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15 1-21 What Does Saving Faith Look Like

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                                                  liberty bible church          6/17/07 P.M.

By Tom Zobrist

“what does saving faith look like?”

Genesis 15:1-21


Illus. of A small boy riding a bus home from Sunday school was very proud of the card he had received, which had a picture and a caption that read: “Have Faith in God.” Then to his dismay the card slipped from his hand and fluttered out the window. “Stop the bus!” he cried. “I’ve lost my ‘faith in God!’” The driver pulled the bus to a stop, and as the lad climbed out and went to retrieve his card, one of the adult riders smiled and made a comment about the innocence of youth. A more perceptive adult observed, “All of us would be better off if we were that concerned
about our faith." Saving faith is not something tangible like this card, nor is it something one can lose. But, it is more than what the world flippantly throws around as something that is cheap and expendable. This cheap pseudo-faith saves no one and deceives many. Saving faith comes at a high price and carries with it great responsibility. So, how do we know if what faith we have is saving faith?

OPEN to passage.                                       


Prop. In this passage, we see Abram exercise his saving faith in his relationship with God.  

Open in PRAYER.

PREVIEW the passage. Abram has just come off a great victory for his family and five cities from the southern plain. He chooses to recognize that God was the source of this great victory by worshiping with Melchizedek and rejecting the materialistic offer of the King of Sodom. Cf. 14:18-24 As Abram grows older in this strange land, he begins to contemplate all that God has done and what He hasn’t done and he begins to struggle. He focuses on what God isn’t doing rather than what He has done. And in this struggle, God makes a covenant with Abram to confirm the promises He had made previously. In this process, we see saving faith. First of all, saving faith is…

  i. true unwavering belief in God’s Promises vs. 1-6

Illus. of There once was a man who very adamantly believed in living by faith. He believed that, so long as he prayed in Jesus’ name, believing in faith that God would provide his need, he would receive whatever he asked for. One day he stood up in church and declared that from that day forward, he was trusting God to supply all his needs. He quit his job as a high-ranking official in a fairly large company and moved into a dingy little house on the rougher side of town. The first night he prayed very fervently for God to send him some food, because he was beginning to get hungry. The next morning he walked outside, expecting to find food, but nothing was there. Figuring that he didn’t pray fervently enough, he dedicated the whole day to praying for God to provide food for the next day. The next morning came, and still no food. That day he prayed even more fervently for God to provide nourishment, for by now he was growing ravenously hungry. "God, you must provide me with food, or I will die out here," he prayed over and over again. The next morning he walked outside, and still no food. By this time he was beginning to get angry with God for not providing He promised in His Word. That afternoon and evening he redoubled his efforts, wailing and rocking back and forth and beating his breast as he prayed. "Dear God, I’m going to starve to death unless you feed me. I haven’t eaten or had anything to drink in 4 days!" When he had prayed all he could pray, and was exhausted he fell back on the bed and stared at the wall. In the silence, he heard a small voice calling out his name. "Bill! Bill!" "I’m here Lord," he cried. "Are you finally answering my prayer?" "I’ve been answering your prayers," the voice replied. "You’ve just been looking in the wrong direction." "What do you mean Lord? I don’t understand," he exclaimed, exasperated. "Walk outside," said the voice. Bill walked outside, looked all around on the dirty porch, but still found no food. "There’s nothing here, Lord. I don’t see any food." "You’re looking in the wrong direction. Look up." Bill looked up, and there right above his head, pasted onto the building next to him, was a huge billboard with big black print that said, "DAY LABORERS WANTED! LUNCH WILL BE PROVIDED."

This man had unwavering belief, he just misapplied it. Abram demonstrates unwavering belief as well, but soon will misapply it.

a. true belief sometimes doubts

V 1a     1. Even after a great victory and blessing from God, Abram still felt fearful and unsure. God gives him an assurance here. 

