To confirm his answer, Paul turns to the only infallible guide for the believer.  He knew nothing of appeals to papal decrees, church tradition, or decisions of councils.  For Paul, and all the apostles, and for the faithful in all generations, the final answer to all matters of religious dispute is, “What saith the scripture?”  The Bible holds the answer as to whether Abraham were justified by works or by faith.  And that answer is very clearly delivered in Genesis 15:6, which Paul quotes here: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”  In the Old Testament, translated directly from the Hebrew, the difference is only marginal: “He believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness.”  To believe God, and to believe in God, amounts to the same thing.  To “believe God” may perhaps suggest more the idea of believing the word or promise of God, while believing “in God” may lend itself more to the idea of placing implicit confidence in God because of His immutably holy character.  But, as I said, this all amounts to the same thing.  One may believe the promises of God, as Abraham did, because of God’s character.  His holiness makes it impossible for Him to lie, or to change His mind when once He has bound Himself by an oath.


There in Genesis 15, Abraham believed God’s promise that he would have an heir born from his own loins, though both he and his wife were past age.  He believed that his seed would be multiplied as the stars of heaven.  How much of the spiritual implications of the promise Abraham understood it would be impossible to state, yet there can be little doubt that he saw God’s promise as having reference to the Messiah who would descend from his posterity.  After all, the Lord Jesus told His enemies, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad.”  Abraham, like all saints, be they in the old dispensation or the new, knew that the promises had their fulfillment in God’s redeemer, and thus he looked to Him by faith.  Because of this faith, God imputed righteousness to Abraham, so that he may be accepted in the court of heaven.  And this is the apostle’s entire point: Abraham was not justified before God because of the merit of his good works, but he received salvation simply through trusting in the promises of God.  Paul’s aim is to show that this method of salvation is the same for every sinner in any part of the world as it was for Abraham.