Sola Fide? Knot #1

Faith Alone!

Sounds great doesn’t it?

But where is it in the scriptures?

Those who believe the New Covenant is a two way agreement are labeled as Semi-Pelagic or “works-based” heretics. Yet scripture supports that view most assuredly. Are we saved by our works? No. Does our faith depend on works? No. But, does faith have a cause and effect? Absolutely!

A covenant is, by nature, a two party contract. God did not make a covenant with Himself, but with Abraham. Abraham was promised many things, but those promises were based on both his past and future obedience to God. If faith alone saved us, why then would Paul pray for “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” in his letters to Timothy? Faith requires obedience and because our obedience is often less than perfect, we need grace and mercy for continued peace with God.

In fact we see the very reverse stated! James, in his epistle that Luther famously wished would have been excluded from the Canon, says “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. ” (James 2:24 ESV)

In fact, it became very clear to me that even in the great hall of faith in Hebrews 11, every single one of these heroes DID something out of faith. They did not just sit on their hands and believe. They believed God and acted on what He told them!

Please note what the author of Hebrews emphasizes:

Heb 11:1  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Heb 11:2  For by it the people of old received their commendation.

Heb 11:3  By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
Heb 11:4  By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.
Heb 11:5  By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.
Heb 11:6  And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Heb 11:7  By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
Heb 11:8  By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
Heb 11:9  By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.
Heb 11:10  For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
Heb 11:11  By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.
Heb 11:12  Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.
Heb 11:13  These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
Heb 11:14  For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.
Heb 11:15  If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.
Heb 11:16  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
Heb 11:17  By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,
Heb 11:18  of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”
Heb 11:19  He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
Heb 11:20  By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.
Heb 11:21  By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.
Heb 11:22  By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.
Heb 11:23  By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
Heb 11:24  By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
Heb 11:25  choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.
Heb 11:26  He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
Heb 11:27  By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.
Heb 11:28  By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.
Heb 11:29  By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.
Heb 11:30  By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.
Heb 11:31  By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
Heb 11:32  And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets–
Heb 11:33  who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
Heb 11:34  quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
Heb 11:35  Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.
Heb 11:36  Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.
Heb 11:37  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated–
Heb 11:38  of whom the world was not worthy–wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
Heb 11:39  And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,
Heb 11:40  since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

And what do we do with this?

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. (Romans 2:6-8 ESV)

And these scriptures?

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 ESV)

For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:27 ESV)

And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. (Luke 12:47-48 ESV)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
(2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV)

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, (1 Peter 1:17 ESV)

Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.
(2 Timothy 4:14 ESV)

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13 ESV)

Sorry folks, but we do not receive favor or grace from God through “faith alone”, but because we believe and act on that faith. Who would credit a man with having a lot of faith in his employees if he never allowed them to make any decisions on their own? If we are saved by faith alone, then what is the point of  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)

Love requires “all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” and “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:8-13 ESV)

Faith is the groundwork of our New Covenant with God. But, it must be built upon or it is not a true faith at all. “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
(Colossians 2:6-7 ESV)

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24 responses to this post.

  1. I disagree.

    When we receive an inheritance, it is not received after performing such and such an act. An inheritance is a gift, giving to that person by the owner of the property.

    Of course, we believers ACT and DO. But not in order to be saved…but rather as a result of being saved.

    You can pile up verse after verse and I have my own, not the least of is this one:
    Ephesians 2:8,9 “For by grace you have been saved by faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God- not because of works, lest any man should boast.”

    St. Paul tells us that faith is a gift. it is not something that we do, or conjur up on our own. God gives it to us.

  2. Steve,

    I agree that faith and grace and salvation are gifts we cannot earn. But, works are part and parcel of being obedient “slaves” to Christ. How is someone who simply believes and whose life is unchanged become a “slave” or become “crucified with” Christ?

    THAT is the issue here. One example of how harmful I believe this idea of “faith alone” is: It is taught, quite blatantly, in some pulpits that a person who is
    1 – in their right mind
    2 – old enough to know right from wrong
    3 – knows the basic tenets of Christianity
    can commit any kind of sin and still be considered “in Christ”.

