Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Truth About Believing: "Sola Fide"

Today we continue our look at “The Five Solas,” the five biblical truths about the nature and purpose of salvation. One of these five basic truths is Sola Fide, which in Latin literally means, “by faith alone.” This biblical doctrine teaches us that salvation comes to humanity only through faith in the finished work of Christ, not by virtue of any deeds we do, trying to be good enough or earn our own way to heaven.

As with the rest of “The Five Solas,” Sola Fide rests firmly on the unanimous testimony of God’s Word. For example, Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” John 3:16, 18 declares, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. . . . Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

Based on these and many other such texts of Scripture, the early church taught that biblical faith consists of three complementary aspects: knowing, agreeing, and relying. Faith means knowing the truth that Christ died to save us, agreeing with that truth, and relying upon Christ to save you. In other words, it is not enough to merely know the facts of the Gospel and agree with them in principle: you must rely completely upon Christ. Without that ultimate dependence on Who Christ is and what He has done, faith is incomplete.

Notice also that biblical faith must have a proper object: it’s not simply believing in whatever or whomever we want to believe in, even if our faith is sincere and strong. Rather, biblical faith means believing in the one and only reliable Savior, Jesus Christ. Many people seem to put their faith in faith, and try to work themselves into a state of believing that if they just believe strong enough and long enough, then what they are hoping for will come to pass. Of course, then, if their longed-for result doesn’t pan out, they conclude that they didn’t have “enough faith.” Interestingly enough, this completely misses the point of biblical teaching on faith, which states that what matters is not the quantity of our faith, but the object of our faith. In other words, do you believe in believing, or do you believe in Christ?

It’s like this. Suppose you want to walk across a frozen river. You stand on this side, gazing across to the other shore, over the snow-covered ice on the river. As you stir up your faith with memories of other frozen rivers on which you have walked, you believe the ice will hold you, and step onto it to cross to the other side. Will you make it, or will you go through into the frigid water below? The outcome is determined not primarily by the strength of your faith, but by the strength of the ice.

The good news is that Jesus is strong enough: we can depend on Him, for He alone is mighty to save us. This is why the “Five Solas” go together. We have salvation only through faith in the grace of God as mediated only through Christ and revealed only through the Scriptures. May your faith be driven by God’s Word, rooted in Christ, and centered on His grace!

Next week: “Soli Deo Gloria,” only for the glory of God

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