The question of “faith alone” is the question of how one gets saved. How one defines and explains faith will answer the question, “How can I get to heaven”?
Galatians 2:16 says, “Yet we know that a person is not justifiedby works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” Justification comes through faith in Christ and only in Christ .
Why can we NOT save ourselves? Romans 3 says there is no one who has ever been or ever will be righteous (vs. 10-11) and we all fall short of God’s glory (vs. 23). To put it simply, we can’t get to heaven on our own.
Why? Our blood and our lives are polluted with sin. If any of us COULD keep the law, we WOULD BE saved by works, but NONE of us keep the law of God.
So, if we cannot save ourselves, we must be saved by Someone else. That’s where II Corinthians 5:21 comes in. “For our sake he [the Father] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin [He was totally un-depraved but treated as if he was depraved.], so that in him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God [We are totally unrighteousness but see as perfectly righteous.]” (II Cor 5:21).
Martin Luther often said semper simul iustus et peccator, which means “justified and at the same time sinners”. This is a strange paradox that we are both righteous and sinful at the same time. But, that’s imputation!
You could say positionally – we are righteous – but practically we are not. So, if you know the Lord Jesus Christ, you are viewed as righteous positionally even though you are still a sinner practically. Why? Because when the Father looks at evidence of your righteousness, He sees His Son’s righteousness on your behalf.
Jesus righteousness is credited to us because of our union with Him as Christians – “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, their faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:5).
Faith + works is not salvation, but faith + works is evidence that we are saved. Even John Calvin would say, “It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith that justifies IS NOT ALONE: just as the heat alone of the sun which warms the earth, and yet in the sun it is by alone, because it is constantly conjoined with light.” Faith is not works but is proven BY works.
Faith is proven when someone acts upon their trust. Obedience proves faith.
If you get faith right, you get the Gospel right. If you get the Gospel right, you get eternity right. Let’s get eternity right. Sola Fide.