The Protestant doctrine of Sola Fide originates from the time of the Protestant Revolt, and was created by Revolutionist Martin Luther. It is one of five “Solae”, the others being:
Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone )
Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
Solo Christo (Christ Alone)
Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)
The doctrine of Sola Fide states that a Christian can attain salvation by grace through faith alone-without works of any kind, as they do not effect salvation. Consequently, any sin (short of apostasy) also does not effect salvation. A Christian’s sins and imperfections are “covered”, so to speak, after he has been saved from damnation by “accepting Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior”. After being “saved” solely by his act of faith, there is nothing that can keep the Christian from eternal glory. He now has “eternal security” and is assured that at death he will enjoy the bliss of Heaven.
Sounds a little to good to be true, doesn’t it?
The fact of the matter is that the doctrine of Sola Fide is false. This heretical teaching has been leading many Christians astray since the time of its creation in the 1500s. Truthfully, Sola Fide is a man-made tradition that nullifies the Word of God, the kind that Jesus Christ explicitly condemned (Matt. 15:2-6).
Let’s look and see what is necessary for salvation from a biblical standpoint, along with what the Early Church Fathers have to say on the matter. The following requirements for salvation are the same teachings that the Roman Catholic Church has taught since its establishment by Jesus Christ in 30 A.D. God gave man the knowledge of necessity means to attain Heaven long ago, and then the Protestants of the 1500s decide that they knew better than Divine Providence.
What is Necessary for Salvation?
“For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is a gift of God; Not of works, that no man may glory. For we are his workmanship, created in Jesus Christ for good works, which God hath prepared that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:8-10)
The gift of God’s grace is essential to salvation, as the text of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians says we are saved by it. We are not saved by the works that we perform, rather the grace that God freely gives us.
Evangelicals sometimes point to this text to prove Sola Fide. This text no where teaches the supposed reality of Sola Fide. It says we are saved by grace, the gift of God, through faith. Paul emphasizes that salvation is a gift; we cannot get to Heaven merely by our own works. Yet we are to most certainly perform good works, since the text says that we were created for them. This passage nowhere says we are saved solely by faith. The message is that we are saved by grace.
“But without faith it is impossible to please God. For he that cometh to God, Must believeth that he is, and is a rewarder to them that seek him.” (Heb. 11:6)
Faith is absolutely necessary to get to Heaven. If a Christian did not have faith, then he wouldn’t exactly be a Christian, because he doesn’t believe in Christ. We must believe in God and place our trust in Him.
Faith must be working in charity (Galatians5:6)
Faith without charity, is nothing. Faith is dependent on charity (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
“If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema, maranatha.” (1 Cor. 16:22)
“Dearly beloved, let us love one another, for charity is of God. And every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God.” (1 John 4:7)
“And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.” (1 Cor. 13:13)
Love is essential! If a man was to place His faith in Christ and yet go through life having hatred for his neighbor, would he end up in Heaven? Not without love. St. Paul says that “there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Cor. 13:13). If we are saved by faith only, then why is charity (love) greater than faith?
Love of God and neighbor is a matter of life and death, for even though a person has divine faith as a free commitment to Christ, if he has not charity—and the deeds of charity where need requires and capacity exists—he cannot be saved (Mt 7:22; Jn 15:2; 1 Cor 6:9-11; Gal 5:19-21; Jas 2:17;).
“And being consummated, he became, to all that obey him, the cause of eternal salvation.” (Heb. 5:9)
It should be noted that faith is more than merely believing. Faith requires obedience (Romans 1:5, 16:26)
Can faith save without obedience? No, that is a dead faith. Man is not justified by “faith only.” (James 2:24)
Hebrews 5:9 states that Christ became the cause of salvation, to those who obey Him. If you have faith, but do not obey His Commandments, will you attain Heaven?
Baptism (Membership of Christ’s Church)
“He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)
“Jesus answered: Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)
“Because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. He is the savior of his body.” (Eph. 5:23)
Notice the fact that Mark 16:16 says those who believe and be baptized will be saved. Not “If you believe you will be saved, baptism is optional.”
