THE FIVE SOLAS 

THE FIVE SOLAS 
 
 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.



The Reformation and the Men Behind It

The Reformation and the Men Behind It

FROM  Oct 15, 2014

As Reformation Day (Oct. 31) approaches, we will be presenting a series of blog posts, excerpted from Pillars of Grace by Dr. Steven J. Lawson, about the major Reformers who led the effort to restore the church in the sixteenth century—Martin LutherUlrich Zwingli, William Tyndale, Heinrich Bullinger, and John Calvin. Today, Dr. Lawson offers some background on the Reformation and the Reformers.

The Protestant Reformation stands as the most far-reaching, world-changing display of God’s grace since the birth and early expansion of the church. It was not a single act, nor was it led by one man. This history-altering movement played out on different stages over many decades. Its cumulative impact, however, was enormous. Philip Schaff, a noted church historian, writes: “The Reformation of the sixteenth century is, next to the introduction of Christianity, the greatest event in history. It marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times. Starting from religion, it gave, directly or indirectly, a mighty impulse to every forward movement, and made Protestantism the chief propelling force in the history of modern civilization” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. VII: Modern Christianity—The German Reformation [1910; repr., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980], 1). The Reformation was, at its heart, a recovery of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and this restoration had an unparalleled influence on churches, nations, and the flow of Western civilization.

Under the guiding hand of God, the world scene had been uniquely prepared for the Reformation. The church was greatly in need of reform. Spiritual darkness personified the Roman Catholic Church. The Bible was a closed book. Spiritual ignorance ruled the minds of the people. The gospel was perverted. Church tradition trumped divine truth. Personal holiness was abandoned. The rotten stench of manmade traditions covered pope and priest. The corruption of ungodliness contaminated both dogma and practice.

On the other hand, a new day was dawning. Feudal states were giving way to nation-states. Exploration was expanding. Christopher Columbus discovered the New World in 1492. Trade routes were opening. A middle class was rising. Opportunities for learning were increasing. Knowledge was multiplying. Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press (1454) had vastly improved the dissemination of ideas. Under all of these influences, the Renaissance was at high noon. Moreover, a further alteration in the world scene was soon to be ushered in by the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, bringing great changes especially in the church of Jesus Christ.

Tweet thisTHE REFORMATION WAS, AT ITS HEART, A RECOVERY OF THE TRUE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST

In light of such dramatic upheaval, certain questions beg to be asked: What factors led to the Protestant Reformation? Where was the Reformation born? How did this powerful movement come about? Where did it spread? Who were the key leaders who stoked its flames? What biblical truths were unleashed on the world at this time? To begin to answer these questions, we must focus in on those giants of the faith who led the Reformation.

The Magisterial Reformers

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, God began to raise up a series of strong-willed figures known to history as the Reformers. There had been earlier reformers in the church, but those who came to prominence in this period were the best educated, most godly, and most faithful reform leaders the church had ever seen. These men were steeped in Scripture and marked by audacious courage in the face of opposition. They were emboldened by deep convictions as to the truth and a love for Christ’s church that drove them to attempt to bring it back to its timeless standard. In the simplest terms, they longed to see God’s people worship Him according to Scripture. These men were shining lights in a dark day.

The Reformers did not see themselves as inventors, discoverers, or creators,” according to historian Stephen Nichols. “Instead, they saw their efforts as rediscovery. They weren’t making something from scratch but were reviving what had become dead. They looked back to the Bible and to the apostolic era, as well as to early church fathers such as Augustine (354–430) for the mold by which they could shape the church and re-form it. The Reformers had a saying, ‘Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda,’ meaning ‘the church reformed, always reforming’” (Stephen Nichols, The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World [Wheaton: Crossway, 2007], 17).

The Magisterial Reformers are so called because their reform efforts were supported by at least some ruling authorities, or magistrates, and because they believed the civil magistrates ought to enforce the true faith. This term is used to distinguish them from the radical reformers (Anabaptists), whose efforts had no magisterial support. The Reformers are also called “magisterial” because the word magister can mean “teacher,” and the Magisterial Reformation strongly emphasized the authority of teachers.

