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|Five solae of the|
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Sola fide (Latin: by faith alone), also known as justification by faith alone, is a Christian theological doctrine commonly held to distinguish many Protestant churches from the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.
The doctrine of sola fide asserts God's pardon for guilty sinners is granted to and received through faith alone, excluding all "works" (good deeds). All mankind, it is asserted, is fallen and sinful, under the curse of God, and incapable of saving itself from God's wrath and curse. But God, on the basis of the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ alone (solus Christus), grants sinners judicial pardon, or justification, which is received solely through faith. Christ's righteousness, according to the followers of sola fide, is imputed (or attributed) by God to the believing sinner (as opposed to infused or imparted), so that the divine verdict and pardon of the believing sinner is based not upon anything in the sinner, but upon Jesus Christ and his righteousness alone, which are received through faith alone. Justification by faith alone is distinguished from the other graces of salvation. See the ordo salutis for more detail on the doctrine of salvation considered more broadly than justification by faith alone.
Lutheran and Reformed churches have held to sola fide justification in opposition to Roman Catholicism especially, but also in opposition to significant aspects of Eastern Orthodoxy. These Protestant churches exclude all human works (except the works of Jesus Christ, which form the basis of justification) from the legal verdict (or pardon) of justification. According to Martin Luther, justification by faith alone is the article on which the Church stands or falls. Thus, "faith alone" is foundational to Lutheranism and Reformed Christianity, and as a formula distinguishes it from other Christian denominations.
However, theological discussion in the centuries since the Reformation and Counter-Reformation has suggested that the differences are in emphasis and concepts rather than doctrine, since the Roman Catholics or Orthodox do not in fact hold that works are a basis of justification or a means of salvation, and most Protestants do in fact accept the need for repentance and the primacy of grace. See § Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church and § Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission below. Further, many Protestant churches actually hold more nuanced positions such as sola gratia, sola fide or justification by faith (i.e., without the alone). According to a 2017 survey conducted in Western Europe by the Pew Research Center, "fewer people say that faith alone (in Latin, sola fide) leads to salvation, the position that Martin Luther made a central rallying cry of 16th-century Protestant reformers." Protestants in every country surveyed except Norway are more likely to say that both good deeds and faith in God are necessary for salvation.
Some scholars of Early Christianity are adherents of the New Perspective on Paul and so believe sola fide is a misinterpretation on the part of Lutherans and that Paul was actually speaking about laws (such as Circumcision, Dietary laws, Sabbath, Temple rituals, etc.) that were considered essential for the Jews of the time.
In the General Council of Trent, the Catholic Church cautioned against an extreme version of sola fide in canon XIV on self-righteousness and justification without repentance, declaring: "If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema." However, since the first of Luther's 95 Theses was a call to repentance, opposing this canon to actual Lutheran theology is problematic.
Christian theologies answer questions about the nature, function, and meaning of justification quite differently. These issues include: Is justification an event occurring instantaneously or is it an ongoing process? Is justification effected by divine action alone (monergism), by divine and human action together (synergism), or by human action (erroneously called Pelagianism)? Is justification permanent or can it be lost? What is the relationship of justification to sanctification, the process whereby sinners become righteous and are enabled by the Holy Spirit to live lives pleasing to God?
- 1 In Lutheranism
- 2 Origin of the term
- 3 Faith and works
- 4 Sola fide and the Early Church Fathers
- 5 Catholic view
- 6 Methodist view
- 7 Excerpts from confessions and creeds which support sola fide
- 8 Additional ecumenical statements
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
From 1510 to 1520, Luther lectured on the Psalms and the books of Hebrews, Romans, and Galatians. As he studied these portions of the Bible, he came to view the use of terms such as penance and righteousness by the Roman Catholic Church in new ways. (See Romans 4:1-5, Galatians 3:1-7, and Genesis 15:6.) He became convinced that the church was corrupt in its ways and had lost sight of what he saw as several of the central truths of Christianity, the most important of which, for Luther, was the doctrine of justification—God's act of declaring a sinner righteous—by faith alone through God's grace. He began to teach that salvation or redemption is a gift of God's grace, attainable only through faith in Jesus.
"This one and firm rock, which we call the doctrine of justification," insisted Martin Luther, "is the chief article of the whole Christian doctrine, which comprehends the understanding of all godliness." He also called this doctrine the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae ("article of the standing and falling church"): "…if this article stands, the Church stands; if it falls, the Church falls." For Lutherans this doctrine is the material principle of theology in relation to the Bible, which is the formal principle. They believe justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ's righteousness alone is the gospel, the core of the Christian faith around which all other Christian doctrines are centered and based.
Luther came to understand justification as entirely the work of God. When God's righteousness is mentioned in the gospel, it is God's action of declaring righteous the unrighteous sinner who has faith in Jesus Christ. The righteousness by which the person is justified (declared righteous) is not his own (theologically, proper righteousness) but that of another, Christ (alien righteousness). "That is why faith alone makes someone just and fulfills the law," said Luther. "Faith is that which brings the Holy Spirit through the merits of Christ." Thus faith, for Luther, is a gift from God, and "...a living, bold trust in God's grace, so certain of God's favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it." This faith grasps Christ's righteousness and appropriates it for the believer. He explained his concept of "justification" in the Smalcald Articles:
The first and chief article is this: Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins and was raised again for our justification (Romans 3:24-25). He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), and God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). All have sinned and are justified freely, without their own works and merits, by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood (Romans 3:23-25). This is necessary to believe. This cannot be otherwise acquired or grasped by any work, law or merit. Therefore, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us ... Nothing of this article can be yielded or surrendered, even though heaven and earth and everything else falls (Mark 13:31).
Traditionally, Lutherans have taught forensic (or legal) justification, a divine verdict of acquittal pronounced on the believing sinner. God declares the sinner to be "not guilty" because Christ has taken his place, living a perfect life according to God's law and suffering for his sins. For Lutherans, justification is in no way dependent upon the thoughts, words, and deeds of those justified through faith alone in Christ. The new obedience that the justified sinner renders to God through sanctification follows justification as a consequence, but is not part of justification.
Lutherans believe that individuals receive this gift of salvation through faith alone. Saving faith is the knowledge of, acceptance of, and trust in the promise of the Gospel. Even faith itself is seen as a gift of God, created in the hearts of Christians by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word and Baptism. Faith is seen as an instrument that receives the gift of salvation, not something that causes salvation. Thus, Lutherans reject the "decision theology" which is common among modern evangelicals.
For Lutherans, justification provides the power by which Christians can grow in holiness. Such improvement comes about in the believer only after he has become a new creation in Christ through Holy Baptism. This improvement is not completed in this life: Christians are always "saint and sinner at the same time" (simul iustus et peccator)—saints because they are holy in God's eyes, for Christ's sake, and do works that please him; sinners because they continue to sin until death.
Origin of the term
Martin Luther elevated sola fide to the principal cause of the Protestant Reformation, the rallying cry of the Lutheran cause, and the chief distinction of the Lutheran and Reformed branches of Christianity from Roman Catholicism. John Calvin, also a proponent of this doctrine, taught that "every one who would obtain the righteousness of Christ must renounce his own." According to Calvin, it is only because the sinner is able to obtain the good standing of the Son of God, through faith in him, and union with him, that sinners have any hope of pardon from, acceptance by, and peace with God.
Historically, the expression—"justification by faith alone"— has appeared in a number of Catholic bible translations: the Nuremberg Bible (1483) in Galatians 2;16 ("δικαιοῦται ἄνθρωπος ... διὰ πίστεως Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ") has "nur durch den glauben", and the Italian translations of 1476, 1538 and 1546 have "ma solo per la fede" or "per la sola fede".
