The Five Solas of the Reformation: Soli Deo Gloria

The Five Solas of the Reformation: Soli Deo Gloria

In the final installment of our Solas series, we hit on one of the major themes of the Reformed faith: Soli Deo Gloria, Latin for “Glory to God Alone.” This one phrase encapsulates the principle underpinning the essence of faith – that every action, endeavor, and facet of existence is to be directed towards the worship and glory of God while rejecting the pursuit of self-glorification and pride.

At its core, Soli Deo Gloria shifts our focus from personal success to divine glory. It’s a call to reorient our motivations and inspirations, finding fulfillment not in the works and reputation of men but in the magnification of God’s majesty.

The Five Solas of the Reformation: Soli Deo Gloria

What Does Soli Deo Gloria Mean?

Throughout Scripture, we are taught that God and God alone can accomplish the salvation of sinners. Soli Deo Gloria acknowledges that God initiates, proceeds, and completes the work of saving wretched people like you and me.

Soli Deo Gloria means giving all the credit to God because His glory isn’t just something He owns; it’s who He is – His greatness and worth shining through in our salvation.

But why is the glory of God the ultimate goal of everything? Simple: He planned it that way. Since the beginning of time, His deliberate plan and purpose have been woven into the fabric of creation and history. God’s overarching intention is to reveal His glory in every act of creation, governance, and redemption.

In the Psalms we learn, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1), affirming that even the universe itself is designed to reflect His magnificence. Isaiah echoes this sentiment, proclaiming that all humanity, created in His image, exists ultimately for His glory as well (Isaiah 43:6–7). He made the universe reflect His glory and made us enjoy and honor Him.

This idea isn’t just for Sundays; it’s for every moment of our lives. Everything that happens – big or small – fits into His grand plan to reveal His glory. So, when we talk about Soli Deo Gloria, we say, “All the glory goes to God – now and forever!”

How Does Soli Deo Gloria Fit with the Other Five Solas of the Reformation?

As we said in our very first installment, salvation is a gift of grace (sola gratia), received through faith (sola fida) in Christ (solus Christus), as revealed in Scripture (sola scriptura) – all culminating in the glory of God alone (soli Deo Gloria).

Soli Deo Gloria, the conviction that all glory belongs to God alone, harmonizes seamlessly with the other five solas of the Reformation.

Think about this: if salvation is indeed a gift of grace (sola gratia), freely given by God without any merit on our part but through Christ (solus Christus), and if it is received through faith (sola fide), then it logically follows that the ultimate glory for our salvation rests solely with God because we did nothing. God came down to our level to raise us to Him.

The apostle Paul confirms this to us when he says, “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord” (2 Corinthians 10:17). Soli Deo Gloria refutes any notion of a joint venture in salvation where man shares in the glory. It stands against a man-centered view of salvation, where human effort is decisive.

The Reformers championed Soli Deo Gloria to emphasize that salvation is entirely God’s work. From its inception to its culmination, God orchestrates every aspect of salvation alone. Thus, all honor, praise, and glory rightly belong to Him and Him alone.

What Does Soli Deo Gloria Mean for Us Today?

The great musical geniuses of old, like Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel, used to sign their work SDG – short for Soli Deo Gloria.

Their example serves as a potent reminder for us to dedicate every aspect of our lives – whether it’s our work, time with family, hobbies, or personal goals – to the ultimate glory of God rather than seeking our own recognition or praise.

But what does “glory” really mean? It’s more than just honor or admiration; it’s about acknowledging and exalting God’s greatness, beauty, and worth. It’s recognizing His divine attributes and magnificence and reflecting that back. God gives us life. He gives us breath. By praising and glorifying him, we give him back the breath he is owed.

Give God His Breath Back and Proclaim His Glory Today and Every Day of Your Life

Let us commit ourselves to living each day in a manner that brings glory to God – not seeking our fame or recognition, but rather to honor Him in all that we do. Let us proclaim His glory today and every day, recognizing His greatness and offering Him the praise and adoration He deserves.

