Book of Romans

Sola Fide - The Crux of Salvation

Romans 1:16-17

Sola Fide—The Crux of Salvation

This week marks the 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant Reformation is marked by historians as beginning on October 31, 1517 and ending with the end of the Thirty Year’s War in 1648.

Over the next few weeks together we will be studying reformation theology.

It is fitting to consider this time and reflect upon it. It is the history of the church, and it is the history of God working in profound ways to build the glorious church.

There are many different ways that we could approach this topic. We could study the major players in the reformation and do biographical sketches—that would be tremendously beneficial, and perhaps over the years we will do that, but not now.

Summarizing the Doctrines of Grace [a.k.a. five points of Calvinism]

We could also study the doctrines of grace as we call them. Those great truths about our salvation that were made so clear in the time of the reformation. These are the truths about God’s unconditional election—the truth the God chooses individuals from before the foundation of the world that they would be precious to Him. He plans to redeem them and predestines them to glory.

The total depravity of man—that we are born in sin and are unwilling and unable to please God or choose Him.

The doctrine of irresistible grace that if God’s grace could be prevented by unbelief no one would be able to be saved, but it is wholly His work from start to finish.

The doctrine of limited atonement that the sacrifice of Christ purchased forgiveness and redemption for those whom He saves, and although offered to the world, Jesus died for his people only.

And finally, the doctrine of perseverance of the saints, namely that when God saves a person they will endure to glory by nature of his decree. If one truly belongs to Christ then nothing can separate them from that love and God will always finish the work He starts.

And we have studied those truths before, and Lord willing will again. Joy producing and spiritual-walk-empowering, and evangelism-invigorating, and love for Christ-cultivating. They aren’t some dry exercise.

Introducing the Solas of the Reformation

But as we come to a historical marker concerning the Reformation I want to look at it from the vantage point that the Reformers did themselves. I want to summarize the movement for you over the next several weeks as we examine what are commonly referred to as the five solas.

Sola is Latin, where we get solo—it just means only alone. The five solas weren’t expressed as such by the Reformers. Rather, historians looking back and assessing the contemporary issues in their day and their teaching, recognize these five issues as the significant markers or descriptors that serve as the banner issues of the Reformation.

We will spend a week each on the first two and then see how we are doing. I want to weave some historical context in, a demonstration of the doctrines themselves, and establish them from the pages of Scripture. Not your typical exposition each week.

There are five of them (sometimes three, one guy tried to make seven):

  • Sola fide
  • Sola scriptura

  • Sola gratia

  • Solus Christus

  • Soli Deo Gloria

Allow me to unpack for you the great cause behind the Reformation. What was it really all about? This is going to be a thrill to your heart… to watch how your God blessed his people in this time richly and profoundly through the very same means that we have access to today.

Concerns that Calvinism produces stuffiness, or unwillingness to evangelize, or pride. No doubt many Calvinists have those issues, but it isn’t because of their theology. It is in spite of it. It is a failure to properly understand and apply the truths that they are professing. These truths are invigorating to the hearts of God’s people. The first sola we will cover is sola fide

It was a revolution more than a reformation. The impact was seen socially, economically, educationally on the West. And yet more than anything, it was a restoration of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

There had been many years of darkness in the church for hundreds of years. People had been separated from the Word of God.

The true Gospel was recovered. The Word of God was translated into the language of people. The Bible began to be studied at a deeper level. Congregational singing. Bread and wine served to the people of God. Christian schools. Modern missions movement.

What was at the heart of the Reformation (the revolution). The five solas were the core principles (sola = alone or only; we have solo in English). These define the protestant reformation.


Truth be told, there were many antecedents to Luther. But in terms of when the Reformation really got moving, this surely was a landmark date. There was a confluence of factors converging in the world in terms of economics and the recent invention of the printing press all enabled the reformation.

What was the reformation? Well from the time of the apostles, Christ has always been building his bride, the church. But the dark ages or middle ages were a period of great spiritual darkness and confusion. Roman Catholicism dominated religion in the West (Europe) and the Roman Catholic Church had many centuries earlier become apostate.

They no longer held to a true gospel. Not only that, but the system kept people in spiritual darkness by keeping the Scriptures written in Latin, which was inaccessible to many common people throughout Europe. It was a tremendously effective tactic by Satan where he was raising up spiritually blind leaders to oppress and keep people in spiritual blindness.