The official Italian Bible of the Catholic Church, La Sacra Bibbia della Conferenza Episcopale Italiana (2008), in Galatians 2:16, reads in part: "but only through faith in Jesus Christ" (ma soltanto per mezzo della fede).
The "faith alone" expression also appears in at least nine English Bible translations:
- Amplified Bible (AMP)
- Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
- God's Word Translation (GW)
- Good News Translation (GNT)
- Living Bible (TLB)
- The Message (MSG)
- Names of God Bible (NOG)
- The Voice (VOICE)
- Weymouth New Testament (WNY)
Luther added the word allein ("alone" in German) to Romans 3:28 controversially so that it read: "So now we hold, that man is justified without the help of the works of the law, alone through faith". The word "alone" does not appear in the Greek texts and Luther acknowledged this fact, but he defended his translation by maintaining that the adverb "alone" was required by idiomatic German:
I knew very well that the word solum ["alone" in Latin] is not in the Greek or Latin text (…) It is a fact that these four letters S O L A are not there (…) At the same time (…) it belongs there if the translation is to be clear and vigorous. I wanted to speak German, not Latin or Greek, since it was German I had undertaken to speak in the translation. But it is the nature of our German language that in speaking of two things, one of which is affirmed and the other denied, we use the word solum (allein) along with the word nicht [not] or kein [no]. For example, we say, ‘The farmer brings allein [only] grain and kein [no] money.
Luther further stated that sola was used in theological traditions before him and this adverb makes Paul's intended meaning clearer:
I am not the only one, nor the first, to say that faith alone makes one righteous. There was Ambrose, Augustine and many others who said it before me. And if a man is going to read and understand St. Paul, he will have to say the same thing, and he can say nothing else. Paul's words are too strong — they allow no works, none at all! Now if it is not works, it must be faith alone.
Faith and works
Paul was not antinomian. While salvation cannot be achieved through works (Titus 3:5), faith being a unity with Christ in the Spirit naturally issues in love (Galatian 5:6). This was Martin Luther's emphasis likewise.
In relation to Sola Fide, the place of works is found in the second chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians: Justification is by grace through faith, "not from yourselves" and "not by works". In other words, it is by faith alone since all human efforts are excluded here. (Eph. 2:8-9) Ephesians goes on to say that every person who has faith is to produce good works, according to God's plan (Eph. 2:10). These works, however, are not a cause of forgiveness but a result of forgiveness. Faith alone justifies but faith is never alone. It is followed by works. In short, works of love are the goal of the saving faith. (1 Tim 1:5)
According to the Defense of the Augsburg Confession of Philipp Melanchthon, the Epistle of James clearly teaches that the recipients of the letter have been justified by God through the saving Gospel (James 1:18):
Thirdly, James has spoken shortly before concerning regeneration, namely, that it occurs through the Gospel. For thus he says James 1:18: Of His own will begat He us with the Word of Truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures. When he says that we have been born again by the Gospel, he teaches that we have been born again and justified by faith. For the promise concerning Christ is apprehended only by faith, when we set it against the terrors of sin and of death. James does not, therefore, think that we are born again by our works.
In answer to a question on James 2:24 ("you see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone") the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod has written, "In James 2, the author was dealing with errorists who said that if they had faith they didn't need to show their love by a life of faith (2:14-17). James countered this error by teaching that true, saving faith is alive, showing itself to be so by deeds of love (James 2:18,26). The author of James taught that justification is by faith alone and also that faith is never alone but shows itself to be alive by good deeds that express a believer's thanks to God for the free gift of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ."
According to the Defense of the Augsburg Confession again,
James, therefore, did not believe that by good works we merit the remission of sins and grace. For he speaks of the works of those who have been justified, who have already been reconciled and accepted, and have obtained remission of sins.
In Article XX Of Good Works, the Augsburg Confession states that:
[I]t is taught on our part that it is necessary to do good works, not that we should trust to merit grace by them, but because it is the will of God. It is only by faith that forgiveness of sins is apprehended
In his Introduction to Romans, Luther stated that saving faith is,
a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever...Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire!
“Faith alone justifies but a justified person with faith alone would be a monstrosity which never exists in the kingdom of grace. Faith works itself out through love (Gal. 5:6). And Faith without works is dead (James 2:17-20).”
“It is living faith that justifies and living faith unites to Christ both in the virtue of his death and in the power of his resurrection. No one has entrusted himself to Christ for deliverance from the guilt of sin who has not also entrusted himself to him for deliverance from the power of sin.”
Contemporary evangelical theologian R. C. Sproul writes,
The relationship of faith and good works is one that may be distinguished but never separated...if good works do not follow from our profession of faith, it is a clear indication that we do not possess justifying faith. The Reformed formula is, “We are justified by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone.”
Michael Horton concurs by saying,
This debate, therefore, is not over the question of whether God renews us and initiates a process of gradual growth in holiness throughout the course of our lives. ‘We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone,’ Luther stated, and this recurring affirmation of the new birth and sanctification as necessarily linked to justification leads one to wonder how the caricatures continue to be perpetuated without foundation.
The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), signed by both the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church on 31 October 1999 declares:
We confess together that good works – a Christian life lived in faith, hope and love – follow justification and are its fruits. When the justified live in Christ and act in the grace they receive, they bring forth, in biblical terms, good fruit. Since Christians struggle against sin their entire lives, this consequence of justification is also for them an obligation they must fulfill. Thus both Jesus and the apostolic Scriptures admonish Christians to bring forth the works of love.
Works of the Law
Many Catholics see the exclusion of "works of the law" as only referring to works done for salvation under the Mosaic law, versus works of faith which are held as meritorious for salvation.
Adherents of sola fide respond that Jesus was not instituting keeping a higher moral code as means of salvation, and tend to see the exclusion of "works of the law" (as the means of obtaining justification) as referring to any works of the Mosaic law, and by implication, any "works of righteousness which we have done" (Titus 3:5) or any system in which one earns eternal life on the basis of the merit of works.
However, most understand that the "righteousness of the law" is to be fulfilled by those who are justified by faith (Romans 8:4). The Mosaic law and the principles of the Gospel (such as the Sermon on the Mount and the Last Judgment of Matthew 25) are seen as being in correspondence, with the latter fulfilling, clarifying, and expanding on the former, centering on God's love for us, and love to others. Thus a Lutheran or Reformed believer can claim that "the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good," (Romans 7:12) harmonizing the two principles of the same Bible.
Epistle of James and Pauline Epistles
Chapter 2 of the Epistle of James, verses 14-26, discusses faith and works, starting with verse 14, "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?" In verse 20 it says that faith without works is dead.
The Defense of the Augsburg Confession rejects the idea that the Epistle of James contradicts the Lutheran teaching on Justification.
He who has faith and good works is righteous, not indeed, on account of the works, but for Christ's sake, through faith. And as a good tree should bring forth good fruit, and yet the fruit does not make the tree good, so good works must follow the new birth, although they do not make man accepted before God; but as the tree must first be good, so also must man be first accepted before God by faith for Christ's sake. The works are too insignificant to render God gracious to us for their sake, if He were not gracious to us for Christ's sake. Therefore James does not contradict St. Paul, and does not say that by our works we merit, etc.
Confessional Lutheran theologians summarize James 2: "we are justified/declared righteous by people when they see the good works we do as a result of our faith and they conclude that our faith is sincere."
In answer to another question on James 2:24 as well as Romans 3:23-24, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod replied:
Paul is writing to people who said that faith in Jesus alone does not save a person, but one has to also obey God's law in order to be justified (Gal 3:3, 5:4). To counter the false idea that what we do in keeping the law must be added to faith in what Christ did for us. Paul often emphasizes in his letters (esp. Galatians, Romans, Colossians) that we are saved by grace through faith alone. James is writing to people who felt that believing in Jesus saved a person, but that having faith did not mean that a person necessarily would keep God's commandments out of love for God (James 2:14, 17). To show that faith is not really faith unless it leads a person to thank God for salvation in a life of glad and willing obedience to God's holy will. James emphasized that a faith which did not show that it was living faith was really not faith at all.
