People are saved by grace through faith. There is no other way to be saved. Once a person is justified–which is what is needed to be saved–the just person lives by faith. Faith is ongoing and is the believer’s way of life–we walk by faith.
The Old Testament shows Israel’s rise and then fall from God’s favor. One of the reasons they fell out of favor is that they viewed faith as a one-time-now-leave-me-alone thing.
The classic example that Paul brings up all the time is circumcision. Jewish boys were circumcised eight days into life. They were in. At eight days old they were done! Sweet! They boasted in their circumcision and never got around to faith, let alone living by faith.
The same attitude was demonstrated through observing a few holy days, a sabbath here and there and maybe even a sacrifice or two. “We jumped through your hoops God, be happy and get off our backs.”
Israelites are no different from you and me. We want the shortcut, the thing we can do to cross faith off the list. No, we don’t bother with circumcision any more, we’ve at least heard enough Paul to get rid of that one. But we substitute our own versions to accomplish the same deal.
Whether it be infant baptism, communion, adult baptism, church attendance, saying the “sinners prayer,” giving money or some other self-righteous work we do to prove we have faith and God should leave us alone now, it is nothing more than modern circumcision.
It didn’t work in the Old Testament and it won’t work now. But we keep trying. We want faith to be a one time deal and then for us to be done with faith.
I believe this is the outcome of Sola Fide. Regardless of what was intended by those who made much of Sola Fide, it has come to mean “Have you said the sinners prayer?” for most Evangelical people and “have you been baptized?” for most mainline denominations.
They both hint at the same thing–“since we’re saved by faith, show me the thing you did that one time that proved you believed this.” We want the past tense to prove the current reality. “Have you trusted Christ?” If it’s past tense, we can rest that we are done now.
As I stated a couple weeks ago, Sola Fide isn’t even a biblical concept, it’s the result of the musings of a beer drinking former monk!
Faith is a big deal. I am amazed how little people consider what the Bible says about it.