Sola fide

Sola fide

"Sola fide" (Latin: by faith alone), also historically known as the doctrine of justification by faith, is a doctrine that distinguishes most Protestant denominations from Catholicism, Eastern Christianity, and most Restorationists in Christianity.

The doctrine of "sola fide" or "faith alone" asserts that it solely is on the basis of God's grace through the believer's faith alone that believers are forgiven their transgressions of the Law of God. The opposite position, that believers are forgiven solely on the basis of any good works is called Legalism. Catholicism, Eastern Christianity and Mormonism hold that a combination of faith and good works are required for salvation.

Historically, the concept of "sola fide" was the basis for Martin Luther's challenging of the Roman Catholic practice of indulgences for penance, and for that reason it is called the material cause of the Protestant Reformation, while the doctrine of "sola scriptura" is considered the formal cause. It is one of the five "sola"s of the Reformation.

A Protestant distinctive

"Sola fide" asserts that, although all people have disobeyed God's commands, God declares those people obedient who place their confidence, their faith, in what God has done through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. They account Christ's obedience as their own, and the only meritorious, obedience. Their assurance is that God's work in Christ is their commendation for acceptance by God. Conversely, the doctrine says that those who trust God in this way do not trust what they themselves have done (which has no worth, because of sin).

The doctrine, found in St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians (Eph. 2:8) and in Christ's words to the sinful woman in Luke 7:50 as well as other scriptural passages, holds that it is not through personal goodness that sinners are reconciled to God. Reconciliation is only through the mercy of God himself, made effectual for forgiveness through the sacrifice of his son; thus it is only through the obedience of Christ given as a substitute for the disobedience of believers, who for their sake was raised from the dead, that they have confidence that they are in fact heirs of eternal life.

Protestants have historically summarized their view with the formula: "Justification is by faith alone, but not by the faith that is alone [that is, not by a supposed faith that has no accompanying works] ." []

The doctrine of "sola fide", as formulated by Martin Luther, is accepted by most Protestants, including Lutherans, Reformed and Baptists; and as ordinarily articulated by Protestants.

Roman Catholic view

The Roman Catholic view tends to exclude "sola fide" as grounds for justification, holding instead that good works are also necessary for salvation, , as faith perfected by good works, ). The Plan of Salvation teaches, among other things, that mankind is here to be tested in its faith in God and that all mankind must believe in Christ, using the atonement as the vessel for obtaining forgiveness through repentance. Further, that true faith is demonstrated by works. Works do not "save" the individual, but they are evidence of faith in Jesus Christ.

With its headquarters in what has been called "Protestant America," The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been the recipient of extreme criticism from its evangelical counterparts over its exclusion of "sola fide" in its teaching of salvation through Jesus Christ. This criticism has not been without controversy, however, as American evangelical writer and minister John F. MacArthur points out that " also condemns the doctrine of the Catholic church.", emphasis added).

Status of the doctrine

The doctrine proposes that faith in Christ is sufficient for sinners to be accepted by God, to count them among his people, and to equip them with the motive of trust, gratitude and love toward God from which good works are to be done. Some Christian groups such as Catholics believe that faith is necessary for salvation but not sufficient; that is, they assert that "sola fide" is an error because, in addition to believing, God also requires obedience and acts of love and charity as a prerequisite for acceptance into his kingdom, and for the reward of eternal life. This is in line with the traditional view of faith as faithfulness [to God] in the Old Testament. See also Christian view of the Old Testament Law.

The precise relationship between faith and good works remains as an area of controversy in some Protestant traditions, see also Law and Gospel. Even at the outset of the Reformation, subtle differences of emphasis appeared. For example, because the Epistle of James emphasizes the importance of good works, Martin Luther sometimes referred to it as the "epistle of straw." Calvin on the other hand, while not intending to differ with Luther, described good works as a consequence or 'fruit' of faith. The Anabaptists tended to make a nominal distinction between faith and obedience. Recent meetings of scholars and clergy have attempted to soften the antithesis between Protestant and Catholic conceptions of the role of faith in salvation, which, if they were successful, would have far reaching implications for the relationship between most Protestants and the Catholic Church. These attempts to form a consensus are not widely accepted among either Protestants or Catholics, so "sola fide" continues to be a doctrinal distinctive of the Reformation churches, including Lutherans, Reformed and many Evangelicals. Nevertheless, some statements of the doctrine are interpreted as a denial of the doctrine as understood by other groups.

