Midweek Advent Sermon – Sola Fide (Gen. 15:1-6; Rom. 4:1-8; John 3:16-21)
Dear people saved through faith alone: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
For our midweek services this Advent we are studying the three solas of the Reformation. As we heard last week, sola means “only” in Latin, and these three solas of the Reformation clarify the Scriptural teaching concerning salvation. The three solas are sola gratia, sola fide, and sola Scriptura. What they mean is that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, as taught in Scripture alone.
Last week’s sermon was about sola gratia – that we are saved by grace alone. Grace is God’s unmerited favour and goodwill towards us, not counting our sins against us because of Jesus’ death for us.
Tonight, we examine sola fide – the Scriptural principle that we are saved through faith alone.
As we heard last week, grace is universal. That means that God offers grace to everyone. God offers the forgiveness of sins to everyone. After all, Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. However, the only way to receive that grace is through faith. Faith receives grace. Faith receives the benefits of Jesus’ death for all mankind.
Faith is trust. We can have faith in a of of different things. We can trust that the sun will rise tomorrow morning. We can trust that the roof will not cave in on us. We can trust that our pensions will continue to be there for us during our retirement. Of course, faith in such things is not the faith that saves us.
In addition to such faith, there is the more important faith – faith in something for salvation. Everyone has faith in something for salvation. Everyone believes in something. Even for the one who says he believes nothing, he still has faith that there is nothing after this life. He trusts that there is no God. He trusts so fervently in himself to know this to the point that he is ready to go to his deathbed denying the existence of God. Such a man still has faith, though. Such a man has faith in himself. He trusts his mind so strongly, that despite the evidence that he can see with his eyes, hear with his ears, and feel with his hands, he says everything came from nothing. That is faith. He has faith in his own mind. He trusts his own mind so much that he rejects Jesus’ resurrection from the dead even though it is affirmed as a historical truth. That is faith.
You can have faith so strong and fervent that you are ready to die. You can be passionate and zealous and sharing your faith with everyone, but if you believe in the wrong thing, your faith will not save you.
If you don’t believe that people can believe so strongly in something false, just look at Muslim suicide bombers. They are willing to wear explosives and walk into crowded places and murder people while killing themselves in the process. They do this because they believe they will go to heaven when they have accomplished their suicide mission. They believe that murder of non-Muslims is such a great good work that you automatically get to go to heaven if you commit the act. That is strong faith, but faith in the wrong thing. Such believers will be shocked to find themselves in hell.
Faith always has an object. That means faith trusts in something. If that something is false, or a lie, then your faith does you no good, but faith always has an object.
For Christians, our faith is in the Gospel. Our faith is in Christ Jesus and His death in our place. That is the object of our faith. Saving faith is not merely a matter of believing that there is one God. Scripture tells us even demons believe that there is one God – and they shudder (James 2:19). Saving faith is also not just a general knowledge of Jesus dying on the cross.
Saving faith is trust in the promises of the Gospel. Saving faith is trust that Jesus’ death was for me. Saving faith is trust that because of Jesus’ death my sins are forgiven. Saving faith is trust that Christ has reconciled me to the Father. Saving faith is trust that the promise of eternal life is for me.
Such saving faith receives the benefits of Jesus’ death. Such saving faith receives the promises given in Baptism. Such faith is counted by God as righteousness, and of such a believer we heard in our Epistle lesson, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” (Ps. 32:1-2 cited in Rom. 4:7-8).
You can have faith in a lot of things, but only having faith in the Gospel saves you. Faith in the wrong object does not save or give the forgiveness of sins. Only faith in Jesus save. “For God so loved the whole world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned” (John 3:18).
And where does this saving faith come from? Faith comes from hearing (Rom. 10:17). When you hear the Gospel, the Good News that Jesus died for you, the Holy Spirit creates faith in your heart. Even an infant comes to faith through hearing, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Saving faith is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9). We cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to Him. The Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel and enlightens us with His gifts. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us and keeps us in the faith (SC II.3).
Therefore, we treasure the means of grace. God uses Baptism to give saving faith. God uses His Word to give and nourish saving faith. God uses Holy Communion to strengthen and preserve saving faith.
Our faith is thus secure. Our faith is secure because it is God who gives it and it is God who sustains it. Our faith is firmly founded on Jesus Christ our Lord and what He has done for us, so it is secure. Our faith is trust in the promises of God which can never fail, so our faith is secure. Faith is trust, and we can trust in God because He is faithful. He will surely do what He has promised. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.