“Because of Abraham’s righteousness, the Lord made a covenant with him and his descendants.” (Gospel Principles, ch. 15)
“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith… That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring” (Romans 4:13, 16)
If the promise was given because of Abraham’s personal righteousness, even grace-assisted faith-driven personal righteousness, then the whole point of Romans 4 is lost. Rather, we enter into the promise by trusting the God who justifies the ungodly. If the promise/covenant was given via law-keeping, then there is no hope. Paul made that abundantly clear in Romans 3:19-20. Law brings knowledge of sin. It cannot provide what it demands. It brings wrath. “For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression” (4:15). Bilateral covenants predicated upon our commandment-keeping bring wrath.
Let that sink in: going to the temple to make bilateral covenants predicated upon your grace-assisted faith-driven commandment-keeping obedience brings wrath.
But there is hope. Not in faith-driven works or in grace-assisted meritocracy, but in the promise that “will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord” (Romans 4:24). In the grace that counts the ungodly as godly:
“And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:5; may the JST be accursed)
The point of “righteousness of faith” is that it isn’t our righteousness. It is Christ’s righteousness *counted* as our righteousness—by faith, not by commandment-keeping. Not by personal worthiness. Not by personal righteousness. Not by merit.
The whole point of Romans 4 is that we can receive justification and God’s covenant-favor and rock-solid enduring promises the same way Abraham did: by faith apart from works. Faith that finds its hope not in grace-assisted personal righteousness, but “in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (24-25)[audio:http://www.seedsfamilyworship.net/music/SeedsOfFaith_Audio/02%20Grace%20(La-Di-Da)-%20Ephesians%202-8.mp3]
Music credit: Seeds Family Worship