The Big Reveal: What Faith is, from First to Last
So…(!) since one of the kids sprained an ankle while serving here at Mission of Hope Haiti, we’ll catch up here again tomorrow with a Haiti family missions trip post, and let Liz Curtis Higgs , my heart sister who has jumped into our The Romans Project with us, slip up onto the farm porch with these heart strengthening words….Liz is the humble, wise (and funny!) author of 30 books, including her nonfiction bestseller, Bad Girls of the Bible , and her newest release, The Girl’s Still Got It: Take a Walk with Ruth and the God Who Rocked Her World , and she has presented more than 1,700 inspirational programs in all 50 United States and 14 foreign countries. As a wife and mother, she is grateful to call Louisville, Kentucky home — and she’s about as down to earth and warm as it gets. I just love her — and this post? Well, have a seat on the porch with us!
Doorways, windows, archways, gates—unspoken invitations to enter in, to explore. to discover something new.
Whenever I travel to Scotland, I return home with dozens of photos like this one. Don’t you love finding a door slightly ajar, a gate unlatched? Come in, it whispers. Look around.
The Bible paints such images too. Just before the apostle Paul launches into the second half of Romans 1—full of dire warnings about godlessness and wickedness and wrath—a door quietly swings open.
A way out of such misery. A portal into certain joy.
For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:17 (NIV84)
Suppose we see where this door, this single verse, this revelation leads us.
For in the gospel…
Wait. What does gospel mean, exactly? Are we talking gospel music? A gospel hall? The gospel truth?
Gospel comes from Old English: gōd means “good,” and spell means “to find out by study; to come to understand,” as in “Spell it out for me.”
The gospel, then, is how we understand goodness.
The gospel is the key that opens the door.
Paul’s life work was “testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24), “preaching the gospel of his Son” (Romans 1:9), “spreading the gospel of Christ” (1 Thessalonians 3:2), even “suffering for the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:8).
Nobody goes through all that just to share a nice idea. This gospel must be powerful, it must be life-altering, it must be the one thing everyone needs.
Agreed. So, what is the gospel?
Simply this: God made a way for sinners to be reconciled with Him. Because His sinless Son died in our place, our sin debt is paid in full. Because His Son rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, we can be sure that we will too.
Not only is this the best news in town, it’s also a gift from God. Freely given, freely received. God has thrown open the windows of heaven for us and unfurled his banner of love.
…a righteousness from God is revealed,…
It’s a big reveal, all right. Darkness to light, sorrow to hope, death to life.
Over the years the word righteous has gotten a bad rap, maybe because we’ve confused it with being self-righteous. Full of ourselves, rather than full of God.
Righteousness is what happens when “God makes us right in his sight” (NLT). It’s entirely his effort, not ours, so all the credit goes to him. This is “God’s plan” (PHILLIPS), one that “God ascribes” (AMP), done “God’s way” (MSG), resulting in “God’s approval” (GW).
All God, all the time.
Okay, but how do we get from A to B, from unrighteous to righteous? Don’t we have to do something, say something?
Keep walking, beloved.
…a righteousness that is by faith…
Ah. If righteousness is a gift, then faith must be a gift as well.
Paul assures us, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6). Since our faith is sparked by God, and he also sees it through to the end, then once again, he deserves all the praise.
Perhaps what we call a leap of faith is really God lifting us out of our sin.
Thank you, Jesus. Again, again, again.
In this verse, faith also has forward motion. We progress “from faith to faith” (YLT) as we “keep on believing” (WE). Day by day our righteousness grows, “both springing from faith and leading to faith” (AMP).
We know this is true, because we’ve seen it with our own eyes.
When we catch a glimpse of God at work in someone’s life, when a prayer is answered, when we experience his presence in worship, then our faith is strengthened, then our courage is bolstered, then our trust increases.
From faith to faith. Yes.
…from first to last,…
Not only for us from first breath to last, but for all God’s people, “it begins and ends with faith” (NCV).
There may be a moment in time when our awareness of faith begins, or when we make a public profession of what we believe, but that faith has been stirring and growing inside us from day one—“a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time”
Always and forever, God.
At work. In us.
For our good. For His glory.
…just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
We’re not the only ones memorizing Scripture. Paul recalls a verse from the prophet Habakkuk, who wrote “the righteous will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). Faith is the essence of life, a sustaining force—like air, like food, like water, like love.
As we step gingerly through the rest of Romans 1 in the weeks ahead, take heart: those whom God has called His own, those who have received His gift of righteousness, those whose faith rests in him have no need to fear God’s wrath.
Our calling is to live out the gospel—goodness understood—with humility and gratitude, pointing to the One who makes every good thing possible.
Isn’t Liz just a wonderful Jesus-sister? (I can’t wait to see her in March — come join us in Minnesota at the Set Apart Conference?) And Liz and I are praying to share more through The Romans Project, with videos of us reciting to each other, and Lord willing, Liz will meander up here to the farm porch throughout The Romans Project and share how God is changing her through the memorizing of Romans 1, 6, 12. (It’s only 2 verses a week for the year — come join us? Over 2300 of us are gathering over at Romans at ScriptureTyper.com — Liz and I would love to have you! Consider Scripture and your heart and the 1 Habit that God really wants for your new year.
And oh, your heart would be deeply nourished by Liz’s weekly Bible study blog, posting every Wednesday.
Her current feast-series is Embrace Grace: Welcome to the Forgiven Life. Who doesn’t need that?