Sola Fide: Argument “For” and “Against”

Catholics and Protestants have argued the doctrine of “sola fide” since Martin Luther and the 95 Theses, dating back to the 16th century.

  • Catholicism generally asserts that salvation requires BOTH faith and right-living, in other words living in obedience to God’s Word and His commandments.
  • The central doctrine to the Protestant Reformation is the doctrine that salvation is by faith ALONE.

DEFENDING “SOLA FIDE”: Passages used to defend sola fide

“Sola fide” is the Latin term that pertains to the doctrine of “salvation by faith alone”.  We must remember that the FIRST followers of Jesus Christ were Jewish and who had been called by God through Moses to obedience of the laws of God.  The Apostle Paul taught the Jewish followers of Jesus Christ as follows:

“We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” (Galatians 2:15-16)

What WE, as 21st century “Gentiles” need to understand is that, while we are not SAVED by the Law of God, we have not been EXCUSED from the call of obedience. Obedience does not get us saved. Believing FAITH in the work of Jesus Christ is what saves us:

  • Genesis 15:6 “And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.”
  • Isaiah 55:1 “”Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”
  • Matthew 7:22-23: “Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?’ And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
  • Luke 5:20: “And when he saw their faith, he said unto them, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.”
  • Luke 18:10-14: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men —robbers, evildoers, adulterers— or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.”
  • Luke 23:40-43: “But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.'”
  • John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
  • John 3:18: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
  • John 6:28-29: “Then they said unto him, ‘What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.'”
  • John 5:24: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
  • John 6:40: “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
  • John 6:47: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.”
  • Acts 10:43: “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”
  • Acts 16:31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.”
  • John 14:6: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by me.”
  • Acts 26:18: “…that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me…”
  • Romans 1:17-18: “Therefore the just shall live by faith. The wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickedness of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”
  • Romans 3:28: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”
  • Romans 4:5: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
  • Romans 5:1: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
  • Romans 10:9: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
  • Romans 11:6: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”
  • Romans 14:23: “…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”
  • Corinthians 1:21: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”
  • Galatians 2:16: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
  • Galatians 2:21: “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
  • Galatians 3:1-3; 9-14; 21-25: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Receive ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? … So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree. That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith…. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture harh concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.”
  • Galatians 5:4,5: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.”
  • Ephesians 1:13-14: “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
  • Ephesians 2:8-10: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
  • Philippians 3:9: “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
  • Galatians 3:8: “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith…”
  • 1 Timothy 1:16: “However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all long suffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.”
  • Titus 3:5: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”

ARGUMENT AGAINST “SOLA FIDE”: Passages used to argue against sola fide

 The Apostle Paul teaches concerning the doctrine of “sola fide” (salvation by “faith alone”) summarizing his Holy Spirit-inspired answer as follows:

“…But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:21-28)

One who believes that he is saved solely on the basis of “accepting Jesus”- or even thinks it possible to be saved on the strength of his own profession- and then lives presumptive of forgiveness while remaining in his sins is in worse danger. Our own conclusion concerning the relationship that exists between saving faith and the call to obedience MUST include these Scripture references:

  • Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
  • Matthew 5:48 (part of the Expounding of the Law within the Sermon on the Mount): “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
  • Matthew 7:21 (part of the Sermon on the Mount): “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
  • Matthew 7:24-27 (part of the Sermon on the Mount): “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
  • Matthew 12:36-37: “I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
  • Matthew 16:27: “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.”
  • Matthew 19:17: “‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.'”
  • Matthew 24:10-20 (part of the Olivet discourse): “Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
  • Matthew 25:31-46 (part of The Sheep and the Goats): “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
  • Matthew 28:19-20a (part of the Great Commission): “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
  • Luke 8:21: “But He answered and said to them, ‘My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.’ “
  • Luke 10:25-28: “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’ He answered: ‘ “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” ‘; and, ‘ “Love your neighbor as yourself.” ‘ ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’ “
  • John 5:29: “And will come out–those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”
  • Acts 26:20: “First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.”
  • Romans 2:6,7; 13: “For he will repay according to each one’s deeds. To those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; for it is not those who hear the law who are just in the sight of God; rather, those who observe the law will be justified.”
  • Romans 2:16: “on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.”
  • Galatians 6:7b-9: “A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
  • 1 Corinthians 7: 19: “Circumcision means nothing and uncircumcision means nothing; what matters is keeping God’s commandments.”
  • 1 Corinthians 10:12: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
  • 1 Corinthians 13:2-3: “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
  • 1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done is his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
  • Philippians 2:12b-13: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, For God is one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.”
  • 1 Timothy 4:16: “Attend to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in both tasks, for by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”
  • 1 Timothy 6:18-19: “That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
  • Hebrews 10:24: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
  • James 1:22: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
  • James 2 (excerpts): “… What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? … Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? … Ye see then how that by works a man is justified.”
  • James 2:24: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (Emphasis added) (In fact, this is the only time the phrase “faith alone” appears in the Scriptures.)
  • 1 Peter 1:17: “Now if you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one’s works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning.”
  • 1 Peter 2:12: “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
  • 1 John 2:3-7: “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.”
  • Revelation 2:23: “Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”
  • Revelation 14:12-13: “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.’ “
  • Revelation 20:13: “All the dead were judged according to their deeds.”
  • Revelation 22:12: “Behold, I am coming soon. I bring with me the recompense I will give to each according to his deeds.”

CONCLUSION: “Is eternal security a “license” to sin?

Answer: The most frequent objection to the doctrine of eternal security is that it supposedly allows people to live any way that they want and still be saved. While this may be “technically” true, it is not true in reality.

A person who has truly been redeemed by Jesus Christ will not live a life characterized by continuous, willful sin. We must draw a distinction between how a Christian should live and what a person must do in order to receive salvation.

The Bible is clear that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 14:6).

The moment a person truly believes in Jesus Christ, he or she is saved and secure in that salvation. It is unbiblical to say that salvation is received by faith, but then has to be maintained by works. The apostle Paul addresses this issue in Galatians 3:3 when he asks, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” If we are saved by faith, our salvation is also maintained and secured by faith. We cannot earn our own salvation. Therefore, neither can we earn the maintenance of our salvation. It is God who maintains our salvation (Jude 24). It is God’s hand that holds us firmly in His grasp (John 10:28-29). It is God’s love that nothing can separate us from (Romans 8:38-39).

Any denial of eternal security is, in its essence, a belief that we must maintain our own salvation by our own good works and efforts.

This is completely antithetical to salvation by grace. We are saved because of Christ’s merits, not our own (Romans 4:3-8). To claim that we must obey God’s Word or live a godly life to maintain our salvation is saying that Jesus’ death was not sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus’ death was absolutely sufficient to pay for all of our sins—past, present, and future, pre-salvation and post-salvation (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Does this mean that a Christian can live any way he wants to and still be saved?

This is essentially a hypothetical question, because the Bible makes it clear that a true Christian will not live “any way he wants to.” Christians are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christians demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), not the acts of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). First John 3:6-9 clearly states that a true Christian will not live in continual sin. In response to the accusation that grace promotes sin, the apostle Paul declared, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2).

Eternal security is not a license to sin.

Rather, it is the security of knowing that God’s love is guaranteed for those who trust in Christ. Knowing and understanding God’s tremendous gift of salvation accomplishes the opposite of giving a license to sin. How could anyone, knowing the price Jesus Christ paid for us, go on to live a life of sin (Romans 6:15-23)?

How could anyone who understands God’s unconditional and guaranteed love for those who believe, take that love and throw it back in God’s face? Such a person is demonstrating not that eternal security has given him a license to sin, but rather that he or she has not truly experienced salvation through Jesus Christ.

“No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him” (1 John 3:6).

SOURCE: Got Answers.org


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