|Photo: Andreas F. Borchert 2015|
Saturday, October 31, 2015
In the New Testament, there are three mentions of our study verse – the just shall live by faith –(Romans 1:17; Galatians.3:11; Hebrews 10:38 ). All three were written by the apostle Paul, if we assume that he is the author of Hebrews as well as of the other two epistles. In Romans 1, he describes himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God (v. 1). All of these make him just, or holy and righteous, not by his own merit but by his relationship to Jesus Christ our Lord (v.3).
Only the Lord Jesus Christ (v.,7) can justify, or reconcile, sinful man to holy, Triune God, for He alone is the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). He is the Son of Man, or the seed of David according to the flesh (Romans 1:3), as well as the Son of God (God the Father) empowered by the spirit of holiness (Holy Spirit), Who raised Him from the dead (v.4).
When we are made just by having faith in Christ, we can live in Him! The essential belief we must have to be saved is that He died as the perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins, was buried, and rose again to give us eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 3:16).
Our abundant life in Him (John 10:10) includes the daily benefits of His ongoing grace; the privilege of apostleship, meaning that He has called, empowered, and sent us to be His ambassadors; and obedience to His Word, demonstrating our faith (Romans 1: 5-6). We are His beloved, to whom He gives grace and peace (v. 7). Following Paul’s example, we worship Him with thanksgiving, service, and prayer (v. 8-10).
Paul’s prayer for himself and the Roman church is that he could visit them, give them a spiritual gift to strengthen their faith, and be comforted with them by their shared faith in Christ (v. 11-13). He is thankful for the blessing of having led Romans, Greeks, and Barbarians to the Lord (v. 13-14) through the gospel of Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (v.16).
That brings Paul to his summary statement, in which he repeats the word “faith” three times: For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith (v. 17).
In contrast to Paul’s description in the above verses of the blessings of living justified by faith, his next mention, in Galatians 3, of “the just shall live by faith” points out the dangers of attempting to be self-righteous, which brings only condemnation by the law. He calls the Galatians foolish, bewitched, and disobedient for not believing the truth of the sufficiency of Christ’s perfect sacrifice (v. 1).
Paul asks them three times whether they received the Spirit, began their new life in the Spirit, and were ministered to by the Spirit by keeping the law, by being justified in their flesh, or by the hearing of faith (v. 2,3,5). Of course, faith is the only true answer, repeated three times (v. 7,8,9). Faith allows the believer in God to have imputed righteousness as Christ’s perfect holiness is credited to our account (Romans 4:6,11,22); to be the children of Abraham and thereby be grafted in to God’s chosen and blessed people (Romans 11:17-24); and to be justified before God, Who no longer sees our sins (Galatians 3:6-9).
But if we foolishly attempt to be saved by keeping the law, we are under a curse, because breaking the smallest part of the law makes us guilty of breaking all of it, and we cannot be justified by the law in God’s eyes (v. 10-11). Paul again concludes this passage with “The just shall live by faith” (v. 11).
In his last mention of this verse (Hebrews 10: 38), Paul describes how it applies to the past, present, and future of the believer. Once we were saved (justified) by grace (unmerited, life-giving favor) through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) we were tested by our own hardships, those of fellow believers, and mocking from nonbelievers who seem to enjoy our suffering (Galatians 3: 32-34).
But Paul encourages us to find joy even in hardships (v. 34; Philippians 4:4), to be confident in God’s promises (v. 35), and to be patient as we wait for Him to fulfill them (v. 36). Our future is secure – a blessed, glorious and living hope (Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:3) – Christ is coming back for His church at the Rapture!
Hebrews 10: 37 For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry .
38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
Praise God that He will return for those who are just in His eyes by living by faith, without which we cannot please Him (Hebrews 11:6). May we have faith in His exclusive power to have saved us, to keep us securely in the palm of His hand (John 10:28-29), and to glorify us when He comes again!
© 2015 Laurie Collett
Saturday, October 24, 2015
|Art by Andrey Mironov 2008|
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