The Staunch Calvinist

"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards


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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 19: Of the Law of God - Commentary

...mmandments and ordinances of the Lord, and to continue in the observation of them; which walking in them supposes:

and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them; being constrained by the love of God; influenced by the grace of Christ; and strengthened by the blessed Spirit: and such persons observe and do them willingly and cheerfully; from a principle of love; in faith, and to the glory of God; without any mercenary and selfish views; without trusting to, and depending upon, what is done for salvation.

Christ Does Not Dissolve, But Strengthens Our Obligation To Obey

The Confession claims that Sola Fide and Sola Gratia are, in fact, compatible with law-keeping. Contrary to the claim of some, Christ did not free us from obedience to the moral law but rather strengthened our obligation to render obedience. How exactly did Christ do that? Central to this discussion is Matthew 5:17-19, which we turn our attention to now.

Matthew 5:17-19

Matt 5:15-17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

What Are The Law Or The Prophets?

Either anticipating what He will teach or on the basis of what He had taught before delivering the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Christ warns His listeners not to think that He has come to nullify the Old Testament Scriptures, but rather to fulfill them. Crucial to this text is the understanding of the word " fulfill", which we will turn our attention to in a few moments. But first, let us identify what is meant by “the Law and the Prophets.”

I believe that the phrase refers to the Old Testament as a whole and not to the Decalogue or the Law of Moses particularly. The phrase occurs in Matt 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; 22:40; Luke 16:16; John 1:45; Acts 13:15; 24:14; 28:23; Rom 3:21. The clearest proof that this refers to the Old Testament is I believe in Luke 16:16 where Abraham says to the man in Hades that his family has "[T]he Law and the Prophets", meaning that they have the Word of God in their hands. Or, what Paul testifies before Felix that he believes “everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets” (Luke 24:14), by which he means that he believes the whole Bible (as he knew it, before the completion of the NT).

What is meant then by “the Law” in v. 18? I believe that the Old Testament is still in view, for the word or category “Law” is used in the New Testament for more than only the Pentateuch. For example, the Lord referring to Psalm 82:2 says, “Is it not written in your Law” (John 10:34). The Lord again quotes from the Psalms (35:19) by prefacing it with “the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled” (John 15:25). And 1 Corinthians 14:21 quotes Isaiah 28:11-12 says, “In the Law it is written”. In these instances, we see the word or category “Law” being used as a reference to all the holy writings which we know as the Old Testament and not merely to the Pentateuch. Seeing therefore that the word “Law” in v. 18 and the phrase “the Law or the Prophets” in v. 17 refer to the same thing, i.e., the Old Testament Scriptures, I see no reason t...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 11: Of Justification - Commentary

... yet it is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love. 2
  1. Rom. 1:17; 3:27-31; Phil. 3:9; Gal. 3:5
  2. Gal. 5:6; James 2:17, 22, 26

Faith alone, which is receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the only instrument of justification (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9). We are declared righteous by faith alone and not by faith plus our works or anything else. This is Sola Fide. But it should not be thought that this faith is alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces (Gal. 5:6; Jas. 2:17, 22, 26; Titus 2:11-14). We are saved by faith alone, but this faith is not alone. It is not a dead faith, but worketh by love (Gal. 5:6). Good works are the fruit of true faith. They are not a ground of justification, they are fruits which demonstrate our justification.

The Case for Sola Fide

It is by faith alone that we are saved from God’s wrath and welcomed into a loving relationship with Him. Faith alone is the instrument, which is given to us by God so that we would be brought into His fold. Manifold are the passages which mention saving faith alone (which is always accompanied by repentance, Acts 20:21) as the condition or instrument of justification. But Roman Catholics may object that the Bible nowhere says “faith alone” and the only places where that phrase appears is in James 2:24 when it’s in the negative. We will deal with that below. But when we read of faith being the instrument of justification and in the same verse excluding works, then we are justified (intended pun) to say that the Bible teaches that faith alone is the sole instrument of justification. Romans 3 is my favorite passage on justification. It’s clear and to the point. The Holy Spirit says—

Rom. 3:28-30 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.

