Chapter 17 – Romans 4 Atonement Passages

Author: Kevin George

This book is a work in progress. Posts on this blog are to enable readers to examine the manuscript and make commentary. These blog posts are NOT the final version!

Penal Substitution Atonement teachers have attached theological definitions to certain words, making them go beyond their normal vocabulary meaning. You would think that Paul, the author of Romans, sent a theological dictionary along with his epistle to ensure that the readers would not misread his letter. But in reality, Paul used normal words for non-theologically trained audiences, and it would behoove us to use alternate but accurate words to re-read the epistle so as to remove the theological bias that has been taught for the last 500 years.

For example, the word “justified” has become “declared righteous.” The word “righteousness”, or the phrase “righteousness of God”, describes a type of divine merit, comparable to a heavenly cryptocurrency which can be transferred from one account to another. The word “imputed” has become an accounting term describing God transferring some of Christ’s righteousness, or heavenly cryptocurrency, from his account to the recipient. The words “faith”  and “believe” have become a mere intellectual agreement or assent isolated from any action implied in these words. These abnormal theological meanings seriously distort the underlying teaching that Paul intended the reader to understand. 

The Greek word “logizomai” is to make a logical conclusion or decision, to compute, to reason, but it is typically translated as “credited” or “imputed” and taught as an accounting term used in crediting heavenly accounts measured in a currency of “Christ’s Righteousness”. 

Here are a few of many passages where “logizomai” is used as thinking and reasoning:

“And do you think [logizē] this, O man, who are judging those who do such things…” Romans 2:3

“Therefore we conclude [logizometha] that a man is justified by faith…” Romans 3:28

“So you too, consider [logizesthe] yourselves to be dead indeed to sin…” Romans 6:11

“I consider [logizomai] that our present sufferings…” Romans 8:18

“…to him who thinks [logizomenō] anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” Romans 14:14

“I do not consider [logizomai] myself to have attained…” Philippians 3:13

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned [elogizomēn] like a child.” 1 Corinthians 13:11

In order to reduce the distortion caused by theological baggage, the following re-translation is offered, with the ESV version as the primary text, but with the Greek word “dikaiosune” translated as “virtue”, the Greek word “dikaioo” translated as “set right” or “corrected”, and the Greek “logizomai” as “reason” or “considered”. The changed words have been underlined.

Romans 4:

1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?

2 For if Abraham was set right by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 

3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was considered to him as virtue.” 

4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not considered as a gift but as his due.

5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who corrects the ungodly, his faith is considered as virtue, 

6 Just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God considers as virtuous apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;

8 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not reason sin.”

9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was considered to Abraham as virtue

10 How then was it considered to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 

11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the virtue that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that virtue would be reasoned to them as well, 

12 And to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. [Notice that the faith was something acted upon, indicating a path or pattern of life. Abraham’s faith was not a mere intellectual assent!]

13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the virtue of faith. 

14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 

15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 

17 As it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 

18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 

19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 

20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 

21 Fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. [Further evidence that Abraham’s faith was not merely intellectual, but affected his thoughts and actions.]

22 That is why his faith was “considered to him as virtue.” 

23 But the words “it was considered to him” were not written for his sake alone, 

24 But for ours also. It will be reasoned to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 

25 Who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our correction.

Paul’s point is that Abraham’s active faith in a righteous God lead or reasoned him into virtuous living, and this led God to consider Abraham as being virtuous – not based on any personal merit, but because Abraham truly believed and lived according to his belief. His godly faith changed his thinking and actions, just as faith in a perverted pagan deity will lead or reason someone into wrong living. Active faith leads to acting according to the object of that faith.

When an ungodly person truly and actively believes in a virtuous God, this active belief/faith leads, as in Abraham’s case, to right thinking and right acting, and then God sees that the person’s faith has taken root and God considers the person to be righteous, or virtuous.

An ungodly person who comes to actively believe in the righteous God of the Bible will inevitably change and can therefore be said to have been changed, rectified (justified – set right), due to his faith. In contrast, if a person chooses to believe in a perverse deity, would not his thinking and actions also follow this belief? Actions reveal true faith, and that is what Paul is pointing to in his argument.

Paul is also contrasting godliness due to active faith in a righteous God, versus disregarding God and merely having a legalistic mindset, following law, while thinking that God will be obligated to grant eternal life due to rote legal obedience, absent godly faith. For example, king Ahab believed in the pagan god Baal, and this belief led him to act wickedly. In contrast, Abraham chose to believe in a righteous God and left Ur of the Chaldees where the moon god was worshiped. Furthermore, God promised him a son and therefore his faith led him to act rightly.

Understanding Paul’s argument from the perspective of, “godly faith can change an unrighteous person into a virtuous person”, removes the contradictions that PSA must explain away regarding many verses. For example, 1 John 3:7, “Little children, let no one deceive you: The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Christ is righteous”, Acts 10:35, “in every nation, the one fearing Him and working righteousness is acceptable to Him”, and Matthew 5:20 “ For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”