Scripture Alone

In time, the message of the Reformers became encapsulated in five slogans known as the solas of the Reformation: sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”), solus Christus (“Christ alone”), sola gratia (“grace alone”), sola fide (“faith alone”), and soli Deo gloria (“the glory of God alone”). The first of these, sola Scriptura, was the defining benchmark of the movement.

There are only three possible forms of spiritual authority. First, there is the authority of the Lord and His written revelation. Second, there is the authority of the church and its leaders. Third, there is the authority of human reason. When the Reformers cried “Scripture alone,” they were expressing their commitment to the authority of God as expressed through the Bible. James Montgomery Boice states their core belief: “The Bible alone is our ultimate authority—not the pope, not the church, not the traditions of the church or church councils, still less personal intimations or subjective feelings, but Scripture only” (James Montgomery Boice, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? Recovering the Doctrines That Shook the World [Wheaton: Crossway, 2001], 32). The Reformation was essentially a crisis over which authority should have primacy. Rome claimed the church’s authority lay with Scripture and tradition, Scripture and the pope, Scripture and church councils. But the Reformers believed that the authority belonged to Scripture alone.

Schaff writes: “While the Humanists went back to the ancient classics and revived the spirit of Greek and Roman paganism, the Reformers went back to the sacred Scriptures in the original languages and revived the spirit of apostolic Christianity. They were fired by an enthusiasm for the gospel, such as had never been known since the days of Paul. Christ rose from the tomb of human traditions and preached again His words of life and power. The Bible, heretofore a book of priests only, was now translated anew and better than ever into the vernacular tongues of Europe, and made a book of the people. Every Christian man could henceforth go to the fountain-head of inspiration, and sit at the feet of the Divine Teacher, without priestly permission and intervention” (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. VII, 17).

The Fountain of Sovereign Grace

This commitment to Scripture alone led to the rediscovery of the doctrines of grace. Any return to the Bible inevitably leads to the truth of God’s sovereignty in saving grace. The other four solas—solus Christussola gratiasola fide, and soli Deo gloria—flow from sola Scriptura.

The first Reformer was an Augustinian monk who nailed Ninety-five Theses against the Roman Catholic practice of selling indulgences to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517. His name was Martin Luther (1483–1546). This bold act by a monk with a mallet launched the Reformation. Other Reformers would follow, such as Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531), Hugh Latimer (1487–1555), Martin Bucer (1491–1551), William Tyndale (ca. 1494–1536), Philip Melanchthon (1497–1560), John Rogers (1500–1555), Heinrich Bullinger (1504–1575), and John Calvin (1509–1564). To a man, they were firmly committed to the truths of Scripture and sovereign grace.

 

This excerpt is taken from Pillars of Grace by Steven Lawson.



The Persecution of John Huss, Brave Defender of the Christian Faith

john hussBy John Foxe
(Author of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs)

 

John Huss [1372-1415]

John Huss was born at Hussenitz, a village in Bohemia, about the year 1372. His parents gave him the best education their circumstances would admit; and having acquired a tolerable knowledge of the classics at a private school, he transferred to the University of Prague where he soon gave strong proofs of his mental powers and was remarkable for his diligence and application to study.

In 1398 Huss was chosen to be pastor of the Church of Bethlehem in Prague, and dean and rector of the university. In these stations he discharged his duties with great fidelity; and became so conspicuous for his preaching, which was in conformity with the doctrines of Wickliffe, that it was not likely he could long escape the notice of the pope and his adherents, against whom he complained with no small degree of harshness.

The archbishop of Prague, finding the reformists daily increasing, issued a decree to suppress the further spreading of Wickliffe’s writings: but this had an effect quite different to what he expected, for it stimulated the friends of those doctrines to greater zeal and almost the whole university united to propagate them.

Being strongly attached to the doctrines of Wickliffe, Huss opposed the decree of the archbishop, who eventually obtained a bull from the pope which gave him commission to prevent the publishing of Wickliffe’s doctrines in his province. Dr. Huss, with some other members of the university, protested against these proceedings and entered an appeal from the sentence of the archbishop.

When this affair became known to the pope, John Huss was ordered to appear personally at the court of Rome to answer the accusations laid against him of preaching both errors and heresies.

