There used to be just one, just one that would rock in the tree tops all day long, hopping and a bopping singing his song. There used to be just one who all the little birdies on Jaybird Street would love to hear go tweet-tweet-tweet. Today some sixty years later, there are approximately 157 million people who tweet every day. A tweet consists of no more than 140 characters, not words. Typically, a tweet is simply one sentence. This one simple sentence can send a company’s stock to fall by .9 percent – that is about 5 billion dollars – in just minutes. One simple sentence is meant to grab your attention.
Genesis 15:6 is one simple sentence. Last week we asked why this one sentence is placed here. At the very least, it is meant to grab our attention. And it is only about sixty-eight characters. “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”
Abram Says Amen
The first word that I want us to pay attention to is the word believed. It is written in such a way to tell us that Abram believed and continued believing. It is the Hebrew word aman from which we get the word amen. And the word amen literally means “it is so.” This means that right here in Genesis 15:6, Abram said “Amen!” It is a little bit bigger and better than that, because the way this word is constructed says to us that Abram said, “it is so” and he kept saying “it is so.” Abram believed God and continued believing God.
This is the first time that the word believed appears in Genesis. This is not to suggest that Abram is the first person in Genesis to believe God. So, why is this word appearing here for the first time in this one sentence? That is just like saying, why is this one sentence appearing here? You could remove this one sentence and have it not interrupt the flow of the text.
Another word to pay attention to is the word righteousness. Abram believed God and God counted it to him as righteousness. This is not the first time that the word righteousness has appeared in Genesis. The word itself is in the name Melchizedek which means “king of righteousness” (Genesis 14:18). In Genesis 6:9, Noah, who built Noah’s Ark, was described as a “righteous man,” one who was right with God, who pleased God. Noah’s great-grandfather Enoch was also called a man who pleased God. “Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5). Abel, the fourth man mentioned in the Bible, is also called righteous (Hebrews 11:4). And each of these men – Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abram – are known for believing God or for saying “Amen! It is so!”
But why is it here? Why is believe here for the very first time? Why are believe and righteousness here together for the very first time? Why does this one simple sentence fit here? Genesis 15:6 is meant to grab our attention…that we might see.
What Are We to See?
What are we to see? The Bible tells us explicitly that this one simple sentence was written for our sake (Romans 4:24). This is why I say that Genesis 15:6 is meant to grab our attention that we might see. This one simple sentence is so attention grabbing that we might see, a whole chapter of the Bible is dedicated to it. The chapter is Romans 4. And this chapter begins with a question. “What then shall we say was gained by Abraham?” Another word for gained is discover. Romans 4 begins by asking, “What shall we say Abraham saw?”
Necessary to Romans 4 is to know or follow what leads up to Romans 4. You cannot just jump into Romans 4, you need what came before Romans 4. And needed for Romans 4 is Romans 1 and Romans 2 and Romans 3. All three of those chapters are necessary to Romans 4. But for the sake of time, just draw your attention to the theme of Romans, Romans 1:15-17. “So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” The you are those who are reading this letter, specifically those who are in Rome reading this letter. Listen to what Paul has to say about those who are in Rome receiving and reading this letter. “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (1:7). The you, specifically, are those who are believers in Rome reading this letter! And in verse fifteen Paul writes that he is eager to preach the gospel to whom? YOU.
Now read verse sixteen. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Pause there and highlight the word believe. When have we first read of that word? It is Genesis 15:6. When it comes to belief, and this is true of Genesis 15:6, it always involves a what (content), but not a what alone. The what is necessary, but belief is not merely about the what. Belief is always about the who. In other words, the object of belief is not a what (content) alone, but the object of belief is always the who, and this is true of Genesis 15:6. Continue with verse sixteen because Paul writes more. “…to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” And now verse seventeen. “For in it,” pause there. What is the it? The word it refers to the gospel. This is really important. “For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed.” Now pause again right here. The gospel is content, the what. The Bible defines the gospel as good news which causes great joy (Luke 2:10). Paul writes that in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed. In the content, the righteousness of God is discovered. Mark that down.
But there is more. “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith [beginning and ending in faith or by faith to faith], as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” These three verses are the theme of Romans. Take this theme and run it straight to Romans 4:1. “What then shall we say was gained by Abraham?” In other words, this theme has something to do with Abraham. It is a theme found in a New Testament letter but has so much to do with a man found in the Old Testament.
Come back to our question. What are we to see? But do not forget the theme, mainly, the righteousness of God is revealed, discovered, in the gospel by faith to faith. And this connects with Abraham by asking, what did Abraham discover?
What Did Abraham See?
