“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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17.
As we shared in our last article, “the righteousness of God is revealed” in the Gospel of Christ. That is the “judicial verdict, approval,” of Almighty God. Since God is Supreme, Sovereign and Perfect in this universe and beyond, His judicial verdict (approval) carries an absolute weight. There is nothing comparable to His approval.
We move now to the words “from faith to faith.” What impact does it have on our understanding of how “the righteousness of God is revealed”?
From Faith to Faith
Paul told the Romans that “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” What does that mean?
εκ πιστεως εις πιστιν
The word πιστεω is a noun in the Genitive case. The word πιστιν is a noun in the Accusative case. Both words come from the same root, πείθω, a verb meaning “to persuade, urge.” The meaning of “faith” in the Greek is a confidence based on trust in truth based on evidence. There is no “blind” faith in the Greek understanding of the words. Faith is based on looking at the evidence with “eyes wide open.”
So, what does it mean that the righteousness of God is revealed “from faith to faith”? First, we need to understand that God is the One doing the “persuasion” here. It’s not one person persuading another person about something. God does the persuading – thus the “power” of the Gospel of Christ. As Paul wrote in an earlier letter –
“I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:3-5
The “righteousness” of God is something He does based on the fact that He is “righteous.” God is the “necessary” Being. His creatures are “contingent” beings. Our very existence is contingent on God’s existence. If God did not exist, we would not exist. God is necessary to the existence of the universe and all life in it. That also means that “righteousness,” the quality or state of being righteous, is dependent on God. Righteousness for a contingent being is dependent on the righteousness of a necessary being. If God was not righteous, He could not make us righteous. We should be forever grateful for the fact that God is both a righteous Necessary Being and that He has chosen to share His righteousness with us contingent beings.
The idea of “from” or “out of” “faith to faith” can be understood as moving from the origin of faith to the maturing of faith – the full “journey” of faith. Other interpretations of “from faith to faith” include from God’s faithfulness to man’s faith in God’s faithfulness, from the faith of the preacher (Paul) to the faith of the believers, from the faith of the Jew (who was first) to the faith of the Greek, and even from the faith of the Old Testament to the faith of the New Testament.
Here are some thoughts about the phrase “from faith to faith” from several well-known commentaries –
“It is not from faith to works, as if faith put us into a justified state, and then works kept us in it; but it is all along from faith to faith; it is faith pressing forward, and gaining the victory over unbelief.” Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible
“It is by faith that man first lays hold on the gospel, and its latest product is a heightened and intensified faith. Apart from faith, the gospel remains null and void for the individual. It is not realised. But when it has been once realised and taken home to the man’s self, its tendency is to confirm and strengthen that very faculty by which it was apprehended.” Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers
“Q. d. ‘is unfolded, and displays faith, and only faith, as its secret, at each disclosure.’ (1) The initial step, the entrance to justification, is faith: (2) The life of the justified is maintained by faith: faith is the starting-point and the course.—’Is revealed:’—a present tense in the Gr.:—is revealing. The idea is of a perpetually recurring process: ‘to each fresh discoverer it is revealed.” Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
“from faith to faith; that is, as say some, from the faith of God to the faith of men; from the faith of preachers to the faith of hearers; from the faith of the Old to the faith of the New Testament saints; or rather from one degree of faith to another; for faith, as it grows and increases, has clearer sights of this righteousness, as held forth in the Gospel.” Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
“this apostle seems to delight in such repetitions, and there is an elegancy in them: see Romans 6:19 2 Corinthians 2:16 2 Corinthians 3:18. The words are variously interpreted: from the fiath of the Old Testament to the faith of the New; so that no person ever was or shall be justified in any other way. Or, from a lesser faith to a greater; not noting two faiths, but one and the same faith increasing to perfection. He saith not, from faith to works, or from works to faith; but from faith to faith, i.e. only by faith. The words to be must be understood: q.d. The gospel reveals the righteousness of God to be from faith to faith. The beginning, the continuance, the accomplishment of our justification is wholly absolved by faith.” Matthew Poole’s Commentary
“Most interpreters (judging from the sense of such phrases elsewhere) take it to mean, ‘from one degree of faith to another.’ But this agrees ill with the apostle’s design, which has nothing to do with the progressive stages of faith, but solely with faith itself as the appointed way of receiving God’s ‘righteousness.’ We prefer, therefore, to understand it thus: ‘The righteousness of God is in the gospel message, revealed (to be) from (or ‘by’) faith to (or ‘for’) faith,’ that is, ‘in order to be by faith received.’ (So substantially, Melville, Meyer, Stuart, Bloomfield, &c.).” Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
“The expression, in our translation, from faith to faith, is interpreted by some of a gradual series of still clearer and clearer discoveries; but the translation of the clause given above, namely, the righteousness of God by faith is revealed in order to faith, seems evidently to express better the apostle’s meaning.” Benson Commentary
