“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’”
We must live by faith
What do the just live by? By faith. The just live by faith. In fact, the word ‘faith’ is very common, but it is the very core of the Bible. The just live only by faith. What do the just live by? They live by the faith in God. I hope we will become enlightened from this section because we have the flesh and the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. We tend to interpret many of the Scriptures with our own thoughts, not knowing the real meanings hidden in the Bible, though we may literally understand the Bible. We simultaneously have the flesh and the Spirit. Therefore, the Bible says that we, the just, shall live by faith because we have the remission of sins.
But the problem is that the flesh cannot do good
But the problem is that we have the flesh also. So, in many cases, we judge according to the flesh. Sometimes, we judge and discern something with fixed thoughts of the flesh, and thus we do not believe fully in His word when it comes to faith. However, the Bible simply says that the just shall live only by faith. Then what does this mean? You may think, ‘Where are the just who don’t live by faith? Why do you put an emphasis on this verse? Isn’t it just one of the verses in the Scriptures?’
Today, I want to tell you about this verse. We must live by faith. We don’t realize our ignorance until when we try to explain something, though we think we know well about it in our thoughts. What is the opponent that a sinner fights against? The person who is not born again fights with his/her own thoughts and his/her flesh. Who does the born again person fight with? The flesh and spirit within the person fight each other. You may wonder why I am repeating what we already know, but I would like to explain this repeatedly because it is worth saying.
Even in a born again saint, his/her flesh and spirit continually fight with each other because he/she also has the flesh. There is an instinctive part in the flesh and it prefers to live lavishly, trying to handle all the problems, rather than to live by faith. There is also an instinctive part in the flesh of a righteous person that wants to live lavishly, trying to reach perfection without making any mistake, which is far from living according to the faith God tells them to live by.
So, the flesh of the righteous also wants to reach perfection even in the spiritual works, trying to deal with every spiritual problem perfectly and hoping to reach fleshly perfection at the same time. But can one lead a life of faith by the flesh? Just as Paul said, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice” (Romans 7:19), the flesh never does good. We have an instinct in the flesh that wishes to live stately in front of God, even though the flesh cannot help but to act evil.
We cannot lead the life of faith with the flesh
So strictly speaking, trying to live a devout life with the flesh is far from having the correct faith. We have contradictory thoughts and instincts toward God from a biblical point of view. To be perfect in the flesh and to lead a life of faith without any problems with the flesh is impossible. The human flesh is like dust. The Bible says, “He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). It is even like a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away because it is incomplete.
Do both the flesh of a born again person and a person who is not born again have the ability not to sin? Can a born again person avoid sinning? We don’t need to live by faith if the flesh can survive without sinning. Then would we be able to live by the strength of the flesh? We surely know that it is not possible. The problem is whether we know and recognize that, despite whether or not we have been born again, the flesh is so weak that it continues to sin.
How much do we know about our fleshes? How much do we know about ourselves? You may think you know yourself as well as 100%, but your self-identity is far from your true character because you don’t really believe that you are sinful. About what percentage do you think you know about yourself? Even 50% would be too much. People usually understand themselves as little as 10 or 20% at most. In reality, they know about 10 or 20% of themselves, though they think they know themselves 100%. When they think they have done tremendously evil things, they become embarrassed and quit following the Lord. Then, they question whether or not they can keep their faiths to the end, and come to the conclusion that it is impossible.
Filthy water and trash come out in swarms from the conduit of carnal mind. It seems to be impossible for them to lead devout lives by faith. “Oh! I think it is no longer possible to follow the Lord. I thought my flesh would get better after my sins were blotted out once and for all, but my flesh is still weak and I fall short of perfection, even though it’s been a long time since I was born again. The flesh is useless and ugly.” We don’t know about ourselves at all and we especially don’t want to admit the faults of our flesh either. So the result is that we cannot lead faithful lives when we see that many carnal thoughts come out of the flesh. We can never lead lives of faith by flesh. What is the flesh of a human being? Will the flesh of a human being become incrementally sanctified and live a perfect life in front of God if it is well-trained by its own trials? It is absolutely impossible, and the flesh cannot help sinning until its last breath.
Then how do the just live?
“If you sin unintentionally, and do not observe all these commandments which the LORD has spoken to Moses─all that the LORD has commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day the LORD gave commandment and onward throughout your generations then it will be, if it is unintentionally committed, without the knowledge of the congregation, that the whole congregation shall offer one young bull as a burnt offering, as a sweet aroma to the LORD, with its grain offering and its drink offering, according to the ordinance, and one kid of the goats as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for the whole congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them, for it was unintentional; they shall bring their offering, an offering made by fire to the LORD, and their sin offering before the LORD, for their unintended sin. It shall be forgiven the whole congregation of the children of Israel and the stranger who dwells among them, because all the people did it unintentionally. And if a person sins unintentionally, then he shall bring a female goat in its first year as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for the person who sins unintentionally, when he sins unintentionally before the LORD, to make atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him. You shall have one law for him who sins unintentionally, for him who is native-born among the children of Israel and for the stranger who dwells among them” (Numbers 15:22-29).