What did Abraham see? This is the question of Romans 4. Listen to how Paul answers it. It is verse two. “For if Abraham was justified,” justified means legally declared righteous, “by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” In other words, Abraham was declared righteous. Was he declared righteous by his works? If so, he would have something to boast about, but when it comes to the righteousness of God, this does not work. Then notice Romans 4:3. This is so great. “For what does the Scripture say?” Notice that the word Scripture is singular. Paul does not write the Scriptures, but the Scripture. This is supported by the very next words. Paul quotes one simple sentence which is meant to grab our attention. He quotes Genesis 15:6.
In Genesis 15:1, we are told that the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. This is just interesting because the theme of Romans – what is seen – connects with Abram about what he saw and all the way back in Genesis we are told that the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, something seen. The word of the Lord is the what, it is content. In other words, the word of the Lord is the gospel. And what did Paul write in the theme of the letter of Romans? In the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed, discovered, it is seen.
Genesis 15:6 says that Abram believed the Lord. I want us to notice that Lord is in all caps. This is the most precious and revered name of God. It is the Hebrew letters Y-H-W-H. We believe this name is pronounced Yahweh. It is a name that speaks of God’s self-existence and unchangeability. And as significant, this name has to do with God’s covenant keeping faithfulness. But I really want us to notice here in verse six that Abram believed the Lord, the same name that is used in verse one when speaking of the word of the Lord. The word of the Lord is the content, the Scripture, the gospel. It is the what and the what is necessary. And verse six tells us that Abram did not believe the content alone, but he believed the who. He believed the Lord. The object of faith is always God.
But remember what Paul wrote. The content, the gospel reveals the righteousness of God. And in Romans 4:1, Paul asks, what did Abraham see? Genesis 15:6 tells us. Abram saw the righteousness of God. This is important because if not understood properly, Genesis 15:6 might seem to say that God counted Abram’s faith as righteousness. And this is not what Genesis 15:6 is saying. The gospel reveals the righteousness of God. Abram heard the gospel, he heard the content and believed God. In so doing, he discovered the righteousness of God. God then counted righteousness to Abram.
And God Counted It as Righteousness
In Romans 4, Paul is most concerned with this word counted. Another word would be reckoned or imputed. He uses it not just in verse three, but in verse four and verse five and verse six and verse eight and verse nine and verse ten and verse eleven and then finally in the conclusion. “But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but ours also” (Romans 4:23-24). Really notice verse twenty-four. “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.” What is the it? Righteousness. Righteousness will be counted to us just as it was counted to Abraham.
This is not being made righteous. This is being declared righteous. Being declared righteous only happens through faith. This righteousness is a gift. You cannot earn it. Listen to Romans 4:4. “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift, but as his due.” This righteousness is a gift and it only happens through faith, therefore not even faith can be called a work. Now listen to Romans 4:5. “And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” Abraham is the subject of this whole conversation. It was him who Genesis 15 says was counted as righteous. This means that when Paul writes “and to the one who does not work” he is talking about Abraham too. And when Paul continues, “but trusts him” that includes Abraham. And when Paul continues some more “who justifies the ungodly,” this includes Abraham. He was ungodly when God counted to him righteousness. God only counts righteousness to the ungodly.
We Are to See What Abram Saw
We asked, what are we to see? We are to see what Abram saw. Paul writes later in Romans 4:16, “to the one who shares the faith of Abraham.” This is incredible. We are to share the very same faith as Abraham who was counted righteous. Counted is a legal term meaning to put into the account of. Your sin is no longer counted against you, but instead God legally declares you righteous. It is God legally declaring simply because you believe him, that all he sees when it comes to you is righteousness. And it so glorious because you know you are guilty.
We are to see what Abraham saw. What did he see? He was trusting God alone to justify him, one who was ungodly. Abram believed God. He heard the content of the gospel and believed God. It was not the full content that you and I know. But he believed God. What did he see? Abram saw that God would take care of him. He saw that God would take care of his unrighteousness. By the way, to be credited righteousness means that you were lacking righteousness. And the righteousness that was credited to Abram’s account was the righteousness of God. What though did Abram see? Listen to Jesus. “Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). Abram saw that God would provide for him. He saw the righteousness of God and he greeted it from afar and was glad! And the righteousness of God is Jesus the Christ. Therefore, when God looked at Abram he saw him robed in the righteousness of Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21).
So, it is with us. We are to see what Abraham saw. Remember, this is written for our sake. Paul is writing this for believers. Why? 1. It is ultimately for our continued seeing. 2. That we would continually be satisfied by and with God’s supremacy alone. 3. And that the content would hold our view there continually.
 Mark Jones, God Is, pages 92-93.