The 500th Anniversary of the Reformation will be observed on Sunday, October 29. At the center of our Christian faith is the understanding that a sinner is justified by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) for the sake of Christ alone (solus Christus), a truth revealed to us in Scripture alone (sola Scriptura). This month, we focus on the word, “faith.” What is faith?
Sola fide the Latin phrase “by faith alone,” also known as justification by faith alone, is the single most Christian theological doctrine that distinguishes Lutheran Christianity.
The doctrine of faith alone affirms God's pardon for guilty sinners. God’s forgiveness is granted and received through faith alone, excluding all "works". All mankind is fallen and sinful, under the curse of God, and incapable of saving himself from God's wrath and curse. But God our heavenly Father, on the basis of the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ alone, grants sinners a full judicial pardon, which is received solely through faith.
Faith is passive. Merely receiving Christ and all His benefits, among which benefits are the forgiveness of sins, and peace with God. Christ's active obedience - doing what God's law required – means that every event of Jesus’ life was a part of His payment of the penalty of sin. Every event of His life was a part of His keeping of the law of God by which He earned for His people the reward of eternal life.
This righteousness is a righteousness that we receive from God. A person is righteous, that is, he is in a right relationship with God, when he simply receives the imputed obedience of Christ and the forgiveness of sins through faith. This righteousness is passive and comes apart from the Law.
Christ's righteousness, is imputed (or attributed) by God to the believing sinner (as opposed to infused or imparted), so that the divine verdict and pardon of the believing sinner is based not upon anything in the sinner, but upon Jesus Christ and His righteousness alone, which are received through faith alone.
Augsburg Confession, 1530 sums this up with the following words, “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.” – Article IV
In his Introduction to the book Romans, Luther stated that saving faith is, “a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever...Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! - "Luther, An Introduction to St. Paul's Letter to the Romans"
Martin Luther is recorded as stating, “Works are necessary for salvation but they do not cause salvation; for faith alone gives life.” – [Ewald M. Plass, “What Luther says,” page 1509] Remember, works are necessary. But they do not cause salvation. Thus Luther could offer two seemingly contradictory truths:
The Christian is an utterly free man, lord of all, subject to none. –In Christ all sin is covered period. He gave His all for you.
The Christian is an utterly dutiful man, servant of all, subject to all. –In love I serve my neighbor giving my all.
This month of October another harvest will begin. There is also a harvest of souls. Christ has won for you full salvation. You receive this freedom as a gift. No strings attached. You are now free to love and serve your neighbor. Every. Single. Day. You are compelled to do so. You can do no other. Love God. Serve your neighbor. That’s what it means to be a person of faith.
Luther’s Seal © Ed Riojas Higher Things