Sometimes we hear a truth proclaimed so often that we forget how amazing and glorious it is. I wonder if that is the case with the concept of God saving a people by grace through the vehicle of faith alone. Do we forget how amazing it is that God would save us, not based on doing good things, but on belief?
Consider the story of Abram—later Abraham. Abram had been selected by God to carry the blessing of God. In Genesis 12, God promised Abram that it would be through Abram’s family line that the entire world would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). Of course, if you read the remainder of chapter 12, you see that Abram immediately doubted the goodness of God so much that he allowed Pharaoh to think that Sarai was his sister instead of his wife, and she was taken into Pharaoh’s house. Thus, we can see that Abram was not a good enough guy to have earned any favor from God. His failure in chapter 12 amounts to a level of spousal abuse that many of us could not imagine.
But then comes chapter 15 of Genesis. After things are back to normal for Abram and his wife, God promises Abram that he will have offspring, an entire nation of offspring. There are hints that it will be through Abram’s family line that God will keep his promise to send the ultimate Savior of humanity.
Genesis 15:5-6 – 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
God took Abram outside one evening, and told Abram to count the stars if he could. Then God told Abram that he would have an uncountable number of offspring from his family line.
Now, here is the amazing thing. Feel the strangeness. Abram believed God. That should not amaze you. God is able to do anything. But what is amazing is this: God counted that belief as righteousness.
Slow down and consider. Abram was a guilty sinner. He did not deserve goodness from God. He was guilty of at least one thing we would consider vile. Yet, when Abram believed God, simply trusted that God’s promise was true, God treated Abram as if he had been a righteous man. Although Abram was not righteous in himself, God counted his faith as righteousness, and treated him according to the righteousness that God had credited to Abram’s account.
Such a crediting of righteousness is amazing, and it is at the core of Christianity. We are not righteous. We have never been righteous. We could never live out righteousness, at least not in a way that would match the standards of God. But God has chosen to credit righteousness to the account of all who will genuinely believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Stop, today, and allow yourself to be amazed at the concept of God crediting righteousness to your account if you have come to Jesus in faith. God looks at you, a sinner who has earned his wrath, and sees all the sin in your record. Were our lives handled in accounting terms, we have nothing but negative numbers in our ledger. God, however, looks at those he has drawn to faith in Jesus Christ. And he counts it as if our accounts are all positive numbers, the perfect righteousness of Jesus. He does this, not because we have ever lived out any positives, but because of his grace through faith in Christ. He sees faith and counts it as righteousness.
Of course, we need to recognize that none of us come to faith without the saving work of God done in our dead hearts; thus God gets all the glory for being the cause of our salvation. And, we recognize that, once we have saving faith and life in Christ, our lives will change and our lives will begin to be marked by obedience to Christ and his commands. But, the truth must be seen, we should be amazed; God receives faith as if it were lives of righteousness lived out. This is the only way that sinners like us could ever be saved. And it should give us great joy and hope.