“Construe the righteousness which is of or from faith, as we have presently after the just from faith [i.e. he who is justified,—whose righteousness is, of faith]. The phrase, from faith to faith, expresses pure faith; for righteousness of, or from faith, subsists in faith, without works. Εἰς denotes the destination, the boundary, and limit; see ch. Romans 12:3, and notes on Chrysostom’s work, De Sacerd, p. 415. So 1 Chronicles 17:5. I have gone [lit. in the Heb. I was or have been] מאהל אל אהל from tent to tent, where one and another tent [different tents] are not intended; but a tent [the tabernacle] as distinguished from [or independently of] a house or temple. Faith, says Paul, continues to be faith; faith is all in all [lit. the prow and stern] in the case of Jews and Gentiles; in the case of Paul also, even up to its very final consummation, Php 3:7-12. Thus εἰς sounds with a beautiful effect after ἐκ, as ἀπὸand εἰς, 2 Corinthians 3:18, concerning the purest glory. It is to avoid what might be disagreeable to his readers, that Paul does not yet expressly exclude works, of which, however, in this Statement of Subject [Proposition], an exclusion of some kind should otherwise have appeared. Furthermore, the nature of a proposition, thus set forth, bears, that many other things may be inferred from this; for inasmuch as it is not said, ἐκ τῆς πίστεως εἰς τὴν πίστιν, from the faith to the faith, but indefinitely ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν from faith to faith, so we shall say [we may say by inference] from one faith to another, from the faith of God, who makes the offer, to the faith of men, who receive it, ch. Romans 3:2, etc.; from the faith of the Old Testament, and of the Jews, to the faith of the New Testament, and of the Gentiles also, ch. Romans 3:30; from the faith of Paul to the faith of the Romans, ch. Romans 1:12; from one degree of faith to still higher degrees, 1 John 5:13; from the faith of the strong to the faith of the weak, ch. Romans 14:1, etc.; from our faith, which is that of expectation, to the faith, which is to be divinely made good to us, by the gift of life [“The just shall live by faith”].—καθως, as) Paul has just laid down three principles: I. Righteousness is [of, or] from faith, Romans 1:17 : II. Salvation is by righteousness, Romans 1:16 : III. To the Jew and to the Greek, Romans 1:16. What follows confirms the whole, viz., the clause, the just by faith, shall live, which is found in the prophetical record, Habakkuk 2:4; see notes on Hebrews 10:36, etc. It is the same Spirit, who spoke by the prophets the Words, that were to be quoted by Paul; and under whose guidance Paul made such apposite and suitable quotations, especially in this epistle.—ζήσεται, shall live) some of the Latins, in former times, wrote the present ‘lives’ for the future “shall live” (vivit for vivet); an obvious mistake in one small letter, and not worthy of notice or refutation. Baumgarten, following Whitby, refutes it, and observes, that I have omitted to notice it.” Bengel’s Gnomon of the New Testament
“From faith to faith indicates
I. The exclusiveness of faith. Faith all in all in a man’s justification. Works not in the account. Not from faith to worlds, but from faith to faith (Romans 3:22; Rom_3:28).
II. The growth of faith. From one degree of faith to another. Advance made in clearness, simplicity, strength.
III. The many sidedness of faith. From one kind of faith to another. From faith which saves to faith for still further blessings. From faith which justifies to faith which sanctifies. From faith of the intellect to faith of the heart. (T. Robinson, D. D.)” The Biblical Illustrator
“Rev., by faith unto faith. According to the A.V. the idea is that of progress in faith itself; either from Old to New Testament faith, or, in the individual, from a lower to a higher degree of faith; and this idea, I think, must be held here, although it is true that it is introduced secondarily, since Paul is dealing principally with the truth that righteousness is by faith. We may rightly say that the revealed righteousness of God is unto faith, in the sense of with a view to produce faith; but we may also say that faith is a progressive principle; that the aim of God’s justifying righteousness is life, and that the just lives by his faith (Galatians 2:20), and enters into ‘more abundant’ life with the development of his faith. Compare 2 Corinthians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Romans 6:19; and the phrase, justification of life, Romans 5:18.” Vincent’s Word Studies
“From faith to faith. This is to be joined with ‘revealed,’ not with ‘righteousness.’ The righteousness is revealed ‘from faith’ as the starting-point, and ‘to faith’ as its aim, continually producing new faith. This is substantially the generally accepted explanation. (It is improper to refer ‘from faith’ to God’s faithfulness.) The gospel makes known constantly that faith on Christ is the subjective cause of the righteousness from God, the condition of its imputation, the organ which appropriates it; and it further makes known that thus faith is produced; faith is the beginning and end, the vital principle is ever the same. ‘Faith,’ in the New Testament, has well-nigh invariably the subjective sense, not what is believed, but believing. It includes knowledge and belief, assent and surrender, appropriation and application; and hence cannot be limited to a purely intellectual credence.” Schaff’s Commentary on the New Testament
Whatever interpretation you prefer, it would seem Paul’s case is clear that “faith” in what God says is true is forever combined with God’s eternal plan to save many souls. When God designed the method for being saved, He included the necessity of expressing faith (trust) in Him and His method.
Living By Faith
The Apostle Paul moved next to the phrase – “as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.” He quoted from the Old Testament Book of Habakkuk, so we’ll look at the original context to see what we can learn about God’s righteousness in the next part of our series – Romans – The Gospel of God.