A Lutheran exegesis further points out that James is simply reaffirming Jesus' teaching in Matthew 7:16, and that in the tenth verse of the same chapter ("For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it"), James too denies works as a means to obtain forgiveness:
James here (verse 10) also shoots down the false doctrine of work-righteousness. The only way to be free of sin is to keep the law perfectly and in its entirety. If we offend it in the slightest, tiniest little way, we are guilty of all. Thank God that He sent Jesus to fulfill the Law in its entirety for us
The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), signed by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church, says that "sinners are justified by faith in the saving action of God in Christ. ... Such a faith is active in love and thus the Christian cannot and should not remain without works." And later, "Good works - a Christian life lived in faith, hope and love - follow justification and are its fruits. When the justified live in Christ and act in the grace they receive, they bring forth, in biblical terms, good fruit. Since Christians struggle against sin their entire lives, this consequence of justification is also for them an obligation they must fulfill. Thus both Jesus and the apostolic Scriptures admonish Christians to bring forth the works of love."
The Joint Declaration never mentions the expression Sola Fide and the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly teaches that salvation is obtained by a combination of both faith and good works, which are considered to be a human response to God's grace.
Lutheran and Reformed Protestants, as well as others, base the sola fide on the fact that the New Testament contains almost two hundred statements that appear to imply that faith or belief is sufficient for salvation, for example: "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." (John 11:25) and especially Paul's words in Romans, "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (Romans 3:28) "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." (Romans 4:4-5)
The precise relationship between faith and good works remains an area of controversy in some Protestant traditions (see also Law and Gospel). Even at the outset of the Reformation, subtle differences of emphasis appeared. For example, because the Epistle of James emphasizes the importance of good works, Martin Luther sometimes referred to it as the "epistle of straw". Calvin on the other hand, while not intending to differ with Luther, wrote of the necessity of good works as a consequence or 'fruit' of faith. The Anabaptists tended to make a nominal distinction between faith and obedience.
Recent meetings of scholars and clergy have attempted to soften the antithesis between Protestant and Catholic conceptions of the role of faith in salvation, which, if they were successful, would have far reaching implications for the relationship between most Protestant churches and the Catholic Church. These attempts to form a consensus are accepted among many Protestants and Catholics, but among others, sola fide continues to divide the Reformation churches, including many Lutherans, Reformed, and others, from other denominations. Some statements of the doctrine are interpreted as a denial of the doctrine as understood by other groups. There is a semantic component to this debate as well, which has gained new attention in the past century. Both Latin and English have two words to describe convictions: one is more intellectual (English belief, Latin verb credo) and one carries implications of "faithfulness" (English faith, Latin fides). But Greek and German have only one (German Glaube, Greek pistis). Some historians have suggested that this semantic issue caused some of the disagreement: Perhaps Luther's supporters may have understood "salvation by faith alone" to mean "salvation by being faithful to Christ," while his opponents understood him to mean "salvation by intellectual belief in Christ." Since there are passages in Luther's works that could be taken to support either of these meanings, both sides were able to quote passages from Luther defending their interpretation of what he meant.
|Roman Catholic||Process||Synergism||Can be lost via mortal sin||Part of the same process|
|Lutheran||Event||Divine monergism||Can be lost via loss of faith||Justification is separate from and occurs prior to sanctification|
|Methodist||Event||Synergism||Can be lost||Dependent upon continued sanctification|
|Orthodox||Process||Synergism||Can be lost through sin||Part of the same process of theosis|
|Reformed||Event||Divine monergism||Cannot be lost||Both are a result of union with Christ|
Sola fide and the Early Church Fathers
Both Protestant and Catholic theologians admit that faith alone was also taught by some Church Fathers. James Buchanan (1804-1870), a Scottish minister, reckoned that there were at least 28 Church Fathers who taught justification through faith alone. According to Buchanan, at least until the 12th century there was always at least one theologian teaching the doctrine in a systematic way:
Here are some quotes from various Christian writers through the ages, on both sides:
- Clement of Rome (c. 30–100)
- “And we [Christians], too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
- "Let us cleave, then, to those to whom grace has been given by God. Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words... Let our praise be in God, and not of ourselves; for God hates those that commend themselves. Let testimony to our good deeds be borne by others, as it was in the case of our righteous forefathers."
- "The good servant receives the bread of his labour with confidence; the lazy and slothful cannot look his employer in the face. It is requisite, therefore, that we be prompt in the practice of well-doing; for of Him are all things. And thus He forewarns us: Behold, the Lord [comes], and His reward is before His face, to render to every man according to his work. He exhorts us, therefore, with our whole heart to attend to this, that we be not lazy or slothful in any good work. Let our boasting and our confidence be in Him." 
- Justin Martyr (d. 165)
- in his Dialogue with Trypho: “No longer by the blood of goats and of sheep, or by the ashes of a heifer . . . are sins purged, but by faith, through the blood of Christ and his death, who died on this very account.”
- Marius Victorinus (290-364)
- “For faith itself alone gives justification and sanctification.”
- Didymus the Blind (c. 313–398)
- “...a person is saved by grace, not by works but by faith. There should be no doubt but that faith saves and then lives by doing its own works, so that the works which are added to salvation by faith are not those of the law but a different kind of thing altogether.”
- Hilary of Poitiers (c 315–367) in the ninth canon upon Matthew
- “Faith only justifieth (Fides enim sola justificat).”
- Hilary of Poitiers (c 315–367) on Matthew 20:7
- “Wages cannot be considered as a gift, because they are due to work, but God has given free grace to all men by the justification of faith.”
- Basil of Caesarea (329–379)
- “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord, that Christ has been made by God for us righteousness, wisdom, justification, redemption. This is perfect and pure boasting in God, when one is not proud on account of his own righteousness but knows that he is indeed unworthy of the true righteousness and is (or has been) justified solely by faith in Christ.”
- Gregory of Nazianzus (329–390)
- Then, in the tenth place, work that which is good upon this foundation of dogma; for faith without works is dead, even as are works apart from faith. This is all that may be divulged of the Sacrament, and that is not forbidden to the ear of the many. The rest you shall learn within the Church by the grace of the Holy Trinity; and those matters you shall conceal within yourself, sealed and secure. But one thing more I preach unto you. The Station in which you shall presently stand after your Baptism before the Great Sanctuary is a foretype of the future glory. The Psalmody with which you will be received is a prelude to the Psalmody of Heaven; the lamps which you will kindle are a Sacrament of the illumination there with which we shall meet the Bridegroom, shining and virgin souls, with the lamps of our faith shining, not sleeping through our carelessness, that we may not miss Him that we look for if He come unexpectedly; nor yet unfed, and without oil, and destitute of good works, that we be not cast out of the Bridechamber. For I see how pitiable is such a case. He will come when the cry demands the meeting, and they who are prudent shall meet Him, with their light shining and its food abundant, but the others seeking for oil too late from those who possess it. And He will come with speed, and the former shall go in with Him, but the latter shall be shut out, having wasted in preparations the time of entrance; and they shall weep sore when all too late they learn the penalty of their slothfulness, when the Bride-chamber can no longer be entered by them for all their entreaties, for they have shut it against themselves by their sin, following in another fashion the example of those who missed the Wedding feast with which the good Father feasts the good Bridegroom; one on account of a newly wedded wife; another of a newly purchased field; another of a yoke of oxen; which he and they acquired to their misfortune, since for the sake of the little they lose the great. For none are there of the disdainful, nor of the slothful, nor of those who are clothed in filthy rags and not in the Wedding garment even though here they may have thought themselves worthy of wearing the bright robe there, and secretly intruded themselves, deceiving themselves with vain hopes.
