“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
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.”
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
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
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
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the
word of God.
Therefore the word of God is the only means
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
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.
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
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
“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
“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
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.
TEACH Services, Inc.