“The Doctrines of the Reformation – Faith Alone”
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
- Romans 3:21-22a
From the doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) we saw that God’s Word is the rule of faith for the believer. From the doctrine of Solus Christus (Christ Alone) we saw that salvation is secured solely by the work of Christ, apart from any works of mankind. How then are we to respond to this wonderful news? The reformers answered this question with the doctrine of Sola Fide (Faith Alone).
Because the scriptures both command faith and illustrate faith in the lives of the people of God, the church has at all times recognized its necessity for salvation. As time progressed, however, this faith was also seen to require accompanying good works. As the reformers returned to the Scriptures, they rejected this and proclaimed the the Scriptures required only faith in Christ for salvation, the doctrine which became known as Sola Fide. Thomas Schreiner offers a helpful definition of this doctrine when he states that it declares “that salvation does not come from looking at our own works of righteousness, but from looking outside ourselves to another, to the person and work of Jesus Christ.” In this sense, Sola Fide and Solus Christus are bound up together, with human faith being the proper response to the work of Christ.
But what exactly is faith, a term that we use all the time, but rarely take the time to define? Lewis Sperry Chafer provides a helpful definition for us when he states that faith “is a personal confidence in God.” While this definition may seem a bit simplistic, it is right in line with the reformers own view of faith which they defined as “trust” in God. With these things in mind, we must consider why it is that God would grant salvation to those who do nothing more than exercise confident trust in Him.
Theologically, the basis for this lies in the human condition. Because we are sinners by both nature and choice, every area of our life has been affected by sin. As a result our lives, no matter how well we have lived (by human standards), are marked by sin and therefore fall far short of God’s standard of holy perfection, conveyed most clearly through the OT Law. In light of this, God is right to condemn all men (Gal. 3:22) and to declare them worthy of judgment. No amount of good works or obedience could atone for sins previously committed, and it was therefore necessary that God provide for us a means of being reconciled to Him. This He has done for us in Christ, who perfectly obeyed the OT Law, worshiping God and serving others. His death on the cross has secured for us what our own good works could not, namely salvation and reconciliation to God.
Join us this Sunday as we consider these things together in Romans 3-4, looking to the example of Abraham, the man of faith. Just as Abraham believed God and it was credited to Him as righteousness, so we are to place confident trust in the promises of God to us in Christ. We will remember these promises together as we commune around the Lord’s table.
Soli Deo Gloria.