We have been saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone.
It was midnight. Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns as fellow prisoners listened. Unbeknownst to them, an earthquake came abruptly, the chains fell off all the prisoners, and the doors burst open. The guard–who was asleep–reached for his sword to kill himself as he thought prisoners would escape. Before he could do so, Paul cried out, “Don’t harm yourself, because we’re all here” (Acts 16:28 CSB)!
The cry of the jailer reveals something supernatural was taking place–in the prison and his heart. Trembling, the jailer asked Paul and Silas the question millions have asked before: “What must I do to be saved” (v. 30)?
Their answer said it all: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (v. 31)!*
There is no complex formula or complicated math problem behind what we must do to be saved. It is quite simple: you must place your faith in Jesus Christ, and Him alone. Furthermore, the faith you exercise is actually a gift from the Lord. Last week we went over how we are saved by grace alone and looked primarily at Ephesians 2:8-9. For this post, I want to talk about that same verse.
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 CSB)
We are saved by grace and that saving is done through placing our faith in Him. Our faith is the means. A critical thinker would ask, “Now, wouldn’t the faith you place in Christ be considered something you do — a work?” Yes, it would be. However, as you read on, it’s evident that the faith we exercise is a direct gift from God (“and this is not from yourself; it is God’s gift”)! Our faith is not our own faith.
Genesis 15:6 tells us that “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited to him as righteousness” (CSB). It is clear that Abram placed his faith or trust in the Lord by believing His promise of a coming Messiah. We look back to the cross and trust in Christ. Old Testament saints looked forward to the cross and “believed the Lord.”
Let me state it again: we are saved, or justified, through faith and faith alone. Nothing more, nothing less. God only needs our humble acknowledgement that we trust in the finished work of his Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross of Calvary. If you mess with that, you mess with everything.
The late RC Sproul shares the same sentiment:
If you don’t have the doctrine of justification by faith alone, you don’t have the gospel.
The doctrine of justification by, or through, faith alone is not some second-level doctrine. It is primary. It’s at the center of the gospel. It draws a hard line in the sand. You must believe this doctrine! This is why it is the second sola of the Reformation–it’s that important.
And by believing upon the Lord Jesus Christ, this isn’t compared to, say, believing in Bigfoot. It’s not a “I believe he is real” kind of belief. It is not an “Easy Believism” type of faith. It is a trust. It’s how you would trust a parachute to bring you safely to land. You place all of your trust in the parachute to bring you safely to the ground.
In the same way, you put all your trust in the finished work of Christ to bring you to glory. And it’s not the faith that makes you righteous, but Christ. “Faith is not the ground of our righteousness,” Kevin DeYoung tweeted, “it is the instrumental cause. It is not the drink, it is the straw.”
Faith is the means that grabs hold of God’s grace. In our faith, we drink the fountain of God’s saving grace. In our faith, we taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). In our faith, we bask in the mercy of God’s sacrifice on the cross.
It is faith, and faith alone–sola fide!–by which we cling tightly to Jesus’ atoning death.
*I fully acknowledge there is a second part to this verse that deals with the debate between Baptists and Presbyterians regarding baptism. For this post, I’m not interest in that debate — maybe another time?