The Life of Faith
William Nicholson, 1862
"Now the just shall live by faith." Hebrews 10:38
The preceding verses allude to the sufferings of the primitive Christians. These would have been overwhelming had they been destitute of faith, "You joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions!" Hebrews 10:34. They had faith which anticipated the approach of their Lord to take them home, and free them from all their trials, "For in just a very little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay." Hebrews 10:37.
The text implies that the righteous should live in continued confidence in God. A persevering confidence, or belief in the Lord — will preserve the soul amidst all the trials and calamities to which we are exposed.
I. The Character Mentioned."The Just." This is not their state by nature, for, says the Apostle, "There is no one righteous, not even one!" Romans 3:10.
Nevertheless, all believers are said to be just or righteous:
1. As found in Christ, who is the end of the law, etc. Romans 10:4. This is the contrivance of Infinite Wisdom, and of rich, free, and Sovereign Grace, and worthy of God: "For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." Romans 5:19.
Man cannot be justified by works; but he can by faith in the sacrifice of Christ. Thus the sinner is accounted and treated as innocent — free from all law charges, and made a child of God. "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!" Romans 8:1
2. They are righteous or just as conformed to Christ; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:6; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9, 10. Regeneration by the Spirit has effected this.
3. They are habitually or practically just. Their faith produces good works; they are honest, upright, abhor evil, and cleave to that which is good. "Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:17
II. That the Just Shall Live by Faith.
Saving faith is wrought in the soul by the Spirit of God, by which a man receives Christ as he is offered in the Gospel, to be his prophet, priest, and king, and by which he relies upon him alone for sanctification, and all the blessings of salvation. Romans 5:1, etc. It is called "the faith through which we are saved," Ephesians 2:8. It is a "faith which works by love." Galatians 5:6. It "purifies the heart." Acts 15:9.
"The just shall live by faith." Paul gives a beautiful illustration of this from his own experience. "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me!" Galatians 2:20.
The believer was once dead to spiritual objects; they did no more affect him, than natural objects can impress a dead body. But as these objects now impress him, interest him, and excite in him hopes and fears, joys and sorrows — it is an evidence that he is spiritually alive. He breathes prayer and praise; he feels the pulse of sacred passions; he has spiritual appetites, hungering and thirsting after righteousness. He is alive, for he walks and runs, and fights, and works; and, though these may be imperfectly performed, they prove that he lives. He is not a mere machine, but has "life in himself." Not a mere picture, but a vital Christian. Not a mere statue, but a "lively stone." 1 Peter 2:5.
"The just shall live by faith."
1. Because by faith they are united to Christ, and derive from him all needful influence. Refer to John 15:1, 2, etc. Christ is the Head — and his people are the members. Faith is the spiritual nerve which connects every living member with its living head. "Without me you can do nothing."
2. Because faith anticipates the glories of Heaven, preparatory to which the Christian contest is carried on. Not that contest can merit Heaven; but God has ordained conflict, and graciously promised to sanctify it as a process to ripen the soul for Heaven. Hence we are called to deny ourselves — to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. We are called to sacrifice earthly comforts, liberty, life; and all this for blessings of which we know nothing through the medium of our senses. We do not see the God we serve, nor the Savior whose name we bear, nor the Heaven to where we are going, etc. But faith believes in a God everywhere present, an atoning Christ, and an eternal Heaven. Faith believes in the rewards of grace promised to all true Christians.
3. By faith, the just overcome temptation. Faith overcomes the world, believing and hoping for a better and eternal country. Faith overcomes persecution, believing that "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." Matthew 5:10. Faith overcomes Satan, resisting him steadfast in the faith. Faith overcomes the flesh, believing the promise, "My grace is sufficient for you!" etc.
4. They live by faith in the darkest seasons. In poverty, financial failure, in domestic troubles, in affliction, under bereavements, etc. "Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty — yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!" Habakkuk 3:17-18
Then faith says, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28
5. They live a holy and pleasant life, because faith brings into exercise all other Christian graces. Faith is the root of them all. Hope could not exist without faith — nor love, which produces gratitude, and obedience. Faith produces too, holy fear, prayer, and watchfulness.
6. By faith they live in constant expectation of Heaven. "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" 2 Corinthians 4:17-18; 5:1, etc. etc.
Heaven is the rest to which they travel — the goal to which they run — the kingdom for which they contend — the port of unspeakable bliss to which they voyage. Faith often brings Heaven to view. By it they "see the King in his beauty, and the land that is afar off."
1. See the distinguishing happiness of the just.
2. See the reason of many giving up their profession. They have no real faith — no real life.
3. Pray for an increase of faith.