Living by Faith

“For in the righteousness of God is revealed
from faith to faith as it is written:
‘The just shall live by faith’
(Romans 1:17).

Paul begins the epistle with the assurance of “it is written” and quotes a passage from Habakkuk 2:4: “The just shall live by faith” three times (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38).

This is the text that God used to open the eyes of Martin Luther and produce the great movement of the Protestant Reformation. Luther understood that it was not through his penance, efforts, works, or merits that he would attain salvation. He, like many others, thought that God was just and worked justly by punishing the unjust, until he understood that God’s justice is God’s ability to justify the sinner, because of His mercy, “by grace” and “through faith” (Eph. 2:8).

To be just, then, means that a sinner who trusts in Jesus receives His forgiveness and experiences not only the substraction of sin but also the addition of Christ’s justice. Isaiah had already said it in chapter 53 of his book. He will carry our sins so we can have His justice (vv. 4, 5).

It was at the cross that the Lord acquired the legal right to forgive and still be just. “Let him look to the cross of Calvary, beholding there how ‘mercy and truth have met together,’ how ‘righteousness and peace have kissed each other’ (Ps. 85:10).There, through the divine sacrifice, man may be reconciled to God” (Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 171).

God does not ask us for good behavior previous to saving us; He asks us to believe and accept by faith the gift of His grace, and then for us to live in thankfulness and commitment to such an undeserved gift.

The word “justice” is used more than sixty times in the book of Romans. God’s justice is shown in the gospel, because through the death of Christ God revealed His justice by punishing sin, while in Christ’s resurrection God revealed His justice by putting salvation within reach of the sinner who believes. There are more than forty-five references to faith in the epistle, because

the only way for a sinner to become just before God is by faith.

In thisa gospel we have the justice of God in action. It is a justice that, instead of persecuting sinners to condemn them, is determined to pursue them in order to save them. The just will not live because they trust in their own works and merits, but because of their trust and faith in God.

Our prayer of thankfulness can be the same as Luther’s:
“Lord Jesus, You are my righteousness, I am Your sin.
You took on You what is mine;
yet set on me what is Yours.
You became what You were not,
that I might become what I was not.”

God bless you, let us live by faith…