    I was literally shocked to see that the infamous abortionist who was recently murdered (I abhor that act) was a Reformed Lutheran church member. I find it utterly incompatible with Christianity for a person to be a blatant murderer of defenseless babies and still be offered the hand of fellowship in ANY church that claims Christ Jesus as Lord.

  3. Posted by memnan on June 7, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    “Of course, we believers ACT and DO. But not in order to be saved…but rather as a result of being saved.”

    I agree with(TOA)

    Philippians 2:13 NLT

    13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

    Ephesians 2:10 NLT

    10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

    That said..It would be quite strange to find someone who is truly “saved” sitting on their hands doing nothing…but, that goes for humanity in general…We all have motivators…The motivator of the Christian is the Holy Spirit.

  4. Posted by memnan on June 7, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    As well as being quite strange to see a Christian sitting on their hands doing nothing…It is quite shocking to see a Christian engaged in “bad works” and I agree due to his professional choices, it was inadvisable for Tiller to have held the place he held in his church…However, how many church members hold a position of honor and hold secret despicable sins in their heart? While as the church we should not hastily place one in leadership roles especially when they are sinning publicly…where do we draw the line…When might the Gospel message be affective for one is in Tiller’s place? This decision…is God’s alone.

  5. Nothing shocks me when it comes to what people do, within the church, or outside of it.(any church denomination)

    Is God now judging our sins on a sliding scale?

    The last time I checked, St. Paul told us that if we have broken one Commandment, we have broken them all.

    St. Paul (in Christ) said that what he should be doing, he isn’t, and what he shouldn’t be doing…he is.

    When you take sin seriously (really seriously), you realize that it is our condition and not something that we step into and out of like so much horse manure.

  6. If not for grace we would ALL be condemned, that we agree on. At the same time Christians are not asked to accomodate known sin. Certainly there are secret sins we are unaware of, but when a sin becomes known to brethren they are instructed to admonish, rebuke and expose evil.

    Back to my point, however: we are saved by grace, through faith, both of which are gifts of God. But, we can also choose not to believe, thus not employ the faith God has given to every person (Rom,ans 12:3) and not be saved. Otherwise why would Jesus be hindered by, and amazed at, the unbelief He encountered?

  7. Not accomodate known sin?

    We all do it.

    I do not know of any Christian that lives on a thin margin of income and gives the rest to the poor.

    I know of no Christians that love God and their neighbor as themselves.

    Do you know any Christians that eat too much? That engage in gossip? That do not spend their spare time in the nursing homes visiting the sick or to the prisons to visit the poor?

    Like I said before, some people do not take sin seriously enough.

    That was what Jesus did at the Sermon on the Mount (took sin seriously). That is why he said that we “must be perfect as our father in Heaven is perfect.

    It’s alweays the other guys sin that is serious…never our own.

  8. Well, you are hitting all the right buttons, but it is a shame that we assume no one can come close to at least a semblance of righteous living.

    Where is the power to live in a way that makes us salt and light? Jesus said, if salt becomes un-salty it’s good for nothing. We DO have to draw the line somewhere. I believe in church discipline, but you are also correct that some sins are considered more acceptable than others. I don’t know the answers to all this, which is why it’s a knot.

    We are told if we see a brother taken in a sin, we are to retore such a person taking heed that we be not tempted also. Why bother if we all are losers and all sins are as bad as others? I mean, what exactly do you think the standard is? Or do we throw up our hands and just forget the admonition “Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”?

    I was raised in a perfectionist-holiness environment, and it is by reading the Bible for myself and asking God to show me the simplicity of His grace, that I no longer believe it is possible for anyone to live perfectly or sinlessly. Yet we are told to pursue holiness. If we follow the rule of “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” then there are no standards and there is nothing to aspire to.

  9. “Yet we are told to pursue holiness. If we follow the rule of “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” then there are no standards and there is nothing to aspire to.”

    I agree. We certainly ought do our best.

    However, we ought not worry (for righteousness sake) about the worst that we do.

    We ought, instead, worry about our ‘best’. For it is not good enough either.

    St. Paul reminds us that “we are BEING saved.”

    Repentance and forgiveness. Death and resurrection.