That was the backdrop for God to do a marvelous work in his church.

Martin Luther is really the human instrument God used as a catalyst to the Reformation. Luther was unconverted, and preparing to be a lawyer when one evening on a walk he was almost struck by lightning. Being full of superstition he uttered a rash vow and proclaimed to St. Anne that if he lived through the storm he would commit himself to the ministry.

Of course he lived, and much to the chagrin of his father he made good on his vow. But whatever spiritual peace Luther was seeking, he surely did not find as an Augustinian monk.

Instead his guilt intensified. Rather than feeling closer to God, Luther felt more condemned than ever. It was not for a lack of effort. In fact he would write that if ever a monk could get to heaven by monkery it would be him.

Luther believed God was righteous and desperately wanted to be righteous before him. He followed the many prescriptions by the Roman Catholic Church for finding absolution of sins. He bought indulgences (the convenient sale of pardons issued by the church) and he visited holy sites. He mistreated his body. He slept without blankets in the cold.

At times, he would spend up to six hours per day on his knees confessing sins. Luther had a sensitive conscience and his remedy for his guilt was to throw himself with all the intensity and vigor that a human could muster in the pursuit of pleasing God.

Eventually, Luther entered the doctoral program in Whittenburg at the Unviersity of Whittenburg where he taught through the Psalms, Romans and Galatians from 1513-1516. At some point during that time period, Luther had his tower experience where he was converted.

Then on October 31, 2017 he posted his 95 theses.

  • Statements for public discourse—that’s why they were nailed to the church door, part of public discussion

  • 95 theses on the sale of indulgences (Johann Tetzel—brilliant marketer, commissioned with raising capital from St. Peter’s Basilica). He was accused of embezzlement and much of the money went to payoff personal debts incurred by the Cardinal who commissioned Tetzel.

  • He came up with the tagline: "As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs." I’m not sure how it sounded before translation, but it has a nice ring to it… like a jingle.

  • He had the original prepayment plan. You could pre-purchase forgiveness for sins you are going to commit. This was considered especially scandalous. Nothing more than greed masquerading as religion to the detriment of souls.

And so when Luther said that indulgences were worthless and the pope didn’t have the power to absolve sins it created a firestorm. People already felt used by the Roman Catholic Church, and because this threatened Rome’s pocket book it was the touchpoint.

Copies were made and distributed throughout Germany and Europe.

Interestingly enough, Luther’s first theses, the 97 theses is little known. Merele D’Aubigne records the 97 theses, which dealt with the issues of predestination and justification by faith alone. These were the real issues for Luther.

But those didn’t garner much attention. It was the financial scandal of the Catholic Church at this time that ignited the interest of the people.

And so, the these were copied and distributed. And so, began the Reformation of the Church. At the time the Catholic Church was apostate—no longer a true church that preached the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. Progressively drifted from the true church. And now amid these dark days, the Word of God went forth and God began to call his people out of the Catholic Church, and give them new life—born again not of the flesh but by the Spirit to a new and living hope.

The material principle. It is the substance and heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Core biblical teaching that salvation comes to the sinner through faith alone. What must I do to be saved? Most important question the church could ever answer.

Romans 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.”

2 Reasons Paul is Eager & Unashamed to Preach the Gospel in Rome (15-16a)

  1. The Gospel demonstrates God’s power in saving sinners (16b)

  2. The Gospel reveals God’s righteousness in justifying sinners (17)

Getting a running start, Paul hasn’t been able to come to Rome, and yet look at his disposition.

Romans 1:15—So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

Free translation—I’m chomping at the bit, I’m ready and rearing to go get there to be with ya’ll and begin to proclaim to you (the church) the glorious Gospel.

In fact, he is so eager, that this letter is essentially an exposition of the gospel—the good news that although man stand condemned in sin, God is merciful and pronounces guilty sinners as clean and forgiven, and then that new life results in progressing in personal holiness and putting to death sin, and the message came first to Jews, and then to Gentiles, but God isn’t done with his people Israel, but will one day bring to pass the promises that yet remain unfulfilled.

You say, but Paul… they are already saved… I don’t think they need the gospel anymore.

No. And they need to keep hearing the gospel growing in their understanding of the gospel and growing in their trust and reliance upon the gospel.

