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.