And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if you be able to number them…
To establish the doctrine of justification by the righteousness of Christ, it is not necessary to maintain that the faith of Abram means Christ in whom he believed. Nor can this be maintained; for it is manifestly the same thing, in the account of the Apostle Paul, as believing, which is very distinct from the object believed in. The truth appears to be this: It is faith, or believing, that is counted for righteousness; not, however, as a righteous act, or on account of any inherent virtue contained in it, but in respect of Christ, on whose righteousness it terminates. That we may form a clear idea, both of the text and the doctrine, let the following particulars be considered: —
1. Though Abram believed God when he left Ur of the Chaldees, yet his faith in that instance is not mentioned in connection with his justification; nor does the apostle, either in his Epistle to the Romans or in that to the Galatians, argue that doctrine from it, or hold it up as an example of justifying faith. I do not mean to suggest that Abram was then in an unjustified state; but that the instance of his faith which was thought proper by the Holy Spirit to be selected as the model for believing for justification, was not this, nor any other of the kind; but those only in which there was an immediate respect had to the person of the Messiah. "By Him, all that believe (that is, in Him) are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses." It is through faith in His blood that they obtain remission of sins — He is just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.
2. This distinction, so clearly perceivable both in the Old and New Testament, sufficiently decides in what sense faith is considered as justifying. Whatever other properties the magnet may possess, it is as pointing invariably to the north that it guides the mariner: so whatever other properties faith may possess, it is as pointing to Christ, and bringing us into union with Him, that it justifies.
3. The phrase, "counted it for righteousness," does not mean that God thought it to be what it was, which would have been merely an act of injustice; but His graciously reckoning it what in itself it was not; viz., a ground for the bestowment of covenant blessings.
4. Though faith is not our justifying righteousness, yet it is a necessary concomitant, and mean of justification; and being the grace which above all others honours Christ, it is that which above all others God delights to honour. Hence it is that justification is ascribed to it, rather than to the righteousness of Christ without it. Our Saviour might have said to Bartimeus, "Go thy way, I have made thee whole." This would have been truth, but not the whole of truth which it was His design to convey. The necessity of faith in order to healing would not have appeared from this mode of speaking, nor had any honour been done, or encouragement been given to it: but by His saying, "Go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole," each of these ideas is conveyed, Christ would omit mentioning His own honour, and knowing that faith having an immediate respect to Him, amply provided for it.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.