The Five Solas of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura

The Five Solas of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura

Exploring the Five Solas of the Reformation

If you’ve spent any time on this website, you know that John Calvin and Martin Luther were giants of the faith. They kicked off a series of events in the 1500s that we call the Reformation. Both men were essential in formulating teachings we know today as Reformed Theology. Both men had innovative ideas that continue to shape our world. They also both used their lives for the glory of God.

The Five Solas of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura

It might be surprising that neither Calvin nor Luther ever summarized their teachings in any way. Instead, centuries later, Reformed Christians devised five Latin slogans known as the “five solas of the faith.” They summarize the great truths of the Reformation period. While it is unknown who came up with the five solas, Reformed Christians have used them for many years as a faithful summary of the gospel and true theology.

Understanding the five solas isn’t just for history nerds; it’s actually significant for us today. These solas give us a clear picture of what our faith is all about and help us understand the true teachings of the Bible. In this new blog series, we’ll break down each sola one by one, starting with sola scriptura. We’ll explain what it means and show how it impacts our lives.

What Are the Five Solas?

The five solas of the Reformation are as follows:

Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone)

Solus Christus (Christ alone)

Sola fide (faith alone)

Sola gratia (grace alone)

Soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone)

Sometimes theologians combine them all into one sentence: “Christians are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed by Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone.” In that sentence, you have a summary of the glorious gospel of Christ.

Of course, these solas summarize the Reformed response to the troubling teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Church believed in the authority of the Pope as the foundation of faith, but the Reformers said “No” and emphasized “sola scriptura” – the Bible alone as our foundation. The Roman Church taught that we are saved by a mix of God’s grace, good works, and the merits of saints. The Reformers disagreed and declared “sola gratia” – we are saved by God’s grace alone.

The Roman Church also said we are justified by faith and our own works, but the Reformers argued “No” and championed “sola fide” – justification by faith alone. Additionally, the Catholic Church emphasized the importance of saints and Mary in our salvation, while the Reformers insisted on “solus Christus” – salvation through Christ alone. The Roman Church attributed some glory to humans, but the Reformers passionately believed in “soli Deo gloria” – giving all glory to God alone. These solas remain vital as they remind us of the true teachings of the gospel and the need to honor God above all else.

Sola Scriptura: The First of the Five Solas

Sola Scriptura is perhaps the most important distinction of the Reformation. Everything hinges on the belief that Scripture alone is the final authority for the life of the Church and of every Christian.

It declares that the Word of God is the only thing that God Himself wrote. While church traditions, councils, and leaders hold significance and should be given weight, they do not possess the same divine authority as Scripture. This is because the Bible, with its multiple human authors but one divine author, is uniquely inspired by the Holy Spirit.

As the Apostle Peter affirms, the biblical authors were carried along by the Spirit, making the very words they wrote the words of God (1 Peter 1:21). No Pope, no Pastor, no leader can ever claim to have the very words of God apart from the Bible. This does not mean that we throw away all traditions (2 Thess. 2:15). It is helpful to know what leaders in the Church have said over the centuries, as we can learn from their wisdom. It simply means we must test everything on the Scriptures (Acts 17:10-12).

By affirming sola scriptura, the Reformers emphasized the paramount importance of Scripture in faith, practice, and doctrine. They recognized that the divine inspiration of the Bible gives it unrivaled authority, surpassing any human institution or tradition. It allows us to rely confidently on the Scriptures as the final authority in discerning God’s will and receiving His guidance, knowing His word will stand forever (Isaiah 40:8).

What Does Sola Scriptura Mean for You?

Sola Scriptura means that Bible should be our ultimate standard for all of life. It is not merely a book to be read but something that we should strive to study diligently, knowing that it is God’s good Word for our lives. As such, we should learn it, apply it, and love it with all our hearts, minds, and strengths.

