Lesson 67: "The Just Shall Live By Faith." (Romans 1:17)
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. Welcome again! This is lesson #67. Now, we're going to have to take the time to shift gears. Like the old farmer who came to his son that had been skimming along with his plow about half in the ground and said, son reset the plow to plow deeper. As one plows deeper it begins to bring up some subsoil that hasn't seen daylight lately. Romans is a deep field to plow. We have been skimming along in our study and covering a lot of acreage; but, we're going to have to slow down and set the old plow down a little deeper. Romans is not really a typical example of Paul's preaching. Paul's view of the gospel was anchored deeply into Jesus' proclaiming of the coming kingdom as we read hi Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You must remember Paul was not a convert of the usual sort; he was not a willing convert in one sense. Remember, he was on his way to Damascus to do evil to the church there when the Lord appeared to Paul hi the way. Thus, Paul knew both the righteousness of the old and the righteousness of the new. As he began to write to the romans, after the brief salutation, Paul in the first eleven chapters of Romans set his plow down a notch or two and tried to explain the difference between the old and the new. Now, let me ask you, just to get it straight and to get it embedded in your mind, here's the question: what was the difference between the old system and the new that entered with Christ? What is the relationship of the new way of faith and the old way of the law and of works in which the people of God walked before Christ came? It was something the Romans needed to understand and it is something we need to understand. At the end of our last lesson we said that the theme of Paul's letter was in v.17, "as it is written, The just shall live by faith." Paul reached back into the Old Testament where this statement was written in Hab. 2:4, where these changes were prophesied, i.e. changes from the old system then in force to the new system now in force, that came by Jesus Christ. It was prophesied: "The just shall live by faith." Now, let me ask you, what does that mean? Paul said in v. 16, the power is hi the gospel, then in v.17, "therein [i.e. the gospel] is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith." Therefore, through the gospel, the good new of Christ, "is the righteousness of God revealed..." What does that mean? First, let's review: what is the gospel? Do you remember I Cor. Ch. 15 and the gospel Paul preached/ He said, "I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he arose again the third day according to the Scriptures..." Paul preached the gospel in those facts and he calls it THAT there in the first part of I Cor. Ch. 15. Now, back in Romans 1:17 focus in on that great big word "righteousness." Have you got your eye on it? Well in that word, there is something a little mysterious. To begin with, there is a difference between this "righteousness of God" business in the New Testament and the way that word "righteousness" was used under the old system. Rom. 1:17 is the first tune the phrase "righteousness of God" is used hi the Bible, at least in the KJV, that is true. Surely, no one understood the "righteousness of God" better than Paul. He was completely involved and enmeshed in both the old system and the new. In the Old Testament the word "righteousness simply meant to behave as one was expected. For example, hi Deut. 6:25, after Moses had gone over the 10 commandments with the next generation (just before they left the desert) Moses said: "it shall be our RIGHTEOUSNESS, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us." So, there was a RIGHTEOUSNESS under the old law, you must understand. For example, Paul at a later tune hi discussing his life before becoming a Christian said, he was as "touching the RIGHTEOUSNESS which is in the law, blameless." (Phil. 3:6). hi Luke 1:6, it was said about the parents of John the Baptist (Zechariah and Elisabeth), before Christ was born: "They were both righteous before God, walking hi all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." Back in Prov. 10:2 it was said: "Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death." This word righteous and righteousness is used more than 500 times hi the Bible and there are several other forms of the thought that occur over and over; for example: justify and justified. These are words we have a tendency to read right over top of hi reading of the Bible; (with our plow set shallow) we miss a lot of spiritual subsoil that never sees the light of day. Ordinarily, in our English use of the word "justify" we mean to give a reason for something. I we justify ourselves we simply give a reason why we acted thus and so. "Justification," "justify: and "just" hi the N.T. does not mean our usual English meaning. If God justifies a sinner, God does not need any reason to prove he is right. As a matter of fact, a shiner at that point, may not even be a good man in the ordinary sense of the word. It simply means that instead of treating him as a criminal; God treats him as a person to be loved. Therefore he is justified. To be justified is to enter into a new relationship, a relationship of love and confidence. Abraham "believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness." (Gen. 15:6). Does that mean Abraham was a perfect man? Absolutely not! Abraham was a good man; but, he got tangled up and blurted out a few half truths a time or two. Do you remember his run-in with Abimelech in Gen. Ch. 19? He told Abimelech that Sarah was his sister. She was his half sister; but, she was also Abraham's wife. Here's the point! James said: "Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness." That does not mean Abraham was a perfect man by far. But Abraham accepted the word of God as if it had been his own word. In fact, he acted as if it was his own word and thereby submitted himself to its control; thus, by that act of mind and spirit, showing he had faith, implicit faith in God. Therefore God accepted Abraham as one who fulfilled the whole of God's requirements. Here in Rom. 4:3, Paul said: "What saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." Does that scripture sound familiar to you? Back in Gal. 3:6, in Paul's faith, works and law argument with the Judiazers; Paul said (guess what?) "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. "What's the theme of Romans, one more time? "The just shall live by faith.? Thus, there was a kind of righteousness hi the O.T. that came to one by keeping the law and by conducting one's self as God expected. In the N.T. there is a new kind of righteousness. That's Paul's point hi this section. Thus, the kind of righteousness expected or imputed to Christians is not like the righteousness in the O.T., i.e. righteousness in the law. Paul said it very plainly: "But now the righteousness of god without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith in Jesus Christ..." Thus, righteousness expected and imputed to Christians is the kind of righteousness that Abraham had by faith. "As it is written, The just shall live by faith." Or as the RSV says: "He through faith is righteous shall live." One does not have to be a perfect person to live righteously. "Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness..." Righteousness is imputed on the basis of faith. This new righteousness does not come from us. James' word was "imputed" (James 2:23), that means reckoned. Paul's word was "counted unto him for righteousness" (Rom. 4:3). In Gal. 3:6, Paul used the word "accounted."
