His Belief was Counted as Righteousness
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Dear ones, would you turn and look at Romans 4:23. You see it reads like this, “But the words, ‘It
was reckoned to him,’ were written not for his sake alone,” and then the rest of the sentence at the
beginning of 24, “But for ours also.” And do you see that the words, “It was reckoned to him,” are
in quotes, so that obviously means that they were used before somewhere and that Paul is actually
quoting what was said elsewhere.
Now you’ll find the original moment when those words were used if you turn to Genesis 15:6. There
the words were spoken for the first time and that’s why they are in quotes back there in Romans.
Genesis 15:6, “And he believed the Lord,” that was a man called Abraham, “And he reckoned it to him
as righteousness.” Now that’s the original time that those words were used. “He reckoned it to him
Now why did he do that? Well, Abraham had no children and God gave him a promise in Genesis 15:5,
“And he,” God, “Brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are
able to number them.’ Then he said to them, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the
Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.” And so it was because Abraham believed what God
said that God regarded him as right with himself. And that was back in the year 2000 BC.
Now do you see that it was spoken at that time in the year 2000 BC and yet it was spoken also in the
year 57 AD? Romans 3:28 is another occasion when another man said the same thing is true. Really,
2,050 years later, Romans 3:28, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of
law.” So the whole world, even the religious world says, “You make yourself right with the deity
behind the universe by being good or by entering into a special kind of knowledge that this deity
will give you.” But for 2,050 years at least the God whom Jesus regarded as his Father has kept on
saying, “If you believe me, I’ll look upon that as righteousness. If you just trust me I’ll regard
that as righteousness; I’ll make you right with myself.”
Now do you see that that’s one of the greatest strengths of Christianity: that we’re not listening
to Jesus over a period of three years of ministry? But that the things that he has said, this God
who is his father has been saying for thousands of years to thousands of different people down
through the centuries, and that this God has remained consistent right down through the years. He
has kept on saying, however much we men and woman have tried to change the basis of our ‘getting
right with him’ to morality, or to some kind of special Gnostic knowledge, yet this God has kept on
saying, “No, I tell you if you believe what I say, and I’m saying that my Son has died for the
things you’ve done against me, then as far as I’m concerned you’re right with me.”
Now, do you see that for thousands of years, brothers and sisters, God has been saying the same
thing? This is one of the reasons why so many of us trust the revelation of the Creator that has
come through Jesus, because it’s a revelation that has remained consistent over thousands, and
thousands of years. Now, do you see that in the last 30 years of our century there will spring up
all kinds of antichrists? There will come all kinds of gurus, and all kinds of mystic prophets who
will try to tell you that their particular vision of the Creator of the universe is the right one.
And do you see that you have to weigh one man’s personal insight against the historical events of
thousands of years in order to say that this man is right and this Jesus is wrong?
It’s like me saying to you, “I had a vision last night, a dream, and I really believe that God will
treat you as being his child and as being right with him if you’ll only believe what he says. If
you’ll believe what he says, he’ll make you right with himself.” Now do you see that your immediate
response should be, “How do I know that you’re right? How do I know that your vision is right? How
do I know your dream is right? How do I know that you’re not having illusions? How do I know that
your personal experience is trust worthy?” And the answer is really, you don’t.
Any man who comes to you and says, “No, I supersede Christ. I am the new prophet. I am Christ
returned. I am the one who will bring the world to peace and to complete joy and love.” You can
tell one thing that that is one of the antichrists that Jesus said would come and would try to
disillusion us all and would try to deceive us all. But actually, all they’d ask us to do was
believe in their personal experience.
Brothers and sisters it’s so different when you bring thousands of years of historical events where
this Creator has dealt consistently over centuries and centuries with different people, you’re
dealing with a completely different situation. And that’s really what you deal with you see, in the
Bible. If you look at Genesis 15:5, you get the dealing that God did with Abraham and 2,000 years
later he’s still dealing the same way with a man like Paul. Genesis 15:5, “And he brought him
outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then
he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him
Now any one could say he was having a dream, it didn’t really happen. But then you look at Genesis
21:2-3. Genesis 21:2-3, “And Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of
which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah
bore him, Isaac.” And then look at the completion of Abraham’s life in Genesis 25:7-9. Genesis
25:7, “These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, a hundred and seventy-five years. Abraham
breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his
people.” And it’s very difficult to say that Abraham really was having a hallucination when he
thought that God made that promise to him, because the historical events back up the promise. And
then you need to add to that thousands of years and thousands of other people’s experiences that
reinforce the same revelation that God is like this. That he treats any of us as right with himself
if we really believe him, if we just put our trust in him. If we believe that what he says is true,
if we believe that Jesus really died for us, then God regards that as right and righteousness. And
really that’s one of the biggest reasons why so many of us believe that the God revealed by Jesus is
the real God.
