And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
What separates Christianity from other world religions? There can be many different answers to this question. Christians understand that we are created by one, perfect, personal, holy, Creator. Not all religions think so. We understand that we are sinners who have rightly earned the judgment of that Creator. Not all religions think so. We have also understood that there is forgiveness to be had in that God. Not many religions think so.
What makes us different, however, is our understanding of how we receive that grace. In all other forms of religion that at least acknowledge the existence of sin and wrong, those religions call upon the adherent of that religion to do something, to take an action, to work his or her way back into the favor of their deity. Christianity is different. We understand that we are not saved by right actions, not even right religious actions. We are not saved by being baptized, by attending services, by doing good deeds, or by living in such a way to make up for our sin.
Christians are different because of the amazing words that we see in Genesis 15:6. God is willing to credit us with righteousness, not because we do good things, but because we believe God. That is unbelievable for many, but it is at the core of genuine Christianity. We are forgiven, not by being good, but instead by believing God.
Most people who have any experience with Christianity are familiar with John 3:16, which says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This is the same message that is present in Genesis 15:6. The way to be right with God is to believe in the name of God’s only Son.
Now, you might argue, believing is an action—all be it a mental one—thus making your point invalid. Well argued, indeed. However, the Bible takes away from the believer the credit for his or her faith, calling that faith that saves us a gift from our God. As Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
So, are you still afraid that you are under the judgment of God? If so, you cannot “do something” to get out of that trouble. However, God has told you that if you will put your entire hope for the eternity of your soul in the person and finished work of Jesus Christ, he will save you. God will forgive the person who genuinely believes in Jesus, who cries out to him for grace, and who comes to him in repentance. Do not try to do something, just trust in Jesus.
And for you who are believers in Christ, realize that your salvation is nothing about which you can boast. You “did” nothing to save yourself. Even your faith is a gift from God. So praise Jesus, and thank God for his radically different way of saving people. God did what the rest of the world could never imagine; he chose to save his children by his grace through faith in Christ.