Please don’t miss the weight of this. The church gets so easily distracted as to what her calling is. I love how S. Lewis Johnson articulates this.

If this great truth of justification by faith is at the heart of Paul’s letter to the Roman church, then the epistle may come as something of a surprise to modern ecclesiastics. One might have expected the apostle to address believers at Rome, a city crammed with social problems, with a social manifesto or, at the least, a recitation of the primary truths of Christianity in their application to the social problems of the imperial city. Rome was a city of slaves, but Paul does not preach against slavery. It was a city of lust and vice, but he does not aim his mightiest guns at these evils. It was a city of gross economic injustice, but he does not thrust the sword of the Spirit into the vitals of that plague. It was a city that had been erected upon, and that had fed upon and prospered by the violence and rapacity of war, but the apostle does not expatiate upon its immorality. Apparently, if one is to judge the matter from a strictly biblical standpoint, Paul did not think that social reform in Rome was “an evangelical imperative.”

When he says, “evangelical imperative” he is referring to an article which was published in a notable Christian magazine calling the church to the imperative or the mandate of social reform.

Of course, true Christianity impacts the culture around it, and Christians are to care about the vulnerable in society. But the church’s primary impact in culture is through the transforming power of the gospel. Social change isn’t the goal or the driver or even the priority of the church.

The next two verses sum up the core of the gospel message, and the driving thrust of Paul’s entire letter, namely justification by faith alone. Four subordinate clauses, each clarifying and elucidating the one before it…

And Paul explains why he is so eager to preach to them…

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel,

ashamed—that sure is a vivid [ἐπαισχύνομαι]—to experience a painful feeling or sense of loss of status because of some particular event or activity, be ashamed.

The related concept is losing honor or losing dignity, (i.e., being disgraced). The good news centers on a person, namely Jesus. Jesus brings a reproach. Writer of Hebrews calls it the reproach of Christ.

Imagine that you are Paul and you are going to the Gentile capital—the greatest city at that time in the known world. An important city such as New York or Washington D.C. You are telling people to trust in a Galilean carpenter who was condemned as a criminal and executed.

Paul says I’m not concerned about losing dignity and honor by preaching the Gospel. I am not feeling a painful sense of loss due to the loss in status and credibility that I get from the watching world as I look like a misfit in proclaiming a Jewish carpenter turned convicted and executed criminal was my God who came in the flesh and brought me salvation apart from any human contribution or effort.

Mark 8:38—“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

2 Timothy 1:8—Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God (also in 1:12, 16).

Being ashamed of the gospel may be natural, but it is totally appropriate. The word gospel itself denotes a sense of exhilaration. The concept before used here is making a joyful announcement!

We landed on the moon…

The war is over…

The cancer is gone…

God offers forgiveness to sinners! You can be saved from the wrath to come! I love to tell the story, twill be my theme in glory to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love. Paul loves to preach the Gospel.

Preaching the gospel for Paul is not a burden. He is eager (v. 15), he is unashamed (16a). Why Paul?

2 Reasons Paul is Eager & Unashamed to Preach the Gospel in Rome (15-16a)

  1. The Gospel demonstrates God’s power in saving sinners (16b)

  2. The Gospel reveals God’s righteousness in justifying sinners (17)

for it is the power of God for salvation

Salvation means deliverance. Rescue. It is when you are in danger and you can’t get away yourself, and someone else comes and snatched you out harm’s way. Friends, God is a savior. He rescues sinners from themselves, from the clutch of Satan, and ultimately from Himself.

God’s power is unrivaled, and it does what no human effort could ever accomplish.

S Lewis Johnson puts it like this:

[God’s power] does what the power of nature, the power of the mind, the power of science and the power of demonic occult forces cannot do. It saves the soul, for its power is divine… The gospel is the power of God that leads to complete salvation, salvation from the penalty, power and, ultimately, [one day in heaven] the presence of sin.

It is a complete work a complete salvation. Paul can’t hold his horses when it comes to preaching the gospel because he knows, “when I preach, God’s saving power is unleashed and sinners will find salvation in Christ.”

Such an important message for the church to hear.

I met someone here after moving to Albany and he said he was a Christian and as we got to conversing he found out my background in business and said, “that’s so awesome you have a marketing background, basically as a pastor, your job is to market the Gospel… but that’s like the best product ever, that’s such an easy product to sell, I mean everyone wants that.”

