Five Solas!

The Five Solas of the Reformation[1]

The five solas are five Latin phrases popularized during the Protestant Reformation that emphasized the distinctions between the early Reformers and the Roman Catholic Church. The word sola is the Latin word for “only” and was used in relation to five key teachings that defined the biblical pleas of Protestants. They are:

1. Sola scriptura: “Scripture alone”
2. Sola fide: “faith alone”
3. Sola gratia: “grace alone”
4. Solo Christo: “Christ alone”
5. Soli Deo gloria: “to the glory of God alone”

Each of these solas can be seen both as a corrective to the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church at the start of the Reformation and as a positive biblical declaration.

Sola scriptura emphasizes the Bible alone as the source of authority for Christians. By saying, “Scripture alone,” the Reformers rejected both the divine authority of the Roman Catholic Pope and confidence in sacred tradition. Only the Bible was “inspired by God” (2 Peter 1:20-21) and “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Anything taught by the Pope or in tradition that contradicted the Bible was to be rejected. Sola scriptura also fueled the translation of the Bible into German, French, English, and other languages, and prompted Bible teaching in the common languages of the day, rather than in Latin.

Sola fide emphasizes salvation as a free gift. The Roman Catholic Church of the time emphasized the use of indulgences (donating money) to buy status with God. Good works, including baptism, were seen as required for salvation. Sola fide stated that salvation is a free gift to all who accept it by faith (John 3:16). Salvation is not based on human effort or good deeds (Ephesians 2:9).

Sola gratia emphasizes grace as the reason for our salvation. In other words, salvation comes from what God has done rather than what we do. Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches, “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.”

Solo Christo (sometimes listed as Solus Christus, “through Christ alone”) emphasizes the role of Jesus in salvation. The Roman Catholic tradition had placed church leaders such as priests in the role of intercessor between the laity and God. Reformers emphasized Jesus’ role as our “high priest” who intercedes on our behalf before the Father. Hebrews 4:15 teaches, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus is the One who offers access to God, not a human spiritual leader.

Soli Deo gloria emphasizes the glory of God as the goal of life. Rather than striving to please church leaders, keep a list of rules, or guard our own interests, our goal is to glorify the Lord. The idea of soli Deo gloria is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

The five solas of the Protestant Reformation offered a strong corrective to the faulty practices and beliefs of the time, and they remain relevant today. We are called to focus on Scripture, accept salvation by grace through faith, magnify Christ, and live for God’s glory.

Solo Christo, or solus Christus, is one of the five solas (or solae) that have come to summarize the key issues of the Protestant Reformation. Solo Christo means “Christ alone” in Latin. The other four solas are sola scriptura (“Scripture alone”), sola fide (“faith alone”), sola gratia (“grace alone”), and sola Deo gloria (“for the glory of God alone”). Each one of these doctrines is vitally important. To dispatch with any one of them will lead to error and a false gospel that is powerless to save.

When the Reformers insisted on solo Christo, they affirmed that we are saved by Christ alone, apart from the merit of any other person. Jesus alone is the King of kings (Revelation 19:16). He alone is our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). He alone is our Redeemer (Galatians 3:13) and the sole Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). The attempt to usurp or share in those positions is a blasphemous arrogation. Assigning those roles to someone else (such as Mary) is equally improper. It is Christ and Christ alone who saves.

It is not our righteousness that saves us; it is Christ’s alone. “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5). “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22). Whatever good works we do and however faithful we are, in the final analysis “we are unworthy servants” (Luke 17:10). Christ and Christ alone is the Worthy One (Revelation 5:9). Solo Christo.

From beginning to end, the Gospel uplifts Christ and Christ alone. He is the One who came from heaven to seek the lost (Luke 19:10). He is the One who obeyed the Law perfectly. He is the One who was crucified, and He is the One who rose again. We are the grateful recipients of His bounty. We are the beggars, and He is the Benefactor. We are the lepers, and He is the Healer. We are turmoil, and He is Peace. Solo Christo.

The gospel is not a message of what we must do for God; the gospel is the good news of what God has done for us. Salvation is not essentially about us; it is about Jesus. Solo Christo. In all things, Christ must have the supremacy (Colossians 1:18), and the Reformers restored that biblical doctrine to the church. As Luther wrote, “I must listen to the Gospel. It tells me, not what I must do, but what Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has done for me” (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, Chapter 2, Verses 4–5).

“Why is solo Christo important?”