The Five Solas of the Reformation: Solus Christus

The Five Solas of the Reformation: Solus Christus

In our previous post, we introduced you to the five solas of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), Sola fide (faith alone), Sola gratia (grace alone), and Soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone).

We also shared the concise summary of the Gospel these solas create: “Christians are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed by Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone.”

Now, let’s delve into the meaning of solus Christus. It’s essential to understand that each of these solas is built upon the foundation of sola Scriptura. Scripture alone provides us with the framework and information to comprehend who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for us.

It is also crucial to reemphasize that grasping the significance of the five solas isn’t just for theologians or historians; it holds relevance for us today. As we explore, solus Christus in this in this post we hope you can see the great relevance these eternal truths have for us in the here and now.

What Is Solus Christus?

Solus Christus is simple: it is the teaching that we are saved by Christ alone. No other man, no institution, no good work can make us right with God—only the blood of Jesus can do that. Jesus is our only High Priest (Hebrews 4:4) who sacrificed Himself so that we could live. He is the only mediator that can connect us to God (1 Timothy 2:5). Buddha can’t bring you to God, Mohammad can’t bring you to God, the Virgin Mary can’t bring you to God, and you can’t go to God on your own. Only Christ can save (Galatians 3:13)—solus Christus.

This also means that we cannot depend on anything good that we do to save us. The Apostle Paul tells us in Titus that Jesus saved us through the washing of the Holy Spirit and nothing that we did (Titus 3:5). He gave us a new type of righteousness, a righteousness given to us through faith in Jesus Christ and not our own merit (Romans 3:22).

Remember, at the time of the Reformation this was groundbreaking as the Roman Catholic Church had been teaching that salvation could be earned through good works and even through buying passes of righteousness called indulgences from the church itself. Imagine salvation being purchased with money!

Instead, the Reformers went to scripture to prove that Jesus is our only hope, emphasizing that selling the grace of God on the street in the form of indulgences was evil. After all, as Jesus declared in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” This steadfast commitment to the exclusive role of Jesus as the path to salvation formed the cornerstone of the Reformed theological stance and remains a guiding principle for us believers today.

The Five Solas: Solus Christus Today

Okay, so the Roman Catholic Church made a mistake back in the day but does solus Christus matter today?

Yes, because regardless of the era we inhabit, be it the age of the Reformers or our contemporary period, the temptation exists to rely on something other than Christ for our salvation, our identity, and our happiness.

As John Calvin insightfully noted, this inclination is deeply ingrained in human nature. Calvin claimed that the human heart was a factory of idols. We will find anything to replace Christ. This is why it’s so important to constantly remind ourselves that it is only Christ that can help us from our selfish sickness.

The significance of solus Christus extends beyond historical contexts; it serves as a timeless reminder to guard against the perpetual allure of idolatry and to uphold the exclusive preeminence of Christ in matters of salvation.

Why Does It Matter for You?

If we mix in our own efforts or look to the idols of our own making for salvation, e risk promoting what Luther termed a “theology of glory” rather than a “theology of the cross.” This shift not only distorts the authentic narrative of salvation but also diminishes the rightful glory due to Christ as our formidable Savior. Luther’s distinction encourages us to carefully assess our beliefs and practices, ensuring they align with the true essence of the cross, salvation from our sins through the blood of Jesus.

Instead of looking inside ourselves for wholeness and instead of looking to the outside world for help we should turn our eyes onto Jesus Christ for everything we need. Solus Christus is a call not to rely on yourself. Not to rely on the world. But to rely on Christ.

Cling to Him and breathe easy knowing that by His power alone are you made right with God.

The Five Solas of the Reformation: Sola Fide

The Five Solas of the Reformation: Sola Fide

In our previous post, we talked about the amazing truth that being saved is only possible through Christ. He’s the only one who can make things right between us and God.

The Five Solas of the Reformation: Sola Fide

Continuing this exploration of the Five Solas of the Reformation, we now focus on the pivotal concept of Sola Fide, commonly known as “faith alone.” Sola Fide means that all the benefits of Christ’s saving love come to us when we trust and believe in Him.