- Ambrose (c. 339–397)
- “This is the ordinance of God, that he which believeth in Christ should be saved without works, by faith only, freely receiving remission of his sins.”
- “Therefore let no one boast of his works, because no one can be justified by his works; but he who is just receives it as a gift, because he is justified by the washing of regeneration. It is faith, therefore, which delivers us by the blood of Christ, because blessed is he whose sins are forgiven, and to whom pardon is granted.”
- Jerome (347–420) on Romans 10:3
- “God justifies by faith alone.” (Deus ex sola fide justificat).
- "My words are these: 'If any man is called in uncircumcision, let him not be circumcised.' You had a wife, the apostle says, when you believed. Do not fancy your faith in Christ to be a reason for parting from her. For 'God has called us in peace.' 'Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing but the keeping of the commandments of God.' Neither celibacy nor wedlock is of the slightest use without works, since even faith, the distinguishing mark of Christians, if it have not works, is said to be dead, and on such terms as these the virgins of Vesta or of Juno, who was constant to one husband, might claim to be numbered among the saints."
- But since in the Law no one is justified before God, it is evident that the just man lives by faith.'... It should be noted that he does not say that a man, a person, lives by faith, lets it be thought that he is condemning good works. Rather, he says the just man lives by faith. He implies thereby that whoever would be faithful and would conduct his life according to the faith can in no other way arrive at the faith or live in it except first he be a just man of pure life, coming up to the faith as it were by certain degrees.
- Chrysostom (349–407)
- “The patriarch Abraham himself before receiving circumcision had been declared righteous on the score of faith alone: before circumcision, the text says, "Abraham believed God, and credit for it brought him to righteousness."”
- For Scripture says that faith has saved us. Put better: Since God willed it, faith has saved us. Now in what case, tell me, does faith save without itself doing anything at all? Faith’s workings themselves are a gift of God, lest anyone should boast. What then is Paul saying? Not that God has forbidden works but that he has forbidden us to be justified by works. No one, Paul says, is justified by works, precisely in order that the grace and benevolence of God may become apparent.
- In like manner it will be no advantage to a Christian to have faith, and the gift of baptism, and yet be open to all the passions.
- If any man have an ill life with a right faith, his faith shall not shelter him from punishment, his work being burnt up.
- Augustine (354–430)
- If Abraham was not justified by works, how was he justified? ... Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Rom. 4:3; Gen. 15:6). Abraham, then, was justified by faith. Paul and James do not contradict each other: good works follow justification.
- Although it can be said that God’s commandments pertain to faith alone, if it is not dead [faith], but rather understood as that live faith, which works through love.
- “When someone believes in him who justifies the impious, that faith is reckoned as justice to the believer, as David too declares that person blessed whom God has accepted and endowed with righteousness, independently of any righteous actions (Rom 4:5-6). What righteousness is this? The righteousness of faith, preceded by no good works, but with good works as its consequence.”
- Ambrosiaster (4th century), on Rom. 3:24
- “They are justified freely because they have not done anything nor given anything in return, but by faith alone they have been made holy by the gift of God.”
- Cyril of Alexandria (412–444)
- For we are justified by faith, not by works of the law, as Scripture says (Gal. 2:16). By faith in whom, then, are we justified? Is it not in him who suffered death according to the flesh for our sake? Is it not in one Lord Jesus Christ?
- Maximus the Confessor (c. 580–562)
- For Jeremiah warns us: "Do not say: We are the Lord's temple." Neither should you say: "Faith alone in our Lord Jesus Christ can save me." By itself faith accomplishes nothing. For even the devils believe and shudder. No, faith must be joined to an active love of God which is expressed in good works.
- Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)
- “[J]ustified by faith alone. (solam justificatur per fidem)”
- Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)
- “Therefore the man who through sorrow for sin hungers and thirsts for justice, let him trust in the One who changes the sinner into a just man, and judged righteous in terms of faith alone, he will have peace with God.”
- Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
- Therefore the hope of justification is not found in them [the moral and ceremonial requirements of the law], but in faith alone, Rom 3:28: We consider a human being to be justified by faith, without the works of the law.
Pope Benedict XVI summarized the Catholic position as "...Luther's phrase: "faith alone" is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love. Faith is looking at Christ, entrusting oneself to Christ, being united to Christ, conformed to Christ, to his life. ... St Paul speaks of faith that works through love (cf. Gal 5: 14)."
- 1989. Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.
- 1990. Justification detaches man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and purifies his heart of sin.
- 1991. With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us.
- 1992. Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men.
- 1993. Justification establishes cooperation between God's grace and man's freedom. On man's part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent.
- 1996. Our justification comes from the grace of God.
- 2007. With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man.
- 2010. Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.
- 2011. The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men.
Thus the Catholic view could perhaps be interpreted as a progression or flow: first grace, then initial trust/repentance/conversion, then faith/hope/charity, combined with an emphasis that none of these elements should be isolated thus missing the package.
Further, the sacraments of baptism, Eucharist, and reconciliation relate to each: baptism for the removal of sin (in the case of an infant, original sin), Eucharist for the participation in Jesus' sacrifice, and penance for the confession of lapses of faith and charity and the assignment of prayers/actions to rejoin faith and charity. Sola fide is rejected only as far is it would ignore or reject grace or the New Commandment.
The Catholic view holds instead that grace, specifically, the form of grace known as "sanctifying grace", and which first floods the soul at baptism, which empowers one's ability both to believe and to perform good works, is essential as the gateway to salvation, but not the only element needed for salvation (Eph 2:8-10). God's freely given grace is offered and empowers one's ability to believe and to perform good works, both then becoming meritorious because they are joined to Christ's saving power of the Cross. (Phil 2:12-13) (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1987-2029) A Christian must respond to this free gift of Grace from God given first, ordinarily, in Baptism (1 Pet 3:21) both by having faith and by living in the light of Christ through love (Jn 3:16; 1 Jn 1:7) (Galatians 5:6) which perfects the Christian throughout his or her life (James 2:22). The Catholic position is best summed up in John 3:16, if one has the proper, contextual understanding of the word "believe". "Believe", in context and in ancient Judaism, meant more than an intellectual assent. "To believe" also meant to obey, which is seen, in context, in Jn 3:36, 1 Jn 2:3ff, and 1 Jn 5:1ff. Without our positive response to grace offered, salvation is not possible.
As expounded in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church's teaching is that it is the grace of God, "the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call", that justifies us, a grace that is a prerequisite for our free response of "collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity".
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church justification is conferred in baptism, the sacrament of faith. The sacrament of reconciliation enables recovery of justification, if lost through committing a mortal sin. A mortal sin makes justification lost, even if faith is still present.
The Council of Trent sought to clarify the Catholic Church's teaching on justification and the manner in which it differed from that proposed by Lutheran and Reformed Christians. It stated: "Faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6) and to come to the fellowship of His sons; and we are therefore said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification." "Faith, unless hope and charity be added to it, neither unites man perfectly with Christ nor makes him a living member of His body. For which reason it is most truly said that faith without works is dead (James 2:17-20) and of no profit, and in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by charity (Galatians 5:6)." After being justified, "to those who work well unto the end and trust in God, eternal life is to be offered, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Christ Jesus, and as a reward promised by God himself, to be faithfully given to their good works and merits. ... Since Christ Jesus Himself, as the head into the members and the vine into the branches (John 15:1-6), continually infuses strength into those justified, which strength always precedes, accompanies and follows their good works, and without which they could not in any manner be pleasing and meritorious before God, we must believe that nothing further is wanting to those justified to prevent them from being considered to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained in its [due] time, provided they depart [this life] in grace".
