Sola Fide

By: Zach Collins

For the next few weeks, we are going to explore the five “solas” that are commonly associated with the reformation movement. Today, let us explore “sola fide”, or faith only. 

There was once a Scotsman who was tasked with rowing others across a river. He held in his hands two oars. On one oar was carved the word “faith.” On the other oar was carved the word “works.” One day, one of his passengers asked him about the words carved on his oars. Curiously, he did not respond and, instead, chose to pull the oar marked “works” out of the water and started rowing with only one oar. The boat proceeded to turn in circles and refrained from making progress across the river. He then pulled the oar marked “faith” out of the water and the boat began to row in circles in the opposite direction. However, when he pulled both oars into the water, he and his passenger were able to reach the other bank safely. 

Before his passenger got off the boat, the Scotsman said, “A Christian must row his life using both oars, faith and works. Only then can he reach the shores of Heaven.” 

In the margin of his Bible, next to Romans 1:17, Martin Luther drew a line from the phrase, “the just shall live by faith” and wrote the word “sola”, a Latin word meaning “alone” or “only.” He asserted that man was saved by faith alonewithout any response to God on the part of man. The New Testament is clear and concise in its teaching that man’s salvation from sin is “through faith” (c.f., Ephesians 2:8) and that we, as Christians, will stand before the Creator one day “being justified by faith” (c.f., Romans 5:1). Unfortunately, many denominations and individuals have ceased this foundational truth of the Bible and added one word, detrimental to the obedience of others, much like Satan in the garden (c.f., Genesis 2:17; Genesis 3:4).   

It would be beneficial for this discussion to note that, in the entirety of the Bible, the only time the words “faith” and “alone” are found in the same contextual passage, or even in the same verse, is when James, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, taught that we are not saved by “faith alone” (c.f, James 2:21-24). 

What do these biblical examples teach us about “faith” and “works” in our salvation?

1.     Noah was saved by faithBut when did Faith get the job done? After he was obedient to God and prepared an ark for the saving of his household (c.f., Hebrews 11:7). 

2.     The children of Israel, at the Red Sea, were saved by faith. But when did faith get the job done? When they were obedient to God and passed through on dry land (c.f., Hebrews 11:29). 

3.     The walls of Jericho fell by faithBut, when did faith get the job done? When they were obedient to God and encircled the walls (c.f., Hebrews 11:30). 

Paul wrote, in Galatians 3:26-27, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  

In v. 26, the Bible teaches us how we are saved, “through faith.” In v. 27, the Bible teaches us when we are saved, when we have “put on Christ.” How is a sinner saved? By faith. But, when does faith get the job done? When we are obedient to God which includes, but is not limited to, baptism. 

True faith influences the heart and life so that we will not deceive ourselves, being hearers of the Word only, but doers also (c.f., James 1:22-25). From these examples and more, we can assert that, while the Bible teaches that salvation is by faith, it never teaches that salvation is by faith alone. Let us row our Christian vessels with both “faith” and “works.” Then, and only then, we will reach the shores of Heaven. 

Meditate on these things.