“If you sin unintentionally, and do not observe all these commandments which the Lord has spoken to Moses.” There are many expressions like “sin unintentionally” in the Bible. The flesh sins unintentionally and does what should not be done. I asked you if it was possible for the flesh to become perfect, but it cannot become perfect, even after we have remission of sin. The flesh seems to be perfectly righteous at first, right after we have redemption. But in fact, it does not aid us in disclosing ourselves, but instead hides us. The flesh slops trash and sins all the time. The flesh always commits sins that God hates. Doesn’t the flesh sin a countless number of times? Does the flesh always live, as God wants? The flesh always does what God doesn’t want. The flesh always sins uncontrollably.
The law of God consists of the Ten Commandments and it has 613 kinds of detailed articles. “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Honor your father and your mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.” The first four commandments are the commandments that are to be kept among the relations with God. The rest of the commandments, from the fifth commandment to the tenth, are commandments that should be kept among human beings. But does the flesh please to obey the law?
There are white lines on the road for pedestrians to safely cross the road. But the flesh never wants to keep traffic laws. People cross the road within the lines for fear that other people are watching them. In fact, they don’t want to obey the law. They cross the road while denying traffic signs when nobody is around.
The flesh automatically sins. If they are well educated, they should keep to the traffic signs, whether other people watch them or not. However, they would merely be acknowledged through the flesh. We hate to cross the road according to traffic signs and try not to obey them as much as possible.
Then, what’s the purpose of God giving us the law? The law gives us the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20). By the law, we come to know that we are sinners who always disobey the Ten Commandments. We always sin. The law always requires us to do good and not do evil. Nevertheless, our flesh always sins because it is too weak to keep the law. The Bible says that the just shall live by faith. However, how do the just, who have this flesh, live by faith? They also can’t live by the law in their flesh so how do they live? The just live by the faith in God.
The spirit wants to follow the will of God, but the flesh always commits sins, disobeying all the articles of the Ten Commandments. The flesh sins in turns, committing this sin today and that sin tomorrow. There are sins that the flesh prefers to commit; more than other sins. The flesh of a human being sins all his/her life. Is this right or not?
Let us observe the fifth commandment. “Honor your father and your mother.” It’s utterly reasonable, and people try to keep it even though they cannot keep it all the time. So let us skip discussing it. The next one is “You shall not murder.” All of us kill others in our minds, while only a few people actually kill according to the flesh. However, let’s skip this as well because killing is such a grave sin. The next ones are “You shall not commit adultery” and “You shall not steal.” These sins are easily committed in our daily lives. Some people have an innate talent of stealing and committing adultery. They have made it a habit to commit the sins. Don’t they covet, too? (The Bible says to covet is also a sin.) They are also good at taking other’s possessions away from their initial places (stealing). The flesh does these kinds of evil deeds whenever it wants to do.
Let us assume that we commit just one or two kinds of sins among ten kinds of sins. Does that make us righteous before God? ─No, it does not.─ We are not just and righteous by the flesh before God because even the slightest bit of sin is a sin. The flesh repeatedly sins, sinning this today and that tomorrow, until we die. The flesh cannot help but to sin before God until we die. So, have you ever been clean and sanctified in front of God even for a day? Let’s look at the flesh, separating it from the spirit. Did you never sin before God, being perfect by the flesh? One sins even when one sleeps. He enjoys looking at vulgar images even while dreaming, thinking of beautiful women through the imagination. We all commit sin.
The flesh does what God tells us not to do and doesn’t do what He tells us to do. The flesh is always the same even after our sins are blotted out. How can we become perfect? What is the way to sanctification if our flesh cannot be complete? However, isn’t it possible through Jesus Christ?
We are the ones who have committed those sins. Have we sinned before Jesus? ─Yes, we have sinned.─ Do we sin now or not? ─Yes, we do.─ Do we continue sinning? ─Yes, we do.─ We will sin until our dying day as long as we have flesh. We are the sinful beings who cannot but sin until our last breath. Then how can we be delivered from all our sins? First, if you are not born again yet, you must admit that you are sinners in front of the Lord to blot out your sins. After having been delivered, we need not confess that we are sinners, but we have to admit that we have sinned. We should admit our sins after reflecting on ourselves through the law when have sinned, even if we sometimes do good things with the flesh under the pretext of being good. We must admit a sin to be a sin.
