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'Sola Fide' (Faith Alone)

OPINION by Pastor Chuck DeVane, Special to The Sentinel-Record | October 30, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

-- 2 Peter 1:1-2, ESV

"Sola Fide," or Faith Alone, is the third of the five pillars of the Great Reformation. Faith is something with secular and spiritual connotations. It requires faith for non-religious people to get on an airplane, eat at a fast-food restaurant, or have an exclusively evolutionary view of the cosmos. We all believe in things we cannot explain or completely prove.

Faith is multi-faceted in the religious realm, as there are many faiths in many different gods for a person to choose in whom, or in none, they trust. Atheism is the fastest-growing faith among Americans today, and, yes, it takes a strong faith in one's self to completely turn your back on God.

Of course, the faith that is our subject today is the uniquely Christian faith. This one faith that saves is the bedrock belief in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you believe God exists in the person of Jesus Christ, and that He came to us 2,000 years ago in the flesh, and that He lived a sinless life and died a sacrificial death, rose again from the dead and ascended into Heaven, all to give us forgiveness of sins and eternal life, then you have been, are being, and will be, saved, by grace alone through faith alone.

The definition of faith, saving faith, should be plain. But the doctrine of faith alone has been muddied over the years. It is the reason the Great Reformation came in the first place, and a subject all confessing Christians, Catholic and Protestant, should look into continuously.

Some people who profess faith in Jesus Christ add pluses to faith and proclaim a salvation by faith plus. One very independent branch of the Christian church says salvation is by faith plus baptism. The Baptists I grew up with preach salvation by faith plus, with the plus being a decision you make by walking an aisle and praying a prayer. Catholic theology is complex, but it definitely ties faith with sacramental pluses that must be accomplished in order to receive said faith.

The problem with all the pluses is they are human works. They require human energy and ingenuity. Participating in ordinances and sacraments takes effort. Making a decision requires mental energy. And another important text, Ephesians 2:8-9, declares invalid any Godward faith that requires a human plus.

This is not to say that all Church of Christ, Baptist, and Roman Catholic persons are hopelessly duped and doomed. You can find true Christians in almost every tradition or denomination in church history. Yet so many who experience true grace and genuine faith simply do not understand the great transaction that birthed them into the Christian church. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, no pluses.

And the faith that alone saves you does not come from you, it comes from God, and God alone. I think experientially, especially in democratic America, faith seems like the sheer exercise of one's free will. But the more I've studied the Bible, the more I'm convinced it is an absolute gift from God.

Simon Peter, who addresses "the elect" in 1 Peter, begins 2 Peter by reminding Christians the faith they have is faith they "have obtained" (ESV, KJV) or a faith they "have received" (NIV, NASB), as a gift or decree from God. He goes on to tell us God has "granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (vs. 3) and "granted to us his precious and very great promises"(vs. 4). A grant is a gift, a gift is received, and what God gives to save us is faith, and faith alone.

Christians do not give their faith to God, they get their faith from God. Then afterward, there is faithful work to be done, by the free will and energetic effort of the true believer. Faith is a free gift, but faithfulness to God proves the gift has been given.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]

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