February 26, 2018

Both Sides

By: Larry Shaffer

Greetings from Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands! We are extremely fortunate to be spending this week in luxury and leisure on our Corporate Incentive Trip.  Here’s a view from our balcony.

Habakkuk 2:4

“Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him, but the righteous will live by his faith.” The contrast is one who is proud and one who has faith. Interesting that Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4 in both Romans and Galatians. Paul’s most thorough treatment of the gospel is in the book of Romans and Galatians. Previously, I wrote that Paul quoted Habakkuk 1:5 in one of his sermons in Acts 13. In the Acts sermon, he used Habakkuk to make the point that judgement and cursing comes to those who reject God and refuse to come into submission to God’s laws, i.e., the proud. Although this is unpopular to say in today’s world of prosperity gospel, it is clearly part of Paul’s preaching. Judgement comes from rejecting God. You can say that is the negative part of the gospel, but it is, nevertheless, part of the gospel. The positive side of the gospel is “the righteous will live by his faith.” Today, most gospel message focus on the positive side and leave out the negative side. In varying forms, today’s gospel message is ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.’ We want to leave out the negative side of the gospel, because, well, it’s just negative. Paul doesn’t leave it out and neither does the message of Habakkuk.  Today, Paul might say, ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. But if you don’t embrace God’s plan for you, you will be cursed, judged and sent to hell.’

Is Habakkuk one of the gospels?

So, as weird as Habakkuk has been so far, in its most basic form, it is the Christian gospel seen in the Old Testament. Habakkuk 1 teaches if you reject God and his laws (the Old Covenant) then you will be cursed. That is the negative side of the gospel. Habakkuk 2 gives the solution. It’s not to obey all the laws of the covenant because you will fail every time. It is to live by faith and through our faith we receive the imputed righteousness of God. That is the positive side of the gospel. This is what Paul teaches in Romans and in Galatians.

Not by works but by faith

When Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4 in Romans 1:17 he is emphasizing that we attain the righteousness of God, not by works, but by faith. Immediately afterwards, Paul emphasizes the wrath and judgement of God against those who reject Him. Once again, both the positive and negative side of the gospel message. In Galatians 3 when Paul quotes Habakkuk there is the same emphasis of cursing and judgement contrasted with “the righteous man shall live by faith”. By leaving out the negative side of the gospel, today’s popular preachers think they have a better way to present the gospel than the apostle Paul and better than the way the Bible teaches us.

The wake-up call
Sorry for getting a little bogged down in expositional studies. I couldn’t help myself. From a devotional standpoint, these are the direct words of God recorded by Habakkuk. They are God’s response to Habakkuk asking, “how can you favor the Chaldeans over Your own people?” God says, no, I don’t favor them. Verses 5-19 is a thorough description of God’s cursing and judgement upon the Chaldeans who represent all people who arrogantly and defiantly reject God. God is just using them to wake up His people from their unrighteousness lifestyle.

Lord, I never want to be so self-consumed, apathetic and disobedient that You are compelled to use force to wake me up and discipline me. I’d rather humble myself under Your mighty hand, be sensitive to your presence, obedient and stay close to you. May I draw near to You, listen and obey. Amen.