The debate is set for April 20, 2012 at 7:00 Central , 8:00 Eastern live here on deepertruth. The show notes can be found at http://tinyurl.com/7s5ljbv
Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored to participate in this debate on the doctrine of Sola Fide. Classical Protestantism is basically founded on two primary columns called Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide.
These two columns were built upon the foundation of Martin Luther, the “Father” of Protestantism.
The Late John Gerstner was a Professor of Church History at Pittsburg Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary once said, “If Protestants were wrong on Sola Fide–and the Catholic Church was right that Justification is by faith and works, I’d be on my knees tomorrow morning outside of the Vatican doing penance”.
According to Luther and Calvin this was the article on which the Church stood or fell, Sola Fide was the material principle of the Reformation (From Scott Hahn’s testimony).
I have always answered the question posed to me about faith and good works with the use of a good rope. I also include grace giving the example of how the rope is made. Grace, faith, and good works together provide a solid strong secure lifeline. However, when there is the absence of a component, the life line is weakened.
Consider 1 Corinthians 13:2, “If I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” St. Paul is essentially saying that if you have no love, your faith is in vain.
This is in total agreement with James 2:14. St James asked the question, “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works. Can his faith save him?”
The answer is quite obvious as vs 17 says answers his question, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead”. As St. Paul had already noticed, “I am nothing” meaning I gain nothing. This was the prinicple reason Martin Luther placed the book of James on the back burner, calling it a gospel of straw, that it had no backbone. You will see why in a minute.
Consider 1 Corinthians 13:13, “So faith, hope, and love (charity) abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” St. Paul has already said that without love, he was nothing, so when you read St. Paul, he writes to encourage the Church to develop the gifts which up build the Church.
Good works is often seen as fruit in both the Old and New Testaments. Matthew 7:15 states, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheeps clothing but inwardly are revenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” This is really saying, or you will know them by their works. Jesus would continue saying in verse 23, “And I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you evil doers.”
Psalms Chapter 1 is among my favorite Old Testamtent scripture, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners nor sits in the seat of scoffers: but his delight is the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water: that yeilds it’s fruit in it’s season. And it’s leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”
Notice the tree planted by streams of water? This is a reflection of grace. We are to bear good fruit from the tree of life. The grace that is given freely we are to utilize in our life, to allow it to blossom. What God does in this light prospers because it is His work being accomplished.
St Paul echoes this writing, “For by grace you have been saved”. This is clearly refering to the running water in Psalms 1, from this grace, we are to bear good fruit. St. Paul continues, “this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God”. Just like the leaf that does not wither, it is God doing the work in us and so the work prospers. St. Paul point out, “Not because of works lest any man should boast” because it is God doing the work through your faithfulness. St. Paul is clear about this, saying “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for Good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”. If we choose not to walk in them, we are in effect, throwing God’s gift back in His face. That’s why faithfulness is so important in this debate.
St. Paul’s basic view on faith is this: faith is complete trust in the Lord, obedience to Jesus Christ. St. James agrees, he sees faith as belief in Jesus Christ, the resurrection and salvation coming from the Lord.
St. Paul’s basic view on works of the Old Testament law as acts of ritual adherence to a code to attain merit. Consider Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust consume and where theives break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where theives do not break in and steal. For where your treassure is, there will your heart be also.”
A person is basically known by three main areas in their life, you are known by what you say and by what you do. but most of all, we are known by what you love.
So why is there this debate and so much disunity concerning faith and good works? Remember Martin Luther, why he wanted to toss out the book of James from the New Testament Canon? St. Paul writes, “For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28).
Clearly St. Paul is speaking to the works of the Old Testament law of Moses. The Council of Trent following St. Paul, states, “If anyone shall say that man can be justified before God by his own works which are done either by his own natural powers or through the teaching of the law, and without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathama.”
What was the Council of Treat responding to? Martin Luther! Romans 3:28, Luther, in his German translation of the bible, specifically added “alone” to the text so it read, “For we consider that a person is justified by faith “alone” apart from works of the law”. This word being added was not in the original Greek text and when questioned about this, Luther responded: “You tell me what a great fuss the Papist (Catholics) are making because the word “alone” is not in the text of Paul… say right out to him: ‘Dr. Martin Luther will have it so,… I will have it so, and I order it to be so, and my will is reason enough. I know very well that the word “alone” is not in the Latin or the Greek text (Stoddard J. rebuilding a lost faith, 1922 p 101-102).
