“To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, His faith is counted for righteousness.” Romans 4:5. This is the only way that anybody in this world can ever become righteous: first admit that he is ungodly; then believe that God justifies, counts righteous, the ungodly, and he is righteous with the very righteousness of God.
Everybody in the world is ungodly. “Ungodly” means “unlike God.” And it is written, “All have sinned and come short of the glory [the goodness, the character] of God.” [Romans 3:23.]
Anybody, therefore, who will admit that he ever came short of being like God in anything, in that confesses that he is ungodly.
But the truth is that everybody, in everything, has come short of being like God. For “they are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Romans 3:9–18.
Then, as there is not one on earth who is not ungodly, and as God justifies the ungodly, this on God’s part makes justification—righteousness, salvation—full, free, and sure to every soul on earth.
And all that anybody needs to do to make it all sure to himself on his own part is to accept it—to believe that God does justify, personally and individually, him who is ungodly.
Thus, strange as it may sound to many, the only qualification, and the only preparation, for justification is for a person to acknowledge that he is ungodly.
Then, having such qualifications, having made such preparations, all that is required of him to obtain justification, full, free, and sure, is to believe that God justifies him, the ungodly one.
It is quite easy for many to believe that they are ungodly, and even to acknowledge it; but for them to believe that God justifies them—that is too much.
And the sole reason why they can not believe that God justifies them is that they are ungodly, so ungodly.
If only they could find some good in themselves, or if only they could straighten up and do better, they might have some courage to hope that God would justify them. Yes, they would justify themselves by works, and then profess to believe in justification by faith!
But that would be only to take away all ground for justification; for if a man can find good in himself, he has it already, and does not need it from anywhere else. If he can straighten up and do better himself, he does not need any justification from anywhere else.
It is, therefore, a contradiction in terms to say that I am so ungodly that I do not see how the Lord can justify me. For if I am not ungodly, I do not need to be made righteous; I am righteous. There is no half-way ground between godliness and ungodliness.
But when a person sees himself so ungodly as to find there is no possible ground of hope for justification, it is just there that faith comes in; indeed, it is only there that faith can possibly come in.
For faith is dependence on the word of God only. So long as there is any dependence on himself, so long as there is any conceivable ground of hope for any dependence upon anything in or about himself, there can be no faith; so long as there is no place for faith, since faith is dependence on “the word only.”
But when every conceivable ground of hope of any dependence on anything in or about himself, is gone, and is acknowledged to be gone; when everything that can be seen is against any hope of justification, then it is that, throwing himself on the promise of God, upon the word only, hoping against hope, faith enters: and by faith he finds justification full and free, all ungodly though he be.
For forever it stands written, “To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ.” “Whom God hath set forth … to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past.” [Romans 4:5; 3:22, 25.]
This is what it is to exercise faith. Are you exercising faith? For “understanding how to exercise faith: this is the science of the gospel.”
“Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1.
Since faith is the depending upon the work of God only, for what that word says, being justified by faith is simply being accounted righteous by depending upon the word only.
And since the word is the word of God, dependence upon the word only is dependence upon God only, in the word. Justification by faith, then, is justification—being accounted righteous by dependence upon God only; and upon him only because he has promised.
We are all together sinners,— sinful, and ungodly. We are, therefore, all subject to the judgment of God. Romans 3:9–19. Yet for all of us there is escape from the judgment of God, But the only way of escape from the judgment of God is to trust in God.
When David had sinned in numbering the people, and so had incurred the exemplary judgment of God, the Lord gave him his choice as to whether there should be seven years of famine, or he should flee three months before his enemies, or there should be three days’ pestilence. But David would not choose at all; he deferred it all to the Lord, for him to choose: saying, “Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord, for his mercies are great.” II Samuel 24:11–14.
When depending upon God alone, in his word, for righteousness, we have peace with God; because thus we really obtain righteousness, and “the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever.” Isaiah 32:17.
When depending upon God alone in his word, for righteousness we have peace through our Lord Jesus Christ, because “He is our peace, who hath both” God and man “one,” “having abolished in his flesh the enmity” “for to make in himself of twain”—of God and man—“one new man, so making peace.” Ephesians 2:14,15.
Further, when depending upon God alone, in his word, for righteousness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, because God has “made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; … whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproachable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith”—if you continue to depend only upon God alone in his word. Colossians 1:20–23.
When he has made the way so plain, the justification so complete, and the peace so sure to all, and asks all people only to receive it all by simply accepting it from him, and depending upon him for it, why should not every soul on earth be thus justified, and have the peace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ?
