“What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’” (Romans 4:1-3)
How do you feel about the fact that your good deeds do not earn you merit with God? Paul expounded upon the story of Abraham that we read in Genesis 12. Abraham was deemed to be righteous by the Lord by faith. This the Lord did before the covenant was ratified by circumcision and before the Law of Moses was in effect. All Abraham had done was believe in God’s promise that He would make him a great nation and give him many descendants through whom the Lord would bless all the peoples of the earth. This faith is what God accredited to him as righteousness. Therefore all Christians trace their spiritual heritage through Abraham because salvation comes by faith to all who believe. Without such faith those who keep the Law, or try to, and those who are circumcised cannot boast in their legacy or claim that they are in any way entitled to the Kingdom of God.
Paul wants us to know that we cannot establish our own righteousness. To even attempt it is an act of pride and conceit because it is impossible. Moreover it is unthinkable: if we could keep the Law, if we could become sinless on our own, Christ would not have had to die for our sins. But the truth is no one can keep the law of God, moral or Mosaic to the perfection God demands. When God calls us He gives us the faith that is credited to us as righteousness by applying to us the righteousness of Jesus. This is a free gift apart from any works of obedience or charity. He pardons and covers over our sins by deeming them as having been paid in full by the sacrifice of Christ.