How to Grow in Faith

Now I want you to notice that this theme is carried into the new testament:

The New Testament writer, Paul, took Habakkuk’s statement, developed it, and made it the theme of the book of Romans.

After his statements of introduction and expressions of personal desire in 1:1-15, Paul stated the theme of this teaching letter in 1:16, 17:

16* ¶ 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.

17* 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.”

From this statement forward through chapter 11, Paul does two  things: 

He verified from the Old Testament that God actually makes people righteous through faith, and that God always has made people righteous through faith. 

He explained why God must work through the faith of a person to save the person.

Then… From chapter 12 through 16 he specifically addressed the way a  person saved by faith lived and acted as he surrendered to the will and purposes of God.

In Paul’s theme, “The righteous man shall live by faith,” consider these  thoughts. 

When Paul said that the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, he was stressing the fact that righteousness is totally a product of faith.

A righteous person’s life will be filled with obedience and doing good–Paul stressed that fact in chapters 12-16. But being obedient and doing good things does not make that person righteous. His faith in God is “reckoned for righteousness” in exactly the same way that God reckoned Abraham’s faith as righteousness (Romans 4).

Paul makes this point when he wrote the Philippian Christians.

Phil. 3:4-9

4* ¶ although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more:

5* circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;

6* as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.

7* But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

8* More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,

9* ¶ and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,

In Philippians chapter 3, he said that if he wanted to place his religious confidence in himself as did many other Jews, he certainly could do that because he had  impressive Jewish credentials (3:4-6). But he had trashed all his Jewish credentials and achievements;  he threw them all in the garbage (3:7,8).

In verses 9-11, he explains this decision and action; I call your attention to two of those reasons.

He no longer wanted “a righteousness of my own derived from the law.”

He wanted “the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith, that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.”

When you understand the contrast between the righteousness that comes from the law and the righteousness that come from faith in Christ, you understand why the righteous shall live by faith.

I am NOTrighteous because: 

1) I obey commandments.

2) I do good things.

BECAUSE I am righteous:

1)I will obey anything and everything God commands.

2)I will fill my life with doing good things, just as Jesus went about doing good.

But, I am righteous because I place my confidence and trust in God  and Christ.

Consider this distinction between two people who do good things. 

1. One does good things because he places his complete trust in God and Jesus.

2. The other is an unbeliever who does good things because he has resources at his disposal and he’s concerned about helping people.

Is there a difference between these two persons? Yes! 

The difference of salvation!

One person is righteous because he has faith, and does good on the basis of faith.

The other person does not function because of faith; his reasons for doing good are based in himself.

Phil 3:8,9

8* More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,

9* ¶ and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,

Paul is not making an anti-obedience statement–look at all that he says to these very same people in this very same letter in chapters 12-16. 

The fact that we are made righteous by faith is not a commentary on the role or the importance of obedience–it in no sense diminishes obedience.

When we reduce the point that Paul made to a faith versus obedience discussion, we miss Paul’s point.

Paul said we are righteous because we place our absolute, total, complete confidence in God, not in ourselves–we trust God, not ourselves, not our deeds.

Paul’s statement is an anti-faith-in-myself-and-my-deeds statement. Salvation is not a matter of compensation. Righteousness is not a earnings arrangement produced through a union contract with God.

Remember that Paul was writing to people who had centuries of heritage in being works focused and procedure conscious. Throughout their religious history, their ancestors had wrongly measured their faith by the things they did as they kept the law. Israel’s perpetual problem was not the absence of faith, but misplaced faith. They placed their confidence in the wrong things.

For example:

1) They were sure that they could not be destroyed as a nation because they had the temple.

2) The Pharisees were sure that God accepted them above all other Jews because they meticulously obeyed the law.

3) Israelites in every generation placed their confidence in their ancestry and heritage.

Paul said only through faith can a person be righteous before God.

Because that is true, Jesus can be the universal Savior.

Any person–Israelite or non-Israelite, can be saved, can be righteous.

The person who places his faith in God and Christ is righteous.

(thanks to David Chadwell for the adapted notes above – Thanks David!)

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