For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 01:17, NKJV).
“But what does that mean?” I asked a beloved brother in the Lord early in my walk as a Christian.
I was referring to the highlighted phrase in the verse above.
“Faith first and last,” he said. “Faith beginning to end.”
That satisfied me for the moment, but now, years later, I think it means even more than that; more than faith alone; more than some ancient colloquialism (a word or phrase that is not formal or literary).
You see, when the object of faith is God, and in this particular context, God's righteousness being revealed, the phrase “from faith to faith” is an indication of the self-replicating nature of faith. By this I mean, faith in God becomes broadened and deepened by itself.
Faith is that thing or activity which, when directed to its proper focus, becomes more of itself. In other words faith is nourished by faith.
I conclude this for two reasons. First, Scripture exhorts us repeatedly to be encouraged by one another's “mutual faith”. Earlier, in verse 12, Paul has alluded to that very effect; that being around those of like-minded faith builds up our own.
The writer of Hebrews says more or less the same thing, that “we should not neglect the assembling of ourselves together.” Why? Because the church is designed by God to keep herself going, needing nothing from the world, but only her Head, Christ, and the spiritual gifts that He distributes for the edification (building up) of itself in love.
Secondly, faith is the first step in understanding spiritual things. The Bible, without being mixed with faith, is merely a collection of ancient writings, but with faith, it becomes alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. Faith recognizes that God is, and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.
Here is a word picture of what I think of as the Divine Spiral. It is painted like this:
The smallest measure of faith gives us a glimpse of God, a tantalizing understanding that He IS there and knows each one of us. If we nourish that faith with even the slightest acknowledgment, it grows and blossoms, causing us to hunger for more of His presence, more knowledge and understanding of Him, which increases our faith, which gives us a greater hunger, and so on.
I picture it as a beautiful, increasingly vast upward spiral leading to the very gates of Heaven.
Faith in God, like His grace towards us, changes everything.
It starts on the inside and works outward, transforming a cold-hearted sinner into a lover of God through Christ, His Son.
It makes the blind see, the lame walk, and cleanses the leper, and the more we exercise the measure of faith we are given, the larger, broader, and deeper it becomes.
Now be prepared for the world to attempt to corrupt and pervert this glorious progression, dismissing it as magical thinking, or misdirecting it toward, not faith in God, but faith in faith.
To protect against such attacks, just remember what it was like to believe in Jesus when you were a little child. Back then, there were no cynical complications, no pernicious (harmful) doubts, no recognized outside pressure to disbelieve. There was just you and Jesus, and it was as natural a breathing to know He was there and loved you.
The world thinks that Biblical Christianity requires us to check our brains at the door, but that is not so at all. What it really requires is to examine the evidence that God has provided in His Word, in the world, and in a changed heart, with the purity of a little child, as yet unscarred by the ravages of sin.
When we are confronted with doubt, or with things we don't understand, we need only to fall back on the things we do understand, and ultimately, to come back to the Cross, for that is the destination that faith intends us to reach.
Consider this magnificent prayer that the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers:
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19, NKJV).
Faith in Christ is not something that you grit your teeth and break out in a sweat to experience. It is something far deeper than that, far more basic, like breathing air.
But unlike breathing, it is possible to deny faith by stubbornly refusing to believe that which your conscience, all of Creation, and that still small voice within urges you to accept. If you reject Him long enough, if you refuse to see, then there will come a time when that is all you can do, and He will grant you your wish to be left alone for all eternity.
That is one of the very definitions of Hell.