Romans 1:17


When these words were written by St. Paul, Christianity did not occupy in the world the position that it does now. In the mind of the ordinary Roman, the Jew was regarded almost always with contempt. And when the Christian was at all distinguished from the Jew, it was only to be the subject of more reproachful terms. Some of the most eminent and well-informed of the Roman writers speak of the Christian religion as a pernicious and detestable superstition. The humble origin, too, of the early founders of Christianity was not calculated to impress favourably the worldly mind. If the gospel which told of Christ crucified was a stumbling-block to the Jew, it was indeed foolishness to the Greek and to the Roman too. Yet Paul had not been ashamed of this gospel at Athens; he was not going to be ashamed of it at Rome. He had proclaimed the message of the Nazarene in the city of Plato and Socrates; he would preach it also in the city of Cicero and Seneca. Paul is not afraid to teach where they have taught. He was right. The name of Jesus is a greater name than Plato's. The religion which Jesus taught has moulded and purified the world. The apostle assigns two reasons why he is not ashamed of the gospel. These are -

I. ITS PURPOSE. This is indicated by the words "unto salvation" The Greek preposition which is translated "unto' expresses purpose, or tendency, or aim. The purpose of the gospel is the salvation of all who will receive its message. To effect this purpose, the Son of God left the glory of the eternal, and descended into the misery and weariness of a life on earth. For this, he suffered the assaults of the tempter; for this, he passed through the agony of Gethsemane; for this, he bore with patience the lingering torments of the cross. "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." The purpose of the gospel is salvation. Let us understand fully the meaning of that great word. Salvation is indeed deliverance from guilt, deliverance from condemnation. But the purpose of the gospel is something more than this. It is to save us also from the power of sin in our hearts and lives. Many professing Christians forget this. They think that faith in Christ is simply to deliver them from punishment in the day of judgment, while they do not allow it to have present, practical influence upon their lives. Let us not deceive ourselves. There is no true salvation where there is not an evidence of present departure from sin and present following after holiness. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Faith, if it is real, will show itself. Salvation is a present thing. "The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth us from all sin." The purpose of the gospel is to save us now There are many who long for some power that might save them from themselves, from some evil propensity or passion, from the influence of bad companionships. This salvation it is the purpose of the gospel to effect. "Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

II. ITS POWER. The gospel, says the apostle, is "the power of God." Here is an encouragement for our faith. This is the second reason why St. Paul was not ashamed of the gospel. Its purpose, no doubt, seemed a very difficult one, but the apostle had no fear for its success. Its earliest messengers were humble men. But the success of their message was in higher and mightier hands than theirs. That sin should be overcome, and men delivered from its power, was the purpose of the Almighty God, and his purpose never fails. In the history of nations we see the gospel proving itself to be the power of God. The moral miracles of Christianity, as Prebendary Row has shown, are the strongest evidence of its Divine origin and power. It has changed barbarism to civilization. It has emancipated the slaves. It has put an end to the cruel sacrifices performed in honour of the heathen gods. It has accomplished moral and social revolutions that to the human eye seemed utterly impossible. So also in the history of individuals. Men who have sunk so low beneath the power of degrading vice that their friends despaired of rescuing them, by the power of the gospel have been brought from death unto life. Jesus, and Jesus only, can cure men of sin's power. If we but touch his garment, we shall be made whole. No one has any reason to be ashamed of the gospel. Its purpose is a high and noble one, the highest and noblest mission ever undertaken. Its power is not the power of a feeble or a puny arm. It is the power of the living God. These are thoughts to inspire, and not to make ashamed. - C.H.I.









For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.
I. THE GOSPEL IS A REVELATION OF GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS.

1. Righteousness is a regard to what is right.

2. God is essentially a righteous Being. He knows what is due from each to the rest, and from all to Himself, and also sees and acknowledges what is due from Him to them. The foundation and standard of all righteousness are to be found in His nature and character. He has no desire, and can have no temptation to do that which is unjust. The Judge of all the earth must do right.

3. He loves righteousness in others, and hates iniquity. Whether we rob God or our neighbours, it is alike abhorrent to Him. He shows His love of righteousness —(1) By rewarding it; this He has done among the angels in heaven.(2) By punishing unrighteousness; this He has done among the lost spirits in hell.(3) By seeking the recovery of those who have fallen from righteousness; and this He is doing upon earth through the gospel of His Son.

