Back To Basics: Christians Are Saved By Works (Sola Fide)

Any believer seeking to profit greatly from theological study, would find it expedient to go back to the basics of theology.

The “basics” of Christianity is highlighted in have been deemed the “five solas” of the faith, which are as follows: 1.) Sola fide, 2.) Sola gratia, 3.) Solus christus, 4.) Sola scriptura, and 5.) Soli deo gloria. These “solas” have been at the core of theological study from body of Christ throughout the centuries, being highlighted in the period of the Protestant Reformation. In this blog post we will examine the Latin phrase sola fide, which translated in English means “faith alone.”

Martin Luther, the spearhead of the Protestant Reformation, had this to say about the doctrine of sola fide:

Hence it comes that faith alone makes righteous and fulfils the law; for out of Christ’s merit, it brings the Spirit, and the Spirit makes the heart glad and free, as the law requires that it shall be

There are several observations to note concerning Martin Luther’s comments:

  1. Justification is by “faith in the work of Christ alone”:  The term “faith” means a belief, or an assurance in someone, or something. The Holman Bible Dictionary describes faith in this manner:

Trusting commitment of one person to another, particularly of a person to God. Faith is the central concept of Christianity. One may be called a Christian only if one has faith.

The faith a believer has in Christ is “fixed” on an object. In the case of a Christian it is “fixed” on a Person. What makes one righteous before God is faith in Christ.  A person must have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to be justified before God.

  1. Justification is by “faith in the work of Christ alone”: A believer who has faith in Christ, also has assurance, in the work (or what Martin Luther called merit) of Christ for them. This is what Paul highlighted as he wrote to the churches in Corinth:

1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 cor. 1:1-4 NASB).

Believing in the work of Christ on the cross: His suffering, death, burial, and resurrection is how one receives the forgiveness of sins. In short, a Christian can cleverly confess they are saved by works-the works of Christ for them.

  1. Justification is by “faith in the work of Christ alone: A believer cannot (and should not) add to the completed work of Christ. To add to the work of Christ is to assert Jesus’s suffering death, burial, and resurrection, is not enough to pardon sins, and make one righteous! It actually minimizes the completed work of what God has done for us, thus minimizing God’s glory.

There are many Scriptures found in God’s Sacred word, which reveal our justification from God is indeed by faith alone. Some of these Scriptures include the following below:

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” (Rom. 1:17 NASB).

2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” 4Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness (Rom. 4:2-5 NASB).

8But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”–that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” (Rom. 10:8-11 NASB).

Many saints of old have proclaimed this eternal truth of Sacred Scripture. These saints included Clement of Rome (possibly 1-101 A.D.) who wrote,

“And we who through his will have been called in Christ Jesus are justified, not by ourselves, or through our wisdom or understanding or godliness, or the works that we have done in holiness of heart, but by faith, by which all men from the beginning have been justified by Almighty God, to whom be glory world without end. Amen.”

Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.), another saint of the faith in the first century observed:

No longer by the blood of goats and of sheep, or by the ashes of a heifer . . . are sins purged, but by faith, through the blood of Christ and his death, who died on this very account.

Ambrosiaster, written possibly in 366-384 A.D., was a commentary on the epistles of Paul. Although the author of this work is not given, they made this observation concerning the apostle Paul and sola fide, when the author noted,

“Paul backs this up by the example of the prophet David, who says that those are blessed of whom God has decreed that, without work or any keeping of the law, they are justified before God by faith alone.”

In fact, the Latin phrase the author of Ambrosiaster used in this sentence is “sola fide justificentur apud Deum,” which translated in English means “they are justified by before God by faith alone.” The very term sola fide was used by the author.

The Sacred Scriptures teach, very plainly that by faith alone the sinner is reconciled to God by works. Not by the sinners work, For no one is righteous by their works before a holy, and just God (Rom. 3:10). A sinner is declared righteous by trusting in the completed work that was done by Jesus Christ, which has been accounted to the sinner. To deny this truth is to deny the a fundamental pillar of the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints to believe, proclaim, teach, and confess.

I end this blog with a paragraph from Martin Luther that highlights the reality of sola fide, found in the Sacred Scriptures, which says this:

The faith of the fathers in the Old Testament era, and our faith in the New Testament are one and the same faith in Christ Jesus, although times and conditions may differ. Peter acknowledged this in the words: Which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they (Acts 15: 10, 11). And Paul writes: And did all drink the spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ (I Cor. 10:4). And Christ Himself declared: Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it and was glad (John 8:56). The faith of the fathers was directed at the Christ who was to come, while ours rests in the Christ who has come.

Until next time…

Soli Deo Gloria!

L.S.

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