The argument about the correct interpretation surrounding John 3:5 seems quite illogical to me. The Catholic Church has always recognized this verse as meaning the waters of Baptism, through which the Holy Spirit makes His abode in the recipient. Other non-Catholics for instance, have sometimes made the argument that the “water” that is needed to be born again is Amniotic fluid from the womb. When I first saw this particular argument, I was amazed at the lengths non-believers will go to in order to attempt to prove the inefficacy of Baptism. If Jesus was truly attempting to say that a person must first be born bodily to be saved (born of water, amniotic fluid) He very well would have said that, perhaps something along the lines of “first you must be born of the flesh”.
The Catholic Church has always taught that Baptism makes a person a member of Christ’s Church. (1 Corinthians 12:13) If Baptism is necessary for salvation, as commanded by Christ, then by default, that means that participation in His Church is needed as well. It would be foolish for a person to “believe” and “have faith”, but not choose to belong to the Church Christ has established.
Christ is the savior of His Body. If you are not part of the Body of Christ (the Church), will you be saved?
“And you shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved.” (Mt. 10:22)
“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. Behold, the devil will cast some of you into prison that you may be tried: and you shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful until death: and I will give thee the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10)
Christ always taught that after acceptance of His commandments, His followers must obey them the rest of their life if they wished to join Him in Heaven one day. It was not taught that once a person “accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior” that they were guaranteed salvation. A Christian must “persevere to the end”.
No one taught “faith alone” (in the sense he meant it, which is the sense modern Protestants mean it) until Luther – it was his new and novel teaching. No wonder that Martin disliked the book of James so much (he was quoted saying he wanted to throw “Jimmy” into the fire), considering that it is centered around the importance of faith and works. A question I ask to anyone reading this, who believes Sola Fide, is if Martin Luther “discovered” this doctrine, then that means Christians were all in the dark about how to attain Heaven up to this point in history, right? That means that no one knew that it was faith alone that saved, and it took a man like Luther all the way to the 1500s to make it known to Christians? Highly unreasonable.
As for the doctrine itself, consider the verses:
Is mere belief in Christ enough? After all, devils believe, and are still damned. (James 2:19-20)
People in the Bible “believed” in Jesus but would not confess Him, because they loved the praises of men more than the praises of God. Were they saved? (John 12:42-43)
I don’t think these people were saved, judging by the verses.
If a verse states that faith is needed for salvation, it is true, but it at the same time does not exclude other things needed in a person (Charity, Obedience, etc…). If salvation requires more than only faith, then that renders Sola Fide dead in its tracks, doesn’t it?
It seems that whenever a Protestant tries to tell a person about salvation, all the person does is refer to the Epistles of Paul, leaving out much of what Jesus taught. The issue is not that Catholics teach that faith is not needed; faith is necessary. The problem is Protestants not recognizing the importance of works–seemingly ignoring Jesus’ teaching. Consider Matthew 19:16-23, when asked by the rich man what is required that he may be saved, Jesus says:
“If you want to enter life, keep the commandments…If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (17,21)
Likewise, when Jesus speaks of the Final Judgment, in Matthew 25, he tells of the good and the bad rendering reward or punishment according to their works. The good are rewarded with Heaven due to the good works they performed while on earth, not based solely on their faith in Christ. The bad are not sent to Hell solely because they did not place their faith in Christ, but because they neglected to perform good works. Nowhere in this passage (Matt. 25:31-46) is the factor of salvation by faith alone brought up. If Sola Fide were true, then would it not be logical for Christ to have judged the good and bad based on their faith? If Sola Fide were true, wouldn’t “faith alone” be the most pronounced teaching of the Bible, since it deals with our spiritual end? But Sola Fide is not taught anywhere in the Bible, implicitly or explicitly, as a single verse or the Bible as a whole.
Salvation by faith alone is as silly and unscriptural as “Salvation by repentance alone” or “Salvation by works alone”. Salvation is not solely centered on one thing alone!