In its canons, the Council condemned the following propositions:
- man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or through the teaching of the law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ (canon 1);
- the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will (canon 9);
- the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to observe (canon 18);
- the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase (canon 24);
- the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit an increase of grace, eternal life, and in case he dies in grace, the attainment of eternal life itself and also an increase of glory (canon 32).
Catholic exegetes believe that St. James, to continue the thread above, had no other object than to emphasize the fact — already emphasized by St. Paul — that only such faith as is active in charity and good works (fides caritate formata) possesses any power to justify man (cf. Galatians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 13:2), whilst faith devoid of charity and good works (fides informis) is a dead faith and in the eyes of God insufficient for justification (cf. James 2:17 sqq.)
In response to sola fide, Robert Sungenis argues in his 1997 book Not by Faith Alone that:
- Lutherans and Reformed Christians have devised many and varied explanations to neutralize the clear and unambiguous statement in Jm 2:24 that “man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” Each of these explanations concludes that James is not teaching that man is justified by works in the same sense that Paul says man is justified by faith. Puzzled by James's language, Martin Luther even concluded that the epistle of James was a spurious book and should not be canonically authoritative for New Testament teaching.
- Countering the Lutheran and Reformed Christian explanation of the epistle of James which states that James means that “men” witness Abraham's works, the Genesis text (Genesis 22) does not include any men as witness to Abraham's works, but only God himself.
- Countering the Lutheran and Reformed Christian explanation of James which holds that the word “justified” as James uses the term refers to a “vindication,” rather than to a salvific justification, as Paul uses the term, are the following arguments:
- If James were teaching a concept of “vindication,” he would have said, with the proper Greek word, “you see, a person is vindicated by works.” Moreover, since James adds the clause “and not by faith alone” we know that he is correcting a false notion concerning the solitude of faith in justification, not suggesting that Abraham was vindicated by works.
- If James were attempting to teach a vindication of Abraham, the specific argumentation he used would make sense only if James's opponents had claimed that Abraham was “vindicated by faith alone.” In other words, if the vindication hypothesis were true, syntactical requirements would have forced James to use the meaning of “vindicated” in the first part of his argument (Jm 2:20-21) in order also to use it in the latter part (Jm 2:24). Since the grammatical structure of the verse would then require that the phrase “not by faith alone” have its referent in the phrase “is vindicated,” this would force the meaning of the verse to be, “a person is vindicated...not by faith alone” — a meaning that has no relevance to James's discussion.
- The New Testament does not use the word “justified” in the sense of "vindicated" in contexts which are soteriological, i.e., contexts which discuss salvation or damnation. Moreover, such passages as Mt 11:19 where one could plausibly interpret the Greek word dikaioo as referring to a vindication do so only in a metaphorical sense; therefore they do not use dikaioo in the same way that James, and even Paul, use the term, which is historical and literal.
- James's discussion of the events surrounding the justification of Rahab preclude assigning the meaning of “vindicated” to the word justified. Rahab's justification, as described in Jm 2:25, is a salvific justification, not a vindication, yet James specifies that Rahab was justified “in the same way” that Abraham was justified. Therefore, one cannot understand Abraham's justification as a vindication.
- Since James and Paul use the same Greek noun dikaiosune (“righteous”) in reference to Abraham, and interpret the word in the same way (cf. Gn 15:6, Rm 4:3, Jm 2:23), it would be totally incongruous for one of them to use a different meaning of its verbal cognate dikaioo in reference to Abraham.
- The Lutherans and Reformed Christian position assumes that Abraham's justification is a once-for-all event. James's all important question “Can faith save him?” (Jm 2:14), however, includes Abraham within its purview. Hence we must conclude that if Abraham's works were not of the quality that James prescribes in the context (Jm 2:15), then Abraham would not be justified. Abraham could not be justified in a “once-for-all” event in Gn 15:6 and at the same time have that justification put in jeopardy by disobedience to James's requirement of works for justification. If this could happen, the question in Jm 2:14 would have no meaning.
- Abraham's acts in Genesis 12, 15, and 22 were acts of faith and works. We should not misconstrue Paul's stress on Abraham's faith in his view of Gn 15:6 to say that Abraham performed no works of loving obedience to God at this time or prior, nor should we misconstrue James's view of works in Genesis 22 to say that Abraham's attempted sacrifice of Isaac was not a supreme act of faith. Similarly, Abraham's departure from his homeland in Genesis 12 also couples his faith and works in regard to justification. Throughout his life, in the periods recorded in Genesis 13-14, 16-21, and 23-25 which are between the times of his recorded faith and obedience in the New Testament, Abraham continued to live in faith and obedience, with only what we may call minor lapses along the way. Genesis 22's importance is its detailing of Abraham's quintessential act of the faith-and-works which allowed God to swear an oath of blessing to him and for all his future descendants. Abraham's act in Genesis 22, not Gn 15:6, was the most important act in Abraham's life. The act in Genesis 22 was just as much a crediting of righteousness to Abraham as that in Gn 15:6.
- The entire context of the book of James concerns what one must do to be saved. He concentrates on obedience to the law as the means of salvation, and judgment for those who disobey that law.
- James includes sins of commission as well as omission in his warning against disobedience to the law. The supreme law, or “royal law,” that James has in view is the law of love.
- James assumes that the audience to whom he writes already has faith in God. The main question that James poses to them is whether they have added works to their faith. James does not suggest that works will immediately or inevitably flow from one who has faith, even though he may have a greater disposition towards good works once he has faith. James teaches that one who has faith must make a daily, conscious decision to do good works, just as he must decide each day to refrain from sin. In fact, if he chooses not to do good works when the opportunity arises, he has sinned (Jm 4:17).
- James does not support the Lutherans and Reformed Christian concept that one can be saved as long as he has “saving faith.” James is not so much attempting to qualify the faith needed for justification as he is saying that one must consciously add works to faith in order to be justified. A person, to be justified, must persevere to his last breath in this conscious decision to add works to faith.
- One of the most heinous in the catalogue of sins that James specifies is sin of the tongue. What is “said” to God and man is of the utmost importance to James and a major criterion on how the individual will be judged.
- Both Paul and James speak of the works of love that one must add to his faith in order to be justified.
- Like Paul, James concludes that if one chooses the system of law and desires God to evaluate him on that basis without the benefit of grace, he must then obey the whole law without fault. For one fault, the law will utterly condemn him.
Methodism affirms the doctrine of justification by faith, but in Wesleyan-Arminian theology, justification refers to "pardon, the forgiveness of sins", rather than "being made actually just and righteous", which Methodists believe is accomplished through sanctification. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Churches, taught that the keeping of the moral law contained in the Ten Commandments, as well as engaging in the works of piety and the works of mercy, were "indispensible for our sanctification".
It is incumbent on all that are justified to be zealous of good works," says Wesley, "And these are so necessary that if a man willingly neglects them, he cannot reasonably expect that he shall ever be sanctified.— "The Scripture Way of Salvation" in Sermons II [vol. 3; ed. A.C. Outler; Abingdon, 1985], 164).
Methodist pastor Amy Wagner has written:
Wesley understood faith as a necessity for salvation, even calling it "the sole condition" of salvation, in the sense that it led to justification, the beginning point of salvation. At the same time, "as glorious and honorable as [faith] is, it is not the end of the commandment. God hath given this honor to love alone."— "The Law Established through Faith II", §II.1
Faith is "an unspeakable blessing" because "it leads to that end, the establishing anew the law of love in our hearts".— "The Law Established through Faith II", §II.6
This end, the law of love ruling in our hearts, is the fullest expression of salvation; it is Christian perfection.— Amy Wagner
Methodist soteriology emphasizes the importance of the pursuit of holiness in salvation. Thus, for Wesley, "true faith ... cannot subsist without works". Bishop Scott J. Jones in United Methodist Doctrine (2002) writes that in Methodist theology:
Faith is necessary to salvation unconditionally. Good works are necessary only conditionally, that is if there is time and opportunity. The thief on the cross in Luke 23:39–43 is Wesley's example of this. He believed in Christ and was told, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise." This would be impossible if the good works that are the fruit of genuine repentance and faith were unconditionally necessary for salvation. The man was dying and lacked time; his movements were confined and he lacked opportunity. In his case, faith alone was necessary. However, for the vast majority of human beings good works are necessary for continuance in faith because those persons have both the time and opportunity for them.
