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The righteous man shall live by faith
Romans 1:17 The process of sanctification includes a lifetime of studying God’s Word, seeking and participating in fellowship with other believers, and letting the Holy Spirit work in our lives.
“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.””
Romans 1:17 NASB1995
Paul’s epistle to the Romans is powerful. Written between 55 and 57 AD by the Apostle Paul, Romans has been an influence on many theologians, Biblical scholars, literary critics, and religious leaders for almost 2,000 years. 19th century theologian Frederick Godet called Romans “The cathedral of the Christian faith,” British poet and literary critic Samuel Coleridge referred to it as “The most profound work in existence,” and some German guy by the name of Martin Luther said of Romans “It is the chief part of the New Testament and the perfect gospel... the absolute epitome of the gospel.”
At this point in the first chapter of Romans, Paul has introduced the recipients of the letter to the gospel and expressed his desire to travel to Rome. He would eventually make it to the imperial capital, be imprisoned for at least two years during which time many epistles were written, and then martyred by beheading.
The theme of the epistle is this: the righteousness of God, as revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I learned so much from Romans 1:17 that my next devotional will explore the companion verse — Romans 1:16.
The gospel reveals the righteousness of God; that it comes to those with faith. The prophet Habakkuk stated in his short writing that “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2::4)
Who are the righteous? Those who are justified by faith. What is the righteousness of God revealed by the gospel? It’s not the holy righteousness of God that condemns guilty sinners, but the righteousness given to sinners who put their trust in Jesus Christ.
20th century Scottish theologian William Barclay explained the Greek word dikaioo — which means I justify — and which is the root of dikaioun or righteousness:
“All verbs in Greek which end in oo... always mean to treat, or account or reckon a person as something. If God justifies a sinner, it does not mean that he finds reasons to prove that he was right — far from it. It does not even mean, at this point, that he makes the sinner a good man. It means that God treats the sinner as if he had not been a sinner at all.”
This trust in Jesus Christ — also known as faith — is the basis of life for those who are justified. That’s why Paul says that “the righteous shall live by faith” — they’re both saved by faith and live by faith.
What does that term “from faith to faith” mean? We can get a hint from the NIV translation, which lists the phrase as “by faith from first to last” — in other words, “only by faith”. Taken as a whole, Paul says that God’s righteousness is revealed only by faith in Jesus Christ, and that the faith that justifies is the starting point of a Christian’s life. That attitude must carry on in the life of all Christians as part of the process of sanctification.
I’ll close with a short quote from Martin Luther about sanctification:
Sanctification flows from justification. It is an on-going process which will not be complete or reach perfection in this life.
The process of sanctification includes a lifetime of studying God’s Word, seeking and participating in fellowship with other believers, and letting the Holy Spirit work in our lives.
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
Father, I thank You for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that Your righteousness was revealed on the Cross. Thank You for saving me by grace through my faith in Christ. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ that my life is lived by faith, growing in grace continually. AMEN.