- Defining The Issues:
"To preface, my intention here is not to defend Martin Luther's every move; he made some good and erroneous decisions. I simply found an excerpt from his commentary on Galatians to be insightful. He never claimed that Christians should not be doing good works, but rather that our own sinfulness merits us condemnation before a holy and just God. The gospel is the power of God to save every man who believes. Following are a handful of quotes from St. Bernard (who was mentioned in Luther's comments) which can be found in this document by professor Else Marie Wiberg Pedersen:
“I too believe that man is saved through faith alone.” (says in the footnote of the research paper, "Ep 77, 8: ”credens et ipse sola fide hominem posse salvari.” Bernard formulates this clear statement in 1125 in the famous letter to Hugh of St. Victor, in which he explicates his view on the sacraments – a letter that was paradigmatic for Hugh’s later doctrine on the sacraments. Bernard explains that baptism is not in itself salvific. It has to be preceded and accompanied by the proclamation of the word of God (SBO VII, 184-200), a teaching that Hugh echoes and for which he, like Bernard, slides into oblivion of a church that prefers scholastic theology with a Thomistic bent. Bernard repeats his teaching in SC 66, which is directed toward a strong selection teaching along with a Donatist understanding of ministry by sectarian groupings in Germany in 1143-45. See esp. SC 66, 7-9 (SBO II, 182-184).)
“What is hidden about us in the heart of God will be revealed for us and his Spirit testifies and persuades our spirit that we are the children of God. But he convinces us of this by calling and justifying us by grace through faith.” (says in the footnote of the research paper, "My translation from In Dedicatione Ecclesiae V, 7 (SBO V, 393): “Quod de nobis latet in corde patris, nobis per ipsius Spiritum reveletur, et Spiritus eius testificans persuadeat spiritui nostro quod filii Dei sumus. Persuadeat autem vocando et iustificando gratis per fidem.” Humans cannot obtain it by their own merit.")
There is a fundamental difference between presumption and assurance of salvation. The first involves bragging and self-praise regarding one's alleged status with God, whereas the latter is knowledge regarding salvation upon humble acceptance of the gospel and submission to the Lord Jesus Christ by faith. Consider, for example, texts such as John 5:24 and 1 John 5:13-15. We can indeed have great assurance of salvation. This is not a matter of acting presumptuously, but rather is a matter of exercising spiritual discernment. We can trust God to keep His promises. Our works demonstrate the reality of our faith, which means that mere intellectual assent is not sufficient for justification before. Faith must originate from the heart. It must be obedient because such a state reflects a regenerate heart.
Justification is by faith apart from the merit, not the presence, of good works. Works are the product, not the cause, of a saving faith. We simply need to periodically conduct an examination of our doctrine (2 Corinthians 13:5). And lastly, I want to point out that your article operates solely on gross misrepresentations and distortions of what Sola Fide ("faith alone") means. Nobody is saying that Christians are not supposed to be doing good works.
Justification is by faith, apart from the merit of any and all works (Romans 4:2-8; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5-7). Works are simply the product, not the cause, of our justification. They are certainly important. A faith that saves is one that obeys the commandments of Christ. Salvation is by faith alone, but is never alone. It will always be accompanied with (or at least a desire to perform) good deeds. In short, your entire article is based on a strawman, namely that we who subscribe to Sola Fide display opposition to doing good works. But no rational, biblically thinking Christian would ever invest time into defending such an unbiblical position.
What is even more, is that the Apostle Paul always excluded works within the context of how man gets right with God. His reasoning from that logical framework is that no man had the opportunity to boast. That was the simple, precious truth recognized by Luther. De Maria uttered this telling statement which in my opinion summarizes your entire article:
"It is Catholics who say, "I don't know if I'm saved. I've done my best, it is God who will judge me."
But how could we possibly live a life of joy and peace, if we are not able to have assurance of eternal life? Furthermore, it is precisely this self-righteous, pompous attitude (which is ironic since you claim to be humble) that is utterly incompatible with the biblical gospel. Those who want to merit the kingdom of heaven absolutely need to recognize the vital spiritual truth that God demands perfect obedience (Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 3:10-11; James 2:10-11), which is impossible since we have all sinned against Him. That is precisely why He sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ into the world to make atonement for the sins of mankind.
It is strictly by God's grace that we are saved, not by our own efforts. Our "work" is believing on the One whom He has sent (John 6:27-29). He saves all who come to Him with a repentant heart through faith. It is only by the blood of Jesus that we are saved from God's wrath and eternal condemnation (Hebrews 10:10-14). Thus, Sola Fide simply gives all the credit to God alone."