Martin Luther called it “the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls.” He called on pastors to take it back to their churches and “beat it into their heads continually.” The Reformation saw untold numbers of believers across Europe go willingly to the flames because they refused to loosen their grip on this single conviction:
Sola fide—justification by faith alone.
It’s good to remember believers who explored theology not merely as an academic exercise but as a life-and-death endeavor. It’s good for us to pause and remember the doctrines for which our forebears in the faith died. And it’s good to ask if these are the doctrines for which we are living.
By Grace through Faith
Justification is the gracious act of God by which he declares a sinner righteous solely through faith in Jesus Christ. Unearned. Unmerited. Incredible.
Let’s break that down a bit.
“Justification is the gracious act of God . . .”
No one is right before God, and absolutely no one can make themselves right before God. It is God alone who can make us right before him (Ps. 143:2). No amount of penance, regret, service, or suffering can even the scales weighed down by our wanton rebellion against a holy and righteous God. We cannot achieve salvation by works. We can only receive it by faith as a free gift earned by Christ on Calvary.
“. . . by which he declares a sinner righteous . . .”
Sinful man has no case before the just Judge of the universe. We stand completely guilty before him, but he declares us righteous. Let’s not gloss over that fact—we stand utterly guilty, yet God declares us righteous in his sight. How can this be? How can God do that and still be God? “Here is a problem,” Luther said, “which needs God to solve it.”
And on the cross, the Son of God did indeed solve that problem. God loved us so much that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to live the life we could not live and die the death we deserved to die. Christ took the wrath we rightly deserve and gave us the righteousness we cannot merit.
“. . . solely through faith in Jesus Christ.”
“Believe in Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Paul tells the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:31, emphasis added).
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” Paul tells the church at Rome (Rom. 10:9, emphasis added).
“Repent and believe the good news,” Jesus proclaimed (Mark 1:15, emphasis added).
Faith in Christ is the single and sufficient requirement for justification. All we can do and all we must do is trust completely in the work Christ Jesus has accomplished with his death, and we are saved.
This Changes Everything
When we turn to Christ in faith, our old, sinful selves are completely burned away by his sacrifice. We die to ourselves and to our every attempt to earn God’s favor according to our own merit. We are justified by faith alone, and we live by faith alone. Not a single corner of our lives is left untouched by this truth.
“Our every move is made in the full assurance of Christ’s power, the complete sufficiency of his sacrifice, and the overwhelming joy of his victory.”
Do not give into the subtle temptation to embrace justification by faith alone, yet try and do life and ministry in the flesh alone. Christ loved you enough to die for you two thousand years ago, and Christ loves you enough to live in you today, to enable you with his sustenance and empower you with his strength.
Every step we take away from the cross of Calvary, we take in the same faith that brought us to the feet of Christ. Our every move is made in the full assurance of Christ’s power, the complete sufficiency of his sacrifice, and the overwhelming joy of his victory.
Worth Dying For
Furthermore, if all of this is true, we cannot keep silent. If God truly justifies sinners solely through faith in Jesus Christ, then we must make this doctrine known. It is not simply a doctrine to be understood; it is an eternity shaping truth that demands to be told. We, undeserving sinners, have experienced the love of God. And when you know the depth of God’s love for sinners, you’ll lose your life that they might know his salvation.
The martyrs of the Reformation didn’t die simply because they believed the gospel. They died because they proclaimed the gospel. They didn’t just love the gospel. They loved the people who needed the gospel, and they were willing to die so others may know it. So they shared it in their homes, they taught it in their churches, they proclaimed it in their towns, and it cost them everything they had.
And it was worth it.
Salvation by faith alone is the best news we could possibly hear or deliver. If we lose that, we lose everything. So let us rejoice in that salvation, and let sola fide ring out from our lips in the church and among the lost until the day when such faith finally becomes sight.
Taken from: https://www.imb.org/2017/10/10/sola-fide-changes-everything/
“Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”
The unity of the Spirit must be earnestly maintained by humble, gentle, patient, loving Christians.
