Gwen Shamblin finds it strange that God would choose to give folks the gift of righteousness on the basis of faith. So, what does she do? She does what she always does: she picks meanings for words that better fit her theology. Accordingly, she tells us that God does not accredit Abraham’s faith as righteousness. Rather, God recognizes Abraham’s faith as righteousness. Nothing is given to Abraham that he didn’t already possess. Abraham is the captain of his ship and, given that he had done well, God simply recognizes his having done so.
Thankfully, Paul, perhaps knowing that words can have multiple meanings and perhaps not wanting to be misunderstood or have his words twisted, he, as he always does, doesn’t just allow important theological points to be upheld by a single word. Rather, he provides context for what he is trying to tell us, context that replaces words with their meanings, words with explanations. You might be able to get away with saying that some word, contrary to popular opinion, really means such and such; but it’s much harder to pull such stunts in the presence of context and explanations.
So, does God accredit (gift) righteousness on the basis of faith or does God simply recognize faith as an act of righteousness (like we might recognize someone’s taking care of the poor as an act of righteousness)? The short answer is this: righteousness is a gift (Romans 5:17). Actually, Paul takes an entire chapter (Romans 5) to juxtapose Adam and The Second Adam and their respective relationships to sin and righteousness. A whole chapter!!
Why would God gift righteousness on the basis of faith? It depends on what He wants to accomplish. If people are righteous apart from Christ, then He has no need to ever gift righteousness. But if we aren’t righteous, and Paul tells us that we aren’t–that, in fact, none of us are–then, if you want a basis, you have to find a basis that is independent of righteousness and, if you also want, a basis that is completely independent of our doing and best efforts. (And if you study faith, you will find that this is the case.) God gifts righteousness on the basis of the presence of another gift. Both are gifts and we aren’t to thank for the presence of either. This conclusion isn’t the result of plucking some verse from context and making it say what I want it to say. This conclusion is the result of the entirety of Paul’s theology.