as it written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Along with Romans 1:17, Paul mentions this Habakukan passage in Galatians, along with the author of Hebrews.
Galatians 3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Hebrews 10:38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him."
Habakkuk 2:4 “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.
A good rule of thumb in determining Biblical doctrine is this: if mentioned once, it is usually not considered primary, Biblical, orthodox right theology and doctrine. Consider the doctrine of sects and cults such as:
- Mormons - among other things, baptism for the dead, according to 1 Corinthians 15:29
- Jehovah’s Witnesses - Christ is not God according to John 3:16 God’s only begotten Son
- sects such as Disciples of Christ and Churches of Christ - Baptism regeneration according to John 3:5
Sects and cults out of Christianity all have this one thing in common: take a standalone verse (the antithesis of Sola scriptura), and proceed to make a primary doctrine out of that one verse.
The difference between those sects and cults versus orthodox Christianity is the orthodox Christianity’s primary doctrines are based through explicit, clear, often repeated teachings throughout the Bible. Some of these you might recognize is that the Lord God is One, God is Triune, Father is God, Christ is God, and Spirit is God. You might remember these primary teachings because they are often repeated in creeds repeated in liturgical worship services throughout the world.
I say all of that to say this: I find it most fascinating is that it took a decline of virtue and theology within the Christian church until the 1500s for this bold, orthodox, precise teaching of “The righteous shall live by faith” to make an impact and shake the core of the church. But that was all the will of God.
When a certain German monk named Martin Luther penned his commentary on Romans and came across this particular passage, this statement changed him. God opened the eyes of his heart, and for the first time, Luther was able to see, know, and feel the love of God for his life.
I think when we understand what it is for the righteous to live by faith, we too would have this Spirit-filled eye-opening experience. When God wills it to be so for you to know and live in his love, your life is never the same.
And the best way I can describe it is this quote which I pray daily:
“On Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world. It will become to me like something dead and putrid, impossible for me to enjoy."
John Owen. The Glory of Christ.
Even more than that:
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
What is faith?
It is the gift of God in salvation, given in God’s grace and mercy, to believe in, live to, and love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
But what is it to believe? If you believe something, you live according to that belief. If you believe God, you will live according to His words.
It is that plain. It is that simple.
Yet, from Genesis 3 until Christ returns, mankind will always battle against the simplicity of God and his gospel. We see it in Scripture, and we see it in our times. The gospel for believers is the removal of our sins and the bestowed the righteousness of God upon believers.
We want to make it complicated. I believe it starts with one particular sin that we don’t want to give up and repent. From our pride and hubris, we start making the word and gospel of God overly complicated. An oft example in my own time is the sin of porneia, that is, anything and all things pertain to sex outside of the grace of God in which He intended for our pleasure and worship to Him. We don’t want readily repent, so we go to the word and see, “Did God say it was forbidden?” (Genesis 3:1b). Then we claim that no one can say that any literature, especially the Bible, can “clearly say,” especially if we are the interpreters of what we are reading. Therefore, from this illogical process, porneia is not explicitly forbidden by God.
What did we just do there? We have traveled back 2000 years, climbed the bloody, piss-soaked, feces-covered cross of Christ, and attempt removed our sins of porneia from Him. Yes, I know that sounds ludicrous and asinine, but that is what the sons of Adam have always done.
In our sin, we make the gospel complex.
In God, the gospel is simple:
For here is love: Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
And here is love: Deuteronomy 7:6-8 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
And here is love: Psalm 103:15-18 As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
And here is love: Lamentations 3:22–23 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
And here is love: Ezekiel 36:22-28 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
And here is love: Matthew 1:21 She shall bare a son and you shall call his name Jesus for He will save His people from their sins
And here is love: John 1:16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
And here is love: John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
And here is love: Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
And here is love: 2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake, He made Him to be sin who knew no sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
And here is love: Romans 9:25-26 … Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.'
And here is love: Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
And here is love: Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
And here is love: Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And, 1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
We do not have to remove one of our sins in order to live because the wages of our sin is our death! But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord because He alone is the way, truth, and the life. No one lives if Christ does not save.