Sola Fide By Faith Alone
Sola Fide, by Faith Alone, is one of the Five Solas that the Protestant Reformation was built upon. Dealing with Justification and grounded in Sola Gratia, by Grace Alone, it was Martin Luther’s rallying cry in opposition to The Roman Catholic Church. Among Protestants it is a foundational truth upon which we believe the Church stands or falls and answers the question, ” Is Justification all of God by grace through faith or do we add to our right standing before Him through works of grace? ”
By Faith Alone
What can one do to make themselves righteous? Can adherence to the Law of God make one acceptable in His sight? We can do nothing to make ourselves righteous and acceptable to the Holy God as revealed in Scripture. Not a single one of us will stand before God and say, ” I am good enough and have earned my right to enter into God’s Heaven. ” It just will not happen. The Apostle Paul makes this abundantly clear in several places in his epistles including:
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God
Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.
Romans 4:5-6 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness
Romans 5:1-2 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Galatians 3:6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness
We cannot downplay the importance, no the absolute necessity of, being justified by faith alone for if we must merit our justification then we will always and forever fall short. In our fallen and corrupted state there is nothing that we can do to please God for those who are in the flesh are hostile to God and cannot please Him ( Romans 8:7-8 ). By the works of the law will no one be justified ( Romans 3:20 ) and the one who desires to keep the law must keep it perfectly ( James 2:10 ).
Now, as good as some of us think we are, we are not perfect and therefore cannot perfectly keep the law in part or in whole. We are not freed from the moral constraints and demands of the law, but the law does not justify. The law is spiritual, it is good, it drives us to Christ, it is used to restrain evil in society, and informs us how we should now live but it does not give the life found in Christ through the lone instrument of our justification, which is saving faith.
What is our Sola Fide
Our faith alone is accepting, resting, and receiving Christ, who is the author and finisher of our faith ( Hebrews 12:2 ), for our justification. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen ( Hebrews 11:1 ). Our faith has an object in the person of Jesus Christ and wholly rests upon Him and His completed work for our righteousness. However, faith is not a force, a power, or a means to health, wealth, and material blessings as seen in the aberrant view of faith found in some so called churches today. Our faith may be weak or strong and is often assailed on every side by the cares of this life, but it is strengthened through both Word and Sacrament.
Who said What in Regards to Faith Alone
Martin Luther: Should one imagine he is able to do anything good of his own strength he does no less than make Christ the Lord a liar. (On Faith and Coming to Christ)
Clement (A.D. 80-140): So all of them received honor and greatness, not through themselves or their own deeds or the right things they did, but through his will. And we, therefore, who by his will have been called in Jesus Christ, are not justified of ourselves or by our wisdom or insight of religious devotion or the holy deeds we have done from the heart, but by that faith by which almighty God has justified all men from the very beginning. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Clement, Clement’s First Letter, 32.3-4)
Calvin’s Institutes 3.11.19 The reader now perceives with what fairness the Sophists of the present day cavil at our doctrine, when we say that a man is justified by faith alone (Rom. 4:2). They dare not deny that he is justified by faith, seeing Scripture so often declares it; but as the word alone is nowhere expressly used they will not tolerate its being added. Is it so? What answer, then will they give to the words of Paul, when he contends that righteousness is not of faith unless it be gratuitous? How can it be gratuitous, and yet by works? By what cavils, moreover, will they evade his declaration in another place, that in the Gospel the righteousness of God is manifested? (Rom. 1:17)
Calvin “Why, then, are we justified by faith? Because faith we apprehend the righteousness of Christ, which is the only medium of our reconciliation to God. But this [justification] you cannot attain, without at the same time attaining to sanctification…. Christ therefore justifies no one whom he does not also sanctify. For these benefits are perpetually and indissolubly connected, so that whom he illuminates with his wisdom, them he redeems; whom he redeems, he justifies; whom he justifies, he sanctifies…. Since, then, the Lord affords us the enjoyment of these blessings only in the bestowment of himself, he gives them [justification and sanctification] both together, and never one without the other. Thus we see how true it is that we are justified, not without works, yet not by works; since union with Christ, by which we are justified, contains sanctification as well as righteousness.” Institutes of the Christian Religion,
trans. John Allen (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949), III: xvi, 1.
Irenaeus (120?-200), “Thus, then, they who are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham, and these are the children of Abraham. Now God made promise of the earth to Abraham and his seed; yet neither Abraham nor his seed, that is, those who are justified by faith, do now receive any inheritance in it; but they shall receive it at the resurrection of the just. For God is true and faithful; and on this account He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Against Heresies, Book 5, chapter 32, par. 2).
Chrysostom (349-407), “But after saying that ‘it was excluded,’ he shows also, how. How then does he say it was excluded? ‘By what law? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith.’ See he calls the faith also a law delighting to keep to the names, and so allay the seeming novelty. But what is the ‘law of faith?’ It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only.” (Homilies on Romans, 7, v. 27).
We are justified by faith alone apart from works and as can been seen above it is not a novel idea. Although it did not become controversial until the accretions of Roman Catholicism made it necessarily so, it is Scriptural, it is historic, and it is vital to a lively and saving faith.
Sola Deo Gloria