If you are living the best Christian life that you know how to live, and purposefully growing in God, and looking for His second coming, then you are living by faith.
Three times in the New Testament, the writer quotes an Old Testament scripture concerning living by faith.
(Habakkuk 2:4 ESV) “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.”
When interpreting the Bible, context must be understood in order to interpret accurately. In Habakkuk, the above scripture was something God was telling the prophet as part of a personal instruction. Habakkuk lived in a time when Israel was not living for God and he was surrounded with injustice. Prior to this verse, God tells Habakkuk that He is going to bring judgement. God had used Assyria to punish Israel and He would now use Babylon (Chaldeans) to punish Assyria and Judah. The prophet had a hard time receiving this information.
(Habakkuk 1:5–6, 12 ESV) “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.”
(Habakkuk 2:2–4 ESV) “And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.”
It was several decades later that this Word from God came true. That meant that anyone living among the people experiencing judgement would have to do so by faith in order to not also be killed. The Assyrians were brutal, as were the Babylonians, and none of them were discriminating. When an amy invades they usually kill most of the people in the way. Habakkuk was going to have to live by faith to get through this situation. In his own words he says:
(Habakkuk 3:16–19 ESV) “I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.”
Habakkuk is making a declaration of his faith. He will not forsake God no matter what happens or how long it takes. He is declaring he will live by faith.
We live among ungodly people that are opposing the truth. Also, there are more of them than there are of us. We are going to have to live by faith in the middle of a people that are against us.
(Romans 1:16–18 ESV) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”
The literal translation of verse six is:
“The one who by faith is righteous shall live.”
Judgement will come to those who suppress the truth. Some of that judgement may occur while we are still on the earth. The righteous that live among a people that judgement comes to will have to live by faith to get through it.
As an example, every person living in a country is affected when the economy goes down. However, the righteous person that lives by faith can overcome in that situation.
The purpose of the entire book of Galatians is to emphatically present righteousness by faith as opposed to keeping the Law for righteousness.
(Galatians 3:10–14 ESV) “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”
It is not mentioned often, but the greatest blessing Abraham received was being declared righteous by his faith. There was no Law in his day, but once the Law came in everyone was bound by it and punished for not keeping it.
Paul is clearly addressing the means of righteousness. His argument is that the only way to live in right relation with God is by faith. Anything else would result in death. While it is right to use our faith for our daily needs, that is not the argument that Paul is making here.
The book of Hebrews was written to a group of Jews that had received Christ as Savior but were experiencing extreme persecution by the religious Jews. Many were being killed while others were having their property seized. There was pressure to go back to Judaism.
(Hebrews 10:32, 35–39 ESV) “But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”
The Hebrew believers were about to give up on faith in Christ. The writer strongly encourages them to not throw away their confidence because there is a reward. The “coming one will come” is speaking of the return of Christ. However, until Christ comes we have to live in this hostile world by faith. We cannot shrink back on our faith in Christ as we will then displease God and possibly lose our soul. Even Hebrews 11:1 is speaking about the return of Christ.
(Hebrews 11:1–2 KJV) “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report.”
The good report that the elders obtained was righteousness by faith.
Our great hope is the return of Christ and the resurrection. Peter calls Christ our “living hope” (1Peter 1:3). Also, we are saved by hope.
(Romans 8:23–25 ESV) “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
The Bible says that it is through faith and patience that we inherit the promises of God (Hebrews 6:12).
We walk by faith…
This scripture is also speaking of being right with God by faith as we wait for the resurrection.
(2 Corinthians 5:6–8 ESV) “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
The context is that in this life we must walk by faith while we wait for the resurrected body. We have to live believing that the resurrection is a fact that we cannot see, and, we have to wait for it.
Why this is important.
In each of these scriptures the Bible is relating a faith that we are to live by while we wait for the consummation of the plan and promises of God concerning the resurrection and eternal life. And, the plan of God in Christ has been believed for almost two thousand years since Jesus promised to come back. They speak of remaining faithful in an environment of persecution and adversity.
I believe had the believers been taught these things consistently then we would not be witnessing the level of departure from the faith that we are seeing today. For at least forty years the focus has been on receiving what you want or need with your faith. The central purpose for which these scriptures were written has been ignored because the circumstances of our day did not warrant that treatment. Well, the situation has changed and the believers are unprepared.
These days in America, most Christians will not stand up for their beliefs. They are bowing down to small special interest groups as our freedoms are being taken away. It seems to me that many Christians know how to believe God for a new car but do not have the strength and conviction to say “no” to pressures from anti-God social and political forces.
Overcoming the world…
Many preachers will tell you that a big problem in the Body of Christ today is that believers are living like the world. Lifestyles are being adjusted to blend into society in order to “relate” and be “relevant.”
(1 John 5:2–5 ESV) “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
The context of this scripture is living in the love of God. John says that His commandments are not a burden. These days, many consider God’s ways too extreme and therefore a burden. But John says that we overcome that spirit of the world by our faith. Our faith has been given to us to walk out God’s ways. Peter says it this way:
(2 Peter 1:3–4 ESV) “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
Peter says the promises were given to us to become partakers of the divine nature. That means to be like God in nature rather than engulfed with the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. God’s Word and faith are given to keep us out of the world while we are in the world waiting for the New Heaven and New Earth.
(1 Peter 1:8–9 ESV) “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
The outcome of our faith is to be the salvation of our souls. Faith was given to us primarily to believe for salvation — and — to stay saved.
I believe there needs to be a focus on faith. Now, more than ever as we live in the End Times, we need a strong faith to rise victoriously above the tides of the world. Many Christians have been disappointed in life because they have not received some of the things they were believing for. However, this is not a time to cast away our confidence! Let’s refocus and use our faith for the primary purpose for which it was given to us.