Chapter 18 – 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 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/rightened 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: (Translated more literally, without the PSA terminology. Checking against a good interlinear is suggested.)

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

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

3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it [the belief] reasoned him into [Grk. “eis”] rightness.

4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not considered as a favor but according to debt.

5 However, [for] the one who is not working but believing on the one righting the ungodly, [his] faith has reasoned him into rightness, 

6 Just as David also reasons as blessed the man to whom God reasons rightness 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 reasoned Abraham into rightness

10 How then was it reasoned? [While] being in circumcision or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. 

11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the rightness of the faith that he had while uncircumcised, into him being the father of all those believing [while] in uncircumcision, into them also to being reasoned rightness, 

12 And the father of circumcision, not only to those who are circumcised, but also to those walking in the steps of the uncircumcised faith of our father Abraham.

13 For the promise to Abraham or his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through law, but through the righteousness of faith. 

14 For if those of the law are heirs, faith is voided and the promise is not effectual. 

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

16 That is why it is out of faith, that it may be according to favor, into ensuring the promise to all the offspring—not to those of the law only, but also to those of 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, the one giving life to the dead and calling things not existing into existence. 

18 In hope he believed against hope, into him becoming the father of many nations, according to what he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 

19 And being not weak in faith, as he considered his own body had already become impotent (being about a hundred years old), and the lifelessness of Sarah’s womb. 

20 He did not waver, however, at the promise of God by unbelief, but was strengthened in faith as he gave glory to God, 

21 Being fully assured that what He had promised He is also able to do.

22 On account of this also “it reasoned him into rightness.” 

23 Now it was not on account of him alone that it was written “it reasoned him”

24 But also on account of us to whom it is intended to reason, to those believing in the one who raised Jesus our Lord out from the dead, 

25 Who was delivered over through our trespasses and was raised for our rightening.

Paul’s point is that Abraham’s active faith in a righteous God who could raise the dead lead or reasoned him into virtuous living, and this led God to consider Abraham as being virtuous, righteous – 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, rightened, (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. (See also Chapter 27, James: Faith, Works, and Justification.)

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 righteous 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.”