The “five sola’s” soon became the battle cry of the Reformation. They are: Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (to the Glory of God Alone). These five themes are the five foundations that fueled the protestant reformation, and they still fuel anyone claiming the name of “reformed” today.
These “five sola’s” were developed in response to specific perversions of the truth that were taught by the corrupt Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Church taught that the foundation for faith and practice was a combination of the scriptures, sacred tradition, and the teachings of the pope; but the Reformers said, “No, our foundation is sola scriptura”.
The Catholic Church taught that we are saved through a combination of God’s grace, the merits that we accumulate through penance and good works, and the superfluity of merits that the saints before us accumulated; the reformers responded, “sola gratia”.
The Catholic Church taught that we are justified by faith and the works that we produce. The reformers responded, “No, we are justified by faith alone, which lays hold of the alien righteousness of Christ that God freely credits to the account of those who believe.”
The Catholic Church taught that we are saved by the merits of Christ and the saints, and that we approach God through Christ, the saints, and Mary, who all pray and intercede for us. The Reformers responded, “No, we are saved by the merits of Christ Alone, and we come to God through Christ Alone.”
The Catholic Church believed a sinner’s salvation could be attributed partly to Christ, partly to Mary and the saints, and partly to the sinner himself. The reformers responded, “No, the only true gospel is that which gives all glory to God alone, as is taught in the scriptures.”
It is sad to see that today, the Catholic Church still teaches the same essential errors; and much of Protestantism has seen a regress to many of the same corruptions, in many circles and denominations. It is a pressing need for Christians everywhere to reaffirm and champion anew the “five solas” which underlay and gave impetus to the Protestant Reformation.
All of this history is great, and a study of the major figures of the Protestant Reformation would truly do one’s soul good, but do not miss the point of the Reformation. I mention it within the section on Scripture because the main goal driving these men to do what they did was getting back to the Bible itself. This is just as relevant today as it was back then. With issues in the Church today such as relativism, re-defining sexuality, re-defining marriage, “green” environmentalism, gender neutralizing, emergent conversations, prosperity preaching, man- centeredness, humanism, naturalism, philosophies of all kinds, evolution, liberal theology, abortion, not to mention all the questions that rise out of the new inventions in the medical field and the moral ethics involved with them, economic pressures, etc. we must be grounded in the Word of God if we are going to make it through. If we leave our commitment to be a people centered on the Word of God, we will no doubt slowly slide into similar abuses as the RCC did. If we leave the firm foundation of God’s Word we lose our ground to stand firm and without that, we will fall.
This is why the first distinctive of the reformed tradition, and thus every reformed church, is Scripture. All the other distinctives in reformed theology flow out of this one.