Part 9 of 12

The 2nd Sola - “SOLA FIDE”


“Sola fide” is Latin for “by Faith ALONE,” as it relates to the very basis of the believer’s justification before God unto salvation. In the Reformer’s theology FAITH ALONE in CHRIST ALONE, without reliance upon our good works, results in being “DECLARED” and “COUNTED” as righteous by God, while not yet actually being changed to be righteous. (That “righteous change,” which is yet to mature in a believer’s life, is called “sanctification of the soul.” It will be the result of the later and continuing work of God in the life of the believer (Philippians 2:13, 2Cor 4:16).

Paul was the first to say: BUT NOW the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God WITHOUT (works of) THE LAW is manifested… to DECLARE HIS righteousness for the remission of sins” (Rom. 3:21, 25)“upon all them that BELIEVE” (Rom 3:22). Such “believing,” is “the faith,” by which we are “justified” and “saved.”

Romans 3:20-22, 24-26 BY THE DEEDS OF THE LAW THERE SHALL NO FLESH BE JUSTIFIED in his sight21 BUT NOW the RIGHTEOUSNESS of (from) God WITHOUT THE LAW is manifested…22 Even (that is) the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD WHICH IS BY FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST UNTO ALL and upon all THEM THAT BELIEVE: for there is no difference…

24Being JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation THROUGH FAITH in HIS BLOOD, to DECLARE his righteousness for the remission (the cancellation of the debt, charge, or penalty) of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To DECLARE, I say, at this time his righteousness: THAT HE (God) MIGHT BE JUST, AND THE JUSTIFIER OF HIM which BELIEVETH IN JESUS.

In verse 21 above Paul indicates a change has occurred as noted by the words “BUT NOW.” In “time past,” under “the Law” with its works requirements, satisfactory faith and works under the Law’s animal sacrifice system were required for one’s sins to be “covered.” These obedient faithful believers had their sins “covered,” but they could not be “justified” by their works of “the Law” alone (3:20).

You see, after Moses had given “the Law,” the nation of Israel had the sacrificial system to follow. Did the animal blood sacrifices really save them? Did killing all of those bulls and sheep really wash their sins away? In Hebrews 10:4 we read, “For it is NOT POSSIBLE THAT THE BLOOD OF BULLS AND GOATS COULD TAKE AWAY SINS.” That is pretty clear. All the blood that was shed didn’t take away a single sin!

Unfortunately though, this God-given system did not work for most of the Israelites because the vast majority of Israel rarely trusted God. When they had been delivered from the hand of Pharaoh and came out of Egypt and it was time to go into the promised-land they didn’t trust in God and his promises. They said “The giants of the land are too great for us,” and so virtually every one of them died “in unbelief” in the wilderness. Were their sins forgiven? No, because they didn’t have faith. In fact, the vast majority of Israel from their inception through to the time of Christ weren’t saved; only a small remnant of them was saved because they were the only ones who had true faith. And then the Law’s sacrifices, divorced from faith, couldn’t save them because they were only a picture or a pointer to God.

So could a true believer in the time of Moses ignore the sacrifices? No they could not because they were commanded to sacrifice. That’s because it was part of what God commanded them to do in obedience, trusting in God’s word to them as Abraham had. They might not have understood exactly what was going on, but in Hebrews 4 we are told that their obedience had to be mixed with faith for it to be effective. If they just killed the animal and said “Well, that’s done with,” then it would not have done any good. But if, when the animal was killed, they trusted that somehow God would provide a way, not because of anything that they had done but because they were casting themselves on Him, then their sins were “covered” (Rom 4:7) and they would be saved.

All this was only a picture of salvation to come in Jesus Christ and by His shed blood at the cross.

“BUT NOW,” today under Paul’s “gospel of the grace of God” men are justified, declared and counted as righteous before God; they have “the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD WHICH IS BY FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST(3:22).

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved THROUGH FAITH; and that not of yourselves: it is the GIFT of God: 9 NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast.

Romans 4:5 But to him that WORKETH NOT, BUT BELIEVETH ON HIM (Christ) that justifieth the ungodly, his (Abraham’s) FAITH IS COUNTED FOR righteousness.

Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is NOT JUSTIFIED BY THE WORKS OF THE LAW, but by the FAITH of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be JUSTIFIED BY THE FAITH OF (ek, which is from and with) CHRIST, and NOT by the works of the law: for BY THE WORKS OF THE LAW SHALL NO FLESH BE JUSTIFIED.

The way of FAITH for one to be counted righteous was long established, BEFORE the Law came. Four hundred thirty years before “the Law”…“Abraham (simply) BELIEVED God, and IT (his faith) was COUNTED unto him for righteousness.” (Rom 4:5)

See this and having this understanding, the Reformer’s conflict with Rome concerned faith ALONE as the sole requirement for one’s justification and salvation.

·         The Reformers saw the doctrine of Sola fide – “by Faith Alone,” as being summarized by the formula: “Faith ALONE yields justification, and this is only then can be followed by genuine good works.” Thus, it is God who justifies man, while man need only have faith, trusting in Christ Alone.