    That is the shape of the life of the believer.

    We preach the full council of God. The Law…and the Gospel.

    We preach the law in such a way that after we are done preaching, there is no one left standing but Jesus.

    But then that gospel Word brings new life and the cycle repeats…over and over…all through life…until tyhat last day when we are let into the grave, to be raised with Him for the last time.

    Thanks, PK!

    God bless you, my friend!

    – Steve

  10. Posted by memnan on June 9, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    “We preach the law in such a way that after we are done preaching, there is no one left standing but Jesus.”

    I like that! He picks us up…After washing us clean…Then we start all over again…How often? Every time we turn in repentance!

  11. Posted by indywatchman on June 11, 2009 at 5:01 am

    Prodigal,

    You are asking all the right questions. The problem exist in the mass popularity of religious organizations to collect the souls of men behind brick and mortar and pin a sign on them called “Christian.” It is very apparent to any casual observer that the Christian life exhibited in the “early Church” is not sustainable in the religious atmosphere of a manmade church, nor can it be. The Church is alive today, and the Elect and Called out Ones are part of that Body (and a few of them exist inside the organizational church).

    All through Scripture the people of God are portrayed as a family having intimate relationships with one another, speaking into each others life, admonishing, rebuking, encouraging, on a daily basis, from house to house with tears, a hundred mothers, brothers, and sisters, singing, sharing, eating many meals together every week, so that none would be deceived by sin, offering up each other perfect to the Lord. Pardon me for bringing to light the obvious, but where do we see this in the organizational church? Most say this life is not possible, a few have proved otherwise.

    We have accepted too much leaven into our meetings, and what we call the “Church” is not the Church, nor is it a family, it is simply an organization created and run by men, and it is OBVIOUS, if we will see it. Time is short. God is preparing a bride for His Son, a bride who is an equal yoke, pure, holy, and separated from the world and flesh.

    We cannot allow ourselves the liberty to brush aside all the commands of holiness because we cannot prove scientifically that it is possible.

    John 7:17 “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” Is that faith or is it works? God knows.

  12. “I thank you, Lord, that I am not like other men.”

  13. Posted by indywatchman on June 11, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    theoldadam,

    On the contrary, men are all alike, sinners, who have learned to justify all there disgusting deeds, but let the record speak for its self, it is true. The humility, of the one who dares not lift his eyes to Heaven, is the revelation of who and what he is, and will remain, given adequate justification by our dear “brothers.” Also, that humiliation is the realization that the one who has been broken, through this revelation, must throw himself on Christ in strict obedience to every word of our Lord, and not seek refuge behind some religious or denominational pride, and He will save us.

    There are arguments on every side of an issue. Your Scripture reference is one of several Scriptures that are used to justify all kinds of disobedience and illicit acts of the Organized church. Another that comes readily to mind is “you are in the world but not of it.” Most carnal Christians see no way out of their dilemma to obey Jesus so they pretend they are being obedient to Christ when they are actually subsidizing sin with their Scripture quotes.

    All of this may sound like legalism to uncircumcised ears, but it is sweet sound of salvation to others.

  14. Posted by indywatchman on June 11, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    If it’s not like family — even better than biological family, it’s not what Jesus had in Mind for HIS Church!

    ***Did you know that EVERY SINGLE PERSON
    currently on “Death Row” in the Florida Penitentiary System….
    has spent part of their lives in “foster care” because of a broken family?***

    Is it ANY wonder that GOD insists that CHURCH is SUPPOSED to be intimate FAMILY, not something to attend?!

    Why accept “foster care” as normal, when God’s intent is the resurrection overcoming LIFE, Together?!

    Do consider, embrace, and DON’T LET GO of HIS heart and Plan! Let no man steal your heart and dream of His declared Purposes! And don’t ever waylay yourself by fear, or for the love of the smells, sights, and sounds of Egypt, okay?

    It’s all for HIM!

    Mark 3:31-35

    Then Jesus’ mother and his brothers came. Standing outside, they sent word to him, to summon him. A crowd was sitting around him and they said to him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are outside looking for you.” He answered them and said, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who were sitting around Him in a circle, He said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.”

    Mark 10:28-31

    Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.”