I literally didn’t know how to respond to that. First, I wondered if he had ever actually explained the gospel to someone or if it was all theory.

Look, marketing experience provides no direct benefit to Gospel ministry. Our job isn’t to make it attractive or to package it palatably, or to describe all the benefits without the cost, or to change our pitch to get people engaged. Any attempt by man to modify the Gospel ruins the Gospel because it is the power of God.

Paul actively sought to ensure that the results of his ministry were because of God’s power and not some human scheme.

1 Corinthians 2:2–5—2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

In Thessalonica do you remember how Paul describes how the gospel came to them in 1 Thessalonians 1:5—it came in power and in the Holy Spirit. New life. Repentance. Freedom from bondage to sin. A heart that truly worships God. That my friends is not mere rehab, it is the power of God.

And what qualifies you for this powerful salvation?

to everyone who believes,

Paul didn’t have to include that. But there is a particular universality to it. Rich or poor. Wise or foolish. Skin color doesn’t matter. Gender doesn’t matter. And the type of sins you have committed, the length of time you have committed them cannot exclude from this power.

Romans 10:11—For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”

There is not one exception here. This is what we mean when we speak of the free offer of salvation. Bring your sin and cast it upon Jesus and trust in His work and find forgiveness!

If you think racial tension is a problem in the United States right now, it was worse in the early church. That’s the main thing on Paul’s mind when he says, to everyone who believe because he clarifies right after…

to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

What does that demonstrate? There is a priority here. God’s chosen people are not Americans, but Jews. Original plan of salvation, Jesus bloodlines according to the flesh, the law and the promises (some of which are yet to be fulfilled).

But there is also equality. In Christ there is no one who has a special advantage in terms of accessing that power and no leniency in rejecting it.

Well, the gospel demonstrates God’s power in saving sinners. And this is one of the reasons Paul is eager and unashamed to preach the gospel in Rome. But it isn’t the only reason.

And from a grammatical standpoint this next reason is really explaining the previous one. So Paul is explaining how and why the gospel demonstrates God’s power.

2 Reasons Paul is Eager & Unashamed to Preach the Gospel in Rome (15-16a)

  1. The Gospel demonstrates God’s power in saving sinners (16b)

  2. The Gospel reveals God’s righteousness in justifying sinners (17)

17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed

The it is the gospel. And to be revealed is to be uncovered, manifested, made known. So in the gospel, the righteousness of God is seen and revealed.

Well those points are clear enough, but what is the righteousness of God? Living on this side of the reformation we read those words and immediately assume we are speaking of God’s work of pronouncing sinners as righteous.

This is justification. Justification means God not infusing people with righteousness, but rather legally pronouncing them as just and right before Him. You are still a sinner.

It is the truth contained in that famous latin phrase: simul justus et peccator (sim-ull eustus et peck-A-turrr)—at the same time justified (righteous) and a sinner. Not in the same sense at the same time.

One is your legal footing before God. The other is your practical operation. Your deeds done this week are not fully right. You were actually wrong many times—morally wrong, unrighteous in what you did, thought, said, felt…

But at the same time this week, if you are in Christ, then you are before Him accounted as righteous. Please don’t hear this and let your mind drift to other things because you have heard this message a thousand times before.

God considers you righteous. It is a foreign righteousness. It is alien to who you are.

2 Corinthians 5:21—He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Philippians 3:9—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,

Romans 5:17—For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

This my friends, is good news. It is why we say sola fide is the crux of the gospel and it was at the heart of the Reformation. But in Luther’s time that wasn’t the interpretation of this passage. Consider Luther’s own account of this verse. As one historian records:

