Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 20, 1951
NUMBER 33, PAGE 1,5b

Faith Reckoned As Righteousness

C. D. Crouch, Trumann, Arkansas

The four words in the above caption are all simple terms. It may be assumed that ordinarily each word in the caption is frequently used by all ordinary folks; and it may also be assumed that ordinary folks understand the meaning of each of those words. But the "question before the house" now is, does the order of the words as used in the caption express an idea that is really taught in the word of God? Is it a Bible expression? Well, that depends on which Version of the Bible you are reading. The so-called "Revised Standard Version" of the New Testament actually contains the expression in Romans 4:3, 9. And not withstanding that fact, even some of the brethren refer to that Version as a translation of the New Testament.

It is generally known to all informed students of religious matters that one of the tenets of religion with some of the denominations is, that the Righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers. That was one of the prominent tenets of John Wesley's teaching. Who has not heard some denominational preacher say: "No, I am not righteous; I am a sinner saved by Grace. I am still a sinner, but I believe in Christ, and God has imputed to me the righteousness of Christ."

That is about the way some modern sectarians express their conception of the relationship the redeemed of the earth sustain to the Lord. With that idea firmly fixed in their minds, it is no marvel that the form of expression as is used in the caption above may find its way into common use.

Since the idea is that we are not righteous, and can never really be righteous; we are always sinners, and can really never be regarded as anything else, God in His goodness and mercy and love, knows we are sinners, but He IMPUTES TO US the righteousness of Christ, and henceforth treats us as though we were really righteous!!

Such a conception actually accuses God of playing like we are righteous. He knows we are not righteous; but He plays like we are!! When I was a boy many of the women in my community took their wash down to the spring on Monday mornings. They had the wash kettle and their tubs down there; and there was plenty of wood for the fire, and there was plenty of water in the spring. They knew the garments were soiled, and treated them accordingly. They actually washed them; they cleansed them. Suppose they bad played like they were cleansing them—the modern theory accuses God of treating the sinner. They could have said: "I know this garment is soiled. But, I shall just spread it out on the top of these alder bushes, and play like it is clean. That is the way God has done with me. He knows I am a sinner; He knows I am soiled unrighteous still, but He treats me as though I were really righteous!!

But, "faith reckoned as righteousness": with the above conception of religion, it required little effort upon the part of men to assume that God accepts man's faith in lieu of righteousness. It is true, that the Bible says: "Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness." And "Abraham's faith was reckoned to him for righteousness." Note the fact that it was said: "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness." His belief was reckoned to him. But his belief was his faith, or his faith was his belief. That is what was reckoned. That was set to his account, or he was credited with the belief. The meaning of "reckoned" is; "Set to the account of; to credit one with that which is reckoned. Abraham's belief, or faith is that which was set to his account. But it was set to his account "for righteousness." Does that mean that it was credited to him in lieu of righteousness? As righteousness? Be it understood that "for" in those passages (Rom. 4:3, 9) comes from the Greek preposition "EIS," which the dictionaries tell us "is a preposition governing the accusative"; its radical significance is "into." It means in these passages "in order to." The adverb "as" therefore cannot correctly translate the Greek preposition "EIS." The very fact, that the Revised Standard Version so renders it, brands the said Version as unworthy to be called a translation. The Committee evidently accepts the idea of "play-like-righteousness," and they have violated a fundamental principle of language translation to give expression to their theological conception.

No, Abraham's faith was not reckoned to him as, but in order to righteousness. His faith was one thing, and righteousness was another—an entirely different thing.

In Romans 4:6, it is declared that David pronounces a blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works. Now in this passage, it is "righteousness" that is said to be "reckoned." But what is "righteousness"? Sometimes one of my preaching brethren, who has never learned to think, will quote Psalm 119:172, and say that is it. Note the fact that in the quotation from David, the word "righteousness" is not used. Yet, Paul says: "David pronounces blessings upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works." But what did David say? "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered." And Paul says that is pronouncing blessing upon the man unto whom God reckoneth righteousness apart from works. When God forgives the sinner, He henceforth regards him righteous. To be righteous means to be free from all charges of sin or wrongdoing. God does "not reckon sin" to the man "upon whom David pronounces blessing," because that is the man whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered.

It follows then, that God forgives our sins, and then holds us "not guilty" of any wrongdoing. God accounts us righteous because we are righteous. Of course, we were ungodly, that is, we were irreverent. We were sinners, but we are saved—we are forgiven, and we are therefore righteous.

This "righteousness" follows forgiveness, and is in the very nature of things consequent upon forgiveness. Faith is one of the conditions requisite to righteousness. God set Abraham's faith to his credit as a condition thereunto. Abraham's faith was one thing and the righteousness that he obtained was another thing. Just so, our "belief is in order to righteousness." Our belief is set to our account as one of the conditions of pardon, after which pardon God accounts us righteous.

It is an easy thing to confuse "forgiveness" and "righteousness." Because those who are forgiven are those whom God counts "righteous." And God counts none righteous now save those who are forgiven. Yet there is a distinction to be recognized between the two terms. "God's righteousness by faith" is the grand theme of Paul's letter to the saints at Rome. In discussing the theme "righteousness by works of law" is brought into consideration as a thing conceivable, and is held up in contrast with "righteousness by faith." The simple truth is, Christ was righteous by works of law. He kept the law perfectly; He did no sin. He is righteous because he never did wrong. But Jesus is the only person whom we know who ever lived in human form without sin. And since "all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God," before we can be righteous, the guilt of our sins must be removed. In the fourth chapter of Romans we have the facts stated that "faith is reckoned for righteousness," that "righteousness is reckoned" to some "apart from works," and that to certain ones God "will not reckon sin." And be it remembered that the King James Version uses the word "impute" instead of "reckon" in some of these verses. But the word in the original is the same in all cases, and the Revised Version employs the word "reckon" uniformly.

God reckons faith to some. He reckons righteousness to some. And He reckons sin to some. Certainly God will not reckon faith to the man who doesn't believe. He will not reckon sin to one who is not guilty of sin. Nor will God reckon righteousness to one who is not righteous.