: 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
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 solas of the Reformation.
A Protestant distinctive
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, ; that is, by God's grace through faith (also a favour given by him, Matthew 16:17), , and the Christian's response to it in God's grace , as faith perfected by good works, . An Economy of Salvation
is taught involving the sacraments, management, and accountability on the part of the Church.
Although sola fide
tends to be used in a positive manner exclusively by Protestants, personal faith in Jesus Christ is not. The Catholic Mass
, as with the Greek Divine Liturgy, includes the Nicene Creed
(or in some countries, the Apostles' Creed
), which is both a personal affirmation of baptismal belief and a communal confession of faith in "one Lord Jesus Christ." The witness of personal affirmation as faith in one Lord Jesus Christ, as it is understood by most Evangelicals, is seen in the Catholic term 'devotion' to Christ (and his saints) in private prayerlife and in active moral, spiritual and political engagement:
"Where sin has perverted the social climate, it is necessary to call for the conversion of hearts and appeal to the grace of God. Charity urges just reforms. There is no solution to the social question apart from the Gospel" CCC 1896.
The following is one of explanation given by Trent on justification:
In what manner it is to be understood, that the impious is justified by faith, and gratuitously.
And whereas the Apostle saith, that man is justified by faith and freely, those words are to be understood in that sense which the perpetual consent of the Catholic Church hath held and expressed; to wit, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation, and the root of all Justification; without which it is impossible to please God, and to come unto the fellowship of His sons: but we are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification. For, if it be a grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the same Apostle says, grace is no more grace.
The Catholic position is not one of works alone. The Catholic Church has opposed that position well over one thousand years prior to the Reformation
in the Councils of Carthage and Orange. The Church rejects "works of debt" and works of our "own righteousness" because these works are not done in grace, works are only good if they are done in grace.
view excludes sola fide
by holding that a person cannot be saved without works but is saved by the grace of God after "all [that] we can do" (). 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
. 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 "...it also condemns the doctrine of the Catholic church."
Origin of the slogan
elevated sola fide
to the principal cause of the Protestant Reformation
, the rallying cry of the Protestant cause, and the chief distinction between Protestant
Christianity and Roman Catholicism
. John Calvin
, also a proponent of this doctrine, taught that "every one who would obtain the righteousness of Christ must renounce his own." According to Calvin, it is only because the sinner is able to obtain the good standing of the Son of God, through faith in him, and union with him, that sinners have any hope of pardon from, acceptance by, and peace with God.
While this precise terminology—"by faith alone"—does not appear in the English Bible other than in where its use in a particular context is certainly rejected, it is claimed to summarize the teaching of the New Testament, and especially the Pauline epistles, which systematically reject the proposition that justification is by obedience to the Law of Moses. Protestants base this on the fact that the New Testament contains almost two hundred statements that appear to imply that faith or belief is sufficient for salvation. For example: "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies'" (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: perhaps Luther's supporters may have understood "salvation by faith alone" to mean "salvation by being faithful to Christ", while his opponents understood him to mean "salvation by intellectual belief in Christ". Since there are passages in Luther's works that could be taken to support either of these meanings, both sides were able to quote passages from Luther defending their interpretation of what he meant.
Sola fide and Scripture
Various Biblical passages have been used to support and oppose the doctrine of sola fide
Passages used to support sola fide
- Psalms 84:12: "O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you."
- Isaiah 64:6: "For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment. And all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away."
- 2 Chronicles 20:20: "Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld..."
- Matthew 7:22-23: "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"
- Luke 5:20:"When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." "
- Luke 18:10-14:"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God."
- Luke 23:40-43: "But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." "
- 16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."
- John 3:18: "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."
- John 6:28-29: "Therefore they said to Him, 'What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'"
- John 5:24: "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life."
- John 6:40: "For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
- John 6:47: "I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life."
- Acts 10:43: "Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins."
- Acts 16:31: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved."
- John 14:6: "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'"
- Acts 26:18: "...that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me..."
- Romans 1:17-18: "Therefore the just shall live by faith. The wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickedness of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness."