Luther confessed later that he had always hated the expression, “the righteousness of God,” for it suggested to him a stern judge sitting upon a rainbow, waiting to hurl thunderbolts of judgment down upon helpless disobedient man. Through his study of the Psalms in 1514 be learned that the righteousness of God was related to man’s deliverance, not man’s condemnation. This understanding was clarified and enlarged by the study of Romans, upon which he lectured at Wittenberg from November 3, 1515 to September 7, 1516. It was during these years, and not, as is popularly thought, while he ascended the famous Scala Sancta of the cathedral church of St. John of Lateran in Rome in 1511, that he came to the realization that justification did not presuppose some inner change in man, an inner healing, as he had formerly understood and taught. Now he saw that it was something done outside of man through the mediatorial work of Jesus Christ, His death, burial, and resurrection. The acceptance by faith of this work liberated man, because a just God was now able to give freely to each believer “the righteousness of God,” provided by Him and, therefore, acceptable to Him. Commenting upon his experience years later in 1545 Luther said, “As violently as I had formerly hated the expression ‘righteousness of God,’ so I was now as violently compelled to embrace the new conception of grace and, for me, the expression of the Apostle really opened the Gates of Paradise.”19 The righteousness of God, then, is the key to salvation. They who have it know the power of God in personal salvation. They who do not have it are lost. They who have it know that they are “right before God.”20 They who do not have it are not right before Him. It is as simple as that. Principal Cunningham used to say, “The righteousness of God is that righteousness which His righteousness requires Him to require.” According to Paul the simplest believer in Jesus Christ is clothed in this required righteousness through the justifying work of the Last Adam (cf. Rom 3:21–26). And the Pauline doctrine is not unique; it is in perfect harmony with Isaiah’s, for the prophet wrote, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels” (Isa 61:10, AV).

Luther’s understanding of the righteousness of God and the requirement of a righteous God I dare say puts most of to shame. He was acutely aware of the chasm between God’s standard and what Luther himself could supply.

Luther wasn’t under the false notion that his good deeds would way out the bad, or he had tried his hardest or any of the nonsense that people comfort their souls with in our day. Luther, despite his best efforts and intentions found himself condemned by this passage because he knew he didn’t have the righteousness of God.

But then he discovered that this righteousness does not come to those who work the hardest to get it, but to those who believe God for it.

from faith to faith;

There is more than a handful of suggestions as to what exactly is meant by this statement. Everything from Paul speaking of God’s faith becoming our faith, or our faith progressing from small to large, and several others.

We will make two comments before moving on.

First, Paul’s statement is general and so rather than make a very specific application we can leave it general. What is his main point then? The righteousness of God is not manifested through human effort, or human will, or human standards, or human performance, but through faith.

That’s the macro idea, and the main point to take home. If you want my best guess here at what from faith to faith means is that this work is from start to finish by faith. It starts out and comes from faith, and the goal it produces is continually faith.

Starts by faith, continues by faith. But again, the big idea is righteousness doesn’t come by works.

And then Paul continues…

as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

Here Paul makes a comparison. In the original he says just as it is written. As it is written is language that tips us off to the use of the Old Testament scriptures. Here Paul is pulling a truth contained in Habakkuk 2:4 and applying here.

The Habakkuk passage appears also in Galatians 3:11, as well as by the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 10:38.

The verse in Habakkuk is considered to be a theme statement concerning salvation in the Old Testament.

The worthy reputation of Hab 2:4b in both Jewish and Christian circles is well attested. For example, “the Talmud records the famous remark of R. Simlai (Makkot 23b), ‘Moses gave Israel 613 commandments. David reduced them to 10, Isaiah to 2, but Habakkuk to one: the righteous shall live by his faith.’“

The preeminent illustration of this phenomenon was the text’s catalytic effect in leading to the Reformation: “Habakkuk’s great text, with his son Paul’s comments and additions, became the banner of the Protestant Reformation in the hands of Habakkuk’s grandson, Martin Luther.”

(concerning Habakkuk 2:4) The key to the whole Book of Habakkuk...the central theme of all the Scriptures.

The point? This verse was God speaking to Habakkuk and the reverberation of this truth echoed into Paul’s heart and 1500 years after that into the heart of Martin Luther.

Let’s turn back to Habakkuk 2. Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi then Matthew. So just a few pages back from Matthew you will find Habakkuk.

Habakkuk 2:4—Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.

Sounds just like what Paul is saying. But the Hebrew word for faith is אֱמוּנָה (emunah), which doesn’t carry and active meaning of believing. It is a passive construct that essentially always refers to faithfulness. This is the way the verse is translated in the NIV.

Habakkuk 2:4 (NIV)—See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness—

There is also a footnote in your NASB that says this. So, what’s going on here? Well a couple of things. Paul is using Habakkuk analogically. In other words, he is drawing on a principle expressed in Habakkuk and using it to make the point he wants to make in Romans.

