Quia isto articulo stante stat Ecclesia, ruente ruit Ecclesia.
Martin Luther penned those Latin words to magnify the importance of sola fide (the doctrine of justification by faith alone). https://archive.org/details/werkekritischege4003luthuoft/page/352 Roughly translated, Luther is saying, “If this article [of justification] stands, the church stands; if this article collapses, the church collapses.” Luther had good reason to place such weighty importance on this precious truth. Salvation by faith alone—apart from works—is the biblical truth that separates Christianity and every other religion.
Saving faith is distinct from every works-righteous system because it isn’t the result of human effort. In the same way that repentance is granted by God (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25), faith is also a supernatural gift of God. Ephesians 2:8–9 affirms this: “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.”
Our response in salvation is faith, but even that is “not of [ourselves], it is the gift of God.” Faith is nothing that we do in our own power or by our own resources. In the first place, we do not have adequate power or resources. Moreover, God would not want us to rely on them even if we had them. Otherwise salvation would be in part by our own works, and we would have some ground to boast in ourselves. Paul’s emphasis in Ephesians 2:8 is that even faith does not come from us apart from God’s giving it. Human effort has nothing to do with it (cf. Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16), and thus no one should boast, as if he contributed any part.
Spiritually dead, we were helpless until God intervened to quicken us: “Even when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:5). Faith is an integral part of the gift His grace bestowed on us.
Scripture consistently teaches that faith is not conjured up by the human will but is a sovereignly granted gift of God. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). And “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father” (John 6:65). Acts 3:16 speaks of “the faith which comes through Him.” Philippians 1:29 says, “To you it has been granted for Christ’s sake . . . to believe in Him.” And Peter wrote to fellow believers as “those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours” (2 Peter 1:1).
How do we know that faith is God’s gift? Left to ourselves, no one would ever believe: “There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God” (Romans 3:11). “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Romans 9:16). God draws the sinner to Christ and gives the ability to believe. Without that divinely generated faith, one cannot understand and approach the Savior. “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Corinthians 2:14). That is precisely why when Peter affirmed his faith in Christ as the Son of God, Jesus told him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). Faith is graciously given to believers by God himself.
As a divine gift, faith is neither transient nor impotent. It has an abiding quality that guarantees that it will endure to the end. The familiar words of Habakkuk 2:4, “The righteous will live by his faith” (cf. Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38), speak not of a momentary act of believing, but of a living, enduring trust in God. Hebrews 3:14 emphasizes the permanence of genuine faith. Its very durability is proof of its reality: “We have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.” The faith God gives can never evaporate. And the work of salvation cannot ultimately be thwarted (cf. John 10:27–29). In Philippians 1:6 Paul wrote, “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:8; Colossians 1:22–23).
For those reasons, saving faith is nothing like the fickleness of wavering human belief. It is as enduring and unchanging as the God who grants it.
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