Last week we started our series on the five solas of the Reformation and introduced Sola Fide – Faith Alone. Our own statement of faith says we believe that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone, which encompasses in one statement four of the five solas.
Just some food for thought as we get started. I posted a question on my blog a week or two ago. The question was, “According to Rome, which person is saved?”
1) The Baptist/Lutheran/Methodist/Pentecostal/nondenom/whatever who:
b) Strives for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord – see Heb. 12:14
c) Works out his salvation with fear and trembling – see Phil. 2:13.
d) Loves the Lord with all his heart, mind, soul and strength – see Mark 12:30.
e) Loves his neighbor as himself – see Mark 12:33.
f) Examines himself and tests himself to see whether or not Jesus Christ is in himself – see 2 Cor. 13;5.
g) Confesses and submits to Jesus as Lord – see Romans 10:9-10.
h) Confesses his sins, resulting in forgiveness of sins and cleansing from all unrighteousness – see 1 John 1:9.
i) Supplements his faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with steadfastness, steadfastness with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love – see 2 Peter 1.
j) Is poor in spirit, mourns, is meek, hungers and thirsts for righteousness, is merciful, is pure in heart, is a peacemaker. is persecuted for righteousness’ sake and is reviled by others and persecuted and has all kinds of evil uttered against him on account of Jesus – see Matt. 5.
k) Denies one and only one of any of the teachings on faith and morals set forth definitively by the Magisterium of the [Roman Catholic] Church.
2) Is a pagan who has never heard of Jesus and who in his paganism worships his own form of Baal in his quest for spirituality apart from the God of the Scriptures.
The answer, according to Rome?
#2 is saved.
#1 cannot be saved because of the statements of Rome including those made in The Code of Canon Law. #1′s denial of any single truth, per The Code of Canon Law, sets him outside the Roman Catholic Church and thus outside the realm of the saved.
#2 is saved, according to Rome, because of this statement in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994 edition):
1260 “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.”63 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.
63 GS 22 § 5; cf. LG 16; AG 7.
Is that what Paul taught? What John taught? Peter? Jesus? How does Rome justify its answer? We’ll find out when we get to Sola Scriptura.
I also told you last week we’d read from the Heidelberg catechism. This was a document prepared in the sixteenth century by the church in a German province and affirmed at Heidelberg and hence the name. I’ll read Questions 60 and 61 and the corresponding responses:
Q. How are you right with God?
A. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.1
Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them,2 and even though I am still inclined toward all evil,3 nevertheless, without my deserving it at all,4 out of sheer grace,5 God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ,6 as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me.7
All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.8
Q & A 61
Q. Why do you say that by faith alone you are right with God?
A. It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased with me. Only Christ’s satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness make me right with God.9 And I can receive this righteousness and make it mine in no other way than by faith alone.10
People were expected to know that 400 years ago. Elders and deacons were to teach a section of the Catechism each week because us people in the pews didn’t know it and we’re supposed to know it.
Now, let’s get to the Scripture – we’re going to look at examples of how we arrive at this doctrine of faith alone and we’ll also look at the source of our faith briefly but the next two weeks will do a better job in explaining the source of our faith when we look at Sola Gratia – grace alone, and you’ll see why as we work through that.
OK – who was the first great theologian of salvation through faith alone in the New Testament? Of course, it was……..Jesus. You thought I was going to say Paul, right? We’ll get to Paul but Jesus is clear as crystal that salvation is through faith alone. Let’s start at Luke chapter 18 and we’ll look at a parable – the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Keep in mind who his audience is here because verse 9 tells us:
“Luke 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:
Luke 18:10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
Luke 18:11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
Luke 18:12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
Luke 18:13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
Luke 18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Who were among his listeners? People who believed in their own righteousness and we know from Isaiah, which these very people should know, that man’s righteousness is as filthy rags – bloody menstrual cloths. That right there should give us a pretty good start that salvation is not about works, but let’s read on. What does the Pharisee do? He works. He fasts. He tithes. He has a high opinion of himself because of what he does – and what people he is not like. The tax collector? Blessed are the poor in spirit, as Jesus would say in Matthew 5. Meek, as Jesus would say in Matthew. The tax collector has no high opinion of himself or of his works – all he does is cry out in faith. What does Jesus say? That man went down to his house in what state? Justified. Justified. When he went home from the temple, he arrived there already having been justified. Did Jesus say the tax collector had to be baptized to be justified? No. Participate in the Mass? No. Commit acts of penance? No. Feed the hungry? No. He went home justified because of his faith and his faith alone.
Back up to Luke chapter 7, starting at verse 36, which we won’t read, but it’s the story of Jesus being a guest in a Pharisee’s house and woman enters and cries on Jesus’ feet and wipes them and then anoints his feet and the Pharisee. The Pharisee grumbles to himself and Jesus begins to speak and let’s look at what Jesus says starting in verse 46:
“Luke 7:46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.
