Throughout the month of October, we will be taking a look at the solas of the Reformation on the HT website: faith alone, grace alone, scripture alone and Christ alone.
“For we hold that man is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” – Romans 3:28
We are justified before God by faith alone. Not by works or because we’re worthy of it. Not because we buy a piece of paper to get us out of time spent working ourselves into being worthy. In Christ, we are freely justified by faith.
Now, “by faith” doesn’t mean that we’re justified if we just believe hard enough. We aren’t justified because our faith has really grown and we are now have a mature faith. Your faith isn’t any different than mine and mine isn’t any different than yours, at least if we’re talking about the one true faith.
Why not? Because your faith isn’t your own at all! It’s Christ’s faith, given freely to you. Christ’s faith clings to the waters of your baptism. You are renewed in the one true faith as you hear the word and receive Christ’s body and blood under the bread and the wine.
Faith receives those gifts given in word and sacrament. That faith that has been given catches all those benefits given for you – the forgiveness of sins, rescue from death and the devil, and eternal life.
Faith says “Amen!” “Yes, it is so!” “Gift received!” Pastor begins the service with, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” You say “amen.” Faith has received the name of God that was placed on you in baptism. A little later pastor says, “I forgive you all your sins…” Faith says “amen!” that forgiveness is received. “The body of Christ given for you.” “The blood of Christ shed for you” “Amen! Amen! These are given for me and received by me.”
Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone
And rests in Him unceasing;
And by its fruits true faith is known,
With love and hope increasing.
For faith alone can justify;
Works server our neighbor and supply
the proof that faith is living.
Paul says in his letter to the Romans that we are justified by faith apart from works of the Law. That’s sola fide — faith alone. We aren’t justified by faith and works or only works. We are justified by faith alone. We are not justified by faith plus something else, but only by Christ’s faith given to us.
So, where do works come in? James says that faith without works is dead. Even stanza nine of Salvation unto Us has Come talks about works. They serve our neighbor and supply the proof that faith is living. The answer is that faith means “in Jesus,” so all of our works are good works in Christ. In Christ, all of our works show that our faith is alive and well.
We confess in the Athanasian Creed that when Christ comes again all people will rise with their bodies and give an account according to their deeds. Those who have done good will enter eternal live and those who have done evil will enter eternal fire. You have nothing to worry about when you confess that. You are in Christ. Christ’s faith has been given to you in your baptism. Your works are good works because they are Christ’s works. Good works accompany Christ’s faith and that faith has been given to you.
Faith alone means that we just receive things that are given. God gives forgiveness of sins, he gives us rescue from death and the devil, he gives us eternal life, His Name, and the body and blood of Christ under the bread and wine. God gives, we receive. We don’t ask, take, decide, choose, live, do or accomplish anything. God gives and we receive in faith. By his death on the cross Christ paid for our sins. God counts this faith for us as righteousness in His sight. Faith alone means it’s Christ’s gifts alone. That means the promise is on the Lord’s end and it cannot be broken.