Justification By Works And “Sola Fide” -- By: Thomas R. Schreiner

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 19:4 (Winter 2015)
Article: Justification By Works And “Sola Fide”
Author: Thomas R. Schreiner

Justification By Works And “Sola Fide”

Thomas R. Schreiner

Thomas R. Schreiner is James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Associate Dean for Scripture and Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. A widely respected New Testament scholar, Dr. Schreiner is the author of countless articles and many books, including New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Baker, 2008), Galatians in the Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series (Zondervan, 2010), The King and His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Baker, 2013), and Faith Alone—The Doctrine of Justification (Zondervan, 2015).


I want to do two things in this article. First, I am going to give a whirlwind tour of my book on justification by faith alone—Faith AloneThe Doctrine of Justification. Second, I want to defend exegetically justification by faith alone. After considering the use of slogans in our discussion of justification, two themes will be considered in this latter section. I want to consider how the imputation of Christ’s righteousness fits with sola fide. And then I want to explain how sola fide can be sustained since the NT teaches that works are necessary for justification and salvation.

A Whirlwind Tour Of Faith AloneThe Doctrine Of Justification

The Teaching Of The Early Fathers

Let’s begin with the whirlwind tour. I begin the book by saying that those who claim that the early fathers rejected justification by faith alone are

guilty of being too simplistic. In fact, a few of the early fathers explicitly endorsed justification by faith alone. Such an expression doesn’t necessarily mean that they would subscribe to the understanding of the Reformers on the matter. On the other hand, neither can we say that those who omit the slogan would necessarily reject it. We have to remember that the matter wasn’t debated or disputed by the early fathers. Conflict or controversies clarify the issues at stake. When we examine what the early fathers wrote we see two themes. Justification is ours by the grace of God through faith, and good works are necessary for salvation. These two themes capture quite nicely the NT writings themselves. In that respect the early fathers were faithful interpreters of the NT.

I am not claiming that the fathers always formulated these matters in a way that accords with the scriptures. Surely there are statements made which the Reformers would not endorse and which we would judge to be le...

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