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As to good and evil, there is a tree (a branch of knowledge) which defines the knowledge of good and evil ; and mankind is advised not to partake of it (as a means of life) else we die.

But as to right and wrong, which is the matter of righteousness, we are advised that :

... with the heart man believeth unto righteousness [Romans 10:10 KJV].

And we are also advised that :

Abraham believed God and there was valued to him unto righteousness (1).

Note : Both of the above texts read 'unto (eis) righteousness' in the original.

Several times, the Abraham text is quoted in scripture : Genesis, Habakkuk, Romans, Galatians and James in different forms. But logizomai is better rendered 'valued' than 'accounted' and eis is better rendered 'unto' than 'as'. And there is no 'it' in the text ('it was accounted' -sic-) so there should be a reflexive (deponent) intransitive and passive form, not an active form with an inserted pronoun.

(Otherwise the impression given is that faith is regarded as a 'substitute' for righteousness, which is not the truth. They are different things, in and of themselves ; yet one is 'unto' the other.)

There was, within Abraham, something that was valued and the evaluation was unto a righteousness (the righteousness of God) which was not, actually, Abraham's. Paul makes very, very clear in both Romans and Galatians that justification by faith is a matter of the righteousness of God, not any human righteousness.

So, what does Protestantism regard as that which is to be believed unto righteousness, that is to say the valuing (in the sight of almighty God) of that which is within the believer which is unto righteousness ?

What is the content and what is the quality of Abraham's faith that made it so valuable in the sight of God ?


(1) See Genesis 15:6, James 2:23, Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, Habakkuk 2:4.

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Fortunately Jesus answers this one directly when he said:

Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad. (John 8:56 NIV)

In addition, in Romans, Paul argues that the fact Abraham was justified before the introduction of the Law and before being circumcised, proves his justification was by faith and not by his own personal inner righteousness. So that his faith, as distinguished from his own righteousness, was how he was considered righteous before God.

Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. Rom 9:4-16 NIV

Paul distinguishes between the two possible ways of being considered righteous, 1-perfectly complying with the Law yourself and 2-being declared righteous by the works of another - who has perfectly obeyed the Law, namely Jesus alone. One can't be considered personally righteous officially before God, if they have ever sinned.

Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” (Rom 10:5 NIV)

and again:

I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Phil 3:9)

Paul clearly makes these two ways of obtaining a righteous status are mutually exclusive (allowing no subtle mixtures of the two methods as the Devil loves to do).Obviously only the second method was achievable - that of humble faith.

And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. (Rom 11:6 NIV)

Therefore clearly Abraham was declared righteous by believing that the promised Messiah would save him from his sins. With no righteousness of his own, before the Law existed, he was declared righteous by his faith. Of course the early believers did not have the same clear understanding of Messiah as those who were instructed after the gift of the Spirit was poured out on the church when Christ had risen. The Spirit gave us much greater wisdom and insight yet Abraham’s faith was in essence no different then any other genuine believer to day. This is why he was given a promise to be a father of many nations, including us.

When we switch to the topic of 'Who had justifying faith, while they were sinners, apart from personal righteousness?' then we can bring in the topic of personal righteousness - but absolutely restricted to the mere evidence of an existing faith. If we do mix works and grace in the actual justification, even if just a slight amount, it is like saying there is only a few handfuls of dung in the glass of water for the King. By doing so actually reject grace by that unholy mixture and do not manifest the fear of the Lord that God requires.

  6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, 
     and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; 
     we all shrivel up like a leaf, 
     and like the wind our sins sweep us away. ((Is 64:6). NIV)
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Bible-believing Protestants use the Bible's own definition as to what must be believed unto righteousness. There is a foundation that has been laid, by God. No other foundation will support the 'building' that will remain into all eternity. As Paul stated, "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:11). That is why the apostles preached Christ, and him crucified and risen. They taught that which is to be believed unto righteousness.

Therefore, their apostolic doctrine shows the foundation of God's righteousness to be that which the Book of the Revelation states - the New Jerusalem has a wall, "And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (ch. 21 vs 14). This foundation is the doctrine of Christ, without which nobody can have either the Father, or the Son. But to abide in the doctrine of Christ is to have both the Father and the Son (2 John vs. 9).

"But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness" (Romans 6:17-18).

Nobody can believe unto righteousness without holding fast to the form of sound words, such as that which Timothy heard of the apostle Paul - 2 Timothy 1:13. Thus Paul curses all, angels or men, who pervert the doctrine of Christ (Galatians 1:8-12). The apostolic doctrine is called the evangel, or gospel: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16). This is "the faith once delivered to the saints" - Jude vs. 3.

But once that gospel has been declared, hearers must exercise faith in it. Just hearing the biblical, apostolic doctrine of Christ is insufficient. Millions have heard it but have remained unmoved even though giving verbal assent to it. Millions more have heard it and responded by striving to earn, or merit, salvation, but they will never enter into God's "rest" because "the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest... they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief" (Hebrews 4:2-6).

Faith must be demonstrated - believing it so as to be transformed by grace, to show forth God's righteousness. And that is what Abraham did. The book of Hebrews has much to say about Abraham, and how it was his faith that pleased God:

"He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him... By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange county... for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Hebrews 11:6-10).

That shows Abraham to have had faith in the glory of heaven, unseen; an even greater hope than that of the promised land on earth. This statement applies just as much to him as to others who became sons of God by faith - "For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:5-6). That is why Abraham pleased God long before he was commanded to be circumcised, he and his male household. He had faith in God right at the start of God calling him out of the land of his birth, to sojourn towards that promised land, and Abraham saw more than that which was only seen by his eyes. He had eyes of faith, for the Spirit of Christ lived in him thousands of years before Christ would be manifested on earth.

I have heard this taught in various Protestant sermons, and read it in many Protestant books, but a perverted gospel is creeping in, moreso these days than in decades past, for many teachers are being raised up, to tickle the ears of their hearers. Those teachers are wandering away from the apostles' doctrine, as they are from living by faith. The apostles warned that such a horrible state would obtain after their demise, false teachers with unrighteous ways, creeping in to lead the people astray with commands of men. But this answer gives something of the Bible's definition as to that which is to be believed unto righteousness.

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    Faith must be demonstrated Very pertinent point. Up-voted +1. God has demonstrated his righteousness at Golgotha, upon his own Son, Jesus Christ. And so faith is demonstrated in that sacrifice in a believing fashion and in a faithful fashion : not a mere intellectual nod to technical truth.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 13 at 9:02
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    I edited the question to accommodate your comment. I added 'and what is the quality' to the relevant paragraph. Much appreciated.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 13 at 9:26

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