The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

by Mike Ratliff

I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint. And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:1-4 ESV)

As I shared in yesterday’s post and have been alluding to for the past several posts, it has become painfully apparent to me that so much of the Christian teaching I sat under as a child and as an adult up until God caused us to to depart our old church because it was going Purpose Driven back in 2006, was mostly Law with just a little flavoring of the Gospel thrown in every now and then. Not every teacher I had did that of course, but the majority did and so did those who wrote those books I bought and read and taught those seminars I attended, et cetera. So much of the “discipleship” teaching I went through then when examined closely now is mostly “law.” From that, I have done a radical reevaluation of my own understanding of Law and Grace and the Gospel and have decided to do a study on the book of Romans. I don’t know how I will break it down yet. I will start in chapter 1 in this post in vv15-17. The book of Romans was the Apostle Paul’s apologetic to the Roman Church of the Gospel, the Law, and Grace. Let’s listen to the Holy Spirit as we examine closely in proper context what He shows us. 

So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:15-17 ESV)

οὕτω τὸ κατ᾿ ἐμὲ πρόθυμον καὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς ἐν ῾Ρώμῃ εὐαγγελίσασθαι. Οὐ γὰρ ἐπαισχύνομαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ· δύναμις γὰρ Θεοῦ ἐστίν εἰς σωτηρίαν παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι, ᾿Ιουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον καὶ ῞Ελληνι. δικαιοσύνη γὰρ Θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ ἀποκαλύπτεται ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν, καθὼς γέγραπται· ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται. (Romans 1:15-17 Greek New Testament)

So the by me eager also to you the ones in Rome to preach the gospel of the Christ. Not for I am ashamed the gospel, power for of God it is to salvation to all who believe, to Judean both first and to Greek. Rightness for of God in him is revealed from faith will live. (Romans 1:15-17 my word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)

The word translated as “to preach the gospel” is εὐαγγελίσασθαι the aorist tense, infinitive mood, middle voice form of εὐαγγελίζω or euaggelizō. It means “to announce good news.” The Roman Church was already made up of Christians, why was Paul eager to preach the good news to them? It is a good thing for believers to hear the Gospel because it is a continual reminder that this eternal life we share in Christ is by God’s grace, not by anything we have done. All those religious works matter for nothing in light of what Christ did for His Church on the Cross. That includes all that stuff we do in our “devotions” everyday as well. No, we need to hear the Good News as a call to do those devotions and serve our Lord from the right motives. That would be from a grateful heart seeking to draw closer to Him, not earn points.

The words Paul used in v16 that is translated as “I am not ashamed” are Οὐ γὰρ ἐπαισχύνομαι. I translated that as “Not for I am ashamed.” In any case, the word in question here is ἐπαισχύνομαι which means “be ashamed of something.” Why would Christians be ashamed of the Gospel? Paul had been imprisoned, beaten, exiled, stoned, and treated as fool for the Gospel. However, no matter how hostile people were to the Good News, he remained bold. That was what he is telling the Romans and we need to grasp this in our time. There is a tendency to want to soften or modify or edit the message of the Gospel a bit to make it more palatable or acceptable to this group or that group. Nonsense! Paul knew that the edited Gospel was no longer the Gospel. In fact, when Christians remain bold this way, the Gospel message they preach is, “δύναμις γὰρ Θεοῦ ἐστίν εἰς σωτηρίαν παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι, ᾿Ιουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον καὶ ῞Ελληνι” or it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” That word δύναμις is translated here as “power.” The unedited Gospel is the “power of God” that brings salvation. This is the message that the Holy Spirit blesses and uses to impart eternal life to those who hear it. The edited message of self-help, or good-works, or turning to Christ to get the right plan for your life, is not this “Good News.” Over the next several posts we will look closely at this Good News and we will see clearly what it is and what is is not.

Verse 17 reads, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” What does that mean? My translation reads, “Rightness for of God in him is revealed from faith will live.” This Righteousness or Rightness is from God. It is His. Our justification is an imputation or decree by God. This Righteousness is actually Christ’s. All who believe the Good News, turn in repentance to Him as Lord and Saviour by grace through faith are imputed by God with Christ’s Righteousness. This means that according to God, they are in a state or condition of perfectly conforming to God’s perfect law and holy character. They are justified by faith. Only God is inherently righteous and man is woefully sinful. No exceptions. The Gospel reveals that on the basis of faith–and faith alone–God imputes His righteousness to ungodly sinners. Let us never forget this my brethren. This righteousness from God is completely on the basis of faith from beginning to end as we read in Habakkuk 2:4.

