Faith is simple, but it's often a mystery to many people, even believers. Why? Because it defies analysis and any effort to quantify it.
Faith is the gateway to God's heart. It's the means by which we enter into a relationship with God.
It requires no special training or expertise and children seem to get its essence better than anyone. Faith is crucial to become a true Christian.
This second Sola is closely linked with Sola Gratia, which I'll look at next week. It is a second foundation and theological emphasis of the Protestant Reformation next to Sola Scriptura.
Sola Fide simply means by faith alone—a simple statement and a vital one. The theology of this Sola is what distinguishes Protestant Christianity from virtually all other religions and all pseudo-Christian sects and cults.
Here are important elements to this foundational statement—
- A person is justified before God (reconciled and made innocent) by faith alone
- Salvation can not be gained by any effort on our part
- Christ's righteousness—being without sin in right relationship with God—is imputed (credited) to believers because of His grace, God's unmerited kindness and favor
The Christian gospel, the message of God's redemptive work through His Son Jesus Christ on the cross, can only be received and understood by faith. Not by holding to a set of doctrines or theological beliefs, nor by moral goodness, but a personal trust in God.
The confidence of believers for salvation is in Jesus taking the place of each of us on the cross as a substitutionary sacrifice. This is called atonement, an act of reconciliation between God and people.
Christ's sacrifice on the cross (atonement) enabled Him to provide the means for freedom from the penalty of sin, which is death (Rom 5:18-19; 6:23).
Jesus' reconciling act on the cross set up an exchange for those of us who trust in Him. Our sin was transferred upon Him, as the Lamb of God (John 1:29), and His righteousness was given or imparted to us. This is called imputed righteousness.
Faith that justifies
It's easy to lose sight of the essence of faith when viewing it through a theological lens or trying to define it. True biblical faith is always personal and tied to relationship with God.
The faith that justifies a person doesn't come through theological belief or knowledge of how faith works, it's a matter of personal trust.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:1, 6 NIV)
True faith can't be developed through a right set of beliefs or actions. Neither is it a feeling or a dynamic force we conjure up or make happen. It is a confident surrender of our life to God. This is seen throughout the Old Testament.
Examples of justifying faith
In chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews, many examples are given of people who lived by this kind of faith. Four notable people, Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham, are mentioned in the beginning (Heb 11:4-8).
This justifying faith is seen most clearly in Abraham's life as God promises that He will become the father of many nations (Gen 12:1-5, 7; 13:14-18; 15:1-6). Abraham's trust in God was credited to him as righteousness—
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” (Rom 4:3 NKJV)
King David was considered a man after God's heart (Acts 13:22) and he had a similar faith in God and God's promise to him (2 Sam 7:18-22).
Justification by faith and the Holy Spirit
Again, it's important to understand that justification by faith, the theological term connected to Sola Fide, is not based on doctrinal or theological beliefs, nor by anything a person does or does not do in an attempt to be right with God.
The faith that justifies a person is based on a trust relationship with God. A faith that He nurtures in us in various ways—revelation of the truth, supernatural events, making Himself known through life events, or confirmations in our heart by His Spirit.
The personal work of the Holy Spirit in a person's life is too often misunderstood as some spiritual dynamic or conjured up belief, but this is inconsistent with the whole of Scripture.
Jesus makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is the One who teaches and guides a believer (John 14:15-17, 26; 15:26) and it is He who leads and points us to Jesus. God's Spirit also brings conviction about sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-11; 13-15).
Justifying faith is the gateway to God's heart, and He's the one who nurtures this faith in us. As Paul makes clear to the Ephesian believers—
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; itis the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Eph 2:8-9 NKJV)
A person doesn't need to be a theologian to have this faith, for as Jesus reminded His disciples we need to become like a child to enter God's kingdom.
"Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." (Mark 10:14-15)