What is sola fide?

Sola fide is the second in a group of theological terms called The Five Solas. These are Latin phrases that became the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation in the early 1500s.

The Five Solas:

  1. Sola scriptura: "Scripture alone"
  2. Sola fide: "Faith alone"
  3. Sola gratia: "Grace alone"
  4. Solo Christo: "Christ alone"
  5. Soli Deo gloria: "To the glory of God alone"

The Latin word sola means "alone," "grounding," or "base," and fide means "faith." The phrase means that a person is saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ—not through good works or any other combination of acts (Ephesians 2:8-9).

How is sola fide important in salvation?

The apostle Paul repeatedly emphasized that salvation is NOT a result of works or observing the law, but that we are justified (made right with God) by faith in Jesus' sacrifice (Galatians 2:16). There are different names for this teaching. Sometimes it's called justification by faith, imputed righteousness, or the great exchange, but they all mean the same things:

  1. No amount of good works can make up for our sins or accomplish our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).
  2. Humans are sinners and therefore unable to save themselves (Romans 3:23, 6:23).
  3. When a person places their faith in Jesus as their Savior, Jesus' righteousness is credited to their account, and they are saved from their sin (Romans 4:5). This is what it means to be "justified."
  4. Salvation is something that is gifted to us by God. And we can receive that gift by placing our faith (or trust) in Jesus and what He did to forgive us of our sins.

The fact that we are saved by faith (and not by works) is the meaning of sola fide.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." —Ephesians 2:8-9

What does the Bible say about sola fide?

Sola fide became a prominent teaching during the Protestant Reformation due to the unbiblical traditions that were being advocated by the Roman Catholic Church during the 1500s. The church leaders often valued their traditions as superior to the authority of the Bible, which resulted in many practices that were not just misguided but actually contrary to Scripture.

One of these teachings was that eternal life is achieved through faith in Jesus PLUS the good works performed by an individual. These good works would include being baptized in a specific manner, observing sacraments like the Lord's Supper, confessing all mortal sins before death, and others. According to their church doctrine, a Catholic could not be assured of their salvation apart from performing these other good works.

But that is not what the Bible says concerning salvation. Once Martin Luther, a former monk in the Catholic Church, discovered the truth in Scripture about justification through faith in Christ, he openly exposed the unbiblical and false teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and taught people the truth: that forgiveness of sin is through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Period. Not faith in ourselves or what we've done. Faith alone. Nothing more needs to be added.

This is where the term sola fide was birthed, along with the other four solas, which proclaim that salvation comes from God—not mankind.

Does sola fide mean that good works are worthless?

No, good works are NOT worthless! While they cannot earn our salvation, the Bible teaches that they are an important part of developing our faith and basically becoming kinder, better humans. James 2:14-26 explains that faith without works is dead. This means that if you truly have faith in Jesus as your Savior, then you will also have a desire to do good works in order to "live out" your faith.

A desire to "do good" doesn't guarantee it'll always be easy or come naturally, but it does mean that you'll have a higher interest in being God's light and putting good things into the world—even if it's a challenge. Other places in Scripture call this "bearing good fruit," as in the fruit of the Spirit. Ephesians 2:10 says that we were saved so that we can do the good works which God has prepared for us to do.

So rather than good works coming BEFORE (or being a means of) receiving salvation, they are actually a RESULT of someone who has already been justified by God, saved by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sola fide is also a key difference between Christianity and almost all other religions. In most other religions, "salvation" is attained by being a good person, doing good things, or by performing or achieving specific acts. Those who reject sola fide are not only embracing a false gospel but are also rejecting the only Gospel that can actually save them.

We could do the best, most righteous things we could possibly achieve, yet biblical Christianity teaches that what bridges the gap between us and salvation is what GOD has done through Christ's finished work on the cross. All we need to "do" for salvation is receive that gift through faith.

Another Word for Faith is Trust

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." —Hebrews 11:1

Biblical faith is not just a blind belief in something, a hope, or wishful thinking. Faith is being CONVINCED of what you hope for and CERTAIN of the things you do not see (Hebrews 11:1). Faith, concerning salvation, means that you are not trying to EARN forgiveness; rather, you are TRUSTING that what Jesus did on the cross will grant you forgiveness of your sin.

If we abandon justification (forgiveness) by faith alone, we abandon the only way to eternal life. True salvation is about having faith (believing or trusting) in what has already been accomplished by Jesus on the cross. We are declared righteous and forgiven of our sin—not because of anything we have done—but because of God's mercy and grace (Titus 3:5). What a gift!



The Latin word sola means "alone" and fide means "faith." Regarding salvation, sola fide means that a person is saved through faith in Jesus alone—not through good works or any other combination of acts (Ephesians 2:8-9). The apostle Paul repeatedly emphasized that salvation is NOT a result of works or observing the law, but that we are justified (made right with God) by faith in Jesus' sacrifice (Galatians 2:16).

Sola fide became one of the rallying cries of the Protestant Reformation to help people understand that salvation is found only in Jesus—not in church traditions or good works. The reality that we saved by faith alone makes Christianity unique. In most other religions, "salvation" is attained through mankind DOING or achieving something. Christianity, however, centers on what GOD has done through Christ's finished work on the cross. Our part is to put our faith (trust) in Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf.

Writer: Hanna S.

Hanna loves spending time with kids and teens. She enjoys being detectives with them to investigate God's Word to discover truths to answer any questions. She is the co-author of a newly published apologetics curriculum for children and teaches one online for highschoolers-adults. To learn more about her ministry you can visit networkerstec.com. For fun, she likes to play Ultimate Frisbee, read historical fiction, and paint.

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