The Just Shall Live

“The just shall live by his faith.” —Habakkuk 2:4

FAITH IS THE ability to believe as true that which cannot be demonstrated to the physical senses. Faith in the existence of God is a good example of this ability. We cannot see God nor hear his voice. We cannot touch him. Nevertheless, when we think of the vast universe around us, our reason tells us that there must be a supreme Intelligent Creator. We accept the testimony of our reason and believe that God exists.

This is faith in its simplest form. But true Christian faith goes beyond this. We not only believe that God exists, but we have faith in God, in his integrity, his justice. his love, his wisdom, his power. And we have faith in the rightness of the divine plan as it pertains to ourselves individually and to his people collectively. We also have faith in the divine plan for the world in general. This is the minimum of faith which one must possess in order to approach God and receive blessings from him. Paul wrote, “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”—Heb. 11:6

We do not need to exercise faith in the existence of our next door neighbor, because we can see him. But if we are to enjoy a friendly relationship with our neighbor we must have faith in him, and he in us. We would have to know that he is truthful, honest, upright, and dependable; and he would have to be assured of the same concerning us. So if we are to enjoy a friendly relationship with the great God of the universe we must believe not only that “he is,” but also that we can depend upon him to fulfill all his gracious promises. Or as Paul stated it, that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Adam was created in the image of God, and was physically and mentally perfect. Despite this, when temptation was presented to him he disobeyed God’s command. Adam knew that Eve had sinned and would doubtless die. He probably felt that he could not live without her. However, if he had exercised full faith in his Creator, he would have known that in some manner this tragedy would be overruled for his good, and he would have remained obedient. Thus, while various adverse influences were at work, basically it was Adam’s lack of faith that led him into sin.

Since Adam became a sinner, his children were born in sin, with resultant condemnation to death passing on to his entire progeny. Because of this the Bible tells us that there is none righteous, no not one, that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. However, among the fallen race there have been some who exercised faith in God despite their physical and mental imperfections. To some of these God has spoken and invited their cooperation. This has given them an opportunity to demonstrate their faith.

Abraham was one of these. The first record of this is found in Genesis 12:1-3. Abraham was asked by God to leave his own people and to go into a land that he would show him. Paul observes that when Abraham received this call he “obeyed, and went out not knowing whither he went.” (Heb. 11:8) A wonderful promise was associated with this call, the promise that through Abraham’s seed all the families of the earth would be blessed. Abraham believed this promise, and he demonstrated his belief his faith by his obedience.

And Abraham was richly rewarded for his faith. We read in Genesis 15:6, “He believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” Paul quotes this in Romans 4:3, and in the 22nd verse adds, “It was imputed to him for righteousness.” Clearly, it was because of Abraham’s faith that righteousness was reckoned, or imputed to him. Abraham, like all other members of the fallen and condemned race, was imperfect. It was impossible for him to live up to the divine standard of righteousness, yet he had strong faith in God and in the promises of God. His faith was so strong that had he been in the Garden of Eden and faced with the same test that came upon Adam, it is doubtful if he would have disobeyed God. So now God was willing to, and did, “count” or consider Abraham’s faith as an evidence of his integrity. He knew that Abraham would serve him perfectly if he could.

Because of Abraham’s faith, God accepted him as a friend. Here was a genuine basis for friendship. Abraham believed God, and because he did, God had confidence in him. Thus a beautiful friendship was established and maintained which continued throughout Abraham’s lifetime. On various occasions God spoke to Abraham, reiterating and enlarging upon the promise he made to him on the “plains of Mamre” that through his seed he would bless all the families of the earth.—Gen. 13:18, Margin; 14:13; 35:27

Abraham’s faith in these promises caused him to look for a “city,” a government, which would have foundations, whose builder and maker would be God. When put to the final test, Abraham’s faith was such that he believed God would raise his son, Isaac, from the dead. And willingly giving up the boy as a sacrifice, Abraham did receive him in a figure from the dead.—Heb. 11:10,17-19

“Faith Cometh by Hearing”

In Romans 10:17 we read: “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” The reference here is to an active, demonstrated faith which God is pleased to ‘count’ as righteousness. There are doubtless millions who have the ability to exercise faith in God, and these do believe that he exists. But only when God reveals himself through his Word, and invites cooperation in his plan of salvation, is the opportunity given to demonstrate faith by obedience.

