogy time again. Andrew believed joel and joel put ten dollars in his account in order for joel to prove himself truthful, By doing what I said I woud do uphold my own rghteousness… Does this explain what I am trying to say…..I have alot more on this train of thougt if you are intrested.how we become the righteousness of God for starters. Oh and sorry for calling you dumb.lol

Sorry for the spelling mistakes.i have big fingers and a small dial pad.lol oh and by the way if I.gave you righteousness instead of ten dollars I would also be a liar.

Another thought.the original hebrew has no puncuation so as you said it is literally “Abraham believed God and it was imputed righteouness”.it could then be read”Abraham believed God and it was imputed….RIGHTEOUSNESS….meaning the verse immediately preceeding this word is an expressed example of it.

Any arguments to my interpretation?

I’m not sure I follow you here, Joel. Are you suggesting that it is God’s action which is reckoned as “righteousness”? I think “righteousness” has to denote that which was reckoned to Abraham—”it was reckoned” doesn’t really make sense on its own.

Hi Andrew,good to hear from you. I am suggesting that God imputed an heir to Abraham in order to example,express Gods own righteousness to Abraham and the world. When Abraham believed God,God would then hold himself accountable for the promise he made and then go about performing his promise.Bringing potent life to Abrahams loins,resurrecting Sarahs dead womb.God however did not account aAbraham as righteous.What was owed to Abraham by promise is what was accredited (imputed )to him.
GOD says in Job,tell me if you can number the stars , implying that God can and he cant.So if God knows the adsact number of stars,or grains of sand there are,this number has to be a child of abraham or the promise has not been fufilled.If the number is immesurable God has to keep Abraham alive forever in order to fufill the promise.Jesus said,Is not God the God of the living,Abraham,Issac ,Jacob.
Therefore in order to keep abe alive forever when he dies God keeps Abe in Paradise to where he sends Christ to preach the Gosple.
Ever wondered why God promises are so LARGE.haha.
Our God is great.

JESUS shows up in Paradise and says to Abraham,my father owes you his word,come with me..
Therefore it is by Grace he is saved through faith,which was not of himself but the Gift (what God gave)of God..

Andrew,

Given the fact that a large part of the conception of God’s righteousness in the biblical mind was His commitment to fulfill all the promises He made to Israel, is the issue of us “becoming the righteousness of God” in Christ not primarily simply the idea that the faithfulness of God to His covenant promises is being demonstrated in the redemption we are enjoying?

We are being “made His rightesouness” because His faithfulness to His promises is on clearly on display in the redeemed - a fact that is emphasized by receiving a downpyament of the Holy Spirit which is ultimately an eschatological promises in the Old Testament. His righteousness, or His faithfulness, is on display in every one of the redeemed. We are transformed from the condemend into examples of God’s faithfulness to His promises.

When we consider the passage contextually without a predetermined system of theology, is God’s faithfulness not the core issue Paul is driving at or is that too simplistic an idea?