googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: The Five Solas Part 2: Sola Fide

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Five Solas Part 2: Sola Fide

The next Sola we will review in this series is Sola Fide or “Faith Alone” which is sometimes referred to as “justification by faith.” It is the belief that we receive salvation only through faith in Christ; good works of any sort play no role whatsoever in our salvation.

Among the Five Solas this is may be the most controversial and is the dividing line between many most mainstream protestant denominations and other beliefs. For example, there are some groups that believe that after a person accepts Christ he must immediately be baptized before he is saved. So they believe in salvation by faith + baptism and not “faith alone.” Mormons (which is not a Christian group anyway) believe they must work toward their salvation and Jesus simply “makes up the difference” where they fall short.

I believe the Bible is clear about how we are saved. There are many verses that support this but let’s start with perhaps the most definitive: Romans 10:9:
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
This passage leaves very little wiggle room for interpretation. Of course, one text is not a proof text so we need to look at the abundance of Scripture that supports salvation by faith alone. Salvation by faith is the primary theme of John’s gospel consider John 1:12, John 3:15-16, John 3:18, John 3:36, John 5:24, John 6:47, John 8:24, John 11:25-26, John 12:46, and John 20:31. Indeed, from John’s gospel alone, one would be hard pressed to add to salvation any ingredient other than faith.

We also have the example of the publican and Pharisee (Luke 18:10-14). The Pharisee essentially bragged to God about how good he was in keeping the Law. The publican only prayed, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus said it was the publican and not the Pharisee who was justified.

As an additional thought, we must be careful to understand that even faith could be considered a work. Look at Ephesians 2:8-9:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
You see, we are saved “through faith”; we are not saved “because of faith.” We do not say to God, “God, I have faith so You are required to save me.” Even the faith we have is not of ourselves – God gives us even the faith through which He saves us! How wonderful is God!!

Though I believe the Bible is clear that we are saved through faith many people will use some passages to argue otherwise.

Some will point to passages that command us to obey the Law (such as Matthew 5:48). I concede that Christ expects us to try to follow the Law but following the Law is not what saves us. Indeed, no one except Christ has ever kept the Law. Read Romans 3:10. If we must do good works to be saved, then we have no hope for salvation because our works are nothing more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

Some people will point to Matthew 7:21, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” The irony is that, in context, the people discussed in v. 21 are the ones who rely on their works to save them: they cast out demons, prophesied, and performed miracles. However, Jesus still calls them workers of iniquity! Jesus tells us the will of the Father in John 6:40, “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” Doing the will of the Father does not mean doing good works; it means we must have faith in the Son!

Still others read passages that discuss God judging our deeds and confuse our reward with our salvation (Matthew 16:27, Revelation 14:12-13, et al). At the White Throne Judgment, the lost are indeed judged by their works (Revelation 20:13) but they are all condemned because their names are not written in the Book of Life. Christians’ works are judged for our reward but our salvation is already secured. Read 1 Corinthians 3:14-15:
If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
In other words, when our works are judged we might lose our reward but we are still saved.

But the chief text cited by believers in salvation by works is certainly James 2. Consider, for example, v. 14, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?” Wow! The clear implication of that verse alone is that faith by itself cannot save a person.

However, in the context of the entire chapter, James is talking about how works are the evidence of faith. A person who claims to have faith but demonstrates no evidence of faith (that is, continues to live like a sinner) likely isn’t truly saved. Look at v. 21-22, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” We see then that Abraham’s works were wrought by his faith. He had faith and so he performed the works. Likewise, if we truly have faith there should be evidence of our faith in our works. I believe James’s point is summed up well in v. 18, “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”

Let me conclude by saying that Christ’s work on the cross is sufficient to cover my sins. When Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), He meant just that. No more work is necessary. If we feel we must add something done by our own hands, we are basically saying to Jesus that His death wasn’t enough! I know that nothing I can do could compare to His sacrifice and so I will put my trust completely in Him to save me.

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