by Mike Ratliff
“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4 ESV)
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17 ESV)
Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11 ESV)
For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” (Hebrews 10:37-38 ESV)
The real author of Sacred Scripture is the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit of God frequently repeats Himself, He thereby appeals for special attention. Look closely at Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:37-38. Since the right doctrine comes from the Holy Spirit and He has declared that the righteous shall live by faith so often we must discern that this is doctrine and it is of highest importance. Also, these truths, this doctrine, must be preached and taught to believers as much as possible. Since all genuine believers have the Holy Spirit they should unhesitatingly receive this doctrine by their regenerated faith.
These four passages make it clear that the just shall live by his faith. The downgraded Church in our time did not all at once forget that saving faith is God’s gift by His grace. Once humanism and Pelagianism began their awful decimation of doctrine, the move from a God oriented Gospel became more and more persistent until, in our time, any view that is rooted in the Sovereignty of God is rejected. Instead, the predominate view of the Gospel is one of man’s sovereignty in making the right decision. As a result, faith is not understood nor is salvation seen for the miracle it is.
It is imperative that genuine Christian believers in our time come to understand the miracle of the New Birth entirely within God’s Sovereign Grace. Until that happens, believers have the mistaken belief that they are Christians because of making the right decision based upon their own reasoning. When God opens up a believer’s heart to understand the truth, however, the impact is incredible. I know when God did that for me and how it changed everything. I went from religious self-reliance to utter dependence upon God for everything. It would be safe to say that I am contacted by at least three people every month whom God has awakened this way. In every case, including mine, the number one truth that shattered that old religious self-reliance was that our faith that saved us by His grace was a product of regeneration or quickening by God in our hearts.
Along with this devastating realization we also learn that our New Life in Christ, our eternal life, is received by this same faith which makes us just as God imputes the Son’s righteousness to us. This allows us to begin our new life with a full acquittal from condemnation, and from the looming death penalty which awaits all outside of Christ. This happens when we first believe in Jesus after God’s grace accords with our faith. We begin to live as one raised out of spiritual death from that moment of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
This new life in Christ is sustained by the faith which keeps us just. We who are forgiven and quickened live ever afterwards as we began to live–namely, by faith. We live by faith in every condition including in joy, in sorrow, in wealth, in poverty, in strength, in weakness, in laboring, in languishing, in life and in death. We live best when faith is at its best, even though in other respects we may be sorely put to it. We live the life in Christ most blessedly when we believe in Christ most intensely.
Now let us look at the four passages above separately. If we read them with precision, we shall see that Scripture contains no repetitions. The context gives freshness of meaning to each apparent repetition.
In Habakkuk 2:4 we see that it exhibits faith as enabling a man to live on in peace and humility, while as yet the promise has not come to its maturity. While waiting we live by faith, and not by sight. We are thus able to bear up under the temporary triumphs of the wicked. We are thus preserved from proud impatience at delay.
In Romans 1:17 we see that it exhibits faith as working salvation from the evil which is in the world through lust. The chapter in which it stands presents an awful view of human nature, and implies that only faith in the gospel can bring us life in the form of mental enlightenment of life as to the true God (Romans 1:19-23) and in the form of moral purity of life. (Romans 1:24 to the end of the chapter)
In Galatians 3:11 we see that it exhibits faith as bringing to us that justification which saves us from the sentence of death. Nothing can be plainer, more positive, more sweeping than this declaration that no man is justified before God except by faith. Both the negative and the positive are plain enough.
In Hebrews 10:37-38 we see that it exhibits faith as the life of final perseverance. There is need of faith while waiting for heaven (Hebrews 10:32-36). The absence of such faith would cause us to draw back (v38). That drawing back would be a fatal sign. That drawing back can never occur, for faith saves the soul from all hazards, keeping its face heavenwards even to the end.
What can you do who have no faith? In what other way can you be accepted with God? On what ground can you excuse your unbelief in your God? Will you perish sooner then believe Him? Are you ashamed of the one who died on the cross to incur the Father’s wrath so that all who believe won’t have to? The ones who are accepted by God are those who believe. They have faith by His grace. Because of this, they are ashamed of their sin and love their Saviour. On the other hand, those in unbelief are not ashamed of their sin, but are ashamed of Christ.
Those reading this who do have faith should rejoice because their salvation is a miracle by God. The soul is the life of the body. Faith is the life of the soul and Christ is the life of faith. However, many reading this are not so sure. The call is to believe and live. To believe God is not a little thing; it is the index of the heart reconciled to God, and the token of true spirituality of mind; it is the essence of true worship, and the root of sincere obedience. He who believes his God in spite of his sins, does him more honor than cherubim and seraphim in their continual adoration.
Those with a small view of faith should be ashamed for hold that belief. How is it then that unbelief is so great a crime that it is marked out for reprobation as the one damning evil which shuts men out of heaven? Whatever else you put in the second place, give faith the lead; it is not a vain thing, for it is your life.
This post was partially adapted from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon titled Faith: Life.