This month, many Christians will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which was unintentionally, but effectively launched on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
The protestant reformation was a rediscovery of grace, that reconciliation with God is not something that we achieve through works, but receive through faith.
One of the chief slogans of the Protestant Reformation was the Latin phrase “Sola fide,” which means “faith alone.”
This emphasis on salvation being by grace alone through faith alone (sola fide) in Christ alone was a response to what the church reformers perceived to be an error in the Roman Catholic church, which held to a formula that “faith in Jesus good works + our good works = salvation.”
The Protestant reformers were adamant that the Bible taught we are justified not by our religious works or good deeds, but only by the works—the obedience and sacrifice—of Jesus for us.
Thus, the reformer’s formula was “faith = salvation + works.”
But what about works? How do faith, grace, and works relate to one another? Getting this straight is not just a matter of theological importance, but of practical importance; not just for becoming a Christian, but for living as a Christian.
Am I really saved by grace alone through faith alone? Or is there something I must do to secure my good standing with God as a forgiven, accepted and loved son or daughter?
And if I am saved by grace alone, then what role do works play in the Christian life? If they don’t save me or sustain me, then why should I be at all concerned with whether or not there is any practical change in my life as a result of being a disciple of Jesus?
What about works?
This is the question James answers in James 2:14-26.