In Romans 3, Paul discusses justification by faith, and in chapter 4 he presents Abraham as an example of one having such faith. Paul’s presentation concerning Abraham’s faith in Romans 4 is based on Genesis 15:6, which says, “He believed Jehovah, and He accounted it to him as righteousness.” Although the simple act of believing God justified Abraham, it is crucial to see the kind of faith that resulted in God justifying him.
In Genesis 1—14, Abraham had many interactions with God. God appeared to him at least on four occasions: he responded to God’s call and built an altar to God, he called on the name of Jehovah, and he defeated the four kings and their armies to rescue Lot, refusing the spoils of war (Acts 7:2-4; Gen. 12:1, 7; 13:14; 12:4, 7-8; 13:18; 12:8; 13:4; 14:1-17, 21-24). However, in spite of all these experiences it was not until Genesis 15 that the Bible records Abraham’s faith being accounted to him as righteousness, for it was only at this point that Abraham made a crucial inward turn (vv. 4-6). Previously, Abraham’s belief in God was based on outward blessings for his existence, but here in chapter 15 Abraham began to believe God concerning his heir and his seed for the fulfillment of God’s purpose (vv. 4-5).
There are two kinds of faith seen in Genesis 1—15: one believes that God will bless us in our environment in order to supply us for our existence, and the other believes that through His grace, God will work Himself into us in order to bring forth Christ for the fulfillment of His purpose. Abraham had some initial experiences with God and even knew Him as the Most High God, the Possessor of heaven and earth (Gen. 14:22), but that faith was mainly outward and somewhat superficial. The faith that God is after, the faith that is precious to Him, is the faith that believes that God will work Himself into us for the producing of Christ. This is the faith that Abraham entered into and by which he was justified in Genesis 15.
Abraham’s faith was accounted to him as righteousness when he believed that God would work Himself into him for the fulfillment of God’s purpose. In the same way, we must believe God’s word that He will work Himself into us to bring forth the seed needed for the fulfillment of His purpose. In Genesis that seed was Isaac, born to Abraham and Sarah through God’s visitation; today, the promised seed is Christ brought forth through us by grace (Gal. 3:16). May we be those who not only trust God to meet our needs for our existence but also believe that through His grace God will reveal His Son in us, Christ will be formed in us, Christ will live in us, and that out of us God will bring forth Christ for the fulfillment of His eternal purpose (Gal. 1:15-16; 4:19; 2:20; Eph. 3:6-11). In this faith we live in Christ, and Christ lives in us and through us.
(Most references in the Further Reading can also be viewed on http://www.ministrybooks.org.)