Now the amazing thing is brothers and sisters that you don’t only have to depend on historical
events to back it up. The Bible is not only invaluable to us because it tells us of actual
historical events that prove that what God said he would do he actually did. But the Bible is
invaluable to us because it actually tells us what God himself is thinking.
Now that’s right, if you look at Genesis 15:5, you’ll see that. Genesis 15:5, “And he,” that is
God, “Brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to
number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and
he reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Who? Well, God. So we read not only what God said to
Abraham, but what God was actually thinking. And the Bible is invaluable to us not only because
it’s a history book of what God did but it’s also a record of what God himself was thinking at
different moments in history.
Now how did he know it? Well, God told it to Abraham. God said that to Abraham, “Look, I regard
your belief in me as righteousness.” Then Abraham told it to his children, then they told it to
their children, and then they told it to Moses. And Moses decided, “I’ll try this out. I’ll act on
it myself. I’ll try to prove that this is true.” And so he tried it in his own life and you see it
in Exodus 3:10. Exodus 3:10, and God spoke you see, to Moses, “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh
that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”
Now that was an incredible and really an impossible task if you think of the situation. Moses, a
shepherd on the backside of some mountain looking after sheep and the Egyptians, the most powerful
race in the world and God says, “Come, I’m going to use you to bring my people out of Egypt.” And
then look at Exodus 12:51, “And on that very day the Lord brought the people of Israel out of the
land of Egypt by their hosts.”
If I give you some personal visions that I’ve had all you have to do is get me into St. Peters
[Reference to the insane asylum in St. Peter, Minnesota, USA], or give me some basket work and you
only have to knock down one person to disprove my view of God. But you do see brothers and sisters,
to contradict the revelation of our Creator that we have received through Jesus, you have to rewrite
thousands of years of history. And not only of Israelite history but the Egyptian history makes no
sense if the Exodus did not take place. Moreover, the elements in the Jewish religion that
originated in that time make no sense. We have lots of effects without any cause if this is not
Now this is why the revelation that we get of the Creator through Jesus is so hard to contradict,
because it does not depend on one man’s vision but the experiences of hundreds and thousands of men
over hundreds and thousands of years. And so it goes on, you know, right through the Bible. And in
the Bible you have not only an event you see, but you have really God’s thought about the event.
Down through the years many religious authorities have taken historical events like the Second World
War and have tried to make some religious significance out of them.
They’ve tried to tell us what the god was really thinking who allowed those things to come to past.
And all that has resulted from that kind of personal interpretation of events is a bundle of
contradictory gods such as we have in Hinduism, or a group of contradictory deities such as we have
among the Romans and Greeks. But we have nothing like a consistent God who is the same century
after century. Now this is why God has not only recorded the events in the Bible but he has
recorded his own thoughts about them. He tells us what he is actually thinking at the time. The
theologians say that the revelation is not only factual but propositional and tells us not only the
events but it tells us the significance of the events.
Now, why has all of this taken place? Well you get the answer in Romans 4:23. Romans 4:23, God had
gone to this kind of trouble for one purpose and it’s in 4:23, “But the words, ‘it was reckoned to
him,’ were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also.” And that’s the purpose of history.
God enabled a man like Abraham to experience that for your sake. He enabled a man like Paul to
experience it for your sake and mine. See, a lot of us I think, are under this deception that the
way to get right with the Creator of the world is to be as good as we can. And so you know, we wear
ourselves out. We wear ourselves out trying to please all our families, all our relatives, all the
authorities in our lives, our professors, our teachers, all of our peer group, and especially all
people connected with churches. And so we’ve come into the deception that Christianity is really
just being moral.
Now, do you see that God had a man who thought like that at one time and then he discovered that
that wasn’t true? That he could be made right with God just by believing that God’s Son Jesus had
made things right between himself and his Father. And this man’s experience was recorded for your
sake and mine.
Now you’ll find somebody like yourself who was concerned with grades if you look at Philippians 3.
And old Paul really was one of those conscientious people such as so many of us are. In Philippians
3:4 he describes his own attitude to things, “Though I myself have reason for confidence in the
flesh also. If any other man thinks he has reason for the confidence in the flesh, I have more:
circumcised on the eight day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of
Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee.” You see A’s right across the board, “As to zeal a persecutor of
the church, as to righteousness under the law blameless.” And then he says, “But whatever gain I
had,” because none of these things made me sense that I was right with God, “I counted as loss for
the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing
Christ Jesus my Lord.” And Paul believed what we have said, that if he trusted what God said about
Jesus he would be right with God.