In the antediluvian world there were only a few whom God thus highly honored. Those mentioned in the Bible are Abel, Enoch, Noah and his family. Following the Deluge, in the Patriarchal Age, there were Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their wives; Melchisedec, and probably Job. These were the called, or chosen, during that age.

Beginning with the death of Jacob, God chose his twelve sons and their families as a nation. To these in due time he gave his Law. To these he sent his prophets, and through the prophets gave them an opportunity to know his plan as it was then due to be understood, and to cooperate therein. Only a few responded in obedience, and this was because they believed God.

The faith of these was so strong that it reached beyond their immediate surroundings and experiences. Some, of course, received marvelous evidences of God’s favor. In Hebrews 11:32-35, Paul speaks of these, saying that they “subdued kingdoms,” “wrought righteousness,” “obtained promises,” “stopped the mouths of lions,” “quenched the violence of fire,” “escaped the edge of the sword,” “out of weakness were made strong,” were “valiant in fight,” “turned to flight the armies of the aliens,” and “women received their dead raised to life again.”

Strong faith was essential in these victorious experiences, and it enabled them to see the overruling providences of God in connection with them. Take the three Hebrews, for example, who “quenched the violence of fire” through their faith. They defied Nebuchadnezzar, saying that their God whom they served was able to deliver them. But they also told the king that if their God did not deliver them, they would not bow down to the image which he had set up. Their faith was not that God would deliver them, but in God. They believed that whatever he did would be right. It is this sort of faith that God counts for righteousness.

In verses 36-38 Paul writes: “Others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

To pass through experiences such as these required a faith that could trust God even though there was no visible evidence of his care and protection. It was faith in the promises of God pertaining to the future that sustained them. They endured these things in order that they might obtain a “better resurrection.” (vs. 35) Their concern was in the fulfillment of God’s promises pertaining to the future. Like Abraham with respect to Isaac, they believed that God was able, and would raise them from the dead in his own due time. This was the faith that was counted to them for righteousness.

While the whole nation of Israel was called and chosen by God, only these few—the Ancient Worthies—made their calling and election sure to the position designed for them in the divine plan. They did this by their faith. It was a faith that was demonstrated by their obedience under the most trying circumstances. Because they thus proved their worthiness, their “spirits,” their heart intentions, will, in the resurrection, be given perfect human bodies through which they will be able to express their praises to God, and to serve him perfectly as “the princes in all the earth.” Ps. 45:16

Faith in the Gospel Age

The quality of faith is unchanged from age to age in the plan of God. It was true in the past and is true now that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” No one can enjoy God’s friendship without having faith in him. Those who are able to exercise faith are rewarded with whatever blessings the Lord may be dispensing at the time.

The woman mentioned in Matthew 9:20-22 was cured of an “issue of blood” because of her great faith. Jesus said to her, “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” The blind referred to in Matthew 9:29, were told by Jesus, “According to your faith be it unto you.” They exercised faith and received their sight.

The Bible reveals that there are degrees of faith. The disciples had faith to believe that Jesus was their Messiah. But on the storm-tossed Sea of Galilee they became fearful. (Mark 4:40) After Jesus rescued Peter from the sea, he said to him: “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matt. 14:31) On another occasion the disciples said to Jesus, “Increase our faith.”—Luke 17:5

In Romans 1:16,17 we read “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; … for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.” The Gospel of Christ is received by faith, but not instantaneously. It is revealed gradually as faith is able to receive and act upon it.

