How is a Sinner be Counted Righteous?
A sinner is characterised by sin, and is totally opposite to one who is counted righteous. How then can a sinner be counted righteous? From man’s perspective, it is impossible. We may try to make up for our bad actions by doing good deeds. By his own effort, a sinner can only cleanse his external. Sin is a matter that involves the heart. It is an internal matter. The heart refers to the real us, our spirit and soul, i.e. who we really are. For the righteous person, his righteousness comes from his heart. This is where our problem is.
It does not matter whether the world sees us as righteous or not. What matters is whether God counts us righteous, for God alone holds the key into heaven. How does God count a sinner righteous? God introduced Jesus as the spotless, unblemished Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Christ was born a man to live a perfect life of obedience on earth and to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus is the only One who make us righteous.
Only by believing in Jesus as his Lord and Saviour can a sinner be counted righteous and be saved. Doing Christian things (eg. attending worship service, etc) are evidences of a person’s salvation. Doing these things does not make a person righteous. They do not save a person. We must believe in Jesus (in what He has done for us to save us from our sins) in order for us to be counted righteous by God.
When Abraham was between 75 and 85 years old, God had declared him to be righteous (Gen 15:4-6), i.e. he was saved. Then at age 99, Abraham was circumcised (Gen 17:9-11). The act of circumcision was not what made Abraham righteous. It was his faith in Jesus that saved Abraham, not circumcision. Abraham’s circumcision came after he was saved.
If we as gentiles also believe in Jesus by faith, we too can be saved, and be counted as children of Abraham by faith (Gal 3:7).
Beware of false teachings that say that our good works are necessary for our salvation. Just as how God counted Abraham as righteous simply because Abraham believed in Jesus (even before Abraham was circumcised), we too can be saved by our faith in Jesus. And we can be blessed even as faithful Abraham was blessed (Gal 3:9).