The Just Shall Live By His Faith
…the just shall live by his faith. Hab. 2:4
This word from Habakkuk is the root verse from which Paul derives his exhortation to us in Romans and Galatians, “the just shall live by faith.” Paul’s remake of the statement is what we are most familiar with. But Habakkuk’s more personal version gives special critical meaning to what it means to live by faith.
Habakkuk tells us that the just lives by his faith. His is an important word. It shows us what is really meant by the word faith. Faith is not believing in a creed. It is not believing in a set of doctrines. Nor is faith the believing in someone else’s teachings or exemplary life of faith.
Rather, faith is a present possession of the individual. Faith is that which dwells within the heart of the individual believer. Faith reflects one’s own encounter with the Living God and His Spirit. Such encounter becomes one’s own final reference point for action. Faith is not about what one believes about someone else or something outside himself.
Why is this important? It is extremely important because justification for one’s life course before God can only be had at the personal level, and not otherwise. A generalized impersonal faith in a creed or set of doctrines or in what someone else believes does not justify one before God. And yet, the vast majority of people regard faith in such terms:
· “I believe what the Bible says about Christ’s death and resurrection, therefore I am justified.”
· “I believe John 3:16, therefore I am justified.”
· “I believe the Nicene Creed, therefore I am justified.”
· “I believe what Charles Stanley has to say about faith in Christ, therefore I am justified.”
· “I believe in the Christian faith, therefore I am justified.”
All these statements have come to characterize men’s idea of the faith that justifies based in the more impersonal word “the just shall live by faith.” Yet there is no justification in any of these statements!
Justification is not by “the” faith. It is not by anything about “the faith.” Justification is only by “his faith.” It is only by one’s own faith.
What applies to salvation by (his) faith also applies to living by (his) faith. Living by faith is not “living by the scriptures.” That may come as a shock and open me to a charge of heresy. But it is true.
Living by faith is not about obeying what the scriptures have to say on a matter, nor by what anyone else has to say on a matter. Living by faith that justifies—which means living by one’s own faith—means living by one’s own personal encounter with the indwelling Lord Jesus Christ by His Spirit. It is not following what is written in The Book, other than to the degree that our Indwelling Lord is presently speaking through the words of The Book to us.
The faith is not “in” The Book” or the words of “The Book.” It is not in the legal veracity of the words of “The Book” (“I believe these words are true and that they are God’s word”). No. The faith is in Christ alone by His internally present Spirit. If we do not possess our own personal faith in Christ within us, we are not justified.
Finally, the importance of justification by one’s faith applies to the daily out-living of our faith. As we grow through life, we are challenged within by the Spirit to take certain courses of action. This is our faith in what “the Spirit is saying to the churches”—that is, to us. And as we take such courses, they may or may not line up with what others are doing or think we ought to be doing.
The testing of our faith and of our justification comes when we dare to step out in obedience to the Voice of the Spirit when no one else is doing what we are being told to do, there is no precedent for what we are being told to do, no one outside us can affirm what we are being told to do, and others around us are actually opposing what we are being told to do. This is what Habakkuk means by “his” faith. It is your faith, not somebody else’s, not the church’s. This is the faith of our Father Abraham, and of every other forefather of faith that was worth his salt.
We are talking then about the difference between “faith” and “his faith.” Much of what we believe justifies us “by faith” is nothing more than a mutually agreed herd mentality regarding certain truths. We all believe in these certain things agreed to be truth, call it “the faith” and therefore think ourselves justified. But true faith can never be lived out in conformity to a herd! There is no justification in following a common faith defined by corporate agreement.
This is the importance of Habakkuk’s originating word, the just shall live by his faith.
May we all be encouraged to hold onto whatever “our” faith is for this day, that we may be justified before God in the end of time over all we have done.
Be blessed, saints.
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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