Anyone who adheres to the idea of Sola Fide is ignoring many things concerning salvation that God has spoken to us. The bible says that we are to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4), not bits and pieces of it. In Acts 20:20, Paul says that in preaching, he did not keep back any profitable information from the Gentiles. Those who teach Sola Fide, are they not keeping back information concerning salvation? What of good works; obedience?
The Bible speaks highly of obedience.
- We are to purify our souls by the obedience of charity (1 Peter 1:22-23)
- Those who were previously servants of sin have changed their ways through obedience from the heart (Romans 6:17).
- We must obey Christ in order to enter Heaven, not only believe in Him (Luke 6:46, Matthew 7:21-27)
- We must keep God’s commandments (1 John 5:3). If we do not strive to keep God’s commands, then we do not truly love God. If you do not love God, can you go to Heaven?
- Those who do not obey Christ’s Gospel will be cast into Hell (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
Many Protestants may point to verses in which it appears that God is condemning good works, which would bolster Sola Fide. Some of the most used passages are:
- “But knowing that man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ; we also believe in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: because by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” (Galatians 2:16)
- “Because by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified before him. For by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20)
- “For we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the law.” (Romans 3:28)
In all the verses above, Paul does not condemn good works–but rather the works of the Jewish Law. After Christ’s Sacrifice on the cross, the old Jewish Law was unneeded; the Old Testament was closed. No one can be justified through the works of the Law. That is what Paul constantly condemns–the works of the Law, not good works themselves!
The whole problem between Catholics and Protestants concerning salvation is not that Catholics promote “works salvation” (the Catholic Church has always taught we are saved by grace), but that Protestants who preach Sola Fide are ignoring parts of God’s Word! They isolate passages, and apply their own theology to the verses meanings.
The Early Church Fathers taught the same doctrine as the Catholic Church — both faith and works are necessary; works effect our salvation.
“We have learned from the prophets and we hold it as true that punishments and chastisements and good rewards are distributed according to the merit of each man’s actions. Were this not the case, and were all things to happen according to the decree of fate, there would be nothing at all in our power. If fate decrees that this man is to be good and that one wicked, then neither is the former to be praised nor the latter to be blamed” (First Apology 43 [A.D. 151]).
“Again, we [Christians] affirm that a judgment has been ordained by God according to the merits of every man” (To the Nations 19 [A.D. 195]).
“A good deed has God for its debtor [cf. Prov. 19:17], just as also an evil one; for a judge is the rewarder in every case [cf. Rom. 13:3–4]” (Repentance 2:11 [A.D. 203]).
“Standing before [Christ’s] judgment, all of them, men, angels, and demons, crying out in one voice, shall say: ‘Just is your judgment,’ and the justice of that cry will be apparent in the recompense made to each. To those who have done well, everlasting enjoyment shall be given; while to lovers of evil shall be given eternal punishment” (Against the Greeks 3 [A.D. 212]).
Cyprian of Carthage
The Lord denounces [Christian evildoers], and says, ‘Many shall say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, and in your name have cast out devils, and in your name done many wonderful works?And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you who work iniquity’ [Matt. 7:21–23]. There is need of righteousness, that one may deserve well of God the Judge; we must obey his precepts and warnings, that our merits may receive their reward” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 15, 1st ed. [A.D. 251]).
Council of Orange II
“[G]race is preceded by no merits. A reward is due to good works, if they are performed, but grace, which is not due, precedes [good works], that they may be done” (Canons on grace 19 [A.D. 529]).
My point is that Sola Fide is a doctrine that ignores God’s Word concerning the importance of obedience (good works), is not historical, and sets a Christian up with a false sense of their salvation being secured solely by their faith.
If you believe, is that all that is needed to save you? The devils believe in Christ — they have felt His power alright! The devils believe, and yet they are damned. If belief alone enough to save you? Maybe its time to rethink Sola Fide…
“May I not come before You with empty hands, since we are rewarded according to our deeds.” St. Teresa of Avila