The apostles are good illustrations of this “faith to faith” revealment and receiving of the Gospel. Even before they heard of Jesus they knew something of the messianic promises and had faith in them. When they came into contact with Jesus and his wonderful ministry they believed that he was the Messiah, and left all to follow him. Thus upon the basis of their faith God was dealing with them.

In his prayer Jesus said to his Father concerning his apostles, “Thine they were, and thou gayest them me; and they have kept thy Word.” (John 17:6) These men were completely dedicated to God. They had faith in his Word, and were obedient to it. Prior 6o Pentecost they did not clearly understand the divine plan, but they believed and obeyed that which they did understand. Because of this God looked upon them as his people. “Thine they were,” said Jesus. Like Abraham, they were God’s friends. How richly their faith was rewarded!

Knowledge Necessary

The faith that opens the door to friendship with God is not a blind belief. It is faith in the plans and purposes of God to the extent that it is his will to reveal them. It was Abraham’s faith in the promises that constituted the basis for his friendship with God. This was true of the apostles. It is still true today.

During the Gospel Age, God reveals his plans and purposes through his written Word. The purpose of this revelation, even as in the past, is to invite cooperation in the outworking of the divine plan. During the Gospel Age this cooperation can be only through association with Jesus, and under his headship. But Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” (John 6:44) This shows that there is a certain selection on God’s part. He is not at the present time drawing the whole world, but only those whom he chooses.

God chooses those whom he knows are able to exercise faith in him and in his promises. In addition to their ability to exercise faith, these are also humble of heart and willing to learn. The first evidence of God’s drawing power in their lives may well be in an experience, or series of experiences, which cause them to realize the futility and worthlessness of the material values so highly esteemed by the world in general.

Their hearts prepared, they are brought into contact with the truth of the Word. This also is by the providence of God in the exercise of his drawing power. When they hear the Word, or read it, and their minds and hearts begin to respond to it, God is pleased, for this was the object of the exercise of his drawing power in their lives.

One of the first things learned from the Word of truth is the fact that all are sinners, members of a sin-cursed and dying race. If faith lays hold upon this fact, and the heart properly responds, the result will be repentance. Like the publican who went up to the Temple to pray, those who repent will cry out, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”—Luke 18:13

And the Lord is indeed merciful, for his providences have been working to bring about this very state of repentance. If God loved the whole world of sinners so much that he sent his Son to be the Redeemer, surely his love goes out much more to those who, when learning of his gracious provision through Christ, begin to respond to his drawing power and demonstrate their faith by repenting of their sins, and asking for forgiveness.

Just as no one can come to Jesus unless drawn by the Father, Jesus explained that only through him could anyone have access to the Father. (John 14:6) This means that the truth by which God “draws,” points the way to Jesus and to the redeeming merit of his shed blood. During this Gospel Age the only object of thus being drawn to God through Christ is to become disciples of Christ. To be a disciple of Christ means to follow in his footsteps of self-sacrifice. It means to deny self and to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus into death. It means to be “planted together in the likeness of his death.”—Rom. 6:3-5

The footstep followers of Jesus walk in a path that is difficult to tread. It is a “narrow way.” To walk in this way means shame, ignominy, persecution, affliction, suffering, and death. In Revelation 20:4 it is described as being “beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God.” And even though the word ‘beheaded’ is used symbolically, it denotes suffering and the loss of life.

These are some of the hard facts that are revealed to those whom the Lord is drawing. After repenting of their sins, they realize that they are now faced with the necessity of making a decision as to whether or not they will accept the invitation to become disciples of Christ and share in his sufferings. The Lord wants them to weigh this matter very carefully. This is indicated by Jesus in his parable concerning the man who was to build a tower. This man would be very foolish, the parable teaches, unless he first of all sat down and counted the cost.—Luke 14:28-30

So counting the cost of discipleship is the will of God for everyone who is drawn by his love to the point of repentance. Just as God is pleased with the attitude of true repentance, he is also pleased with those who sit down and count the cost of full surrender to do his will as it is now revealed in the terms of discipleship.

