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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27 thoughts on “Answering The Catholic Thinker on Faith Alone (Sola Fide) and works

  1. This resembles a conversation I had on Saturday with two Mormon missionaries. They also were trying to tell me that salvation is not finished until the believer produces good works. I insisted to them that good works are part of God’s plan of creation (Ephesians 2:10) but have no place in his plan of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). Nothing a Christian does before, during, or after coming to faith contributes to his or her salvation. Jesus has finished the work of salvation. J.

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  2. I was not speaking per se about Sola Fide being isolated from Sola Gratia, but was contrasting it with the importance of obedience (good works). Good works do not cause salvation (we are saved by grace), but good works are required. To say that they are not required is a direct violation of the Scriptures.

    Also, quoting Luther is not always reliable…as he showed his distaste for good works on occasion.

    “It is more important to guard against good works than against sin.”, from Trischreden, Wittenberg Edition, Vol. VI., p. 160

    Good works are bad and are sin like the rest.”, from Denifle’s Luther et Lutheranisme, Etude Faite d’apres les sources. Translation by J. Paquier (Paris, A. Picard, 1912-13), VOl. III, pg. 47.

    “There is no scandal greater, more dangerous, more venomous, than a good outward life, manifested by good works and a pious mode of life. That is the grand portal, the highway that leads to damnation.”, from Denifle’s Luther et Lutheranisme, Etude Faite d’apres les sources. Translation by J. Paquier (Paris, A. Picard, 1912-13), VOl. II, pg. 128

    “He that says the Gospel requires works for salvation, I say, flat and plain, is a liar.”, from Tischreden, P. 137

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  3. hello sister Maria. I just noticed you have your own site. I left you an invitation to visit a site that I frequent
    allalongthewatchtower wordpress. Im the lone single voice of Christianity in there and could use some help. I like the way you talk and say things. it suggests you are a born again fellow pilgrim. hard to find these now adays. Hope that you come in and speak your mind. Oh, I forgot to mention that the invitation I left for you was on Patricks site. he might not approve my post for a few days, so it was nice to find your blog so I could invite you in person. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What frustrates me is how Catholics like to twist Protestants’ words. We are saved through faith alone, but never have we taught that works aren’t necessary at all. In fact in the Bible it tells us that our beliefs won’t be reflected on our words, but by our works. Unfortunately people within other denominations (even outside of the RCC) like to make themselves appear clever and twist other’s words. It happens all the time. Think of Trump.
    But from what I remember the RCC seems to be very works-based itself. Such as paying to save your ancestors time in Purgatory, paying to church more money just to receive a piece of paper that says you’re saved. Luther did point out that if the Pope wants people to be saved, wouldn’t he rather do it out of love, rather than for money? Please, please, PLEASE do not try to pervert our words by saying that we think works are of no need. “Once saved always saved” is a doctrine taught in a few Protestant denominations, but it doesn’t mean stop doing those good works, because they reflect on your salvation.

    OFF TOPIC: feel free to check out my non-controversial, non stressed site. It still has a lot of growing to do but do feel free to check it out.
    classicalbeauty3.wordpress.com

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    • Jonah, please know that I will never pervert God’s Word to say “once saved, always saved, no matter how you live.” That is a lie just as works-based salvation is. We Christians confess and live all of the following, that is, that we are saved by grace through faith, in order that we may walk pleasing to the Lord. We aren’t saved by good works but for good works that will glorify Him.

      Ephesians 2:8-10
      8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 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.

      Have I answered your concerns about what I believe and promote?

      About frustration with Catholic attitudes and teaching which can be so difficult: Sometimes, if they aren’t open to persuasion through God’s Word, we must wipe the dust off our feet and leave them in the Lord’s hands.

      God bless and keep you!

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