This is a great question! Genesis 15:6 declares that "And he [Abram] believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness." In your comment above, you mention that 'Abram was justified by faith'. It's interesting that you used the word justified, because when we get to Paul talking about this passage in Romans 4, the words that are translated as 'justified' and 'righteousness' in vs. 2 & 3 are actually based on the same Greek root word "dikaios", although they each have slightly different meanings based on context.
Righteous or righteousness is the state of being in right standing with God. This has to do with the condition of our relationship with Him. Just or justified is usually used in a legal sense, and it is the declaration or pronouncement that we have entered into that right standing with God.
This is such a wonderful revelation of truth in the Scriptures! There is absolutely nothing that we can do to earn that declaration, to be declared just and enter into right relationship with the one God of heaven and earth. We cannot be good enough. It is only by placing our faith in Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior that we are then clothed in His righteousness, and God pronounces us as just. When we receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost, when are then clothed in Christ's righteousness, and the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us (Ro 8:3-4). God sees us through the sacrifice of Jesus' shed blood, and declares us to be just, and we then enter into a right relationship with Him.
That is the most beautiful, powerful thought in all of God's Holy Word, and I'm thankful every day for it!
My favorite thought in regard to "being justified" is being redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We truly are sinners saved by grace (we have done nothing to deserve it). Our life has a significant essence in that our sins are remitted (just as if they never happened, i.e. "jus-ti-fied). Now we stand before Lord justified, adjudicated by our intercessor (lawyer) Jesus Christ (He ever makes intercession for us). He is the only one that could justify us. Praise the Lord!!
Hi Kaitlin, "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own." (Philippians 3:8-12) JUSTIFIED...
"counting EVERYTHING as loss".....that is quite an assertion. Before the Apostle Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, he DID have everything that most people think is great to have. He was part of the elite "in-crowd" rubbing shoulders with the highly educated and well positioned in society. In Corinthians he even declared that he now "took PLEASURE in infirmities" (who enjoys being ill?). What do you think really happened to him on the inside that made him feel all these things?
Justified: to render just. The scripture says our righteousness is as filthy rags. The best we can do is not to be compared to the mercy and grace of our Lord. Sure we can be honest, fair and ethical but the more deep our relationship with God grows the more we realize we are sinners saved by grace. To be rendered just is that feeling that flows over us when we REPENT. When we fall prostrate before Him in humility something happens that words really cannot describe. It is so powerful that some even mistake it for the in filling of the Holy Ghost when it is actually only the beginning of what God will do if we will allow him access. What a privilege to be rendered just in the eyes of the Lord. Our sins cast into a sea of forgetfulness to be remembered against us no more!