“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28 ESV).
One of the central doctrines of the Reformation was Sola Fide (faith alone). This doctrine teaches that salvation is by faith alone, not by works. And this doctrine was perhaps the most opposed doctrine of the Reformation, for a couple of reasons. For one, the Church told Martin Luther that if they taught that salvation was by grace alone through faith alone people would live however they want… They thought if people were assured of their salvation, or if they thought they didn’t have to work for their salvation they would fall into the depths of immorality and idleness. And they also opposed this doctrine because it eliminated the need for penance and indulgences.
One of the things that pushed Luther over the edge in the 1500s was the Catholic Church’s practice of selling indulgences, where essentially they promised people entrance into heaven and forgiveness of sins for a fee. One of the key leaders that Luther opposed was Johann Tetzel, and he was known for selling these indulgences and proclaiming, “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” Purgatory is another unbiblical doctrine that the Catholic Church holds to, that teaches that people spend time in purgatory being purged of their sins before they can (if they can) go to heaven. But, ultimately, the Church came up with the idea of indulgences, not to get people out of purgatory, but to get more money into the Church.
Now, while no church should be all about money or manipulating doctrine for any reason, especially money, Sola Fide actually leads people to give sacrificially… And it leads people to dedicate their lives to good works for God’s glory… Not to earn salvation, but out of joyful gratitude and amazement of the grace they have received in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ. They work from their salvation, not for it. And that was something that Luther often taught as well: “Justification is by faith alone, but true faith never stays alone.” When we truly grasp that we are justified by faith, and we have true assurance in Christ, it is then that we truly pursue holiness, dedicate ourselves to good works, and leverage everything we have, down to the last penny, for the glory of God.
I am nothing; Christ is all!