You can see this in our text. Right after extolling Abraham for believing the promises of God in verses 19-21, Paul says, “That is why his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness.” So how did Abraham get justified in God’s sight? Why did God look at this imperfect man and count him as righteous in his sight? Answer: because he believed the promises of God. It was future oriented faith that justified.
Now read on in the application to us. Verses 23-24, But the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord.
Notice! It does not say, “It will be reckoned to us who believe the past historical fact that God raised Jesus from the dead.” As utterly crucial as that is! It says, we will be reckoned righteous if we believe in God! Like Abraham believed in God! And this God is the kind of God who raised Jesus from the dead so that you can trust him! So that you will know that his Son ever lives to make intercession for you! So that you will know that he reigns in victory over all your enemies. So that you will know, as verse 17 says, that he gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. He can do anything! Nothing is impossible for God. Therefore he is absolutely trustworthy.
You don’t get justified by believing that Jesus died for sinners and rose again. You get justified by banking your hope on the promises that God secured and guaranteed for you through the death and resurrection of his Son. The faith by which God justifies us, forgives all our sins, reckons us righteous, is the experience of being satisfied that God will come through for you according to all his promises.
That’s the first thing I wanted to say about belief: it is future oriented; it means banking our hope for happiness on the promises of God secured by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The second thing I want to say about belief in the promises of God is that it produces what Paul calls the “work of faith.” Two times, once in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 and once in 2 Thessalonians 1:11 Paul refers to the “work of faith.” What he means is that there is a dynamic to this kind of faith that always changes the heart (Acts 15:9) and produces the works of love.
The clearest statement of this is Galatians 5:6, In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.
Faith is a power. It never leaves the life unchanged. It can’t, because what you bank your hope on always governs your life. If you bank your hope on money, if your bank your hope on prestige, if you bank your hope on leisure and comfort, if you bank your hope on power or success, it governs the choices you make and the attitudes you develop. And so does banking your hope on the promises of God day by day. Belief in the promises of God is the taproot of all righteousness and love.
When you bank your hope on the promises of God and on the presence of Jesus, you live differently. You bear the fruit of righteousness (Philippians 1:11).