Sola Fide

by Mike Ratliff

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB) 

With a gloriously monotonous regularity Paul pits faith off over against all law-keeping as its diametrical opposite as to referent. Whereas the latter relies on the human effort of the law-keeper looking to himself to render satisfaction before God, the former repudiates and looks entirely away from all human effort to the cross work of Jesus Christ, who alone by his sacrificial death rendered satisfaction before God for men.➀

20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; Romans 3:20-22 (NASB) 

28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Romans 3:28 (NASB) 

5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, Romans 4:5 (NASB) 

14 For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; Romans 4:14 (NASB) 

16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. Galatians 2:16 (NASB) 

11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “ The righteous man shall live by faith.” Galatians 3:11 (NASB) 

9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, Philippians 3:9 (NASB) 

From such verses it is plain that Paul taught that justification is by ‘faith alone’ (sole fide). The Roman Catholic Church has always objected to the use of this sola (”alone”) attached to fide, contending that nowhere does Paul say “alone: when speaking of the faith that justifies, and that where the Bible does attach sola to fide when speaking of justification it declares: “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone: (James 2:24). All this is true enough, but I would insist, as the above citations indicate, that when Paul declares (1) that a man is justified “by faith apart from works of the law,” (2) that the man “who works not but believes in him who justifies the ungodly” is the man whom God regards and righteous, (3) that a man is “not justified by works of the law but through faith,” and (4) that “by the Law no man is justified before God…because the righteous by faith shall live,” he is asserting the “aloneness” of faith as the “alone” instrument of justification as surely as if he had used the word “alone,” and he is asserting it even more vigorously than if he had simply employed alone each time.➁

The “Material Principle” of the Reformation was justification by faith alone. As the Westminster Confession of Faith says, “Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.” The Genevan Confession likewise pointed out the necessity of those justified living by faith saying, “We confess that the entrance which we have to the great treasures and riches of the goodness of God that is vouchsafed us is by faith; inasmuch as, in certain confidence and assurance of heart, we believe in the promises of the gospel, and receive Jesus Christ as he is offered to us by the Father and described to us by the Word of God (Genevan 11).

5 So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
6 Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.
10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “ The righteous man shall live by faith.” Galatians 3:5-11 (NASB)

My brethren, saving faith comes through the saving power of that faith. This power resides not in faith itself, but in our Lord Jesus Christ on whom it rests. What actually occurs when one is saved is that Christ saves that person through faith. This faith receives what God freely gives.

[Our] Justification is not a reward given to faith, but instead the empty hand of faith, which bringing no plea other than–“Christ is sufficient! Be merciful to me, a sinner! I believe!”–is the only hand that will find itself grasped by the hand of God’s almighty grace.➂

I read once that God saves His people by Grace through the conduit of faith. In Ephesians 2:1-10 we learn that all people, until salvation, are dead in their trespasses and sins, no exceptions. Then, God, being rich in mercy, gifts those whom He saves with salvation apart from any work or effort or merit on their part. Therefore, even the faith, the conduit for God’s Grace, is part of that gift which God gives freely. This regenerated faith is alive because God has quickened our old dead faith enabling us to believe. This faith is also humble. Remember the empty hand. We offer nothing in our salvation. Why did God do it this way?

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB) 

15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.
16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, Romans 4:15-16 (NASB) 

Our salvation is God’s work from first to last because if it involved our effort or works then we could boast. These works include works of the law, doing good deeds, avoiding sinful behavior, etc. We should rejoice that our salvation is God’s work instead of ours. Why? If it was ours then we must always be in fear of not having enough faith or the right kind of faith or not enough good works or too many bad works. What bondage that would be! Praise God that we are saved by grace through faith as His gift! Also, if we include our works as necessary for our salvation then we are saying that Christ’s death on the cross was not sufficient to save us. No, we come to God for salvation with an empty hand or we come away with something other than genuine salvation.

➀Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Thomas Nelson, 1998), 732.


➂James R. White, The God Who Justifies (Bethany House, 2001), 110.

Sola Fide: We reaffirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. In justification Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God’s perfect justice.

We deny that justification rests on any merit to be found in us, or upon the grounds of an infusion of Christ’s righteousness in us, or that an institution claiming to be a church that denies or condemns sola fide can be recognized as a legitimate church.

Sola Scriptura
Sola Gratia
Sola Fide
Solus Christus
Soli Deo Gloria!

In scripture alone we find Salvation is by grace alone Through faith alone In Christ alone For the glory of God alone!

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