Romans – The Gospel of God (Part 42)

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 Apostle Paul told the Romans that “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.”  The meaning of “faith” in the Greek is a confidence based on trust in truth based on evidence. The “righteousness” of God is something He does based on the fact that He is “righteous.” 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 – a “faith journey.”

We now move to the last thought in Paul’s thematic statement – an idea that was centuries old even when the apostle wrote to the Romans 2,000 years ago.

Living By Faith

“as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.”

Paul quoted from the Old Testament Book of Habakkuk, most likely written toward the end of the 7th century BC. Habakkuk was a prophet from Judah who began his Writing by asking God two questions. It was after the second question that we find the context for Paul’s usage of Habakkuk.

Habakkuk’s first question –

“The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw. O Lord, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ And You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, And cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.” Habakkuk 1:1-4

God’s reply –

“Look among the nations and watch—Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days Which you would not believe, though it were told you. For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation Which marches through the breadth of the earth, To possess dwelling places that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful; Their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves. Their horses also are swifter than leopards, And more fierce than evening wolves. Their chargers charge ahead; Their cavalry comes from afar; They fly as the eagle that hastens to eat. ‘They all come for violence; Their faces are set like the east wind. They gather captives like sand. They scoff at kings, And princes are scorned by them. They deride every stronghold, For they heap up earthen mounds and seize it. Then his mind changes, and he transgresses; He commits offense, Ascribing this power to his god.” Habakkuk 1:5-11

Habakkuk’s second question –

“Are You not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction. You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, And hold Your tongue when the wicked devours A person more righteous than he? Why do You make men like fish of the sea, Like creeping things that have no ruler over them? They take up all of them with a hook, They catch them in their net, And gather them in their dragnet. Therefore they rejoice and are glad. Therefore they sacrifice to their net, And burn incense to their dragnet; Because by them their share is sumptuous And their food plentiful. Shall they therefore empty their net, And continue to slay nations without pity? I will stand my watch And set myself on the rampart, And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected.” Habukkuk 1:12 – 2:1

God’s reply –

Then the Lord answered me and said: ‘Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry. ‘Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:2-4

Habakkuk asked God questions about a challenge that has concerned many through the centuries – why does God allow the wicked to devour the righteous? God’s answer was clear that He had a plan and the future for the wicked would not be pleasant. God is Supreme, Sovereign and Perfect and uses the wicked for His purposes. No one is in a position to seriously challenge God –

But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Habakkuk 2:20

Habakkuk also introduced an aspect of God’s character that was important for Jews to understand at the end of the 7th century BC. It was also true for Jews and Gentiles to understand when Paul wrote the Romans …  God is pure and righteous –

You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness.”

Habakkuk shares more about God’s righteousness in the “woes” God spoke against the wicked –

  • “Woe to him who covets evil gain for his house …”
  • Woe to him who builds a town with bloodshed, Who establishes a city by iniquity!”
  • Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, Pressing him to your bottle, Even to make him drunk, That you may look on his nakedness!”
  • Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Awake!’ To silent stone, ‘Arise! It shall teach!’ Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, Yet in it there is no breath at all.

Even though the Book of Habakkuk was written to an ancient people, the words are amazingly modern. The prophet’s prayer to God also has a modern sound to it in light of what we face in our world today –

O Lord, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.” Habakkuk 3:2

The prophet Habakkuk ended his writing with a statement of strong faith (trust) in God no matter what happened –

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls—Yet I will rejoice in the LordI will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

That is the context from which the Apostle Paul drew the phrase – “the just shall live by faith.” It is a context God’s people have faced for thousands of years and still face today. Being a Christian in the Roman Empire was both difficult and dangerous. The wicked seemed to have the upper hand in the 1st century AD, not unlike the upper hand of the wicked in Habakkuk’s time. What did God tell Habakkuk?

“Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry. ‘Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.”

What did Paul tell the Christians in Rome?

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.”

The answer now, as then, is the same – “The just shall live by faith.”

v’tzaddik be’emunato yich”yeh

The Hebrew literal is “the righteous, by his faithfulness – shall live.”

ο δε δικαιος εκ πιστεως ζησεται

The Greek literal is “Now the just man by faith will live.” Paul repeats it in Galatians 3 –

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’ But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith.’ Yet the law is not of faith, but ‘the man who does them shall live by them.” Galatians 3:10-12

It is repeated again in Hebrews 10 –

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: ‘For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” Hebrews 10:35-38

The Faith System

God established from eternity that His relationship with humans would be based on a “faith system.” That’s where the Creator speaks Truth to the created and the created respond in faith believing the Creator. We have already seen in our series that the human relationship with God broke down because of a lack of faith in what God had said –

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” Genesis 3:1-7

Humanity has an enemy who continually challenges its thinking about the Truth the Creator has spoken. The Bible is a story of what the Creator has said and done, how the enemy attacks God’s Truth, and how God gives success to His creatures who live by faith.

Paul is about to make a powerful case in Romans that the “just shall live by faith.” He will explain it in the context of God’s righteousness and mankind’s unrighteousness. It is the story of humanity in relation to its Creator.

As we continue our study in Romans – The Gospel of God, keep in mind the theme Paul has given us in these words –

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.”

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.GraceLife

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