What are the works of the Law but the things that God delights in and has commanded in the Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments? But still, Paul says that is not the way that we are justified. That is not the way that we are declared righteous before the thrice holy God. It is by faith. For the Jew and the Gentile, it is the same way whereby comes the equality of Jewish and Gentile Christians (e.g. Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:11ff). The Jews had the idea that justification was through their efforts, but Paul here combats that idea. Justification by works is the essence of all man-made religions and the path to perdition. John Calvin comments on Romans 3:28 with these words:

He now draws the main proposition, as one that is incontrovertible, and adds an explanation. Justification by faith is indeed made very clear, while works are expressly excluded. Hence, in nothing do our adversaries labor more in the present day than in attempts to blend faith with the merits of works. They indeed allow that man is justified by faith; but not by faith alone; yea, they place the efficacy of justification in love, though in words they ascribe it to faith. But Paul affirms in this passage that justification is so gratuitous, that he makes it quite evident, that it can by no means be associated with the merit of works.[7]

He mentions the evasion which Roman Catholics m...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 26: Of the Church - Commentary

... goes out to all people within its reach, but only the elect will believe because only those whom the Father has given Him. He will by His Spirit regenerate and make them willing to receive Him. The doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty is central in this Confession.

But there is a purpose in God’s unconditional election, which is that we may live obedient lives before Him. He did not elect us and save us because of ourselves, but He did so that we may live for Him. Titus 2:14 says that He saved us “to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Ephesians 2:10 after giving the doctrine of election in chapter 1 and Sola Fide and Sola Gratia in vv. 8-9 of chapter two, says a goal of our salvation by grace through faith is that we would walk in works which God predestined for us. The doctrine of salvation by grace alone does not undermine obedient lives or good works, rather, after knowing our nature as the Bible describes it, the doctrine of grace alone is the hope of us walking obedient lives to the Lord and having the willingness to do His will. He commanded us all as His Church to do all that He commanded us (Matt. 28:20), therefore, we should observe His ways and walk in His commandments.

The idea of a standalone Christian is foreign to Scripture. From the earliest times, the Christians always met with a company of others. There has always been a community of believers who gather together to worship their Lord. The company of the church is a place where we corporately worship our Triune God. Hear His Word preached and proclaimed (2Tim. 4:2). See His Word in the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper which He has given us (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:42). As brothers and sisters learn to know each other and edify each other with the gifts which the Spirit has given each of us (1Cor. 12:7). The public worship of God on the Lord’s Day is of utmost importance and we should strive to never be absent from the church gather on the Lord’s Day unless necessity demands so. We are not to be like those who neglect the gather of God’s people, but rather as we look forward to the Lord’s coming, so we long for the day where we meet Him with His people in corporate worship (Heb. 10:25).

§6 The Members Of These Churches Are Saints By Calling

  1. The members of these churches are saints by calling, visibly manifesting and evidencing (in and by their profession and walking) their obedience unto that call of Christ; and do willingly consent to walk together, according to the appointment of Christ; giving up themselves to the Lord, and one to another, by the will of God, in professed subjection to the ordinances of the Gospel. 2
    1. Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 14:22-23; Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2 with verses 13-17; 1 Thess. 1:1 with vv. 2-10; Acts 2:37-42; 4:4; 5:13-14
    2. Acts 2:41-42; 5:13-14; 2 Cor. 9:13

The members of local churches are saints by calling or as paragraph 2 puts it, “visible saints” who are visibly manifesting and evidencing their faith and obedience (Rom. 1:5-7; Acts 2:37-42). Notice how they evidence their obedience unto that call of Christ unto Himself. It is not because the elders of the church could see into their hearts, but it is in and by their profession and walking, which is the only way in which we can judge if one is a Christian or not, albeit a fallible judgment. Those saints by calling do willingly consent to walk together in obedience to Christ's command and thereby giving up themse...

A Review of RC Sproul's Willing to Believe & Thoughts on Free Will

...ned not because men believed, but He predestined so that men would believe.

Martin Luther

Some more than thousand years later there came a dispute between Desiderius Erasmus and Martin Luther. Luther taught the Augustinian view of freedom and predestination and Erasmus was on the Semi-Pelagian side, only he seemed to think that this topic has no much significance for the average Christian. Luther responded by saying that how isn’t it of any significance for people to know if they must do things for salvation or it comes wholly by the grace of God. For Luther, the subject of free will could not be divorced from Sola Fide and Sola Gratia and it is therefore important to understand. Luther taught the doctrine of Augustine, who taught the doctrine of Paul, who taught the doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Luther strengthened the argument of foreknowledge in regards to free will. He said that if God knows all things, then there could be no choice B. Foreknowledge makes certain that our choices will happen. Luther taught that “God foreknows nothing contingently, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His own immutable, eternal and infallible will.” As RC says about Luther’s view: God wills what he foreknows and foreknows whatever he wills.