Today’s Scripture spells out the goal of the worthy walk: the unity of the Spirit. Jesus prayed for Christians “that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me” (John 17:21). Our witness to the world depends on our unity as believers.
The world is full of discord, animosity, bitterness, and resentment. If in the midst of the world there is an oasis of unity and harmony, people will wonder what we have. Then we have the opportunity to say, “This is what Christ can do.” The world needs to see that the church is not just another social club, but an institution of God, supernaturally born, supernaturally sustained, with a supernatural destiny.
Our unity depends on the virtues we have been studying this month: gentleness, patience, and forbearing love. Without them, unity is impossible. In addition, our unity requires diligence. The word translated “diligent” in Ephesians 4:3 carries the ideas of both zeal and urgency: “Let’s work on it, and work on it now.” We need full dedication. But don’t say first, “I’ll head the committee” or “I’ll make the posters.” This is a personal passage, and if you want to hurry and start working on unity, you need to start in your heart. Commit yourself first to walking worthy by matching your life with your theology.
I am grieved by all the disunity and discord in the church today. One of the main causes is the focus on denominational distinctives—what divides us. We should instead focus on biblical distinctives—what unites us. We need to humble ourselves and learn to love each other. That won’t happen by starting a global ecumenical movement, but it will happen when we become what God wants us to be. Working at unity is a full-time task that demands maximum dedication and obedience from every Christian.
Suggestions for Prayer
Pray that God would unify His church around the world, and that He would begin with you.
For Further Study
Read about the unity of the early church in Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37.
Luke 10:40 But Martha was distracted with much serving.
Her fault was not that she served: The condition of a servant is commendable in the Christian. "I serve" should be the motto of all the princes of the royal family of heaven. Nor was it her fault that she had "much serving." We cannot do too much. Let us do all that we possibly can; let head and heart and hands be engaged in the Master's service. It was no fault of hers that she was busy preparing a feast for the Master. Happy Martha, to have an opportunity of entertaining so blessed a guest; and happy, too, to have the spirit to throw her whole soul so heartily into the engagement. Her fault was that she grew "distracted with much serving," so that she forgot Him and only remembered the service. She allowed service to override communion, and so presented one duty stained with the blood of another.
We ought to be Martha and Mary in one: We should do much service and have much communion at the same time. For this we need great grace. It is easier to serve than to commune. Joshua never grew weary in fighting with the Amalekites; but Moses, on the top of the mountain in prayer, needed two helpers to sustain his hands.
The more spiritual the exercise, the sooner we tire in it. The choicest fruits are the hardest to rear; the most heavenly graces are the most difficult to cultivate. Beloved, while we do not neglect external things, which are good enough in themselves, we ought also to see to it that we enjoy living, personal fellowship with Jesus.
See to it that sitting at the Savior's feet is not neglected, even though it be under the specious pretext of doing Him service. The first thing for our soul's health, the first thing for His glory, and the first thing for our own usefulness is to keep ourselves in perpetual communion with the Lord Jesus and to see that the vital spirituality of our faith is maintained over and above everything else in the world.
Taken from https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/daily-devotionals/1/24/0/
I'm sure by now that you've received emails, Facebook ads, or push notifications encouraging you to start (or continue) a Bible reading plan for 2018.
I love how technology has evolved to place the Word of God in front of us all the time! But, if you're anything like me - easily distracted with a fickle heart - reading the Bible this year consistently will be a challenge.
So today, I want to give you five motivational reasons to open the Bible when you don't feel like it.
The only way you can properly understand who you are and what you were given life and breath to do is when you look at yourself through the lens of the narrative of Scripture. It's only in this story that you will learn that you were made by God and for God, that everything you are and have comes from him, and that you were made to live for something vastly bigger than yourself.
You will never know all that you need to know in order to live as you were designed to live by human experience, research, and analysis. This is why God immediately spoke with Adam and Eve after he created them. In the same way, God speaks to us in his Word so that we can know and understand, and in knowing and understanding, live as we were created to live.
The world in which you live can be very confusing, distressing, and painful. But the biblical story comforts us with another reality - that our world is not out of control. Rather, our world is under the careful personal control of One who is the ultimate definition of everything that is good, true, wise, and loving. We can rest, not because we understand what's happening, but because we know the One who rules it all.
