Sola Fide’s Continuing Struggle

It isn’t just the book of James that causes problems for the Protestant doctrine of sola fide. So does Matthew’s gospel.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.” [Mt. 16:24-27; emphasis added]

If salvation is by faith alone in the way that Protestants say, why doesn’t our Lord even mention faith here? Why, instead, does he say that men will be judged by what they have done? Whatever answer one might like to suggest, it is pretty obvious that salvation by faith alone is ruled out. From what Jesus says here, our works will be at least in some way part of the measure; certainly faith is involved but the fact that He omits any mention of it here seems mighty important: like the things He does mention are important too.

And this is not the only place Matthew’s gospel complicates the sola fide picture. He summarizes Christ’s preaching as “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Certainly repentance is a matter of the heart, but it is expressed by changing how we live our lives: the things we do matter. There is no true repentance without a change of behavior accompanying it; it is more than merely feeling sorry for one’s sins. This fact is contrary to the Protestant appeal to sola fide.

Maybe the biggest issue in Matthew’s gospel for the sola fide of Protestantism is in 25:31-46:

“When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

I still remember a live recording done by Keith Green, drawn from this passage. He summed up the problem for Protestantism’s sola fide here rather nicely: “The only difference according to the Scripture between the sheep and the goats is what they did—or didn’t—do.”

In short, it isn’t credible (according to Matthew’s gospel) to say that we are “saved by faith alone” like Protestants say. What we do—whether Christian or not—is not a matter of indifference.

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Posted in Apologetics, Protestantism, Scripture, Sola Fide
8 comments on “Sola Fide’s Continuing Struggle
  1. Elena Nash says:

    the Gospel of Matthew Mark Luke and John must be compatible with each other. Jesus is the Son of God and lived without sin before God, because He was God. Almighty God requires perfection and absolutely no sin will ever be allowed in heaven. No one in the past, present or future has or will ever lived a perfectly sinless life in thought word or deed. Every man or woman ever born is born with a sinful nature except our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
    The book of John talks about believe only in Jesus Christ unto salvation

    • Elena Nash says:

      to continue the book of John speaks of belief in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. No works are ever indicated. Salvation in Jesus Christ alone is about what God has done for us not what we can do for God. Our so called righteous works unto salvation are but filthy rags in the eyes of God.
      The book of James on the other hand, speaks of what we can do for God in terms of service unto God after we believe and have received salvation( which is instant and eternal) by belief in Christ alone. 1st Corinthians 6 verse 11 states that “we are washed, we are sanctified, we are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and service unto God are two completely separate things. They do not go together and can never be combined to equal Salvation. Please read Matthew chapter 7 verse 22 and 23….” and in thy name done many wonderful WORKS? First 23 says: “Then Jesus said unto them, I never knew you depart from me ye that work iniquity.”

  2. aquinasetc says:

    Hello Elena,

    You wrote:

    the Gospel of Matthew Mark Luke and John must be compatible with each other.

    I agree with you. :-)

    You continued:

    Jesus is the Son of God and lived without sin before God, because He was God.

    Again, I agree with you.

    You then said:

    Almighty God requires perfection and absolutely no sin will ever be allowed in heaven.

    I agree completely if you mean that perfect holiness is required in heaven.

    Next, you wrote:

    No one in the past, present or future has or will ever lived a perfectly sinless life in thought word or deed.

    Really? Then why does God say this to Isaac about Abraham: “I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven, and I will give them all these lands; and all the nations in the world shall bless themselves by your descendants in return for Abraham’s obedience; for he kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes and my laws. [Genesis 26:4–5; emphasis added]

    You proceeded to say:

    Every man or woman ever born is born with a sinful nature except our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    I think we probably agree here, with one exception and depending upon what you mean by “sinful nature.”

    You concluded with:

    The book of John talks about believe only in Jesus Christ unto salvation

    The book of John also says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (14:15)

    Peace,

    Fred

    • Elena Nash says:

      Jesus kept the commandments and also the law. He is the fulfillment of the profits and also the law. God said this is my Son in whom I am well pleased. Jesus is righteousness and His righteousness before God, when we believe in him alone, is imparted unto us. The word reads: “For we are the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ.” It also reads…” For Abraham believed God and it was imparted on to him as righteousness”.
      If it was ‘imparted’ that implies he never had it until he believed God.

      • aquinasetc says:

        That is not what Genesis 26 says. Also, Are you sure you mean “imparted”? That sounds much more like the Catholic view of infused righteousness.

        Peace,

        Fred

  3. aquinasetc says:

    Elena,

    In two comments now you have not interacted with what I wrote. You have only written a string of assertions (many of which I agree with, though your second comment did not acknowledge this fact). It seems likely that you did not read my first comment, either.

    This is no way to carry on constructive dialogue. :-) Please refrain from using the comment box for purposes of mere declarations. I would be happy to interact with you, but this requires the participation of both parties. Thanks!

    Peace,

    Fred

    • Elena Nash says:

      Dear Fred,
      Please accept my apology. From now on my comments will be more directed and thoughtful. It’s a character defect and I’m trying to work on it.
      Sincerely,
      Elena

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