The Just Shall Live by Faith – or by His Faithfulness?

I often get told that theology is not really important and I should rather focus on application. Sure, I can’t expect everyone to be a theologian, but I’ like you all to recognise that the way you interpret the bible DOES have an effect on your walk as a Christian.

I often heard from Christians that “the bible says this and that”. But in reality they simply read their ideas into the scriptures. Noone should make such a claim. Various churches teach it various ways. But if you get it wrong, will it not affect your conduct, your walk with God? You might do something that is actually forbidden.

You see, faulty theology leads to a false sense of security. Digging into the text HAS applications to everyday living. If, for example, it turned out that “faith” was a doing word rather than head knowledge, many Christians would find themselves in trouble. Sure, Martin Luther read in Romans that “the just shall live by faith”, but he didn’t check where the idea originates from in the Hebrew bible (OT) and whether it was correctly translated.

A quick check shows a verse in Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 18:9
if he walks in My statutes and My ordinances so as to deal faithfully — he is righteous and will surely live,” declares the Lord GOD.

Very clear. It doesn’t say he becomes righteous by walking in God’s ordinances and statutes, it only states, that is how you identify the righteous.

The idea, however, comes from the Law:

Leviticus 18:
5 ‘So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD.

Now onto Habakkuk, where it appears in the form quoted by in the NT, but this time I had to pick God’s Word translation, because the most others change the verse to reflect the NT usage:

Habakkuk 2:
4 “Look at the proud person. He is not right in himself.
But the righteous person will live because of his faithfulness.”

Now it is clear that not head knowledge is in view, but the statement is quite different from the earlier ones. One possible interpretation, and I personally like this one (whether it is the correct one I do not know for sure), is that the righteous person will live because of HIS faithfulness. Because God is faithful and He will deliver the righteous as He promised.

Why is it that so many quotes from the prophets are different in the NT than in the original Hebrew text? Because during the early centuries in the Greek lands the LXX was in general use, and the writers of the NT simply directly quoted from the LXX. To the ancient people there was no distinction between “faith” and “faithfulness”. The distinction we have today is artificial.

I hope you can see from this example that getting the interpretation right has a profound effect on one’s walk with God and standing before Him. So don’t discount it thinking that application is what matters. You cannot have the correct application without the correct interpretation. Interpretation and application also go hand in hand.

Else we better close our bibles and not read them any more.


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