Scripture Alone, for the Reformers and us!


Joel Beeke’s explanation of the authority of God’s Word is clear and solid: I really appreciated his article. Because of our disappointment with certain pastors, as well as the many false teachers who’ve arisen among us, some readers may object to Beeke’s emphasis on the importance of the Biblical role of pastor-teacher in the Church, but I believe it is what the Lord ordained for us. Godly pastors are His gift. Thank you, Lord!

junge-lammer-des-hausschafes-by-bohringer-friedrich-2006-via-wikimedia.jpg



The Sufficiency of the Bible Contra Rome

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The principle of sola Scriptura  explains why the Reformers accepted some parts of Roman Catholic teaching but not others. They believed that Christ, as the only Head, rules His church by His Word and Spirit. The authority of Scripture is thus absolute, the authority of Christ Himself, not an authority derived from or accorded to it by the church. Calvin said that Scripture is as authoritative as if we heard God’s “living words” from heaven with our own ears (Institutes, 1.7.1) and so Christians should be governed by its promises (Institutes, 3.2.6–7) and the church should be wholly subject to its authority (Institutes, 4.8). . .

The Bible’s sufficiency should also not be understood to exclude the use of the church’s helps, such as her many teachers past and present, and the writings produced by them. These are not to be rejected, but welcomed as a means that the Holy Spirit has provided in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:28Eph. 4:11–13). However, they are subordinated to the Bible in such a way that they have authority to direct our faith and obedience only insofar as they faithfully reproduce and apply the teachings of Scripture. The principle of Scripture alone, rightly understood, does not mean the church of any given time or place operates by the Bible alone without reference to the traditions of the church through the ages. Rather, the sola of sola Scriptura means that the Bible alone is the fountain and touchstone for all authoritative teaching and tradition. This point especially needs to be emphasized in an ahistoric contemporary culture that emphasizes radical individualism and personal liberty. As Peter warns, “No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Pet. 1:20). . .
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Photo: “Junge lammer des hausschafes” (Young lamb of the domestic sheep) by bohringer friedrich, 2006, Wikimedia.
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Answering The Catholic Thinker on Faith Alone (Sola Fide) and works


Ephesians 2:8-10

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

“Genuine salvation is entirely of God and it inevitably results in a life of good works.”

Steven J. Cole, Bible.org


 An answer to Patrick E. Devens

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“Those who teach Sola Fide, are they not keeping back information concerning salvation? What of good works; obedience?

“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.”

Patrick E. Devens, The Safety-Net of Sola Fide

Patrick, I won’t be responding to every point of your post The Safety-Net of Sola Fide, but to some problems with it: most importantly, that you tend to isolate Faith Alone from the other Solas, and that you are misrepresenting the faith of many Christians.
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To begin, here is an overview of the Solas from Theopedia.com. In studying them, I believe it’s important to remember that they aren’t a creed or catechism and so they aren’t meant to set forth the entirety of the Faith.
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“The Five Solas are five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged from the Protestant Reformation intended to summarize the Reformers’ basic theological principles in contrast to certain teachings of the Roman Catholic Church of the day. “Sola” is Latin meaning “alone” or “only” and the corresponding phrases are:
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Sola Fide, by faith alone.

Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.

Solus Christus, through Christ alone.

Sola Gratia, by grace alone.

Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.

“These phrases may be found individually expressed in the various writings of the 16th century Reformers, either explicitly or implicitly, but they are not found presented as a list per se. It is most likely the list of Solas came about later.”

So again, Sola Fide shouldn’t be made to stand on its own. A Reformed website Monergism.com expresses the Solas together in this way:

“We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in the scripture alone, to the glory of God alone.” 

This same website has a helpful article on Faith Alone, The History of Justification by Faith Alone up to the Reformation, which addresses your just concerns over where Sola Fide was before the Reformation. I’m studying this myself now. 

Patrick, you must know that we teach Sola Gratia as well as Sola Fide and so you can’t say that Sola Fide is deficient because it doesn’t contain or seems to ignore Sola Gratia: again, they must be taken as a whole and not separated except for the purpose of explanation. 

The Reformers on Faith and Works

Martin Luther’s Definition of Faith (Ligonier Ministries) 

“. . . faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13) It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing.”

John Calvin on faith and good works (Bible.org)

“We have been clear upon the fact that good works are not the cause of salvation; let us be equally clear upon the truth that they are the necessary fruit of it. . .Christ justifies no one whom he does not at the same time sanctify.”

