WHY DOES FAITH ALONE MATTER? by Silverio Gonzalez for Core Christianity
God’s radical grace was necessary for human beings to be right before God because human obedience could never qualify….Believers needed an imputed righteousness, a righteousness given to them instead of earned by them….Faith receives what God gives, and those who put their faith in Jesus Christ as the crucified and risen one are right with God.
—Thomas Schreiner Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification, 52
To those of us who are already convinced, this sounds great, but many who read these words will wonder why it matters. I understand the concern. The two little words faith alone have caused a lot of controversy, splitting the church between Roman Catholics and Protestants. Anything that divides the church must matter—even if only to expose the issue as a pointless discussion that divides the church—but the teaching of justification by faith alone brings us to the very heart of the gospel.
In the introduction to his book, Schreiner explains it this way: “We are talking about standing before God on the last day, on the day of judgment, and sola fide [faith alone] answers that question: How will we stand before the Holy One of Israel?” (16). Justification by faith alone “reminds us of the grace of the gospel, testifying that ultimately our salvation, our standing and acceptance before God, is entirely of the Lord” (17). Schreiner captures the issue at stake: justification by faith alone is a matter of eternal consequence.
Here I want to develop what he touches on. I want you to see that justification by faith alone matters not just for eternity but also for the present. It makes a difference in how we relate to God and people.
1. Justification by faith alone kills pride.
According to the apostle Paul, justification by faith alone excludes human boasting: “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom. 3:27–28).
To be justified by faith alone is to be justified apart from human obedience, works, or worth. This means that Christians have nothing to take pride in, nothing to boast of, nothing to glory in except God. In justification by faith alone, God gets all the glory because God is the one who saves. In fact, when Paul explains justification by faith alone, it is against the backdrop of universal, human sinfulness (Rom. 3:9–20). This kills pride.