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Monday
Jun162008

Theological Term of the Week

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Moving on to the fourth of the five solas. The previous solas were sola scriptura, solus Christus and sola gratia.
 
sola fide
Literally, “faith alone.” The reformation slogan meaning that faith—that is, complete trust in Christ and his saving work—“is the alone instrument [or means] of justification.”1  
  • From Galatians 2:16:
    [Y]et we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (ESV)
  • From The Heidelberg Catechism:

    Question 60. How are thou righteous before God?

    Answer: Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil;  notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.

    Question 61. Why sayest thou, that thou art righteous by faith only?

    Answer: Not that I am acceptable to God, on account of the worthiness of my faith; but because only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, is my righteousness before God; and that I cannot receive and apply the same to myself any other way than by faith only.

  • From Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, page 730:
    Scripture never says we are justified because of the inherent goodness of our faith, as if our faith has merit before God. It never allows us to think that our faith in itself earns favor with God. Rather, Scripture says that we are justified “by means of” our faith, understanding faith to be the instrument through which justification is given to us, but not at all an activity that earns us merit or favor with God. Rather, we are justified solely because of the merits of Christ’s work. (Romans 5:17-19)

    But we may ask why God chose faith to be the attitude of heart by which we would obtain justification. Why could God not have decided to give justification to all those who sincerely show love? Or who show joy? Or contentment? Or humility? Or wisdom? Why did God choose faith as the means by which we receive justification?

    It is apparently because faith is the one attitude of heart that is the exact opposite of depending on ourselves. When we come to Christ in faith we essentially say, “I give up! I will not depend on myself or my own good works any longer. I know that I can never make myself righteous before God. Therefore, Jesus, I trust you and depend on you completely to give me a righteous standing before God.” In this way, faith is the exact opposites of trusting in ourselves, and therefore it is the attitude that perfectly fits salvation that depends not at all on our own merit but entirely on God’s free gift of grace. Paul explains this when he says, “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendents” (Rom. 4:16) This is why the Reformers from Martin Luther on were so firm in their insistence that justification comes not through faith plus some merit or good works on our part, but only through faith alone.
  • Augustus Toplady describes the kind of faith that is the means of our justification in the hymn Rock of Ages:
    Nothing in my hand I bring,
    Simply to Thy cross I cling;
    Naked, come to Thee for dress;
    Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
    Foul, I to the fountain fly;
    Wash me, Savior, or I die.
Learn more:
  1. J. I. Packer: Sola Fide: The Reformed Doctrine of Justification
  2. James White: The Empty Hand of Faith
  3. Joel Beeke: Justification by Faith Alone: The Relationship of Faith to Justification
  4. John McArthur: Jesus’ Perspective on Sola Fide
  5. Brian Schwertley: Justification by Faith
  6. R. C. Sproul: Sola Fide (audio)
  7. Michael Ross: Sola Fide: Faith Alone, Part 1 and Part 2 (audio)

Related terms:

1Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 11, Section 2 

Filed under Reformed Theology.

Have you come across a theological term that you don’t understand and that you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.
 
Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.

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Reader Comments (2)

In my travel journal from September 7, 2005
I found this quote made by Martin Luther in 1517

" Seule, La Foi Sauve"

It was on the plaque of a tower in the city of Aigues-Mort, France where in 1715 Protestant women were imprisoned in a tower. The word "register" ( resist ) is scratched into the rock around one of the windows.

It makes me thankful for my unknown sisters of the faith.


June 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

We don't do enough remembering of our historical sisters and brothers, do we?

June 17, 2008 | Registered Commenterrebecca

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