This is “what the Scripture means when urging upon us the necessity of exercising faith.” Are you exercising faith? Are you justified by faith? Have you righteousness by faith? Have you peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ?
“Have faith in God.” Mark 11:22.
Faith is complete dependence upon the word of God only, for the accomplishment of what that word says.
This being so, it must never for a moment be forgotten that where there is no word of God, there cannot be any faith.
This is shown also in the truth that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17. Since faith thus comes indeed by the very word of God itself, it is perfectly plain that where there is no word of God, there can be no faith.
This is beautifully illustrated by an instance in the life of David: because David had it in his heart to build a house unto the Lord, the Lord spoke to him by the prophet Nathan, saying, “The Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house. … And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever.”
[I Chronicles 17:14.]
Then David prayed and said, “Now, O Lord God, the word that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it forever, and do as thou hast said, And let thy name be magnified forever saying, The Lord of hosts is the God over Israel: and let the house of thy servant David be established before thee.
“For thou, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house: therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee.
[I Chronicles 17:23–25.]
“And now, O Lord God, thou art that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant: that it may continue forever before thee: for thou, O Lord God, hast spoken it: and with thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed forever.” II Samuel 7:11–29.
His prayer was altogether of faith, because it was altogether the word of God: the word of God was the cause of it; the word of God was all the hope of David that the prayer would ever be answered.
He asked according to the will of God, because the will of God was expressed in the word of God. Having asked according to the plainly stated will of God, David knew that his prayer was heard. And knowing that his prayer was heard, David knew that he had the petition which he desired of him. I John 5:14. Therefore he said, So let it be. And therefore also the answer to that prayer was, and is, and forevermore shall be, sure unto David.
And this was written for our learning; that we might know how to pray in faith, and how in prayer to cultivate faith. Therefore, Go and do thou likewise. Because “the knowledge of what the Scripture means when urging upon us the necessity of cultivating faith is more essential than any other knowledge that can be acquired.”
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Therefore the word of God is the only means of faith.
Therefore, where there is no word of God, there can not be any faith.
And where the word of God is, faith is the entire dependence upon that word for the accomplishment of what that word says.
From all this, which is the truth, it is perfectly plain that in order for any one to ask in faith, he must first of all be sure that he has the word of God for what he asks.
Having the word of God for what he asks, he, like David, can find it in his heart to pray with perfect confidence, which is only in perfect faith.
He who thus prays knows that he is asking according to the will of God: for he knows that he has the plain word of God for it.
Therefore he knows that God hears him; and knowing that God hears him, he knows that he has the thing for which he has asked; because the sole basis of his hope for it is the word which has spoken it, and which is the sole basis of his asking.
The Lord tells us thus to pray; and thus he has made provision for the steady, strong, and continuous growth of faith.
Many people pray, but do not have what they pray for, and so do not know whether they can certainly claim it; and not knowing whether they can claim it, they are all at sea as to whether their prayers are answered or not.
The Lord does not want anybody to move uncertainly. Therefore he has given his word, which thoroughly furnishes every one unto all good works, and by which are given all things that pertain unto life and godliness.
And any one who seeks in the word of God the things which God has there provided for all, and upon that specific word prays for that thing, thus asking according to the plainly expressed will of God, knows that his prayer is heard, and that he has the thing for which he prayed.
So doing, the prayers will be always certain, the life will be filled with the direct gifts of God, and the faith will be sure and strong, and will be ever increasing in strength.
Many pray the prayer of the disciples, “Lord, increase our faith.” This is well. Yet along with this, it must never be forgotten that faith comes only by the word of God. Therefore, as certainly as your faith shall be increased and it can be only by there being in you an increase of the word of God, is by harkening to that word, praying to the Lord for the thing which that word says, depending wholly upon that word for that thing, and thanking him that you have received it. Then and thus that word is received by you, and lives in you.
Thus while we can pray, “Lord, increase our faith,” at the same time we must remember that we are to build up ourselves on our most holy faith. Jude 20.
This is how to exercise faith. Faith can be exercised only on the word of God; for where there is no word of God, there can not be any faith.
And “understanding how to exercise faith, this is the science of the gospel.”
“The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17.
Who are the just?—They are only those who are of faith; because men are justified only by faith.
For though we all “have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” yet we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” [Romans 3:23, 24.]
For “to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” [Romans 4:4, 5.]
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [Romans 5:1.] Those who are of faith, and those alone, are the just in the earth.
Now faith is entire dependence on the word of God, that that word shall accomplish what that word says. “It shall accomplish that which I please.” Isaiah 55:11.
