Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Solas of the Reformation - Sola Fide

Faith Alone!
Martin Luther tried as hard as he could to save himself as a devout monk. But he despaired of finding salvation by works. He came to understand that justification – a right standing before God was obtainable by faith alone.

Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the righteousness of God and the statement ‘the just shall live by faith’ (Romans 1:17). Then I grasped that the righteousness of God is that righteousness by which though grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on new meaning, and whereas before ‘the righteousness of God’ had filled me with hate, not it became inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven.

This is the Bible’s teaching,

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

Justification is God’s declaration that the sinner is righteous in his sight.,

But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness (Romans 4:5.)

The basis of justification is the death and resurrection of Christ,

who was delivered up because of our offences, and was raised because of our justification. (Romans 4:25.)

Christ alone saves us by faith in him alone.

This foundational doctrine of the Reformation needs to be safeguarded today. Biblical scholars such as Tom Wright, the current Bishop of Durham teach the so-called “New Perspective on Paul”. The “New Perspective” makes justification a matter of “Who are the people of God?” not “How can a sinner be right with God?” This view is becoming increasingly influential. But it robs the Biblical doctrine of justification by faith of its God-ward emphasis. Justification is primarily about God declaring a sinner righteous in is sight, not who belongs to the people of God.

Justification does impact on the doctrine of the Church – all believers have access to God in prayer through Christ. We need no priestly intervention. Christian Ministers are gifted and called to preach to and lead they people of God. But all Christians believers constitute a “royal priesthood” with access to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:9).

Justification by faith alone safeguards the free, gracious aspect of the gospel. We are justified apart from our works. But the faith that alone saves does not remain alone. The faith that justifies works through love (Galatians 5:6).

Justification is the basis of assurance,

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8: 31-35)

Luther was racked with guilt when he was a devout monk, because he could never be sure that he had done enough to satisfy God. Justification by faith alone points us outside of ourselves, away from our works, moods and feelings to Christ. He has satisfied God’s justice. His righteousness is counted to us by faith. Therefore we can by joyously confident that we are accepted in the Beloved.
N. T. Wright on justification here
Justification & the resurrection of Christ here
See The Great Exchange by Philip Eveson, Day One Publications, for an evaluation of the New Perspective on Paul.
This is part 3 of a series on the "sloas" that arose from a couple of posts on Biblical Protestantism (see below)

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