Wednesday, May 24

'Tis So Sweet

One of the cornerstones of the reformation is sole fide, the truth that our salvation comes to us through faith alone. Salvation being through faith is so central to the gospel that Paul can call the gospel "the word of faith" as a sort of shorthand for everything that is included in the gospel. At the same time, Paul sets faith up as the antithesis of works--"by faith" means "not based on works"--and that's where the sole part of sole fide comes in. We don't merit salvation by what we do; but rather, we recieve it by faith "apart from the works of the law", or by faith alone.

It sounds simple enough doesn't it? But it's a simple concept that proves elusive, for way down deep, we don't want to believe that we can do nothing to merit our own salvation. We say salvation is by faith alone, and then we wonder if we have enough, or good enough, or strong enough faith to be saved. And when we do this, we're treating faith as if it's just another work, in contrast to works of the law; rather than something that contrasts with the whole idea of works. We are treating faith as just the right way--or only possible way--to merit our salvation; and thinking of our faith as the grounds of our salvation, rather than simply the vehicle through which the whole of our salvation comes to us.

But sole fide does not stand alone. Sole fide is always and forever linked with solus Christus, which means it's Christ's work alone that saves us. It's his work that is enough (or good enough or strong enough), and not our faith. Faith is not something we produce in order to be saved; but rather, it's an acknowledgment that we can produce nothing at all that counts, and that Christ produced everything we need: that his work alone is the grounds of our salvation.

I can't be trusted, even to have faith that's good enough, but Christ can be trusted because he was perfectly obedient even to death on the cross on my behalf, and he lives forever to make intercession for me and keep me in the palm of his hand. It's not about me and my faith, but about him and his trustworthiness, his obedience, and his strength.

The real question is not "Is my faith strong enough?" but "Is his work perfect?"
Cross posted at Theologica.

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