The Righteous Will Live By His Faith


In his youth, Martin Luther’s ambition was to become a lawyer. But an episode of thunder and lightning changed his life’s direction. That thunderstorm was so severe that he felt the reality and horror of death. So he prayed to a saint of the Roman Catholic Church, saying, “Help me, St. Ann! I will become a monk.” Subsequently, he did enter the seminary and was ordained a priest two years later. Yet Martin Luther did not have peace in his heart, and became more and more frightened that the wrath of God would descend upon him. But then a passage in Habakkuk 2:4 - “The righteous will live by his faith” – would transfix him.


Reminiscing about this great leader of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther’s son Paul wrote the following: “In the year 1544, my late dearest father, in presence of us all, narrated the whole story of his journey to Rome. He acknowledged with great joy that, in that city, through the Spirit of Jesus Christ, he had come to the knowledge of the truth of the everlasting Gospel. It happened in this way. As he repeated his prayers on the Lateran staircase, the words of the prophet Habakkuk came suddenly to his mind: ‘the righteous will live by faith.’ Thereupon, he ceased his prayers, returned to Wittenberg, and took this as the chief foundation of all his doctrine.” (Wittenberg was the diocese where Luther ministered. On October 31, 1517, he nailed to the church door a copy of his 95 Theses that exposed the fallacies of the Roman Catholic Church. Historians generally acknowledge this time and place to represent the inception of the Protestant Reformation movement.)


In the preface to his collected Latin works, Luther recorded this autobiographical event: “Upon returning home from Rome, a horrifying feeling of being trapped in a deep pit came over me. But as I meditated over and over on Romans 1:17 (that quotes Habakkuk), I began to understand. This immediately made me feel as though I had been born again, and as though I had entered through upon open gates into paradise itself. From that moment, I saw the whole face of Scripture in a new light.” After Martin Luther recognized the precious truth of “Righteousness through Faith”, he fought fervently for the truth without regard for the consequences, pointing out the fallacies of the Roman Catholic Church, and pushing for religious reform.


Paul indicated that the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. “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) He also proclaimed that “clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, ‘The righteous will live by faith’.” (Galatians 3:11) The author of the Book of Hebrews encourages those Christians suffering persecution to maintain their faith in God and not throw away their confidence, for God will richly reward such people. “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, ‘He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.’" (Hebrews 10:36-38)


All three of these books in the New Testament quote Habakkuk 2:4 – “The righteous will live by his faith”. We see how important the teaching of “Righteousness through Faith” is. Dear friends, doing good deeds and accumulating merit is not sufficient to erase the sins committed by people. Only by admitting and repenting of our sins before God, and believing in the Saviour Jesus Christ who was nailed to the Cross for us sinners, can we be declared righteous before God and receive eternal life.


By: Daniel To