The righteous shall live by faith. (Galatians 3:11b)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The righteous shall live by faith. It's like the thesis statement of the Bible. But what does it mean to live by faith? How should you live in order to live by faith?
This question must be answered in two ways. First, before God, being righteous has nothing to do with your living and everything to do with your believing. To live by faith before God is to be entirely passive, entirely receptive. He is the Actor, the Giver, and the Doer. Faith is simply gift received. It is the same as our Father Abraham, who "believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6).
Before God, righteousness has nothing to do with works. This means that you can do nothing to earn it. There is no special set of works, no sanctified worship, no characteristic you can develop that makes you right in God's eyes. The problem is that even your most stellar works, your best worship, and your most laudable characteristics are still dragged down by your sin. To claim righteousness by works is to declare yourself just, and then it becomes necessary to justify God for His displeasure over your good works.
The only righteousness that counts before God is a righteousness that is outside of yourself--the righteousness of God found in Jesus Christ. The righteous shall live by faith. It is only necessary to believe.
But before the world, the question is different. Faith matters nothing before the world. If your neighbor is hungry, your faith doesn't put food in his belly. Your righteousness before the world is all about how you live, it's all about works.
But the two kinds of righteousness are related in this way: the life of the faithful is derived from faith before God. The righteous shall live by faith. This means that when your relationship with God has been straightened out, your relationship with the world can't remain crooked. The righteous shall live by faith. Before God, entirely passive; before the world, active in love and all good works. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Faith clings to Jesus' cross alone And rests in Him unceasing; And by its fruits true faith is known, With love and joy increasing. For faith alone can justify; Works serve our neighbor and supply The proof that faith is living. (Salvation unto Us Has Come, LSB 555:9)