“Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6
We often think of the religion of the Israelites in the Old Testament as a big set of rules. If you follow the law, you are righteous. If you don’t, you’re unrighteous or unclean. It’s true that God used the law to show His people how reliant they must be on Him, how incapable they were of perfection without Him. But before God gave the law to Moses, He established the true measure of righteousness that he sought, the same one that continues today. Faith.
In Genesis 15, God and Abram are preparing to make a covenant. God tells Abram “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram was skeptical. He said “What will you give me, for I continue childless…Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” So God answered him, “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” At 86 years old, it was certainly not unreasonable that Abram should doubt his ability to have a son of his own. Nonetheless, he believed God’s promise.
The covenant had not yet been made. The law had not yet been established. But in that moment God established his righteousness by faith. It says that Abram believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. He didn’t accomplish perfection and so achieve good standing in God’s eyes. He simply believed. And thousands of years later, God’s own son would walk the Earth preaching the same message. That whoever would believe in Him would have eternal life. That no one can attain perfect righteousness on their own, but that by faith in Him, they would be counted equal with him, righteous as He is righteous, fellow heirs to the Kingdom of God.
In Romans 4, Paul declares that all believers are the heirs of Abraham’s promise, the multitude of offspring that God promised him. He says that by our faith in Christ we join the family that God established through Abraham so many thousands of years ago. Romans 4:20-25 says “No undebelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’ But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
If you believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and that he died and rose again for your salvation, then you share the same righteousness as Abraham, and even Christ himself. Praise God for his great mercy that he would count us righteous by grace through faith.