Martin Luther, when he discovered what was later to be called “Sola Fide” or “justification is by faith alone and not dependent on the works of righteousness,” did so after an intensely personal struggle to know God.
He was daily doing acts of penance or “works of righteousness” trying to find peace with God.
It was during one of those acts of righteousness where He was kneeling on shards of glass as he was reciting prayers, that God spoke to him and said: “the just shall live by faith.”
It is because those simple words were spoken to a man who wanted to know God intimately that set off the Reformation and what is now called Protestantism.
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Today we live in a society that has been directly influenced by those words. Today more and more people want to learn what living by faith means.
Unfortunately, just like in Martin Luther’s day, people get it wrong. In our age, we still have people that try to experience and serve God by formula, ritual, and acts of righteousness rather than living in faith.
It is because of this tendency that I wanted to share with you what I have learned in my journey of walking in faith.
3 Verses Where We Find “The Just Shall Live By Faith.”
Romans 1:17 New King James Version (NKJV)
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
Galatians 3:11 New King James Version (NKJV)
11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”
Hebrews 10:38 New King James Version (NKJV)
38 Now the just shall live by faith;But if anyone draws back,My soul has no pleasure in him.”
What Does It Mean To Live By Faith?
In the days of the early church, people believed that by performing certain rituals or ceremonies, by doing good works or living a righteous life, that God would smile down upon them and accept them.
In Martin Luther’s day, people believed that if you did good works and paid for your sins either by giving money to the church or priests that were said to have the power to absolve you of your sins. Alternatively, you did acts of contrition that proved your sorrow for your sinfulness; then God would look down upon you and smile and accept you.
Today we have people teaching that if you do good works, send preachers and churches money, and follow a particular formula that proves your “faith” that God will look down from heaven, smile, and send you the blessings that you are seeking.
Do you see the connection?
So what does it mean to live by faith?
Well just as Martin Luther discovered, our faith cannot be in things, acts, formulas, or people. Our faith must reside in one thing.
Our faith must be in Jesus Christ and who He is and what He has done both past, present, and future. Our faith must be in God alone. Not in our formulas, good deeds, or even in our faith. It must reside in our relationship with Him. Let me show you a fundamental scripture on this.
Hebrews 11:6 New King James Version (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.
I have heard many people quote this scripture.
They always quote the first part and then go on to tell you how you need to prove your faith by some formula or equation to get God to do something.
They say things like “If you do this, then God will do this.”
Ever heard that before?
Hebrews 11:6 is very plain about what you need to do. You need to believe that He exists, and then you need to believe that He will reward those that diligently seek “Him.”
Faith is all about a relationship with God, not trying to get God to perform for you.
So to live faith means that you live in an intimate and very personal relationship with God.
It is not something that you try to work up, or follow a formula to accomplish, it is a relationship that is living, growing, and ever-changing depending on what God is working on in you at the moment.
Biblical Examples Of People Living Like This
Let me show you a couple of examples of how the early church lived by faith. The first example I will give you is of when Peter was freed from prison.
Acts 12:5-11 New King James Version (NKJV)
5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. 6 And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison. 7 Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me. ” 9 So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.11 And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.”
Now please look at that passage carefully. What does it say that Peter was doing?
Was he speaking some positive confession? Was he trying to build himself up somehow in “his faith?”
No! He was sleeping!
Peter understood that his faith was not in his ability, his spirituality, his importance or anything else. He realized that God was in control and that God would work it out.
His faith was in God alone. It was a faith relationship. It showed more faith in God and God alone to go to sleep!
Now don’t make sleep become your next formula okay? The sleep was just the outward sign that Peter’s faith was in God.
Let’s look at another example of a prison break orchestrated by the Lord.
Acts 16:20-28 New King James Version (NKJV)
20 And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; 21 and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” 22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”
Now notice this time that instead of sleeping as Peter did, Paul and Silas were worshiping God.
Another prime example of their faith is in their relationship with God rather than some formula or even in their faith. They are not trying to get God to do something; they are worshiping the God who is in control of all things.
They are focused on God and not what they want God to do.
Not only that, but they were not focused on the troubles or wounds that they received, but they were focused on the needs of the other prisoners.
It says that the other prisoners were listening to them worship God.
It is in the midst of them just focusing on their relationship with God and seeking Him, that He shows up in power and people come to Jesus.
Do you see the difference yet?
Let me give you one more prison example.
Acts 25:13-14 New King James Version (NKJV)
13 And after some days King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to greet Festus. 14 When they had been there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying: “There is a certain man left a prisoner by Felix,
The man talked about here is the Apostle Paul.
Notice it says that he was left a prisoner. There was no divine prison break for Paul.
There is no record of Paul seeking God to let him out of prison. Paul felt that his imprisonment was part of God’s plan to get him to Rome so he could preach the gospel to the Romans.
You see, it is all about faith in God. It is all about a relationship with Him.
That is the reason that formulas, rituals, good deeds, and all the rest is not how to live by faith.
Your faith is tied to your relationship with God.
How Do You Walk By Faith?
It comes down to one simple thing. You develop your relationship with Jesus Christ.
There are some relational things that you can do to grow that relationship just like you would develop a relationship with a person on earth.
We have a couple of guides that will start you off on your journey of living by faith by developing a strong relationship with God. One is our Christianity 101 Guide For New Believers, and the other one is our Guide On The Holy Spirit And His Gifts.
Both of these will help you start living by faith in God and not in rituals, formulas, or faith in your faith.
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