Summary: You cannot earn your salvation. You cannot buy it. Nobody can do it for you. Salvation is by God’s grace, through faith alone in Jesus Christ. That is the truth that liberates your soul.
We’re in the 3rd week of a 4 week series called stories to tell. My purpose in this series is to tell you 4 stories of 4 great heroes of the faith, to stir your soul to stand for Christ. I want you to have new stories of the faith to tell your children and your children’s children. (please turn to Romans 1)
I start there, because each of these stories are rooted in a biblical truth, essential to our faith, but challenged in the past, and almost lost, if God had not raised up heroes of the faith to contend for them. The biblical truth we’re going to examine today is…
Sola Fide (sola feeday)
Sola fide means faith alone. It’s the teaching that justification and salvation of the soul is by faith alone, and not earned by good works. Scripture teaches that "faith yields justification and good works" not "faith and good works yield justification." In other words, salvation is not earned by the doing of good works. But the saved person gladly does good works in response to salvation. The apostle Paul put it this way…
Ephesians 2:8-10… For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Do you see how clear this is…you are saved by God’s grace through faith, it’s not the meritorious reward for doing good works. But, now that we’ve been saved, we gladly want to please our Savior by doing good.
This is not a matter of semantics, it’s foundational to how you understand your relationship with God. Martin Luther called sola fide the "doctrine by which the church stands or falls.” Luther grew up under a works based salvation that tormented his soul. It was this passage of Scripture God used in his life to set him free…
The gospel, the good news about Jesus, is the power of God for salvation. Biblical salvation means to be transferred from the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God, to become a child of God, to become an heir to an eternal inheritance, and to be rescued from the wrath to come. That’s biblical salvation.
But how does a person get this salvation? The answer is clear, by faith. You’re not born into it, you don’t get it by ethnicity, it doesn’t happen to you by means of baptism, it’s received by faith, and faith alone. Sola fide.
The formula is not 75% faith plus 25% works = salvation. It’s by faith from first to last, from beginning to end. Your faith doesn’t carry you to the 2 yard line, where you punch it in by your human effort of works. It’s 100% by faith. To whatever degree you add works to the gospel as a requirement for salvation, you destroy the gospel. It’s like going up to a Van Gough with a can of spray paint, thinking you’re going to improve on it. No you’re not, you effort will only destroy the masterpiece.
Warning, if you want to be judged by your works, you better prepare yourself for God’s review, Ro 3:10-20. That’s God’s assessment of our good works, they’re filthy rags. Even our best attempts at righteousness are polluted with selfishness, deceit, bitterness, violence. There is not one single person who will be declared righteous before God based on their works. So, if your plan is to stand before God and try to convince him that the good outweighs the bad in your life, or that you’re basically a good person deserving of salvation, you may want to rethink that strategy while you still can.
Thank God he provided a way of salvation we could not do on our own, vv.21-24. This righteousness from God comes from faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no other way, you can’t earn it; it is received only through faith in Christ. Sola fide. 3:22a, 1:17. Sola fide.
Some might say, that gospel is a license to sin. No, it’s like this…we rescue girls from sex trafficking. Prior to their rescue those girls were among the most oppressed people on the planet. Through homes of hope they’ve been rescued, loved, cared for and given hope for a bright future. Those girls don’t need to be required to follow Jesus, they want to. Sola fide, isn’t a license to sin, it’s the motivation to follow your Savior
(Challenge to put faith in Christ)
Now, there was a time in the history of the church, when this doctrine was all but lost. By the fifteenth century the church had become a massive institution of power, and the gospel was polluted. The church was teaching salvation by subjection to the pope, receiving the sacraments, and doing good works. In fact, by the fifteenth salvation was for sale. In order to raise funds for the building of St Peter’s basilica in Rome, the church was selling admission to heaven, even for dead relatives. It wasn’t by faith at all, silver and gold got you into the heaven. In those dark days, God raised up a hero of the faith to stand against the powers of the empire, and the most powerful institution on the planet, to preach sola fide. That hero’s name was…