Apologeet.nlSola Fide – Faith Alone
You might have heard of the five ‘solas’ of protestantism. It is basically a summary of what the protestants believe to be true after the reformation. Sola is latin for ‘only’ or ‘alone.’ I will explain a bit more about these ‘solas’ in a minute. But I mostly want to think with you about ‘sola fide,’ or faith alone, and what it means to be saved by faith alone.
The Five Solas
Let’s briefly name the solas.
- Firstly there is sola scriptura. Protestants tend to focus on scripture alone, sola scriptura. In more fancy words you could say:i
That the Bible as we have it today is the inspired Word of God, and that it is authoritative and sufficient for all faith and practice, is the foundation on which all other Christian doctrines stand. This truth must be continually affirmed and defended.Scripture alone is very important but we need to be careful not to confuse this idea of nuda scriptura, which means ‘bare scripture’ or ‘naked scripture.’ This is the idea that we should have ‘no creed but the Bible!’ A ‘creed’ is an agreement of teachings which are accepted by the majority of the group. In other words, nuda scriptura says that creeds, confessions, the traditions, and leaders within the churches have no meaningful authority in the Church. This, of course, is not what the reformers meant by sola scriptura. They just wanted to make sure that all events, ideas and other activities in church were done in agreement with the Bible.
I wanted to make this first sola a bit more clear before we move on. It might help you to understand why I always try to find good biblical arguments for the things I teach.
- Sola gratia, or ‘grace alone,’ says sinners are saved as an unearned gift of God’s grace.
- Sola Christo (solus Christus), or ‘Christ alone,’ emphasises the exclusivity of Jesus’ role in salvation.
- Soli Deo gloria, or ‘to the glory of God alone,’ says that the purpose of creation, salvation, and everything—including our goal as Christians—is the glory of God.
- Sola fide, or ‘faith alone,’ affirms that justification—being made right with God—comes only through faith in Jesus.
Is Sola Fide Important?
To be short: Yes!
The preaching of this truth is paramount to the Church (that is the Church with the capital ‘C’). Many theologians will agree that the idea of salvation by faith alone is one of the most important statement of the Christian faith. Grudemii is clear about the necessity of preaching this truth as often as possible, he says:
When the preaching of a church conceals the gospel message of salvation by faith alone from its members, so that the gospel message is not clearly proclaimed, and has not been proclaimed for some time, the group meeting there is not a church.
It has been a while since I’ve read his book, and it is interesting that he actually managed to write down in words how strongly I feel about the subject of faith. By now I have heard to many sermons in which the name of Jesus isn’t even pronounced. The speaker might have used the name of Jesus at the end the opening or closing prayer, but during the sermon all I heard was ‘God this and God that.’ Not even naming God as Father, no, just God.
So, what was that sermon about? Who’s god are we talking about anyway? You see, I can find a pep-talk about how I should face-up to the challenges of life on ‘Ted-talks’ as well. And seriously, I am not kidding! Some of these so-called sermons are all about your feelings, behaviour, and attitude. But none of them explain how you have to come to that point in the first place. Not even a hint towards having faith in the saving grace of God through His Son Jesus Christ.
A church without the message of salvation is doomed to become a nice club of cosy conversations. For that you can also go the a soccer-club.
Why is it Important?
So, why do I feel so strongly about this you might ask? Sola fide or faith alone is a very important difference between biblical Christianity and almost all other religions and teachings. Most religions and cults say that you have to work to get saved. But this is not what the Bible tells us. The Bible shows us that it is the work of God, through Jesus, which saves us. While all other religions are based on own efforts, we Christians, know we can’t do much else than putting our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
This text follows after an example Paul gives about Abraham. I’ll talk a little more about that later. First, I also want to read verse 21, from 2th Corinthians 5.
2 Corinthians 5:21
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Our faith in the saving action of Jesus will make us righteous in the eyes of God. Is that righteousness something we can achieve by helping an old lady crossing the street? Well, I don’t know how many old ladies you want to help to finally achieve a state of perfection? But, let me assure you, no amount of good deeds can ever completely rid you from sin. If you decide you want to become perfect by your own deeds, you’ll have to obey every single law as given by God.
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
Again, this passage is clear! Whatever work you try to do to get saved, it will not be enough. There will always be a moment in which you fall short.
I just look at my own life. I am a very privileged man. As a missionary I get to work with God’s word almost every day. I get to do cool stuff like driving my 4×4 on some of the worst roads you can imagine, just to bring the Gospel to un-reached people! I try to do God’s good works and still I fall into sinful behaviour pretty often. Just, a wrong thought about this or that dumb guy. Just a quick lustful look at that pretty lady. Just a brief moment in which I let out a nasty word… If I had to become righteous through my works, I would be hopelessly lost for ever!
Okay, let’s get back to Romans to see why Paul mentioned Abraham. He seems to be an important example because Paul also uses him our last text, that one from Galatians 3.
Paul start Romans chapter 4 by asking whether Abraham was justified by his works.
For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Right away, Paul makes it clear that Abraham’s works did not justify him. He was justified by his faith through which he did these works. Now, that is interesting, isn’t it? Let’s go a little deeper and see what James says about faith.
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
So, we do need to work for salvation? No, that is not what James tries to explain. James is giving examples of what we would call a holistic view on faith. You see, nowadays we tend to separate the spiritual stuff from the physical things.
When I have a cold, I might end up with a headache. But what if I develop a headache without any physical cause? Can it be that I am struggling through some spiritual stuff? In that case I better not take a paracetamol but I better try to deal with the spiritual issue. Our bodies are not separate from our spirit.