4. The gospel is not merely a display of mercy, but of righteousness. He could not bestow forgiveness on sinners in violation of righteousness.(1) He must therefore devise some way of satisfying the demands of justice before He can deliver the ungodly from the doom which they deserve. This He has done in the surrender of His Son as a sin offering for the world.(2) He must provide — which He has done through the Holy Ghost — for the restoration of pardoned rebels to personal purity and holiness; and so will His righteousness be displayed and His law magnified in the salvation of a ruined race. Shall we say that His righteousness is the handmaid of His love, or that His love is subservient to His righteousness? Let us not attempt to settle the law of precedence; it is enough for us to know that in the salvation of sinful men both God's righteousness and God's love are resplendently revealed — the righteousness through His love, and the love through His righteousness.

II. THE OBJECT OF THE GOSPEL IS TO RAISE MAN TO RIGHTEOUSNESS.

1. Man was at first made upright. In the enjoyment of this righteousness he possessed life. But by transgression he fell. Instantly his understanding was darkened, his conscience perverted, his heart disordered, and his happiness destroyed. He lost his life.

2. God's purpose in the gospel is to make us again righteous; to deliver us from condemnation and renew our souls in virtue and truth. This is the same thing as to recover us from death to life. By being righteous we live, by being unrighteous we die.

III. FAITH, AS THE INSTRUMENT OF MAN'S RECOVERY TO RIGHTEOUSNESS.

1. Faith is mentioned in opposition to legal works. We might be righteous if we could keep the whole law unfalteringly and unceasingly. But we have not, and cannot do so. Hence we are shut out from works, and shut up to faith. We cannot acquire a righteousness of our own, but must be content to let God give us one.

2. Faith is not to be confounded with feelings. It may lead to certain emotions of the soul, but it does not consist of them. The object of faith is not to be found within ourselves; it lies without.

3. What, then, is faith?(1) It is belief, and nothing more, when it is directed to a doctrinal statement or alleged fact of the past, and then we may call it intellectual or historical faith.(2) But suppose its object to have some immediate and powerful bearing upon our duty and interests; then will our faith necessarily lead to action. Such faith may be called practical or ethical.(3) But the object of faith may be something more than either statements or precepts: it may be a living person. We then have faith in him, or on him, as well as belief about him; our faith takes the form of confidence, reliance, trust. It is through faith in all its forms, but especially through the last one, that we lay hold on the righteousness of God in the gospel, and appropriate it as our own.

4. Faith is a noble and worthy instrument of our salvation. It is not to be disdained as inferior to reason. Rather it is reason's highest and most enlightened exercise. Faith gives reason wings, wherewith she mounts to regions of truth otherwise beyond her reach.

5. Faith is necessary as the means of salvation. It is not an arbitrary condition of salvation, but indispensable in the very nature of things; and, being such, it is all that is demanded, for "whosoever believeth," whatever else he lacks or hath, "shall not perish, but have everlasting life."

(T. G. Horton.)

The two statements of the previous verse are here explained and confirmed. The gospel is the saving power of God, because it reveals a Divine righteousness which is itself salvation. The first of these propositions declares to us what gives the gospel its saving property. It has many excellences which may well recommend it. It inculcates a morality which in purity and completeness is unapproached. It presents us with its historical embodiment in a character equally lofty and unique. It contains the noblest and most attractive conception of God which has ever dawned upon the world, while it invests men with a new and unspeakable dignity by bringing life and immortality to light. Yet while all this is true, it remains that what constitutes the gospel saving power is that revelation of righteousness of which the apostle here speaks, Whatever else it may do for you in awakening conscience, in haunting you with an ideal which you have never really embraced, in sobering you with convictions of judgment and eternity, it will not save you unless this righteousness be apprehended. And what in the last resort will it have done for you if it has failed to save you?

I. WHAT, THEN, IS THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD?

1. The ostensible meaning might seem to be the righteousness which is an attribute of God. But it cannot be said that this in any special sense is a revelation of the gospel, for it was the great theme of Old Testament teaching. Moreover, it is impossible to see how the revelation of it could constitute a saving power. We can understand how it might awaken conscience and deepen the conviction of sin. But this would only make our condemnation more obvious and inevitable.