- Romans 3:28: "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law."
- Romans 4:5: "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness."
- Romans 5:1: "...having been justified by faith..."
- Romans 10:9: "That if you shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved."
- Romans 11:6: "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace."
- Romans 14:23: "...and everything that does not come from faith is sin."
- Ephesians 2:8-10: "For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them."
- Philippians 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."
- Galatians 2:16: "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 2:21: "I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain."
- Galatians 3:1-3; 9-14; 21-25: "O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you; did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh? ... So then they who are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. Because as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: because it is written, 'Cursed is every one that does not continue in all things that are written in the book of the law to be done'. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, 'The just shall live by faith'. And the law is not of faith: but, 'The man that does them shall live in them'. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree. So that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.... Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, certainly righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture has concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up from the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Therefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, so that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
- Galatians 3:8: "The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith..."
- Galatians 5:4,5: "Christ has become of no effect to you, whoever of you are justified by the law; you are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith."
- Titus 3:5: "...he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit..."
Passages used to oppose sola fide
- Matthew 5:48 (part of the Expounding of the Law within the Sermon on the Mount): "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (compare Imitatio dei)
- Matthew 7:21 (part of the Sermon on the Mount): "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
- Matthew 7:24-27 (part of the Sermon on the Mount): "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
- Matthew 12:36-37: "I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
- Matthew 16:27: "For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done."
- Matthew 19:17: ""Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.""
- Matthew 24:10-20 (part of the Olivet discourse): "Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
- Matthew 25:31-46 (part of The Sheep and the Goats): "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
- Matthew 28:19-20a (part of the Great Commission): "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."
- Luke 8:21: " But He answered and said to them, "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it."
- Luke 10:25-28: "On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live.""
- John 5:29: "And will come out--those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation."
- Romans 2:6,7; 13: "For he will repay according to each one's deeds. To those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; for it is not those who hear the law who are just in the sight of God; rather, those who observe the law will be justified."
- Romans 2:16: "on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all."
- Galatians 6:7b-9: "A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
- 1 Corinthians 10:12: "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
- 1 Corinthians 13:2-3: "And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing."
- 1 Corinthians 13:13: "And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love."
- 2 Corinthians 5:10: "For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil."
- James 1:22: "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."
- James 2 (excerpts): "... What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? ... Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? ... Ye see then how that by works a man is justified,
- James 2:24: "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone."
- Phillipians 2:12-13: "... work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work."
- 1 Peter 1:17: "Now if you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one's works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning."
- 1 John 2:3-7: "We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard."
- Revelation 14:12-13: "Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labours, for their deeds follow them.’
- Revelation 20:13: "All the dead were judged according to their deeds."
- Revelation 22:12: "Behold, I am coming soon. I bring with me the recompense I will give to each according to his deeds."
Works of the Law
For a deeper understanding, it is important to note, that there is a distinction between the works necessary for salvation, and the works of the Law. One such example is Romans 3:28, which teaches whether circumcision
is needed as a work of the Law. In contrast, there are works, such as those described in Matthew 25 (see above). However, the Mosaic law and the principles of the Gospel (such as the Sermon on the Mount and the Last Judgment of Matthew 25) correspond, and the latter fulfills, clarifies, and expands on the former. So a Protestant believer will claim that "the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good," (Romans 7:12) harmonizing the two principles of the same Bible. See Antinomianism
and Christian view of the Old Testament Law
On the surface the following New Testament passages give contrasting theories on how works do or do not justify regarding the same act of Abraham
- Romans 4:2-5 (NIV): "If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.' Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness."
- James 2:21-24 (NIV): "Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,' and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone."
Supporters of sola fide interpret the latter in light of the former, while some opponents interpret the former in light of the latter. (Others see a flat contradiction here and don't seek a reconciliation of the two.)
For instance, in Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible John Wesley, a supporter of sola fide, says that James and Paul (in 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 CARM.org 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.
"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?"
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)
- 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.
- 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
- 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)
- 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.
- 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)
- 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" 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