V 1b    2. God would protect him and provide for him in a greater way than any king could bless him. The king of Sodom offered him a great deal, but Go had more. Cf. 12:1-3 But…

V 2      3. Abraham had not forgotten God’s promise in chapter 12. But, he still has no child. His heir is the child of a servant born in his house. He yet has no child, but clings to God’s promise. This is a word play. “heir of my house” is “possessor-heir” or “son of possession.” Abram was pointing out to God that that the one who would gain his possessions is one of his possessions, a servant.

V 3      4. This clearly states his point. When we are at this point in our lives, remember…

b. god’s word is clear

V 4      1. God makes a clear statement here. He had not forgotten His promise to Abram. The servant would not be his heir, but someone would come from his own body. To demonstrate the magnitude of this promise, God gives him an illustration.

V 5      2. The same word that created the stars guaranteed Abram’s seed. And…

V 6      3. The form of the Hebrew word for believed shows that his belief did not begin here. This was not the first time Abram believed. He believed when he left his home to come to Canaan. Abram’s faith is mentioned here since it was the basis of the covenant God is making with him.

            4. This account of Abram is repeated in the NT 3 times. Cf. Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6; James 2:23 Throughout all ages, righteousness is based on true faith.

Trans. Saving faith begins with TRUE UNWAVERING BELIEF IN GOD’S PROMISES. For us it’s the GOSPEL. God promises a new birth to all who receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. Unwavering belief leads to the second aspect of saving faith.

 ii. Total unquestioning obedience to God’s Commands vs. 7-11

Illus. of for the umpteenth time Mrs. Youngston came to her pastor to tell him, "I’m so scared! Joe says he’s going to kill me if I continue to come to your church." "Yes, yes, my child," replied the pastor, more than a little tired of hearing this over and over. "I will continue to pray for you, Mrs. Youngston. Have faith - the Lord will watch over you."
"Oh yes, he has kept me safe thus far, only....." "Only what, my child?" "Well, now he says if I keep coming to your church, he’s going to kill YOU!" "Well, now," said the pastor, "Perhaps it’s time to check out that little church on the other side of town." We can’t stop being obedient when oppressed by the enemy. Abram doesn’t. He confronts the enemy head on.

a. three reasons why God can be obeyed.

V 7a     1. He is the “I am that I am” the self-existent eternal One. Yahweh. He is the sovereign God over all the earth. He is worthy of our obedience.

V 7b    2. It is He who guides us in the right paths. If we follow Him, we will receive blessings, as did Abram.

V 7c     3. Abram received the promised land as an inheritance. He never possessed it himself, but his descendants did and still do today. This wouldn’t have happened had Abram not been obedient.

b. god’s guarantee with the abrahamic covenant

V 8      1. This may look like Abram is questioning God, but he is merely asking for a guarantee. Illus. of contracts for homes cars, jobs etc. In the ancient world, they used covenants such as we see here. What is the guarantee we have for the promise of eternal life? The Holy Spirit. Cf. Eph. 1:13-14

V 9-10 2. He prepared for the covenant to be completed. All that is left is for the two to pass between the parts. When they did this, they affirmed that the same should happen to them if they break the covenant. What happens next is somewhat disturbing for Abram.

V 11    3. Unclean birds come down on the animals as Abram waits for God to act. Many believe this is an evil omen that precipitates God’s revelation concerning Abram’s descendants that we see under the next point. At this juncture, Abram has obeyed God.

  Trans. Saving faith begins with TRUE UNWAVERING BELIEF IN GOD’S PROMISES and extends to TOTAL UNQUESTIONING OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S COMMANDS. If we fulfill these two, the natural result will be…

iii. complete unconscious trust in God’s sovereignty vs. 12-21

Illus. of I heard a story about a train traveling through the night in a very violent rainstorm. The lightning flashes were almost blinding, the rain hitting the windows was deafening and the strong gust winds rocked the train from side to side. When the lightening flashed and lighted up the darkness, the passengers could see the rising water along the tracks. This created terror in the minds of the passengers. Several passengers noted that through all the noise, lightening and wind, one of the passengers, a little girl, seemed to be at perfect peace. The adult passengers couldn’t figure out why the little girl was so calm during all this excitement. Finally, one passenger asked her, “How is that you can be so calm when all the rest of us are so worried about what might or could happen?” The little passenger smiled and said, “My father is the engineer.” That’s the kind of trust we need in God. As we go through the storms of life, we trust that He is in control.

a. We can rest in God, even in dark times

V 12a   1. This was preparation for an unconditional covenant. Abram would not take part. He only receives the promises.