As we unravel the depths of this doctrine, we uncover a truth that challenges conventional notions of our day and invites us to consider how faith in Jesus revives and renews us.

What Is Sola Fide?

If Solus Christus is the teaching that helps us understand how we are saved (through Christ’s work), Sola Fide is the teaching that helps us understand how that salvation is applied to us. This may sound complicated at first, but a closer look will help us understand that Sola Fide simply teaches that God gives us Christ’s salvation through faith, not through good deeds.

This faith is a gift from God given to us to help us cling to Him. However, we must understand that when we say, “by faith alone,” we don’t mean that we merely acknowledge that Jesus was a historical person who lived and did good things. Genuine faith isn’t just knowing things or agreeing with the Bible—it’s also about depending on God’s promises. Genuine faith is based only on trusting in Jesus, not on our own goodness. It’s not like the faith demons have, which is just knowing facts (James 2:19). Sola Fide stresses that being right with God isn’t about what we do; it’s a gift we get by relying on Jesus. So, if you trust in Him alone, that’s what matters.

This idea of trusting in Jesus alone for salvation sets true Christianity apart from other religions and beliefs. Instead of saying we need to do certain things to be saved, the Bible teaches that we’re saved by God’s kindness when we trust Him, not because of anything we do (Ephesians 2:8-9). Other religions focus on what people can achieve, but Christianity centers on what God has done through Jesus. If you trust Jesus for forgiveness and salvation, His goodness becomes yours. However, if you try to be good enough on your own or mix faith with actions, you’ll fall short of God’s perfect standard.

Does This Mean I Can Do Whatever I Want?

The natural question follows: “If I’m not supposed to mix faith with actions, does that mean I can do whatever I want?” The Apostle Paul emphatically answers this with a resounding “No!” in the Bible, saying, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!” (Romans 6:1). Paul clarifies that trusting in Jesus should lead us to a “newness of life.” In simpler terms, faith should inspire us to live like Jesus–a life characterized by doing good things.

The Scripture elsewhere says that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). This means that our faith should cause us to do good things for God. To be clear, this does not mean that our good works make us right with God.

We must not think that since the Bible urges us to do good things, that means we are saved by them. John Calvin is helpful here, writing, “James does not speak here of the cause of justification, or of the manner how men obtain righteousness, and this is plain to everyone; but that his object was only to show that good works are always connected with faith,” (Calvin’s Commentary on James).

In essence, Sola Fide teaches us that rather than earning salvation through good works, the gift of faith empowers us to start doing good things. Indeed, our salvation isn’t earned by good works but is a gift received through faith, inspiring a transformed life marked by doing good things in response to God’s grace.

Why Sola Fide Matters Today

In a culture where the pursuit of success and material wealth often defines our worth, the doctrine of faith alone provides a comforting reprieve. Sola Fide assures us that our faith, security, and righteousness come as gifts from God. It offers a counter-narrative to the constant pressure to perform, inviting us to rest in the knowledge that our standing before God is not achieved through our efforts but is graciously bestowed upon us.

Moreover, Sola Fide instills in us a genuine motivation to do good in this life. Rather than being driven solely by self-interest or the desire to impress others, the doctrine prompts us to act out of gratitude for God’s overwhelming goodness to us. As we reflect on the countless gifts bestowed upon us despite our undeserving nature, our response should not be complacency but humble adoration.

Far from leading to spiritual laziness, the doctrine of justification by faith alone calls believers to wholeheartedly dedicate themselves to God, striving to obey His commandments and seek His glory in all things. The fruits of true faith should be a readiness to give ourselves to others and a sincere commitment to do good, ultimately advancing the glory of God in every aspect of our lives.

The Five Solas of the Reformation: Sola Gratia

The Five Solas of the Reformation: Sola Gratia

The phrase “by the grace of God” is so common these days that it may almost seem meaningless. But for Reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin, being saved by the grace of God alone (aka sola gratia—the fourth sola in our solas series) was essential to understanding salvation.

