By Faithfulness, The Righteous Have Life

January 6, 2011

There are two places in Scripture that are often favorites for the Calvinists and other “once-saved, always-saved” groups to teach from. They are Romans 1:17b and Ephesians 2:8,9.

The Romans verse is often quoted like this: “The just shall live by faith.” Hmmm…. –somewhat of an obscure meaning… –what could it be teaching? The OSAS adherents are quick to say that it means we are saved by faith alone, and by “faith” they mean believing that Jesus died to pay for mankind’s sins. They acknowledge that going with this, each individual must request forgiveness of one’s sins as well as put a trust in Jesus to grant them salvation based on this request. (The request is an action which OSAS believers trust in, but they just don’t call it an action.)

Now, does Rom. 1:17b teach this?

First of all, the “OSASers” are referring to Martin Luther’s rallying cry against the works-oriented doctrines of the Catholic church, and whose German translation of the Bible had some influence over the 1611 King James Version. Both this version and the New King James Version render Rom. 1:17b, “The just shall live by faith.” The apostle Paul is quoting Hab. 2:4 which says, “The just shall live by his faith.” –And in the newer versions, “The righteous will live by his faith.” So we see that Paul left out the word “his”, which is fine, since it means the same thing.

Now, what does the word “just” mean? It means fair, moral, honorable, and righteous. So most versions use the word “righteous” since it encompasses the overall meaning. Here’s the verse from several versions:

~~~ “The righteous will live by faith.” (NIV)

~~~ “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” With its footnote: “But he who is righteous by faith shall live.” (NASB)

~~~ “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” With its footnote: “The righteous shall live by faith.'” (RSV)

~~~ “The righteous shall live by faith.” With its footnote: “The one who by faith is righteous shall live.'” (ESV)

~~~ “Now the just man by faith will live.” (Interlinear Greek-English)

~~~ “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” (NLT)

To “live by” something means to walk in it, abide by it, follow its principles, and to thus have the mindset and behavior that lines up with those principles. Therefore, the person who lives by faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ will exhibit in their daily life “the obedience that comes from [that] faith.” (Rom. 1:5) This obedience coming from this faith is what keeps a person clean and righteous before God. Hence, a person who claims to have faith, but does not walk in obedience to God, Scripture says is simply “a liar.” (1 John 2:4) And “all liars –their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” (Rev. 21:8) –Which means that for everyone who is making the false claim about being “righteous before God”, “in the Truth”, or “in the faith”, while in actuality living in disobedience to God, will only reap eternal death. And as several of the above translations indicate, Rom. 1:17b is speaking about “Life” who is Jesus, our Eternal Life –as we live “in” Him –as opposed to remaining in “death” by being spiritually “dead”. (Eph. 2:1,5)

Now, let’s go to the Hab. 2:4 verse which Paul quoted from. All the versions with footnotes (that I looked at) agree that the word “faith” there also means “faithfulness”. Therefore, we can consider that Rom. 1:17b can be interpreted as this: “The righteous person will live by his faithfulness.” Or paraphrased, “By one’s faithfulness is a person found righteous and granted eternal life.”

We know that faithfulness means having total allegiance, loyalty, confidence, and trust in a person, system, ideology, or doctrine. So considering Rom. 1:17b and Hab. 2:4, who are we to live in faithfulness to? –Christ. And what are we to live in faithfulness to? –His teachings. Conversely, if we do not live in faithfulness to Christ and His teachings, what does that mean? It means we are not living by faith, thus we are not righteous –neither in behavior nor in position before God. We have “broken faith” with Christ and have been disloyal to Him, for not only have we betrayed our promise to follow Him and obey His commands, but we have crucified Him all over again (Heb. 6:6) and “insulted the Spirit of grace.” (Heb. 10:29) Such insulting and wicked disobedience is a denial of His Lordship / Kingship. It is to commit treachery within His Kingdom by disowning Him as the rightful Ruler that He is –over us and all –and this is grounds for being disowned by Christ before the Father and His holy angels. (2 Tim. 2:12 & Matt. 10:33 & Luke 12:9)

So since faith is about total faithfulness to Christ (which He expects of us –just as we expect faithfulness in marriage), let’s view Eph. 2:8,9 with this understanding also. It says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith –and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.” (NIV) If we insert the word “faithfulness” here, we have, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faithfulness…”, which if we do for the word “faith” in Rom. 1:17b, we can also do for the word “faith” in Eph. 2:8 –for the same exact Greek word for faith is used in both places.

However, since OSASers talk like “faith” is not action, yet they would presumably consider “faithfulness” continuous action (as they should), they would then undoubtably not like us inserting “faithfulness” for “faith”. However, verse 10 makes it clear that “works” are indeed part of faith –that “gift of God.” (See end of v. 8.) Here’s verse 10: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (NIV) “Do… works… do…” –it’s all there –about action… –about behavior. This means, then, that if we do not “do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”, we are rebelling against His will and plan for each of us as individuals, and are therefore not being faithful to Christ, and are therefore not walking in the faith which always leads to obedience. (See again Rom. 1:5 & 1 John 2:3,4,6) For faith is most definitely a way of life under the rulership of The Sovereign King; thus to disobey this King is to mutiny and be deemed “unfaithful” to the faith.

Here’s Eph. 2:8-10 in the NASB: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

The ESV’s rendition is very similar: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Created to walk in good works? Yes, –to abide in good works. –To exhibit good works. –Not “Law” works, or religious works, but works done “in Christ Jesus”, “in the Spirit”, and “in the will of the Father”. And though they won’t say it because they’d be admitting to “free choice”, OSASers think, “Well, the ‘works’ are optional. Or if they’re not, God will make sure His works get done through me without any effort on my part.”

OSASers speak gibberish. But no, doing good works is not optional. Not if we plan to hear at the Judgement, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:21) –As opposed to, “You wicked, lazy servant! …And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (v. 26,30)

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant…” (Matt. 24:45) whose Master finds has been faithful to His instructions (v. 46) –as opposed to that servant who is found to have been careless and wicked (v. 48) and will thus be assigned a place in Hell with the hypocrites? (v. 51) Well, the choice is ours. And it does depend on whether or not we walked in the good works God prepared ahead of time for us to walk in –and that we did so in continued faithfulness. For Christ’s “righteous one will live by faith” (Heb. 10:38a) –that is, by faithfulness and perseverance in doing the will of God –that he may receive what God has promised. (v. 36) “And if he shrinks back, I [Christ] will not be pleased with him.” (v. 38b) “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” (v. 39)

Indeed, it is only the person who remains faithfully obedient to Christ and His commands, who will experience eternal life.

with love,

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