The Just Live By Faith
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. 9 For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, 10 always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you in order that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine. 13 And I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented thus far) in order that I might obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "But the righteous man shall live by faith." NASB
Paul begins his letter to the church of God at Rome with a statement of his thanks for them. His gratitude for the people to whom he was writing was often expressed in his letters. The church at Rome had become famous for their faith.
He expresses his desire to come to see them in person. He longs to share with them what he calls “some spiritual gift” so that they would be established. He desires to encourage them in their faith and to be encouraged by them as well.
His life has been given to the preaching of the good news, the gospel. This gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. In this gospel message the righteousness of God is revealed. In verse 17 he makes a statement that is a foundation for what we are to believe. Paul has quoted from the prophet Habakkuk.
That prophet had questions for God. He wanted to know why God's people were going to be carried away into captivity by an unholy nation like Babylon. God answered the prophet and basically told him that the Babyonians would fall like other nations who refused to put their faith in God.
One of the most quoted lines in the book of Habakkuk is found in chapter 2 verse 4:
4 “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.” NASB
Paul has picked up on this idea and the people of God have clung to this statement down through the ages. We live by faith in God. Our righteousness is based, not on our own goodness, for which we puff ourselves up in pride, but on the faithfulness of God. The righteousness of God is a gift. The gospel message is the proclamation of that gift.
When we depend on our own goodness and think that God should accept us for what good we have within us we become proud. When we realize that in us, apart from God, there is no good thing, then we begin to throw ourselves on the mercy of God and are open to the idea that goodness comes from God.
Elsewhere, (in the letter to the Ephesian church – 2:8-10), Paul says we are saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. He says we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, that we should walk in them. Here Paul expands on this idea that the righteous shall live by faith. We walk, not in our own goodness, but are led by the Spirit of God and the Word of God. We have been created by the new birth to live out the Lordship of God.
We live by faith in God, not faith in our own goodness. Paul has come to understand that keeping the law is actually impossible without the power of God in our lives. And the gospel is the power of God. This truth that Jesus came to help us understand is that without Him we are nothing. When we leave Him out of the equation of our lives we are out of step with the way He created us to live.
Faith as Paul and Habakkuk understood it, was faith in God. Not just faith in a body of truth, but faith in the person of God. We live because He lives within us. We have life, because we are no longer depending on ourselves to be good enough to be accepted by God. Rather we have come to accept God as He is. He loves me and He is my Lord.
We were born again to begin living out these truths. God gives as a free gift the life that we need. He gives as a free gift, the love and acceptance that we need to begin believing in Him. He will lead us. He will teach us. He will gift us with the abilities He needs to use to build up the church, to help us grow into the community of God in the world.
We believe in God the Father. We believe in Christ, the Son. We believe in the Holy Spirit. God, the Three in One. He is our creator, He is our savior, He is the Presence of God in our lives to make us what He wants us to be; to be what He intended us to be when He created us.
Paul has expressed the Pastor's heart here in the beginning of His letter to this church that he hopes to visit. He thanks God for their faith that has been witnessed in the world. He desires to help them; to give them something to assist them in their walk of faith; to help them grow to maturity in their faith.
Paul loves these people who, for the most part, he has not met. He desires to instruct them and to encourage them to be strong in their faith. He desires to share with them, to be encouraged by them.
To be encouraged; to be built up in our faith; to be strengthened in our belief that God loves us and it is a good thing that He insists on being the Lord of our lives. This is the encouragement we need in the church today. This is the message the church and the world need to hear. The gospel is the good news that God loves us so much He was willing to sacrifice his Only Begotten Son, to be separated from a part of Himself, in order to show us just how much He loves us.
If you read the destruction passages of the Old Testament and do not see that God's heart is broken when He reluctantly orders the destruction of those who have rejected Him, then you have missed the point of our faith. We believe that God loves people. HE loves them so much that He insists they do what is best for everyone and put their trust in Him.
We reject Him when we feel He has no right to tell us how to live. We accept Him when we bow to His authority as Lord of our lives and begin seeking to live with Him at the center of our lives. His way is best. His way is what we need.
Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes... for in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed.”
The message of God's love and grace gives us the power, the ability to tap into what we need to be saved. That power is not some mysterious force that floats around in space. That power is God Himself. He gives Himself to us when we choose to put or faith in Him. He comes and lives within us to enable us to become what He wants us to be.
The great commandment is to love Him with all that is within us. When we trust Him, when we accept that He loves us, when we believe that what He says is good for us, we are demonstrating to ourselves and to others that the gospel message is true and that it will accomplish in us what we could not do on our own. We cannot love Him, until we accept that He loves us and gave Himself for us. We cannot love Him until we accept that He is the creator of all things, and as such, He deserves to be loved and obeyed as Lord.
The refusal to trust Him and seek Him, and follow Him and obey Him is the root of all sin. We were never intended to live without Him. The answer to all our difficulties is to surrender to Him, as the creator who loves us and is worthy of our praise and worship. He is worthy of our obedience. He is worthy of submission to Him.
The opposite of this refusal to trust Him is what faith in God is all about.
Sometimes when we pray for things, we pray amiss as James told us. We pray for our own lusts, he said. When will we believe that what He wants for us is so much better than anything we could ever want for ourselves? I was reading for my devotions from C. H. Spurgeon's Morning and Evening the other day. He reminded me that even on our best days, when we want what God wants, we have motives that lie just beneath the surface. We go to church for what we get from it, not because He is just simply worthy of our worship and praise. We go to show others how good we are . We may go for many reasons.
It is important that we go. It is important that we recognize that our motives are never just one thing or another. We are complicated beings. God sees all that. He knows us better than we know ourselves and even before we recognize the depths of our depravity, He loves me. He loves us. He loves you! He asks that you stop and surrender to Him. Give up trying to be what only He can make you. Allow Him into those places that you have worked so hard to hide, from Him, from others, and perhaps even from yourself.
Surrender to Him and truly believe that He loves you and that He has a wonderful plan for your life. He wants to be with you for all of eternity. Stop hiding behind your own idea of the best you you can be. Allow Him to come in and love you into the glorious creature He intended you to be, who lives openly and honestly before Him, your Creator, your greatest fan, your Lord. He is the only one who can save you from yourself.
The just will live by faith. We will attain the righteousness of God only when we are walking with God. Put your trust in Him. Trust God. Seek Him. He will find you.
The just live by faith.