Do you know what it actually means?

The phrase, “The just shall live by faith”, is repeated four times in the Bible (Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38), so clearly it is of utmost importance. But do you know what it actually means? There is confusion within the church as to what God means when He says we should live by faith. If you were to ask one Christian what it means to them,  they may answer something along the lines of: “It means believing that God works all things together for good, as He says, regardless of what it looks like right now“. Whereas if you were to ask a different Christian the same question, you would stand probably a 50/50 chance of getting a totally different response. Both Christians would agree that living by faith is important, but only one understands what it really means and how can you live by faith, if you don’t know what living by faith is?

It’s all part of God’s mysterious, unfathomable, and yet good, plan.

The idea that living by faith meaning trusting God is working all things together for good, despite sometimes overwhelming evidence to the contrary, is based on Romans 8:28. Coupled together with Isaiah 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts“, Romans 8:28 is the beloved answer to every situation. It doesn’t actually change the circumstances, but it does (apparently) explain that no matter how bad things look, it’s all part of God’s mysterious, unfathomable, and yet good, plan. According to the traditional interpretation of Romans 8:28, this includes people dying of cancer, Christians being killed in traffic accidents, babies dying – you name it, it’s all part of God’s plan. A plan that may seem to be a terrible plan, but is actually good, in a way we couldn’t comprehend because God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts. 

Things have changed.

The first flaw in this interpretation of what it means to live by faith, and in what Romans 8:28 means, is the idea that we cannot understand the ways of God. Things have changed since the time of the prophet Isaiah; we are now under a New Covenant, and we can understand the ways of God. If that wasn’t the case, Paul would not have prayed Ephesians 1:17-18, That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened….As born-again Christians, we are no longer fallen humans like everyone was in the Old Testament, we are now new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) seated together with Christ Jesus in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6) and the Holy Spirit is working within us (as we listen to Him and respond to His promptings), bringing our thoughts into alignment with God’s thoughts.

If someone believes that everything that happens is for the greater good, they will offer no resistance the devil’s attacks.

The second flaw in the above interpretation, is the idea that everything that happens is somehow working for our good. The devil has twisted the meaning of Romans 8:28 in people’s minds, because he knows that if someone believes that everything that happens is part of God’s plan for the greater good, they will offer no resistance to his (the devil’s) attacks. Let’s study Romans 8:28 further – the verse says, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”. The first observation that we can make is that this verse does not apply to everyone, but only to those that love God – so that immediately excludes non-Christians. We now to need to find out if it applies to all Christians, or if can we narrow down further those to whom it applies? In John 14:15, Jesus issued quite a stinging message to many Christians: If you [really] love Me, you will keep and obey My commandments (Amplified Bible). Jesus’ personal definition of someone who really loves Him, is someone who keeps and obeys His commandments (which primarily are to love God and love others). I do not know if you meet that definition, but a lot of Christians certainly do not. So Romans 8:28 applies only to those Christians that truly love Jesus, and does not apply as a general rule for  all Mankind.

That does not describe passive trust.

This article is not intended to be an in-depth study of Romans 8:28, so in order to move on from there, I will refer you to an excellent article called ,’Killing Sacred Cows‘, for more on this verse and also other widely misunderstood verses. We need to look closer at whether living by faith means passively trusting that God is in control, despite vast evidence to the contrary; or if living by faith is far more proactive than that? In order to definitively answer that question, we will look at Hebrews 11 – which is often referred to as, ‘the faith chapter’ (or something similar). Hebrews 11 begins with a definition of faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” – that does not describe passive trust, it describes actively believing for things that we have no physical evidence for, with faith itself being the evidence. The Living Bible puts it this way: “What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead“.

Living by faith does not mean believing that God works all things together for good, regardless of what it looks like right now. Living by faith means living with the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. Living by faith means living with the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead. This is very proactive faith. Look at some of the examples which Hebrews 11 gives of people who lived by faith: Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. All of them had great faith. And with that faith they defeated kingdoms. They did what was right, and God helped them in the ways he promised. With their faith some people closed the mouths of lions. And some were able to stop blazing fires. Others escaped from being killed with swords. Some who were weak were made strong. They became powerful in battle and defeated other armies(Hebrews 11:32-35, ERV). The faith displayed in these people’s lives was aggressive faith, it was faith took told hold and refused to let go.

Living by faith is about standing against everything the devil throws at you.

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Living by faith is not about repeating to yourself that all things work together for good whilst yet another calamity, that you are powerless to do anything about, comes on you. Living by faith is about standing against everything the devil throws at you and refusing to accept it, because you know that you have been redeemed from the curse, and you know that living by faith is about taking hold of every promise of God that belongs to you. We will continue to look at what it means to live by faith in ‘Living By Faith – It Ain’t For The Fainthearted!’, where we will see that living by faith was never intended to imply a life on easy street.

If you have any further questions or thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment.


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