|Art by Andrey Mironov 2008|
Saturday, October 24, 2015
Triplets of Promise: The Just Shall Live by Faith
Our church is blessed these last few weeks to have seven missionaries in residence, one of whom gave a message on “the just shall live by faith.” I have heard and read this verse many times, and yet hearing this dear brother from the Philippines speak it opened my heart to its meaning in ways I had not fully considered before. The first mention is in the Old Testament (Habakkuk 2:4), followed by three references to it in the New Testament (Romans 1:17; Galatians.3:11; Hebrews 10:38 ).
This verse is a clear example of triplet patterns in Scripture, for in three short words (just, live, faith) packed full of meaning it conveys a host of doctrinal truth. “Just” reminds us that no man can be justified on his own merit, for there is none that does good (Psalm 14:1,3; 53:1,3; Matthew 19:17; etc.); all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23); and none even seeks after God (Romans 3:11).
Only in Christ can sinful man be made just, or holy and righteous (Romans 3:24-26). He alone justifies us, or makes us just as if we have never sinned, for our sins are debited against His account and His righteousness is credited to our account (Romans 4:6-8). Thus, when the Father looks at a born-again believer (John 3:3-8) who has trusted Christ by placing their faith in His death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only way to Heaven (John 14:6), He no longer sees their sin, but only the perfect holiness of His Son.
Because we are considered just in Christ, we can live! We live in Him (Galatians 2:20), abundantly (John 10:10) and eternally (John 3:16). He rose again as the firstfruits (1 Corinthians 15:20-23), so that we now live in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6) even as we travel this earth. Our spirit will live in His presence when our fleshly body dies (Philippians 1:21);. At the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17), we shall live forever in a glorified body that will never age, get sick or die (1 Corinthians 15:35-50).
The apostle Paul tells us to die daily (1 Corinthians 15:31) to our sin nature so that we may rise again to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4); to crucify our flesh to live in the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 6:8-11); and to mortify (put to death) the “old man,” with his sinful ways so that we may live as the “new man” (Ephesians 4:24), obeying, serving, and glorifying God. In Him, we live, move and have our being! (Acts 17:28)
The verse we are studying concludes that the just (in Christ) shall live (physically, mentally and spiritually) by faith. Therein lies the crux of Christianity: we are saved by God’s grace alone through our faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), as promised in His Word alone (John 6:68) and not embellished or marred by human traditions (Colossians 2:8; 1 Peter 1:18). His mercy spares us from eternal death in hell; His love sent His Son to pay the price to accomplish that (Hebrews 9:28); and His grace freely gives us everlasting life.
All we need to do is believe that God is Who He says He is; that His Son has done all that is needed to save us; and that He will do what His Word has promised He will do (Hebrews 11). Keeping the law (which is impossible), doing good works (which can never make up for our sin), and being self-righteous (which is the worst form of self-deception) cannot save us (Luke 18:9-14).
And yet, once Jesus Christ saves us, our faith comes alive to others (James 2:17-26), who see that we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), doing good works in His Name, and following His path (Matthew 16:24). We have become God’s children (1 John 3:1), joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), and together we as the church are the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27).
He has made us His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), fellow laborers (1 Corinthians 3:9), and body (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:27) to go, teach and baptize (Matthew 28:19) When we live in Him, we walk in love (Ephesians 5:2), in the light (1 John 1:7), and in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16,25).
In the only Old Testament rendering of this verse, that the just shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:1-4), the prophet begins the chapter by actively waiting for God to speak, listening for His Word, and considering how to answer when God corrects Him. The Lord tells Habbakuk to write down the vision He reveals and to make it clear to others so that they will respond to it. God explains that the vision is for an appointed time but that in the end it shall speak the truth; that Habbakuk should wait for it even though it seems to be delayed, and that it will come and not tarry.
In short, Habbakuk demonstrates his faith by waiting on God, Who answers him by promising him a future vision, and Who encourages him to continue to be faithful by waiting on His perfect timing. He contrasts the self-righteous, proud, disobedient man with the just who shall live by his faith. The former drinks himself to ruin, abandons his family, and covets the wealth of others, yet he finds dissatisfaction, death and hell. But the just man lives by his faith that the Lord is in His holy temple and all the earth should be silent before Him (v. 20).
Next week, Lord willing, we shall consider the three repetitions of this verse in the New Testament. In the meantime, may we remember that the just shall live by faith. If we follow that creed, we shall find the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), joy in the Lord (Psalm 35:9), and the lively, glorious hope (1 Peter 1:3; Titus 2:13) of knowing that the vision of Rapture to eternal heaven will one day become reality!
© 2015 Laurie Collett