Summary: Message explores the importance of continuing in the faith. "The just shall live by faith" is stated four times in Scripture. What is its meaning, and what are the implications for us?
#5 in Series: Grace Works!
“The just shall live by faith.”
That statement is found four times in Scripture. It is the revelation that fueled the Protestant Reformation. It is the basis of Martin Luther’s understanding of justification by faith. The impact of that verse on Western Christianity is hard to overstate. The sacramental, legalistic system of the Catholic Church was challenged when God opened Luther’s eyes to this fundamental truth. “The just shall live by faith.” Do you believe that statement? What does it mean for you and me?
Let’s begin by looking at the four passages where that statement is made.
Rom. 1:16-17 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’"i Notice two things in that passage.
(1) This kernel of truth is essential to “the gospel of Christ.” The context in which Paul quotes this statement is the gospel which is “the power of God to salvation.” The Greek word for salvation is soteria. Like the verb form sozo, it does not just mean born again.ii It is talking about our whole experience with God. Being born again is the essential beginning; but, then there is a walk with God; there is a work of God in our daily lives; it all culminates in our glorification at the resurrection of the just.iii
We are in a series called Grace Works! One thing that we have to understand is grace works through faith. Eph 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith….” To every man is given a measure of faith.iv God gives us faith so that we can be saved. It is our choice to believe in Christ or not to believe in Christ. We have the freewill to exercise our faith in Christ or to exercise it in ourselves or in some false god. Faith in God is always a factor. Think about John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” What is the one condition in that verse for not perishing, for having everlasting life? “…whoever believes in Him.”v God so loved the world, that He provided salvation for “whoever” (anyone who would receive it); but, how is it received? By faith and by faith alone! John 3:18 “He who” (what) “believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” I don’t know how God could have made it any clearer. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”vi And the faith must be placed in Christ.vii “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Is the condemnation based on how bad his sins were? No, it all hinges on this issue of faith. So “The just shall live by faith.” Faith in Christ is essential to “the gospel of Christ.”
(2) In Rom. 1:17 “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith…” It’s not just an initial experience in faith; it is a life of faith. Abraham is the Father of Faith and Paul uses his faith to explain his doctrine of salvation by grace through faith.viii In Abraham we see the righteousness of God revealed in him “from faith to faith.” It was an act of faith (confident obedience to God) for Abraham to uproot his family in Ur of Chaldees and set out on a journey
in which he didn’t even know the destination. Abraham trusted God many years for the birth of Isaac and the fulfillment of God’s promise. It was “from faith to faith.” His greatest act of faith came when he offered up Isaac on the altar accounting that God was able to raise him from the dead. “ For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith….” The Amplified Bible says, “…springing from faith and leading to faith [disclosed through the way of faith that arouses to more faith].” So is talking about a righteousness that includes both justification and sanctification.ix
I am extremely concerned about multitudes of people who are relying on an initial experience; but are not walking with God. That simply does not match up with salvation as revealed in Scripture. I absolutely believe in the born again experience. “You must be born again.”x But why has that become the end of the matter, rather than the beginning of a life of faith? Birth is the beginning of something which should continue in like kind. The New International Version translates this “…a righteousness that is by faith from first to last….”