Faith does not save. That is a strange sentence to type, but it’s the truth. Plenty of people – religious and non-religious – have faith in certain truths, objects or organizations. Faith is not an extra-ordinary in this sense. But, even within the protestant religion – we could affirm this statement. Faith does not save anyone. Of course, there are those even within Protestantism who operate under the opposite assumption. Basically, it is the quality, consistency and intensity of one’s faith that preserves their righteous standing before God. But, obviously this idea has more to do with faithfulness than it does faith. An emphasis on faithfulness is actually to have faith in your faith. To place your trust in your commitment to God. Such was the nature of the medieval religion Luther grew up under. Such is the nature of mush of evangelical teaching. Christianity is primarily about how faithful we are to God. The Reformation was the moment in history when faith and faithfulness were placed in their proper order. Faith then faithfulness.
When we say faith does not save we mean to stress a central point: it is the object of one’s faith that matters most. If the church is the object of your faith, there is no salvation. If your works are the object of your faith, then there is no salvation. If the relative morality of your life is the object of your faith, there is no salvation. Faith in the wrong object is damning and not saving. That object which saves is Christ alone. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) This marks the difference between faith and faithfulness. That which actually saves us before God is Christ. His faithfulness and not ours is what’s most important. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) The faith that brings justification does so because it is in the “Lord Jesus Christ.” The faith that saves is in Christ alone, Sola Christus.
Following the initial stages of the Reformation there was a long debate and discussion regarding the sacrament of the Lord’s Table. Luther, Calvin and Zwingli (all reformers) disagreed as to the reality present in the table. All of them, however, agreed on a couple of factors. First, the Lord’s Table was not a saving event. The grace of salvation was not conferred to the sinner by their participation in the elements. Salvation was by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Second, although the sacrament had been confused by the Roman Catholic Church, it was still important in Christian worship. As modern evangelicals, we have lost the sense of importance it had among those early reformed Christians. The Lord’s table is the moment in worship by which the Christian pilgrim is assured and reminded of the satisfying work of Christ on their behalf. That salvation is not due to their faithfulness but Christ’s. That they are accepted – sinful as we are – not on the basis of their works, but on the basis of Christ’s. If there is message among the sacrament of the Lord’s Table it is that salvation is Sola Christus. We are accepted before God for no other reason than Christ alone. The reason the Lord’s Table is perpetual should be obvious to us. We must be kept from sliding back to that disposition of heart where we are placing our faith in our own faithfulness. It is a bend in our soul that drives us away from Christ and towards self. There is no other name.