We are sanctified by faith
Then how do we handle the problem of sin after admitting it? Are we sanctified by believing that Jesus took away all our sins by being baptized by John the Baptist and was judged on the Cross to redeem us? ─Yes.─ We are sanctified by believing that all the sins committed by the flesh were passed onto Jesus when He was baptized. Then what does the passage, “The just shall live by faith” mean?
To have faith is to believe in the Spirit, not the flesh. Only believing in God, His word, His law, and His redemption can sanctify us, and we can be perfect after we become righteous by having faith in Him. Is this true or not? It’s true. The flesh is still weak and far from perfection, even if we become righteous by receiving the remission of sins. The Bible says, “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10). But the flesh is always weak and imperfect, just as that of the Apostle Paul’s. Therefore, we can neither become righteous nor reach righteousness gradually with the flesh. The flesh cannot live a righteous life.
The only way in which the just can live is to believe in God, namely, to accept the remission of sins and blessings, which God has given us. We can be sanctified and remain righteous, while eternally depending on His righteousness, which we received from God, and live eternal lives by our faiths in Him. Our lives depend on the faith in God. So the Bible says that the just shall live by faith. We are sanctified by faith and maintain God’s righteousness by having faith and living by it. Even though the flesh is not righteous, it is foolish to try to be sanctified incrementally because it is impossible. We can live only when we receive God’s aid by believing Him to be our God, our Lord, and our Shepherd.
So the Apostle Paul says, “The just shall live by faith," quoting it from Habakkuk of the Old Testament. He also says, “For in it (the gospel) is the righteousness of God revealed.” What is the righteousness of God? Is it the same as the righteousness of human beings? Does reducing sins little by little sanctify us? Are we perfect because we don’t sin anymore after believing in Jesus or by having faith?
Only in the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed and it only sanctifies us perfectly through the remission of sins because we can never be righteous with the flesh. “For in it is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.” This means that we become righteous only by faith. The just live by having faith in God after becoming righteous. The just become righteous, maintaining God’s righteousness and receiving all His blessings through faith.
We must live by faith
To live by faith is like that. A human being’s will crumbles more easily than a sandcastle, no matter how strong it may be. He/she would say, “I will do this and that, Lord.” However, the flesh cannot do it. We live by faith in the Lord and the word of the redemption from sin and the law, after receiving the remission of sins. Does the flesh change to be good-natured, tall and smart if we lead lives of faith for a long time? Never. So, to live by faith is to absolutely believe in God. We become righteous by having absolute faith in the gospel and live by receiving all of God’s blessings through our faiths in Him.
The just shall live by faith. That is, we live by our faith in God. Do you believe this? ─Yes.─ Do you happen to have too many expectations from your flesh? Do you think, ‘I expect only about 20%, my flesh is still good in this part, though my flesh is not right in other parts’? However, the Bible says that the just shall live by faith. God says that one cannot live by the flesh; not even 0.1%. Do you have a mind to keep the faith until the Lord comes again by not sinning, and by having an expectation of the flesh even a little bit?
We are righteous by the faith in Jesus, in spite of how many sins we may have committed. We are sinners in the flesh no matter how good we may be, if we don’t believe in Jesus. We become sanctified when we believe in Jesus 100%, but we become sinners when we don’t believe in Him 100%. Is God pleased no matter how fewer sins we may commit? Does it please God if we are righteous through the flesh?
The righteousness of God made us righteous
Let’s see Roman 3:1-8. “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: ‘That You may be justified in Your words, and may overcome when You are judged.’ But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world? For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? And why not say, ‘Let us do evil that good may come? as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just” (Romans 3:1-8).
The Apostle Paul said, “But if our unrighteousness demonstrate the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who inflicts wrath?” Is God unrighteous and wrong if He saves a human being whose flesh sins until he/she dies with His grace? What the Apostle Paul asked in return to those who had brought him into ridicule means, “The more our weakness become manifested, the greater the righteousness of God that saves us form all our sins will be.” The Apostle Paul speaks to those who wonder how a human being who sins throughout his/her life can become sanctified. He says that human weakness is to reveal the righteousness of God. Human beings, whose flesh cannot help but to sin until their dying breaths, demonstrate the greatness of God’s righteousness through their weakness.
God’s righteousness means nothing if one can be righteous with his/her own efforts along with His righteousness; if one can be saved 97% by God’s help and by 3% of his/her own efforts. Paul says that God alone perfectly saved those who continue sinning until death through Jesus. So, our unrighteousness reveals the riches of God’s righteousness. The flesh cannot help sinning everyday until it dies; it is not able to be perfect for even a day. The fact that Jesus perfectly saved these imperfect sinners from their sins reveals the righteousness of God much more. So, the Apostle Paul says, “And why not say, ‘Let us do evil that good may come’?─as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just” (Romans 3:8).
