And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. Even by itself this passage claims attention. How does the idea of righteousness come into it at all? What is meant by "counting" or "imputation"? And what is the connection between belief and imputed righteousness? But it does not stand alone.
(1) In Psalm 106:30 (cf. Numbers 25:7) the same "counting" takes place on an act of an entirely different character; and
(2) it is thrice quoted in the New Testament as an example of the action of faith in the spiritual life. Imputation must not be explained away. Its meaning is seen in Leviticus 7:18; Leviticus 17:4; 2 Samuel 19:19. There is here the germ of "the Lord our righteousness." In Romans 4:3-5, 23-25, St. Paul refers to it as an instance of justification by faith, connecting it with "the reward;" and this again with forgiveness and acceptance (Psalm 32:2), the psalm almost repeating the words of the text (see also Galatians 3:6). We need not suppose that now for the first time Abram was accepted of God, or that he alone was counted righteous. Mark, Abram believed not merely the particular promise, but "in the Lord." This instance is specially noticed by St. Paul as an instance of faith, because from the nature of the case there was no opportunity of action.
I. THE WORKING Or FAITH - simple belief of what God has said, because he is true; casting all care upon him. No merit in this. Faith is the channel, not the source of justification. By the look of faith the dying Israelites lived (Numbers 21:9), but the healing was from God. God offers salvation freely (John 7:37; Revelation 22:17), because he loves us even while in our sins (Ephesians 2:4). What hinders that love from being effectual is unbelief. Many "believe a lie" - e.g. that they must become better ere they can believe (cf. Acts 15:1). Primary lesson of practical Christianity is that we must begin by receiving, not by giving; must learn to believe his word because it is his word. This delivers from the spirit of bondage (Romans 8:15), and enables to ask with confidence (Romans 8:32). And this faith is counted for righteousness.
II. FAITH GROWS BY USE. It is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8), but it is given according to laws. Sometimes it springs up suddenly - e.g. Nathanael, St. Paul, the Philippian jailer; but usually it is like the growth of the seed, hardly to be traced - a gradual growth from efforts to live by faith. Let none think, I can believe when I will. The endeavor delayed will meet with many difficulties, suggestions of doubt, or habits of indecision. And let none despise the training which prepares the soul to believe. It may seem to be labor in vain, yet the Holy Spirit may be working unseen to prepare the soul for life and peace.
III. FAITH LEADS TO HOLINESS. It renders possible a service which cannot otherwise be given. The faith which was counted to Abram for righteousness formed the character which enabled him afterwards to offer up Isaac (cf. James 2:21-28). Thus growth in holiness is the test of real faith. There is a faith which has no power (cf. James 2:19; 1 Corinthians 13:2; 2 Timothy 4:10). It is with the heart that man believes unto righteousness (cf. Psalm 84:6, 7; Proverbs 4:23). - M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.