Is there any proof that he was right with God? Yeah, if you look at his experience in Acts 28
you’ll see it there. There’s incredible proof that he was not just involved in some kind of
deception in Acts 28:1, “After we had escaped, we then learned that the island was called Malta.
And the natives showed us unusual kindness…” and this was Luke writing this, you remember, he was
traveling with Paul, “For they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and
was cold. Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, when a viper came out
because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his
hand, they said to one another, ‘No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the
sea, justice has not allowed him to live.’ He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and
suffered no harm. They waited, expecting him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead; but when they
had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he
was a god.” And Jesus said that that kind of thing would happen. He said, “Listen, you’ll be made
right with my Father if you believe in me and you’ll even walk on scorpions and they will not touch
you.” And that was written for your sake and mine.
I don’t know if you’re still lying under that business of trying to prove that you’re as good as
anybody else or if you’re still trying to make yourself right with God by being moral and being
successful. But do you see that here’s a historical experience that shows that God will treat you
as right with himself if you’ll just believe in his son Jesus.
Some of us, you know, are in the position where we think, “Yeah, well that’s okay, but I really
think I’m almost too low for God to have anything to do with me. All these people in this theater
must be at least a little better than me and in some way surely you have to prove yourself worthy of
Jesus dying for you? Surely you have to improve your life a little bit for God to make you right
with himself?” And I think many of us think this way. We listen Sunday after Sunday to this kind
of talk but really in our own hearts we think, “Yeah, but I have to improve a little better and a
little better and someday I’ll be able to believe in Jesus and God will be able to make me right
with himself.” But brothers and sisters, God can do it this very morning, you see, because he did
it with someone like you, someone at least as bad as you, and probably worse.
Now, would you look at that lady, her story really is in John 8:3-11? And you remember the RSV
Bible tries to indicate where some manuscripts do not contain some of the text and so that’s why
they put this into the small print at the bottom of the page there. John 8:3, it just indicates
really that the manuscript that they were following didn’t have it in it but that the other big ones
Spatacanous and Alexandrinus had, “The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught
in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in
the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?’
This they said to test him that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down
and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to
them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more he
bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by
one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.”
This was a woman you see, that presumably was even caught in bed I suppose, caught in the actual act
of adultery really. “Jesus looked up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned
you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you.’” And then he did say
the important part about repentance you see, “Go, and do not sin again.”
But loved ones that was written for our sakes, because Jesus will have the same attitude to you this
morning as he had to that woman. And do you see there’s none of us here this morning that are too
low that God is not willing to deal with us in his son Jesus? There is no one here this morning
that God will not show the same forgiveness to as he showed that lady. And so it is right through
the Bible. In the Bible we have a series of historical events that show beyond all doubt the kind
of God that we’re dealing with and that he is the Father of Jesus Christ. And the reason for all
that historical detail is so that we will in no way, in these last days, be led away by those who
have personal visions of their own, but that we will know what God is like and most of all that we
will be prepared to deal with him ourselves.
So dear ones if you ever feel, “Oh no, I’m too low, or I demand too much scientific detail for God
ever to deal with me.” All you have to do is look at that woman or look at the man Thomas who said,
“Unless I put my finger into the holes in his hands I will not believe.” And then you can be sure
that if God showed himself and came through in some way to a man as demanding and skeptical as
Thomas, then he’ll come through to you, too. He can deal with you and he can deal with me also.
And so it is with every difficulty we feel and many of us feel, “Oh no, I’ve listened to this Sunday
after Sunday and I’ve tried to get through to God. I’ve tried, and I’ve tried and I cannot, and I
cannot get through. There must be some reason for it.” There is.
There was a young man who came to Jesus and said, “Listen, I’ve done everything. I’ve obeyed all
the laws. I’m absolutely obedient and yet somehow I can’t find God real to me.” And then Jesus
picked the one thing that he had never looked at himself and said, “Listen, you’re very rich. Would
you give away all that you have? And then God will be real to you.” And so it is with us who claim
we’ve tried everything, we’ve done everything, we’ve obeyed every law we can, yet when you go to
Jesus and say, “Lord, will ‘you’ show me why God cannot be real to me?” Jesus will be faithful to
you as he was with that man. And he’ll pick out the one thing that is preventing God showing
himself to you.
And really the reason for all these things is for us. It was reckoned to him it was written not for
his sake but for ours this morning, because this God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and
he’ll deal with you in just the same way. And he’ll be as faithful to you this moment as he has
been with these people. And that’s why he recorded all this for us.
So when you begin the question could God possibly come through to you, will you have a look at what
he did in the past and ask yourself, “Well, is he the same today? If he is then he’ll deal with
me.” And he will really. He will.