Theme: Implications for Sola Fide and Sola Gratia
This week’s lessons show the price that must be paid to follow Christ, as well as the blessings that come when we do.
Scripture: Luke 14:25-35
Yesterday we looked at sola Scriptura. Today we look at sola fide and sola gratia.
2. Sola fide. The second great distinctive is sola fide. It teaches that salvation is by the work of Christ received through faith alone. It is to protect this truth particularly that some teachers repudiate any thought of cost in obtaining salvation. But saving faith is not mere intellectual belief, as we have seen several times already. It is a living union with Christ, who is both Savior and Lord. It involves commitment to Him. No one can be a follower of Jesus who clings to lesser loyalties.
One cost we must be willing to pay in this area is loss of the world’s good opinion. Bishop J.C. Ryle wrote of this in an excellent exposition of Luke 14:28:
A man . . . must be content to be thought ill of by man if he pleases
God. He must count it no strange thing to be mocked, ridiculed, slandered,
persecuted, and even hated. He must not be surprised to find his opinions
and practices in religion despised and held up to scorn. The Master says—
“Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than
his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they
have kept my saying, they will keep yours also’ (John 15:20). . . . The cup
which our Master drank must be drunk by his disciples. They must be
‘despised and rejected of men’ (Isa. 53:3). Let us set down that item last in
our account. To be a Christian it will cost a man the favor of the world.3
3. Sola gratia. This teaches that salvation is by the grace of God alone, with no mixture of human works added to it. “Ah,” says someone, “that is exactly what we have been contending for: no good works. When you talk about the cost of discipleship, of paying a price for salvation, you are saying that there is something to be done, some work to be performed, without which one cannot be a Christian.” No, that is not the point. In fact, it is a 180-degree distortion. Sola gratia means that it is precisely these good works that must be given up. The cost to the believer here is his own self-righteousness.
This is a high cost to pay, and many will not pay it. When Dr. Herbert Mekeel first came to the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church of Schenectady, New York, and began to preach the gospel as it had not been preached for many years prior to his coming, a woman who was a long-time member accosted him after a morning service. “Mr. Mekeel,” she said, “I am leaving this church, and I am never coming back. No man is ever going to call me a miserable sinner.” She would not pay the price of her self-righteousness.
Define sola fide. How is it sometimes misunderstood to argue for salvation with no requirement of discipleship?
The doctrine of sola gratia is sometimes thought to prove that God’s grace is free and therefore completely opposed to any idea about salvation involving a price we must pay. But from the lesson, what does it really mean?
Application: Dr. Boice describes saving faith as a “living union with Christ.” Are there areas in your life where that kind of union is not characterizing you the way you know it needs to? What steps will you take this week to commit that part to him?
3J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 1959), p. 71.