Contend Earnestly: Sola Fide: Part II

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sola Fide: Part II

Defining and Defending Sola Fide

From the last post we can now understand that faith is a gift and we can actually define faith alone. As we understand faith alone, we are speaking of salvation. Salvation is only by faith and by no other means. This faith is given to us, so that in no way can we claim merit or claim ourselves in having any part of this salvation that was bestowed on us by the grace of God.

To understand this fully we must look at this in two texts to prove this: Romans 3:21-4:5 compared to James 2:14-26

Most protestants confess belief in faith alone but if a Roman Catholic were to confront us with James 2 I think most of us would be thoroughly confused. We need to take a look at these two. So for the sake of space click on the verses: Romans 3:21-4:5 and James 2:14-26

First, who are the two writers writing to? This might be the most crucial to understand. Paul was writing to the Gentile Roman Church (ad 57) and James was writing (ad 48) at the time that the church was predominately Jewish.

We have two things at work here as well. The Jews, used to obeying the Torah, were throwing out all works under the name of Christ. They were sinning and didn’t care because Christ died for their sins, this is called antinomianism. The Gentiles on the other hand, were being led astray by later Jewish Christians, called the Judaizers, who believed in a mixed form of religion. Namely, one had to be circumcised and follow some of the laws of the Torah and believe in Christ. They believed in a works justification.

So, these two men are addressing two different classes of people in completely different times. Please grasp this.

Here is the real fight between the two texts of Scripture:

Romans 3:28 verses James 2:24

We know exactly where Paul stands on this issue, we also see him write in 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 as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Then we really get into problems with the two texts because they both speak of the same man, Abraham and his righteousness.

Here is where we need to know understand the themes of each book: Whose justification is Paul seeking to determine in Romans? God’s. Look to
Romans 4:5

Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,

Ready for the kicker? Who is James’ justification seeking? Look at James 1:3 and you have the thesis.

knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance

Also, take a look at these verses in the book of James:

James 1:6 says to ask in faith without doubting
James 1:12 blessed is the man who perseveres under trial
James 1:22 prove yourselves doers of the word
James 1:26 if anyone thinks he is religious, yet does not bridle his tongue but deceived his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless
James 2:1 My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.
James 3:10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.
James 3:13 Who among you is wise and understanding? aLet him show by his bgood behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.
James 4:4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
James 4:11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.

I could continue but I will not, you get the point? James is speaking of the justification
for ourselves and those around us, not God’s justification. This is a vital difference when taking a look at these two verses, if one does not see this difference they have some real problems, whether Catholic or Protestant.

Further, we can see that when James speaks of the justification of Abraham and speaks of Abraham’s deeds when offering Isaac this comes 7 chapters after God’s justification of Abraham in
Genesis 15:6

Abraham’s deeds did not justify him before God, but in reality justified him in his own heart. His works proved his faith, not for God but for Abraham and us. I am not going to take time to fully exegete this, but if you believe that God waited to see Abraham’s faith to justify him then you believe that God is a liar and not omniscient. The reason is that God justified Abraham in Gen 15 meaning the act was done, or else God is a liar, and God knew Abraham would do all he did in Genesis 22 so God didn’t “learn” from what Abraham did or He is not omniscient and is not perfect. If God can learn, this destroys the Trinity and God Himself. Genesis 15:6 uses the word "reckoned." Notice first that it is in the past tense and is the same term that is used "to make a judgment." It is a judgment now past tense and made by the highest court. This is why Paul can say in Romans 8:33

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies

James makes sure we understand this as he then points to Rahab. Hebrews 11:31 tells us that by faith Rahab did not perish, but read straight from the source. Read Joshua 2

Take note of these verses:

11 “When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.
12 “Now therefore, please swear to me by the LORD, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth,

Notice the change in Rahab. First, in verse 11, calls the Lord “your God” and then says, swear to me by “the Lord.” in verse 12. This change is crucial. Rahab went from showing the spies that her faith changed from a "far away god" to the only omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotant El Shaddai. Know also that Rahab truly fears God, if this is true she has been given a new heart to fear God because we know from Romans 3:18 which is quoting Psalm 36:1 that no one fears God because of their sin.

Do you see this? We see clearly what James is trying to get across here. Rahab was justified just like Abraham. Her faith justified her by God, but proven by works to the spies. She justified her faith in works to humans not God. God knows our faith, because He gave it to us. This is why the spies were sent to Rahab. God knew her faith and sent the spies to her house. They, as humans, still needed confirmation of her faith by saying in verse 14 to do “this” and we will believe you. This comes right after her confession of faith.

If God justified us by our works would that not mean that God was learning? God cannot learn like man. We learn of those who are in the faith because we see their works, God infuses faith and because of His knowledge we come to faith, not the other way around. We are the ones doing the learning, not God.

By this he again shews, that the question here is not respecting the cause of our salvation, but whether works necessarily accompany faith; for in this sense it is said to have been perfected by works, because it was not idle. It is said to have been perfected by works, not because it received thence its own perfection, but because it was thus proved to be true. Hence this was not the perfection of his faith, nor did it then for the first time put on its form. James then understood no other thing, than that the integrity of his faith then appeared, because it brought forth that remarkable fruit of obedience.

John Calvin

I have heard John Piper say: we do not believe that salvation is faith plus works but a salvation that works.


Sola Fide really fights two fronts. One that faith is not something drummed up inside you so that you can some day “wake up” and believe. It is not a faith that takes a look at evidence and makes a rational choice between two ways. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is given to us by our Creator so that we can humbly bow our head in knowing that no amount of evidence could have convinced us if wasn’t the Spirit of God drawing us to the Saviour's feet.

The second front is that our justification before God is entirely of faith in Him. We realize as James points out that there are two different faiths, one that is dead and one that works. The one that is dead, will never save because the true faith that God gives you is a working faith.

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
Ezekiel 36:26,27

Notice that when God gives you this new heart that HE CAUSES YOU TO WALK, because it is only by Him that we can walk in His statutes, and if it is not by Him you cannot walk in His statutes.

We are truly saved by faith alone, justified by God. This is why when they cried out “What must we do to be saved?” The apostles told them to repent and believe. God justifies your heart, your works justify you before men.

May we all hold fast to what Paul said in Romans 5:1,2

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.


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