Five Solas of Reformation (3/5 b): Sola Fide

Reconnecting to the Source

My phone needs charging constantly. Its battery starts with 100% but the number goes down quickly. It will cease to be functional if I don’t connect it to a power source in time. Yes, all the wonderful designs are still there. But without power it’s just a dead phone.

We human beings are like phones. Just as a smartphone can’t be functional without regularly connecting to a power source, neither can we be functional without connecting to God. God is the source of our being, he sustains and empowers us. Cutting yourself off from God doesn’t mean you instantly lose everything. No, there’s still some battery life left inside of you. But the number goes down quickly.

In order to reverse the trend, indeed to avoid the ultimate consequence, which is death in all aspects, you need to reconnect yourself to the source. But there is a problem about reconnecting, a big one. The connection was broken as a result of our sins, which separate us from a holy God. In order to reconnect we first need to take care of the sin problem. This is done by the salvific act of Christ on the cross. The Lamb of God who bears the sins of the world died in our place. With the shedding of his blood the price of our sins was paid in full. Upon his sacrifice a new and living way to God is opened for us. (Hebrews 10:20) Put your faith in Christ and you’re reconnected to God.

It’s Not Reward

Putting your faith in Christ brings you justification, a biblical word for “good standing with God.” It means God accepts you. He sees you as a person without sins (justified) and desires to have a loving relationship with you. He wants to be your father.

The Bible reminds us that justification is not a reward, but a gift. You get it not because what you have done, but what Christ has done for you. In Romans chapter 4 Abraham, father of God’s chosen people, is portrayed as a prime example of justification by faith:

What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:3-5)

Abraham believed God and he was justified. Before he did any good works, he was justified. The God of Abraham is a God who justifies the ungodly. Believe him and it is credited to you as righteousness. No, righteousness is not something you have earned, but something credited to you. It’s a free gift.

Some people has a hard time accepting the concept of free gift. This is because we’re accustomed to the idea of work and pay. We get paid because we worked. We’ve earned it. But this kind of mentality is actually arrogance in disguise, thinking we’re good enough to make contribution to our own salvation, not realizing by doing so we’re trivializing the sacrifice Christ has made. No, dear brothers and sisters, no amount of good works can ever earn us justification. It’s not a reward, but a gift. Don’t work for it, just receive it.

It’s Not Formality

Abraham was justified before he was circumcised. Circumcision is a form of identification. It identifies a person as one of Abraham’s decedents, God’s chosen people. But the fact that Abraham himself was justified before circumcision was ever practiced tells us an important truth: what matters to God is not formality, but genuine faith.

We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. Romans 4:9-11

Abraham was justified not by circumcision, but by faith. It’s not religious formality that saves you, but your faith in Christ. Get all the baptisms and sacraments and rituals you want, without faith you are still a sinner. Many nominal Christians fall into this trap, mistaking salvation as something can be obtained through observing religious formality. They think baptism can wash away their sins and good deeds will get them to heaven. The case of Abraham has proven them wrong.

It’s Not Performance

Then there’s the performance factor that has dogged Luther in his early life. He tried very hard to make himself acceptable to God. Like Luther some people think justification is based on performance. Am I doing well enough to be justified by God? Do I need to observe all the rules and regulations to maintain my salvation? What if I break God’s law? Am I still saved?

It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. Romans 4:13

Salvation has nothing to do with your performance. We WILL break God’s law, that’s a given. But that doesn’t affect our salvation. We don’t get salvation by observing the law, and we will not lose it by not observing the law. We’re saved through our faith in Christ. That faith alone supersedes, and overrides, any imperfect performance we can come up with.

It is Christ

The reason that a simple act of faith saves you eternally is Jesus Christ. He is the reason for your justification, redemption, and salvation. Because of Christ, the charge of your indebtedness has been canceled, taken away, and nailed to the cross. (Col. 2:14) Because of his death your sins are forgiven, his resurrection your lives are renewed. It is out of God’s mercy that a sinner is granted to lay claim to the unfathomable richness in Christ, all through his faith. As it is said:

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:22-24

The righteousness God is given to not only the Jews or the gentiles, but all who believe. If salvation is obtained through material offerings some may not be able to afford it. If it is obtained through good deeds some may not able to do it. But it is given through faith in Christ, a matter of changing your heart. We all can do that.

From Faith to Faith

Your life in Christ starts with faith and continues on with faith. As the Bible says, it is “from faith to faith.”

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17, NASB

This precious verse reveals the secret of Christian living. The righteous man, that’s us, people who are justified through faith in Christ. Shall live, we’re now able to live the abundant life that glorifies God. By faith, by faith we’re saved, and by faith we shall live. From faith to faith, Christian living is by faith from beginning to the end. There’s never a moment we can live without faith.