·         This was in contrast to the Roman Catholic formula: Faith AND the GOOD WORKS of the prospective recipient together yield justification. That is that say; “Faith PLUS man’s Good works” are required for justification. Here both God AND MAN MUST PERFORM, thus negating Faith ALONE in Christ ALONE as the way of justification and salvation.

The contrast here above is startling. This might be better understood and contrasted when we consider what is meant by the term “justification.” Both the Roman church and the Protestant Reformers would agree that justification invokes the transmission of Christ’s merits of righteousness to sinners. Yet, there’s a difference.

  • In the Protestant Reformers theology justification by FAITH ALONE is the means by which one may be DECLARED AND COUNTED as sinless, while not yet necessarily being so. Martin Luther’s Latin term for this was “simul justus et peccator,” meaning “simultaneously justified and yet a sinner.” This paradox is the case for us so long we live in our “body of sin” (Rom 6:6) on earth. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8
  • Roman Catholicism sees justification and the transmission of God’s life to a human being, cleansing him of sin and also transforming him all at once, saying it’s not merely a declaration of righteousness.

This Roman church position of God “transforming a believer all at once” defies reality. This position fails to see believers according to the Apostle Paul’s words regarding sanctification and transformation unto righteousness as a further ongoing work of God. By God’s justification and salvation a believer is POSITIONED and hid with Christ in God( Col 2:9-10), being “hid” God only sees Christ’s righteousness and counts Christ’s righteousness to the believer because their faith is in Christ ALONE.

The fact is that after justification and salvation God begins a subsequent work to change the believer’s DISPOSITION. God then continues to work within the lives of His children to transform and renew of their soul’s mind, emotion, and will. God does this “inner work” by using the events His children encounter in the course of their “day by day” walk on earth (2Cor 4:16). The Lord teaches believers to now trust Christ within them as their new paradigm for living by use of the circumstances and situations of life. This transformation is the further work of God’s grace in the life of the believer.

Philipp 2:13 it is GOD WHICH WORKETH IN YOU both TO WILL AND TO DO of his good pleasure.

2Cor 4:16 … though our outward (flesh) man perish, yet the inward MAN (soul) IS RENEWED DAY BY DAY.

The renewal of the believer’s soul is the further work of God to change them in their disposition and expression of His life living in and through them. As we become changed, little by little we grow from one level of glory (expression) to another level of glory. This occurs as our mind becomes renewed to a new paradigm of understanding – spiritual understanding. Christ in us is our only “hope of glory” ( Col 1:27), by which we actually express His life in us.

Colossians 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY:

2 Cor 3:18 But WE all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, ARE CHANGED (Greek, metamorphoo) into the same image FROM GLORY TO GLORY, even as BY THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD.

Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but BE YE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

“Faith Alone” as the basis of one’s justification is sometimes called the material cause or principle of the Reformation because it was the central doctrinal issue for Martin Luther and the other reformers. Luther called this the “doctrine by which the church stands or falls.” The doctrine of Faith Alone,” bringing justification and salvation, excludes works of righteousness to justify and save the sinner.

After the believer has believed Christ’s cross-work on their behalf, by which they are justified and saved, how then is the believer to live? Are good works required of the believer?  

Paul gives us the answer to this question. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in him: (Colossians 2:6). Faith ALONE in Christ ALONE after salvation then excludes our self-effort toward righteousness for sanctification. The believer never graduates from being a recipient of God’s love, grace, and His gift of faith in Christ. Since we received Him “by grace through faith ALONE,” so we also conduct our daily walk by trusting in His continuing grace. Nevertheless, we were saved unto good works” (Eph 2:10). Our new righteous obedience then springs from His life working within us (Philipp 2:13).

After having received Christ’s righteousness by grace through FAITH ALONE, our daily walk on earth is to be conducted in the very same manner of faith in Him alone. Now He leads, guides, and lives through us. Paul confirms this by writing; For we walk BY FAITH, not by sight.” (2 Cor 5:7)

Our works never replace our faith, which is expressed by trusting the Lord. Our ongoing trust is our faith in action. All God’s grace blessings that come to us “in Christ” are never counted to us of debt as though we could earn God’s salvation and blessings by our good works. Romans 4:4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of GRACE, but of DEBT? 5But to him that worketh NOT Our proper good works are a response to having received His love and grace. We are then constrained by the bands of His unconditional love toward us as we grow to see and understand the depth and riches of His love and grace.

Does this free “gift” of God’s love, grace, faith, and justification unto salvation foster loose, careless conduct? By no means! When our Lord had given a blind man his sight, He said to him: “Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole,” but the record hastens to add that he “followed Jesus in the way” (Mark 10:52). And could anything be more naturally spontaneous than a redeemed and liberated sinner longing to please and serve his divine Benefactor? The Apostle Paul expressed this well when he wrote 2 Cor. 5:14.

The LOVE OF CHRIST CONSTRAINETH (impels) UShe died for all, (so) that they which live should NOT henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him (2 Cor 5:14-15).

Yes, we may fail at times and even turn away for a time, but He knows our heart. His love and grace is ever-present, within every believer; it is the person of the indwelling “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” desiring to restore our union with Him.