2. The righteousness of God, as is evident from the quotation in Habakkuk, as well as from other parallel expressions, is the righteousness of which God is the author, which He provides and bestows, so that the man who acquires it becomes thereby a righteous man. Now, this is precisely what we need.(1) The testimony of the apostle is that the whole world is guilty before God. None, accordingly, is clear in the eye of the law. God cannot count us as anything else than transgressors until we stand guiltless in His sight. The great question is, How can this be accomplished? And the only answer, independently of the gospel, is, By our own efforts or not at all. It is no part of the righteous judge, as such, to assoil the transgressor. It might be a palpable breach of his duty to do so. Hence man has never looked to God alone to clear him. but always to some sacrifice or endeavour of his own, which might cancel or atone for his offence. But no sacrifice could ever assure him that his relation to God had been rendered satisfactory, because he has never received any Divine promise to that effect. The same is true of every effort after repentance or amendment of life. At the best, therefore, one could only hope that such expedients might attain their object. And this hope has been the root and spring of almost all religions. But the gospel shows that the desired prospect is not to be secured by any such means.(2) But what the world could not do for itself God did for it. And if the gospel passes its sentence of impotence upon us, it is only to direct us to its provision of saving grace. This position has been secured by the mediation of Christ, whom God gave to be the Saviour of the world. Every demand of the law was satisfied in His life of obedience. And He gave Himself for us, to bear, as our Representative and Substitute, the penalty of our disobedience, so that everything the law might claim at our hands might be infallibly and fully met. By His resurrection the Divine satisfaction was openly declared, and He passed through the heavens to enter into the presence of God on our behalf. There He appears, the eternal pledge of a righteousness fulfilled, presenting to His Father a humanity clear of every ground of accusation, and securing to everyone who will trust in Him a safe standing in His sight. He is the Lord our righteousness. This, then, is what the apostle means when he says that in the gospel is revealed a righteousness of God.

3. Thus understood, it is not difficult to see how the gospel becomes thereby the power of God to salvation. For —(1) It lays the foundation of fellowship with God. So long as sin is unforgiven fellowship is impossible. Sin compels Him to treat us as offenders. Therefore it is that the broad foundation and starting point of all religion lies in being right with God.(2) Further, if being right with God is essential to fellowship with Him, so also it is fellowship with Him that secures the growth of spiritual life. As the branch must abide in the vine to receive the sap and nourishment that circulates through the tree, we must abide in connection with God to be partakers of His Spirit and power. This it is that enables us to bring forth the fruits of holiness. The expulsive power of the new affection will purge the soul of its fleshly desires. As the soiled and crumpled leaves are pushed off the tree by the rising sap that swells the buds with the foliage of the coming summer, so it will cleanse us from dead works to serve the living God.

II. THE GOSPEL IS THE SAVING POWER OF GOD BECAUSE IT IS FROM FAITH TO FAITH.

1. This righteousness of which the apostle has spoken is not due to our own works, which do not contribute to it anything whatever. When it becomes ours it is due entirely to faith, which appropriates Christ, and by resting upon Him enters into it and invests us with all its prerogatives. "We are found in Him, not having our own righteousness," etc.

2. And just as it is due to faith, so also it is designed to produce faith. The more thoroughly its character is understood, the more perfectly its completeness and satisfactoriness in all points is perceived, the more will faith be confirmed. For if anything weakens faith it is just our not being sure of our rightness with God, or of the foundation on which that rightness depends. On the other hand, if the ground of our acceptance be clearly distinguished and seen in its length and breadth in Christ Jesus, we learn more boldly to appropriate the contents of His salvation. Here lies the secret of its power to transform you and lift you up. There is no other sure foothold for us. But this is sure.

(C. Moinet, M. A.)

I. THERE IS A RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD AVAILABLE FOE SINFUL MEN. This righteousness is revealed as a "free gift" of God (Romans 5:16, 17), of which they become possessed "in Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:21), and this, not as a result of their own striving or legal obedience (Romans 10:3; Philippians 3:8, 9), but simply by faith in Him (Romans 3:21, 22).

1. It is manifest therefore that this "righteousness of God" does not denote —(1) That perfect personal righteousness which is required of us by law. That can exist only where there has been maintained perfect innocence and obedience. But "there is none righteous, no; not one." And therefore, "by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified" (Romans 3:9-20).(2) That righteousness which is implanted and perfected in believers by the grace of God. Clearly, indeed, there is such a righteousness, but it is surely not one which is so by faith as to be "not of works," and "without the law."(3) "God's method of saving sinners," nor "that authorised and attested method of justifying the ungodly," which is revealed in the gospel. For how manifestly absurd to declare that "God hath made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made" God's method of justifying sinners in Him!(4) The active obedience or positive righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, as distinguished from His negative righteousness, or innocence, and His sufferings and death. The Scriptures know nothing of such a parting and distribution of the Redeemer's one seamless robe of righteousness. They do not teach that a believer, as such, has a right, in the positive righteousness of Christ, to the rewards of eternal glory. A right, in Him, every believer has to the position and immunities of innocence, but the positive rewards of righteousness are to be conferred on each "according as his work shall be."(5) "The justification which is of God." For that fails to bring out the most central thought of the expression, viz., the ground upon which God saves or justifies. It confounds effect with cause.