Dr. Huss declined to appear at this trial, after which he was declared obstinate and excommunicated forthwith. From this unjust sentence Huss appealed to a future council, but without success; and, notwithstanding so severe a decree, and an expulsion in consequence from his church in Prague, he retired to Hussenitz, his native place, where he continued to promulgate his new doctrine both from the pulpit and with the pen.

The letters which he wrote at this time were very numerous; and he compiled a treatise in which he maintained that reading the books of Protestants could not be absolutely forbidden. He wrote in defense of Wickliffe’s book on the Trinity; and boldly declared against the vices of the pope, the cardinals, and clergy of those corrupt times. He wrote also many other books, all of which were penned with a strength of argument that greatly facilitated the spreading of his doctrines.

In the month of November, 1414, a general council was assembled at Constance in Germany, in order, as was pretended, for the sole purpose of determining a dispute then pending between three persons who contended for the papacy; but the real motive was to crush the progress of the Reformation.

John Huss was summoned to appear at this council. To encourage him, the emperor sent him a safe-conduct. The civilities, and even reverence, that Huss met with on his journey were beyond imagination. The streets were lined with people, whom respect, rather than curiosity, had brought together. He was ushered into the town with great acclamations and it may be said that he passed through Germany in a kind of triumph.

As soon as Huss arrived at Constance, he immediately took lodgings in a remote part of the city. A short time after his arrival came one Stephen Paletz, who was employed by the clergy at Prague to manage the intended prosecution against him. Paletz was afterwards joined by Michael de Cassis on the part of the court of Rome. These two declared themselves his accusers and drew up a set of articles against him, which they presented to the pope and the prelates of the council.

When it was known that he was in the city, he was immediately arrested and committed prisoner to a chamber in the palace. This violation of common law and justice was particularly noticed by one of Huss’s friends, who invoked the imperial safe-conduct; but the pope replied he never granted any safe-conduct nor was he bound by that of the emperor.

While Huss was in confinement, the council acted the part of inquisitors. They condemned the doctrines of Wickliffe and even ordered his remains to be dug up and burned to ashes; which orders were strictly complied with. In the meantime, the nobility of Bohemia and Poland strongly interceded for Huss; and so far prevailed as to prevent his being condemned unheard, which had been resolved on by the commissioners appointed to try him.

When he was brought before the council, the articles exhibited against him were read: they were upwards of forty in number and chiefly extracted from his writings.

The excellent sentences Huss offered in defense of his doctrines were esteemed as so many expressions of treason and tended to inflame his adversaries. Accordingly, the bishops appointed by the council stripped him of his priestly garments, degraded him, put a paper miter on his head on which was painted devils and this inscription, “A ringleader of heretics.” Which when he saw, he said:

My Lord Jesus Christ, for my sake, did wear a crown of thorns; why should not I then, for His sake, wear this light crown, be it ever so shameful? Truly I will do it and willingly.

When it was set upon his head, the bishop said: “Now we commit your soul unto the devil.”

“But I,” said John Huss, lifting his eyes towards the heaven, “do commend into Your hands, O Lord Jesus Christ, my spirit which You have redeemed.”

When the chain was put about him at the stake, he said with a smiling countenance, “My Lord Jesus Christ was bound with a harder chain than this for my sake, and why then should I be ashamed of this rusty one?” When the fagots were piled up to his very neck, the duke of Bavaria was so meddlesome as to desire him to retract. “No, (said Huss;) I never preached any doctrine of an evil tendency; and what I taught with my lips I now seal with my blood.”

When the flames were applied to the fagots, our martyr sung a hymn with so loud and cheerful a voice that he was heard through all the cracklings of the combustibles and the noise of the multitude. At length his voice was interrupted by the severity of the flames, which soon closed his existence.

Then, with great diligence, gathering the ashes together, they cast them into the river Rhine, that the least remnant of that man should not be left upon the earth, whose memory, notwithstanding, cannot be abolished out of the minds of the godly, neither by fire, neither by water, neither by any kind of torment. (From chapter 8 of the special Lighthouse Trails edition of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs)