The Protestant Reformation was a major 16th century European movement aimed initially at reforming the beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. This movement literally changed the world. This year, we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation’s birth when Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses on the Castle Church in Wittenberg.
As a result of the Protestant Reformation, Protestant denominations were born (Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.). Much of the doctrine that is accepted by evangelical Christians was reinstated during that time period.
In response to practices that the reformers deemed as unbiblical, they structured much of their teaching around the 5 Solas.
Each of these main points seek to counteract unbiblical practices and to teach biblical doctrine.
While there are numerous volumes on extensive discussion on the 5 Solas, I wanted to provide a simplified explanation of each one for those curious about the emphases.
- Sola Fide – by faith alone. We are saved by faith and nothing we can do can earn it (Eph. 2:9). No baptism, church membership, financial contributions, good deeds, or sincere intentions can save someone. We are justified by faith and faith alone (Rom. 5:1; Gal. 2:16; Rom. 3:28).
- Sola Scriptura – by Scripture alone. While creeds, traditions, councils, and experts may be consulted, Scripture is the sufficient, final authority on all matters (1 Cor. 4:6). If some doctrine disagrees, adds, or subtracts from Scripture, it must be rejected (Titus 1:9; 2:2; 2 Tim. 4:3).
- Solus Christus – through Christ alone. Jesus is the only way for salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). No priestly mediator is necessary because Jesus serves the role as our mediator (1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 9:15).
- Sola Gratia – by grace alone. Without God’s gracious initiation, we could never be saved due to our complete and utter rebellion (Rom. 3:10-11; Jer. 17:9). We are saved by grace which is the unmerited, undeserved favor of God (Eph. 2:8-9; 1 Cor. 4:7; Rom. 11:35; Luke 19:10).
- Soli Deo Gloria – glory to God alone. Everything, including our salvation, is for the glory of God alone (Is. 42:8; 43:7; 48:11) and never meant to be for our glory (Ps. 115:1). His work for our salvation allows us to bask in his glory forever (1 Cor. 10:31; Rom. 11:36).
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.