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The Necessity of The Just Shall Live By Faith

By Mark VanOuse
Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV)

[6] But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

How many would like to please God? If you are truly born again, a child of God, deep down you desire to please God, right?
“Without faith it is impossible to please Him”
Now, Hebrews 11:6 stands in the context of the greatest chapter in all the Bible about faith, in the greatest book in all the Bible about the New Covenant. You would agree, then, that this verse is extremely important on the subject of living the Christian life in a manner that truly pleases God, right?

So, in God’s mind and in His opinion, how important is faith to successful Christian living, to really pleasing God? It is extremely important, right? Regardless of what you’ve been taught about this subject, what denomination you’re in and their “sacred” doctrines, what could be plainer? Without faith it is impossible to please God. 
I will come back to the vital second half of this verse later.
In four key places the Bible plainly, directly and unflinchingly declares:

The just shall live by faith.
(Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians  3:11 and Hebrews 10:38)

All three of the New Testament references of this powerful statement are in crucial contexts tied to the Gospel and the New Covenant:
In Romans 1:17 we find “the just shall live by faith” in the context of revelation of the Gospel:
For in it [the Gospel] the righteousness of GOD is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

Many refer to this great verse as the “Birth Verse of the Reformation”, because Martin Luther’s eyes were opened to the Gospel by understanding this verse. Biblically speaking, Romans 1:17 is huge. You know the Gospel is one of the essential themes of the Bible. Romans 1:17 says IN THE GOSPEL a revelation of the righteousness God is revealed, from faith to faith, as it is written, “the just shall live by faith”. Surely, then, Romans 1:17 is one of the highest mountain peaks in all The Bible.

The second instance where we find “the just shall live by faith” is in Galatians 3:11. Here we find a church that has lost sight of the necessity of grace, even though saved by grace, and have reverted to the insanity of a toxic mixture of law and grace. If Romans proclaims the Gospel of grace, Galatians adamantly defends the Gospel of grace. Look at the context of the New Testament’s second citation of “the just shall live by faith”:

[10] For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” [11] But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” [12] Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” [13] Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), [14] that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.  [Galatians 3:10-14, NKJV]

Sadly, most Christians have fallen into the same law/grace trap as the Galatians. It has left them defeated, feeling like their relationship with God is like a roller coaster ride. The Epistle to the Galatians is like a lighthouse whose piercing light keeps Christians away from the dangerous rocks self-righteousness and legalism. Here in Galatians 3 we see that we are either living by law — self-effort and self-righteousness — or by faith, dependent on grace. Truly, Galatians 3:11 is one of the highest mountain peaks of all the Word of God.
The third “the just shall live by faith” is found in Hebrews 10:38, just two verses before Hebrews chapter 11, the chapter that many refer to as “The Faith Hall of Fame”. And in that greatest chapter in all the Bible the phrase “by faith” is repeated a staggering 18 times. No other book in the Bible comes even close to the pile driver of God’s truth: THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH. Case after case, Hebrews 11 marshals forth a veritable “Who’s Who” of saints through the ages who have walked by faith. There is absolutely no doubt that this chapter is one of the greatest in all The Bible.
There you have it: in four monumental places in all the Bible, God resolutely declares:
Let me ask you, if the Bible plainly declares that “the just shall live by faith”, how vital is living by faith in the mind of God? It is extremely important.
In Romans 14:23 we read this shocking statement:

Whatever is not from faith is sin.

That is the best definition of sin in all the Bible. It’s also the toughest. Think a moment: how many times over the last 24 hours have you done anything — good or bad — without faith? In God’s mind you were therefore sinning. Therefore, how many times have you sinned over the last 24 hours?
Romans 14:23 goes hand in hand with the great truths “the shall live by faith” (Hab 2:4, Rom 1:17, Gal 3:11, Heb 10:38) and “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6a).
How vital, how essential, how non-negotiable to God is living by faith? Extremely. Nothing could be clearer.
Consider this: the language of faith — words like “faith”, “believe”, “trust” and “hope” appear a whopping 677 times in the New Testament alone.
How essential is living by faith in the mind of God?
Do you really want to please Him? Do you really want live a truly successful Christian life? There is no compromise here: you must live by faith. Period. No exceptions.
In fact, based on the key statements made by God Himself the following can be said:

Without faith the just cannot possibly please God, nor survive and would be constantly sinning and displeasing God.

