Continuing in our discussion of the five ‘sola’s’, we come to “Sola Fide“, by Faith Alone. What do Protestants mean when they state that salvation is by faith (man’s total trust) only (alone), without our being obliged to work for it? The key question here is “What must I do to be saved’? The answer: ‘…confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you shall be saved’ (Rom. 10:9). And how do you do that? By faith alone.
The doctrine of sola fide or “by faith alone” asserts God’s pardon for guilty sinners is granted to and received through faith, conceived as excluding all “works”, alone. All humanity, it is asserted, is fallen and sinful, under the curse of God, and incapable of saving itself from God’s wrath and curse. But God, on the basis of the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ alone (solus Christus), grants sinners judicial pardon, or justification, which is received solely through faith. Faith is seen as passive, merely receiving Christ and all his benefits, among which benefits are the active and passive righteousness of Jesus Christ. Christ’s righteousness, (according to the Reformers), is imputed (or attributed) by God to the believing sinner (as opposed to infused or imparted in Roman Catholic doctrine), so that the divine verdict and pardon of the believing sinner is based not upon anything in the sinner, nor even faith itself, but upon Jesus Christ and his righteousness alone, which are received through faith alone. Justification is by faith alone and is distinguished from the other graces of salvation. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sola_fide)
Historic Protestantism (both Lutheran and Reformed) has held to sola-fide justification in opposition to Roman Catholicism especially, but also in opposition to significant aspects of Eastern Orthodoxy. Protestants exclude all human works (except the works of Jesus Christ, which form the basis of justification) from the legal verdict / pardon of justification. In the General Council of Trent the Catholic Church stated in canon XIV on justification that “If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema (excommunicated).” Thus, “faith alone” is foundational to Protestantism, and distinguishes it from other Christian denominations (including Catholicism). (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sola_fide)
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!(http://www.the-highway.com/Justification_Packer.html)
No doctrine is more important to evangelical theology than the doctrine of justification by faith alone–the Reformation principle of sola fide. Martin Luther rightly said that the church stands or falls on this one doctrine. Historic evangelicalism has therefore always treated justification by faith as a central biblical distinctive–if not the single most important doctrine to get right. This is the doctrine that makes authentic Christianity distinct from every other religion. Christianity is the religion of divine accomplishment–with the emphasis always on Christ’s finished work. All others are religions of human achievement. They become preoccupied, inevitably, with the sinner’s own efforts to be holy. Abandon the doctrine of justification by faith and you cannot honestly claim to be evangelical. (http://www.gty.org/resources/Articles/A192/Jesus-Perspective-on-Sola-Fide?q=Jesus++Perspective+on+Sola+Fide)
Can you see where the Catholic teaching of the sinner’s need to work the Sacraments dutifully, their belief that the Church has the keys to the treasure chest of ‘merit’ for the sinner, and the sinner’s need for ‘faith’ and ‘acts of penance’ come in conflict with Scripture?
Vaya con Dios mis hijas,
Dear ol’ Dad