grace

The Five Solas of the Reformation

The Five Solas of the Reformation

The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century changed Christianity forever. Roused to action by the corruption and abuses they saw in the Roman Catholic church of the time, visionary pastors and leaders like Martin Luther and John Calvin spearheaded a movement that transformed Christianity and eventually led to the emergence of the Protestant denominations that exist today.

The Reformers were guided by the conviction that the church of their day had drifted away from the essential, original teachings of Christianity, especially in regard to what it was teaching about salvation—how people can be forgiven of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and receive eternal life with God. The Reformation sought to re-orient Christianity on the original message of Jesus and the early church.

The Five Solas are five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged during the Reformation to summarize the Reformers’ theological convictions about the essentials of Christianity.

The Five Solas are:

  1. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
  2. Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
  3. Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
  4. Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
  5. Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.

Let’s have a brief look at each of these five statements.

SOLA SCRIPTURA

The Scriptures are our ultimate and trustworthy 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, should be interpreted in light of Scripture. The Bible gives us everything we need for our theology.

Every word of the 66 books of the Bible is inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit also helps us to understand and obey Scripture.

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.

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 not saved by our merits or declared righteous by our good works. God grants salvation not because of the good things we do, and despite our sin.

As humans, we inherited (from our ancestor Adam) a nature that is enslaved to sin. Because of our nature, we are naturally enemies of God and lovers of evil. We need to be made alive (regenerated) so that we can even have faith in Christ. God graciously chooses to give us new hearts so that we trust in Christ and are saved through faith alone.

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. Jesus’ life of perfect righteousness is counted as ours, and our records of sin and failure were counted to Jesus when he died on the cross.

Sola fide and sola gratia express the teaching of Ephesians 2:8-10:

“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.”

SOLUS CHRISTUS

God has given the ultimate revelation of himself to us by sending Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Only through God’s gracious self-revelation in Jesus do we come 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. Neither religious rituals nor good works mediate between us and God. There is no other name by which a person can be saved other than the name of Jesus. Jesus intercedes on our behalf, and his sacrificial death alone can atone for sin.

 

SOLI DEO GLORIA

Glory belongs to God alone. God’s glory is the central motivation for salvation, not improving the lives of people—though that is a wonderful by product. 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). As The Westminster Catechism says, the chief purpose of human life is “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

This was originally posted at Christianity.com

3 Books You Should Know By John Bunyan

3 Books You Should Know By John Bunyan

Last week, I did a post highlighting the grace-filled life of John Bunyan, and this week I want to look into three of his most popular and theologically rich books.

1. Pilgrim’s Progress

The Pilgrim’s Progress is John Bunyan’s most famous work and the most popular novel in the history of the world (The Portable Bunyan). It’s a story about a man named Christian with a Book in his hand and a great burden on his back. It is the Book, the revealed Word of God, that has made him conscious of his burden and the awful consequences if he is not delivered from the guilt and power of his sin. While still in the City of Destruction he longs for peace with God, deliverance from the burden, and to get out on the road to Heaven.

The Book he is reading makes him cry out, “What must I do to be saved?” It is then that Evangelist draws near and sets him upon the right road. Turning his back on the City of Destruction, he starts out and comes to the Cross, where his burden tumbles away from him. Christian goes on a long journey where he deals with people such as Mr. Worldly-Wiseman who advises him to head toward the town of Morality where Legality can ease him of his burden. He journeys on through the Valley of Humiliation, the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and ultimately crosses the River of Death into the Celestial City. Although his friend Faithful goes with him, his other traveling partner Ignorance is denied and thrown into hell.

It is quite noteworthy that Bunyan wrote such great theological and fictional works. Ernest Bacon describes Bunyan’s motivation for this shift from theology to fiction: “As he wrote the Confession of my Faith, it suddenly struck him how effective it would be to set forth the Christian’s pathway to Heaven, and the truths associated with it, in fictional or allegorical form. He remembered his youthful delight in stories such as Bevis of Southampton, George on Horseback, The Seven Champions of Christendom. What if he could set out the Christian life and trials and triumphs in story form? The Pilgrim’s Progress…! Yes, that was it exactly” (Pilgrim and Dreamer). As John Brown has rightly said, “He gave them theology in a digestible form” (John Bunyan: His Life, Times, and Work).

2. The Holy War

The Holy War is Bunyan’s allegorical rendition of the supreme realities in the spiritual development of humanity. It is ultimately the story of the most epic battle between God and Satan, beginning with creation, the fall, the ongoing spiritual battle and ultimate victory and reign of Christ. The story is centered on the city of Mansoul, which is located in the country of Universe. This city has been built by Shaddai for his own delight and in its center is the dwelling place of Shaddai himself. Diabolus, the king of the fallen angels, has formerly served Shaddai, but since has aspired to the crown, which rightfully belongs to the King’s son. His lust for the crown leads him to conquer the city of Mansoul.

Much of the story is this battle over Mansoul, which ultimately results in a victory for Shaddai by his Prince, Emmanuel. Although victory is achieved the story is left somewhat unfinished, as the battle continues in Mansoul. “The lesson of the final passage is that Mansoul is never entirely secure unless her citizens are absolutely loyal to the Prince Emmanuel” (John Bunyan the Man). Frank Harrison recognizes that, like many of his stories, this is greatly an autobiographical story of Bunyan’s struggles throughout life. Bunyan “has also been constantly engaged in Christian warfare…In fact, Bunyan is his own Mansoul” (John Bunyan: A Story of His Life).

3. Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners

Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners is Bunyan’s spiritual autobiography, written during his twelve-year imprisonment. It is a riveting and passionate portrayal of God’s amazing grace saving Bunyan from his sinfulness.

Although the work is autobiographical, Christopher Hill notes that “Grace Abounding is an unsatisfactory document for the biographer,” primarily because “The object of the work is to convey a message” (A Tinker and a Poor Man). In other words, Bunyan is not merely telling the story leading up to his conversion, he’s preaching to the church regarding the grace of God and the sin of man. Hill says, “Bunyan’s primary object in writing Grace Abounding was pastoral. He aimed not to convert but to convince the elect that they were indeed saved, whatever their doubts and temptations.”

This work is very significant for understanding Bunyan. The fact that it helps to know the man behind the book is especially heightened for Bunyan because so many of his other books are anonymously autobiographical. For example, when one reads Grace Abounding it becomes apparent that the Pilgrim’s Progress isn’t just about a random character named Christian­—it arises out of Bunyan’s life experiences.

Other Works

Though these three books are his most well-known, Bunyan produced numerous other writings during his imprisonment and ministry. All of his written works are available online for free.