What does it mean that the Just or Righteous shall live by faith? Again, we will look at this in-depth as we move through Romans. Many try to use this to make it be something Christians do in order to earn something. Paul never teaches that. God justifies sinners by grace on the basis of faith alone, never according to works. No one has ever been declared righteous before God except by faith alone (Galatians 3:11). True saving faith is not a single event, but a way of life that endures. This endurance is called the perseverance of the saints (Colossians 1:22,23; Hebrews 3:12-14).

Soli Deo Gloria!

12 thoughts on “The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

  1. This is so great. Myself and some ladies are meeting on Thursday mornings and we are studying Romans. It is so good. We are doing the precept upon precept study. I am excited to study along with you, Mike.

  2. Dear Mike,
    A pastor of over 40yrs. told my husband, “A compromised Gospel will give you a compromised result, which is really NO Gospel at all.”

    I too have reevaluated my thinking and have realized that ALL the power is in God’s Word alone. This seems obvious and overly simple, but if you are a doer of the Word and not just a hearer you will be living by faith. Thanks for the post looking forward to the rest!

  3. Thank you for this.
    That phrase “Why would Christians be ashamed of the Gospel?”. Indeed. This has to be the answer for why they want to water-down the Gospel, make it more palatable, “edit” it as you put it. It is because they are ashamed of it. This is beyond comprehension.
    They really fear man more than they fear God.
    It is true that the Gospel, and standing for it, will cost you. Sometimes very dearly.
    But, Oh, how dreadful to stand before the Almighty and have Him be ashamed of me!
    I heard someone say once that everyone is looking for a cross that is contoured to fit their own back.
    No. The cross-walk of Jesus is heavy and lonely, yet full of blessing because of obedience.

  4. This hymn came to mind:

    Must Jesus Bear The Cross Alone

    Must Jesus bear the cross alone
    And all the world go free?
    No, there’s a cross for everyone,
    And there’s a cross for me.

    The consecrated cross I’ll bear
    Till death shall set me free,
    And then go home my crown to wear,
    For there’s a crown for me.

    Upon the crystal pavement, down
    At Jesus’ pierced feet,
    Joyful I’ll cast my golden crown
    And His dear name repeat.

    O precious cross! O glorious crown!
    O resurrection day!
    Ye angels, from the stars come down
    And bear my soul away.

  5. In these present times, with tolerance being touted as the watchword of the church rather than the true watchword of “repent” it is easy to see why people leave out the first step of the gospel message, which is that God’s wrath is coming against all ungodliness and unrighteousness – and that means each and every individual. God is God and man is not! Man doesn’t like to hear that little fact, due to his low estimation of God and his high estimation of himself; therefore man cringes in shock when he is accused of any fault or guilt on his own part.

    Those who are ashamed of the gospel (specifically the audacity of the gospel to judge a man) and leave out this intrinsic part of the gospel actually take away the gospel’s power for salvation. The Kingdom of God is given to those who are humble, not to those who are too haughty to believe they deserve God’s wrath, nor to those who are too arrogant to give God’s gospel exactly as He penned it through His saints. To be ashamed to preach the whole gospel, starting with the beginning and not leaving anything out, is unbelief at its worst – and to preach the ‘gospel’ while omitting even one part is treachery at its worst.

    Paul was not ashamed of the gospel; he spoke it all, every bit of it – whether the listeners wanted to hear it or not. I thank God for His gospel, all of it, because in it is the power of salvation from His wrath (and therefore the introduction into the wonderful intricacies of salvation described in the rest of Romans.) To give the true gospel, all of it, will mean much rejection to the gospeler, but to those few who are called it will mean the gift of God’s ‘O so great salvation’!

    Oh Lord, please send more workers into the field who will preach Your Word, in its entirety, without compromise, without deception, without shame. And Lord, please give MIke great knowledge, understanding, and wisdom as he seeks to share the truths from your Word as written in the book of Romans. Father, please bring people into your Kingdom, indeed your family, through Mike’s articles as he shares the Truths You teach him.

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