2. What then is this "righteousness of God"? It is that one righteousness of Christ which He affected for us in His obedience unto death. To establish valid ground for the justification of the sinner, it is obvious that mere innocence was not enough; nor the most splendid achievements of active righteousness. That which law demands, in regard to an offender, is the endurance of penalty. When that has been endured, the law relaxes its grasp, and sets the prisoner free. Then he goes forth justified, so as that he cannot be again legally touched on account of the offences for which he has already suffered. It is quite true that such a righteousness could never be won for himself by a sinful man; for a sinful act in him induces at once a sinful character, and the fact and guilt of sin go on increasing with the progress of his being. Hence, in the Scriptures, the possibility of any man being justified before God on the ground of his own righteousness, however accomplished, is never once imagined. But these Scriptures do maintain that "as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of One, the free gift (namely, of righteousness) came upon all men unto (or for) justification of life" (Romans 5:18). But that righteousness is preeminently the righteousness of suffering. Therefore it is written that "He was delivered [namely, to suffer unto death] on account of our offences, and [that having so suffered, and thereby earned the legal claim for our discharge, He] was raised again on account of our justification" (Romans 4:25). This, then, we apprehend, is "the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe" (Romans 3:22). It is this which, being conferred upon believers as a free gift of grace, secures for them the legal ground on which they can be justified. To impute this to them is to put them in possession of that which insures for them a full discharge from all liability to arrest, imprisonment, or punishment on account of their own past offences. In Christ, the demand of the law has been met on their behalf. They were arrested in Him, condemned in Him, led forth to be crucified in Him, suffered the extreme penalty of the law in Him, and are now also "made the righteousness of God in Him."

II. THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS IS REVEALED IN THE GOSPEL, not indeed exclusively, but specially, preeminently, and perfectly. The righteousness itself, in its true ground and nature, had not been before revealed. Indeed, till the Holy One and the Just had given exhibition of it in His own actual human history, it could not be. Yet, even in the Old Testament times, thus much was known, namely —

1. That no man could, in his own right, claim to be legally justified — he had no righteousness which could command that result; and yet —

2. That some men should, through gracious Divine provision, inherit the rewards of righteousness; righteousness should be imputed to them; they should be justified and treated as righteous (Psalm 24:5; Isaiah 45:24, 25; Isaiah 61:10). What constituted that righteousness had not yet been disclosed. It was indeed faintly foreshadowed by those perpetual sacrifices, which could not make the offerers perfect, but without reference to which the plea for mercy could not be successfully urged. This plea failed indeed to supply any solid ground of hope, and yet there was hope, a hope which in some sense was sustained by it (Psalm 51:16, 17). But that hope was ever reaching onward into the coming age, for that One who would make an end of transgression and bring in an everlasting righteousness, and whose name was fore announced as "The Lord our righteousness" (Daniel 9:24; Jeremiah 23:6). But now, in the gospel of Christ, this Hope of Israel has actually come, and accomplished His work of righteousness for sinners.

III. THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS IS HERE REVEALED TO BE FROM FAITH TO FAITH, or by faith for belief.

1. Of faith, or by faith. Men attain possession of it by faith, and by faith only (Romans 4:16). Hence the protest of St. Paul to the "dissembling" Peter (Galatians 2:15, 16).

2. By faith for belief. The righteousness of God, as the ground of justification, is proclaimed to men in the gospel, as being by faith, in order that they may believe and be justified. So the testimony that the faith of Abraham was counted to him for righteousness, had been put upon record, not for his sake alone, but for ours also (Romans 4:23-25). And the whole mystery concerning the righteousness of God is made known to all nations for the obedience of faith (Romans 16:25, 26).Conclusion:

1. A salvation grounded in the righteousness of God must, when clearly apprehended, afford an equal satisfaction to reason, judgment, and conscience.

2. A salvation which is by faith is possible to all.

3. Salvation on any other terms would be impossible.

(W. Tyson.)

It is a "righteousness" because on it the acquittal of accused and sinful men justly proceeds. It is "God's righteousness" because provided by the Triune God through the human passion of the Second Person. It is "God's-righteousness-of-faith," because, in order to our becoming justified by it, faith is the solitary condition. The relation of gospel righteousness is thus expressed by its very name on both sides. As it respects God, it is His, as opposed to its being mine: He is its Author, Achiever, Proprietor. But it comes to me, stands me in stead, is reckoned to me for acquittal "by faith." This expression stands opposed to another often recurring — "by law-works" (Romans 3:20), i.e., personal acts of obedience carrying with them some merit in God's sight. If men could accomplish these they would have a righteousness of their own, not God's, arising out of such "law works." But in sharp contrast to this self-provided righteousness stands the gospel righteousness provided by Another. Thus the whole of this composite title, "God's-righteousness-by-faith," is at every point clean contrary to "Man's-righteousness-by-works," and accordingly the apostle through nearly three following chapters endeavours to abolish the latter that he may establish the former, and shut us up to accept it.

