Sermon – “The Just Shall Live By Faith” Romans 1:17
The Silent Holocron usually dedicates Monday space to the sermon that will be preached the following Sunday. Since Stephen has been grossly negligent in posting his sermons, the next few will be “catch-up” posts until we get to Romans 2:12-16 or thereabouts, where Stephen is currently located.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jews first and also to people who are not Jews. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed out of faith into faith, as it is written, “Righteous people shall live by faith.”
To be righteous means to be without guilt or sin, to be holy. In the Bible, righteousness has to do with two things: faithfulness (Romans 3:1-5) and good works (Romans 2:6-11) What do I mean by that? Well, in order for a person to be righteous, he must first have faith. Romans 3 makes it very clear that unbelief is unrighteous. Many people who are not saved think they are “good” people. But they do not believe in Jesus. No matter how “good” a person you are, if you do not believe in Jesus, the Bible is clear — you are not righteous! The Jews in Paul’s day believed that they were righteous simply because they were Jewish. Paul says, “No! What good is being a Jew if you do not believe?” Contrast that with today. What good is being a “Christian” if you do not really believe in Jesus? What good is being a Christian if you do not really believe the Bible?
Next, for a person to be righteous, he must do good works. While faith is important, Scripture is also very clear that simply believing is not enough. Remember that even the demons believe the truth about Jesus (James 2:19), yet they are not saved! Something more than simple faith is necessary. One must do what is right. Romans 2:6-11 makes it very clear that only those who have done upright deeds will be saved. This illustrates a very clear point that I am sure all of you know: Faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). True faith, righteous faith, is only real if it is accompanied by good works. A faith that does not prove itself by doing good is not real faith, but fake faith.
At the same time, Romans 4:5 seems to suggest to us that only faith can make a person’s works righteous. This tells us that you cannot separate faith and good works. They go hand in hand. Many of you will strongly affirm your faith in Jesus. But you are not willing to serve the church! You are not willing to serve each other! According to what the Bible says, is your faith real? If your faith is real, you should want to volunteer at church. You should want to do things for each other.
The Bible says in Romans 10 that this kind of faith, the kind of faith that reveals itself in good works, can only come from God. It is not something you are able to do all by yourself. God Himself must give you the ability. Remember what Romans 3 says? “There is none righteous, no not one, no one understands, no one seeks after God.” In our hearts, you and I don’t want to have faith in Him. You and I don’t want to do what is right. Instead, we want to do what is right for ourselves only. Only God can change our hearts so that we have the kind of faith that acts righteously.
In the Old Testament, one became righteous by faithfully keeping the Law. Romans 2:13 states: “It is not those who hear the Law who are righteous before God, but those who do the Law who will be justified.” Israel placed their faith in the Law of God to make them righteous. As such, people such as King David sought to develop an attitude of delight in God’s Law. This is the essence of true faithfulness to the Law — delight in what the Lord has commanded. The Psalms are awash in this language! Such trust and delight is pleasing to God.
But even then, there is a problem. Faithful keeping of the Law entails being perfect in the eyes of the Law. Remember, Jesus clearly stated that we must be perfect, just as the Lord is (Matt. 5:48). But none are righteous! None can perfectly keep the Law (Romans 3:10-12)! How, then, can I become righteous, if I cannot keep the Law perfectly? There is only one way: You must believe the Gospel!
“Out of Faith, Into Faith”
Paul uses an interesting construction here. First, he says the righteousness of God is revealed “out of” faith. Some Bibles translate this as “from” faith. This seems to mean that the Gospel is something that comes from born-again believers (BABs). What do I mean by that? See, BABs already have faith. Because they already believe, they share that faith with other people. That means evangelism is the job of every believer!
Second, Paul says the righteousness of God is revealed “into” faith. This seems to mean that the Gospel is revealed only to people who will believe (have faith). This is an incredible statement. Only the elect of God, chosen from before the foundation of the world, will be able to grasp and respond positively to the Gospel! This concept secures the success of believers in evangelism. No matter who or how many people a believer witnesses to, the word of God that the believer shares will not return to the Lord a failure!
Remember, faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). Only those to whom God gives the gift of faith can see His righteousness when they hear the Gospel. This is why many people ignore the Gospel, or even mock and insult it! God has not seen fit to give the gift of faith to everyone.
The entire phrase “out of faith, into faith” seems to mean something like “continuing faith.” I am awed at such an idea! This means that the purpose of the Gospel is to keep faith going. What a God-glorifying purpose! How does the Gospel “keep faith going?” It does so by:
- By winning new believers,
- By helping believers obey God,
- By encouraging and lifting up believers, and
- By being the foundation of the church.
The Gospel was created by God to bring about and sustain faith in Him. Oh, praise the Lord for His glorious gift!
Now, we turn finally to the last section of this verse. Paul begins by stating that “righteous people shall live by faith.” Let’s start by asking, “Who are righteous people?”
I think Scripture is clear that a “righteous” person is anyone who believes the Gospel and who trusts Jesus as Savior and Lord. Such a person has developed (or is developing) a trust in and delight for the Law of God. Such a person seeks to conform his or her mind and heart to the commands of God, by virtue of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Why is this person “righteous?” What makes such a person righteous?
Scripture is also very clear on this matter. In fact, later in the book of Romans we will be studying this very thing. I will provide you with a summary of what the Bible says on this issue. Quickly, a person is righteous:
- Because of the promise of the Gospel – Jesus perfectly obeyed the Law and died in our place.
- Because Jesus rose from the dead to seal (to prove) that He had done what He promised.
- Because when God looks at a BAB, He sees Jesus’ righteousness.
Living By Faith
Lastly, Paul says that such righteous people shall live by faith. What does it mean to “live by faith?”
To “live by faith” means that we have obedient faith. Do you remember when I preached on this, from Romans 1:5-7? To recap, obedient faith is a faith that obeys God’s commands. It is not something that you feel, rather, it is something that you do. Obedient faith is not a “feeling” faith, but an “active” faith. It is the means by which we receive God’s grace and His purpose for our lives. If we “live by faith,” then we show our faith by our actions (James 2:14-26). Once again remember the words of James 2:26 — Faith without works is dead!
I want to close this morning by asking a question that many people, maybe even some of you here today, are asking. How do I start living by faith? There is only one way to live by faith:
Trust the Gospel!
Do you trust the Gospel? Do you delight in God’s Law? Do you have faith in Jesus? If you don’t, I invite you to trust Him today. If what I have been given to say to you this morning has touched your heart, I truly believe that God is calling you to live by faith. God is calling you to be His. Do not forsake so great a salvation! Surrender yourself to the Lord, to Jesus who died to take away the sins of the world. Faith will be yours. Grace will be yours. Eternal life will be yours. Trust in Him today!