    So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.”

    Matthew 19:27-29

    Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”

    So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.

    Luke 18:28-30

    Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed You.”

    So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

  15. indywatchman,

    Then I guess you are doing alright in the obedience department, huh?

  16. Posted by indywatchman on June 11, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    theoldadam,

    It is a continual process, but I am getting lots of help.

  17. It’s a process for all of us.

    But by the way you were talking, I thought you had this sin thing licked.

  18. Posted by indywatchman on June 11, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    theoldman,

    Prodigal’s statement that we are not to accommodate known sin is legitimate, but simply cannot be realized within the commercial church because everyone leads their secret lives and it is only on those rare occasions that sin is discovered. And, his other statement that “it is a shame that we assume no one can come close to at least a semblance of righteous living” is telling also. Why is it that no one can come close to the life that Jesus commanded we live? It is because of the disconnectedness of the Body! How can we help others when #1 we are not sure who is even a Christian within the congregation, and #2 even the true Christians lead secret lives apart from the Body. The Christian life is not sustainable under these circumstances. The symbol of the “family” was used for a reason, because families are interconnected and intertwined, and nothing happens without others being interested and caring. To the world this looks like nosiness, but within the living organism of the Body it is strength, life, and communion, with Jesus Himself at the Head. Sounds far fetched, but this is the life of the Church we see in the New Testament, not religious buildings filled with unrepentant sinners.

    The answer to Prodigal’s inquiry is that we are not to allow fellowship with unrepentant sinners in our midst, and by so doing we present each other righteous and pure to our coming Lord.

    It really is that simple, and it really is scriptural, and it really is sustainable, with His help.

  19. That is why many of us consider ourselves “dead to sin”.

    Sure, we continue to sin, and we are NOT judged on a sliding scale (as St. Paul tells us – “if you’ve broken one then you’ve broken them all)

    We do not focus on sins (that leads to self-righteousness and Phariseeism), but rather we focus on sin (our condition).

    This attitude keeps us grounded, repentant, real.

    Thanks!

  20. Thanks everyone, for your comments.

    I’ve been quite out of realm of good health lately, and not been on the ball blog-wise. I believe I am on the road to recovery and pray that I am not suffering illness due to a presumptuous sin.

    The reason I say that is to reply to the Old Adam Steve’s idea of a “sliding scale” of sin. I DO believe God considers some sins more heinous than others. Ananias and Sapphira are an example of that judgment. Ditto with the “Jezebel” of Revelation whom Christ said He had given space to repent, but she would not, and He was therefore striking her down with sickness.

    I appreciate Indy Steve’s comment “we are not to allow fellowship with unrepentant sinners in our midst, and by so doing we present each other righteous and pure to our coming Lord.” That is expressly scriptural! There are sins to death and sins not to death, according to John. One type we are to pray for, the other not.

    I also agree with Indy Steve about the popular churches today not doing a very good job of holding people accountable. If there is no regular communion (actually spending time with and supporting each other outside of Sunday), then the accountability evel drops sharply. We only see what people present on Sunday. We are expected to fellowship more often and more intentionally than just one day a week, for a few hours, at best.

    As for Tiller, I am not his judge, and I am also a sinner saved by grace. I can say this though: I do my very best to keep a clear conscience before God. I cannot fathom how that would be even possible when one’s day to day activity included intentioanl acts against any good conscience.

  21. I also recommend the following sermon series on Hebrews by Dr.Russell Moore:
    http://www.russellmoore.com/preaching/hebrews

    Just excellent expostional preaching!

  22. ProdigalKnot,

    I hope and pray that you are feeling better soon!

    God’s Peace to you.

    – Steve

  23. Thank you Steve! I am grateful to be feeling a bit better. A full night’s sleep would do me good, though. I am very blessed, so I won’t grumble.

    Grace and peace to all who love Him.
    PK

  24. Posted by bondservant3 on June 20, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    I disagree that good works earn us salvation, we are saved by grace not works.

    God will reward each of us in heaven for our works. I absolutely don’t believe we can stand before God and tell Him that we are worthy and deserve to go to heaven because we did good works. Faith with works show evidence that we are saved.

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