Now, are you confused enough? Remember, Romans is a deep book. You must set your plow deep! OK, what is the bottom line in all this? Well, the point is: "The just shall live by faith." Or, "He through faith is righteous shall live." hi the Christian epoch, or the gospel age, faith is REQUIRED to be saved; i.e. to live, or to go to heaven, in other words. Now, does that mean we can just believe our way to heaven and we don't have to DO anything? Absolutely not! Obedience to the gospel springs from faith in the gospel. Do you remember that? Jesus died for our sins according to the scripture. Jesus' death, burial and resurrection, i.e. the gospel, when we completely comprehend it; i.e. have faith in it (in other words, when we totally accept it), it causes us to act accordingly. Do you remember our discussion near the end of our last lesson? James said: "show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works." (James 2:18). You cannot separate the two, faith and work. One implies the others. Faith implies obedience; whatever that requires, without a second thought. When we develop this implicit faith; Christ and God has promised us: we shall live, i.e. be saved. Thus, when a person with such faith reads in the Bible where it says we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (i.e. Christians, Heb. 10:25); they won't ask: (they won't even think) but, do I have to attend? Every service? When they read: "repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..." (Acts 2:38); they won't ask (they won't even think); do I have to be baptized? The same is true with giving, singing, praying, taking the Lord's supper, study, teaching others, and on and on. When people have this kind of faith, you don't have to beg them to be baptized; you can't keep them out of the water. "The just shall live by faith." In the gospel, "the righteousness of God [is[ revealed from faith to faith." Now, implicit faith, does that mean one is perfect" Absolutely not! Does that mean you will never make any more mistakes? It absolutely does not mean that! What if means is (if you have implicit faith and that implies a faith that obeys); what it means is: God will accept your faith as if you fulfilled all of his requirements, even if you didn't get it all done. God will impute righteousness to you. Your faith will be accounted for righteousness. "The just shall live by faith." Ye got it? Have you got the faith? (I'm talking about). I might ask also; are you getting the lesson? Very good!
Now, as I have said, Romans is not an easy book. The word "righteousness" occurs in this book 38 times. The word "justified" occurs 10 times. Let's get a quickie outline in mind so you can do a little reading on your own. After the salutation and Paul's desire to visit Rome, which makes up the first 15 verses; we find the theme of the book in v. 16-17 "The just shall live by faith." Paul stuck tenaciously to that theme down through the end of chapter eleven. You will need to think of the next eleven chapters as merely an expansion of the faith and righteousness idea which we have already talked about (a little bit). You may have trouble at times seeing the connection; but, the apostle to the Gentiles is very systematic. Step by step he hews through that theme and there is a great message here. Paul used the rest of chapter one (v. 18-32) to hew through the unrighteousness of the gentiles. Beginning in 2:1 down through 3:20; Paul worked on the righteousness of the Jews. Beginning in 3:21, the apostle covers the age in which we now live. Abraham is used as an example of righteousness through faith in chapter four. The age of faith is contrasted with the age of law and it is shown that the law and the prophets of the O.T. Are a witness to this change. Chapter five is devoted to our freedom from wrath. Chapter six is devoted to our freedom from sin. Chapter seven to our freedom frm the law and chapter eight to our freedom from death. Then chapters nine, ten, eleven is devoted to showing that righteousness by faith does not violate God's promises to Israel. Then chapters 12-14 deal with practical matters. The last part of ch. 15 deals with Paul's trip to Rome and the preparations for that trip. Chapter sixteen, the last chapter is devoted mostly to personal greetings as we mentioned before.
In the moments we have left; I would like for you to consider a few of the scriptures found in the N.T. that deal with the theme of righteousness and justification and thus have a bearing upon the main theme of this book. When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the River of Jordan, Matt. 3:14says: "John forbade him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and earnest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness." That statement will mean much more if you will associate it with the theme of Romans. In the sermon on the mount (Matt. 5:6), Jesus said: "Blessed are them which do hunger and thirst after [what?] righteousness [you got it]; for they shall be filled." Further down in v. 10, still part of the beatitudes, Jesus said: "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Then later in the sermon on the mount (Matt. 6:33), Jesus said: "But seek ye first the kingdom of Gospel [and what else], and his righteousness..." In Matt. 5:20, same sermon, Jesus said: "except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." That last night in the upper room after Jesus had promised to send the Holy Spirit, Jesus told the eleven: "When he [i.e. the Holy Spirit] is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness..." (John 16:8). Then Peter in the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:35) said: "But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." Every nation here means both Jews and Gentiles. There are a lot of statements in Romans, of course; but, we'll wait until we get to them. Here's one or two you might underline. In Rom. 6:18, Paul said: "Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." Did you get that; when you became a Christian, you were "then made free from sin [but], ye became the servant of righteousness." To become a servant of righteousness thus describes our faith. Then the converse of the statement (6:20, "When ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness." Thus, we serve one or the other, sin or righteousness, take your choice. Another interesting verse is Rom. 8:10, "if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." Then in 10:4, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth." 10:10. "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Down in Rom. 14:17, "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." Then in II Tim. 3:16, I'm sure you know this one: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness..." One more: Heb. 5:13, "For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe." Have a good day.