“And [Abraham] believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).
ABRAHAM WAS AN OLD MAN AND CHILDLESS WHEN GOD TOLD HIM HIS DESCENDANTS WOULD BE AS MANY AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN. Sarah, his wife, was well past the age of childbearing. Yet he knew enough of God’s track record to believe that whatever God promised, that’s what would happen. So he trusted God’s promise, and the text says that God “counted it to him as righteousness.”
The operative element in Abraham’s faith was an obedient confidence — a trustful willingness to yield to God’s word. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). And James wrote, “You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’ — and he was called a friend of God” (James 2:22,23).
Abraham is the person most often cited in the Scriptures as an example of faith’s role in God’s plan of salvation. “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Galatians 3:7-9).
Abraham’s faithfulness was the product of his decision to trust that God always tells the truth. Today, we very much need to get back to Abraham’s kind of faith. Far from mere gullibility or blind faith, his faith was a reasoned choice to believe the promises he knew God had made. And unlike those who think that feelings of faith are sufficient, Abraham was obedient to God, even in situations that required great courage. Whether it was in the operation of his intellect, his emotions, or his will, Abraham’s point of departure was always this: what has God said? And all these years later, he continues to be the spiritual forefather of those who take bold, sacrificial steps based on the dependability of what God has said.
“Faith does not begin with what the human intellect has discovered . . . [but] with what God has revealed” (William Barclay).