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What Does it Mean to Live by Faith? By Babatunde Olugboji

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What Does it Mean to Live by Faith? By Babatunde Olugboji

Habakkuk, in Habakkuk 2:4 famously declared: “The righteous will live by faith.” This is a bold and assertive statement. What does it mean?

To understand this statement, we need to examine the context in which it was spoken, as the context helps us comprehend God’s intent in this passage.

The whole verse reads, “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” “His soul” is a symbolic reference to Babylonia. The nation of Babylonia had become proud or “puffed up.” As a result, they were unrighteous and facing God’s judgment. In contrast, the righteous (or the “just”) would live by faith in God. The righteous are not puffed up, they are humble in God’s eyes and will never face God’s wrath.

Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted three times in the New Testament. Paul quotes it in Romans 1:17, emphasizing the idea that righteousness by faith is for both Jews and Gentiles: “For in the gospel a righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”

Galatians 3:11 says: “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” Here, Paul stresses that we as believers are justified, or made right, before God, not by anything we have done, not by our accomplishments, but only by faith in God. The Law has no ability to justify anyone. Habakkuk 2:4 is also quoted in Hebrew 10:38: “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”

According to the Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations Garland, TX: Bible Communications, in the third century, Rabbi Simla noted that Moses gave 365 prohibitions and 248 positive commands. David reduced them to 11 commands in Psalm 15; Isaiah made them six (Isaiah 33:14-15); Micah bound them into three (Micah 6:8); and Habakkuk condensed them all to one, namely: “The righteous shall live by faith.” 

Believers are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and we walk in faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). Only by faith in Christ are we made righteous (Romans 5:19). Paul further expounds on this truth in Galatians 2:16, saying, “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” It is the righteousness of Christ that saves us, and the only way to receive that gift is to trust in Him. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36).

When Habakkuk wrote, “The righteous shall live by his faith,” he was echoing a timeless truth first modeled in Abraham’s life (Genesis 15:6). The righteous man will “live” in that he will not face God’s judgment; rather, in return for his faith in God, he has been given eternal life.

However, to live by faith, you have to have faith, because without faith, it is impossible to please God. (Hebrew 11:1)

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