BACK TO BASICS – SOLA FIDE

Sola Fide – by faith alone – is an extremely significant biblical concept. It is a reference to the truth that faith is the only way a person can be acquitted by God. Sola Fide focuses in the truth of justification by faith.

The biblical nouns ‘justification’ and ‘righteousness’, the verb ‘justify’, and the adjective ‘righteous’ refer to being acquitted – that is, to receiving a ‘not guilty’ (legally innocent) verdict from God, who is the Judge of all the earth.

According to the Bible, such a verdict is impossible:

‘All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one’ (Psalm 14:3).

‘There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins’ (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

‘Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin’ (Romans 3:20).

‘All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law. Clearly, no one is justified before God by the law ...’ (Galatians 3:10,11).

We, by our own efforts to keep God’s law, will always be declared ‘guilty’, because that is what we all are.

But, amazingly, we find that there are people whom God ‘justifies’, to whom he, contrary to all legal expectations, gives a ‘not guilty’ verdict – a declaration of innocence, that is, ‘justification/righteousness’. Those who receive this undeserved and impossible acquittal are the people of true faith.

Consider the role of faith in these verses:

‘Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness’ (Genesis 15:6).

‘(The gospel) is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”’ (Romans 1:15, 17, quoting Habakkuk 2:4)

‘But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known ... This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus’ (Romans 3:21 – 24).

‘...to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness’ (Romans 4:5).
Abraham ‘is the father of all who believe ... in order that righteousness might be credited to them’ (Romans 4:11).

‘The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification’ (Romans 4:23 – 25).

‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1).

‘... and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith’ (Philippians 3:9).

When the sixteenth century Reformers challenged believers with Sola Fide they were calling Christians back to this biblical perspective: that we are justified (acquitted, declared ‘not guilty’) purely by faith, with no law-based preconditions.

Such a free gift is possible and legal because of Jesus Christ’s death as our substitute under the just judgement of God:

‘God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood ... he did this to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus’ (Romans 3:25, 26).

The sheer immensity of what God did in the death of Christ is undeniable evidence of how impossible it is for us to personally merit acquittal: it took this death of this holy one to enable God to legally acquit us. There was no other way.

Let us never minimize the death of Christ by minimizing our guilt. Let us, rather, cling to this Sola Fide and by doing so exalt our Lord and his sacrificial death.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2020