The Five Solas of the Reformation
In our day, many Christians are not familiar with church history. They may know what the Bible says about the early church (e.g., Acts), but they know little about what happened after that up until our day. While knowing this history is obviously not necessary to be a Christian, you’ve likely heard the old saying: “Those who are ignorant of history are likely to repeat its mistakes.” Therefore, it’s useful to study church history.
Perhaps the most famous period of church history is the Reformation. During the middle ages, the church fell into a dark period. Many people did not know how to read, and relied solely on their priest to teach them what the Bible said. The problem was that many church teachers themselves stopped teaching the Bible (not too unlike today, sad to say). Eventually, the gospel itself was transformed into a gospel of works rather than a gospel of grace.
Thankfully, in His time, God set forth in motion events that would bring back the truth of the gospel. Although many believers through the ages, including the Middle Ages, continued to preach and believe the true gospel, it was through a German monk that God would bring about what we know today as “The Reformation.” This monk’s name was Martin Luther.
The history of the Reformation is quite long, but what I’d like to discuss are some of the most important beliefs that emanated from the Reformation. These are known as the “five solas of the Reformation.” These are five beliefs that emerged as most prominent in the Reformers’ teaching, and were in direct contradiction to the main teaching of the Catholic Church. These “solas” were not necessarily listed by any given teacher, but rather were part of the Reformers’ teaching overall. Somewhere along the line, these five solas became the rallying cry of the Reformation, again, over against the Catholic church.
I’ll discuss each sola in individual articles, but briefly list them here. They are:
The word “sola” is Latin for “alone”. What the five solas meant were: our sole authority came from Scripture alone; salvation was by faith alone by grace alone through Christ alone; and it was to God alone belonged all glory. This was contrary to Catholicism’s teaching that one was saved by faith and works (which is what the Catholic church still teaches to this day), among other false teaching.
I have found that most Christians today are completely unaware of this teaching, or of the Reformation itself. Given that the Reformation truly brought about a reformation of the church by bringing back the true gospel, and that today the “evangelical” church has in many ways reverted to a gospel of works, knowing about the five solas and what they mean is helpful for us today. Not only is it a concise reminder of the great salvation that God has wrought in us, it is also useful to keep us always on the right track, in sync with Scripture, so that we do not revert back to a gospel of works.
The first “sola” we’ll examine is Sola Scriptura, which will come in the next article.
Soli Deo Gloria!