Bishop Jones concludes that "United Methodist doctrine thus understands true, saving faith to be the kind that, give time and opportunity, will result in good works. Any supposed faith that does not in fact lead to such behaviors is not genuine, saving faith." Methodist evangelist Phoebe Palmer stated that "justification would have ended with me had I refused to be holy". While "faith is essential for a meaningful relationship with God, our relationship with God also takes shape through our care for people, the community, and creation itself." Methodism, inclusive of the holiness movement, thus teaches that "justification [is made] conditional on obedience and progress in sanctification", emphasizing "a deep reliance upon Christ not only in coming to faith, but in remaining in the faith".
Richard P. Bucher contrasts this position with the Lutheran one, discussing an analogy put forth by the founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley:
Whereas in Lutheran theology the central doctrine and focus of all our worship and life is justification by grace through faith, for Methodists the central focus has always been holy living and the striving for perfection. Wesley gave the analogy of a house. He said repentance is the porch. Faith is the door. But holy living is the house itself. Holy living is true religion. "Salvation is like a house. To get into the house you first have to get on the porch (repentance) and then you have to go through the door (faith). But the house itself—one's relationship with God—is holiness, holy living.— Joyner, paraphrasing Wesley, 3.
Excerpts from confessions and creeds which support sola fide
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort; as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.— Thirty-nine Articles of Religion (1571)
Our churches by common consent ... teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.— Article IV, "Of Justification", Augsburg Confession, 1530
Justification is God's gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.
XXVIII. That those which have union with Christ, are justified from all their sins, past, present, and to come, by the blood of Christ; which justification we conceive to be a gracious and free acquittance of a guilty, sinful creature, from all sin by God, through the satisfaction that Christ hath made by his death; and this applied in the manifestation of it through faith.— First London Baptist Confession (1644)
The position of the Mennonite Church USA is set out in the pamphlet Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (1995). It is a typical Anabaptist confession of faith. The commentary to Article 8 of the Confession states:
This confession uses a variety of expressions for salvation. For example, salvation is often expressed as "justification by faith". The justification that is "reckoned" to us as salvation (Rom. 4:1–12) is experienced as a covenant relationship with God. A covenant is a binding agreement between two parties. God offers the relationship. The just, or righteous, person has received the offer, lives according to the covenant, and trusts in God's faithfulness. Justification by faith and faithful obedience to the covenant relationship are inseparable (Heb. 11).
We believe that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins because of Jesus Christ, and that in it our righteousness before God is contained, as David and Paul teach us when they declare that man blessed to whom God grants righteousness apart from works.
And the same apostle says that we are justified "freely" or "by grace" through redemption in Jesus Christ. And therefore we cling to this foundation, which is firm forever, giving all glory to God, humbling ourselves, and recognizing ourselves as we are; not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, which is ours when we believe in him.
That is enough to cover all our sins and to make us confident, freeing the conscience from the fear, dread, and terror of God's approach, without doing what our first father, Adam, did, who trembled as he tried to cover himself with fig leaves.
In fact, if we had to appear before God relying—no matter how little—on ourselves or some other creature, then, alas, we would be swallowed up.
Therefore everyone must say with David: "Lord, do not enter into judgment with your servants, for before you no living person shall be justified."— Article 23: "The Justification of Sinners", Belgic Confession, 1561 (French revision, 1619)
Question 86: Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do good works?
Answer: Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit, after his own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for his blessings, and that he may be praised by us; also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof; and that, by our godly conversation others may be gained to Christ.
Question 87: Cannot they then be saved, who, continuing in their wicked and ungrateful lives, are not converted to God?
Answer: By no means; for the holy scripture declares that no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or any such like, shall inherit the kingdom of God.— Heidelberg Catechism, 1563
I. Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.— Chapter XI. "Of Justification". Westminster Confession of Faith (1647)
We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith, only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.
We believe good works are the necessary fruits of faith and follow regeneration but they do not have the virtue to remove our sins or to avert divine judgment. We believe good works, pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, spring from a true and living faith, for through and by them faith is made evident.
The justification of the sinner solely by the grace of God through faith in Christ crucified and risen from the dead.— Statement of Faith, British Evangelical Alliance
We believe in ... the Salvation of lost and sinful man through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith apart from works, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit ...— Statement of Faith, World Evangelical Alliance
Additional ecumenical statements
The New Testament makes it clear that the gift of salvation is received through faith. "By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). By faith, which is also the gift of God, we repent of our sins and freely adhere to the gospel, the good news of God's saving work for us in Christ. By our response of faith to Christ, we enter into the blessings promised by the gospel. Faith is not merely intellectual assent but an act of the whole persons involving the mind, the will, and the affections, issuing in a changed life. We understand that what we here affirm is in agreement with what the Reformation traditions have meant by justification by faith alone (sola fide).— The Gift of Salvation (1997)
Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church
4.3 Justification by Faith and through Grace 25. We confess together that sinners are justified by faith in the saving action of God in Christ. By the action of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, they are granted the gift of salvation, which lays the basis for the whole Christian life. They place their trust in God's gracious promise by justifying faith, which includes hope in God and love for him. Such a faith is active in love and thus the Christian cannot and should not remain without works. But whatever in the justified precedes or follows the free gift of faith is neither the basis of justification nor merits it.
In the preamble , it is suggested that much of the debate on sola fide has been based on condemnations of caricatured positions not actually held: "The teaching of the Lutheran Churches presented in the Declaration does not fall under the condemnations from the Council of Trent. The condemnations in the Lutheran Confessions do not apply to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church presented in this Declaration."
Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission
5. Regarding the way in which salvation is appropriated by the believers, Lutherans, by teaching that justification and salvation are by grace alone through faith (sola gratia, sola fide), stress the absolute priority of divine grace in salvation. When they speak about saving faith they do not think of the dead faith which even the demons have (cf. James 2:19), but the faith which Abraham showed and which was reckoned to him as righteousness (cf. Gen. 15:6, Rom. 4:3,9). The Orthodox also affirm the absolute priority of divine grace. They underline that it is God's grace which enables our human will to conform to the divine will (cf. Phil 2:13) in the steps of Jesus praying, "not as I will but as You will" (Matthew 26:39), so that we may work out our salvation in fear and trembling (cf. Phil. 2:12). This is what the Orthodox mean by "synergy" (working together) of divine grace and the human will of the believer in the appropriation of the divine life in Christ. The understanding of synergy in salvation is helped by the fact that the human will in the one person of Christ was not abolished when the human nature was united in Him with the divine nature, according to the Christological decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. While Lutherans do not use the concept of synergy, they recognize the personal responsibility of the human being in the acceptance or refusal of divine grace through faith, and in the growth of faith and obedience to God. Lutherans and Orthodox both understand good works as the fruits and manifestations of the believer's faith and not as a means of salvation.
- Belief in Jesus
- Double imputation
- Expounding of the Law
- Fate of the unlearned
- Justification from eternity
- "Five Centuries After Reformation, Catholic-Protestant Divide in Western Europe Has Faded". Pew Research Center. 31 August 2017.
- Dunn, James D. G. (2005). The New Perspective on Paul. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co. ISBN 978-0-8028-4562-7.
- Council of Trent - Session 6 Canon XIV. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
- According to Williston Walker in A History of the Christian Church (1949), pp. 185-6, "Pelagius was a British, or perhaps an Irish monk ... No man between Paul and Luther so emphasized justification by faith alone."
