Posted by: Grover Gunn | September 4, 2007

Sola Fide

Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.  Westminster Confession of Faith 11.2

I like Turretin’s illustration about the eye as the lone instrumental means of sight for the body. The word “lone” in this context doesn’t meant that eye must be ripped out of the body and isolated in order for it to function as the lone instrumental means of sight. The functioning eye always remains in its organic connection with the rest of the body. Yet there is no other member in the body which sees, and that is the sense in which the eye is the lone instrumental means of sight. The same is true of faith as the lone instrumental means of justification. Faith never exists torn from its organic relationship with its fruits, but the fruits are not instrumental means of justification.

The fruit comes from the Christ our faith unites us to, not from the faith itself. Faith is the branch’s abiding in the Vine in a vital, effective sense. From the perspective of divine sovereignty, faith is our experience of the mystical union with Christ effected and maintained by the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit. From the perspective of human responsibility, saving faith is our duty and something we do.

Every creature lives in terms of faith because of his creaturely limitations. Faith is the evidence of things not seen, and only God sees everything. In eternity, we will live by sight and not by faith, but that is a relative statement, not an absolute statement. We will see much in eternity that is invisible to us now, but we won’t then see everything. Even in eternity, we will be creatures with limited knowledge and thus beings of faith.

The distinguishing factor in saving faith is its object, which is Christ. Apart from any psychological effect, the effectiveness of faith is based on its object, not its subjective strength. A weak faith in a reliable object is effective, and a strong faith in an unreliable object is not.
 See the sermon, “Sola Fide: The Alone Instrument of Justification” at



  1. So in other words, it isn’t Sola Fide. It’s “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6) and” grace through faith living in good works” (Eph. 2: 8-10).
    Great analogy with the eye and body here!
    God’d grace to you this day,

  2. Dear Tim,

    Thanks for the kind comment.

    Let’s think about the analogy a bit. I see through the instrumental means of my eye alone but my eye never functions apart from its organic relationship with my body. So that means that I see through the instrumental means of my eye, my nose, my mouth, etc. No, I still see through the instrumental means of my eye alone. The rest of my body may be organically connected to my eye, but only my eye can function as an instrumental means of sight.

    I am justfified through faith alone because faith is my experience of my mystical union with Christ. The total and sole ground for my new righteous legal standing is the alien righteousness of Christ based on His life of perfect obedience and His death as a finished sacrifice. My personal righteousness, which is the necessary fruit of my faith relationship with Christ, is not the basis for or ground of my new legal righteousness. So I am indeed justified by faith alone even though that faith never exists in isolation from its fruit. My personal righteousness demonstrates that I do have a faith relationship with Jesus, but the alien righteousness of Jesus is what God has imputed to my account as the basis for my new legal standing before Him.

    May God bless!

  3. “I am justfified through faith alone because faith is my experience of my mystical union with Christ.”

    As the eye sees the image, it registers to the brain what that image is. So they have to work together. We must cooperate with God’s grace to recieve that saving faith and prove that faith by working out our salvation in love and good deeds.

    Sola Gratia! 🙂

  4. Dear Tim,

    I could make Turretin’s illustration more detailed. The instrumental means of sight is the organic system consisting of the eye ball, the optic nerve and the optical area of the brain. The organic system consisting of the nose, olfactory nerve and the olfactory area of the brain is not an instrumental means of sight even though the two systems are organically connected. Yet there is no real point in this extra detail. The extra detail may make the illustration more technically correct, but it also makes it less effective as a clarifying illustration. And clarifying through illustration is the purpose of such an analogy. The purpose is not to prove a doctrine but to illustrate what a doctrine means. The sole purpose of this analogy is to illustrate that justifying faith is alone in the sense of being the alone instrument of justification but not alone in the sense of existing at any time apart from its necessary fruit. Argumentation against the doctrine of sola fide is sometimes based on an equivocation between these two senses of being alone.

    The sight analogy is not intended to illustrate the distinction between faith as a heart disposition and faith as an act of the will. Through monergistic regeneration, God plants the seed of faith in the spiritually dead heart and gives the heart spiritual life disposed toward saving faith. Then the regenerated person through an act of the will synergistically exercises faith in Christ. A good illustration of this is Christ’s giving life to dead Lazarus and then Lazarus’ physically coming to Christ. Christ alone gave the life, but Lazarus did the walking.

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  5. Grover
    Like the picture???

  6. It’s me, at about 3!


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