Luke 7:47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven-for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Luke 7:48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Luke 7:49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”
Luke 7:50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Did the anointing save her? No – her faith produced the anointing. Her faith saved her – and note it is past tense – it’s something that has already happened, based on her faith.
John 3. Verse 13.
John 3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.
John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
John 3:15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 3:18 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.
It’s black and white here according to Jesus – if you believe, you have eternal life. If you don’t believe, you don’t have eternal life.
John 5, verse 24:
John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
The one who believes has eternal life. And John 6, verse 44 – the people who had their stomachs filled and had followed Jesus in hopes of more food and He gave them spiritual food instead:
“John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
John 6:45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me- John 6:46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. John 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
I think it would not be out of line to draw the same conclusion where perhaps Jesus isn’t explicit in saying the word “faith,” but He used other words to describe the same thing, which really mean “faith” or ‘believing.”
When He says, “Come to me, all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest,” that is a statement of faith – coming to Jesus is really synonymous with believing in Him. In John 6 Jesus said that all the Father gave to Him would come to Him and whoever came to him would never be cast out (v. 37). That certainly is an example of salvation by faith alone – there were no works there – no circumcision, no sacraments, no church dogma lesson. A couple verses later Jesus said that whoever looks on the Son and believes in Him should have everlasting life and he will raise him up on the last day. (v. 40) Then in verse 47 He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.”
One more – how about the thief on the cross? “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom (Luke 23:42).” Jesus’ response? “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” No works – just faith alone.
We don’t have time to look at it but Jesus also makes reference to an Old Testament passage with regard to this and it’s not Habakkuk 2:4, it’s Hosea 6:6. In Hosea 6:6, the Lord says,
“Hos 6:6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
Jesus made reference to that verse at least twice – in Matthew 9:13 and in Matthew 12:7
There are more but we’ll move on to Paul and let’s turn to Romans chapter 1. Of course, we begin with the verse that fueled the Reformation – Luther’s understanding of Romans 1:17, which is a quotation of Habakkuk 2:4. What was happening in Habakkuk? The prophet was lamenting to the Lord about injustice at the hands of the Babylonians and the Lord answers by telling Habakkuk that He was going to make it worse before things got better and that through it all, the righteous shall live by faith. Paul cites that in 1:17 then in 1:18 through 3:20 gives reason why man is condemned through his suppression of the natural revelation God has given him in his unrighteousness, through the testimony of his conscience and through the fact that he has the works of the law written on heart but he still doesn’t abide by them and in 3:20 Paul explicitly says that no human being will be justified by the works of the law. Then in verse 21 Paul gets into detail – through verse 25:
“Rom 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-
Rom 3:22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Rom 3:24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Rom 3:25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
We could spend several weeks just on this passage. How is the righteousness of God manifested? Through faith in Jesus Christ. Verse 24 discusses grace and we will do so starting next week but suffice it to say for now, that grace here actually accomplishes redemption – it doesn’t merely make it available. Verse 25 tells us how we receive the propitiation made through the blood of Christ – we receive it by faith. Not faith plus baptism. Not faith plus circumcision. Not faith plus anything. By faith. Verse 26 goes on to say that God is not only just, He is the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Faith. Not faith plus anything. Paul repeats himself in verse 28 when he says we are justified apart from works of the law and in verse 30 Paul says God will justify BOTH the circumcised and the uncircumcised by faith. If we keep going into chapter 4, Paul now brings Abraham into the mix and says if Abraham was justified by works he would have grounds for boasting and Paul asks one of his rhetorical questions – what does the Scripture say? Paul uses the Old Testament to prove his doctrine of justification through faith alone with his quotation of Genesis 15:6: “Abraham believed the Lord and it was counted to him as righteousness.” All we have to do is read the text and Paul gives us the plain meaning – I don’t know how it can be any clearer (read chapter 3:20-4:24 verbatim)
Paul’s conclusion based upon chapter 3;20-4:24? Verse 1, chapter 5: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore. Therefore.
If we move ahead to chapter 10, in verses 5-13, Paul gives us another discourse on justification through faith alone:
Rom 10:5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.
Rom 10:6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down)
Rom 10:7 or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
Rom 10:8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);
Rom 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Rom 10:10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Rom 10:11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Rom 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.
Rom 10:13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
It is difficult to see how one can state that one is justified by faith plus anything in Paul’s letter to the church at Rome. It certainly seems clear that Jesus taught that same message. Next week we’ll look at what Paul said to the church at Galatia and we’ll also look at the source of faith – whether or not faith is a gift and whether this gift is given to every single human being.
1. Rom. 3:21-28; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9; Phil 3:8-11
2. Rom. 3:9-10
3. Rom. 7:23
4. Tit. 3:4-5
5. Rom. 3:24; Eph. 2:8
6. Rom. 4:3-5 (Gen. 15:6); 2 Cor. 5:17-19; 1 John 2:1-2
7. Rom. 4:24-25; 2 Cor. 5:21
8. John 3:18; Acts 16:30-31
9. 1 Cor. 1:30-31
10. Rom. 10:10; 1 John 5:10-12