Summary: What is our part in being saved? Early in the Bible we discover we are saved by faith alone, through God's grace and not our own works. As Christians we live every day thankful for God's grace.
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Our Part in Salvation
Sometimes I talk with people about what heaven will be like. Many are looking forward to it. They know it is their true home. They feel more like a foreigner in this world, just passing through. And sometimes a person will say, “I sure hope I make it there.” I always ask them about that: “You hope? What do you think it takes to get there?” And they almost always reply with, “Well, I just hope I’ve been good enough.” And my reply is, “How good is good enough?” You see, if heaven is a perfect place—and it is; and if each of us can admit that we’re not perfect—and we’re not, we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God; then, we’ve got a real problem, right? None of us are good enough to make it to heaven! Muslims believe you get there if you have more good than harm in your life, if your good works add up to 51 percent or more. Yet, that is a Muslim belief; it is not what the Bible says.
So the question becomes, “What is our part in our salvation?” What must one do to be saved? And the answer, believe it or not, is in the very first book of the Bible. Yes, way back in the Genesis passage I read earlier spells out our part and God’s part in our salvation.
We meet this guy Abram. His name means “father of a nation.” God will later rename him Abraham, which means “father of many nations.” Scholars call today’s reading the great Abrahamic covenant. Earlier, God had promised Abram more descendants than the sand on the seashore. That’s a lot. The problem? Abram and Sarah are getting old, and they have no kids. Abram presents the problem succinctly in verse 2: “But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless.’” Abram says, “All I have is a servant who will inherit my stuff.” And God replies, “No he won’t.” Look at verse 5: “He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’”
Verse 6 is our key verse today: “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” In this little verse, you see humanity’s part in salvation and God’s part in salvation. Very simply on your outline:
1. Our part: believe
“Abram believed the Lord...” (v. 6a).
2. God’s part: save
“...and he credited it to him as righteousness” (v. 6b).
Let me break down both of those ideas: Abram “believed” the Lord. That word for “believe” conveys a lot more than holding an intellectual belief in something. The more accurate translation includes an attitude of faith. I place my faith or my trust in something completely, or in this case, someone. Abram placed his absolute trust in the Lord.
Think about flying on an airplane. It’s one thing to say you believe that big heavy metal tube with two little wings can somehow defy the law of gravity and stay up in the sky. It’s another thing to actually step foot on that airplane and take your seat. Now you are placing your faith in it, your trust in it and the pilot who flies it.
All of you sat down in one of the pews today in the chapel. You probably didn’t even wonder if it would hold you up. It has in the past, so you figured it would today. You just plopped down, thankful to be able to sit. Becky and I were at a child’s school event several years back, and a parent plopped down onto a folding chair, and it collapsed under her weight. Most of the student body started laughing; we felt awful for her. How embarrassing! She probably wasn’t so trusting in the next chair she sat in.
It’s one thing to say we trust in God; it’s another thing entirely to rely on him completely. Abram faltered at times. He and his wife tried to help out God by having him sleep with a servant girl, the local custom back then, to produce an heir. That created all sorts of problems! And twice, Abram endangered his wife to protect his own life. Yet, even with Abram’s weaknesses, Hebrews 11 includes him in the “hall of faith.” Hebrews 11:12 says about him, “And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.”
So if our role is simply to believe, to trust, what is God’s role in our salvation? EVERYTHING ELSE! God actually does the saving, not us. The rest of verse 6 says, “...and [God] credited it to him as righteousness.” The word “credited” is a bookkeeping term. God took out the ledger book of Abraham’s life, erased his sin in the negative column, and added in the positive column, “righteousness.” And that’s exactly what God does for you and me when we believe.