Last week we learned that justification is courtroom language. In a judicial proceeding, a person can be justified or condemned. We would expect that a just judge would justify or condemn based upon the righteousness or unrighteousness of the defendant. If the defendant is found to be unrighteous, then they would be condemned. If they are found to be righteous, then they would be justified.
Shockingly, this is not how it works for those who believe in Jesus. Through faith, we are accounted righteous (Romans 4:3) even though we are ungodly (Romans 4:5). In this incredible, unexpected turn of events, God credits those who believe with righteousness as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Romans 4:24, 25).
Paul’s teaching about justification by faith would have been so new and so contrary to established patterns of belief that Paul’s audience would have required him to give strong scriptural evidence. What biblical support could he provide? None other than the first great man of faith described in the Bible, Abraham. According to the Genesis account, Abraham believed God, and his faith was accounted to him for righteousness (Romans 4:3; Genesis 15:6). This righteousness by faith wasn’t only for Abraham. Abraham was the prototype. He was to be the father of a great nation of people who shared his faith (Romans 4:11, 12, 16–18; Genesis 17:5). If we share the faith of Abraham and are righteous like Abraham, we don’t need to fear condemnation in the judgment (Romans 4:6–12). Condemnation is only for the unrighteous, and believers are not unrighteous—they are accounted righteous through faith in Jesus.
Paul gathers additional biblical evidence for his teaching about justification by faith in the writings of David. He quotes David, who said, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin” (Romans 4:7, 8; cf. Psalm 32:1, 2).
This verse may be one of the most comforting, assurance-filled texts in all of Scripture. It describes the blessedness of those whose sins and lawless deeds are forgiven. More than that, it promises that God shall not impute sin to those who have faith. The assurance of this verse extends from the present into the future. Sins are forgiven and covered in the present. Sins shall not be imputed to you in the future. As long as your faith is firmly rooted in Jesus Christ, you can be confident that your sins are forgiven and that they will not be held against you in the future.