The Five Solas of the Reformation: Sola Gratia

Indeed, for Luther, Calvin, and the other Reformers, any denial of sola gratia meant that people could save themselves apart from God. This, they taught, was against everything the Bible teaches about humanity and God.

This is why it’s really important for Christians and non-Christians alike to really get what sola gratia means. The truth of the entire gospel depends on it.

Sola Gratia Means That God Does It All

Sola gratia means that salvation is solely by God’s grace. In embracing sola gratia, the Reformers sought to refocus Christian teaching on the unconditional love and mercy of God. They rejected the idea that people can contribute to their salvation through righteous deeds, asserting that such attempts are useless in the face of God’s infinite grace.

This matches up with the biblical teaching that salvation is a gift, as Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Put differently, sola gratia doesn’t imply that God has completed the majority of the work for our salvation, leaving a small portion for us to contribute. This would place human works in a controlling position, suggesting that our salvation hinges on our own actions. Instead, sola gratia teaches that God’s grace exclusively acts to save us for the entirety of our lives.

Martin Luther wrote a lot about this in his day. In fact, it was this very truth that led him to break away from the Roman Catholic Church. He says:

No man can be thoroughly humbled until he knows that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, devices, endeavors, will, and works, and depends entirely on the choice, will, and work of another, namely, of God alone. For as long as he is persuaded that he himself can do even the least thing toward his salvation, he retains some self-confidence and does not altogether despair of himself … But when a man has no doubt that everything depends on the will of God, then he completely despairs of himself and chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work; then he has come close to grace. (Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, Luther’s Works, Vol 33)

When we recognize that everything hinges on God’s will and not our own actions, we draw closer to understanding the true goodness of His grace.

Grace Does Not Excuse Evil

From its origin to execution, salvation stands as God’s own undertaking for wicked and underserving people. It is an act of God’s free will to rescue us. We are ugly and evil on our own, but God looks down on us and extends mercy purely because He is gracious.

Does this mean that God just ignores our evil tendencies? Absolutely not! Instead, as the Reformers have pointed out, the profound nature of grace was illustrated in the Old Testament through the animal sacrifices and perfected in the New Testament through the person and work of Jesus Christ—innocent blood shed for the cleansing of another.

Grace, rooted in the sacrificial love of God through His Son, does not grant permission for wrongdoing. Rather, it highlights the profound forgiveness provided by the sacrifice of Jesus. It emphasizes the transformative power of this grace, calling individuals to turn away from evil and embrace a life lived in gratitude for this sacrifice.

Grace Is Controversial

Throughout history, the concept of grace has been a source of controversy. In Martin Luther’s day, the concept of works-based righteousness played a significant role in the understanding of salvation. The Roman Catholic Church held to the idea that salvation involved a cooperative effort between human works and God’s grace. This perspective was deeply influenced by teachings and practices that emphasized the importance of sacraments, good deeds, and adherence to religious rituals as a means of earning God’s favor.

Today, while many Christians no longer believe in the need to do good deeds in order to be saved, we are often inundated by a world that tells us to do more and to be better. There are many important causes, like taking care of the environment or helping orphans, and people sometimes think getting involved in these things makes them “good people” —worthy of heaven. But while those actions are admirable, they won’t save you and make you worthy.

Instead, Jesus says, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” God bestows on us worthiness through His son. God’s grace gives us true rest by releasing us from ourselves and setting us to be completely dependent on Him.

Grace Is for You

The teaching of sola gratia should help us understand how great God truly is. God looked down at us–stupid and wicked as we are–and He forgives us, He treats us like we are righteous, He treats us as His own children, and He saves us out of sheer grace.

This grace is not for those we think of as good; it is for ordinary people like you and me. It is for everyone who believes in the name of Jesus—cling to Him, and by the grace of God, you will be saved.

