The Solas of the Reformation – Historical Introduction
In the year A.D. 1517 an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses (propositions) to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. These Theses were written in Latin and were for scholarly debate. The issue was the legitimacy of the sale of indulgences. At that time, the Church of Rome sold indulgences for the forgiveness of sins. Luther raised numerous objections.
Without Luther’s knowledge, the theses were translated into the common language of the people. They spread like wildfire. In fact, they were translated into numerous European languages. Needless to say, this created quite a stir!
Luther was wrestling and agonizing with how a person is made right with God. How could this question even be answered? Did one rely on church tradition, the Bible, or both? Was it the work of God, of man, or both? Was it by works, or faith, or both? Was it through Christ and the saints and Mary and the church?
There were others who laid a foundation, such as John Wycliffe, the Waldensians and Jan Hus. Yet God used Martin Luther to bring about the Protestant Reformation in a unique and powerful way.
The Reformation was the rediscovery of biblical truth, especially the biblical gospel.
The Reformers, namely Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin and others, summarized the core teaching of the Bible with a number of Latin slogans. These Latin slogans became the battle cries of the Reformation, and have had the ring of truth ever since.
Soli Deo Gloria – This slogan, which occupies the center place among the banners, means “To God alone be the glory.” It is the great goal of all of God’s purposes in Jesus Christ. All that God does, He does for His own glory. He created all things for His glory. He sustains and rules over the world and our lives for His glory. Our salvation is all of grace through Christ for His glory. One important thing to notice; the word ALONE. God and God alone is worthy of all glory and praise!
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:36
Sola Fide – This slogan means “Faith Alone.” Faith alone is the instrument of our salvation. Salvation is not by works, it is by faith, that is, trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. Even saving faith is a gift of God’s grace.
For by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
Sola Gratia – This slogan means “Grace Alone.” It answers the questions of who does what in salvation. From beginning to end, our salvation is a work of free and sovereign grace. It is all of grace, so that all the glory goes to God alone.
He has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 2 Timothy 1:9
Solus Christus – This slogan means “Through Christ Alone.” It is in Christ alone that we have salvation. In His perfect life and substitutionary death alone we have salvation. Through Him and Him alone we have the forgiveness of our sins and are declared righteous before God.
He saved us, not because of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:5-7
Sola Scriptura – This slogan means “Scripture Alone.” This truth declares that the Bible alone is our supreme authority for faith (what we believe) and conduct (how we live). The Bible alone is God’s Word written. It is without error, it is authoritative, it is sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness. It must be preached and taught and lived out.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17