V 12b  2. Like the swooping birds of prey, darkness fell upon Abram. Not just from sleep, but from some grim prophecies that God is giving concerning Abram’s descendants.

V 13    3. Of course this refers to the bondage of Israel in Egypt. Like the birds of prey, Egypt tried to stop the fulfillment of this covenant. Israel would be held captive for 430 years. While there, they will be “afflicted” or “mistreated” which of course they were. The number 400 here and in Acts 7 uses round numbers. The actual captivity according to Ex. 12:40 and Gal. 3:17, was 430 years. (1876-1446 B.C.)

V 14a   4. God indeed judged Egypt in the 10 plagues.

V 14b  5. The Israelites plundered the Egyptians on their exodus.

V 15    6. None of this pertained to Abram. But, he had to see it all in advance. He would live in peace and to a ripe old age; 175 to be exact.

V 16    7. The people would get the land at the right time and not before. The judgment of the Amorites was not yet. God’s people had to grow and be humbled so that they were ready to trust as did Abram.

b. we can trust god because his promise of salvation rests on him alone

V 17    1. God appears as a smoking oven and burning torch. Both were used in sacrifices in the ancient world. It reflects God’s purity and judgment in the world. In the darkness this is all Abram saw pass between those animals pieces. God in His holiness would judge these nations and fulfill His promises to Abram’s family.

V 18    2. This is the unconditional covenant made with Abram. All the land that Abram had been shown would be his families one day. They have never possessed it fully, but will in the Millennium.

V19-21     3. The nations that now possess the land will be judged for their rejection of the one true God and their idol worship.

            4. Compare verse 7 with Ex. 20:2. In spite of their rebellion and times of captivity and distress, Israel could count on the promises of God. As can we. All the promises of eternal life and other blessings will be fulfilled in spite of opposition and persecution and death, for those that have experienced saving faith.


Saving faith begins with TRUE UNWAVERING BELIEF IN GOD’S PROMISES. This naturally leads to TOTAL UNQUESTIONING OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S COMMANDS. If we fulfill these two, the last is natural result will be COMPLETE UNCONSCIOUS TRUST IN GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY. God’s will be done and all His promises fulfilled completely. What does saving faith look like today?

1.      Belief in the shed blood of Jesus that brings change to our lives.

2.      Obedience that fears no man.

3.      Trust that follows God through all the storms of life.

Illus. of I like that story about the boy and his father who were planning a fishing trip for the next day. That evening as the father was putting his son to bed, the boy hugged his father’s neck and said, "Daddy, thank you for tomorrow."

When we have true saving faith, we can live our life as this little boy, trusting in His Father’s plans. As a man, my plans may fail, but God’s never do. That’s why we can believe God, obey God, and trust God. And as Abram was, so we will be blessed.


                                                  liberty bible church          6/17/07 P.M.

By Tom Zobrist

“what does saving faith look like?”

Genesis 15:1-21


Saving faith is not something tangible, nor is it something one can lose. But, it is more than what the world flippantly throws around as something that is cheap and expendable. Saving faith comes at a high price and carries with it great responsibility. So, how do we know if what faith we have is saving faith? First of all, saving faith is…

  i. true                                                                                                                                                                   vs. 1-6

a. true belief sometimes ______________________________

            Cf. 12:1-3

b. god’s word is ________________________________________

            Cf. Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6; James 2:23

 ii. Total                                                                                                                                                               vs. 7-11

a. three reasons why God can be obeyed.

b. god’s guarantee with the abrahamic covenant

            Cf. Eph. 1:13-14

iii. complete                                                                                                                                                     vs. 12-21

a. We can rest in God, ___________________________________________________________________

b. we can trust god because his promise of salvation _______________________________


What does saving faith look like today?





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