Makestraightpaths.com examines the teachings of the religious
group variously known as “the Family,” “The Family International,” the “Children
of God,” or the “Family of Love,” and evaluates these teachings from a Christian
This page is one of a
series examining the role and function of discipleship within the
The Just Shall Live
“The just shall
live by faith” is a phrase that occurs in the Bible four times: once in
the Old Testament, in Habakkuk 2:4, and three times in the New
Testament, in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and in Hebrews 10:38.
These verses − or
rather, this phrase − is used by the Family as scriptural support for
their policy of full time members not working at secular employment. The
reasoning behind this policy goes like this:
The Bible says
that the “just shall live by faith.” The “just” are interpreted to be
the people who obey God the most, who follow Him the closest. These are
the true “disciples”, according to the Family, not merely “Christians.”
“Living by faith” means, again according to the Family, allowing God
Himself to supply the things that are needed, instead of working in
secular employment. Those who work in secular employment are seen as
trusting their employer rather than trusting God, or serving Mammon
rather than God (Matthew 6:24). Fulltime Family disciples, on the other
hand, are seen as serving God, regardless of their actual ministry
within the Family. As they are “serving God fulltime,” then God will
provide for them, not only food, clothing and shelter, but also anything
they might reasonably need to continue their “work” for the Lord. These
“needs” might include vehicles, air tickets, household equipment,
entertainment, and so on. As Family disciples are working fulltime for
God, then God is somewhat obligated to provide for them.
If there is
something that is needed by a Family ‘home,’ or an individual member, or
by the collection of homes in a particular area, or if a home is simply
short of money to pay their rent, then there are a variety of methods
that might be used to obtain the needed item. Family members have access
to a number of audiovisual
products as well as books and magazines that they may sell.
They may raise money through music performances, or through providing
entertainment of one form or another. They may also directly approach
people in the business community to ask them to give the needed items
for free. This is called “provisioning” and is a long-established Family
practice. Family members may also ask people to give sums of money in
order to purchase their needs. All of these methods of obtaining money
or needed items are seen as within the scope of “living by faith.”
There are a
number of issues here that need to be addressed, one of which is covered
on this page:
- The Bible
actually makes no distinction between ‘Christians’ and ‘disciples.’
One of the implications of this is that the exclusive nature of the
Family is lacking in scriptural support. For more,
- The Bible
does not condemn secular employment, neither does it say that
Christ’s “disciples” should refrain from such work. The Bible does
not say that someone who engages in fulltime ministry is better than
someone who holds secular employment. Jesus’ warnings against
serving Mammon (Matt 6:24) do not forbid secular employment. For
more, click here.
- In many
cases, there appears to be little difference between the methods
used by Family members to raise money, and those used by secular
salespeople or entertainers. Nonetheless, Family members are seen as
‘living by faith’ while the others are not.
- The Family
practice of “provisioning” is open to abuse. There is nothing to
stop an individual (or group of people), motivated by greed, to prey
upon the generosity of well-meaning business people. Serious issues
regarding the honesty of Family provisioners have been raised, both
by former members, and within the Family itself. For more on honesty
within the Family,
- Finally, the
Family has never produced a thorough study of the four verses that
contain the phrase, “the just shall live by faith.” There have been
many things written on the topics of fulltime discipleship, secular
employment, provisioning and living by faith, most of which contain
Bible verses. However, the Family has never examined these four
verses in context to determine their actual meaning. If they did,
they would discover, that the four passages in which these four
verse are located each have a different emphasis or application, and
that not one of the passages comes close to the way this phrase is
interpreted in the Family.
The remainder of
this page takes a brief look at the four passages that contain the
phrase “the just shall live by faith” in order to learn the general
application of this phrase as it is used in the Bible.
Hab 2:4 Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his
Habakkuk lived about 600 years before Christ, in a time of intense
turmoil. The Jewish people were divided into the north and south
kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and were beset with problems both internal
and external. Unlike other prophets whose books are records of their
exhortations to the people to return to God, the book of Habakkuk is
written as a dialogue between the prophet and God.
with a complaint to God concerning the wickedness of his own people.
How long, Lord, must I cry for help?
But you do not listen!
I call out to you, “Violence!”
But you do not intervene!
Why do you force me to witness injustice?
Why do you put up with wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence confront me;
conflict is present and one must endure strife.
For this reason the law lacks power,
and justice is never carried out.
Indeed, the wicked intimidate the innocent.
For this reason justice is perverted.
God’s answer is
shocking: He will not continue to tolerate wickedness in His people,
therefore He will raise up the Chaldeans (Babylon) to come as an
instrument of punishment.
Hab 1:6 For behold, I am raising up
That fierce and impetuous people
Who march throughout the earth
To seize dwelling places which are not
The prophet is
not happy with this answer. He remonstrates with God, pointing out that
the Babylonians are even more wicked than Judah. God’s justice appears
to be injustice.