Now the shocker: when it comes to living the Christian life, the vast majority of so-called “Christian” teaching material today completely neglects or at least barely mentions the necessity of faith. In fact, when I carefully reviewed the doctrinal statement of one major, well-respected Evangelical denomination, absolutely NOTHING was said about the vital truth that “the just shall live by faith”. Nothing. Not even in the footnotes. That is painfully, agonizingly pathetic.
Yet pastors, Bible teachers, radio and TV preachers across the land pour out massive amounts of books, recorded sermons, articles and blog posts that almost totally omit this vital and essential truth.
That, my friends, is gross spiritual malpractice. Imagine if you desperately needed brain surgery to remove a tumor and your surgeon blushingly admits, “Gee, I don’t know anything about physiology. I kept flunking it in medical school!” Would you trust your brain to such a surgeon? Never! So why entrust the care of our souls to spiritual leaders who neglect GOD’s vital truth that “the just shall live by faith”? No wonder so many Christians are struggling — and failing — to please God. No wonder we are having so little Kingdom impact on the world. No wonder there are so much fleshly, carnal, man-centered techniques and work, with so little eternal results.
Why do most Christians, even Christian leaders, neglect the absolute necessity of faith? Let’s look at all of Hebrews 11:6. It’s been my experience that while the first part is what is usually quoted (if at all), the second part of the verse is omitted:

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Notice how this verse is so God-centered:
  • For he who comes to God: not a philosophy, a doctrine, a great teaching, but personally comes to God. Jesus faulted the scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the law for seeking eternal life in the scriptures, rather than coming to Him, Who IS eternal life (John 5:39-40, John 11:25, John 14:6, John 17:3).
  • Must believe that He IS: embracing the great reality and totality of the I AM of God (Ex 3:14).
  • That He is a rewarder. God Himself is the rewarder, the One who blesses.
  • Of those who diligently seek HIM. Not things, not religion, not law, not living a better life, not becoming more “Christ-like”. The whole point of it all is God Himself. We seek Him. This was Paul’s all-consuming passion (Phil 3:8-11)
The reason behind the all-too-prevalent absence of “living by faith” is that we are addicted to man-centered thinking, not God-centered reality. We hear all the time about man and little about God Himself. We prattle all the day long about “how to” things: how to pray better, witness better, give better, tithe better, be a better parent, spouse, leader, employee, neighbor, citizen, you name it. Everything except God Himself. Don’t believe me? Walk the aisles of most Christian bookstores and peruse the titles of the books there.
Yet the Bible is consumed with God. Even passages where He isn’t directly mentioned, the overarching One, the Living God, is there. The Bible should never be interpreted piecemeal, but as the integrated whole that it is, centered around and focused on God Himself. Faith is locked on the Faithful One Himself.
Do get this: the answer is not “how to” but “WHO to”. God’s answer to you is not “things” but HIMSELF. He Himself is all. Indeed, He truly is “all in all” (1 Cor 12:6, 1 Cor 15:28, Rom 11:36, Col 3:11).
Put plainly, faith is dependence on someone or something else. Christian faith is faith in Christ. God’s answer for everything is a different PERSON altogether: The Lord Jesus Christ.
But why faith? By now it is clear that faith is “non-optional” with God: it is essential to Christian living, for without faith it is impossible to please God and all that is not of faith is sin. Now, look at Romans 4:16, which gives us a powerful reason why it is “by faith”:

Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all

First, we see that is of faith that it might be according to grace. So, faith and grace are inextricably tied together. In other words, faith is necessary, precisely because faith alone is based upon the grace of God. Faith is necessary because it is all according to the grace of God. The whole basis of faith is grace. The necessity of faith points directly to the necessity of grace.
Now grace, the real grace of God as the Bible portrays it, is not the man-centered, gross misrepresentation that is so prevalent in the modern church. Shockingly, grace is too often portrayed as something we should do, extend or give. The Bible never speaks of grace in that way. The Bible says completely the opposite: Grace is totally about God, what He gives, what He extends. Grace ultimately is God giving Himself for us, not because we’re so good, but because He is THAT good. The Bible repeatedly make clear that grace is absolutely not something “we do” (which is law, see Lev 18:5, Gal 3:12). Grace is inextricably tied to the glory of God. The fallenness and fallen thinking of man constantly robs God of His rightful glory. Meanwhile, the Bible declares, “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted [Greek: “highly graced” or “highly favored”] in the Beloved” (Eph 1:6).
Grace is the fountainhead of the love of God Himself: 
  • Romans 11:6 make it clear that when we are talking about the grace of God, it has absolutely nothing to do with what we do. Romans 11:6: “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (see also Rom 3:27-28, Rom 4:4-5, John 6:28-29, Rom 9:30-33, Eph 2:8-9, 2 Tim 1:9, Gal 2:21, Gal 5:4, Titus 3:4-7).
  • Works = me = I get the glory = idolatry, in contrast to Grace = God =  God gets the glory
  • God in His grace gives us all that we need, in abounding measure, giving us all sufficiency in all things and resulting in an abundance for every good work (2 Cor 9:8)
  • Over and over again the saints of the early church were commended to the grace of God (Acts 14:26, 15:40, 20:32, 13:43). The modern church would do well to remember this.
  • The God of all grace perfects us, establishes us and settles us, resulting in the glory of God (1 Pet 5:10-11)
  • The grace of God superabounds above and beyond abounding sin (Rom 5:20-21)
  • We reign in life, through the One, Jesus Christ, as we receive abundance of grace and the GIFT of righteousness (Romans 5:17)
  • The grace of God is able to build us up and give us an inheritance (Acts 20:32)
  • Even our faith and our ability to believe is through grace (Jn 1:12-13; Ro 1:5; 1Co 15:10; Ep 2:8-10; Phl 1:29; Col 2:12; 2Th 2:13-14; Tit 3:4-6; Jas 1:16-18; 1Pe 1:2-3)
  • We stand by grace (Rom 5:2).
  • Our heart is strengthened by grace (Heb 13:9).
  • The grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldliness, enabling us to live soberly, righteously, and godly, even in our present day (Titus 2:12).
  • The grace of God frees us from the domination of sin. Law (self effort, our works, our struggling to please God) puts us right back under the dominion and bondage of sin (Rom 6:14). It is downright preposterous and blasphemous to claim, as some do, that teaching about God’s precious, holy grace somehow “gives people a license to sin”. God’s Word declares the complete opposite, as we’ve seen above and in many other places in the scripture!
  • We are chosen by God by grace (Rom 11:5-6)
  • Grace enables us to give ourselves to the Lord, beyond our ability (2 Cor 8:1-5)
  • Grace enables us to minister (Rom 12:3, 15:15-16, 1 Cor 3:10, 15:9-10)
Again, Romans 4:16, “it is of FAITH that it might be according to GRACE, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed…”
Biblically, grace is totally caught up with Jesus. In fact, John 1:17 declares that grace “came through Jesus Christ”. Jesus Himself is the total embodiment and reality of grace. How very striking it is that grace came through Jesus Christ. The grand fulfillment of every single promise that God has ever made are YES toward us, and so amened by us in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 1:20).
In Hebrews 12:2 we read:

[2] looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

That is why faith is according to grace: it is all of Father God, totally giving us all in and through The Lord Jesus Christ, “because of His great love with which He loved us”
Let’s notice one more important thing in Romans 4:16 about the reason why living by faith is so necessary:
[16] Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
Now look at the outcome of living by faith, according to the grace of God: “that the promise might be sure [guaranteed] to all the seed. not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.
In back of faith, even in back of grace is God Himself. Loving. Faithful. The One who makes promises and spectacularly keeps them. When we speak of God making a promise, we are speaking of His commitments, not ours. And aren’t God’s commitments infinitely better than ours?
Alas, religion ever preaches about how we need to keep our promises, how we need to keep our commitments. It yammers all the day long about how we need to be more faithful, yet rarely mentions the faithfulness of God. When the religious are confronted with the infinite reality of God’s faithfulness, they stare blankly, then retort with, “Yeah, but what about OUR commitments!”.
Our capacity to keep promises and commitments springs from the Faithful One Himself who indwells us. That’s why we must focus on Him and His commitments, not ourselves.
God’s faithfulness goes way beyond even commitment, though. He is a covenant-making and keeping God. It’s one thing to make a promise, it’s another to forge a covenant, binding two parties together as life partners, even to death. The greatest covenant of all is the blood covenant, where the covenant partners swear allegiance and fidelity to each other, even to the point of saying, “And if I fail to keep my part of this blood covenant, you can kill me”.
God made a blood covenant that richly benefited Abraham (Genesis 15). Though Abraham was a beneficiary of such a spectacular covenant, he was not a party to the covenant. Rather, this blood covenant was made between God The Father and God The Son. And what of Abraham’s commitments and “promise-keeping”? While Father and Son walked the covenant, Abraham was sleeping — deeply (Gen 15:12)!
It doesn’t stop at Abraham. All of the blessings, promises and covenants that God made with Abraham are now the rightful privilege of every single person in Christ (Gal 3:13-14), to those who are of faith of Abraham (Rom 4:16c, Gal 3:9).
Isn’t all of this spectacular? Child of God, you are richly blessed of God (Eph 1:3, Gal 3:9), entirely based on the integrity of God, the finished work of Christ and God’s grace. It’s based on God’s promises and commitments, not ours.
That’s why the New Testament can’t stop talking about Christ, grace, faith, believing, trusting and hope!
Faith looks to Christ Himself who is the fullness, the complete manifestation of God’s glorious grace toward us.
And so…

[6] without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (heb 11:6)