Contend Earnestly: Introduction to Sola Fide

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Introduction to Sola Fide

We have entered into some of the most prevalent issues when dealing with some of our thoughts on the Five Solas and they have hopefully challenged you in your thinking of the true biblical doctrines of Scripture, Christ, Grace, man and the Gospel. As we continue, we come to the Sola that, behind Sola Scriptura, is probably the most fought between Rome and the Protestant Church. I must use Protestant loosely though, as some say “Sola Fide” but they really have a list of rules one must do to be saved.

Sola Fide is a Sola that, in reality, calls the church of Rome, heresy. We saw hints of this in Solus Christus and Grace alone, but Sola Fide comes right out and draws a line in the sand and makes sure that no one can blur that line with any dogma or any orthodoxy.

Our definition of Sola Fide is this:

Faith alone asserts that only faith is the substance of the gospel, not any merit or favor achieved. Faith alone is what saves, not any method or human understanding of how to persuade men to Christ.

Faith alone believes in the power of the gospel and that the power of the gospel alone is what saves, nothing else.

Faith alone is almost the conclusion to grace alone and Christ alone as these happen or happened first. First God in His grace chose not only that Christ should die for fallen man but also chose for Himself an elect people, and through Christ’s substitutionary atonement, or better put, propitiation, is anyone ever saved.

How are they saved? By the faith that is given by the Holy Spirit through regeneration and the power of the Gospel, and by this faith, given by God, alone. The gospel declares what Christ did for us on the cross, not what we need to do to reach Him.

To give you some background to this Sola, we find it in the life of Luther as he was studying Romans in the year 1515. The great reformation and the 95 theses would not come for another 2 years, but in this year, in this study, Luther was brought face to face with the Almighty God and the gift that God gives in Sola Fide. Luther read:

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."
Romans 1:17

Luther saw that it was God’s righteousness that was given to man by and through faith alone, not by the man’s merit. Let the journey begin.

The whole of the 95 Theses is wrapped up in this Sola. Luther argued against indulgences and penances that were being sold to build St Peter’s Basilica, and John Tetzel angered Luther when he tromped through his city exclaiming: Once the coin into the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory heavenward springs.

Luther could take it no more. It all came to a head as explained by R.C. Sproul in his book, “Faith Alone”

April 17, 1521: On this day in history the Augustinian monk Martin Luther, already embroiled in controversy, under the condemnation of the papal bull Exsurge Domine issued by Leo X, stood before the imperial Diet of Worms. The newly elected Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, had summoned Luther to this place for a hearing regarding his teachings. Such a hearing had been urged by Luther’s protector, Elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony.
Luther, in danger and in fear of his life, made the journey bearing letters of safe conduct issued by the emperor and various German princes. The trip, undertaken in a covered wagon, required fifteen days. Luther was accompanied by a few friends—colleagues from the university, a student, and a fellow monk. Luther arrived at Worms on April 16, a scene described by Gordon Rupp: “On the morning of April 16th, a trumpet sounded and the crowd pressed towards the gates . . . as a proud cavalcade of nobles and knights clattered by; at the end the little covered wagon swaying round the bend. The crowd stared and murmured their fill at the Black monk who stared back with quick, shining eyes.”
Luther came to Worms in fear and trembling. There was boldness and courage to be sure. But it was a courage required by the piercing fear that haunted the man. Rupp writes:
It was the climax of months of inner struggle. For Luther was no loud-mouthed fanatic with a hide like a rhinoceros. The taunts flung at him by his enemies found an echo in his own tormented self-questioning. “How often has my trembling heart palpitated—are you alone the wise one? Are all the others in error? Have so many centuries walked in ignorance? What if it should be you who err, and drag so many with you into error, to be eternally damned?”
Luther spoke openly to his friends Philipp Melanchthon and Georg Spalatin about his struggle: “‘I shall enter Worms under my Captain, Christ, despite the gates of Hell,’ he told Philipp, and ‘I come, my Spalatin, and we shall enter Worms despite the gates of Hell, and the powers of the air.’”
Luther later recalled the day: “. . . the condemnation had already been published in every town, so that the herald himself asked me whether I still intended to go to Worms. Though, in truth I was physically afraid and trembling, I replied to him: ‘I will repair thither, though I should find there as many devils as there are tiles on the house tops.’”

Then we have the following that would unravel the great protestant reformation, where we thank Luther and the faith that was given to him by our One and only Holy Father.

On the morrow Luther appeared once more before the diet. This hearing was held in a larger and even more crowded auditorium. The hall was dark, illumined only by smoking flares. Johann Eck began with a stern rebuke:
His Imperial Majesty has assigned this time to you, Martin Luther, to answer for the books which you yesterday openly acknowledged to be yours. You asked time to deliberate on the question whether you would take back part of what you had said or would stand by all of it. You did not deserve this respite, which has now come to an end, for you knew long before why you were summoned. And every one—especially a professor of theology—ought to be so certain of his faith that whenever questioned about it he can give a sure and positive answer. Now at last reply to the demand of his Majesty, whose clemency you have experienced in obtaining time to deliberate. Do you wish to defend all of your books or to retract part of them?
Luther responded with a lengthy speech in which he divided his writings into various classes and directly recanted nothing. Eck responded with annoyed irritation:
Luther, you have not answered to the point. You ought not to call in question what has been decided and condemned by councils. Therefore I beg you to give a simple, unsophisticated answer without horns (non cornutum). Will you recant or not?
To this direct mandate Luther gave his historic reply:
Since your Majesty and your Lordships ask for a plain answer, I will give you one without either horns or teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture or by right reason (for I trust neither in popes nor in councils, since they have often erred and contradicted themselves)—unless I am thus convinced, I am bound by the texts of the Bible, my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I neither can nor will recant anything, since it is neither right nor safe to act against conscience. God help me. Amen.

So this is our setting where we first find this Sola defended in the courts of the Roman Catholic church and forever we will continue to defend it against their gates.


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