Hab 1:13 Your eyes are too pure to
And You can not look on wickedness
Why do You look with favor
On those who deal treacherously?
Why are You silent when the wicked
Those more righteous than they? NASU
God gives several
responses: First, the Babylonians will indeed come at the appointed
Hab 2:3 For the vision is yet for the
It hastens toward the goal and it will
Though it tarries, wait for it;
For it will certainly come, it will
not delay. NASU
Second, God is
indeed just, recompensing both the righteous and the unrighteous.
Hab 2:4 Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his
will be itself punished for its wickedness.
Hab 2:8 Because you have looted many
All the remainder of the peoples will
loot you —
Because of human bloodshed and
violence done to the land,
To the town and all its inhabitants.
The book of
Habakkuk concludes with a psalm of praise and trust in God (chapter
that “the just shall live by his faith” (NKJV) then comes within the
context of God’s reply to the prophet concerning the justice of God’s
use of a wicked nation to punish his own people. There is a strong
contrast drawn, not between Judah and Babylon, but between those who are
proud, whose souls are not right, and the “righteous” (NASB, NIV, RSV)
who live according to their faith, or “faithfulness” (footnotes in NASU
and NIV). The NET Bible puts it as “the person of integrity will live
because of his faithfulness.”
The word “just”
is an adjective in Hebrew, meaning “just, lawful, righteous, as
justified and vindicated by God” (Brown Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon).
Vine’s dictionary notes that the word is derived from the noun and verb
forms of the word, which are legal terms involving the whole process of
justice. The “just” therefore, are those whom God views as innocent.
The word “faith”
in Hab 2:4 means “firmness, fidelity, steadfastness, steadiness,
certainty.” This word is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to indicate
steadiness, as when Aaron and Hur held Moses’ hands to keep them
steady (Exodus 17:11); it is used of God’s faithfulness (Psalm
37:1) and of the faithfulness of God’s commandments (Psalm 119:86); it
is used within the context of God’s relationship to Israel as depicted
by a faithful marriage (Hos 2:20).
The word “live”
is used in the Old Testament both literally and figuratively, with
various meanings including to live, to have life, to revive, to preserve
life and so on.
Habakkuk 2:4 is a
strong statement; it is the heart of God’s message to the troubled
prophet. God told him that He alone was the sovereign God, not only over
Israel and Judah, but over the nations of the world as well. God’s
justice would be fulfilled. The wicked would not escape. God would
brings things to pass. Justice would be fulfilled in God’s own time, but
it certainly would happen. The only way to avoid God’s displeasure was
to remain faithful to Him, to remain true to His commandments because of
faith in Him, to maintain righteousness and integrity before God.
Babylonian marauders nor the unbelieving Jews would be able to stand
before God; only those whose faith was demonstrated in righteousness in
integrity would live.
The principle we
may apply in today’s world is clear and strong: regardless of the
wickedness of the world, regardless of the sins of people who claim to
be Christians, regardless of temptation, persecution or spiritual
attacks, the man or woman of faith will remain true to God and His word.
This is faith that is demonstrated in righteous living, faith that keeps
one faithful to God, a living faith that produces integrity and
obedience to God.
Rom 1:17 For in it
the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is
written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” (NASU)
The book of
Romans contains one of the most influential theological arguments that
has ever been written, addressing the tension that existed between
Jewish and Gentile believers in the first century. The theme is that
Jews and non-Jews together form one people of God, united in the
righteousness of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
In chapter one,
Paul lays the foundation for his analysis of the Gospel as it applies to
both Jews and Gentiles, and gives a summary of the argument he will
prove throughout the epistle:
… the gospel of God,
2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy
Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David
according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by
the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness,
Jesus Christ our Lord,
So, God sent
Jesus Christ, who was revealed to be the Son of God by His resurrection
from the dead.
14 I am under
obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the
foolish. 15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also
who are in Rome.
16 For I am not
ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to
everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in
it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is
written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
The Gospel is
about God’s power to save Jew and non-Jew alike; it is about God’s gift
of righteousness to all. It is available not because of nationality but
through faith in Christ the Saviour. The Gospel is thus the great
leveller between Jews and non-Jews.
himself “under obligation,” a “debtor” (NKJV, NET), to preach the
Gospel. He is morally compelled to preach the Gospel, first to Jews, and
then to non-Jews. The reason for this obligation is the fact that
salvation is available by faith to all people, and to prove this point,
Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4, “the righteous man shall live by faith.”
The emphasis in
Rom 1:17 is on salvation: God’s power to save and so give eternal life
is granted to anyone who believes. So, the “righteous man” (the one who
has been justified by God) “shall live” (eternally) “by faith” (in Jesus
first, that Paul was obliged to preach to the Gentiles, and second, that
the Gentiles could not excuse themselves from the Gospel by saying that
they were not Jews. Similarly, regardless of cultural background, the
Gospel of Jesus Christ brings salvation to all. Culture, nationality or
background is no excuse for non-acceptance of Christ.
