Believing God and Being Declared Righteous

Gods Promises to Abram

A sermon idea based on Genesis 15:1-6.

Genesis 15:1-6 NRSV

[1] After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” [2] But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” [3] And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” [4] But the word of the LORD came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” [5] He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” [6] And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.


The relevant topic I would be addressing, based on this text…

God favors faith. One of the themes running throughout the entire biblical narrative is that the reward for our belief in God is his declaration that we are right with him.


Information about the text that matters to the message…

This is the only time in the Pentateuch where the prophetic phrase is found, “the word of the Lord came to…”

It’s essential to remember that this exchange between God and Abram occurred after his relationship with God had already begun. It isn’t that his faith, at this moment, secured his own justification. It is that because Abram’s response to God’s faithfulness is further belief, God declares Abram to be right in his relationship with God.

Verse six, in particular, is foundational to Christian theology. It is quoted three different times in the New Testament (Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, and James 2:23). The Christian doctrine of justification by grace through faith finds its ancient roots in this story.

Having said that, we often make the mistake of seeing salvation by faith as a single and individual transaction, as though there is one single moment of justification that happens for each person, individually, who declares their faith in Christ.

But this passage seems to be relational, not transactional. It isn’t that there’s a moment when we give God what he demands (faith) and he in turn gives us what we desperately need (salvation). Rather, as we continue to grow in our faith in God, his response is to continue to declare that we are right with him.

This is an important distinction because Abram doesn’t actually speak in the passage. God assesses his heart and knows that his faith is strong, but his faith is based on the established history of their relationship in which God has already repeatedly demonstrated his own faithfulness.

In other words. Faith doesn’t earn salvation for anyone. Rather, faith is our acknowledgment that God does indeed save.


The big call-to-action in the message…

It’s one thing to believe in God in an abstract way. Abram believed God. That is, he believed what God was revealing about himself. There are likely areas of your life in which you need to grow your own faith in what God has revealed to you.

Tissot, James, 1836-1902. God’s Promise to Abram, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

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