That is an amazing sentiment of defience against the Church and really placing upon himself a heavy burden to bear going against 1500 years of Christian tradition.
St. James sees works as spontaneous acts of love that spring from the fruits of the Spirit. Galations 5:22 lists the fruits of the Spirit as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” This all has to come from the heart which builds the works through faith in Jesus Christ.
The real problem of Sola Fide is what it rejects. Daniel writes a prophecy about the Church stating, “And in the days of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall it’s sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).
Isaiah 54:17 states, “No weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, says the Lord.”
The Lord Jesus said to Simon, son of Bar-Jona, “And I tell you, you are Kapa, and on this Kapa I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
St. Paul echo’s this writing, “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the Saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-20).
Once again, recalling the Prophet Daniel, he writes, “As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it smote the image on its feet on iron and clay, and broke them in pieces! Jesus is the stone the builders rejected who became the cornerstone.”
For Protestants grounded in the doctrine of Sola Fide, the Sacraments become a system of works, no longer necessary for salvation. The Protestants want to tie Catholic Sacraments to the Old Testament works of the law which St. Paul saw as rituals that adhere to a code to attain merit.
That is a total misrepresentation of the Sacraments which are the outward signs of inward grace received by the faithful. The Sacraments are life giving because it is Christ Jesus who administers them through His Catholic Church.
The Council of Jerusalem in 49 A.D. set the direction the Catholic Church would move recognizing the importance of faith (Acts 15:9), that we are saved by God’s grace (Acts 15:11), which is the call to action by the Holy Spirit and us (Acts 15:28).
St. Paul responds to those who sought to uphold the law of Moses saying “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor un-circumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love (Gal 5:6).
Colossians 9-12 states, “Therefore, from the day we heard this, we do not cease praying for you and asking that you may be filled with knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with every power in accord with his glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.”
Looking back at the two major pillars of Protestantism, Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide, the Catholic Faith on the other hand, has the three pillars resting on the promises of Jesus, that the gates of hell will not prevail against it, that Jesus would remain with the Church until he returns, and Jesus promise to sent the Holy Spirit.
I used to listened to a local Christian radio station near Ft. Campbell KY from time to time to check out what they would teach. On one occasion, the topic of faith and good works was the focus. I called up the radio station to see if I could enter the conversation. Unfortunately, it was only a tape recording and so there was no discussion that was live. Since it was a tape played in the studio, the only person available was the clerk answering the phone. To me that was enough!
I began my challenge with Matthew 25:31-46. If faith would get you to heaven and you do not need “good works”, why would Jesus warn us if we do not perform the Corporal Works of Mercy, you would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Jesus spoke that we must feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, cloth the naked, shelter the homeless, comfort the imprisoned, and visit the sick!
Jesus clearly states, “out of my sight, you condemned, into that everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels… As often as you neglected to do it to one of these least ones, you neglected to do it to me. These will go off to eternal punishment and the just to eternal life”.
As important as faith is, Jesus doesn’t speak to that issue, He is speaking of works that He fully expects His people to conduct. The Lord hears the cry of the poor, we become His hands when we seek to do His will! The lady at the studio was a bit taken back! She was not expecting a rebuttal like this, especially from a Catholic! To me, this was the opening argument! If someone claims to believe in God, but does nothing to help their fellow man, I simply was taking the Lord’s word on the issue.
This debate goes back to the original Protestant, Martin Luther! He taught “Faith Alone” and “Sola Scriptura”, which attacked the very core and foundation of the Church. This attack would shake the Church to her foundations! The sacraments could not be “life saving” or “necessary” because they would be the products of “works”!
Luther’s issue was far more than the selling of indulgences or disputes about the souls of Purgatory! This would undo 2,000 years of Christian teaching. Baptism, for example, is seen more as a public act, not a matter of necessity.
I encourage the reading of James chapter two. This speaks loudly about “faith alone” which it clearly says there is no faith alone! Philippians 2:16 states, “As I look to the day of Christ, you give me cause to boast that I did not run the race in vain or work to no purpose. Even if my life is to be poured out as a libation, over the sacrificial service of your faith. I am glad of it and rejoice with you”.
St. Paul also says (Philippians 2:12), “So then, my dearly beloved, obedient as always to my urgings, work with anxious concern to achieve your salvation…” If you are studying for a test and the teacher during review stomps his foot or pounds his hands on the desk to insure you get the point, what should you do? You should take note of the essential information! Well, what does God tell us about Judgement? Our finals, the test we should all want to pass!