(J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)

All our conceit about our past righteousness must be completely overthrown. Perhaps we flatter ourselves that all is well, because we have been baptized, or have come to the communion, like one who was visited, a few days ago, by an elder. Seeing that she was sick, and near to die, he asked her: "Have you a good hope?" "Oh, sir, yes; a good and blessed hope." "And pray," said he, "what is it?" "Well," she said, "I have taken the sacrament regular for fifty years." What think ye of that in a Christian country, from the lips of one who had attended a gospel ministry? Her confidence was built upon the mere fact of her having attended to an outward ceremony, to which, probably, she had no right whatever! There are hundreds and thousands who are thus resting upon mere ceremonies. They have been churchgoers or chapel goers from their youth up. They have never been absent, except under sickness, from their regular place of worship. Good easy souls! if these are the bladders upon which they hope to swim in eternity, they will surely burst, to their everlasting destruction. Some base their confidence on the fact that they have never indulged in the grosser vices; others that they have been scrupulously honest in their commercial transactions. Some that they have been good husbands; others that they have been charitable neighbours. I know not of what poor flimsy tissue men will not make a covering to hide their natural nakedness. But all this must be unravelled — every stitch of it. No man can put on the robes of Christ's righteousness till he has taken off his own. Christ will never go shares in our salvation. God will not have it said that He partly made the heavens, but that some other spirit came in to conclude the gigantic work of creation, much less will He divide the work of our salvation with any other. He must be the alone Saviour, as He was the alone Creator. In the wine press of His sufferings Jesus stood alone; of the people none were with Him: no angel could assist Him in the mighty work; in the fight He stood alone, the solitary Champion, the sole Victor. So too thou must be saved by Him alone, resting on Him entirely, and counting thine own righteousness to be but dross and dung, or else thou canst never be saved at all. It must be down with Shebna, or else it cannot be up with Eliakim. It must be down with self, or it can never be up with Christ. Self-righteousness must be set aside to make room for the righteousness of Jesus; otherwise it can never be ours.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. The EXCLUSIVENESS of faith. Faith all in all in a man's justification. Works not in the account. Not from faith to worlds, but from faith to faith (Romans 3:22, 28).

II. The GROWTH of faith. From one degree of faith to another. Advance made in clearness, simplicity, strength.

III. The MANY SIDEDNESS of faith. From one kind of faith to another. From faith which saves to faith for still further blessings. From faith which justifies to faith which sanctifies. From faith of the intellect to faith of the heart.

(T. Robinson, D. D.)

The just shall live by faith.
The apostle quotes from Habakkuk, who mourns the vileness and lawlessness around. He foresees as its retribution the rapid and complete conquest by the Chaldeans. He appeals to the character of God; and expresses for himself and the godly in Judaea an assurance of deliverance grounded on God's character, "We shall not die." He betakes himself to the watchtower, and awaits the reply of God. In solemn tones God proclaims the destruction of the proud Chaldeans; and declares that while others perish, the righteous man shall live, shall live by his faith. In the Old Testament, as in chap. Romans 3:3, the words "faith" and "faithful" denote, not belief — as almost always in the New Testament — but faithfulness, that constancy and stability of character which makes a man an object of reliance to others. In these words God assumes that faithfulness is an element of the righteous men's character; and declares that by his faithfulness he shall survive. It is quite evident that this faithfulness arises from belief of the Word of God. Habakkuk 1:12 is an expression of belief. The prophet is unmoved because he leans upon the veracity of God. "Shall live" refers primarily to the present life. The righteous shall escape when others perish. But in this sense the promise is only partially fulfilled. And the incompleteness of its fulfilment in the present life was a sure proof that there is a life to come. Thus in the Old Testament God proclaims in face of the coming storm, that the righteous man will survive by his faith. In Paul's day God spoke again. In face of the tempest so soon to overwhelm the Jewish nation, and some day to overwhelm the world, God proclaims that the man of faith shall live. Therefore God's word in the gospel is in harmony with His word to Habakkuk. This harmony, amid so much divergence, confirms the words both of prophet and apostle.

(Prof. J. A. Beet.)

1. The soul is the life of the body.

2. Faith is the life of the soul.

3. Christ is the life of faith.

(J. Flavel.)

The secret of all living is living by faith. Faith is the Christian's vital principle. "No man's religion," it has been said, "survives his morals"; and it is equally true to assert that no man's religion survives his faith, for the just shall live by faith, if he lives at all in the higher sense of the word. Other graces may be necessary to his comfort, to his completeness as a man of God, but faith is necessary to his very existence.