Can we become righteous by the flesh? Can our flesh become perfect after receiving the forgiveness of sins? The flesh cannot. Can you and I, leaving all the other people of the world out of the question, become righteous by the flesh? ─No.─ But has the Lord perfectly saved us or not? ─Yes.─ The Lord has perfectly saved us from all our sins. Are we with sin if we believe in Jesus with our hearts? ─No.─ We have no sin however unrighteous we may be.
The Lord said, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:33-37). Swearing itself is a sin because you cannot keep what you swear. So neither swear nor take a pledge to do something later. Just believe in His words, and then you will live. You can become righteous if you believe in His righteousness and the Lord will help you if you believe in Him.
There are so many illusions. We have the criterion of the flesh and judge according to it because we have flesh. Therefore, there is a judge within us who is not associated with the faith in God’s word. There are two judges within us. One is oneself and the other is Jesus. So both of them try to reign within us. We tend to make the laws of the flesh and judge with it because we have flesh. The flesh tells us, “You are good even if you continue to sin. I will approve you to be righteous even if your flesh is not 100% righteous.” The judge of the flesh always gives you good marks.
However, the judge of God’s righteousness requires us to be 100% sinless. He is holy. We can become righteous only by receiving the remission of sins by faith. Therefore, believers in His gospel have already reached God’s righteousness. We have already become righteous. Those who believe in God really live. They are blessed with God’s help. The just shall live by faith. This means that unbelievers and those who live by the flesh cannot live. I’m telling you just a small part of the big picture. I am repeatedly telling you and explaining the meaning in detail, just as we boil bones over and over again until the soup turns white.
We need faith
It is important to know the Bible, but how much we believe in it is more important. Some people only believe in God’s Creation in the Scriptures. Some people believe both that God created the heavens and the earth and that Jesus only washed away original sin. They believe that their daily sins should be washed away everyday. They make their own judgments according to the law of the flesh. How much do we believe? The just shall live by faith. To become righteous and to live can be possible only by faith. From the beginning to the end, we need faith in God.
So how much do you believe? Do you happen to measure yourself as you please, captured in carnal thoughts, thinking, ‘I am quite alright, my flesh is good’ or ‘I’m too weak to believe in God’? Do you happen to score yourself, giving yourself 80% today and 95% the next day, but only 5% on certain days, thinking, ‘It would have been better if I had not been born.’ Do you think like that? ─Yes.─ So do I.
I am seriously like that sometimes. Even when I am relieving myself, I think, “It would have been better if I had not believed in the Lord and known Him. It seems to get harder to lead a devout life by faith. It has been terrible up until now. I am in a dilemma to see the future and to recollect the past. I am praiseworthy to have led a life of faith somehow until now. But I will not be able to walk with You well from now on, Lord. How sensitive to sin I became since I’ve known You. Many thoughts and criterions have come out of me since I’ve known You. I have barely followed you, Lord, not exactly knowing You. But now, I have no self-confidence to follow You anymore. Why? Because I know God is holy and perfect. Ah! Lord, I can’t follow you anymore. I have no confidence.”
Therefore, God tells us to live by faith because He knows us well. He says, “You must maintain being righteous and remain blessed by faith. All your sins were passed onto Jesus Christ through His baptism. You always sin when I reflect your flesh on the law. So admit that you cannot help sinning. Did your Savior take away all your sins or not? ─Yes, He did.─ Were all your sins passed onto your Savior or not? ─Yes.─ Then do you have sin or not? ─No.─ Did the Lord save you or not? ─Yes.─ Then cloudy and dark days will turn into sunny day like the words in the hymn: “There’s Sunshine in My Soul Today.”
We can’t become sinners again
It may be hopeless when we think of the future, but it’s sunny and bright when we look at the Lord with faith. Therefore, God says that the just shall live by faith. Do you believe this? ─Yes.─ We are saved by faith and also live by it. Who do we believe in? We live by believing in God. Only the just can live by faith. Do you believe that? ─Yes.─ Can you maintain God’s righteousness by training the flesh well? ─No.─ Does the righteousness of God become invalid when the flesh does evil? Do we become sinners again? ─No.─
The Apostle Paul said in Galatians 2:18, “For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.” A person who believes that all his/her sins were transferred to Jesus Christ through baptism and that He was judged on the Cross for him/her can never become a sinner again. A person who does not deny Jesus becomes sanctified at once and sinless because all his/her sins were passed onto Him and he/she can never be a sinner again. Have you got it? ─Yes.─
God, who saved us, is always our Lord and our Father. God always helps us and is with us to the end of the world. That is the reason He says, “Live by faith. I will help you if you believe in Me. Angels will serve you, who are born again.” Angels are the servants between God and us. They tell the Lord everything about us. God made us His children. We were sinners by nature. We can never become righteous by the deeds of the flesh, but we have become righteous by faith.
We give thanks to the Lord. The Lord has became our Shepherd and Father by faith.