To be justified, then, is to be justified by entire dependence upon the word of God. The just are those who are of the word of God. This is how men become just.
Men must not only become just by faith,—by dependence upon the word of God,—but being just, we must live by faith. The just man lives in precisely the same way, and by precisely the same thing, that he becomes just.
We become just by faith; faith is entire dependence on the word of God. We, being just, must live by precisely the same thing by which we become just; that is, by entire dependence upon the word of God.
And this is exactly what Jesus said: Man shall live “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” [Matthew 4:4.] When Jesus said that, it is perfectly plain that he simply said, in other words, Man shall live by faith.
There is no other way truly to live than by faith, which is simply living by the word of God. Without faith, without the word of God, men only die.
Indeed, without the word of God, everything only dies; for in the beginning everything came by the word of God. The word of God is the origin and life of everything; for, “He spake, and it was.”
All things animate and inanimate,—sun, moon, and stars, animals and men,—all are entirely dependent upon the word of God for existence. Only in the case of men, God has bestowed upon them the wondrous gift of choice as to whether they will do so or not. This gift opens the door of faith. And when a man does choose to live by the word of God, which is the only means of life, faith—entire dependence upon the word of God—is the means by which he lays hold on the means of life.
Thus “the just shall live by faith,” and thus “whatsoever is not of faith is sin”; which is simply to say, The just must live by the word of God; and whatsoever is not the word of God is sin.
“We can not have a healthy Christian experience, we can not obey the gospel unto salvation, until the science of faith is better understood; and until more faith is exercised.”
“Hast thou faith?” Have the faith of God. Here are they that keep “the faith of Jesus.”
“The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” Romans 1:17.
Faith is complete dependence upon the word of God, expecting that word to do what the word itself says. Is there, then, righteousness spoken by the word of God, so that people can depend completely upon that word, that the word shall accomplish what the word says?
There it is. Indeed, that is the very object of the gift of Christ. For him “God hath set forth … to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” Romans 3:25.
Seeing then that God hath set forth Christ expressly to declare, to speak, the righteousness of God, it is certain that the word of God has spoken, upon which there can be complete dependence, expecting that word to do what that word says. In other words, there is righteousness that can be received by faith.
Wherein is the word spoken? It is spoken in the word “forgiveness.” “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins”; “there is forgiveness with thee.”
Now what is the meaning of “forgive”? The word “forgive” is composed of “for” and “give,” which is otherwise to give for. To forgive, therefore, is simply to give for. For the Lord to forgive sin, is to give for sin. But what does the Lord give for sin?—He declares “his righteousness for the remission of sins.”
Therefore, when the Lord forgives—[He] gives for—sins. He gives righteousness for sin. And as the only righteousness that the Lord has for his own, it follows that the only righteousness that God gives, or can give, for sin is the righteousness of God.
This is the righteousness of God as a gift. All men have only sinned, and, if they are ever clear, must have forgiveness entirely free, as the forgiveness of sin—the righteousness of God as a free gift “upon all men unto justification of life.” Romans 5:18.
Every soul, therefore, who ever asks God for forgiveness of sin, in that very thing asks God to give him righteousness for sin. Every soul who asks God for forgiveness, asks it solely upon the word of God, which speaks forgiveness. And faith is entire dependence upon the word for what the word speaks. Thus righteousness is altogether of faith.
“Every one that asketh receiveth.” You have asked the Lord many a time to forgive your sins; that is, you have asked him to give for your sin. But when you ask the Lord to give for your sin, in that you ask him to give the only thing that he does or can give for sin, which is righteousness. That is what it is to ask forgiveness of the Lord.
And he does forgive—he does give for—your sins when you ask him. He says he does, and he does. “He is faithful”—that is, he will never fail—“and just to forgive our sins.” And the only thing he gives for our sins is his righteousness.
Then why not thank him for the righteousness that he freely gives for your sins when you ask him to?
Do you not see that righteousness by faith is just as plain and simple as asking God for forgiveness of sin? Indeed, it is just that.
To believe that righteousness is given to you for your sin, when you ask forgiveness—and thankfully to receive that righteousness as the gift of God,—this is what it is to exercise faith.
Yet how true it is that we suffer much trouble and grief because of our unbelief, and show our ignorance of how to exercise faith.
“Hast thou faith?” Have the faith of God. “Here are they that keep … the faith of Jesus.” [Revelation 14:12.] [Emphasis author’s.]
Taken from the book, Lessons on Faith, A.T. Jones & E.J. Waggoner.
©1995, TEACH Services, Inc.
Used with Permission