Sola fide

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The expression sola fide (Latin: "solely through faith", "solely from faith") denotes a basic element of the Reformation doctrine of justification and is a theological principle of the churches that emerged from the Reformation . It expresses the conviction that man attains eternal life through faith alone. “Sola fide” can already be found pre-Reformation, for example in Thomas Aquinas .

Schematic representation of Luther's doctrine of justification , modified from P. Blickle (1992)


It expresses the conviction that man cannot be justified before God through good works, but that he is justified and saved through faith in Christ's work of reconciliation . Through this faith man receives the Holy Spirit ( Gal 3 : 2, 5  LUT ).

According to the Lutheran view, it is not possible for people to decide on their own in favor of faith in Christ, since faith comes about solely through God's grace ( sola gratia ) or is first awakened by the word of God that reaches them (solus Christ) becomes. An autonomous decision of faith, i.e. an act of free will on the part of man, is completely unthinkable for Luther: With regard to his relationship to God and thus his salvation, man is enslaved .

Biblical basis

Romans 3 in Martin Luther's September Testament 1522

The reformer Martin Luther saw the most important biblical basis for this thought in the letter of the apostle Paul to the Romans ( Rom 3 : 21-28  LUT ). However, the word “alone” does not appear in the original Greek text of Rom. 3:28. It was added by Luther in his own words in order to do justice to the peculiarities of the German language. This addition has been retained in the Luther Bible to this day . Modern Bible translations write at this point that “man is justified by faith ”, as is the Vulgate . In Calvinism in particular , the Lutheran "sole effectiveness" of faith is viewed critically with reference to the importance of sanctification .

Relation to the other "solos"

The “sola fide” denotes the trust of man in divine grace. “Sola fide” and “ sola gratia ” designate the human and the divine side of God's saving work: the appropriation of divine grace occurs “sola fide” on the part of man, the appropriation of grace occurs “sola gratia” on the part of God. Since faith is a gift wrought by God (an effect of grace), “the sola fide ... can also be explicated as sola gratia” ( Friedrich Wilhelm Graf ).

The principles of “ solus Christ ” and “ sola scriptura ” are linked to “sola fide” or “sola gratia ”.


  1. Wilfried Joest : Dogmatics. Volume 2: The way of God with man (= UTB for science. Uni-Taschenbücher 1413). 2nd, revised edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1990, ISBN 3-525-03264-1 , p. 439.
  2. ^ Horst Georg Pöhlmann , in: Evangelical Lexicon for Theology and Congregation. Volume 3: O-Z. Brockhaus, Wuppertal u. a. 1994, ISBN 3-417-24643-1 , p. 1855.
  3. Peter Blickle : The Reformation in the Empire. 2nd edition, UTB 1181, Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart 1992, ISBN 3-8001-2626-5 , p. 44
  4. Cf. Romans 3,28 in Nestle-Aland , 28th edition; Retrieved January 8, 2018 ( Greek ).
  5. ^ "... iustificari hominem per fidem sine operibus legis". ( Rom 3:28  VUL )
  6. ^ Friedrich Wilhelm Graf : The Protestantism. In: Hans Joas , Klaus Wiegandt (Hrsg.): Secularization and the world religions (= Fischer 17647). Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 978-3-596-17647-2 , p. 91.