There is a semantic component to this debate as well, which has gained new attention in the past century. Both Latin and English have two words to describe convictions: one is more intellectual (English "belief", Latin verb "credo") and one carries implications of "faithfulness" (English "faith", Latin "fides"). But Greek and German have only one (German "Glaube", Greek "pistis"). Some historians have suggested that this semantic issue caused some of the disagreement: in particular) are not at odds because they speak of different types of faith and works: Paul is writing about a living faith that justifies, while James is writing of a dead faith which does not, and Paul is writing of works that come before faith, whereas James speaks of works that come after faith. []

from on Roman Catholicism and Sola Fide and James 2:24:

Roman Catholics often mention that the Bible never says we are saved by faith alone and that the phrase "faith alone" occurs only once in James where it says that we are not saved by faith alone. If this is so, then why do the Protestants say we are justified by faith alone and not by works? Because the Bible teaches that we are justified by faith alone, and not by works.

The following is a list of verses about being saved by faith. Please take note that faith and works are contrasted. In other words, we are saved by faith "not by works" and "apart from works", etc. The point is that there are only two options. We are saved by faith alone or we are not. Since we have faith and works (both conceptually and in practice), then we are either saved by faith alone or by faith and works. There is no other option.

If we see that the scriptures exclude works in any form as a means of our salvation, then logically, we are saved by faith alone. Let's take a look at what the Bible says about faith and works. Then, afterwards, we will tackle James' statement about "faith alone".

Rom. 3:28-30, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one."Rom. 4:5, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,"Rom. 5:1, "therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,"Rom. 9:30, "What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith."Rom. 10:4, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."Rom. 11:6, "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace."Gal. 2:16, "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, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified."Gal. 2:21, I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.Gal.3:5-6, "Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 6Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."Gal. 3:24, "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith."Eph. 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not by works, lest any man should boast."Phil. 3:9, "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."

Again, works/Law is contrasted with faith repeatedly and we are told that we are not justified by works in any way. Therefore, we are made right with God by faith, not by faith and our works; hence, faith alone.

James 2:24, not by faith alone

The scriptures clearly teach that we are saved (justified) by faith in Christ and what He has done on the cross. This faith alone saves us. However, we cannot stop here without addressing what James says in James 2:24, "You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone."

There is no contradiction. All you need to do is look at the context. James chapter 2 has 26 verses:

Verses 1-7 instruct us to not show favoritism. Verses 8-13 are comments on the Law. Verses 14-26 are about the relationship between faith and works.James begins this section by using the example of someone who says he has faith but has no works, "What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?" (James 2:14). In other words, James is addressing the issue of a dead faith, that is nothing more than a verbal pronouncement, a public confession of the mind, and is not heart-felt. It is empty of life and action. He begins with the negative and demonstrates what an empty faith is (verses 15-17, words without actions). Then he shows that type of faith isn't any different from the faith of demons (verse 19). Finally, he gives examples of living faith that has words followed by actions. Works follow true faith and demonstrate that faith to our fellow man, but not to God. James writes of Abraham and Rahab as examples of people who demonstrated their faith by their deeds.In brief, James is examining two kinds of faith: one that leads to godly works and one that does not. One is true, and the other is false. One is dead, the other alive; hence, "Faith without works is dead," (James 2:20). But, he is not contradicting the verses above that say salvation/justification is by faith alone.Also, notice that James actually quotes the same verse that Paul quotes in Rom. 4:3 amongst a host of verses dealing with justification by faith. James 2:23 says, "and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, and Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.'" If James was trying to teach a contradictory doctrine of faith and works than the other New Testament writers, then he would not have used Abraham as an example. Therefore, we can see that justification is by faith alone and that James was talking about false faith, not real faith when he said we are not justified by faith alone.

Also:John 14:16"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;"-we have the Spirit forever. we cannot lose our salvation--our hearts would be restless if we could.

2 Corinthians 13:5"Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-- unless indeed you fail the test?"

-Phillip Wyrick

Excerpts from Protestant confessions which support "sola fide"


:"Article XI":Of the Justification of Man

:We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort; as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.::"Thirty-nine Articles of Religion (1571)"


:"Article IV Of Justification":Our churches by common consent...teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.::"Augsburg Confession, 1530"


[ "Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (1995)"] - "copyrighted"

"Summary:":A typical Anabaptist confession of faith.:Salvation is variously expressed, sometimes as 'justification by faith', in which case it means that the just person has accepted the offer of a covenantal relationship, and lives according to that covenant.

Reformed (Continental)

:"Article 23: The Justification of Sinners"

:We believe that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins because of Jesus Christ, and that in it our righteousness before God is contained, as David and Paul teach us when they declare that man blessed to whom God grants righteousness apart from works.

:And the same apostle says that we are justified "freely" or "by grace" through redemption in Jesus Christ. And therefore we cling to this foundation, which is firm forever, giving all glory to God, humbling ourselves, and recognizing ourselves as we are; not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, which is ours when we believe in him.