Jesus states, “But he who ACTS in the truth comes into the light, to make clear that his DEEDS are done in God (John 3:21)”. Romans 2:5 states, “In spite of this, your hard and impenitent heart is storing up retribution for that day of wrath when the just judgement of God will be revealed, when He will repay every man for what he has DONE…”
1 Peter 1:17 says, “In prayer you call upon the Father who judges each one justly on the basis of his ACTIONS. Since this is so, conduct yourselves, reverently during this sojourn in a strange land”. Hebrews 13:21 states, “Furnish you with all that is good, THAT YOU MAY DO HIS WILL. Though Jesus Christ may carry out in you all that is pleasing to Him. To Christ be the glory forever! Amen.”
Revelation 22:12 states, “Remember, I am coming soon! I bring with me the reward that will be given to each man as his CONDUCT DESERVES.” John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever DISOBEYS the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him (Romans 5:9)”.
Scripture after scripture tells us we will be held accountable to our deeds. We must do the will of the Father! If you KEEP His Commandments, you SHOW you love Him! The Catholic Church recognize that we must be obedient in faith. The skull has what we call “infused joints” that keeps our brain protected and intact. We need each part for it to function properly. Likewise, faith and good works are infused, both are essential.
Jesus tells us to “store up heavenly treasure that no one can steal”. Our faith must produce fruit! Don’t take your faith and bury it in the backyard (Matthew 25:24-28). As I talked with the lady who answered the phone, I realized that the issue will not be won or lost based on this discussion. If I did nothing else, I hope that Jesus would chalk this up to one of the spiritual works of mercy, to instruct the uninformed, to be patient with those in error.
I think the Catholic Church has made some in-roads through the Protestant world! I have heard many of them tell me that “people of faith” will have good works as a result of the fruits of the spirit! That makes the argument more obsolete! Oh, Can you imagine that? Martin Luther would be rolling over in his grave if he heard that!
Faith is a gift! Good works are the product of our response to that gift. Salvation is not earned so that we can punch our own ticket, but good works that pleases God and are God ordained makes that ticket complete. The harvest is plenty but the workers are few!
Opening Statement: ‘Sola Fide’
April 20, 2012
By George Lujack
Sola fide (Latin meaning “by faith alone”), also known as the doctrine of justification by faith alone, is a Christian doctrine that distinguishes most Protestant denominations from Catholicism.
The doctrine of sola fide or “by faith alone” asserts God’s pardon for guilty sinners is granted to and received solely through faith, and not through works. All humanity is fallen and sinful, under the curse of God, and incapable of saving itself from God’s wrath and curse, which is eternal death and separation from God. It is through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone that grants pardon to sinners or justification through Christ. Salvation or redemption is a gift of God’s grace, attainable only through faith in Jesus, who died as an atonement sacrifice for all sinners who repent and place their faith in Him.
Catholics believe that faith is necessary for salvation but not sufficient. Catholics assert that sola fide is an error because, in addition to believing, God also requires good works, obedience, acts of love and charity as a prerequisite for acceptance into His kingdom, and for the reward of eternal life.
Martin Luther elevated sola fide to the principal cause of the Protestant Reformation and the main distinction between Protestant Christianity and Roman Catholicism. Luther said, “Works are necessary for salvation but they do not cause salvation; for faith alone gives life.”
John Calvin, also a proponent of the faith alone doctrine, taught that “every one who would obtain the righteousness of Christ must renounce his own.”
The Bible has seemingly contradictory statements of faith and works. James 2:24 states, “… that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. Romans 3:28 declares, “We conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”
There seems to be a semantic component to this debate as well, which has gained new attention in the past century. Luther’s supporters may have understood “salvation by faith alone” to mean “salvation by being faithful to Christ,” while his Catholic opponents understood him to mean “salvation by intellectual belief in Christ.”
Now the latter, salvation by mere intellectual belief in Christ should be rejected by Christians, for Scripture declares that even the demons intellectually believe in Christ (James 2:19). Mere belief that God exists is insufficient for salvation. Thus, as Scripture declares, faith (mere belief in Christ) without works is dead (James 2:17).
An intellectual believer in Christ who refuses to do any works; whether it is tithing, charitable deeds, proclaiming the gospel, etc., is not alive in Christ, but dead in his own spirit – having faith that merely believing in God is sufficient for salvation.
