Sola Fide - Faith Alone? Is Salvation by Faith Alone?
Many protestants believe that they are saved through faith alone and that works (and even sin in some cases) have no role in our salvation. The theology of salvation by faith alone is not biblical and was first invented by Martin through the many reformers that followed Luther and continues to be a major pillar within protestant theology. The theology behind Sola Fide is that we are saved by faith alone and that our good works have no affect on our salvation. Some protestant churches even go so far as to say that not even sin can affect our salvation as long as you have faith and have been saved. Keep in mind that Sola Fide believers will often quote bible verses which by themselves seem to be saying that we are saved by faith alone. However, when you take the verses in context and the Bible as a whole their beliefs do not hold up. The Catholic Church has always taught that we are saved only by the Grace of God, but that we have to actively participate in this grace through faith and works. Grace is a free gift from God, paid for by Jesus Christ on the Cross for our salvation, but as with any gift we have to accept it or we do not get the benefits of it.
Below are just a few scripture verses that back up the Catholic Churches teaching on salvation:
"You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone" (James. 2:24). (THE ONLY PLACE IN THE BIBLE WHERE THE WORDS “FAITH ALONE” APPEAR)
“So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. “(1 Cor 13:13)
" ..........and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." (1 Cor 13:2)
“But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:11)
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven." (Mark2:5) If he had faith, why did Jesus feel the need to forgive his sins?
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? -- unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Cor 13:5)
“Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’" (Matt. 7:21).
“Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” (Matt. 19:17)
“Jesus said to him “If you would be perfect go and sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven, and come, follow me.” (Matt. 19:21)
(Jesus speaks to the disciples) “But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matt 5:22)
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt 6:14-15) Something Jesus says we must do is to “I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matt 12:36-37) Does not say faith alone.
Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 3:21)
“which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:6-7)
“For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.” (Matt 16:27)
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
“When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' And the King will answer them, Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me. Then he will say to those at his left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. Then they also will answer, Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee? Then he will answer them, Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matt 25:31-46) Nowhere do these verses or any other verse in the Bible say that we will be judged by our faith alone.
“Why do you call me "Lord, Lord," and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46).
“….and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:29)
“For he will render every man according to his works . . .” (Rom. 2:6 - Paul quotes Ps 62:12 & Pvrbs 24:12)
“For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (Rom. 2: 13).
“For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgments . . .” (Heb. 10:26-27).
“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Heb. 13:16)
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, "You have faith and I have works."Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works”. (James 2:14-18)
“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe -- and shudder.” (James 2:19) Are the demons saved if they believe? Just believing does not mean you are saved!
“Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren?” (James 2:20)
“You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works,” (James 2:22)
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)
“For we are of his good workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10)
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.” (2 Cor 5:10)
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” (Gal. 5:6)
“Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:19-21)
“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done.” (Rev 20:13)
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done.” (Rev 22:12)
“And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says "I know him" but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him; he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:3-6)
“And if you invoke as Father him who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.” (1Pet 1:15)
“If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim 5:8)
“All Scripture is inspired by God, and useful for teaching, for reproving, for correcting, for instructing in justice; that the man of God may be perfect, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17)
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16) Baptism is also required for salvation in this verse!
“Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) Again, baptism is a requirement for salvation.
A few last things to consider:
- Many non-catholics believe that the Catholic Church teaches salvation by works alone. This is simply not true and can be easily proven false. The Catholic Church has never taught that we are able work our way into heaven.
- Whenever Jesus speaks of judgement He always says that we will be judged by what we have done or haven't done (See Matt 25:31- 46 above). Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus ever say that we will judged by our Faith Alone.
- If non-catholics want to believe that it is faith alone that saves then they must believe that works must accompany faith and be participating in the grace that God has called us to. After all the Bible states that faith must contain works or it is dead! A dead faith is an incomplete and non saving faith (See James 2:20 above).
- Most believers in "Salvation by Faith Alone" do not strictly adhere to this theology. They realize that to do so would not make them a very good Christian in God's eyes, there own eyes, and in the eye's of others. It's hard to imagine how anyone claiming to be a Christian would not help the poor, feed the hungry, care for the sick, pray for their neighbor, and etc. and still make the claim that they are a good Christian simply because the have faith in Christ. Without doing goods works they would not be following what Christ taught his Apostles and their faith would be lacking.