Gal 3:11 Now that no
one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “the righteous
man shall live by faith.” NASU
The book of
Galatians contains a heated defence of Paul’s own apostleship, set
against the invasion of the church by Jewish Christians who were
insisting that Gentiles had to get circumcised in order to be accepted
by God. Paul hotly rejected this proposition, showing from the
Galatians’ own spiritual experience, and from the Old Testament
Scriptures that God’s gift came through the Holy Spirit by faith alone.
10 For all who rely
on doing the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written,
“Cursed is everyone who does not keep on doing everything written in the
book of the law.”
11 Now it is clear no
one is justified before God by the law, because “the righteous one will
live by faith.”
for the Galatians was that circumcision − or any other Jewish rite − was
unnecessary for salvation. In fact, Paul argued that if one were to get
circumcised, he would then become obliged to obey the whole law, and he
would negate Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
And I testify again to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he
is obligated to obey the whole law. NET
I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come
through the law, then Christ died for nothing! NET
then states that it is by faith alone that God’s righteousness is
obtained, resulting in eternal life.
Heb 10:38 But my
righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, my soul has
no pleasure in him. NASU
The book of
Hebrews is a letter of encouragement and exhortation written to a group
of predominately Jewish Christians who were enduring hardship. The
author shows that God has given His absolutely final word in the person
of Christ: rejecting Christ is rejecting God. He stresses that Christ is
far superior to any of the Old Testament figures and ceremonies, and
therefore God’s people may come to God through Christ with supreme
Hebrews 10:38 is
within a section exhorting the recipients to continue in faithful
perseverance, immediately following a strong warning against deliberate
sin (Heb 10:26-31).
32 But remember the
former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict
of sufferings, 33 partly by being made a public spectacle through
reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those
who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and
accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have
for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. 35 Therefore, do
not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you
have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you
may receive what was promised.
37 For yet in a very
he who is coming will come, and will not delay.
38 But my righteous
one shall live by faith;
and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.
39 But we are not of
those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the
preserving of the soul.
The author of
Hebrews then lists the heroes of faith in the well-known eleventh
chapter to encourage his readers not to throw away their confidence (Heb
10:35). He concludes his extensive list of people who endured through
extreme hardship with the ultimate example of Christ (Heb 12:1-3), who
endured the cross.
The emphasis in
Hebrews 10:38 is on the contrast between those who persevere in their
faith, enduring hardship for their righteous cause, and those who
“shrink back.” The Greek verb translated “shrink back” in verse 38 means
to “withdraw oneself, i.e. to be timid, to cower, shrink: of those who
from timidity hesitate to avow what they believe” (Thayer’s Greek
Lexicon). It is “perhaps a metaphor from lowering a sail and so
slackening the course, and hence of being remiss in holding the truth”
(Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words). It is also used in
Acts 20:27 For I did
not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. NASU
The author of
Hebrews quotes Habakkuk 2:4 in support of his exhortation to endure,
despite the “great conflict of sufferings” (Heb 10:32), despite “being
made a public spectacle,” despite the “reproaches and tribulations”
(vs.33), despite the seizure of their property (vs.34). He reminds his
readers of their former endurance (vs.32), and urges them not to throw
away their confidence (vs.35), and that they have need of endurance
(vs.36). God’s reward will come (vs.36) in “a little while” (vs.37). The
principle he wants to draw from his quotation of Habakkuk 2:4 is that
those who hold to the true faith will never retreat in fear, they will
endure to the end. Here, “live by faith” is used as a direct contrast to
“shrink back.” He repeats this in the next verse, contrasting “those who
shrink back and thus perish” to “those who have faith and preserve their
souls” (NET Bible).
The phrase “the
just shall live by faith” (NKJV) is used four times in the Bible, three
times in the New Testament as a quotation of Habakkuk 2:4. Each passage
has a slightly different emphasis:
In Habakkuk, the
prophet exhorts the people to remain faithful to God, to remain true to
His commandments, to maintain righteousness and integrity in true faith
In Romans, Paul
emphasises God’s power to save and give eternal life to anyone who
Paul argues that eternal life is obtained solely by faith in God’s
In Hebrews, the
author urges his readers to persevere, courageously holding on to their
Not one of the
four passages in the Bible has anything to do with believers working in
full-time ministries instead of secular employment. Not once is it used
in relation to God’s provision of our material needs. Not once does it
have a meaning even remotely related to the Family’s interpretation.
(on Make Straight Paths)
research (external links)
Between Your Ministry and Your Occupation (Bob Deffinbaugh)
Work: A Noble Christian Duty (John
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