By Stephen Ganschow
Depending on your translation of Romans 1:16-17, (I prefer the ESV, personally), specifically the latter part of verse 17, it will say something like, The just shall live by faith or The righteous shall live by faith. Who are these just and/or righteous people? Who is Paul talking about as he opens his letter to the church of Rome? I believe it is only fair to allow Paul to define who they are himself…and he does so in Romans 8:28-30 (ESV). As can be seen and understood from those passages of Scripture – Paul is speaking of God’s chosen people – those that He has sovereignly called to Himself – the Church. Those our Savior foreknew, He predestined (as in, called to these people and put the desire in their hearts to respond to Him in salvation and belief). It is these called, elect people which are justified. So circling back to chapter 1 (16-17) then – the righteous are the believing Church – and it is the truly repentant, believing church that will be positionally justified before Christ and thereby living by faith.
In Romans 1, Paul was making the point that the justified people of God, though sinners saved by His grace, only enjoy this position by faith alone. This is a pattern that can be clearly seen throughout the canon of Scripture. In (Romans 4:1-4, 11-16) Paul refers to Abraham, and how he was justified by faith alone, not by works. For if he had been justified by his works he would have something to boast about (Romans 4:2 – ESV). But that was not the case. As verse 3 goes on to remind us, Abraham was a man of faith in God first, and a responder to that faith in action, secondarily. However, Romans is not the only book in which Paul asserts this notion of living by faith alone. In Galatians, Paul is discussing in chapter 3, the difference between living under law (legalism) and living by faith (works based theology vs. faith-based theology). He asserts here as well (Gal 3:11 – ESV), “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”
Friends, if you are reading this and think that your works alone will get you to Heaven, the Bible, God’s own words (2 Timothy 3:16-17 – ESV) clearly contradicts this notion. To think man can do anything worthwhile, separated from the Spirit of God, is a self-deceptive error, rooted in pride. It is by grace we are saved (from God), through faith – not at all of ourselves (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 4:2-3 – ESV). Now, does this negate our works? Do we only need to believe and not respond in righteousness and action? Certainly not! This is what large sections of the book of James spend time elaborating on. We’re not to be a hearer of the Gospel and of God’s Word only but a doer of what it says as well (James 1:22 – ESV). And just as compassion without any follow-up action is fake, faith in Christ without the follow-up action of responding in obedience and living in a Christ-like manner is empty. It insinuates a lack of saving faith (James 2:17 – ESV). Our faith MUST be followed up by action. This is what it means when Romans 1:17 says, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ – we will believe and respond! We will believe and obey in action. That is living by faith.
Are you living by faith? Do your actions reflect your position of justification before our Savior? And if not, what do you need to do to change? I encourage you to measure yourself against the Word of God. See what areas in which you can respond, based on your faith, in obedience. And if you need some guidance – go to church leadership, a biblical counselor, a trusted friend who is strong in the Word and faith, and / or accountability partner(s). Living the Christian life is important enough to invest time to get it right. It takes effort and commitment…desire. I pray that you will consider this in your own life and respond to Christ accordingly as I am striving to do in my own life.
Stephen Ganschow is a former FCC member, now serving as the Caring Ministries Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, Illinois.