Sola Fida, Faith Alone

Having looked yesterday at the great passage by James about the role of faith and works, today we take off from that to jump to the third of five “solas” of the Reformation – Faith Alone.

The “five solas” – commonly referred to as the five cries of the Reformation – summarize the teachings of this era of church and world history. It was exactly 500 years ago yesterday that Martin Luther allegedly nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Did this really happen that way? Maybe. It was a place to post notes for discussions and debates, etc.  Certainly this writing was published and spread widely, thus setting ablaze a theological discussion that continues to our time.

Understand that these five statements were not precisely written by Luther, Zwingli, Calvin or any of the other great lights of the Reformation. Rather, these five summaries have been penned centuries later to summarize the handful of major teachings that changed everything. The Reformers would surely agree with these statements, written in Latin terminology…

  • Sola Fida – by faith alone
  • Sola Scripture – by Scripture alone
  • Solus Christus – through Christ alone
  • Sola Gratia – by grace alone
  • Soli Deo Gloria – glory to God alone

Faith – defined in Scripture as “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

It is that “not being able to see something” part of faith that makes it difficult.

It is one thing to step out onto a bridge over a deep gorge when one is able to see that it is well-built and has been around for quite some time, but it is another thing altogether to jump out of an airplane with a parachute (so far as you know) that is behind you – having been packed properly by some person you in faith presume knew what he was doing.

The natural proclivity of mankind is to believe that one must work to earn something, to make it happen versus trusting that someone else has done something for us. And over the years, teachings have come along that erode the faith alone component with a listing of duties and rules to keep. In Luther’s time, it particularly centered around the church using the sale of indulgences to fund construction and other operations. This devalued the true gospel of faith alone.

Here is a great quote from the eminent theologian J.I. Packer …

So, where Rome had taught a piecemeal salvation, to be gained by stages through working a sacramental treadmill, the Reformers now proclaimed a unitary salvation, to be received in its entirety here and now by self-abandoning faith in God’s promise, and in the God and the Christ of that promise, as set forth in the pages of the Bible. Thus the rediscovery of the gospel brought a rediscovery of evangelism, the task of summoning non-believers to faith. Rome had said, God’s grace is great, for through Christ’s cross and his Church salvation is possible for all who will work and suffer for it; so come to church, and toil! But the Reformers said, God’s grace is greater, for through Christ’s cross and his Spirit salvation, full and free, with its unlimited guarantee of eternal joy, is given once and forever to all who believe; so come to Christ, and trust and take!  (The full article can be found HERE.)

We can surely be thankful for the blessing of faith alone, being able to trust in a work already completed by a perfect human substitute. This sets us free from worry and guilt that we may not be doing enough, setting us free also to do much out of gratitude for the blessing we have received, even if we cannot see the full reward of it at this time.

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed multiple hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and have been a sportswriter for various publications and online venues. My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with the Antietam Battlefield Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

1 thought on “Sola Fida, Faith Alone

  1. This is an informative set of devotionals.

    As we read the scriptures that deal with God’s great grace and love towards to us we ought to also remember Jesus parable and teachings that when we are forgiven for sins we need to likewise forgive others—extend God’s grace to others too. When we take God’s grace for ourselves and then don’t extend it to others … well Jesus had a parable about a man forgiven a great debt who then would not forgive his fellow man. He lost his forgiveness.

    Because this teaching is central part of his teaching he also taught us to pray “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Why did Jesus teach that? Because we can not expect any more from God. It is a reminder to US when we pray that we need to forgive others. If we don’t, then Jesus parable teaches us that our forgiveness is in doubt. Sure there are times we struggle mightily if great wrongs were done to us. Other times we might get angry with others when the mistake is really ours.

    Jesus also gave a parable about a master going away on a long journey. Some servant in the meantime began to mistreat his fellow servants. Jesus said that such a man would be surprised at the timing of when the master came back. His punishment would be severe.

    If there is a core teaching of the reformation about the importance of loving others and forgiving others … that would be helpful for me in having high respect for them. I’ve got some emails forwarded to me by my wife telling of some of the leading people of the reformation. It appears to me that while some valued extending grace and love towards others … well at least one leading reformation figure seemed to me to harbor a lot of hatred and bitterness. Though we might understand all mysteries and have all knowledge … without love such things have no profit for the people involved.

    I’m separated from these people by centuries of time and by different languages and because I haven’t read much of their writings.

    Somewhere Paul wrote, “judge nothing before the appointed time.”

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