Last time we gathered here under the beautifully coded digital skies of the internet, we stretched your brain just a tad by introducing a new theological term — sola Scriptura — and then smacked you in the soul by defining that term for you.
Basically, it means the Bible is the final authority for faith and godly living, sufficiently providing all we need to please God in every area of life.
Well, the reason we kicked things off with that bad boy is because God’s Word is the river from which the rest of the five solas spring, including the one we’re discussing today:
Look, I know what you’re thinking, but hey, if you’re going to get a solid theological education, you’re going to have to get used to big, strange sounding words getting slung down your ear holes.
Take comfort. The names for the five solas are the easiest ones to pronounce. Just to give you something to look forward to.
Anyways, sola fide means “by faith alone” and is one of the most critical doctrines of the Christian faith, the one on which the church either stands or falls, as the great Reformer Martin Luther once said.
The only way a human being made in the image of God, totally depraved and corrupted by sin, can be saved from the wrath to come is by faith in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This is what is meant when Reformed dudes — and ladies — talk of salvation being “by faith alone.”
In Romans 3:19-20, the Apostle Paul makes it plain that we’re all depraved sinners who are incapable of saving ourselves, noting that obedience to the law is incapable of removing the sin debt we owe to God.
“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”
In other words, if you happen to be under the delusion you’re awesome sauce — morally speaking — and God will give you a free pass to heaven since you’ve been a good little boy or girl this year, you’re about to be sorely disappointed.
No matter how “good” you think you are, it’s impossible for you to do enough righteous deeds to waltz through the pearly gates. You’ve offended a holy, righteous, awesome, all-powerful, absolutely just God. The offense is infinitely repulsive to Him.
The only way to “earn” salvation is by keeping every jot and tittle of the law perfectly, and that ain’t happening, Jack!
So what you need is a Savior, someone who can keep the law on your behalf, pay off the debt by dying in your place and satisfying the wrath you deserve, and then handing you their righteousness so you can be declared not-guilty, or righteous in the sight of God.
Gee, wonder where you can find Someone that awesome…
Yes, of course, Jesus Christ! The God-Man! The eternally pre-existent Second Person of the Trinity!
Jesus did all that stuff I mentioned above, and the only way to partake of that transaction — the great exchange — is by faith.
Check Romans 3:21-26:
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
In order to have eternal life with God, you must be justified, declared righteous. Due to the fact we’re all rotten sinners to the core, we cannot, on our own, earn righteousness, therefore, on our own, we cannot be justified.
It is by faith alone, in the finished work of Jesus Christ, that we can have righteousness and be justified before God.
Can you see now why sola fide is so essential to the Christian faith? If salvation isn’t by faith alone, if we have to earn our way into heaven, we’re doomed. Plain and simple.
We need a Mediator to be righteous on our behalf who will impute to us His earned righteousness by faith so we can escape the wrath of God.
Now, I think it’s important to mention here that although the law is incapable of saving us, once the Lord graciously rescues us through faith, we are then called to live a life obedient to the moral law of God, as it is the only true standard for godliness as it reflects the perfect character of the Lord.
Well, that’s going to wrap this installment up!
Up next: sola Gratia!