There is no set length of time during which one may ‘count the cost’. The Bible tells us that when Abraham was called of God he obeyed. We need not suppose that Abraham obeyed without giving consideration to all that was involved. It seems reasonable to conclude that he took some time to count the cost.

Since those whom God draws are invited to lay down their lives in his service, we may suppose that while they are counting the cost he encourages them, by his promises, to make the right decision. Counting the cost does not mean comparing the value of what is sacrificed with the worth of what God has promised in return. Those who have faith in the promises of God must realize at once that there is no comparison. There is nothing here that needs to be ‘counted’.

The ‘counting’ is the giving of consideration to whether or not the trials of the narrow way will be more than can be borne. This counting must be in the light of God’s promises of grace and strength to help in every time of need. Thus the measure of faith in God and in his promises will actually determine the decision that is made. Jesus asked James and John if they were “able” to drink of his cup and be baptized with his baptism. They replied, “We are able.” So with all who count the cost. If they have an unfaltering faith in the promises of God their decision will also be, “We are able.”

Understanding Increases

Even before Jesus died as the Redeemer, James and John and all the apostles—with the exceptions of Judas, and Paul—had reached the decision in their hearts, “We are able.” Indeed, right from the beginning when they first became Jesus’ disciples, they had given up all to follow him. There were many things which they did not understand, and could not understand until the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them at Pentecost. But their hearts responded in full obedience to the truths of the divine plan which they did understand.

No one who is drawn by God and responds through repentance and full consecration has, at first, a full understanding of the divine will. Just as the apostles needed the Holy Spirit to reveal the will of God more perfectly to them, so it is with all who dedicate their lives to the service of God. The only difference is that the apostles had to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, whereas since Pentecost God has waited for the full surrender of those whom he has drawn, and his acceptance of their consecration, before blessing them with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.

At this point in God’s loving dealings a whole treasure house of riches is opened up as the reward of faith. From righteous Abel to John the Baptist, those who believed God and upon the basis of their faith were dedicated to the doing of his will were, symbolically speaking, taken into his bosom as friends. He loved them; he cared for them; he gave them a limited vision of his loving messianic purpose; he promised them a resurrection. But so far as the present life was concerned, they remained under the condemnation to death which, through Adam, had come upon the whole world.

This was a necessity, for the price of redemption from sin and death had not yet been provided. It is true, of course, that God’s dealings with the Ancient Worthies were because of his great plan of redemption through Christ. He who speaks of things that are not as though they already were, was pleased to take to himself as friends those whom he knew would qualify to receive life through the blood of Christ, when raised from the dead and made “perfect” in the “better resurrection” for which they endeavored to prove worthy.—Heb. 11:35,40

But beginning with the Gospel Age a new feature of the divine plan began to operate. This is the age of sacrifice, the “better sacrifices” mentioned by Paul in Hebrews 9:23. Jesus was “made flesh,” “crowned with glory and honor” of perfect human nature in order that he might give himself in death a “ransom for all.” (I Tim. 2:3-6) And now his followers are invited to suffer and die with him. Their bodies also are presented in sacrifice.—Rom. 12:1

It is possible for these to offer an acceptable sacrifice to God only because they are made free from Adamic condemnation through the merit of the blood of Christ. Paul speaks of their bodies being offered as a “living sacrifice.” (Rom. 12:1) This can be only because, through the merit of Christ’s blood, they are no longer under death condemnation, but through faith have been made alive in Christ.

What a glorious reward of faith! From God’s standpoint it is as though, through accepting Jesus as our Redeemer, we had been restored to perfection of life such as the world will enjoy at the close of the “times of restitution.” (Acts 3:19-21) Thus, through faith, we have a reckoned perfect life to offer in sacrifice, even as Jesus did. This is a reward of faith which the Ancient Worthies did not enjoy. But think of what it means to us! It means that we are co-sacrificers with Jesus, and, in a manner acceptable to God are laying down our lives both for the brethren and in the interest of the whole world of mankind.