Huldrych Zwingli (AZ Quotes) 

“Our confidence in Christ does not make us lazy, negligent, or careless, but on the contrary it awakens us, urges us on, and makes us active in living righteous lives and doing good. There is no self-confidence to compare with this.”

Additional important points

While, as you correctly stated, the Lord Jesus Christ taught us how we must live as God’s, He also taught us about the preeminence of faith:

John 6

28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

29 Jesus answered, and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe in him, whom he hath sent.

The truth that the just shall live by his faith is taught in both the Old and New Testaments.

Habakkuk 2:4

“Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his faith.

1 Peter 1:3-9

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

Hebrews 11

Genuine Bible-believing Christians (Protestants and Evangelicals) aren’t antinomians, which is the implication of your post. Yes, there are some who live as though one can sin all they like since they once “made a decision for Christ,” but that is not what the Bible teaches and what we hold. Genuine Christians aren’t lawless and don’t promote lawlessness. Christians understand Paul and James together, that is, that good works demonstrate that we have saving faith – living Faith – for as you note, even the demons know that God exists.

James 2:19

You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

We also believe that Christians will be eager for good works, and we want to obey and please the Lord. We are not looking for a way out of difficulties but are carrying our cross, loving the Lord and others. Not that we have attained to these things but that God is at work within us and will complete the good work He began in us.

Philippians 2:12-14

12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Titus 2:13,14

13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Again, Martin Luther did not invent Faith Alone. The Bible teaches it, and it was taught by Patristics such as Clement of Rome, Irenaeus of Lyons, and John Chrysostom:

“Similarly we also, who by His will have been called in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, or our own wisdom or understanding or godliness, nor by such deeds as we have done in holiness of heart, but by that faith through which Almighty God has justified all men since the beginning of time. Glory be to Him, forever and ever, Amen.” – St. Clement of Rome (? – ~101 AD) (Letter to the Corinthians,  par. 32)

“Human beings can be saved from the ancient wound of the serpent in no other way than by believing in him who, when he was raised up from the earth on the tree of martyrdom in the likeness of sinful flesh, drew all things to himself and gave life to the dead.” – St. Irenaeus (130 – 202 AD) (Against the Heresies, IV, 2, 7)

“They said that he who adhered to faith alone was cursed; but he, Paul, shows that he who adhered to faith alone is blessed.”- St. John Chrysostom (347 – 407 AD) (Homily on Galatians 3)

HT: ACTheologian, Church Fathers on Sola Fide

Patrick, you said, “But Sola Fide is not taught anywhere in the Bible, implicitly or explicitly, as a single verse or the Bible as a whole.” At the least, please remember this passage:

Romans 1:16-17

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 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.”

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Modern Church History – important documents, Cambridge Declaration

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Jeremiah 6:16

NKJV

16 Thus says the Lord:

“Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.

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Cambridge Declaration

“The gospel declares what God has done for us in Christ. It is not about what we can do to reach him.”


Under “Creeds and Confessions” at Theopedia.com, I found the Cambridge Declaration in a very readable format. Theopedia.com introduces the Declaration in this way:

“Formulated April 20, 1996, by a group of conservative evangelical theologians and pastors, The Cambridge Declaration of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is a call to recover the historic Christian faith. The Five Solas of the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation form the outline of the declaration.”.


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Cambridge Declaration of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

“Evangelical churches today are increasingly dominated by the spirit of this age rather than by the Spirit of Christ. As evangelicals, we call ourselves to repent of this sin and to recover the historic Christian faith…”

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For Study:

(This isn’t necessarily an endorsement of all the views of these authors or organizations.)

Reformation Essentials – Five Pillars of the Reformation by Michael Horton

Recovering Reformation Theology: Rejecting Synergism and Returning to Monergism by Bob DeWaay

The Five Solas of the Reformation: A Brief Statement by Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D.

Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ posting of the Declaration

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Four minutes of your time:

James Montgomery Boice: “Here we stand”

 

Reformation Saskatchewan – J.D. Hall


Dear reader, our salvation is according to Scripture alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone!


Message: Still Protesting – Sola Fide 2 – J.D. Hall

“The second of messages from JD at Reformation Saskatchewan, dealing with the topic of Sola Fide. JD explains why Roman Catholicism is not Christianity and why Protestants should still be protesting.”

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