The German Reformer Martin Luther considered Sola Fide as the article on which the church stands or falls. Sola Fide fide is Latin for “˜Faith Alone”™, which is shorthand of saying that we are justified by faith alone. This was a counter argument to the Roman Catholic doctrine that we are justified by faith and works.
What does it mean to be justified by Faith Alone?
Justification by Faith Alone means that we are declared right before God not by any works that we have done, but by having faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible is clear on the point that no one can be justified by the works of the law (Rom. 3:20), but by faith (cf. Gal. 2:16).
The basis for our justification
The Reformers maintained that the basis of our justification was the imputed righteousness of Christ. What they meant by this was that, Christ”™s righteousness is credited to us; so that when God looks at us, he sees us as though we had fulfilled his law. Martin Luther called this righteousness an alien righteousness, because it is a righteousness outside of us.
What must we have faith in?
Having faith in Jesus Christ is not simply believing that Jesus exists, true saving faith goes further than that. Faith in Jesus Christ means having faith in the work that He accomplished for us in His life, death and resurrection.
We must believe that the life that He lived, He lived for our righteousness. The death that He died was to pay for the penalty of our sins. And He was raised for our justification, we are assured that the Father has accepted His sacrifice for us and now we can also have a hope of being resurrected when He comes back. This is what we must trust (believe) in.
Were Old Testament saint justified by works?
The Bible has always taught that men are justified by faith alone. This is one of the things that Paul emphasises in letters like Romans (cf. Rom. 4:1-8,) and Galatians (cf. Gal. 3:6-9). God has never justified anyone based on their works, because our works has never been good enough. Paul says that the Old Testament law was given to lead people to Christ (cf. Gal. 3:24), to show them their sinfulness (cf. 3:20) and God”™s grace (Rom. 5:20).
Objections against Sola Fide
This doctrine of Sola Fide was not well received by the Roman Catholic Church, just like it wasn”™t even in Paul”™s days. We will look at only three objections:
Sola Fide gives people a license to sin
The Roman Catholic Church saw this as a form of antinomianism (the belief that Christians are not bound to follow God”™s law). They argued that if we are justified by faith alone, why do any good deeds? The Reformers were quick to point out that, though we are justified by faith alone, we are not justified by a faith that is alone; faith in Jesus Christ will also be accompanied by good works as fruits of salvation (James. 2:19-20).
Sola Fide makes Salvation look like easy-believism
The Roman Catholic Church saw this as a form of easy-believism. They argued that to simply believe and not do any work to be justified by God, made salvation look flimsy.
“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” James 2:24
This verse, the Roman Catholics argued, refutes the whole idea of Sola Fide, as it explicitly states that “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone”. However, a simple reading of the verse in it”™s context (James 2:14-26) will show you that what James is talking about here is not a justification of God declaring us righteous; but that a person is shown to be just, not by a mere professionÂ of faith (James 2:19), but by the deeds that they do.
Sola Fide Today
Today this precious doctrine of Sola Fide has been lost by so many churches and the result has been either legalism or antinomianism. Most people now think that in order to go to heaven they must have done something good before they died, and as a result they are trusting in themselves for salvation. Others simple have a distorted view of Sola Fide and live however way they want hoping God will forgive them and grant them heaven on the last day.
How should this doctrine impact us?
The Doctrine of Sola Fide should give us peace (Rom. 5:1), knowing that it is not our works that make us acceptable to God, but faith in Christ alone. We are now able to serve God with our works, as a sign of thanks giving. What could have taken us eternity to accomplish and to avail has now been given to us freely and we receive it by faith in Jesus Christ.
We are justified by Grace Alone (Sola Gratia), through Faith Alone (Sola Fide), on the basis of the finished work of Christ Alone (Solus Christus) and to the Glory of God Alone (Soli Deo Gloria).
Soli Deo Gloria