:That is enough to cover all our sins and to make us confident, freeing the conscience from the fear, dread, and terror of God's approach, without doing what our first father, Adam, did, who trembled as he tried to cover himself with fig leaves.

:In fact, if we had to appear before God relying-- no matter how little-- on ourselves or some other creature, then, alas, we would be swallowed up.

:Therefore everyone must say with David: "Lord, do not enter into judgment with your servants, for before you no living person shall be justified."::"Belgic Confession 1561 (French revision, 1619)"

:Question 86. Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do good works?

:Answer: Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit, after his own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for his blessings, and that he may be praised by us; also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof; and that, by our godly conversation others may be gained to Christ.

:Question 87. Cannot they then be saved, who, continuing in their wicked and ungrateful lives, are not converted to God?

:Answer: By no means; for the holy scripture declares that no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or any such like, shall inherit the kingdom of God.::"Heidelberg Catechism 1563"

Reformed (Presbyterian)

:I. Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.::"Chapter XI. Of Justification -- Westminster Confession of Faith (1647)"

Reformed Baptist

:"XXVIII.":That those which have union with Christ, are justified from all their sins, past, present, and to come, by the blood of Christ; which justification we conceive to be a gracious and free acquittance of a guilty, sinful creature, from all sin by God, through the satisfaction that Christ hath made by his death; and this applied in the manifestation of it through faith.::" 'First' London Baptist Confession (1644)"

"Chapter XI of the London Baptist Confession of Faith 1689 is the same as the Westminster Confession of Faith".

United Methodist

:We believe we are never accounted righteous before God through our works or merit, but that penitent sinners are justified or accounted righteous before God only by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.::"-Article IX--Justification and Regeneration (The Discipline of The Evangelical United Brethren Church 1963)"

:We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith, only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.::"-Article IX--Of the Justification of Man (The Articles of Religion of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Discipline of 1808)"

Non-denominational Evangelicals

:The justification of the sinner solely by the grace of God through faith in Christ crucified and risen from the dead.::"British Evangelical Alliance Statement of Faith"

:We believe in...The Salvation of lost and sinful man through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith apart from works, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit...::"World Evangelical Alliance Statement of Faith"

Unofficial Ecumenical statements


:The New Testament makes it clear that the gift of salvation is received through faith. "By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). By faith, which is also the gift of God, we repent of our sins and freely adhere to the gospel, the good news of God's saving work for us in Christ. By our response of faith to Christ, we enter into the blessings promised by the gospel. Faith is not merely intellectual assent but an act of the whole persons involving the mind, the will, and the affections, issuing in a changed life. We understand that what we here affirm is in agreement with what the Reformation traditions have meant by justification by faith alone ("sola fide").::"The Gift of Salvation (1997)"

Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church

:"4.3 Justification by Faith and through Grace "

:25. We confess together that sinners are justified by faith in the saving action of God in Christ. By the action of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, they are granted the gift of salvation, which lays the basis for the whole Christian life. They place their trust in God's gracious promise by justifying faith, which includes hope in God and love for him. Such a faith is active in love and thus the Christian cannot and should not remain without works. But whatever in the justified precedes or follows the free gift of faith is neither the basis of justification nor merits it.:: [ "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (1997)"]

Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission

:5.... Regarding the way in which salvation is appropriated by the believers, Lutherans, by teaching that justification and salvation are by grace alone through faith (sola gratia, sola fide), stress the absolute priority of divine grace in salvation. When they speak about saving faith they do not think of the dead faith which even the demons have (cf. James 2:19), but the faith which Abraham showed and which was reckoned to him as righteousness (cf. Gen. 15:6, Rom. 4:3,9). The Orthodox also affirm the absolute priority of divine grace. They underline that it is God's grace which enables our human will to conform to the divine will (cf. Phil 2:13) in the steps of Jesus praying, "not as I will but as You will" (bibleref|Matthew|26:39), so that we may work out our salvation in fear and trembling (cf. Phil. 2:12). This is what the Orthodox mean by "synergy" (working together) of divine grace and the human will of the believer in the appropriation of the divine life in Christ. The understanding of synergy in salvation is helped by the fact that the human will in the one person of Christ was not abolished when the human nature was united in Him with the divine nature, according to the Christological decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. While Lutherans do not use the concept of synergy, they recognize the personal responsibility of the human being in the acceptance or refusal of divine grace through faith, and in the growth of faith and obedience to God. Lutherans and Orthodox both understand good works as the fruits and manifestations of the believer's faith and not as a means of salvation.:: [ "Salvation: Grace, Justification, and Synergy"] , 9th Plenary of the Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission, Sigtuna, 7 August 1998

ee also

*Expounding of the Law


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