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- Sola Fide: Faith Alone

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Luke 18

Matthew 5:20 & 48

Boasting vs Humility 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast

Eph. 2:8-9 is a core passage that plainly states what the rest of scripture supports. We are saved BY grace alone, THROUGH faith alone, IN Christ alone. This is one of the most important doctrines in all of scripture, if not the most important. This covers 3 of the 5 “solas.” And faith alone in Jesus is the chosen means by which we are saved from our sins. And this means is chosen so that no man may boast before God. Reading on to vs10 shows us that “we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works.” We will discuss down the page how works is implemented in sola fide.

Sola fide is so important to the gospel that the church and the individual stands or falls on this one doctrine. The difference between the true gospel and ALL false gospels, all false religions, all cults, is the doctrine of sola fide. Works salvation is the biggest enemy of the true gospel of Christ. And sola fide is the only gospel that opposes it. All false religions practice a works salvation. All “Christian” cults practice works salvation. And even within orthodox Christianity, works salvation creeps in.

Why Works Salvation Is Both Appealing And Dangerous

Works salvation is appealing because it appeals to human pride and control, which we all possess to some degree. 

Who Teaches Works Salvation?

False Religions: 

False Gospels/Movements:
-Hebrew Roots

False/Unorthodox Denominations:
-7th Day Adventist’s 
-Churches of God(Armstrongism)
-Mormonism(Latter Day Saints)
-Jehovah’s Witnesses

Sanctification By Faith Alone

Most who claim to be Christian, will affirm that we are justified by faith, so because of this you will rarely, if ever, find anyone openly teaching a works salvation. It’s trickier and sneakier than that. Where people get tripped up is with the concept of sanctification. Justification is defined as to be made innocent. Sanctification is defined as to be made holy and set apart. We are justified at the moment of faith. But what about sanctification? Is it a process, referred to as progressive sanctification? Is it instantaneous and 100% complete when we have faith just like justification, referred to as positional sanctification? Many will say it is both. But is progressive sanctification even a biblical concept where we grow in Christ likeness with good works?

It will be shown that at the very least, sanctification is almost entirely positional, instantaneous, and 100% complete by faith alone. There are only two or three passages that could be argued for progressive sanctification, but we will look at those and see if that is a necessary or justifiable interpretation. And why is this important? It is because works salvation, a false gospel, is taught through progressive sanctification. It is said that now that we are justified before God, we now must be sanctified through good works, thus sending us right back under bondage of the law. But let’s first look at all the passages that are clearly in favor of positional, instantaneous, and 100% complete sanctification by faith alone.

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Cor. 1:27-31 (Jesus is our sanctification. We are to boast in Jesus, not in ourselves by our works of righteousness. God does not want us to have pride in our works of righteousness so that we might boast in his presence. No, instead he brings these people to humility. If you are focused on works of righteousness for sanctification, you have set yourself up for a hard lesson and to be humbled by God.)

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Cor. 6:11 (This sanctification is positional, not progressive. It is final and 100% complete, not a continuous increase.)

And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Heb. 10:10
(We are ONCE FOR ALL sanctified through Christ. It is 100% complete through what he did, not what we do. This seems to exclude any possibility of any continual sanctification that increases throughout our lives. In fact, to believe in progressive sanctification seems to be a denial that Christ sanctified is once for all.)

How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? Heb. 10:29 (Again, santification is 100% in Christ.)

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Heb.13:12 (Another verse for positional sanctification in Christ by faith.)

For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers. Heb. 2:11 (Jesus sanctifies, and those who he sanctifies are sanctified, in other words 100% complete.)

Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: Jude 1:1 (Sanctified as in 100%, not in a partial or progressively improving sense.)

I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ Acts 26:18 (100% sanctification in Christ.)

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, Eph. 5:25-26 (It’s not saying for husbands to progressively sanctify their wives. It’s speaking about Christ who once and for all sanctifies those who believe in him. It occurs at as a one time event just like justification.)

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess. 5:23 (If you are “completely” sanctified then there is nowhere to progress to in terms of further holiness or sanctification.)

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,”he said, “why did you doubt?” Matt. 14:29-31 (Peter was walking on water just fine until he stopped focusing on Jesus and focused instead on the dangers all around him. Then he began to sink. Our faith should be focused in on Jesus and we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be distracted by anything else which will cause us to sink.)

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Heb. 12:1-2 (How do we perfect our faith, which is sanctification? By works of righteousness? No. It is by fixing our eyes on Jesus. It is only in him that we are perfected and sanctified.)

Progressive Sanctification?

Is it biblical? Only a few passages (potentially) suggest so and we will look at those below. But IF it is a biblical concept, it is not the primary way in which the Bible refers to sanctification. And it must be carefully understood so as not to fall back under the bondage of the law with works salvation. 

