The word that clearly defines Christ’s identity and the value of His work on the cross is the word grace. Grace is the good news that God in the person of Jesus Christ became our once-and-forever sin substitute on the cross of Calvary. How is it possible for sinful people today to receive the benefits of God’s grace? It is possible because of faith (Eph. 2:8–9).
To fully understand this, we must go back to Abraham, God’s champion of faith. God gave Abraham a command. “Get out of your country, from your family, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1). Every part of the promise to follow – a great nation, a great name, a blessing to all nations, and the response to how others would treat Abraham – was attached to this land (Genesis 12:1–3). It all is to happen when Abraham possessed the land (Jer. 23:5-8).
For Abraham to be the father of a great nation, he must have at least one son. Abraham had gone to the land, but God waited on the son part. And waited! And waited! He allowed Abraham to grow older and older, and Sarai, his wife, was barren from the jump (Gen. 11:30). God was teaching this couple that they were to trust totally in Him to do what He had said He would do.
Abraham grew very anxious and cried out to God, reminding Him of His promise. Abraham was old, and his only heir was his servant Eliezer of Damascus, who had been born in his household (Gen. 15:2–3). Abraham’s faith had understandably grown shaky, and maybe he reasoned that God would consider substituting Eliezer as an alternate heir. Abraham’s frustration came out. God reminded Abraham that He was going to give him a son that would come from his own body – his now old body (Genesis 15:4).
God took Abraham outside his tent and gave him a “can’t miss” astronomy illustration. He asked Abraham to count the stars if he could. God said, “So shall your descendants be” (Gen. 15:5). Multitudes of people were going to come from Abraham’s extended family. It was as though God said, “If I can create and control the billions of galaxies in the universe, do you suppose I can give you a son – even in your old age – Abraham?” Here is the absolute key to being justified before God. “Then he [Abraham] believed in the Lord” (Genesis 15:6a).
Moses, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gave insight into the invisible thoughts of Abraham. There was silence, but there was not silence inside Abraham’s mind. Abraham made an invisible, personal choice. He believed in the Lord. The Hebrew word believe means “to trust” – literally to release one’s entire weight upon. Abraham leaned totally upon the Lord.
How did God respond to Abraham’s faith? “He [God] accounted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6b). God accepted Abraham’s faith and declared him to be righteous before Him. That is justification! God declared Abraham to be forever right before Him because of Abraham’s faith and his faith alone. Abraham did not do anything, he just believed.
Notice the object of Abraham’s faith. He placed his faith in the Lord. The name LORD is all caps. It is speaking of the great I Am, who is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember that the Yahweh of the Old Testament is the Jesus of the New (Ex. 3:13-15; Jn. 8:56-58). In reality, Abraham had placed his personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith is the key that opens to us the benefits of the finished cross work of Jesus Christ.
When Paul gave the gospel to the Galatians and the Romans, he referred back to this very incident to make his case that justification before God is by faith alone (Gal. 3:6; Rom. 4:3). Note carefully God’s words and Abraham’s words following Abraham’s personal faith in Yahweh – the Lord Jesus Christ. Every word matters. “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.” And he (Abraham) said, “Lord God, how shall I knowthat I will inherit it?” (Gen. 15:7-8). The “it” cannot refer to the covenant – the agreement. It had not been given yet. The “it” refers directly to the land. Abraham’s concern “how shall I know” is about to be dealt with by God’s giving of a blood covenant.
This blood covenant – the animal sacrifices, the heifer, the goat, the dove, and the pigeon – looked forward to the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Nothing happens without the shedding of blood. Remember that God gave Abraham a divine anesthetic, taking him out of picture. Abraham was to have no part in the guarantee of the fulfillment of the covenant. God alone walked between the slain sacrifices. God Himself forever sealed the deal.