1. This faith by which the just are to live is to be in continual operation from first to last. The just shall live by faith, and that not at any one stage of their career, but all the way through, from the moment they leave the house of bondage till they plant their footstep on Canaan's happy shore. Faith is not to be exercised only occasionally. It is not to be kept for great occasions, or for dire emergencies. It is to resemble not the rushing torrent of Kishon's brook, sweeping all before it for the time, but the steady flow of Siloah's quiet waters, which make glad perpetually the city of God.

2. Faith as a principle of living is intensely practical. It is not a garment to be worn on Sundays, but the ordinary workday garb, which we are to wear in the farmyard and the field, in the shop and in the marketplace.

3. This principle of faith is exclusive of every other that may compete with it. There is not a word here in favour of living by feeling. Our feelings are too variable to rely on. Such a one must needs live jerkily, inconsistently, uncomfortably. But, behold, I show unto you a more excellent way. The just shall live by faith. That is a form of living which is not liable to the ebbs and flows incident to a state of emotionalism, for faith fixes on a Saviour who never alters, on a righteousness which is always the same, and on a promise which is forever sure. There is another class who are accustomed to live by experience. The same objection applies here. There are so many ups and downs, even in the best experience, that to build upon it is to build upon a quaking bog. The just have more stable comforts, for they live by faith, and faith walks above experience, singing of heaven's brightness when earth is dark around her, and boasting of pardon when sin makes itself felt most consciously. When Ralph Erskine lay upon his death bed one of the bystanders said to him, "I hope, sir, you have some blinks of sunshine to cheer you in the valley." The answer was: "I had rather have one promise of my God than all the blinks of sunshine that ever shone." "The just shall live by faith."

4. The faith here spoken of is applicable to all kinds of living. If the just are to live by faith, the faith must be capable of adjustment to every variety of life that the just may be called upon to lead. "We talk of human life as a journey," says Sydney Smith, "but how variously is the journey performed." Variously indeed. It is a Pilgrim's Progress to us all, but to no two pilgrims is the progress the same.(1) Whether it be high life or life on a lower plane it is to be lived by faith. I have seen a bird on the topmost bough of a tree, and very sweetly he sang. But I have seen another bird perched on the lowest bough of that same tree, and he sang just as sweetly. And so you may put the just person on the uppermost branch or the undermost, but in either position he will live by faith.(2) Whether life be ordinary and commonplace, or exalted and heroic, it is to be lived by faith. Those humble duties of yours — you must look up to Heaven for strength to discharge them with fidelity. Your little cares — you must cast them all on Him who careth for you. It has been beautifully said, that "while God is great in great things, He is greatest in little things." Take to Him, therefore, the ounces of trouble as well as the pounds and the tons. But assuming your life to be lived on a more elevated platform and on a much grander scale — what then? Living by faith is still the rule. If you are summoned to Abrahamic duty, you have need of Abrahamic faith.(3) Whether life is long or short it is to be lived by faith. Length of life is a great blessing, but it is also a great trial. To hold out is often a harder thing than to hold fast or to hold on. How the unjust get on with that problem I do not know, but as for the just — I can speak for them — they live by faith; and there is nothing so strengthening as faith. In the case of short life I do not alter the prescription.(4) May we not add to this, that life at its highest pitch is to be lived by faith. There are periods of inspiration when we are alive at every point in our character, when there is no death in us at all, and we feel forceful, triumphant. We are strong for service, we are brave for endurance. Faith provides the channel by which God's life flows into our life. It is the link between our weakness and His almightiness.

5. But it is time to ask the question, By faith in what?(1) I answer, first and foremost, by faith in God. "Sever my connection with God," says Prince Bismarck, "and I am the man to pack up my trunks tomorrow, and go back to my country residence." The great statesman feels that he cannot occupy his difficult position, unless he has God to fall back upon.(2) Do not the just live also by their faith in Providence? It would be a great mainstay to us if we could only resign all things into God's hands and sweetly rest upon the promise. During the American war a poor coloured soldier came to General Grant in a state of great anxiety and asked him, "How are things getting on, General?" The General's answer was, "Everything is going right, sir." These words acted like magic. They were passed round the whole camp as a watchword, and one soldier might be heard cheering his fellow soldier with the assurance, "Everything is going right, sir." Christian, let that be a watchword with you also. Cherish a stronger faith in Providence.(3) Do we not also live by our faith in prayer?(4) Above all, let us live by faith in the Son of God. When we can trust in nothing else we can trust in Him: and when no comfort can be quarried out of our own hearts, we can always find comfort at the Cross.

(S. L. Wilson, M. A.)

