Faith and Righteousness
“And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6).
In the midst of God’s reaffirmation of His promises to Abram in Genesis 15, Moses pauses the story line and introduces one of the most important theological comments we find in sacred Scripture. Perhaps more than any other single verse in the Old Testament, today’s passage explains how the unrighteous can hope to stand before a holy God.
Much commentary has been written on this verse, both in the New Testament and beyond, and space prohibits us today from doing any more than pointing out a few highlights. We will, however, pick up many of its themes again later this month when we examine portions of the book of Romans.
Abram makes no immediate response to God’s commitment to give him many descendants. This is telling. In fact, his silence is deafening. Lest we miss the point, Moses writes that Abram “believed the Lord” (v. 6). The patriarch has nothing left to say because he has placed his trust in the Almighty’s word.
The faith that Abram displays is, as we have said, trust in the Creator’s word, because the response comes after a divine promise is offered. He believes in a proposition, and yet not only a proposition, but a person as well, for it is the Lord in whom He trusts. The Hebrew for believe conveys the sense of regarding something as dependable, and so we see faith involves trusting in God to act reliably in accordance with His character and promises. Faith is not only an intellectual assent to propositions; it is total reliance on a person. This reliance must issue forth in works of heartfelt obedience, otherwise we do not truly trust in the Lord (James 2:14–26).
Because the patriarch believed, he was “counted” righteous (Gen. 15:6). Despite Abram’s transgressions, the Lord saw him (legally speaking) as having fulfilled all the obligations placed upon him, and therefore faithful to His covenant. According to John Calvin’s commentary, those to whom God imputes righteousness are approved by Him as just persons, that is, persons who are in a right standing with Him. We will discuss the manner in which this happens in due time.
How have you responded to the promises God offers to you in His Word? Do you stand as Abram did with humility and lean on the Lord and His promises? Have you obeyed Him today? Has your professed trust issued forth in love of God and your neighbor, or have you ignored the opportunities around you? If you have faith in Christ, you are counted righteous and have free access to His presence. Show forth your faith and lovingly serve another person today.
Passages for Further Study
2 Kings 22:1–2 Pss. 22; 119:9–16 Rom. 4:5 2 Tim. 1:12b
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