Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 24, 2012

The Five Solas of the Reformation, in Depth

The “Five Solas” are the bedrock of the Protestant tradition. They are the truths for which our ancestors and spiritual forebears were willing to die . . . and often did. But what do they mean, and how are they supported by Scripture?

1.       Soli Deo Gloria – glory to God alone. 

“For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Reformation example: Early Protestants had a very close and personal connection to Scripture. They often memorized large portions and felt particularly close to the Lord through their understanding of His Word. Thus, the thought of giving up their lives for their faith was less harrowing than the thought of abandoning their beliefs, for they believed that following another belief system would be forsaking God. They believed that only the five solas could bring glory to God. They would not risk forsaking His glory to save their bodies.

2.       Solo Christo – through Christ alone.

“All things have been committed to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” (Matthew 11:26-28)

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

Reformation example: “Through Christ alone” was a popular battle-cry of the Reformation due to the medieval Catholic Church’s reliance on saints, relics, and other such means as salvation aids. Protestants believed that only Christ could save and only Christ should be venerated. This is still a key element in Protestant worship. 

3.       Sola gratia – grace alone.

“Now I commit you to God and to the word of His grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32)

“There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-23)

“‘I have reserved for Myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:4-6)

Reformation example: Protestant theologians were amazed by God’s grace. The thought that they might be saved by grace through faith and not by some constant shuffle of deeds was a beautiful, soul-stirring, and liberating notion. Martin Luther wrote, “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.” This particular sola was one of the most highly touted of the Reformation.

4.       Sola fide – faith alone.

“Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.’ (Romans 3:27-28)

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” (Romans 5:1-2)

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

(Joyously Saved’s note: While past theologians have believed that the above verse contradicts itself, I believe it is saying that no Christian saved by faith would choose to live his life without doing good works in the Lord’s name, thus, a ‘true’ Christian lives his faith by ‘putting his money where his mouth is,’ so to speak. This does not have bearing on the manner of salvation.)

Reformation example: Faith alone. No strings attached. Pure assurance in Christ’s salvation and resurrection. Protestant believers did and do thank God daily for this wonder of God’s mercy. In the early days of the Reformation, “faith alone” was used quite often. This phrase meant that special prayers and particular articles of devotion were not needed to gain salvation. One could come to the Lord directly, from the heart, professing Christ, and be saved. The wonderment of that sola still brings tears to many eyes. 

5.       Sola Scriptura – by Scripture alone.

“But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.” (Galatians 3:22)

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Reformation example: The medieval Church relied on various forms of literature to define their faith. Protestants insisted that only Scripture was God-breathed and only Scripture could be used as a beacon of faith. Only Scripture was worthy of being quoted, memorized, and loved. Many Protestants throughout the centuries fell in love with the words of Scripture and memorized them voraciously. The French Huguenots were known for their love of the Psalms, choosing to sing the Psalms rather than to create manmade hymns.

The Five Solas may not be given the high importance they once were, but, in the spirit of my Reformation forebears, I lift them up as proud examples of the Protestant heart and soul. To God be the glory.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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