5 Doctrines of Grace, Why Do They Matter Today?

5 Doctrines of Grace, Why Do They Matter Today?

In our series up to now, we have explained the five points of Calvinism, also known as the five doctrines of grace. But you may still wonder, “Why does this matter to me in the 21st century?”

In the ever-evolving landscape of modern culture, family dynamics, and even within the walls of the church, the five doctrines of grace remain an essential foundation for understanding who we are and who God is. These five doctrines—total depravity, unconditional election, limited (definite) atonement, irresistible grace, and preserving grace—serve as a summary of God’s saving grace that points us toward the unchanging truth of God’s glory.

In this post, we will explore the critical relevance of these doctrines in our contemporary world, addressing issues in modern culture, family life, and combating heresies in the church while emphasizing why they matter to each of us today.

Modern Culture: Rediscovering Identity and Purpose

In a world where confusion about identity reigns supreme, the doctrines of grace provide an unwavering foundation for us. Our culture grapples with ever-shifting definitions of self, struggling to understand what it means to be human. Reformed theology reminds us that God is sovereign over everything, and His creation is inherently good. Meaning who God created you to be is who you are. This foundational truth confronts the modern trend of self-identification based on feelings and desires and redirects us to God’s intentional design.

The doctrine of total depravity underscores our human inability to do good apart from God, revealing our inherent need for His grace. It is through His unconditional electing love, atonement for our sins, irresistible grace, and persevering power that we find our true humanness by serving Him. Modern culture may question our identity at every turn, but the five doctrines of grace remind us that our true identity is rooted in our relationship with the sovereign Creator.

Families: Understanding and Living God’s Love

We all have unique family dynamics. Some are harder to deal with than others. The doctrines of Grace offer a blueprint for understanding and living out God’s love within our diverse family situations. God’s love for us is the ultimate model for the love we should extend to one another. These doctrines teach us that just as God sovereignly elects and loves His people, we too can choose to love and serve one another unconditionally.

The saving grace of God summarized in the five points challenges the self-centered tendencies that often undermine family relationships. When we recognize that our love should mirror God’s, it encourages us to put the needs of our family members above our own. In a world where selfishness and individualism are rampant, the doctrines of grace serve as a counterbalance, promoting the idea that God’s love flows through us to those around us.

Heresy: Guarding Against False Teachings

The Five Doctrines of Grace serve as a fortress against heresies that dilute the pure grace of God. In a culture that often asserts that humans are naturally good or can earn God’s favor through good deeds, these doctrines challenge such misconceptions. Any compromise on these five points diminishes the grace of God, impacting His glory.

For instance, to propose a partial corruption of humanity instead of a totally depraved humanity misdiagnoses the depth of human evil and consequently downplays the extent of God’s grace. Similarly, suggesting a conditional election based on God’s foresight of human faith undermines the sovereign power of God’s will. By contrast, the doctrines of grace assert that salvation is all of God and brings to light the glory that is rightfully His. Holding to them will give the church a foundation to uphold God’s truth in all seasons.

Freedom: Trusting in God’s Grace

The doctrines of grace offer us the freedom to trust in God completely. They reassure us that all His promises are “yes and amen” in Christ, allowing us to relinquish our obsession with self and our striving for greatness. Our greatness, as these doctrines emphasize, is found in Christ alone. With this understanding, we can rest in the knowledge that God’s yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

To God Be the Glory: The Ultimate Purpose

The primary reason the doctrines of grace should be indispensable in our lives, families, and churches is that they give glory to God alone. They proclaim that salvation is entirely the work of God, and when this truth is grasped, God receives all the glory.

But they also guide us to rediscover our true identity in God’s design, nurture loving relationships within our families, guard us against false teachings, and grant us the freedom to rest in God’s grace.

Their relevance today is undeniable, as they provide the firm foundation we need in a world that is constantly shifting. Embracing the doctrines of grace is not just an exercise in theological understanding; it’s an opportunity to experience the transformative power of God’s sovereign grace and to give Him the glory He rightfully deserves.

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