Living by Faith
Habakkuk 2:4 presents two different ways of living in strong contrast. The way of the wicked is unbelief and defiant disobeying of God’s revelation. The other is the faith in God and obedience to His Word. One is submissive to God, and the other is arrogant unbelief. One says, “I don’t need God. I can take care of myself.” The other says, “But the righteous will live by his faith.”
The prophet wrote: “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).
The “proud one” is puffed up, swollen with pride. The Hebrew expression is figurative of pride and arrogant self-sufficiency.
This is the strong contrast the prophet is drawing out in this chapter. The wicked is puffed up and has no desire to do what is right in God’s sight. “He is greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied” (v. 5, NIV). Sheol or death is compared to a voracious appetite that can never be satisfied.
The other choice is living by faith in the one who keeps us, not only from the moment we first trust in Him as our Savior, but in every moment of every day of our lives. “But the righteous will live by faith.”
This verse in Habakkuk asks some important questions for Christians today. Who is this righteous person? How did he become right in God’s sight? What is the function of faith in the righteous person’s life? How do you live before a holy God?
Habakkuk emphasizes, as does the rest of the Bible, that we are not righteous. We are unrighteous. We are sinners. We cannot earn a righteous standing before God because we are dead in our sins and trespasses. We cannot earn a right relationship with God through good religious works, prayers, charity, fasting, etc. “But the just shall live by faith.”
Since no one can attain perfect goodness, how then can we stand right before God and be acceptable to Him?
The just person, or person right in the eyes of God, has ceased in his own efforts to attain this right standing before God. He has turned to Jesus Christ instead for the righteousness that God freely gives. It is God’s gift to the believing sinner in Jesus Christ. A Christian is a person who is trusting in Jesus Christ alone for a right standing with God. He or she is not someone trying to earn salvation by good works, but instead has received what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. The very foundation of our Christian life is not what we can do for God, but what He had done for us in Jesus Christ. Our entrance into the Christian life is not by working but by a spiritual birth. We receive God’s gift by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. “The righteous person will live by faith” (Rom. 1:16-17).
What is saving faith? It is believing God and acting upon that belief. Faith expresses itself in obedience. It is faith in action. It is not just a mental assent; it is trusting the Lord Jesus Christ as the person who died in our place and turning from unbelief and following Him. It is a commitment that begins in simple faith and continues through out your life.
The apostle Paul stressed in his letter to the Galatian church that we are not saved by faith and then proceed to live by a different principle. He admonished, “The righteous will live [continually] by his faith (Gal. 3:11-12). This is the daily life of the Christian and all the days of his life on the earth. “The righteous shall live by faith.” The only way to live the Christian life is to “live by faith.”
Martin Luther put this great truth in his own words. “Before those words broke upon my mind, I hated God and was angry with Him because, not content with frightening us sinners by the law and by the miseries of life, He still further increased our torture by the gospel. But then, by the Spirit of God, I understand those words – ‘The just shall live by faith!’ ‘The just shall live by faith!’ Then I felt born again like a new man; I entered through the open doors into the very Paradise of God.”
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Wil is a graduate of William Carey University, B. A.; New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Th. M.; and Azusa Pacific University, M. A. He has pastored in Panama, Ecuador and the U. S, and served for over 20 years as missionary in Ecuador and Honduras. He had a daily expository Bible teaching ministry head in over 100 countries from 1972-2005. He continues to seek opportunities to be personally involved in world missions. Wil and his wife Ann have three grown daughters. He currently serves as a Baptist pastor and teaches seminary extension courses in Ecuador.
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