With the Pope’s coming to America this last week, I decided that I would write a short five part series on the Five Solas of the Reformation. These five points are stated below:
- Sola Gratia – By Grace Alone
- Sola Fide – By Faith Alone
- Solus Christus – In Christ Alone
- Sola Scriptura – By Scripture Alone
- Soli Deo Gloria – To the Glory of God Alone
This second post is on Sola Fide, or justification by Faith Alone. The Roman Catholic Church still teaches that we are saved by faith and works:
“If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.” — Canons of Trent
So it is clear that Rome does not believe that we are justified by faith alone, nor do they believe that once a person trusts in Christ, the perfect righteousness of Christ is imputed to them. First, let’s look at three Scriptures that clearly teach that a man is justified by Faith Alone:
For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.
— John 6:40 (NASB)
This passage right off the bat is extremely clear. The word “behold” comes from the Greek word theoreo which means to look towards. It has the idea of looking towards Christ and be continually looking towards him. If this is the case and we are looking to Christ alone for salvation, then it cannot be by works also. It totally excludes the idea of any self-righteousness or improvement.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
— Romans 3:23-26 (NASB)
Notice this text does not say that God is just and justifier of the one who has faith and works. No, this is not the case at all. This passage also teaches what is known as Penal-Substitutionary Atonement, which briefly stated, teaches that Jesus died in the place of His people, so that when they trust in him, they would be declared just on the basis of someone else’s righteousness. The word in the Greek that means “to justify” is the word dikaioo, which means “to declare one to be just or righteous.” It does not mean, as Rome teaches, to make one righteous. So when God justifies someone or declares them to be just in his sight, it happens in an instant, and God is just because Christ died for them and they are united to him by Faith alone.
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute his sin.”
— Romans 4:3-8 (NASB)
This passage teaches two very important truths. The first is that God justifies the wicked the moment that they trust in him to justify them. The second is that the moment one believes in Jesus, the perfect righteousness of Christ is imputed to them, or counted towards them, so that Christ gets our sin, and we get his righteousness. In order to be declared just before a holy God, you must have a perfect righteousness. And this perfect righteousness comes from the work of Jesus upon the cross, which is imputed to all who believe in Him.
I was once listening to a debate with James White vs. a Roman Catholic apologist. James White was discussing imputed righteousness as opposed to imparted righteousness over time, as Rome teaches. James finally asked the man this question: “Are you the blessed man in Romans 4?” The man responded: “I hope to be.” That is all Catholics can say though. They can never know fully whether they are justified or not. This is why many Catholic Theologians have said that they greatest of all Protestant heresies is the assurance of salvation, because you cannot know whether you are justified in their system. You can never know. This is why faith carries with it the idea of assurance. Calvin himself said that “Faith is a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us.” Rome teaches a false gospel because it cannot bring assurance and it cannot save. And with that, I leave you with this great hymn of the Christian Faith:
Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.