And Habakkuk and Paul aren’t talking about completely different things, but they are emphasizing different points. Habakkuk isn’t focusing on justification by faith alone as his primary emphasis.

Habakkuk is focusing on the fact that someone who is a child of God has a firm, steadfast, conviction about who God is and walks by faith. In this case a “righteous” person is one who believes in God, clinging to Him and His promises.

His point is that a righteous person lives by faithfulness (by a consistent trust in the Lord). What Habakkuk isn’t saying is that a righteous person is made righteous by living with a “firm attachment to God” as one commentator puts it.

Once again, a full circle has been drawn. From this perspective, it is best to conclude with Westcott that “‘faith’ (in the Pauline sense) and ‘faithfulness to God’ (which is what the Prophet had in mind), in the long run, are the same thing.

The proud look of the Chaldeans, who are coming to bring violence on the people of God, they are not right before the Lord. Their desires are sinful. They are corrupt. They are under God’s judgment. They are taking matters into their own hands. And that is in contrast to the people of God.

Israel on the other hand, is to be characterized by an abundant, vibrant spiritual life in spite of the challenges she is facing.

God is telling Habakkuk that a righteous person has a firm trust in the Lord. That’s this idea of faith or faithfulness. It is a steadiness. A firmness. A fidelity if you will. A steadfastness in the Lord that doesn’t waver.

Allow me to illustrate in the immediate context of Habakkuk.

Habakkuk 3:16–19—16 I heard and my inward parts trembled, At the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, And in my place I tremble. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, For the people to arise who will invade us. 17 Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, 18 Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. 19 The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places. For the choir director, on my stringed instruments.

The words in Habakkuk concerning the emotions in light of the Chaldeans coming are: devastation, terror, violence, being overwhelmed, trembling and shaking, lips quivering… and so to look to God and consider Him faithful.

These are eyes of faith. So, which is it? Faithfulness? Or faith? Here I fact, Habakkuk is emphasizing faithfulness but both factors are in play.

Not in the same way, but they are inseparable. Man is justified (made right and declared right by God) is on the basis of faith. That faith continues in fidelity to God. Genuine faith doesn’t turn against God or return to unbelief, but it endures. And it is manifested in faithfulness.

Habakkuk is teaching what has already been taught concerning Abraham. Genesis 15:6—then Abraham lived diligently and was righteous in the eyes of God. Then Abraham excelled beyond all the rest and kept the law of God and was righteous before Him. Then Abraham created a standard and upheld it and thereby earned the righteousness of God.

No, the text is clear…

Genesis 15:6—Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

God reckoned it to him as righteousness. God said, in my accounting system I will consider you righteous. And Abraham serves as the example for everyone who believes (father Abraham). Paul will quote Genesis 15:6 three times in Romans 4 (4:3, 9, 22) and then once in Galatians (4:22).

The theme of salvation in the bible is this—salvation comes through faith in God’s provision to grant the very righteousness He requires not due to merit, but as a free gift to those who believe. And as a child of God then, you begin to live a life of practical righteousness. Faithfulness has always been the manifestation of genuine faith.

Consider Abraham: how did we know Abraham had faith?

Hebrews 11:8–19—8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

11 By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE. 13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; 18 it was he to whom it was said, “IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED.” 19 He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.

Do you see how this works and why faith is vital? Faith believes that God is, and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Faith believes that God has made a way for your sin. It always comes back to this central issue.

Heart of our Gospel—always try to get this through when I’m sharing the message of Jesus with someone. Look pal, the only difference between you and me is that my sins were paid for by someone else. I have a righteousness that was alien and foreign that didn’t originate from and doesn’t belong to me except by credit in God’s general ledger.

Well for Luther, this passage rightly understood was the watershed that marked his conversion. And what began here, would produce shockwaves that reverberated throughout Germany all the way to the pope, and extend across Europe, and eventually throughout the world.


This is God’s plan of salvation and has been since Genesis 3:15. It is a plan of salvation that exalts God’s power as He provides what He requires. And in this the righteousness of God is put on display in God not excusing sin, but rather establishing sinners as justified before Him.

The truth that man is justified by faith apart from the law was Paul’s song. He never stopped singing it. It didn’t get old for him.

He brought it as a matter of first importance to the believers in Rome. And then this truth as it was uncovered and rediscovered centuries later, was the material cause of what we know as the Protestant Reformation.