God works in us for inner transformation or renewal that leads to works. It’s backwards to say that works lead to the inner transformation. And that’s the distinction that makes God the one that sanctifies us, versus our involvement with our own efforts. And we do this by looking to Christ by faith, not in trusting in our own efforts. Love and relationship is the means and better motivator for transformation, rather than works and condemnation. So the question is: Is this inner transformation rightly called sanctification? Some believe so, but if sanctification is entirely positional, instantaneous, and 100% complete by faith alone, then it must be called something else. Call it what you want, but it is my position that sanctification is entirely positional, instantaneous, and 100% complete by faith alone. And IF there is a small secondary concept in scripture called progressive sanctification, it is entirely the work of God in us, and not a responsibility that we bear the burden of to accomplish by our own efforts. 

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Heb. 10:14 (Some use this verse to teach progressive sanctification, but it does not necessarily need to be understood this way. “Those who are being sanctified” can be referring to the ongoing conversion of Christians as the gospel continues to be spread and preached. It does not have to mean it’s referring to individuals who are actively increasing their holiness by their righteous works. Not only that but the first half of the verse requires the alternative understanding. Those in Christ can’t be progressively improving their holiness if they have already been “perfected for all time by a single offering.”)

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Cor. 3:18 (This verse appears to teach progressive sanctification. But notice some other translations such as the ESV that says: “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. Also take notice of the context being that of the new covenant glory being greater than the old covenant glory. It didn’t progressively surpass it, it was instantly greater.)

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit. Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 1 Thess. 4:1-9 (This certainly looks like progressive sanctification on the surface but not necessarily. It’s not necessary to understand this in terms of works sanctification for salvation, as we are saved by faith, not works. The context indicates not “wronging your brother or sister,” “concerning brotherly love,” and “loving one another.” We love our brothers and sisters by not sinning against them. Sexual immorality is a sin that involves another person that is sinned against. We are to live holy lives so as to not sin against our brothers and sisters, but instead love them. Yes of course this pleases God as it is obeying Christ’s command to love one another. But does it sanctify us? No we are already 100% sanctified in Christ. Check some other translations on verse 3. The ESV says: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” This can simply being saying that God is our sanctification just as all other scripture say. It is God’s will that we act a particular way so that we will love one another, not progressively become more holy and sanctified. We are already sanctified 100% by God in Christ.)

Faith Alone Vs The Book Of James

It will be shown that the book of James does NOT dispute sola fide, or faith alone. This was one of the primary texts of dispute among the reformers and their quest to proclaim the pure gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. James appears to plainly state that we are justified by works. How do we deal with these passages? First let’s understand that context is key and the law of non contradiction plays a role in how we choose to understand the context and interpretation. The last thing we want to do is proof text by pulling a verse from its context and using it as a plain word, literal hermeneutic. The truth is simple, but interpreting the Bible is not always simple. 

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (True faith naturally inspires good works. The key is that it is natural and requires no effort on our part. It’s just what happens, like I said “naturally.” It’s common knowledge that what we believe to be true, effects what we do, what decisions we make, and how we act. What we do has no effect on our faith. That would be backwards, and that nuanced difference is very important to this crucial topic.)

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (Don’t just wish someone well. That doesn’t accomplish anything.)

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (This is simply to say that true faith naturally produces good works, not that faith requires effort on our part to produce good works. And it’s not necessarily saying that persons faith is false, it could be, but it also could simply be rendered useless.)

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (Good works are simply evidence of your faith. And it’s backwards to think that we have to prove our faith, that is not the point of what James is saying. Nor is the point to try to judge and determine the validity of other people’s faith. The point is that good works WILL be evident along faith in Christ. Faith in Christ is how God produces good works in us without us being able to boast.)

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! (Faith in Christ is more than simply believing he exists and knowing of him, it is trusting in him and his finished work)

Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? (Not necessarily a false faith, but a faith that is useless and does not accomplish anything.)

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? (Checking other translations such as the NIV, it says Abraham was “considered righteous” by what he did. So he wasn’t justified once and for all before God, but considered righteous in that moment by what he did.)

You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; (Faith is completed by good works because that is the very design of God that our faith would accomplish, and better yet, it would accomplish that without our right to boast as if the works were our own.) 

and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. (Faith in Christ makes you righteous once and for all before God. But why? Because we receive Christ’s righteousness and we are then transformed inside unto good works.)

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (Here is the proof text verse. We are justified once and for all time by faith alone. This “justified,” also seen in other translations as “considered righteous,” is not talking about once and for all time justification before God. It’s talking about justification in a single moment. In other words, if we do a good work, it is that good work that made us justified in that moment.)

And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? (Rehab was also “considered righteous” because of what she did. But what she did, did not justify her once and for all time before God.)

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. James 2:14-26 (Dead as in useless, not necessarily as in it being a false faith, but could potentially be referring to that.)