“Living by faith, in Jesus above, Trusting, confiding in His great love; From all harm safe in His sheltering arms, I’m living by faith and feel no alarm.” (Song: Living By Faith, James Wells).
The Bible says, “the just (righteous ASV/NASB) shall live by faith.” This is explicitly stated four times (Habakkuk 2:4; Galatians 3:11; Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:38-39). While it is explicitly stated only four times, the principle is implicitly found throughout the pages of the Bible, from beginning to end. God’s expectations of man have always been consistent. The specifics that He requires of man may change (Noah, build an ark; Abraham, go to a land that I will show you; Moses and children of Israel, keep the Passover; Joshua and children of Israel, encompass the walls of Jericho; Repent and be baptized, etc.). However, the just have always lived by faith. Truly, in this sense God’s plan of salvation has never changed.
This is the first time the words actually appear in the Bible. The emphasis is upon humility. “Behold the proud. His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4 NKJV). Pride and living by faith are set in contrast. Let’s remember, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (Proverbs 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5-6). “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Arrogance and self-righteousness does not impress Him (Luke 18:9-14).
The greater context concerns the Chaldeans afflicting Judah (Habakkuk 1). God was using the Chaldeans to punish and humble Judah. God would then punish the prideful, sinful Chaldeans (Habakkuk 2). They (Israel) needed to trust Him, “the just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4). The prophet then eloquently affirms his trust saying, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the field shall yield no meat. The flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength…(Habakkuk 3:17-19).
I care not today what the morrow may bring if shaded or sunshine or rain, The Lord I know ruleth over everything, And all of my worry is vain.” (Song: Living By Faith, James Wells).
In this context, the thing emphasized is the need for dependence on, and trust in God. “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for the just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, the man that doeth them shall live in them” (Galatians 3:10-12).
Violations of a legal system places one under a curse. Laws do not justify. Laws condemn lawbreakers. Violate human law, such as state traffic laws or city building codes, and you can be judged and condemned. Violation of Mosaic Law brought one under the curse of the law (Galatians 3:10, cf. Deuteronomy 27:26). Law, itself, does not make the violator just.
The only possible way one could truly stand just under a purely legal system would be to perfect keep the law, with not even one transgression (Galatians 3:12). Such a one would not have to depend upon God for a state of justness. So much for that! (Romans 3:10, 23).
The just are those who live by faith (Galatians 3:11). They depend upon God (Galatians 3:22).
Please, don’t misunderstand. We, today are under a legal system (Galatians 6:2; Romans 8:2, 7; Hebrews 10:16; James 1:25; 2:8). If there be no law, then there could be no sin (Romans 4:15; 5:13, cf. 1 John 1:8). If there be no law, then there could be no sin (Romans 4:15; 5:13 cf. 1 John 3:4). However, we are not under a purely legal system. The just live by faith. Their goodness and morality alone is not sufficient. The depend upon and trust in God for justification. Paul wrote “if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:21). Those who walk by faith accept both their need for grace and God’s conditions for it. “For ye are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ lave put on Christ “[(Galatians 3:26-27). Note: The definite article appears before the term ‘faith’. It is speaking of the objective standard of faith which of course we must accept ].
The emphasis in this passage is upon accepting God’s plan for man’s righteousness. “For I am not ashamed (cf. 2 Timothy 1:8, 12, 16) of the gospel of Christ [The gospel includes: facts concerning Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), a message to be preached (Mark 16:15; Romans 1:15), and a doctrine to be believed and obeyed (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8; 1 Peter 4:17; Romans 6:16-17, cf. 6:3-5; Mark 16:15-16)] for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone (Jew and Gentile, male and female, bond and free) that believeth (obedient belief, not mere mental assent. See, Romans 1:5; 6:16-17, cf. 6:3-5; Matthew 7:21; Hebrews 5:8-9) to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Luke 24:47; Acts. 3:26; 13:46; 18:5-6; Romans 1:16; 2:9-11). For therein (in the Gospel cf. Romans 1:16) is the righteousness of God revealed (not God’s own personal righteousness, but God’s plan for man’s righteousness (cf. Romans 10:3-4; 4:1-7) from faith to faith [lit. “out of faith into faith” (a variety of meanings have been suggested by commentators, some possible others not: (1) faith of the preacher to faith of the hearer; (2) acquire faith of hearer to responsive faith of hearer; (3) receiving faith of hearer to increasing and maturing faith. (4) Old Testament and New Testament (objective systems of faith) which revealed the personal righteousness of God; (5) Old Testament and New Testament each teaching that man can stand righteous before God by faith; (6) faith only – this interpretation is blatantly false; (7) faith first to last, meaning that man’s part begins and ends in faith. It is summed up in faith – not mere mental assent, but a trustful walk through life following God; (8) objective system of faith (the Gospel) to subjective or personal faith; (9) the personal faith of Jesus which produces and motivates a faith in us, cf. Romans 3:22)]: as it is written, the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17).
Look at it again: “therein (in the Gospel) is the righteousness of God revealed… the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). God’s way for man’s righteousness is revealed in the Gospel. The just live by faith, that is they accept and follow God’s plan for righteousness. Absolute sinlessness and flawlessness is not required to be counted just. What is required is that one has faith in Him, and lives his life accordingly. The just one accepts and follows God’s plan for man’s righteousness.
In this context, patience (endurance) is being emphasized. Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward (reward: Hebrews 10:35 cf. 11:16, 11:26). For ye have need of patience (patience: Hebrews 10:36, cf. 12:1; 6:12-18) that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise (promise: Hebrews 10:36, cf. 4:1; 6:12-18; 11:9-10; 11:29-40; Tit. 1:2)… Now the just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back, my soul hath no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:35-39).
There are many trials and difficulties in the life of a Christian. However, the just live by faith. They just don’t give up, or “throw in the towel” when it comes to seeking to follow God. “Let us not grow weary in well-doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). “Be ye steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye knew that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Don’t give up; Heaven will surely be worth it all!