- Wriedt, Markus. "Luther's Theology," in The Cambridge Companion to Luther. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003, 88–94.
- Selected passages from Martin Luther, "Commentary on Galatians (1538)" as translated in Herbert J. A. Bouman, "The Doctrine of Justification in the Lutheran Confessions," Concordia Theological Monthly 26 (November 1955) No. 11:801. ctsfw.edu Archived 12 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- In XV Psalmos graduum 1532-33; WA 40/III.352.3
- Herbert J. A. Bouman, ibid., 801-802.
- Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut Lehmann, eds., Luther's Works, 55 vols. (St. Louis and Philadelphia: Concordia Publishing House and Fortress Press, 1955-1986), 34:337
- Martin Luther's Definition of Faith
- "Preface to Romans by Martin Luther".
- Luther, Martin. "The Smalcald Articles," in Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005, 289, Part two, Article 1.
- Herbert J. A. Bouman, ibid., 805.
- "Augsburg Confession - Book of Concord".
- Augsburg Confession, Article XX: Of Good Works, "It is only by faith that forgiveness of sins is apprehended"
- John 17:3, Luke 1:77,Galatians 4:9, Philippians 3:8, and 1 Timothy 2:4 refer to faith in terms of knowledge.
- John 5:46 refers to acceptance of the truth of Christ's teaching, while John 3:36 notes the rejection of his teaching.
- John 3:16,36, Galatians 2:16, Romans 4:20-25, 2 Timothy 1:12 speak of trust, confidence, and belief in Christ. John 3:18 notes belief in the name of Christ, and Mark 1:15 notes belief in the gospel.
- Engelder, T.E.W., Popular Symbolics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934. pp. 54-5, Part XIV. "Sin"
- Ps. 51:10, Engelder, T.E.W., Popular Symbolics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934, p.57 Part XV. "Conversion", paragraph 78.
- John 17:20, Rom. 10:17, Engelder, T.E.W., Popular Symbolics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934, p.101 Part XXV. "The Church", paragraph 141.
- Titus 3:5, Engelder, T.E.W., Popular Symbolics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934, p.87 Part XXIII. "Baptism", paragraph 118.
- Eph. 2:8, Engelder, T.E.W., Popular Symbolics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934, p.57 Part XV. "Conversion", paragraph 78.
- "whoever is justified is still a sinner", from the Third Disputation Concerning Justification (1536) or “daily we sin, daily we are justified”, Luther's Works, vol. 34 ISBN 0-8006-0334-6
- Küng, Hans, Justification: The Doctrine of Karl Barth and a Catholic Reflection, p249, "The formula sola fide can be taken for orthodox since the 'alone' may be understood as a plausible way of making clear the statement in Romans 3:28. This much is certain - the 'alone' in the translation is not Luther's invention. Even before the Reformation there were already such translations. According to Lyonnet...the German Bible's reading of Gal 2.16 is 'gerechtfertigt...nur durch den Glauben.'"
- George, Timothy, Theology of the Reformers, p71, n. 61, "Luther did not, of course, invent this phrase. The German Bible published at Nürnberg in 1483 translated Gal 2:16 as “gerechtfertigt . . . nur durch den Glauben.” Further, the term sola fide was well established in the Catholic tradition, having been used by Origen, Hilary, Chrysostom, Augustine, Bernard, Aquinas, and others but without Luther's particular nuances."
- Lyonnet Stanislas, Etudes sur l'Epître aux Romains, p118
- Hodge, Charles, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, p100
- La Sacra Bibbia, Gàlati 2
- Conferenza Episcopale Italiana (CEI), Galati 2:16
- Amplified Bible, Galatians 2:6
- Amplified Bible, Classic Edition, Galatians 2:6
- God's Word Translation, Galatians 2:6
- Good News Translation, Galatians 2:6
- Living Bible, Galatians 2:6
- The Message, Galatians 2:6
- Names of God Bible, Galatians 2:6
- The Voice, Galatians 2:6
- Weymouth New Testament, Galatians 2
- "Romans 3:28", Testament, 1522,
So halten wyrs nu, das der mensch gerechtfertiget werde, on zu thun der werck des gesetzs, alleyn durch den glawben (emphasis added to the German word for ‘alone.’).
- New testament (in Greek), York,
λογιζόμεθα γάρ δικαιоῦσθαι πίστει ἄνθρωπον χωρὶς ἔργων νόμου ("for we reckon a man to be justified by faith without deeds of law").
- Martin Luther, On Translating: An Open Letter (1530), Luther's Works, 55 vols. (St. Louis and Philadelphia: Concordia Publishing House and Fortress Press), 35:187–189, 195; cf. also Heinz Bluhm, Martin Luther Creative Translator (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1965), 125–137.
- WELS Topical Q&A, Romans 3:28 and Martin Luther
- Luther, Martin, On Translating: An Open Letter
- Fitzmyer, Joseph A., Romans, A New Translation with introduction and Commentary, pp360-361
- "Luther Added The Word "Alone" to Romans 3:28". beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com.
- The Defense of the Augsburg Confession, Article IV: Of Justification, "We also say that love ought to follow faith, as Paul also says, Gal. 5:6: For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love."
- The Epitome of the Formula of Concord, III. The Righteousness of Faith Before God, "We believe, teach, and confess that, although the contrition that precedes, and the good works that follow, do not belong to the article of justification before God, yet one is not to imagine a faith of such a kind as can exist and abide with, and alongside of, a wicked intention to sin and to act against the conscience. But after man has been justified by faith, then a true living faith worketh by love, Gal. 5:6, so that thus good works always follow justifying faith, and are surely found with it, if it be true and living; for it never is alone, but always has with it love and hope."
- Richardson, A., Bwoden, J. (ed.), A New Dictionary of Christian Theology, p208
- Augsburg Confession, Article 20: Of Good Works, "First, that our works cannot reconcile God or merit forgiveness of sins, grace, and justification, but that we obtain this only by faith when we believe that we are received into favor for Christ's sake, who alone has been set forth the Mediator and Propitiation, 1 Tim. 2:5, in order that the Father may be reconciled through Him. Whoever, therefore, trusts that by works he merits grace, despises the merit and grace of Christ, and seeks a way to God without Christ, by human strength, although Christ has said of Himself: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. John 14:6. This doctrine concerning faith is everywhere treated by Paul, Eph. 2:8: By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of your selves; it is the gift of God, not of works, etc. And lest any one should craftily say that a new interpretation of Paul has been devised by us, this entire matter is supported by the testimonies of the Fathers. For Augustine, in many volumes, defends grace and the righteousness of faith, over against the merits of works. And Ambrose, in his De Vocatione Gentium, and elsewhere, teaches to like effect. For in his De Vocatione Gentium he says as follows: Redemption by the blood of Christ would become of little value, neither would the preeminence of man's works be superseded by the mercy of God, if justification, which is wrought through grace, were due to the merits going before, so as to be, not the free gift of a donor, but the reward due to the laborer."
- The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, Article 4: Of Good Works, "First, there is no controversy among our theologians concerning the following points in this article, namely: that it is God's will, order, and command that believers should walk in good works; and that truly good works are not those which every one contrives himself from a good intention, or which are done according to traditions of men, but those which God Himself has prescribed and commanded in His Word; also, that truly good works are done, not from our own natural powers, but in this way: when the person by faith is reconciled with God and renewed by the Holy Ghost, or, as Paul says, is created anew in Christ Jesus to good works, Eph. 2:10."
