When you’ve been raised to believe something so fundamentally that it forms the basis of your spirituality, it can be quite difficult and disorienting to learn that your belief isn’t supported by the Scriptures or by the facts.
This is especially the case with Protestants who have had the doctrine of salvation by faith alone taught to them since they were children in Sunday School, and preached to them every week from the pulpit at church.
But the fact of the matter is that the doctrine of salvation, or justification, by faith alone simply isn’t taught in the Bible. It originated 1,500 years after the last books of the Bible were written, at the time of the Protestant Reformation. Specifically, the doctrine of justification by faith alone was first formulated and promulgated by Martin Luther (1483–1546) as part of his doctrinal and ecclesiastical break from the Roman Catholic Church.
Yes, Luther had good reason to reject many of the faulty doctrines and corrupt practices of the Catholic Church in which he had been an ordained priest. But when he set up justification by faith alone as the centerpiece of his new branch of Christianity, he jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire doctrinally.
Ever since then, salvation by faith alone has been ardently preached and taught in Protestant churches around the world. And because Protestants hear it preached and taught so often and so forcefully as God’s own unvarnished truth straight from the Bible, whenever they read the Bible, everything in it screams “faith alone” to their minds.
And yet, there is not a single verse in the Bible that says that we are justified, or saved, by faith alone. In fact, the Bible specifically and clearly denies it!
This is very hard—even impossible—for the vast bulk of Protestants to accept. No matter how clearly this fact is pointed out to them, they still continue to maintain that that’s what the Bible really means, even if it doesn’t say it in so many words, and that we really are justified by faith alone, just as Martin Luther taught. It is so deeply ingrained in their minds by continuous teaching and preaching over many years that most Protestants simply cannot see that the key doctrine on which their spiritual life is founded is not supported by the Scriptures or by the facts.
And that is a pity. Because what the Bible actually does teach is far greater and more beautiful than the doctrine of justification by faith alone that Martin Luther set up as the distinguishing feature and foundation stone of Protestantism.
For more on faith alone and Ephesians 2:8-9, please click here to read on.