The Protestant Reformation was a big event in history, and it had several “battle cries”, so to speak. “Post Tenebras Lux” and “Ecclesia semper reformanda est” are some of them, and perhaps more famous are the five Solas:
- Sola Fide—“By faith alone”
- Sola Gratia—“By grace alone”
- Sola Scriptura—“By Scripture alone”
- Solus Christus/Solo Christo—“Through Christ alone”
- Soli Deo Gloria—“Glory to God alone”
I will go through each of these, elaborating on them and showing their Scriptural support. They are a great way of summarizing Biblical Christianity in opposition to Romanism or any other such false system.
Sola Fide (By Faith Alone)
This might be the most famous of the five. It refers to how we are justified: We are justified through faith alone, not by any works. Martin Luther described this doctrine as the point on which the church stands or falls. Theodore Beza wrote that failure in distinguishing law (works) and Gospel (faith in Christ) is one of the principal sources of the abuses that corrupt Christianity. Is this doctrine Biblical though? Really, the whole New Testament is an abundantly perspicuous witness to it, most especially Romans and Galatians. Some golden nuggets are:
Rom 4:5: But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
Gal 2:16: Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Php 3:8,9: Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
The doctrine didn’t vanish for 1500 years though: We find it as early as in the end of the 1st century in Clement of Rome:
“We also, being called through God's will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves, neither through our own wisdom or understanding, or piety, or works which we have done in holiness or heart, but through faith.”
Moreover, 4th century Church Father John Chrysostom wrote:
“Again, they said that he who adhered to Faith alone was cursed, but he shows that he who adhered to Faith alone, is blessed.”
To mention but a few.
Sola Gratia (By Grace Alone)
We have no claim to anything from God, for we are wicked in His sight, corrupted by both personal and original sin. God is therefore gracious to us when He redeems us. The Reformers realised this, and criticised the Roman church for (supposedly) trying to merit salvation. Be that as it may, the Scriptures testify that by the grace of God we are saved:
Rom 3:24: Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Eph 2:8,9: 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.
Merit is excluded:
Rom 11:35: Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?
Even faith, whereby we receive Christ’s righteousness, is itself a product of God’s free grace. We have nothing to boast of:
2 Tim 2:25: God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.
Joh 6:44: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
Sola Scriptura (By Scripture Alone)
In opposition to the Papists’ doctrine that Scripture isn’t the only infallible source of doctrine, the Reformers taught that only the Bible is the Word of God. The holy and inspired Scriptures are fully sufficient for the proclamation of the truth.
A common text cited as evidence for this, is 2 Timothy 3:16,17:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
The Scriptures, then, are sufficient to make the man of God perfect.
Some fanatics insist on continual revelation by “the Spirit”. To these Luther rightly said, “I slap your spirit on the snout!”
Far from being ‘invented’ in the 16th century, we see the doctrine of Sola Scriptura throughout all of Church history. E.g. in St. Augustine (354-430):
“If anyone preaches either concerning Christ or concerning His church or concerning any other matter which pertains to our faith and life; I will not say, if we, but what Paul adds, if an angel from heaven should preach to you anything besides what you have received in the Scriptures of the Law and of the Gospels, let him be anathema.”
Some modern Roman apologists like to differentiate between formal and material sufficiency—the former being the Romanist view that the Scriptures are sufficient, they simply aren’t perspicuous. Hence, there is a need for an infallible interpreter (supposedly the Magisterium). Of course, the question arises: What is it that keeps the Bible from being perspicuous, and not the Magisterium?
Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
Contrary to the Romanists’ belief that saints intercede for us in Heaven and that Mary is co-mediatrix, the Reformation revived the Biblical doctrine that there is only one mediator between God and men: Christ Jesus (1. Tim 2:5,6). In Christ alone is salvation to be found, and there is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved. The Son is the only way whereby the Father can be known:
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Mat 11:27)
Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. (Joh 14:6) Therefore, whoever has the Son has life, whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 Joh 5:12)
Soli Deo Gloria (Glory To God Alone)
All these “slogans” are testament to the fact that salvation is of God. We have nothing to boast of, and therefore, the glory goes to God alone.
Several texts confirm this theocentric view:
Rom 11:36: For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
Rev 4:11: Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.
I hope to have shown that these statements, which sum up the Reformation so well, are indeed Biblical. However, many people, while claiming to be Protestant, are unaware of the great heritage we are part of, neither do they understand the principles of true Christianity. In today’s age of ecumenicism and lukewarmness, many folks are on their way back to Rome. Nobody believes in predestination anymore, few have any clue whatsoever what the imputed righteousness of Christ is about, and people are abandoning Scripture for science falsely so-called. It is truly a sad age, one which sorely needs another Reformation. We can rest assured that the Truth will not change even if nobody believes in it.