Justification in Habakkuk 2:4
“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by
his faith.” The Prophet Habakkuk was vexed by the debauchery of Israel and God promised
there to be reckoning for Israel’s sins by the hands of the Chaldeans. Habakkuk’s response was
one of confusion because the Chaldeans displayed greater debauchery than Israel. This brings up
a side point right off the bat that one should never compare sins with another person, but with the
standard of God’s law and all sins will be reckoned with, by any means necessary, according to
God’s own perfect counsel. However, the context of the whole book declares that God will bring
judgement to His people, through the evil of the Chaldeans without causing evil
(Is 46:10, Eph 1:11, Heb 6:17, Rom 9:15,18, Jam 1:13, 1 Jn 1:5). This will
bring glory to God through judgement while upholding justice and dealing mercy. With the
larger context at the forefront, Habakkuk contrasts the wicked living in pride while those who
live with faith in Yahweh living righteously. Habakkuk is not teaching works-based
salvation, but is saying that the righteous always have faith and faith always produces
righteousness, for they are intrinsically connected. John Calvin said in his reply to (Catholic)
“We deny that good works have any part in justifying man; we assign the reign to them in
the life of the righteous. For if the person who has obtained righteousness possesses Christ but
Christ is nowhere with His Spirit, it is thereby established that righteousness necessarily has been
united to regeneration. Therefore, it is pleasing to understand rightly how the individual matters
– faith and works- look to Christ, who (as Apostle teaches)was given to us for righteousness and
sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30)… Where Christ is not there is neither righteousness nor faith, which
cannot seize Christ for righteousness without the Spirit of sanctification.”
Calvin is saying that one cannot separate righteous living and God. Even in Habakkuk’s
day, the righteous had to live by faith, but faith in what? They had to live by faith in the only
righteous being which is God and has always been God. It was Christ at the cross that revealed
this more clearly, but even in the Old Testament one can see that God and righteousness and
faith are all linked together by a tightly wound rope that is unbreakable. For someone to obtain
and maintain righteousness it is all done by Christ; therefore, the recipient must live by faith.
Imputation is the means by which God grants righteousness to the believer, not by merit, but by
faith and repentance. The key that Habakkuk was stressing is that salvation is obtained not by
achievements but dependence on the one true living God. Faith is not something that is conjured
by pure grit but self-abandonment and the source of that faith secures that faith (Lk 9:23).
The source of our faith is Christ Jesus and it is He who creates and perfects our faith (Heb 11:1,
12:2). Justification always then leads to sanctification which is the process of being brought into
godliness and more like Christ. This is a lifelong process that takes work but this is a subject that
needs its own blog series.
Calvin, John. The Necessity of Reforming the Church: With a Reply to Cardinal Sadoleto.
Translated by Casey Carmichael. Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, a division of Ligonier
Hamilton, James M. Jr., God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology.
Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010.