The 5 solas of the Protestant Reformation are originally written in Latin and each indicate an aspect in the Christian faith with the world “alone” attached, or “sola”.
In my previous post, I addressed the topics of indulgence and salvation as it relates to the Catholic church and the Protestant Reformation. If you have not yet read that, check it out.
In that post, I did a quick run through of these alones and I will expound on them more now.
Sola Scriptura – scripture alone, or “by scripture alone”.
I start with scripture alone as it is by turning to the Scriptures, God’s recorded word to us, that we find the other four alones. Before the reformation, those who would follow Christ could not read the Bible in their own language. Everything about the faith had to be mediated through the priests. Much of the church liturgy (practice) was in Latin which the typical church attender did not understand. As a result, they were left with whatever they were told.
When you compare this time to the early days of Christianity, it becomes clear just how closed biblical information was. In the days of the apostles, the letters that make up much of the new testament were read aloud for the people to hear word-for-word. They were then copied and spread around. Fast forward to rule under the Catholic church and this just didn’t happen beyond the occasional verse or short passage reading. Even much of the schooling people were given didn’t have them interact with the Scriptures.
The Protestant Reformation changed this as you see a sort of “back to the Bible” approach as leading individuals read the Scriptures and then translated the Scriptures so that others could read. These acts were a major stab at the power base of the Roman Catholic church and it proved to be just the first domino in the unraveling of that power.
Sola Gratia – grace alone, or “by grace alone”.
Each of the sola can have their own book on it alone. Sola gratia is no exception. Upon digging into the Scriptures, it became apparent to the reformers that grace is at the root of our salvation. Grace was not something the Catholic church at the time denied but they did, and do, emphasized grace + works in salvation. In this way, the Catholic church could acknowledge God’s involvement but still claim their mediator role as they administered means of additional grace through works (sacraments, observances, etc.) and the benefits of good works.
In grace alone, we see that it is God’s grace extended to use that regenerates our hearts to turn to Him. No power of any church can do this. It is a work of God alone. One can even begin to talk about this grace’s irresistible quality but that is a topic for another time (I did say you can write entire books on this).
This sola may not sound like such a big deal; however, the Scriptures put grace as something given through God. Yes, observing biblical sacraments like communion can also impart grace but this still ultimately comes from God. While the church is a tool of sort in the dispersement of His grace, it is never the source. This sets the stage for the next.
Sola Fide – faith alone, or “by faith alone”.
Ephesians 2:8 directly connects grace and faith to one another. God’s grace extended to us is what allows us to then have faith in Him. God’s grace is what takes root and changes us such that we are able to respond to Him in faith. Notice once again, there’s no authoritarian church involved here. All that is necessary is the hearing of God’s Word (Scripture alone) and the working of God’s grace (Grace alone) in us such that we can respond in faith (Faith alone) and receive salvation.
Not only was the Roman Catholic church trying to keep a monopoly on people’s souls but they had to take it further and bring in purgatory in order to reinforce the sort of good works they wanted. You already had to go to a priest to even have a chance of hearing God’s gospel. Time had definitely turned spiritually dark which is why the Protestant Reformation occurred in the first place. God wasn’t going to let such an order stand which is why you see people like Martin Luther, Zwingli, and John Calvin (among others) come along to change things. The conflicts that came were the result of the disruption brought to the power order that could have been avoided if the Roman Catholic church truly sought to seek God’s truth rather than its own position of power.
Solus Christus – Christ alone, or “through Christ alone”.
As if the previous alones weren’t enough, we see that Scripture speaks of all of this being possible through Jesus Christ alone. He alone paid the price for our sin making it possible for us to be marked clean before a just God. There is nothing we can add to this saint-hood we now claim if we believe in Him.
Scripture is clear that the one work of Jesus Christ is what has freed us to go out and do good things in God’s name. We have no need to lash ourselves or do any sort of other torment to ourselves to be considered saints in the Lord’s eyes, unlike what Catholicism would have you believe. There is nothing more we can add to Christ’s comprehensive work on the cross.
Soli Deo Gloria – God’s glory alone, or “glory to God alone”.
I get the idea that this one is often overlooked and I can remember it not being a big point in my early Christian education as a kid.
Catholicism would have you aim to build a resume of pious deeds that make you seem like a Godly person and that would bring the church glory. By extension, this would bring God glory, but in reality it amounts to little more than falling back to the errors of the pharisees. Why? Because in Catholicism, it ultimately becomes “look at how good I am for the Lord” when it should be “I am nothing compared to the surpassing glory of Christ my God”.
In Solus Christus, the one work of Christ has freed us from our previous bondage to sin. We are now empowered to do what please Him. This brings Him glory. What’s more, God gets even more glory by the works we do in His name as it points people back to Him.
Now, I know some will say – that’s all well and good, but what do I have to gain by bringing God glory? While I’ll admit I believe there to be a bit of selfishness underlying such a question, it isn’t bad to answer it. The answer is fairly simple – we find our greatest fulfillment in our lives when we bring God glory.
I think I’ll leave it there. Please feel free to use the resources below to read and learn further. Also, the affiliated Awaken ministry now has a Facebook page. This will be the first post that will also update on the page. Until next time!
Sources & Further Reading: