The righteous will live by faith, the power of the Gospel, Romans 1.17
The righteous will live by faith / through faith (Habakkuk 2.4 – Romans 1.17, Galatians 3.11, Hebrews 10:38).
This short phrase from the Old Testament appears three times in the New Testament. It’s a perfect concentrate of all the teaching of the Word of God and especially of the Gospel preached by Paul.
A concentrate teaching of the Word of God
It is a real leitmotiv throughout the Bible. Allow us to meditate on its fundamental importance, within the preaching of Paul and throughout the New Testament.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.” Romans 1.16-17
The Gospel, an efficient power
Power, an ambition?
Power, being powerful, is indeed the key dream, the ultimate ambition of the many individuals, everybody on his level; however generally they pursue it most smartly.
For the Jew
For a Jewish Pharisee, power was incarnated in a Messiah sent by God. He would re-establish with glory and clamor the traditional kingdom of David, over the nations of the planet. So he was giving the Jews the position of being the favorites of their God.
For the Roman
A Roman conceived power underneath the figure of a military leader. He was distinguished by his several victories and admired for his art of governing the country with wisdom and authority.
For the Greek
A Greek rather placed this ideal of power on the ground of the spirit. A philosopher familiar with all secular wisdom, was proposing a system of original and clearly superior thought.
For the Apostle Paul: Power is the Gospel
And before these three imposing models of spiritual, political and intellectual power, here is our very little Paul (this is the meaning of his name. Paulus: parvulus = very little sweeps all this aside as futile and unreal. And he replaces it boldly and pride by his Gospel!
1. The Gospel, neither a non secular system nor an inaccessible ideal
Yes, the Gospel is a way over a non secular system, two thousand years previous, to that some belated Christians are still clinging. Nor is it just an admirable text, however thought of too ideal to possess a sensible impact on a man’s life.
A deposit of divine power
No, the Gospel is something quite completely different. It’s a hidden deposit at the heart of human history, at the center of God’s Creation. An unknown deposit of divine power, although it’s virtually unheeded. It is not a new technique, a replacement catechism, made up by a person and therefore dissatisfactory in the end.
A divine dynamic
The Gospel may be a divine dynamic, elaborated by the three persons of the creating Trinity. They so take back their creature so as to form everything new in its existence. This dynamic attacks at its root the fundamental problem of humanity: the presence of evil within the heart of man.
Liberation, eternal life, a new people connected to God
And the result’s threefold.
1. The Gospel frees man from his greatest misfortune, his eternal perdition.
2. It brings him a magnificent blessing, eternal life in communion together with his Creator
3. It gives birth to a people of a new kind, a people connected to God not on a social, material or national criterion, however by trust and love that constitute the glory of God.
4. We must still add a fourth impact. It provides the Christian a vision and weapons to work in humanity to the glory of God.
A message that inspires pride
How will we tend to not be happy with such a message? It puts within the shade the other on the sensible level of the advantages that it’ll and might unfold on humanity?
In spite of our weaknesses we are able to conjointly testify to the present message while not being shamefaced. Is there another safer, additional reliable message within the world?
Guaranteed by the life of the Son of God
For the Gospel, God has provided the foremost inconceivable guarantee of reliableness. He has engaged the life of his own Son! Given this enormous guarantee, humanity should long ago have rushed into the churches and we should have had the greatest difficulty to find somewhere some lost person.
A nevertheless neglected message
Now innumerable are those who say they do not need God and that they even feel themselves at least as well in this or that religion.
And in the face of this formidable reliability, the multiplicity of religions are so many insults thrown at God. They say to him in a way: “Look, the sacrifice of Jesus was not necessary. There are many other ways, beautiful too and less costly! “
2. Is this a brand new teaching?
In a sense, yes. Paul says that this is the revelation of the righteousness of God. It is God who uses Paul to bring back in full light a plan of salvation that has been formed and communicated for a protracted time, however mostly forgotten.
A message already proclaimed in the 7th century B.C.
When Habakkuk proclaimed this message at the end of the 7th century BC, he had already had to free it from the idolatrous mud which had disguised it during the centuries of abandonment of the Word of God.
He then restored its strength, as did Paul once he wrote to the Romans and restore to the middle the thought of God, free of the veils of Jewish traditions.
In the seventh century, before the Babylonian threat, Habakkuk had reminded the folks that the answer wasn’t human devices and schemes. If a righteous man wanted to survive this blocked state of affairs, it absolutely was by sincere trust in God alone. The righteous will live by faith, i.e. demonstrating that he hopes for salvation only from God.
Salvation, a red thread through the Bible
But this terribly statement of Habakkuk within the 7th century shows that the Gospel preached by Paul in the same sense isn’t an innovation.
Salvation by faith alone could be a red thread that runs through the complete Bible. It solely thickens and becomes a lot of precise as you progress forward.
In Romans 4 Paul recalls this principle. He clearly characterizes the origin of the Jewish people, i.e. the conclusion of the covenant by God with Abraham.
And to the Galatian Christians, Paul recalls that solely the death of Jesus on the cross pays the debt for our sins in our place. It’s therefore our confidence in the death of Christ in our place that ensures for us the liberation of our debt and a new life in Christ (Galatians 2:16).
The Jewish mistake about works
The Jewish error about works can be understood in two connected ways:
• Either salvation is obtained by doing certain ethical acts demanded by the Law,
• Or one should use caution to respect dependably the ritual characteristics of the covenant of the Law: circumcision, the sabbath, the rules of the pure / impure …
Justification by grace
As the Reformers will rediscover it 15 centuries after Paul, the sinner is justified by grace alone, in response to faith alone, on the only basis of the righteousness of Christ.
15 centuries of religious dust had masked and disfigured the Gospel into a theory of salvation in step with human conceptions,. Il’s a way that man will notice in himself, in nature or in some ancient religion.
The gospel preached by Paul doesn’t come from man, it is a revelation from God. It’s salvation in steps with God’s standards. Or as Luther says, it is justice that’s price (that has value) before God.
This way of salvation isn’t an choice among several others, it’s the sole possible one. If there were others, why would God the Father have accepted that his Son ought to die on a cross?
3. How will this power work?
Or to formulate the question differently:
How can the Gospel change the heart, how can we understand this righteousness of God?
A verse terribly simple to understand is Romans 1.18. But it is terrific. God is right, that’s for sure, but I have no solution, no answer in myself.
Martin Luther struggled during this dramatic blockade for 7 years in his convent.
Then, whereas making ready a course of theology, he had an enlightenment.
The justice of v. 17, determinant for salvation, it is not the penal justice that God inflicts on the sinner and which the sinner can never satisfy.
It is the righteousness of the law that Jesus perfectly accomplished and that God freely offers to the sinner who believes that by welcoming him, God offers him grace. In other words, the sinner doesn’t ought to urgently look for what he might supply God in payment for his sins.
On the contrary, it is a matter of seizing confidently, as a vital buoy, a garment that covers him. God offers him this covering at no cost out of love. It’s the payment that Jesus offers him to satisfy in his place divine justice and holiness: Romans 3.21-25.
This is what liberated Luther, which triggered the formidable movement of the Reformation. The lost sinner can become righteous before God by accepting with confidence the righteousness of Jesus, with no different counterpart on his part than faith.
He can therefore be sure of his salvation. It doesn’t depend upon something he does, which comes from him, but from the faithfulness of God to keep his promises. It is therefore a matter of putting his trust in this fidelity. The certainty, the guarantee of being saved isn’t baseded in man, but in God.
The power of God that frees
When one enters this magnificent reality, one measures that it’s so a power. It’s not simply a pleasant plan, an unrealizable wish. It is the operating and re-creating power of God. For it’s capable of liberating the foremost stranded life, of curing the most perverted situations, of restoring the joy of living to those who see nothing however death. It is a real re-creation of that solely the Creator is capable, a regeneration accessible to anyone who believes in it. It is free, since solely faith is demanded. And faith itself is aroused, given by the Gospel that proclaims this grace. Therefore the start line of this new creation is faith. It’s concretized, it propers and develops throughout life, continously by faith: by faith and for faith.
To believe and to live one’s faith
In our context to believe isn’t solely to agree that one thing is true, reliable, effective. It’s conjointly creating area for what’s recognized as true. It’s rejecting all prejudices, misconceptions, even though accepted by the bulk of our fellow men. Before building, it’s necessary to clean the positioning for the new house. For this also the Gospel is indispensable: Romans 12: 2; Hebrews 5.14. And in the daily life of the Christian, there is what God does and I who receive it in confidence:
Starting point: death of Jesus on the cross — confidence in this substitution;
Acquisition: free gift of God — repentance and trust
Permanence: God’s fidelity to His Word — confident attachment to God.