Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Friday, February 8, 2013 2:47 pm
The Messenger, February 7, 2013
Sola Fide: By Faith Alone
By RICHARD SMITH
Special to The Messenger
We continue our series of articles on the Five Solas of the Protestant faith with the fourth article, Sola Fide: By Faith Alone.
We learned from Rev. Billy McGarity’s article that Sola Scriptura, Scripture Alone, should be the inerrant rule of the church’s life; however, in practice, the church is far too often guided by the culture around it. As we explored Solus Christus, Christ Alone, in Camille Kendall’s article, we recognized there is an erosion of Christ-centered faith: there is a secularized belief that there are many roads to salvation and that many believe we’re saved in part by our good works, which is contrary to what scripture teaches. R.B Tolar, in his exposition on Sola Gratia, Grace Alone, brought us the truth in scripture of God’s “rich mercy,” His “great love,” and “kindness toward us.” To put it simply: God’s grace is what saves us and there is nothing we can do to add to that.
Even Martin Luther (1483-1546), the father of the Protestant Reformation, strove with all of his human might to attain salvation while serving as a monk in the little town of Wittenberg. He prayed earnestly, studied tirelessly, held countless vigils, recited numerous masses and harshly mistreated his body, all with the goal of bringing his unruly flesh into submission in order to attain salvation. Yet, despite all of his efforts, peace of conscience eluded him. As Luther later testified in his Lectures on Genesis, “The more I sweat, the less quiet and peace I felt.”
Sola Fide, God’s act of declaring a sinner righteous by faith alone, through God’s grace, became central and most important to Luther’s belief. He wrote and taught that Biblical salvation or redemption is a gift of God’s grace attainable only through faith in Christ. (Eph 2:8-9) “This one and firm rock, which we call the doctrine of justification,” he wrote, “is the chief article of the whole Christian doctrine, which comprehends the understanding of all godliness.” This is “the article of a standing or falling church,” i.e., the article on the reception or rejection of which the stability or subversion of the church depended.
Justification is a legal or forensic concept, a term used in a court of law. It is a word which describes a change in status. In Romans 5, guilty sinners are in Adam, but pardoned and righteous believers are in Christ. Those who are in Christ are declared righteous because of Him and because of what He did for them. This is central to a proper understanding of Romans 4:5, where we read that God justifies the ungodly and in the next chapter (5:6) where Christ died for the ungodly. The righteousness which justly declares the sinner to be right with God is properly understood to be imputed to the sinner on the sole basis of faith.
Charles Spurgeon wrote, “When a person is pardoned, he is considered as a transgressor, but when he is justified, he is considered as righteous. A criminal, when pardoned, is freed from an obligation to suffer death for his crimes; but he that is justified is declared worthy of life as an innocent person. There are then two constituent parts in this justification; there is the pardon of sin and the acceptance of our persons; a removal of guilt and condemnation and a right to life.”
As the old familiar hymn Rock of Ages teaches us, “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” Faith is clinging to Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone. This faith brings the sinner into the grace which truly saves. Nothing less, and certainly nothing more.
To God be the glory.
Editor’s note: Richard Smith is a member of Grace Presbyterian Church in Troy.