“The just shall live by faith”Romans 1:17
The “just” or “justified” are those who have been tried and found to be without guilt. Paul writing to the Romans, quoting from the book of Habakkuk, is speaking of people who have nothing to answer having been found to be righteous before God. Paul goes on to explain how this is possible and that makes this an important letter.
Since everyone sins and falls short of God’s righteous standard (3:23) how can a person attain His righteous standard both in being and behaviour? Fortunately Paul leaves us in no doubt for he goes on to write, “being justified freely by His grace (i.e. a gift) through redemption (i.e. purchased) that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation (turning away of God’s wrath) by His blood through faith” (Romans 3:24). This verse, in its context, explains how a person who is guilty before God may be declared justified or righteous. A key example is given in the next chapter. Quoting from Genesis 15:6 Paul writes, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” So we see that being one who is justified is one who has received atonement through Jesus Christ’s shed blood. It is a gift in response to believing God’s Word.
“The just shall live by faith” tells us that those who have been justified by faith will continue to live by faith. That is, we will continue to believe what God has said and live in the light of His word. It means our thoughts, words and behaviour will change to match the revelation of God in Christ. This is only possible when Christ is alive in us. This is not possible for one who has not received justification through Jesus Christ. Not living by faith may be an indication that a person has never exercised faith in Christ and thereby received the gift of God’s kind of righteousness. Seeking one’s own righteousness to gain God’s favour is a futile exercise because it denies Christ’s sacrifice in our place. We can only live by faith in this moment. Yesterday has gone and tomorrow is not guaranteed. James warns us not to boast of tomorrow because we “do not know what will happen tomorrow” (James 4:14). Living by faith is what we do now, at this very moment, not later. Also, we can only live by faith in this life. When we leave this earthly life we will see Him face to face and will no longer live by faith. Let us make the most of the opportunity.