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Friday, November 27, 2015

Sola Fide: An Invention of the Reformation or the Historic View of the Church?

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“Faith is a living, unshakable confidence in God's grace; it is so certain that someone would die a thousand times for it.” – Martin Luther

A common objection brought against the biblical gospel of grace alone through faith alone, is that it was simply an invention of the Reformers.  "They desired to break away from Rome and start their own church," the charge is often laid.  In response to this objection I can confidently say one thing: the person speaking has never read the Reformers or Church history.  I would challenge an objector to find a single place where Martin Luther or John Calvin talked about creating their own church.  In fact, there are several places where they talked about a desire to restore the church to what it had always believed- that salvation was by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone, for the glory of God alone, according to the Scriptures alone.

But were the doctrines of the Reformation articulated before Martin Luther?  Absolutely!  Were the doctrines of the Reformation doctrines which were taught by the historic church?  Absolutely! With this post we will examine the doctrine of sola fide.  This doctrine teaches that we are made receive the salvation purchased by Christ, by the means of faith alone, and not through any righteous deed or work of merit. The  biblical case for this doctrine has been made elsewhere.  Today I desire to turn to history and examine quotations from the early church Fathers and draw the timeline all the way up until the time of the Reformation.  This doctrine was not foreign to the early church.

First, let me briefly define sola fide.  Luther’s quote at the introduction is very helpful alongside the image that is included..  Faith is not just an act of the head, but a submission of the will.  It is a confidence.  Hebrews 11 describes faith as “assurance of things hoped for and conviction of things not seen.”  The way the term “faith” is used in the 21st century is an act of the head, but faith is an act of the head, heart, and hands.  It is a submission of ourselves, with absolute confidence in the object of our faith.  It is the confidence we have to sit in a chair, knowing that it will hold our full weight.  We sit down in the promises of Christ, fully assured that they will hold up.