In our study we will tread deep theological waters. We will see how one is actually saved by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In part one, Fetter Lane will begin laying down Paul's explanation of such a great salvation. We already have seen that deliverance/forgiveness of our sins comes by entrusting ourselves to Christ and his atoning work on the cross. How does it happen, though? What is the principle behind forgiveness through faith?
This is what Paul takes up with a discussion of Abraham.
"What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather 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 counted to him as righteousness.'" (Rom 4.1-3 ESV)
Paul's quotation is from Genesis 15.6, the larger context being contained in Gen 15.1-6. In this passage, God tells Abram that he is going to be a father. The LORD takes Abram outside and tells him to count the stars, if it's possible for him. "Then [God] said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.'" (Gen 15.5b)
Abram, old as he was, believed the LORD. For that, God reckoned Abram as righteous. Abram was saved because he believed what God told him.
This is Paul's point for us; in the same way Abraham, our Father in the Faith, was saved through his faith, so too are we.
Look again at Romans 4.3:
"For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.'" (ESV)
The word translated "counted" (λογιζομαι) is an accounting term. Abram believed God and God marked Abram as "righteous" in his celestial ledger, so to speak. God reckoned him what he was not--he credited righteousness to him.
When we look upon the Son and believe and trust in him, repenting and submitting to him, we are credited as righteous. We, the sinners, become saints through belief in his sinless life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection.
Tomorrow Fetter Lane will attempt to explain how such a thing could be possible. How can we be reckoned as something we are not?
For now, realize this: we are saved because of Jesus, not ourselves. It isn't our good works that save souls but Christ's good works that do so.