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The Gospel of Sola Fide
by Daniel Chew
During the time of the Reformation, the true Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ was been re-discovered — the Gospel that our salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. As opposed to the Romanist system of righteousness by faith plus works, the Holy Spirit revealed to the Reformer Martin Luther the glorious and liberating doctrine that we are saved when we have faith in Christ alone apart from any good works we have done or will do (Rom. 1:17; Eph. 2:8-9). However, what does this mean, and how does this practically impacts our lives?
The Gospel is the message of salvation, and the only message of salvation in the Church and the world. Without it, there is no possibility of salvation for any human being (Rom. 1:16; 10:14-17). As such, the Gospel is the most important message on Earth, and the doctrines related to the Gospel (ie. the Doctrine of God (Theology proper) and of Jesus Christ (Christology) who are the objects of the Gospel, as well as the doctrine of Man (Anthropology) and of the way of salvation (part of Soteriology)) are the most important doctrine for us Christians. Get them wrong, and you are not saved at all. It's as simple as that.
In Rom. 1:17, it is stated that the righteous shall live by faith. Faith is furthermore contrasted with works and therefore has nothing to do with works (Rom. 4:5). Scripture thus is very clear that salvation is by faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 1-6) and this faith saves us because we have faith/ believe in Jesus Christ; that He died for us on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins (Rom. 3:25). Or to phrase it properly, Jesus died to be a propitiation through the shedding of His blood on the Cross. He died not only to pay the price for our sins, but to avert the Father's wrath from us because of our sins.
And how exactly does Christ pay the penalty for our sins and make us acceptable in God's sight? The Scriptures are similarly very clear that when we believe in Christ, we are considered/ counted righteous in the eyes of God, and that not because of anything we have done but because of our faith in Christ (Rom. 4:22-25) who merited this righteousness for us as 'He was delivered for our trespasses and raised for our justification". Therefore, we are righteous in the sight of God not because of what we have done, but because of what Christ have done on the tree on our behalf (Imputed righteousness). This righteousness is the righteousness of Christ Himself (2 Cor. 5:21) which cloth us and make us spotless before God. This is opposed to the unbiblical Roman Catholic understanding of 'infused righteousness', whereby we are considered righteous because we do righteous works by the power of the Holy Spirit. Righteousness in such a system depends on Man and his cooperating with God in his salvation, and as such is antithetical to the true teachings of Scripture.
So what does the Gospel of Sola Fide have to do with us practically? Plenty! The most obvious one is that since we are saved by faith and our salvation is never in any way conditioned by works or what we do, therefore we can be assured of our salvation. Christ is our salvation, being the author and the finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). We have only to believe in Christ, and we are saved.
We hereby would like to look more in depth into this very pertinent passage in the book of Romans
Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, ... (Rom. 4:4-5)
The passage here contrasts faith and works as being total opposites. The one who works is not one who has faith (v. 4), whereas the one who does not work have true saving faith as such a faith credits the person as righteousness in the sight of God (v. 5). Faith and works are therefore seen in total antithesis to each other here, and never should the two mix.
For us Christians therefore, what this means is that once we start working for our salvation, we cease to have faith in Christ and therefore paradoxically lose it. This has implications in many areas. For example, once you think that anything you do would contribute to your salvation one bit, then you will lose it. It matters not how noble it is: be they service for God, helping the poor and the needy, evangelism even! Anytime anyone does anything with an eye to make them worthy of salvation, they are in actual fact despising God's grace and spitting on God who has ordained that salvation be by faith apart from works by believing in Jesus Christ our Lord.
The one issue that has cropped up recently is the idea that obedience to God somehow contributes to our salvation, and therefore the idea is that disobedience to Christ somehow disqualifies a person's salvation. While it sounds holy and honoring to God, it is in actual fact not because the act of obedience is taken as a work unto salvation, even though it is not called by its proponents a work per se. Thus Paul attacks the Judaizers mercilessly and condemned them to eternal hellfire (Gal. 1:8-9) because they require obedience to the Mosaic law of being circumcised among other requirements of the Mosaic Law. Obedience towards God by the believer is the expression of his/her love towards God, never to contribute in any way towards salvation. Of course, since obedience comes because of our changed regenerate nature which gave rise to faith (Jn. 3:5; Ez. 11:19), disobedience may indicate that such a person was not saved to begin with. But saying that obedience is a fruit of salvation is vastly different from saying that obedience contributes to salvation; the former starts from a position of being saved, the latter not. The latter position therefore is no different from any form of works-righteousness who attempt to work for their salvation and thinking that their works are pleasing in God's sight, while only those done by faith is truly pleasing to God (Rom. 14:23b)
What compounds the problem as stated above is when people create their own idea of what constitutes obedience towards God and then attempt to make it binding upon Christians. Such is the case with things like Jewish Sabbath observance or even Christmas or Easter observance. It is simply amazing how various people can make a law and then state without biblical warrant that such a law must be obeyed as part of our obedience in Christ. This is of course totally reprehensible, and more so when they make it the determining factor of salvation or something close to it. Such unbiblical laws do not have to be obeyed by Christians, much less used as a gauge of their spiritual condition before God.
In conclusion, let us therefore learn to live by faith alone, and not attempt to earn our salvation. Once you start trying to think you can earn it, you immediately lose it. Let us therefore flee to Christ and His mercy alone, not depending on ourselves but on the righteousness of Christ alone. Amen.