Answer:
Solo Christo, or solus Christus, is one of the five solas (or solae) that have come to summarize the key issues of the Protestant Reformation. Solo Christo means “Christ alone” in Latin. The other four solas are sola scriptura (“Scripture alone”), sola fide (“faith alone”), sola gratia (“grace alone”), and sola Deo gloria (“for the glory of God alone”). Each one of these doctrines is vitally important. To dispatch with any one of them will lead to error and a false gospel that is powerless to save.

When the Reformers insisted on solo Christo, they affirmed that we are saved by Christ alone, apart from the merit of any other person. Jesus alone is the King of kings (Revelation 19:16). He alone is our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). He alone is our Redeemer (Galatians 3:13) and the sole Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). The attempt to usurp or share in those positions is a blasphemous arrogation. Assigning those roles to someone else (such as Mary) is equally improper. It is Christ and Christ alone who saves.

It is not our righteousness that saves us; it is Christ’s alone. “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5). “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22). Whatever good works we do and however faithful we are, in the final analysis “we are unworthy servants” (Luke 17:10). Christ and Christ alone is the Worthy One (Revelation 5:9). Solo Christo.

From beginning to end, the Gospel uplifts Christ and Christ alone. He is the One who came from heaven to seek the lost (Luke 19:10). He is the One who obeyed the Law perfectly. He is the One who was crucified, and He is the One who rose again. We are the grateful recipients of His bounty. We are the beggars, and He is the Benefactor. We are the lepers, and He is the Healer. We are turmoil, and He is Peace. Solo Christo.

The gospel is not a message of what we must do for God; the gospel is the good news of what God has done for us. Salvation is not essentially about us; it is about Jesus. Solo Christo. In all things, Christ must have the supremacy (Colossians 1:18), and the Reformers restored that biblical doctrine to the church. As Luther wrote, “I must listen to the Gospel. It tells me, not what I must do, but what Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has done for me” (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, Chapter 2, Verses 4–5).

“Why is sola gratia important?”

Answer:
Sola gratia is important because it is one of the distinguishing characteristics or key points that separate the true biblical Gospel from false gospels that cannot save. As one of the five solas that came to define the key issues of the Protestant Reformation, this doctrine is as important today as it was then. The Latin word sola means “alone” or “only,” and the essential Christian doctrines represented by these five Latin phrases accurately summarize the biblical teaching on these crucial subjects: sola scriptura—Scripture alone, sola fide—faith alone, sola gratia—grace alone, sola Christus—Christ alone, and sola Deo gloria—for the glory of God alone. Each one is vitally important, and they are all closely tied together. Deviation from one will lead to error in another essential doctrine, and the result will almost always be a false gospel which is powerless to save.

Sola gratia is simply acknowledging that the Bible teaches that the totality of our salvation is a gift of grace from God. As it says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” It is the acknowledgement that salvation from the wrath of God is based on God’s grace and mercy and not on anything good in us. One reason so many want to reject this important doctrine is that they do not want to accept what the Bible clearly teaches about the basic condition of human nature since the fall of Adam. The Bible says that our hearts are “deceitful” and “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9, NKJV) and that “there is none righteous, no not one; there is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God” (Romans 3:10-11). Rather than acknowledge our total helplessness and hopelessness apart from the grace of God, most people want to believe that they have a role to play in their salvation. Western culture is so saturated with the idea that we are “masters of our own destiny” and “captains of our souls” that the idea we are without any hope apart from—and based solely on—the grace of God is foreign to our way of thinking. Sadly, it is also foreign to the way the gospel is often presented—as a plea to man to make a “decision for Christ” rather than a command to “repent and believe.” Such a presentation is based on the flawed and unbiblical idea that can be summarized by the saying, “Satan votes against you, God votes for you, and it is up to you to cast the deciding vote.” So much that passes for evangelism training today has more in common with something from a book on salesmanship than it does the Bible, often using manipulative techniques to get someone to “make a decision” that come right out of a salesmanship guide on how to “close the sale.”

The truth of sola gratia or salvation by grace alone is what inspired John Newton to write the wonderful song “Amazing Grace.” It is a grace so amazing that it can save a wretch like me. It is an amazing grace that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This doctrine is important because it correctly communicates the fact that God saves us because of His mercy and goodness and not because of anything that makes us desirable to God or worthy to be saved. We cannot grasp how amazing God’s grace in salvation is until we first grasp how sinful we truly are.

