“Recover your sight. Your faith has saved you.”
᛭ INI ᛭
Sola fide: “By faith alone.” We are justified (“justified” means “declared innocent” or “forgiven”)—we are justified before God because of Christ through or by faith alone. “People are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. By His death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins. God counts this faith for righteousness in His sight.” (Augsburg Confession IV) Or to put it even more simply: we are saved by faith alone.
Now, in the Scriptures there are different synonyms for faith. One of them is hope. “Hope expects promised things, and hope and faith cannot be separated in reality… The Epistle to the Hebrews defines faith as ‘the assurance of things hoped for’ (Heb 11:1). Yet if anyone wants a distinction between faith and hope, we say that the object of hope is properly a future event, but that faith is concerned with future and present things. Faith receives the forgiveness of sins offered in the promise in the present.” (Apology V (III) 191/312)
Another synonym for faith is “love toward God.” “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” (Mk 12:30) Another one, oddly enough is fear. Now “fear” often means “be afraid of.” “We should fear [God’s] wrath” toward anyone who breaks His Commandments. It might also mean “to respect or honor someone:” “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.” (Ps 33:8) But “fear” is also a synonym for faith: “But with You there is forgiveness, that You would be feared.” (Ps 130:4)
One final synonym or rather the simplest definition for faith: trust. Faith is trust. Trust is faith. Okay, so it’s got all these synonyms, but what, then, is faith? Why does it save? Why does it alone save you? Well, that’s what Quinquagesima Sunday’s all about!
((2. What faith is and is not.))
So, what is faith? What is faith not? Well, when it comes to sussing this out, prepositions matter.bNow, when it comes to faith, “in” is the preposition that matters, because “faith” simply defined is “trust,” and so no one should get away with just saying, “I have faith.” Because when they do, they’re saying, “I have trust.” Trust in what?
So it is with faith. Faith is “in” someone, in Jesus. We have faith in Jesus, trust in Jesus, hope in Jesus, love toward Jesus. Even atheists can respect a generic “I have faith” or “My faith got me through.” But the world cannot tolerate: “I have faith in Jesus.” “Blessed are you when they revile you for the sake of My name,” (Lk 6) Jesus promises.
When it comes to faith, “exclusive statements” or “terms” are also important. Faith “in” Jesus glorifies Christ. Faith excludes works (all works!)—those before and after faith in Jesus. This is what the apostle Paul [is talking about] when he urges so diligently and zealously the exclusive terms in this article of faith (i.e., the words by which works are excluded from the article of justification: by grace, without merit, without works, not of works.) These exclusives are all summed up in this expression: ‘Through faith alone in Christ we are justified before God and saved [Romans 3:28].’ For thereby works are excluded. (Solid Declaration III, 36)
Based on all this we can see what faith is not. Faith isn’t a work, a feeling, or even a mental faculty or capability. (If it were, dementia would be hell on earth!) Thus even infants have faith in Jesus. Faith isn’t knowing Bible facts. It isn’t being Lutheran, isn’t being a good person, a nice person, a well behaved person. Faith isn’t behavior. Faith isn’t anything you—your works, your thoughts, your emotions.
Faith is trust. Trust that runs far deeper than any brain scan or psychologist can tell you. Faith is trust in Jesus, and so faith is one other thing. And we see it in the blind man today: faith is receiving from Jesus. He received His “seeing” from Jesus. (Received His faith from Him, too.) Faith is pure reception from Jesus. Faith is received and receives. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit of Jesus, who works on you through Jesus’ Word and Gifts which deliver Jesus’ forgiveness, life, and salvation to you.
((2. Faith saves because Jesus saves.))
Now this gets us to our second point. Faith is trust in Jesus and receives from Jesus, and that’s exactly why faith in Jesus saves. Faith doesn’t save you because it’s so strong or because it’s a really good thing you’ve done, this trusting in Jesus. Talking about faith isn’t a pat yourself on the back moment. Faith isn’t some virtue that makes up for your vices, your failures, your mistakes, your sins. Faith isn’t the one work that replaces all others. Faith isn’t your part of the salvation equation: Jesus died and rose, and now you go ahead and trust in Him. That is not how it works.
Faith saves because Jesus saves. The sola fide rests on Jesus alone. You don’t have to drum up more faith for yourself, bolster your own confidence, boost your trust in some way. Jesus has done enough good works to make up for your so-called “strong faith.” Jesus suffered for your weak faith. He died for your doubts. He rose for the forgiveness of your sins.
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor 15:17–20)
Faith doesn’t stay on the sidelines. The blind man didn’t. He sought out Jesus—called to Him, wanted to receive mercy from Him. That’s faith. Someone who says they’ve got faith, but doesn’t receive from Jesus doesn’t have faith, or dangerously close to no faith, at all. Faith seeks out Jesus, receives from Jesus because true, living faith knows that it’s nothing without Jesus. That its life depends on Jesus. Faith is only as good as its object—what it trusts in. True faith knows this.
Faith rejoices in the mercy of Jesus. His Baptism. His absolution—faith desires the comfort of the forgiveness of sins! Faith wants Jesus’ body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. Faith wants to see Jesus. Hear Him. Receive from Him. Receive Him! Faith wants Jesus, gets Jesus, and that’s why faith saves.
FAITH RECEIVES FROM JESUS AND IS SAVED BY HIM.
Faith isn’t anything that’s you: in you, of you, from you, by you. Faith is a gift created in us. By the Words and Gifts of Jesus the Holy Spirit creates faith and sustains faith. Faith doesn’t trust in anything besides Jesus. If faith trusts in anything, no matter how big or small, besides Jesus, then that’s not faith.
Faith can’t live without Jesus. Faith doesn’t want to live without Jesus! Faith needs Jesus and His works—His death and resurrection. Jesus isn’t just faith’s source, but also its continual source of life. Jesus is the end goal of faith, too. Jesus is the “Author and Finisher of our faith.” (Heb 12) Started at Baptism, strengthened in Gospel preaching, enlivened with His absolution, sustained and nourished through His Supper. Faith trusts only Jesus and His Works, His Words, His Gifts. That’s why faith saves.
FAITH RECEIVES FROM JESUS AND IS SAVED BY HIM.
That’s sola fide.