The Five Solas of the Reformation

What are the Five Solas, and what do they have to do with Reformed Theology?

The “Five Solas” are Latin phrases that collectively served as foundational principles of the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation was a movement that began in the 1500’s and sought to “reform,” or correct, the doctrinal errors of Roman Catholicism.

The Five Solas identified the distinctive theological positions held by the reformers and continue to serve as distinguishing characteristics of Reformed Theology. Below is a brief description of each, as well as links to additional information.

Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)

Sola GratiaReformed Theology maintains that salvation cannot be obtained through human effort (Ephesians 1:7). It is only by the unmerited grace of God that we have a means of forgiveness and justification to restore our relationship with Him.

Salvation comes from the grace of God alone — there is nothing that anyone can do to merit or deserve salvation. It is a gift of God’s grace.

Ephesians 1:7 tells us “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”

“Truly, then, we are saved by grace alone, without works or other merit.” – Martin Luther (Tweet That)

For Further Study:

Sola Fide (Faith Alone)

Sola FideCoupled with the previous sola, we hold that justification is an act of God’s grace which can only be received through faith. No good work or deed on our part will allow us to earn this gift, but instead we put our faith in Christ as our only means of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The main Reformed distinctive seen in Sola Fide is that the instrument of receiving God’s grace is faith, not faith and works. Faith alone is, of course, in reference to our justification, or being made right with God.

(The believer’s sanctification is a process of becoming more Christ like, where our good works spring forth from our faith.)

Romans 3:28: “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”

For Further Study:

Solus Christus (Christ Alone)

Solus ChristusGod is gracious, but He is also holy and just. In order for sinners to be justified, their sins must be accounted for.

This was accomplished through the sinless life, sacrificial death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. He took on the full punishment for our sins, paying our debt in full.

The atoning death of Christ is the only means by which we can obtain the forgiveness of our sins. As we read in John 14:6: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

For Further Study:

Soli Deo Gloria (Glory of God Alone)

Soli Deo GloriaAll things, including the justification of sinners and the lives of believers, are created for the purpose of bringing glory to God (Revelation 4:11).

As stated in the Westminster Catechism, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever” (WSC 1).

This is what is meant by Soli Deo Gloria; our salvation, as in all things, is to the glory of God alone.

For Further Study:

Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)

Sola ScripturaThe Bible is our ultimate authority for understanding God, salvation, and how we are to live our lives. All matters of theology and doctrine are to find their source in Scripture, as it is God’s inerrant Word and is all-sufficient for teaching and correction (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

“Scripture is therefore the perfect and only standard of spiritual truth, revealing infallibly all that we must believe in order to be saved and all that we must do in order to glorify God. That—no more, no less—is what sola Scriptura means.” – John MacArthur

Reformed Theology maintains that all theological stances must find their footing in Scripture. (Tweet That)

For Further Study:

In Summary

Reformed Theology teaches that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, to the glory of God alone. Furthermore, the Bible is our authoritative source for understanding this and all other aspects of our faith. These biblical truths are succinctly captured in the Five Solas.

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