In honor of Reformation Day, I have provided a brief summary of what is commonly referred to as the five solae of the reformation.
Latin for “Scripture alone.” It was one of the core tenets that distinguished the reformers from the Roman Catholic church. Sola Scriptura means that the Bible is the ultimate authority for matters of faith and Christian living. It also encompasses the belief that any believer is able to read and understand Scripture. These beliefs were in stark contrast with Catholicism which erroneously held that Scripture and church tradition had equal authority on the believer. The Roman Catholic church also held the view that only the clergy within the Catholic church could reliably interpret Scriptures.
Latin for “Faith Alone.” A major distinction that the reformers made was that salvation was attained only through faith in Jesus Christ. The Roman Catholic church taught that a believer was justified by faith and works whereas the reformers argued that Scripture taught that justification was the result of faith alone.
Latin for “Grace Alone.” The reformers argued vigorously from Scriptures that it is “by grace you have been saved.” (Eph 2:8) It is God who elects “according to the purpose of his will to the praise of his glorious grace.” (Eph 1:5-6). Salvation and the redemption of sinners is completely the prerogative of God and not dependent upon the merits of sinners.
Latin for “Christ Alone.” Scriptures clearly teach that there is “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim 2:5). In contrast with the Roman Catholic church, which teaches that the Virgin Mary intercedes on our behalf, the reformers taught from Scripture that Jesus is our mediator and high priest. Not only is our faith to be placed in Christ alone for salvation, but our petitions and supplications are to be made directly to God through Jesus Christ. The modern hymn declares boldly: “In Christ alone my hope is found; He is my light, my strength, my song.”
Soli Deo Gloria
Latin for “Glory to God Alone.” Often last in the list of the “five solae” representing the core tenets of the Protestant Reformation, this element teaches that God is the one who deserves all glory. While it is biblical to give “honor to whom honor is owed” (Rom 13:7), our lives should be lived in a manner that brings glory to God, our creator. God is to be glorified in our work, study, and leisure. God is perhaps glorified most in His redemptive work in saving depraved sinners from eternal condemnation. No celebrity, clergyman, politician, or humanitarian comes close to deserving the glory reserved for the One True God.