The Latin word sola means “alone” or “only.”
The Five Solas are five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged during the Protestant Reformation and that summarize the Reformers’ basic theological convictions on what they believed to be the essentials of the Christian life and practice.
THE FIVE SOLAS ARE:
1. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): Scripture alone is our highest authority.
2. Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone.
3. Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone.
4. Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
5. Soli Deo Gloria (“glory to God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.
The following is a brief explanation of each. (For further reading, on this see The Cambridge Declaration.)
When rightly interpreted, the Bible is about Jesus Christ and his role as God and Savior. Additionally, Scripture is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.
Every word of the 66 books of the Bible is divinely inspired. The Holy Spirit inspired the writing of Scripture, illuminates the meaning and understanding of Scripture, and empowers obedience to Scripture.
The Scriptures alone are our only ultimate and inerrant authority for faith and practice. This doesn’t mean that the Bible is the only place where truth is found, but it does mean that everything else we learn about God and his world, and all other authorities, are subordinate to the Scriptures. The Scriptures are the sole necessary and sufficient source of our theology.
SOLA FIDE AND SOLA GRATIA
We are saved solely through faith in Jesus Christ because of God’s grace and Christ’s merit alone. We are neither saved by our merits nor declared righteous by our good works. We do not deserve grace, or else it wouldn’t be grace. This means that God grants salvation not because of the good things we do, or even our faith—and despite our sin. God’s election is the unconditional and unmerited nature of his grace.
As humans, we inherited a nature that is in bondage to sin from Adam. We are born in sin. We are naturally enemies of God and lovers of evil. We needed to be made alive (regenerated) so that we could even have faith in Christ. All of this is grace that we don’t deserve. Because we didn’t earn or attain this grace, we cannot lose it.
God graciously preserves us and keeps us. When we are faithless toward him, he is still faithful.
We can only stand before God by his grace as he mercifully attributes to us the righteousness of Jesus Christ and attributes to him the consequences of our sins, which were judged on the cross. The effects of this gospel are many. According to the Heidelberg Catechism, our only comfort in life and death is this:
“That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.”
Ephesians 2:8–10 teaches all this clearly:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ”
God reveals himself to everyone everywhere through general revelation, which includes creation and conscience. In general revelation, God has made known his power and divine nature, wisdom, majesty, justice, and goodness.
God has supremely revealed himself to fallen humans through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It’s only through special revelation, God’s gracious self-revelation in Jesus, that any of us comes to a saving and transforming knowledge of God.
Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and humanity. Because God is holy and all humans are sinful and sinners, we need a Savior who mediates between us and God. Religious rituals do not mediate between us and God—neither do the good works we do. Nobody else, except the God-man, Jesus Christ, serves as our mediator to God. There is no other name by which a person can be saved other than the name Jesus. Jesus intercedes on our behalf and his sacrifice alone is sufficient to atone for sin.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
We live in a culture of self-glorification. People work their whole lives to gain glory through money, fame, or achievement. Self-esteem is the highest goal. As every Little League coach now claims, “Everybody is a winner.”
Unfortunately, the reality is that everybody is a loser. And it is by God’s grace alone that we become winners. Because of this, glory belongs to God alone. God’s glory is the central motivation for saving sinners, not improving the lives of people—that is a wonderful byproduct.
God is not a means to an end—he is the means and the end.
The goal of all of life is to give glory to God alone: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). The Westminster Catechism says the chief purpose of our life is “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
God’s glory and fame are to be our only and ultimate ambition.