Faith without works would equate to someone who believes in Christ, but refuses to do any charitable works, good works for Christ, or Christ’s kingdom. Someone who has faith without works is an unworthy, unprofitable servant as illustrated in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. In that parable, the king cast the lazy and wicked servant into the outer darkness, or hell (Matthew 25:30).
This parable of the talents is a reflection of how Christ views lazy, unprofitable, “lukewarm” Christians. According to Revelation 3:15-16, He will say to many in the various churches that He knows their works (or more accurately their evil works or lack of good works), and that these believers are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, and because they are lukewarm, He will vomit them out of His mouth.
Salvation by being faithful to Christ is a sound biblical position and doctrine to live by. Being faithful to Christ compels a believer to do good works.
On the other hand, works alone cannot save us. Those who refuse to accept Christ for their salvation and believe there are “many paths” to God will be doomed to hell. Popular talk show host Oprah Winfrey has recently promoted the many paths to God theology on her television program. Christ declared that there is only one way to the Father and that is through faith in Him (John 14:16). Adam, after he sinned, was doomed to hell (which is eternal death and separation from God). There was no work that Adam could do to re-attain his salvation. All that Adam, and all sinners that came afterward could do, is to have faith in the promised Messiah who would take away the sins of the world. Yeshua the Messiah, Jesus the Christ fulfilled the OT prophecies written about Him and salvation is available to all mankind. Hallelujah!
If works were absolutely necessary for salvation, all babies that died prematurely as well as all persons who genuinely repent before dying, such as was the case of the thief on the cross, would be doomed. Christ declared that the thief on the cross would one day be with Him in paradise, even though the thief had apparently done no work to attain salvation.
Much of the divide between Catholicism and Protestantism is over the faith vs. works issue. At least some Catholics, I would argue, do good works to be seen by men and not so much because of their love for man. Sister Theresa comes to mind. Christ said in Matthew chapter 6, “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”
The Roman Catholic Church institution, throughout the ages, has abused the issue of repentance and works; often requiring repentant believers to do penance for sins. Penance cannot absolve a sinner from their sin; only true repentance and prayers for forgiveness can. God never commanded penance for sins against Him, but He did command recompense if you sinned against your neighbor – to repay your neighbor for their loss.
To this day, there are Catholics that believe they can self-suffer for Christ, as if Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was insufficient. This pious, self-righteous, self-suffering for Christ differs from martyrdom, where a believer suffers physical abuse and/or death against their will at the hands of another. Those who believe they can suffer for Christ are an insult to Christ and deny His atonement on the cross was sufficient for their salvation.
On the other hand, at least some Protestants rely on their faith in Christ alone, and do no works at all. God views Protestants who do no works at all as lazy, wicked, lukewarm servants. It is this type of faith, faith without works, that is dead (James 2:17).
As a non-denominational, Scriptural Christian, I cannot wholeheartedly accept either the standard Protestant Sola Fide by faith alone doctrine, or the Catholic belief that works is necessary for salvation. As for my biblically held position on the topic of faith and works, I will state it as the following…
Salvation is attained through faith in Christ who was sacrificed in our place as atonement for the sins of mankind, so that we may receive eternal life. It is through being faithful to Christ that we gladly do good works. Without Christ’s sacrifice and if Christ had not risen, then neither faith, nor good works, nor faith plus good works could save us (1 Corinthians 15:14).
Jesus Christ’s atonement sacrifice made salvation available to the world. It is through repentance of sin and faith and obedience to Him, that we can attain salvation through Him (John 14:16). Being faithful to Christ compels us to do good works. Good works do not save us; they demonstrate that we are faithful Christians. Having intellectual faith in Christ, or merely believing in Him, but refusing to do good works and acting in a manner unbefitting a Christian, equates one to being a lazy wicked servant (Matthew 25:14-30). Faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Christians who do not do any good works are in danger of losing their salvation (Matthew 25:30). Likewise, Christians who do not obey Christ’s commandments are liars and are also in danger of losing their salvation (1 John 2:4). Christians, who do good charitable works to be seen by men, will receive no reward from God (Matthew 6:1-4).
Salvation is through faith in the atonement sacrifice of Christ. Salvation is a gift from God. Salvation is unmerited grace and no one can earn it. Faith in Christ brings forth fruit, which brings forth good works. Faith without works is dead. Works without faith is in vain. Believe in God and do His will in your life, and let His Holy Spirit guide you to proclaim the gospel and to do the good works that He will equip you to do
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