The same goes for faith. I have met people who say that they have faith, but honestly nothing in their lives showed it. When their colleagues found out that they attended church on the Sunday mornings they were utterly surprised! James had to deal with this kind of thinking and said:
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.
You see, Noah had faith and he obeyed God by building the Ark. Noah’s faith would have been of little use if he decided not to obey God. Likewise, David stepped out in faith and came into action against Goliath.
Old Testament people realised that faith meant action. But action without faith is useless and likewise James says that faith without actions is also useless.
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
Here James is using the word ‘faith’ like some people use it. Some just use it without being serious. That makes it a hollow word—a word which empty of meaning and thus means nothing. When he says ‘can faith save him?’, he is not referring to real saving faith. No, James talks about this gobblygook some people use to sound more christianlike.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
How often people mistake saving faith with just believing that God exists. I’ve met people who have no problem admitting that Jesus really died and rose again on the third day. But admitting or accepting that something is real doesn’t always mean that you also get it. For example, when my wife tells me that diner is ready, I can just decide to believe that she is right, but it will not bring me much closer to my meal. I’ll have to put that belief into action and come down from my room to sit and enjoy the lovely meal.
Doubt as Opposite of Faith?
Another thing we need to know is that faith isn’t the opposite of doubt. I have heard Christians say that there cannot be room for doubt in the hearts of real Christians. These kind of boastful declarations are being used in many healing services. If you want God to heal you, you shouldn’t doubt! They tell you.
Many years I developed asthma. That was a huge disappointment because I loved sport. I was actually pretty good BMX and later I started to practice karate. I wasn’t a Christian, so besides sports, I also wanted to become a marine or commando in the army. Everything looked good, until I slowly but surely became asthmatic. After a while I stopped BMX and karate, and I got turned down in the army.
Not long after I became a Christian, got married and forgot about my sportive ambitions. One evening I was play-fighting with my wife. She chased after me and I ran up the stairs. Halfway I collapsed. Totally out of breath with a heartbeat as high as the mount Everest. I was so angry and disappointed at the same time. I shouted out to the Lord and asked why He didn’t just heal me. After this event I felt guilty. How could I be so rude and disrespectful to God. I completely doubted that He would even consider to bless me.
A few months later I went to the doctor to find out whether my medicine were still enough for my condition. After a few tests the nurse asked why I wanted these tests in the first place… Uhh, to see how my asthmatic condition is doing, duh! The nurse looked at the results again and was a bit confused. “But mister Hofmann, your lungs are just 100% clean. Why do you think you have asthma?”
In His goodness, God the Father knew about my doubts. He knows, like no other, that we humans are weak, and still He blessed me by healing me from this dreadful condition.
In the Gospel of Mark we see an event where a father comes to Jesus to ask Him whether He wants to free his son from an evil spirit.
Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
Read the story for yourself. I think you can guess the outcome, right? So, clearly a person can have faith, in the sense that he trusts Jesus and is committed to Him, while at the same time having doubt about the things Jesus wants to do for him.
Faith is God’s Gift
Faith is something which God wants to give us, through His Spirit, not because we earn it but because He is good. Do you remember 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.
Believing and Faith
I have been thinking about the fact that it is God who gives faith. I don’t believe He will give faith to only a select group. This is what we call the doctrine of pre-destination. No, but I do believe that by ourselves we cannot have the faith which is required to be saved. After all, we have seen that faith is given by God,
What do I mean? Well let’s look at the passage from James again.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
You see, just believing that there is a God isn’t that complicated. I meet many who just believe that there is a Creator. I myself actually believed that at one point. I also believed that the whole story of Jesus was true. I mean, who am I to say that all those witnesses were diluted, right? No, Jesus had to be real and it just had to be true that He rose from the grave. Still, only factual believing it to be true didn’t bring me any closer to salvation. The demons all believe it to be true, and they are scared and wet themselves.
I finally came to the conclusion that I was part of the story. I mean, if it was true that Jesus died and rose again, it also had to be true that He did this to save the world. Then, it also had to be true that I was lost. The question was whether I wanted to accept His offer of salvation.
Only, when I started to realise that I was part of the story, I started to understand that I had to put my trust, my faith, in Him. I arrived at the point that I needed to ask God for faith because I, by myself, was having a hard time to trust that what I only knew to be true. True enough, the Bible never teaches us to pray ‘for’ faith. Still, like the disciples we may to ask God to increase our faith.
And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
Faith in day-to-day Life
Finally, I think it would be good to say that we also need to ‘train’ our faith, but how?
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
The careful study of God’s Word is very important in for a growing faith. God wants us to know Him. He also wants to be able to direct us in every aspect of life. It’s through the hearing, reading of the Scriptures that we begin to develop and experience a strong, confident faith. Basically we need to study the Bible and ask Him for wisdom when we don’t really understand something.
In studying the Bible we may trust that God will help us through His Spirit.
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, And he shall direct thy paths.
Tell me What you Think
There is so much more to say about this subject but I like to read about your ideas. I am looking forward to hearing from you, but please keep it brotherly.
Check out the description of this video. There you’ll find a link to my Odysee channel. You can also check out my video channels on GabTV, Flote, and Bitchute, and my other social media. Also, you’ll find a link there to both the Dutch and English transcripts of this video.
Finally, thank you very much for your prayers and support! You can look in the description of this video or on my website to find out how you can help me.
God bless you, thank you for watching, and Lord willing we’ll see each other in my next video!
i J.Bridges, cited in: Sola Scriptura, The Protestant Position on the Bible, Joel R. Beeke [et al.] ; Don Kistler, general editor. 2nd ed. Reformation Trust Publishing, Lake Mary, 2009, p.3.
ii Grudem, W., Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, 2000, p. 755.