XXVI. THE LIFE OF FAITH
`The righteous shall live by his faith.' -- Hab. 2:4
`We have been discharged from the law, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.' -- Rom. 7:6
`I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me.' -- Gal. 2:20
The word from Habakkuk is thrice quoted in the New Testament as the Divine representation of salvation in Christ by faith alone. (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38) But that word is oftentimes very imperfectly understood, as if it ran: Man shall on his conversion be justified by faith. The word includes this, but signifies much more. It says that the righteous shall live by faith: the whole life of the righteous, from moment to moment, shall be by faith. (Rom. 5:17,21; 6:11; 8:2; Gal. 2:20; 1 John 5:11,12)
We all know how sharp is the opposition which God in His word presents betwixt the grace that comes by faith and the law that works -- demands. This is generally admitted with reference to justification. But that distinction holds just as much of the whole life of sanctification. The righteous shall live by faith alone, that is, shall have power to live according to the will of God. As at his conversion he found it necessary to understand that there was nothing good in him, and that he must receive grace as one that was powerless and godless, so must he as a believer just as clearly understand that in him there is nothing good, and that he must receive his power for good every moment from above. (Rom. 7:18; 8:2,13; Heb. 11:38) And his work must therefore be every morning and every hour to look up and believe and receive his power from above, out of his Lord in heaven. I am not to do what I can, and hope in the Lord to supply strength. No: as one who has been dead, who is literally able for nothing in himself, and whose life is in his Lord above, I am to reckon by faith on Him who will work in me mightily (Rom. 4:17; 2 Cor. 1:9; Col. 1:20; 2:3)
Happy the Christian who understands that his greatest danger every day is again to fall under the law, and to be fain to serve God in the flesh with his own strength. Happy when he discerns that he is not under the law which just demands and yet is powerless through the flesh, but is under grace where we have simply to receive what has been given. Happy when he fully appropriates for himself the promise of the Spirit who transfers all that is in Christ to him. Yea, happy when he understands what it is to live by faith, and to serve, not in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the Spirit. (Rom. 7:4,6; 12:5,6; Gal. 5:18; Phil. 3:3)
Let us make our own the words of Paul: they present to us the true life of faith: `I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live.' My flesh, not only my sin, but my flesh, all that is of myself, my own living and willing my own power and working, have I given up to death. I Live no longer -- of myself, I cannot. I will not live, or do anything. (John 15:4,5; 1 Cor. 15:10; 2 Cor. 12:10) Christ lives in me: He Himself, by His Spirit, is my power, and teaches and strengthens me to live as I ought to do. And that life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in Him: my great work is to reckon upon Him to work in Him, as well the willing as the accomplishment.
Young Christian, let this life of faith be your faith.
O my Lord Jesus, Thou art my life: yea, my life. Thou livest in me, and art willing to take my whole life at Thine own charges. And my whole life may daily be a joyful trust and experience that Thou art working all in me. Precious Lord, to that life of faith will I surrender myself. Yea, to Thee I surrender myself, to teach me and to reveal Thyself fully in me. Amen.
1. Do you discern the error of the expression -- if the Lord helps me -- the Lord must help me? In natural things we speak thus, for we have a certain measure of power, and the Lord will increase it. But the New Testament never uses the expression `help' of the grace of God in the soul. We have absolutely no power -- God is not to help us, because we are weak: no, He is to give His life and His power in us as entirely impotent. He that discerns this aright will learn to live by faith alone.
2. `Without faith it is impossible to please God'; `All that is not of faith is sin.' Such works of the Spirit of God teach us how really every deed and disposition of our life is to be full of faith.
3. Hence our first work every day is anew to exercise faith in Jesus as our life; to believe that He dwells in us, and will do all for us and in us. This faith must be the mood of our soul the whole day. This faith cannot be maintained except in the fellowship and nearness of Jesus Himself.
4. This faith has its power in the mutual surrender of Jesus and the believer to each other. Jesus first gives Himself wholly for us. The believer gives himself wholly in order to be taken into possession and guided by Jesus. Then the soul cannot even doubt if He will do all for it.