This is the ultimate reason for the Word of God. Without it, we wouldn't know that our biggest problem exists inside of us and is called sin. The biblical story chronicles the great things God has done and is doing to rescue, forgive, and deliver us from our sin. The epicenter event of the narrative is the Cross of Jesus Christ, delivering to us the one thing that we desperately need but cannot achieve on our own - new life.
The biblical story, because it is a story, has a final chapter. One day, the sickness, sadness, and sin of this broken world will end. We will be like God and with God forever. The Author of this Book has guaranteed the end of the story by raising Jesus from the dead. No matter what happens, we have hope, because we know the final page has already been penned.
So, as you continue to discipline yourself in the reading of Scripture, be inspired to read the Bible as a story.
This story has one central character: God himself, specifically in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. From cover to cover, the Bible is a narrative of his wondrous works and the blessings that are yours by grace.
This old, old story imparts identity, understanding, comfort, salvation, and hope. Has it become your favorite story to read everyday?
"Having been predestined according to [God's] purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will" (Eph. 1:11).
God took the initiative in salvation by choosing you and granting you saving faith.
In Ephesians 1:4 Paul says that God "chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him." In verse 11 he reiterates that marvelous truth by affirming that believers have been predestined to salvation according to God's own purpose and will.
Many reject the teaching that God chose (predestined) believers to salvation. They think believers chose God. In one sense they're right: salvation involves an act of the will in turning from sin to embrace Christ. But the issue in predestination goes deeper than that. It's a question of initiative. Did God choose you on the basis of your faith in Him or did He, by choosing you, enable you to respond in faith.
The answer is clear in Scripture. Romans 3:11 says that no one seeks for God on his own. Unregenerate people have no capacity to understand spiritual truth. It's all foolishness to them (1 Cor. 2:14). They are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1), blind (2 Cor. 4:4), and ignorant (Eph. 4:18).
How can people in that condition initiate saving faith? They can't! That's why Jesus said, "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him. . . . All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out" (John 6:44, 37). Paul added, "God . . . has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity" (2 Tim. 1:9).
God took the initiative. He chose you and gave you saving faith (Eph. 2:8-9). Rejoice in that truth. Rest in His power to conform all things to His will. Draw strength and assurance from His promise never to let you go (John 10:27-29). Then live each day as God's elected one by shunning sin and following after holiness.
Copied from https://www.gty.org/library/devotionals
Salvation belongs to the Lord! Jonah 2:9
Salvation is the work of God. It is He alone who quickens the soul "dead in...trespasses and sins," and He it is who maintains the soul in its spiritual life. He is both "Alpha and Omega."
"Salvation belongs to the LORD!" If I am prayerful, God makes me prayerful; if I have graces, they are God's gifts to me; if I hold on in a consistent life, it is because He upholds me with His hand. I do nothing whatever toward my own preservation, except what God Himself first does in me. Whatever I have, all my goodness is of the Lord alone. Whenever I sin, that is my own doing; but when I act correctly, that is wholly and completely of God. If I have resisted a spiritual enemy, the Lord's strength nerved my arm.
Do I live before men a consecrated life? It is not I, but Christ who lives in me. Am I sanctified? I did not cleanse myself: God's Holy Spirit sanctifies me. Am I separated from the world? I am separated by God's chastisements sanctified to my good. Do I grow in knowledge? The great Instructor teaches me. All my jewels were fashioned by heavenly art. I find in God all that I want; but I find in myself nothing but sin and misery. "He only is my rock and my salvation."
Do I feed on the Word? That Word would be no food for me unless the Lord made it food for my soul and helped me to feed upon it. Do I live on the bread that comes down from heaven? What is that bread but Jesus Christ Himself incarnate, whose body and whose blood I eat and drink? Am I continually receiving fresh supplies of strength? Where do I gather my might? My help comes from heaven's hills: Without Jesus I can do nothing.
