More pondering from the Ponderosa! We are given forever life – justified before God – by faith alone in Christ alone. Where did we ever get this idea? We must go back to the very first time this amazing truth surfaced. It came through one that has been called the father of the faithful – that would be Abraham. Abram was 75 years old when God called him from a pagan lifestyle in a pagan land to go to another pagan land – Canaan. God promised to bless him, give him a great name, and make from him a great nation. He also promised to treat kindly those who treated Abram kindly and to treat with contempt those who treated him with contempt (Gen. 12:1-3).
Abraham answered God’s call and launched out. His trust was solely in the word of God. I think the part of the promise that resonated in his mind was that God would make of him a great nation. A nation of people had to begin with at least one son. Abram was married to a barren wife (Gen. 11:30) and God was allowing him to grow older. The little hope that he held for having a son was beginning to vanish quickly. He became overwhelmed with worry. He reminded God that He had given him no son and his only heir was a trusted servant named Eliezer (as if God needed the information). God reminded Abram emphatically that his servant would not be his heir, but his heir would come from his own loins (his seed).
God set Abraham’s mind at ease with an astronomy lesson. He took Abraham outside his tent and told him to look up and count the stars if he could. Obviously, he could not! God said, “So shall your seed be” (Gen. 15:1-5). Now comes the very firm faith foundation upon which our salvation rests. “And he (Abraham) believed in the Lord (YHWH) and He (YHWH) accounted it to him (Abraham) for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Remember that YHWH (I Am) in the Old Testament is the Ego Eimi (I Am) in the New Testament. Abram was actually believing in Jesus Christ long before God became a man to die for sin. Amazing!
Note the little preposition “in.” It does not say that Abram believed YHWH, as though he just believed what YHWH said. He had already done that when he left his home in Ur. It says that he believed in the LORD. “Believed” is the Hebrew word amen! It means to lean upon or to rest one’s weight upon. Abram released his total spiritual weight upon the LORD. YHWH became the object of Abram’s faith. The LORD received his spiritual weight of trust and declared Abram to be right before Him. The word “righteousness” in the Hebrew is tsedekah (pronounced se-de-kah). God did not make Abram right – that is, He did not make Abram sinless; He pronounced Abram sinless before Him. It was a judicial declaration. Abram was still a great sinner.
Now, ponder this! It was not the quality of Abram’s faith that declared him right before God – it was the quality of theobject of Abram’s faith. It was not the strength of Abram’s faith that justified him before God – it was the strength of the object of Abram’s faith. Could the object (the one believed in) bear the weight of the one trusting in Him and did He have the spiritual clout to declare Abraham right? Did God have the power to justify him by his faith alone? Certainly! It would be like crossing a river bridge. The amount of faith is not the issue in crossing the bridge. At issue is the strength of the bridge. If the person crossing the bridge has great faith in a very old, weak, rickety bridge, that person will likely get wet. But if the person has a small faith in a very strong bridge, that person will surely stay dry. The strong bridge will sustain the faith – whether the faith is weak or strong. When God took on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ and died on the cross of Calvary and rose from the dead, He provided a very strong bridge to sustain the weakest of faith. God will justify (declare right) all who believe in Christ. Abram’s faith righteousness became the pattern for being justified before God for all of human history.
In the New Testament the parallel word to the Old Testament, tsedekah (righteousness) is dikaiosune (pronounced dik-ai-o-soo-nay). It is from this New Testament word that we get the word “justify,” or to declare right. “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ” (Rom. 3:24). When Paul wanted to prove to the Galatians that justification was by faith alone and not by their works, he went back to this very truth. He said just as Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness, so it would be with them (Gal. 3:6). Paul used the same illustration with the Romans (Rom. 4:3), and James used it with his congregation (James 2:23). It is always good to go back and remind ourselves once again of the very truth proving that we are justified before God by faith alone.