Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The 5 Sola Heartbeat of Luther's Message

   In this second post of a three-part series celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, my sister Victoria explains the heart of Luther's message and what the Reformation is really about.   


     The heart of Martin Luther’s message is dynamically portrayed in the five Solas of the Protestant Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Fide, Sola Gracia, and Soli Deo Gloria. They identify our final authority on spiritual matters, especially in determining how man is justified (made righteous before God). Written during the Renaissance period, these Solas countered the Church’s mandate for universal submission to Roman Catholicism’s three-fold authority: church leadership (consisting of the Pope, cardinals, bishops, and priests), tradition, plus the Scriptures—in Latin. When tradition contradicted the Bible, tradition overruled. Of course, the Reformers strongly disagreed and wrote Biblical rebuttals, resulting in the five Solas. These succinct doctrines express what we Protestants believe, give discernment between truth and error, and help us defend our faith.

Scripture Alone
     “Sola Scriptura,” Latin for “Scripture alone,” was the Reformer’s counter to the wider Roman Catholic view of many authorities. At the famous Diet of Worms, Martin Luther declared his authority when told to recant his books. He declared, "Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason...I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and
will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.”1  Luther taught that Scripture alone is our final, supreme authority. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “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.” Scripture alone provides everything needed for any Christian’s perfection, and is thus our final authority, as Luther rightly contended.

Christ Alone
     “Solus Christus” (“Christ alone”) is in direct opposition to the Roman Catholic teaching of salvation through Christ plus works. According to Catholicism, works (particularly penance, or self-punishment for sin) are needed to enter heaven. Supposed “venial” sinners go to Purgatory, which cleanses their remaining sin and releases them to heaven. In other words, Christ’s atonement is insufficient. 1Peter3:18teaches,“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” Furthermore, Catholics promote Mary as co- redemptrix with Christ, working with Him for our salvation. But the Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:5-6, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus; who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” Luther rightly insisted on one mediator between God and men: Christ Jesus, not Mary. 

Faith Alone
     “Sola Fide” (“faith alone”) declares a sinner righteous before God by faith alone. Martin Luther strongly advocated this doctrine, since God used it to save him. He penned in his book, By Faith Alone“It is faith—without good works and prior to good worksthat takes us to heaven. We come to God through faith alone.”2  This fact is anchored in Scripture. Romans 3:28 says, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Galatians 2:16 adds, “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.” This point is the premier sola in Protestant doctrine.

Grace Alone
     “Sola Gracia” (“grace alone”) is amply explained in a sermon Luther gave: “So he [Paul in Titus 3:5-7] discards all boasted free will, all human virtue, righteousness, and good works. He concludes that they are all nothing and are wholly perverted, however brilliant and worthy they may appear, and teaches that we must be saved solely by the grace of God, which is effective for all believers who desire it from a correct conception of their own ruin and nothingness.”3 He added, “Truly, then, we are saved by grace alone, without works or other merit.”4  It is God’s grace, His unmerited favor, which sent Jesus Christ to suffer on our behalf, imputing (or reckoning) to all believers a full and complete righteousness which only He can bestow. It is an alien righteousness, whose source is the God- man, not the godless. We are justified freely by His grace alone.

Glory to God Alone
     “Soli Deo Gloria” (“glory to God alone”) is the main reason for the other four Solas. With our final authority being Scripture alone, and justification by Christ, faith, and grace alone, God alone gets all the glory! Man is incapable of meriting God’s glory or praise because he did absolutely nothing to deserve it. Jesus Christ is glorified because He solely obtained eternal life for His people. 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 says, “But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” Glory to God alone for who He is and what He has done!
These five Solas embody Luther’s message. His message was God’s pure, inerrant, and preserved Word as our final authority, and salvation by His work. Many churches in America must reinstitute these basic doctrines found in the Reformation Solas. The Protestant Reformation, which occurred 500 years ago, needs to happen again. With easy access to the Bible, we have no excuse. May all who name the name of Christ proclaim with Luther and the other reformers, “Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Fide, Sola Gracia, and Soli Deo Gloria!”

1 Coffman, Elesha. “What Luther Said.” Christianity Today, 8 Aug. 2008, www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/august/what-luther-said.html , Accessed 24 May 2017.
2 “By Faith Alone Quotes.” Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/536291-by-faith-alone , Accessed 25 May 2017.
3 Shane Lems, “Luther on Grace Alone (Sola Gratia),” The Reformed Reader, 15 March 2011, www.reformedreader.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/luther-on-grace-alone-sola-gratia/ . Accessed 25 May 2017.
4 Same as above source. 


This post is the last in a three-part series on the Reformation. If you enjoyed this series, let me know in the comments! 
To read the previous posts, click the links below:
God's Man in God's Time
The Stroke Heard 'Round the World


  1. I know this is kind of a late comment, but I just wanted to let you know I really enjoyed these articles about Martin Luther. He was actually a good man and I like learning about him.

    Merry Christmas!

    1. Comments are always appreciated, late or not! :) Glad you enjoyed them! There are many interesting things to learn about Luther.

      Merry Christmas to you as well!