“What if this were not in Scripture? What if God had not chosen to reveal this? What if this were left out or omitted?” Applying such questions to sola fide, “by faith alone,” demonstrates why this solus is so essential and really an abridged version of the entire doctrine of justification.
Whether it is “by faith,” or “through faith,” as the means of receiving the promise of the Gospel, this completes the picture of God’s justification of a sinner. Faith is the means by which Christ (through the Spirit) presents the person to God reconciled, clean and holy, blameless and without blemish, without fault and above reproach in the sight of God, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing.
Faith Alone: Finding a Context
You say you have faith and yet you feel guilty or you feel worthless. This is where we must learn again what justifying faith is. It is not simply, “Do you believe all the articles of faith are true?” It is about having confidence before God. It is about having a good conscience. Too often, our confidence is based not upon the solid foundation of Jesus’ work for us, but upon our own achievements, progress, or recognition from others.
What we want to do about it is usually to work harder, try harder, or find measurable improvement. A troubled conscience is knowing we have failed.
A terrified conscience is knowing that we will be judged by God to be lacking. Yet it seems we hardly ever seek rest for our conscience in God’s promises. We seek everywhere else.
The article on Justification in the Apology addresses the solution repeatedly:
Consciences cannot be set at rest through any works, but only by faith, when they take the sure ground that for Christ’s sake they have a gracious God. This whole doctrine can only be understood in the conflict of the terrified conscience. (AC XX:15, 17)
Consciences never are at rest unless they hear God’s voice clearly promising the forgiveness of sins. (Ap IV:257)
A terrified conscience is eventually quieted when it takes hold of Christ as Mediator and believes the promises given for His sake. (Ap XII:64)
The task of the Church is to impart to sinners the clear message that they are so important that Christ came down from heaven for them. They are of great value and worth to God and pleasing to Him for Jesus’ sake. This is the reason to come to church: for a good conscience to be delivered as Jesus’ blood is sprinkled on wounded consciences through the Gospel.
This is true confidence – not the feeling of confidence, but concentrating upon the blessed fact of God’s favor that is delivered in the Means of Grace, the unchanging word of the Gospel (Absolution) and the Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) that declares God’s unbounded love for you.
Sola fide is not a slogan. It is a lifeline.
Reverend Jerry Gernander
Bethany Lutheran Church