Luther taught about the necessity of choices. If God knows all things, doesn’t that make our choices necessary and therefore somehow compulsory? Luther started his discussion of necessity in The Bondage of the Will by saying that “necessity” is a bad word. It gives the idea of compulsion and against one’s will, which it not what Luther means by necessity. What he meant by “necessity” is that the choices are certain to happen because of God’s perfect foreknowledge. He absolutely did not mean that the choices are against man’s will. They’re certain to happen.

One last thing about Luther, he didn’t like the term “free will.” He thought that it gave men a wrong notion of human freedom, what people often think when they say free will is the ability to do both the good and the bad. This Luther rejected. I also think that the term free will, if used it must be used with qualification. Perhaps moral agency or moral responsibility is a better term.

John Calvin

Now we come to the giant himself, whose name is mostly associated in the free will and predestination debate: John Calvin. RC observes that Calvin taught nothing that Luther did not about free will.

Calvin believed that free will meant the ability to freely choose without compulsion. He’s in line with the Augustinians before him. He, like Luther had a distaste for the term “free will” and thought it a too high and lofty title for the reality. Because he believed that the will is determined by the nature of man, as sinful man can only sin because that is all that he desires, therefore to call it free is too high and lofty. Surely man has a desire for the good, but it’s not the good that is defined by God. Everyone wants a happy family, a good house and wants to be helpful to others, but not in the manner that God has prescribed. We want worldly good, but without the Spirit of grace we are unwilling to will spiritual good. We have no desire for God.

Calvin further taught that the Fall had also a huge effect on our intellect, he taught the noetic effects of the Fall. It’s not only that we die and are alienated from God because of the Fall, but that the Fall of Adam had a huge impact on our thinking. To be...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 14: Of Saving Faith - Commentary

...Gal. 2:16; Rom. 3:25-30). By faith in Christ, we are cleansed from our sin and declared righteous before God. By faith, we persevere. By faith in Christ, we will enter the eternal state. By faith, we will have our glorified resurrection bodies. Basically, faith in Christ is trusting Christ for our lives. Depending on Him, fearing Him, obeying Him, loving Him, cherishing Him above all and having the hope of peace and salvation in Christ alone. See chapter 11 on Sola Fide.

§3 This faith, although it be different in degrees, and may be weak or strong 

  1. This faith, although it be different in degrees, and may be weak or strong, yet it is in the least degree of it different in the kind or nature of it, as is all other saving grace, from the faith and common grace of temporary believers; and therefore, though it may be many times assailed and weakened, yet it gets the victory, growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith. 5
    1. Matt. 6:30; 8:10, 26; 14:31; 16:8; 17:20; Heb. 5:13-14; Rom. 4:19-20
    2. James 2:14; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 5:4
    3. Luke 22:31-32; Eph. 6:16; 1 John 5:4-5
    4. Ps. 119:114; Heb. 6:11-12; 10:22-23
    5. Heb. 12:2

Justification is not by strong faith alone, but by true faith alone. Weak faith is still faith—if it is true faith. It is different in kind and nature from that faith given to temporary believers. Temporary believers are those who for a time seem to believe and then abandon their profession. Temporary faith is no true faith at all. The fundamental difference about true weak faith and temporary faith, other than that the one the work is a grace of the Spirit and the other is not, is that true weak faith may be many times assailed and weakened, yet it gets the victory and it perseveres (1John 5:4-5). Thereby, it grows up in many to the attainment of a full assurance through Christ. The Confession is careful not to say that all will attain this full assurance, but there are some brothers and sister who struggle throughout their whole life about their faith and justification. God, for some reason, has not chosen to give them this assurance. Nonetheless, we are all called to make our calling and election sure (2Pet. 1:10; see also chapter 18).

The Temporal Faith

Temporal faith is not true saving faith. Dr. Sam Waldron says the following about false and true faith:

False faith is different from genuine faith, not merely in duration, but in kind and nature. One of the major differences between true faith and false faith is that false faith is temporary.[3]

Judas Iscariot

We may observe temporal faith in the life of Judas. Judas was a disciple and friend of Jesus. No doubt like the other apostles he had some kind of faith in Jesus, that he was the Messiah (whatever that meant to him). He, I believe, no doubt worked miracles along with the other disciplines (Luke 10:17). When the Lord Christ told his disciples that one among them is going to betray him, no one suspected Judas. In other words, he was just like the others. No one noticed he was false because he couldn't work miracles or something else. But we know that he was a wicked and a vile man. The Lord Jesus calls him the “son of destruction” or as the NET puts it “the one destined for destruction” (John 17:12). He did not have true, lasting and saving faith in Christ, otherwise, he would not be a son of perdition. If he had true and saving faith in Christ he would be cal...