PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS
“The righteous shall live by faith”
To understand this phrase we have to go back to where it was first used in the Book Of Habakkuk. The prophet Habakkuk was deeply distressed because the people of God where being invaded by pagans, and these pagans where triumphing over his people. This made Habakkuk very confused by asking God this question, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” Hab 1:13. So, what does Habakkuk do while he waits for God to answer his question? “I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint. And the LORD answered me: "Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” Hab 2:1-3. God answers Habakkuk….. by telling him to write this down, because it’s a revelation of “My Righteousness” and it will put to rest your fears of inaction and injustice.
But until that happens you trust in me
A good question to ask all of us is…. Do you ever feel tension because the promises of God do not show up when you want then to? Every one of us as cried out to God and said, “Where are you” But what did God say to Habakkuk that can easily be applied to our cries when God doesn’t seem to be showing up. The answer to our tension is to patiently wait. “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” Hab 2:4
R C Sproul said “The one who lives by faith is a righteous person in the sight of God. The righteous live by trust.”
That example was clearly presented when Jesus was confronted by Satan in the wilderness. “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." But he answered, "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, "'He will command his angels concerning you,' and "'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone, Satan! For it is written, "'You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'" Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.” Matt 4:1-11
See what we learn from Jesus’ encounter is “the righteous will live by faith in God alone” Anyone can claim to be a Christian, but what it means to be a Christian is to trust Him when he speaks. “It is written” there is no one more trustworthy then God….the problem lies with you and me in our unrighteousness in not trusting God. The Gospel, the pure gospel of God, is that you can trust Him for what He says. The righteous shall live by faith because you can trust Him with your life. This isn’t a onetime act of faith, but a way of life for the child of God who has been brought near to Cross of Christ.
Theologians call this living by faith “The perseverance of the saints”
What is before us is a progression of faith that trusts in God. This passage tells us the power of the gospel, is the power of God that reveals a righteousness that is by faith…. from first to last.
So What Is Faith?
The Biblical definition of faith is a “complete trust or confidence in the LORD of the universe.” For example the object of Abraham’s faith was not in God’s promises; his faith was resting in God Himself. John Calvin said it this way “We call it a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence towards us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promises in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” The greatest example of this is found in the Hebrews 11, the hall of faith. In Hebrews 11:1 we read this “Now faith is the assurance (confidence) of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” “of things hoped for” What are some things hoped for in the Christian life? Eternal fellowship and complete satisfaction resting in God. The vindication of Christ over this evil world system. The display of His power and eternal glory. The meeting that we shall have with Him one day. The final redemption of these sin-filled bodies. The judgement and removal of sin and wickedness forever. The Hebrew writer also notes “the conviction of things not seen.” See! True faith is not based on observed evidence, but on divine assurance, which is a gift from God.
This gift of righteous faith is…..
progressive and perseveres
What do I mean or what is Paul saying here in the letter to the Romans?
There Is A Faith That Saves Us…..
As Paul said “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” Rom 3:23-24
God declared Abraham righteous from first to last. “What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Rom 4:1-3
Paul said “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Rom 5:1-2
There Is A Faith That Sanctifies Us
We read, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Rom 6:6-11
Paul said this about his sanctification. “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” Rom 7:18
But he trusts in the One who is over his sanctification. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Rom 7:25
This is why we trust in God’s words for our sanctification. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Rom 8:3-4
There Is A Faith That Consecrates Us
Everything we have is from God. “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” Rom 9:16
Paul said in reference to the elect. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Rom 11:29
The consecrated life is this. “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's.” Rom 14:7-8
The joy of the full gospel life in Christ. “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.” Rom 16:25-27
Successive or uninterrupted stages of
“faith to faith”
The same faith that saved you will also sanctify you, and will also give you the ability to by the power of the Holy Spirit, all the fullness of a consecrated life.
One theologian said “God’s purpose in all His dealings with us is to make us grow into something higher. The greatest calamity that can come to a soul is to be satisfied with its present condition.”
When we do not trust God, it is because we transfer to Him our own corrupt qualities, and God does not have any corrupt qualities. So the only thing we bring to the table is heartache and pain. The just shall live by faith this is where the gospel first began as God saved you for His glory. It’s from this vantage point the riches and depths of the whole gospel of God are opened to you and me. “The just shall live faith” gives us the heart of the divine plan. This was the key that opened the door to liberate Martin Luther.
Martin Luther thought the righteousness of God was condemning righteousness. This is what drove him to despair because how can a man be righteous as God is righteous? Martin Luther…… began his academic life by studying law, though he excelled in his studies he was troubled because one day he would have to meet God and give an account. It was after this and watching his friends pass away that lead him to monastery…. not to study theology but to save his soul. Luther was determined too. An entire life to fasting and prayer. He devoted himself to menial tasks. Observed the sacrament of penance. Confessing even the most trivial sins for hours on end. Luther’s piety gained him a reputation of being the most exemplary monk.
Luther wrote to the Duke of Saxony, “I was indeed a pious monk and followed the rules of my order more strictly than I can express. If ever a monk could obtain heaven by his monkish works, I should certainly have been entitled to it. Of this all the friars who have known me can testify. If it had continued much longer I should have carried my mortification even to death, by means of watching, prayers, reading and other labors.”
Even in all of this…. Luther found no peace though his these external works. Five years after becoming a monk…… he came to the passage “The just shall live by faith.” A man not living by faith, but with fear… wrestling with this new doctrine.
“By fear” Luther lived
“By faith” the Apostle Paul said
“By fear” the scholastic fathers of Catholic Church
“By faith” the Scripture clearly states
“By fear” said those who agonized with Luther on the staircase of the church.
“By faith!” said God the Father.
This became the foundation of all his doctrine. “The righteous shall live by faith” It is divine righteousness and it becomes ours as a result of God’s free giving. Our part is merely to receive it by faith and to live by faith in God’s promises. This isn’t a onetime act of faith, but a way of life for the child of God who has been brought near to Cross of Christ. This became the battle cry of the Reformation and it’s still the battle cry of the true church today. This great doctrine is completed by God, by Himself, where He looks at Christ on the cross and declares “Cursed!” and looks at sinners and declares, “Justified!” This is what it means to be justified by faith apart from works.
We cannot overstate this truth enough,
because it is at the heart of the gospel.
Martin Luther said “If the article of justification is lost, all Christian doctrine is lost at the same time.”
Our salvation, sanctification, and consecration, are not depended on my doing, or my act of faith. Just as my Christian life isn’t about religious observances, acts of goodness, piety, self-denial and self-righteousness. The only way we can be right before a holy God is to be justified by His grace alone though faith alone. My faith is not in my ability to stay….. But in Him, who saved me, sanctified me and consecrated me for His glory.
Justification by faith alone is the test of orthodoxy.
And no mind untaught by the Holy Spirit will ever receive it.
The apostle Paul knew this all too well when he lined up his righteousness with a holy God. “though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Phil 3:4-7
The faith we have is not our own…for I have no faith in Michael Andrews. But only in the Almighty God alone, who demonstrated His love over a sinner like me, to save me, sanctify me, and concentrated me, to fullness of His Son Jesus Christ through the gospel. Faith gives all honors to Him, as the One who saves and to who alone has been fully glorified. His holiness maintained, and His righteousness vindicated though His Son Jesus Christ.
From Faith To Faith This Pilgrim’s Walk We All Must Travel. As we mature to spiritual manhood or womanhood as we continue trusting in Him. Real faith results in “obedience” the whole Christian life, is a life from start to finish. Why? Because it began with God who saved you, sanctified you, and consecrated you, to the fullness of His Son and the gospel. And in the end we receive eternal joy. As Paul said “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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 of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 8:28-39. The righteous shall live by faith…. this kind of faith to which we stand in the right before God.
This is why Luther said at the Diet of Worms when he was asked to recant his writings. “Since your most serene majesty and your high mightiness requires from me a clear, simple, and precise answer, I will give you one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the councils, because it is clear to me as the day that they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning……unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted…..and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and I will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience.”
A short pause he finished with these words “Here I stand I can do no other. May God help me. Amen” The righteous will live by faith which is completely opposite to those who are outside the gospel. The unrighteous will die by their arrogance, but the righteous will live by faith. The righteous child will sing the song of salvation not based on their righteousness, but in God. “In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: "We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in.” Isaiah 26:1-2
Genuine faith trusts the Word of God
through and through.
This is how the righteous would live by faith, in contrast to self-righteous that trust only in themselves. The righteous will preserve their faith in God; as many today trust their own self-righteousness and in the Law. Faith is the key that we as God’s children need to understand as we witness times of unrest and uncertainties; as we live in this present world system. Faith requires commitment of the heart, mind, and soul, through the gospel confession in Christ alone. This commitment carries on throughout life until God is done with each and every one of us.
This simple statement “the righteous shall live by faith” Has been the underlining theme all the way through some 600 years later into the New Testament. We see it first in Rom 1:17 “the just shall live by faith.” We see it again in Gal 3:11 “the just shall live by faith.” We see it a third time in Heb 10:38 “the just shall live by faith.” The life of faith mentioned in this verse has one of two distinct paths set before us. One is the way of faith the other is the way of un-faith or unbelief.
A story of a 3 year old boy named Todd, went to fly his kite one day. Never having flown a kite before Todd, obviously had doubt about the kite ability to fly at all. But his father was with him and assured his son that at all is well and the kite will fly as planned. As Todd unraveled the string and watched the kite go up in the air, his father heard his son say to himself “I knew it would fly daddy, you said it would.” A simple statement that has profound implications! Just as this powerful statement that is before us in (v17). Something as simple as trusting your dad about the ability of a kite to fly is the same principle we learn from this letter. As we trust in the One who saves, sanctifies, and consecrated us, to the fullness of the gospel.
As the simple hymn song goes “Trust and obey for there is no other way too happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
It’s the understanding that we trust in God, because He knows what He is doing. Even when we don’t! The righteous will live by faith regardless of the circumstances. The gospel vindicates God’s name today, as God heralded His righteousness to Habakkuk. But God did not execute His justice over Babylon, until after Habakkuk died, and the same could be said for you and me. The righteous trust in God despite what we face today and tomorrow.
Dear loved ones! How is your faith holding up this morning? Are you waiting and watching or are you running and screaming? Is it filled with unbelief and fear? Or Is it filled with an inexpressible joy that is firmly planted in Him as you wait out the storms in your life to pass?
Remember! The greatest calamity that can come to a soul is to be satisfied with its present condition. What is our present condition? He has saved you…..sanctified you….consecrated you to the fullness of the Gospel. We rest here because that’s what it means...
“the righteous shall live by faith”