Abraham Believed God (Genesis 15:6)

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Of all the verses in Genesis, Genesis 15:6 is one of the most discussed and dissected throughout time.

The statement itself is simple: “Abraham believed God, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”

There’s a lot in that verse though, that people who look at it in isolation miss. 

Let’s take it in chunks.

Abraham Believed God

What does it mean to believe?

The modern definition has more to do with simply understanding that such a thing is so. If the weatherman tells me a tornado is coming, I might believe it based on the evidence that he puts on screen.

But that’s not all that happens. If I “believe” it, I’ll clear out the closet, grab my family and throw them inside. Why? Because I believe that a tornado is inbound and I don’t want to get sucked up into a vortex and land somewhere in Arkansas.

Abraham believed God in the same way. By this point in Abraham’s life, he had already left Ur, heard the promise by God in Genesis 12 about his future, and done other things that demonstrated his faith in action.

James picks up on this in James 2:21-23:

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’.”

There’s zero ambiguity in that statement. James lists Abraham’s dependence on faith and works together as the literal fulfillment of Genesis 15:6. Simply believing on something isn’t enough — Abraham (and us) need to act on that faith.

And It Was Reckoned to Him as Righteousness

There’s another New Testament verse that uses Genesis 15:6, and it’s found in Romans 4:22. 

In that passage, Paul is making the argument that salvation comes by faith — which James would believe.

The context of that passage though shows what Paul is talking about. In Romans 4:13, Paul states that “the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.”

In other words, the Mosaical Law wasn’t the be-all-and-end-all of salvation. How do we know that? Because Abraham existed before the Law of Moses, and he was saved. 

The verses that follow reveal this point even further (Romans 4:14-25). If you want to be saved under the New Testament, you can’t rely on keeping the Old Law. It served its purpose, but the law of Christ — the law of faith — is what Christians keep.

That’s a message that Jews that had converted to Judaism needed to learn then, and it’s still a powerful message today.