No Condemnation

In II Corinthians 5:14,15 Paul reminds us of how we were constrained by the love of Christ to dedicate ourselves fully to the divine service. He speaks of those who have taken this step as being “in Christ,” or members of his mystical body. (vs. 17) In Romans 8:1 he writes that to those who are “in Christ Jesus” there is “no condemnation.” “No condemnation”—what a glorious reward of faith!

But to continue enjoying this ‘no condemnation’ standing before God, it is necessary also to walk “not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” Paul adds that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:2) How wonderful to realize that we are no longer under “the law of sin and death.”

In verses 14-17 Paul further explains, saying, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption [or, of sonship], whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

How rich is the reward of sonship with our Heavenly Father! This also has come to us through faith. Abraham received the reward of friendship because he believed all the truth of the divine plan which was then revealed and due to be understood. We receive the reward of sonship through our belief in the more complete revealment of the divine plan that has come to us.

In this further unfolding of God’s plan, we see the truth concerning Jesus who gave himself a ransom for all. We see his death upon the cross as the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. We see him raised from the dead, giving evidence that the Heavenly Father was well pleased with his sacrifice, and proving also God’s ability to fulfill his promises pertaining to the resurrection of the dead.

By faith we accept these advanced truths. We believe that Jesus was raised for our justification to life, and that he ever liveth to make intercession for us. Believing this, we go boldly to the “throne of grace” there to “obtain mercy” and to find “grace to help in time of need.” This is another reward of faith.—Heb. 4:16

“Peace with God”

Again Paul wrote, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:1) Abraham, and all the Ancient Worthies, had “peace” in the sense that they were God’s friends. Their faith in God’s promises removed fear and anxiety from their hearts. But to have the “peace with God” referred to by Paul implies separation from the condemned and dying family of Adam. It implies that ‘peace with God’ is the heritage of those who belong to the family of God. And now, through faith in Christ which is demonstrated by ‘works’ of full consecration, we may enjoy this rich reward of faith.

“By whom also,” Paul continues, “we have access by faith into this [further] grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (vs. 2) Yes, faith has opened the door into this glorious hope of the divine nature, and of sharing the glory of God. “And not only so,” Paul adds, “but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope. And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.”—vss. 3-5

Since without faith it is impossible to please God, the reverse is also true. Through the exercise of faith in God and in his promises, the flood gates of his love and favor are opened wide for consecrated believers. In our text we read that “the just shall live by his faith.” In the New Testament this is quoted in various contexts, revealing that through faith we receive justification to life; and also that through faith in the promises we receive strength to continue on in the way of sacrifice.

Paul quotes this statement in Hebrews 10:38, saying, “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Living by faith, as mentioned here, means that faith in God and in his promises is a way of life. It is the only way that a Christian can live day by day rejoicingly, at peace with God, and enjoying the peace of God.

Living by faith, the abundant mercy and love of God are our daily portion. Living by faith is to live free from condemnation. Living by faith is to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Living by faith we triumph in tribulation. Living by faith we are led by the Spirit of God and enjoy the blessings belonging to the sons of God.

Living by faith we can go boldly to the throne of grace to receive strength for our every time of need. By faith we know that all things work together for our good because we love God and are the called according to his purpose. By faith we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God, or the love of Christ, that since he is for us, nothing can be successfully against us.—Rom 8;31,35-39

By faith we dwell in the “secret place of the Most High” (Ps. 91:1), and by faith we are sheltered under the “wings,” of the Almighty. (vs. 4) Truly the just do live by faith, and the Lord finds pleasure in them as they lay hold more and more firmly upon his promises, zealously devoting themselves to the doing of his will.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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