- WELS Topical Q&A, Faith Alone
- The Defense of the Augsburg Confession, IV Justification, Reply to the Arguments of the Adversaries
- The Defense of the Augsburg Confession, IV Justification, Reply to the Arguments of the Adversaries
- Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod website Topical Q&A, James 2:24 - Faith Alone
- The Defense of the Augsburg Confession, IV Justification, Reply to the Arguments of the Adversaries
- Article XX: Of Good Works
- Ewald M. Plass, “What Luther says,” page 1509
- "Luther, An Introduction to St. Paul's Letter to the Romans". Luther's German Bible of 1522 by Martin Luther, 1483-1546. iclnet.org. Translated by Rev. Robert E. Smith from Dr. Martin Luther's vermischte deutsche Schriften. Johann K. Irmischer, ed. Vol. 63 (Erlangen: Heyder and Zimmer, 1854), pp.124-125. [EA 63:124-125] August 1994
- “Redemption Accomplished and Applied.”
- "The Monstrosity of a Faith that is Alone". Defending. Contending. Archived from the original on 8 July 2012.
- Essential Truths of the Christian Faith. p. 191.
- "Are we justified by faith alone?". mountainretreatorg.net.
- Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
- "Is salvation by keeping the law?".
- The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, III, Paragraph 42
- The Defense of the Augsburg Confession, III, Reply to the Arguments of the Adversaries, 123-132
- "Errors of Catholicism - Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS)". Archived from the original on 27 September 2009.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- "WELS Topical Q&A". Archived from the original on 6 June 2014.
- Meier, Edward P. (1978), The Nature of True Faith: An Exegesis of James 2, p8, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. "James talks as if he were from Missouri, “Show me!” He says to the objector, “I can show you faith by my works.” His works proved that his faith was active. But can the objector show faith without works? James knew what Matthew had said in the seventh chapter, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.”"
- Meier, Edward P. (1978), The Nature of True Faith: An Exegesis of James 2, p5, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary
- Catechism of Catholic Church, Paragraphs 2068, "all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments."
- Catechism of Catholic Church, Paragraphs 2010, "Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life."
- Catechism of Catholic Church, Paragraphs 2027, "we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods."
- Catechism of Catholic Church, Paragraphs 2036, "The authority of the Magisterium extends also to the specific precepts of the natural law, because their observance, demanded by the Creator, is necessary for salvation."
- WELS Topical Q&A: Salvation By Works Questioned, "The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear in stating that we merit salvation in part by our works. Read paragraphs 1987 through 2029, note especially 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2019, 2027."
- WELS Topical Q&A, Church History and 'Faith Alone'
- Clement of Rome. Epistle to the Corinthians.
- Justin Martyr. Dialogue with Trypho.
- Didymus the Blind. Commentary on James, 2:26b.
- Cox, John Edmund (ed.), Miscellaneous Writings and Letters of Thomas Cranmer, p130
- Finch, George. A Sketch of the Romish Controversy. p. 230.
- Chemnitz, Martin. Examination of the Council of Trent. 1:505.
- Gregory of Nazianzus. Oration XL.
- Finch. A Sketch of the Romish Controversy. p. 220.
- Jerome. Epistolam Ad Romanos. Caput X, v. 3, PL 30:692D.
- Jerome. To Pammachius, Epistle 48:6.
- Jerome. Commentary on Galatians.
- McMahon, C. Matthew, Historical Theology Made Easy, p128
- Chrysostom. Homily on Ephesians. 4.2.9.
- Chrysostom. Homilies on the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Romans. Homily XI.
- Chrysostom. Homilies on First and Second Corinthians. Homily VIII.
- Augustine. Expositions of the Psalms 1-32. Exposition 2 of Psalm 31.
- Russell, Norman. Against Nestorius (Cyril of Alexandria). p. 165.
- Maximus the Confessor. Chapters on Charity. Centuria 1, cap. 1, 4-5, 16-17, 23-24, 26-28, 30-40; PG 90, 962-967.
- MacArthur, John, The Shepherd as Theologian, p100
- "Catechism of the Catholic Church". The Holy See. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1996
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2001–2002
- Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1992. Vatican City-State.
Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1446. The Vatican.
Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as "the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace."
- "Paul III Council of Trent-6".
- Bartmann, "St. Paulus u. St. Jacobus und die Rechtertigung", Freiburg, 1897
- "Fides informis and Fides Caritate Formata Definition". cyclopedia.lcms.org. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
- Sungenis, Robert A. (1997). Not By Faith Alone The Biblical Evidence for the Catholic Doctrine of Justification. Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing. pp. 172–175. ISBN 1-57918-008-6.
- Elwell, Walter A. (1 May 2001). Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Baker Reference Library). Baker Publishing Group. p. 1268. ISBN 9781441200303.
This balance is most evident in Wesley's understanding of faith and works, justification and sanctification. ... Wesley himself in a sermon entitled "Justification by Faith" makes an attempt to define the term accurately. First, he states what justification is not. It is not being made actually just and righteous (that is sanctification). It is not being cleared of the accusations of Satan, nor of the law, nor even of God. We have sinned, so the accusation stands. Justification implies pardon, the forgiveness of sins. ... Ultimately for the true Wesleyan salvation is completed by our return to original righteousness. This is done by the work of the Holy Spirit. ... The Wesleyan tradition insists that grace is not contrasted with law but with the works of the law. Wesleyans remind us that Jesus came to fulfill, not destroy the law. God made us in his perfect image, and he wants that image restored. He wants to return us to a full and perfect obedience through the process of sanctification. ... Good works follow after justification as its inevitable fruit. Wesley insisted that Methodists who did not fulfill all righteousness deserved the hottest place in the lake of fire.
- Robinson, Jeff (25 August 2015). "Meet a Reformed Arminian". TGC. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
Reformed Arminianism’s understanding of apostasy veers from the Wesleyan notion that individuals may repeatedly fall from grace by committing individual sins and may be repeatedly restored to a state of grace through penitence.
- Campbell, Ted A. (1 October 2011). Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials, 2nd Edition. Abingdon Press. pp. 40, 68–69. ISBN 9781426753473.
- Knight III, Henry H. (9 July 2013). "Wesley on Faith and Good Works". A Foundation for Theological Education.
- Wagner, Amy (20 January 2014). "Wesley on Faith, Love, and Salvation". A Foundation for Theological Education. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
- Joyner, F. Belton (2007). United Methodist Answers. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 80. ISBN 9780664230395.
Jacob Albright, founder of the movement that led to the Evangelical Church flow in the United Methodist Church, got into trouble with some of his Lutheran, Reformed, and Mennonite neighbors because he insisted that salvation not only involved ritual but meant a change of heart, a different way of living.
- Jones, Scott J. (2002). United Methodist Doctrine. Abingdon Press. p. 190. ISBN 9780687034857.
- Sawyer, M. James (11 April 2016). The Survivor's Guide to Theology. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 363. ISBN 9781498294058.
- Langford, Andy; Langford, Sally (2011). Living as United Methodist Christians: Our Story, Our Beliefs, Our Lives. Abingdon Press. p. 45. ISBN 9781426711930.
- Tennent, Timothy (9 July 2011). "Means of Grace: Why I am a Methodist and an Evangelical". Asbury Theological Seminary. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
- Bucher, Richard P. (2014). "Methodism". Lexington: Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Archived from the original on 25 July 2014.
- "Salvation". Baptist Faith and Message. Southern Baptist Convention (2000).
- "Article 8: Salvation". Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective. Mennonite Church USA.
- "Salvation: Grace, Justification, and Synergy". 9th Plenary of the Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission. Sigtuna: helsinki.fi. 7 August 1998.
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- "By Faith Alone" and James (a Confessional Lutheran perspective)
- Importance of Sola Fide (a Confessional Lutheran perspective)
- Good Works (a Confessional Lutheran perspective)
- Essays on Sola Fide, Page 1& Page 2, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary
- Bible Verses on Sola Fide (a Catholic perspective)
- Is There a Contradiction Between Faith and Works? (Article stating that faith without works is impossible)