(text and Habakkuk 2:4; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38): — When the Spirit frequently repeats Himself, He thereby appeals for special attention. A doctrine so often declared —

1. Must be of the first importance.

2. Should be constantly preached.

3. Should be unhesitatingly received by the hearer. We will treat the four texts —

I. AS ONE:

1. Life is received by the faith which makes a man just. A man begins to live —(1) By a full acquittal from condemnation and penal death so soon as he believes in Christ.(2) As one raised from out of spiritual death so soon as he has faith in Christ o form of works, or profession, or knowledge, or natural feelings, can prove him to be an absolved and quickened man; but faith does this.

2. Life is sustained by the faith which keeps a man just.(1) He who is forgiven and quickened lives ever after as he began to live, viz., by faith. Neither his feelings, devotions, nor acquirements ever become his trust; he still looks out of himself to Jesus. He is nothing except so far as he is a believer.(2) He lives by faith as to all the forms of life.

(a)As a child and as a servant.

(b)As a pilgrim proceeding and a warrior contending.

(c)As a pensioner enjoying, and as an heir expecting.(3) He lives by faith in every condition.

(a)In joy and sorrow.

(b)In wealth and poverty.

(c)In strength and weakness.

(d)In labouring and languishing.

(e)In life and death.(4) He lives best when faith is at its best, even though in other respects he may be sorely put to it. He lives the life of Christ most blessedly when most intensely he believes in Christ.

3. Hearty belief in God, His Son, His promises, His grace, is the soul's life, neither can anything take its place. "Believe and live" is a standing precept both for saint and sinner (1 Corinthians 13:13).

II. SEPARATELY.

1. Habakkuk exhibits faith as enabling a man to live on in peace and humility, while as yet the promise has not come to its maturity. While waiting, we live by faith and not by sight. We are thus —(1) Able to bear up under the temporary triumphs of the wicked (Habakkuk 1).(2) Preserved from proud impatience at delay.(3) Filled with delight in confident expectation of good things to come.

2. Paul in the text exhibits faith as working salvation from the evil which is in the world through lust. The chapter presents an awful view of human nature, and implies that only faith in the gospel can bring us life in the form of —(1) Mental enlightenment of life as to the true God (vers. 19-23).(2) Moral purity of life (vers. 24, etc.).(3) Spiritual life and communion with that which is Divine and holy. Naturally men are corrupt. The law reveals our death (Romans 3:10-20); but the gospel imparts spiritual life to those who receive it by faith.

3. Galatians exhibits faith as bringing us that justification which saves us from the sentence of death. Nothing can be plainer than the declaration that no man is justified before God except by faith.

4. Hebrews exhibits faith as the life of final perseverance.(1) There is need of faith while waiting for heaven (vers. 32-36).(2) The absence of such faith would cause us to draw back (ver. 38).(3) That drawing back would be a fatal sign.(4) From that drawing back we are saved by faith.Conclusion:

1. What can you do who have no faith? In what other way can you be accepted with God?

2. On what ground can you excuse your unbelief?

3. Will you perish sooner than believe?

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The just man is the righteous man — the man who is right — right with God, with man, with his environments, with himself. Faith is what keeps a man right in every department of life. A man can only live rightly as he lives by faith.

I. On what may be called HIS SECULAR SIDE.

1. Intellectually. Faith is necessary to mental soundness, and to efficient mental work. First principles must be taken for granted; results of previous workers must be accepted. To be ever digging foundations and discussing axioms not only wastes time, but unsettles and enervates the mind, and incapacitates it for healthy work. The just thinker works from established conclusions to first results.

2. Commercially. All business would be at a standstill but for faith — faith in self, faith in others, faith in success. The distrustful man is unjust to himself and all concerned, and eventually dies in bankruptcy.

3. Domestically. Family life is dead where the members distrust each other, but flourishes in full vigour when there is honest and implicit faith between husband and wife, etc.

4. Politically. Where there is no faith in principles, but only a scramble after place and power, political injustice supervenes and political life dies.

II. HIS SPIRITUAL SIDE.

1. As a religious character.

(1)Faith makes a man right.

(2)Faith keeps him right.

2. As a Christian worker. His is preeminently a work of faith, and only as such can he rightly perform it. He requires faith which —

(1)Lays hold of Divine strength.

(2)Supports him in the midst of discouragements.

(3)Relies on the Divine promise.

(4)Confidently anticipates future results.

3. As a Bible student. Faith —

(1)Accepts its mysteries without questioning.

(2)Transunites its truths into spiritual food. Without faith he is both unjust to the Bible and to himself. Instead of the Word of life it becometh the letter which killeth.

4. As an immortal being. Faith links the future with the present, makes both one, and sets the believer right with both.

(J. W. Burn.)