As a branch cannot bring forth fruit except it abide in the vine, no more can I, except I abide in Him. What Jonah learned in the ocean, let me learn this morning in my room: "Salvation belongs to the LORD."
Taken from https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/daily-devotionals/2/26/2017/
John 6:44 “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” KJV
Mat 28:19, 20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ESV
In these two verses, we see what could be considered a paradox. On one hand John says that God draws people to Himself and Matthew says that we are commanded to make disciples. How is it that God does the drawing, yet, we are commanded to make disciples? God certainly knows, after all who His elect are and since He (God) chooses, why should we bother then with the Great Commission?
God, in His Sovereignty has given us (believers) a command to evangelize the world to bring others to Christ. The question is then, to whom do we evangelize? And, how does our evangelizing and His drawing work together? When Christ came, He broke down the barriers of the Nations and division of peoples. This is why we (Gentiles) have been grafted in as one body in Christ.
We are told to evangelize the world, in the military that means lottie dottie everybody. It does not discriminate or alienate, it means everyone. Yet, as believers, we seem to pick and choose who we “evangelize”.
Peter had to be set straight in Acts before he went to the Cornelius household. Peter had some traditions and maybe even some prejudices he had to overcome before going to a gentile and a Roman soldier to boot. God had to show him in a vision not to show partiality to anyone. “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” KJV
So here is the question we must answer for ourselves, do we show partiality to those outside our comfort zone? Do we only evangelize those whom we have in common or are comfortable around? We have no idea who God is drawing to Himself and when the Holy Spirit gives us opportunity to share the gospel, we need to take that opportunity and either plant the seed or water the seed. Gods word will not return void and we can be confident that God’s drawing of that person will give the increase. We just need to be faithful.
The angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me’
- Genesis 22:11-12
Spend some time listening to testimonies of people who have been converted to Christ, and it probably will not be too long until you hear a promise that believing in Christ will make your life easier in some way. Most people who say such things or who give the impression that the life of faith is easy are motivated by a desire to see as many people converted to Christ as possible, so their ways of speaking about Christ are understandable. However, such individuals do a disservice to people who are considering the claims of Christ. In truth, trusting in Jesus adds complications to our lives that we do not have before placing our faith in Him. Often in the Christian life, we have to trust God in hard places, believing that He is commanding us to do things that are ultimately for our good even if we cannot yet understand how that could be so.
The life of Abraham illustrates this point. Abraham often had to trust God when it was difficult to do so, and he sometimes failed to believe the Lord. He was promised many descendants, but when God seemed to be taking too long to fulfill His promise, Abraham took matters into his own hands and fathered Ishmael with his wife’s maid Hagar (Gen. 15:1–6; 16:1–16). Such an action shows us that Abraham did not necessarily find it easier to trust God than we do.
However, the greatest test of Abraham’s faith did not come until years after he had Ishmael. Decades passed and finally Sarah conceived a child, and Isaac, the son of the promise, was born (21:1–7). The couple’s trust in God was finally vindicated after years and years of waiting, and we can hardly imagine the joy that Isaac brought to his parents. But soon this trust was tested again when Abraham was called to sacrifice Isaac, the son for whom he had waited for what no doubt seemed like an eternity (22:1–2).
Abraham did pass his test, but clearly he struggled to do so. He did not set out with Isaac right away, but he delayed his trip until morning, maybe even hoping that God would call off the test (v. 3). It seems that Abraham could finally move forward because he believed God would provide a substitute for Isaac (v. 8), but since God did not tell him that explicitly, he must have endured great agony until the Lord finally did provide the lamb just in time (vv. 9–14). Abraham was no superhuman saint; he struggled to trust God when it seemed impossible to do so. But he did trust God, showing himself to be a model of faith for us.
Authentic faith does not trust God only when times are good. It also believes God and acts upon His Word when doing so guarantees great difficulties. Resolve now to trust God even when it is hard, and ask the Lord to give you the courage, conviction, and stamina to continue following Him even when doing so means you must pay a high cost
Passages for Further Study
Job 1:20–21 Habakkuk 3:17–18 Matthew 15:21–28 Hebrews 11:32–40
Copied from: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/living-according-faith/