17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
from faith to faith;
This phrase literally reads out of faith to faith. Faith is both the ground and the goal. The Christian worldview is by faith through and through; it is by faith first and last. We completely rely on the sufficiency of God for salvation. We obtain God’s righteousness solely by faith. This is the primacy of faith.
The source (“from”) of God’s righteousness is faith. Faith is the ground for receiving that righteousness. There is humility in receiving God’s righteousness because we have to trust someone else to receive it.
“To faith” refers to the action of faith on the part of the believer, not his works. God bestows His righteousness on the principle of trust/faith in His provision. The gospel both awakens faith and produces faith. At salvation God gives us the status of His righteousness; at spiritual maturity we experience His integrity by applying the principles of the Word to experience.
as it is written,
Paul drives his point home from a quotation of Habakkuk 2:4. His quotations indicate something of his extensive knowledge of the Old Testament. The New Testament quotes this verse three times: the other passages are Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38. Justification by faith is no new idea to the New Testament.
“The just shall live by faith.”
God reveals His righteousness if we express faith in His message. It is not achieved by human effort.
Habakkuk deals with the principle credence we give to the prophetic Word. God’s appropriating means of a person coming into relation with Himself is faith; it is faith in the gospel that came by revelation.
A foundational maxim of the New Testament is the just shall live by faith.
The only way God gives this righteous status before Himself is by faith. The righteousness which the gospel offers the sinner is God’s righteousness. Men will either stand in their own righteousness or in God’s righteousness. There is nothing between.
It is impossible for God to love or accept us apart from the work of Christ on the cross. This is the way God keeps His righteousness intact. God does not love us apart from the standards of His own character. The gospel does not reveal God’s love alone without his justice and righteousness. God cannot accommodate Himself to our preference or standard. God’s love for us does not depend on us; it depends on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. We can sin miserably but God still loves us because of the cross. The cross is the way God is free to have rapport with us.
Standing in God’s righteousness forever is the right to eternal life. Not only is the believer free from his sin because Jesus paid for that sin but (positively) God declares him as right as God is right by faith. Therefore, the righteousness that the gospel presents to the sinner is God’s very own righteousness whereby the Christian will stand in relation to Him forever. All of this comes by grace through faith rather than by works.