Everyone loves Will Smith films. Will Smith is one of those likable guys, and when he is on the screen, people watch. One of Smith’s films that my wife and I recently rewatched is “The Pursuit of Happyness” (Yes, that’s the correct spelling of the title.) In one scene, Will’s character Chris meets a man who is parking an expensive sports car. “Man, I got two questions for you: what do you do? and how do you do it?’” Chris has a desire to have the luxuries this man has and he recognizes that in order to get them, he’ll have to do something. Namely, one must work hard and earn money in order to appropriate wealth.
In fact, no one would believe it if I said that in order to gain the riches of the world, you must not work but instead have faith and it will be yours. Our world is built around the basic concept that working is the way one receives the benefits one desires. The Bible supports this idea when it comes to earthly matters. (2 Thessalonians 3:10) However, the Bible seems to flip this very idea on its head when speaking of eternal matters. The Bible teaches that if we want to obtain the most wonderful riches we could possibly imagine, we must not work for it; instead we must have faith in Christ and it will be ours. What “riches” am I talking about? Eternal life. The Apostle Peter calls this an “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Peter 1:4). All the other riches of the world will eventually pass away, but the riches of God, His eternal salvation, remains forever. How does one achieve this? Simply put, you can’t.
This brings us to yet another issue prominent during the Reformation: the vehicle with which God imparts His grace to sinners. The Roman Church agreed that grace was needed in salvation. However, the issue was the sufficiency of grace and the question “How does one obtain grace?” Can grace be purchased? Can grace be earned by participating in a religious ritual? Or is grace a gift of God that comes solely through faith in Christ? What did the Reformers say? Sola Fide: it is only through faith alone that God justifies the wicked.
You see, the reason the Reformers made such a big deal about this issue is because the Bible itself is replete with information on this topic. The Apostle Paul dealt ad nauseam with false teachers who taught that in order to obtain God’s grace, there were certain works one must do; otherwise salvation would not be achieved. However, Paul is straightforward in his attack against such thinking. “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” (Romans 4:4-5) Paul wanted to make it clear that in order for salvation to remain as a gift from God, it could in no way be achieved through human working. Salvation is not due to one who works and earns, but is a gift from God given freely by Him.
Even faith is a gift from God and cannot be a reason to boast. The Reformer, John Calvin comments on 2 Thessalonians 2:13 by saying, “This passage briefly reminds us that faith itself is produced only by the Spirit.” It is only when the Holy Spirit of God grants faith and repentance to a broken sinner that he can truly be saved, truly be granted the gift of eternal life. Theologian R.C. Sproul puts it this way: “If we believe that we are capable of working up faith in our souls, we cannot boast in Christ alone. But if we understand that we have faith only because of the work of the Holy Spirit, then we can truly give God all the glory for our salvation.” To that I say “Amen”! God alone receives the glory for saving sinners because it is not the sinner’s works, but God who grants faith. Therefore, we declare that we are saved sola fide, by faith alone!
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