It is not dead: but living and active. It is not something by which we conceive of ourselves as interested in that which is infinitely removed from us. It is the hand by which we grasp the Saviour near to us; making Him, with all His wealth and all His righteousness, our own; so that, in having Him, we become both righteous and rich. It is the tendrils by which the branches of the vine do cling around their all-supporting stem; it is also the common vessels by which, from the root, the sap is conducted to the branches and leaves. It is that system of nerves by which all the parts of the body are consciously connected with the head. It is very artery, the aorta, by which from the heart life is conveyed; so that by its habitual action the very lowest extremities are continually invigorated and warmed.

(Wm. Elliott.)

Near the splendid church of St. John de Lateran is the famous Scala Sancta, or Sacred Stair, supposed to have been brought from Jerusalem — the same steps down which our Saviour walked from Pilate's hall of judgment to the hill of Calvary. These steps are twenty-five in number, made of solid marble, and covered with wood to keep them from being worn away by the knees of the climbing pilgrims. These pilgrims on Easter week come from all parts of the world. They are of different colours, and ranks, and ages, and I watched them beginning to climb this "holy stair," slowly creeping up, counting their beads, crossing their faces, and muttering their "Ave Marias and Paternosters" as they went. Near the top was a full-sized image of the Saviour made of wood, crowned with thorns, and wearing the marks of His wounds on His temples, and hands, and side, and feet. Around this "image" of Jesus a group, of women were gathered. It was sad to see their pitiful looks and hear their groaning prayers, as they beat their breasts and kissed each wound, from the pierced feet to the thorn-crowned head. Poor people! they were quite in earnest, but they were sadly self-deceived. They thought that for every step they climbed, they received indulgence or pardon for the sins of a year! Therefore, when they reached the top, they thought that sins of twenty-five years were blotted out; so that, taking their average life at fifty, two visits to the Sacred Stair would carry them to the "gates of heaven." I thought of a noble man — namely, Martin Luther — who, three centuries ago, found the light of the gospel on that same stair. Dressed as a monk, with his shaven head and bare knees, he was creeping up those marble steps, hoping thereby to calm his troubled conscience and work his way to heaven, when all at once the voice of God was heard crying in his soul, "The just shall live by faith." Obedient to the heavenly voice, he saw his error of trying to earn his title to salvation by his own pains and works; and leaving the city in disgust, he went home to nail his "Theses" to the church door at Wittenberg, and to kindle the fire of the glorious Reformation.

Now we talk so much in Christian teaching about this "faith" that, I fancy, like a worn sixpence in a man's pocket, its very circulation from band to hand has worn off the lettering. And many of us, from the very familiarity of the Word, have only a dim conception of what it means. It may not be profitless, then, to remind you, first of all, that this faith is neither more nor less than a very familiar thing which you are constantly exercising in reference to one another, that is to say, simple confidence. You trust your husband, your wife, your child, your parent, your friend, your guide, your lawyer, your doctor, your banker. Take that very same emotion and attitude of the mind by which you put your well-being, in different aspects and provinces, into the hands of men and women round about you; lift the trailing flowers that go all straggling along the ground, and twine them round the pillars of God's throne, and you get the confidence, the trust of praises and glories of which this New Testament is full. There is nothing mysterious in it, it is simply the exercise of confidence, the familiar cement that binds all human relationship together, and makes men brotherly and kindred with their kind. Faith is trust, and trust saves a man's soul. Then remember, further, that the faith which is the foundation of everything is essentially the personal trust reposing upon a person, upon Jesus Christ. You cannot get hold of a man in any other way than by that. The only real bond that binds people together is the personal bond of confidence, manifesting itself in love. And it is no mere doctrine that we present for a man's faith, but it is the Person about which the doctrine speaks. We say, indeed, that we can only know the Person on whom we must trust by the revelation of the truths concerning Him which make the Christian doctrines; but a man may believe the whole of them, and have no faith. And what is the step in advance which is needed in order to turn credence into faith — belief in a doctrine into trust? In one view it is the step from the doctrine to the Person. When you grasp Christ, the living Christ, and not merely the doctrine, for yours, then you have faith.

(A. Maclaren D. D.)

Links
Romans 1:17 NIV
Romans 1:17 NLT
Romans 1:17 ESV
Romans 1:17 NASB
Romans 1:17 KJV

Romans 1:17 Bible Apps
Romans 1:17 Parallel
Romans 1:17 Biblia Paralela
Romans 1:17 Chinese Bible
Romans 1:17 French Bible
Romans 1:17 German Bible

Romans 1:17 Commentaries

Bible Hub
Romans 1:16
Top of Page
Top of Page