This fall, we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. In the Pastor’s Corner, we will be exploring the 5 “Solas” that arose out of Reformation thinking. (“Sola” is a Latin word meaning “alone.”) Then, in the final article will be a reflection from the Roman Catholic perspective. Last week Pastor Ron Olson, explored Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone). This week, I am exploring the phrase Sola Fide (Faith Alone).
By PASTOR MARY WIGGINS
In The Freedom of a Christian, Martin Luther wrote, “This word of God cannot be received or honored in any works, but must be grasped by faith alone (Sola Fide). The word in Greek for faith can also mean trust. It’s through trust, rather than any of our own deeds or actions, that we are made right in God’s eyes. By simply trusting in God’s promise of forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we are saved. Basically, we are not made right by any act of our own, but by our faith in Jesus Christ. In Lutheranism, which is my background, this theological concept is known as “justification by faith.”
We are saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. We do not have to do anything to save ourselves, because we have already been saved by the work of Jesus Christ. By believing in this promise of Christ’s death and resurrection, we receive righteousness which only comes from God, which is what makes us right in his eyes. As it says in Romans, “But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness” (4:5). And because we have already received forgiveness through Jesus we are free from the unattainable need to secure our own salvation. Our work is not needed, because God’s work has already been done for us.
So, all we need is faith, but we cannot even come to faith on our own. It’s not through hard work, reading the bible, praying, or serving others. Faith comes to us from God. It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that even come to faith in the first place. And it’s the work of the Holy Spirit that helps us hear the Gospel and makes us holy.
In the Augsburg Confession it says, “Because the Holy Spirit is given through faith, the heart is also moved to do good works.” Our behavior as Christians, and our service to our neighbors, doesn’t save us, because we are already justified through our faith in Jesus Christ. We serve others, because we have been transformed by the freedom we receive through our faith. Our needs have been taken care of by Christ so we respond to this gift out of love by following the desire of God to care for God’s beloved.
Mary Wiggins serves as pastor of Scranton Lutheran Parish.