Sola gratia is important because if we reject it, we reject the only Gospel that can save. The alternative to sola gratia is a gospel that depends on the goodness of man instead of the grace of God, which is no gospel at all. Sola gratia is what makes the Gospel “good news.” It helps us to understand that while the Bible says there is “no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:11), the good news is that God seeks after sinners. Jesus said He came to seek and save that which is lost (Luke 19:10), not to wait for the lost to seek Him. It is God who acts first, God who draws the wretched sinner to Himself, God who gives new life to person who is “dead in their trespasses and sins,” God who causes a person to be “born again” so he or she can “see the kingdom of God.” Those who deny sola gratia, either in words or actions, end up with a gospel that entails God bringing man only so far along the path of salvation and then leaving it up to him to save himself by “making a decision for Christ.” As a result of this “cooperative effort,” man is then saved not by grace alone but by grace plus works. However, this is not the Gospel presented in the Bible because everything man does is tainted by sin, so unless God fully brings it to pass, unregenerate man will never respond in faith to the Gospel.

Finally, sola gratia is important because it is the basis of our assurance of salvation as sinners before a holy God. If we deny sola gratia, then we cannot have any true assurance of our salvation. Since everything we do is tainted by sin, how can we have confidence that our “decision for Christ” was effective, and how can we know if we have enough faith to be saved? Fortunately, the Bible reveals a different Gospel, one based not on what we do but on what Jesus Christ has done. The “Good News” is that Christ came, lived a perfect life, died on the cross and rose from the dead in order to give new life to dead sinners, to deliver them from their sins and give them eternal life with Him. It is the reason that we can know that Jesus will lose none of all that the Father has given to Him, but raise them up at the last day (John 6:39).

“Why is soli Deo gloria important?”

Answer:
Soli Deo gloria is one of the important doctrines emphasized during the Protestant Reformation. Soli Deo gloria, along with the other four solas of the Reformers, separates the biblical gospel from false beliefs. The Latin word soli means “alone” or “only” (soli is the root of our English word solitary); and the phrase Deo gloria means “the glory of God.” So, soli Deo gloria means “to the glory of God alone.”

Soli Deo gloria has reference to our salvation in Christ. When the Reformers spoke of our salvation “to the glory of God alone,” they emphasized the grace of God. Salvation is all of grace, not of our works (Ephesians 2:8–9). A key phrase in Ephesians 2:9 is “so that no one can boast”; that is, God’s grace in providing salvation excludes all human pride and boasting. In making his case for justification by faith, apart from the Law, Paul writes, “Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith” (Romans 3:27, NLT).

There is no room for the glory of man in God’s plan for salvation. The glory is God’s alone. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). If it were possible for someone to attain salvation through the works of the Law, then he would have something to boast of (Romans 4:2); but it is impossible. We cannot save ourselves. We who were dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1) could do nothing to help ourselves toward life. But, praise the Lord, “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The glory is God’s, not ours. Soli Deo gloria.

The salvation of sinners was God’s idea, the accomplishing of that salvation was God’s work, the granting of that salvation is God’s grace, and the fulfillment of that salvation is God’s promise. From beginning to end, “Salvation belongs to the LORD” (Psalm 3:8, ESV; cf. Revelation 7:10). Jesus likened salvation to a new birth (John 3:3); as an infant can take no credit for his own birth, so we can take no credit for our being “born again.” King Hezekiah was not credited with saving Jerusalem from the Assyrians (2 Kings 19); God was the One who defeated the enemy. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not credited with saving themselves in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3); God preserved them in the flame. The glory belongs to God alone. Soli Deo gloria.

In Reformed theology, the doctrine of soli Deo gloria is closely related to the doctrine of irresistible grace. God’s grace drew us to salvation and even enabled us to believe. Yes, we repented of our sin, but only because God’s grace enabled us to repent. We placed our faith in Christ, but only because God’s grace enabled us to have faith. There is no work that we can do to in any way earn our salvation or help secure it for ourselves. We are called and kept by the power of God alone, “in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). Soli Deo gloria.

The German composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) understood that music was a gift from God to be used for the glory of God. Beneath all of his compositions of sacred music, Bach penned the initials SDG, soli Deo gloria. In his vision of heaven, the apostle John saw “the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, / to receive glory and honor and power’” (Revelation 4:10–11). Even the elders of heaven do not keep their crowns; they give glory where glory is due—to God alone.


[1] https://www.gotquestions.org/sola-gratia.html. I have quoted extensively from this website. I would really recommend this website to all my readers. It has substantial and trustworthy information on a multitude of questions regarding the Christian faith. I recommend the website to my students as well.

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