As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I have heard people ask, “Why is this important to us?” The five main doctrines around which the Reformers united stem from the very gospel that impacts daily living. Five hundred years later, these same doctrines impact us as well. In the midst of turmoil with the Roman Catholic Church, many Christians chose to die for the sake of the gospel rather than to accept the false teaching of Roman Catholicism.
Sola Gratia (By Grace Alone)
Grace alone is at the heart of the Christian life. It occupies a fundamental position in the truth we confess and our lives in Christ. As Paul so soberly wrote, our world is corrupt and broken, under the influence of the devil who walks around seeking whom he may devour. Mankind is sinful, living according to the lusts of the flesh (Eph 2:1-3). Despite this, God demonstrated grace toward us, “…that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:7). God saves, sustains, and grows us by grace. As we live by grace, we must be committed to sharing it with others who need it. We cannot face the pressures, difficulties, and burdens of a broken world outside the grace of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we celebrate grace and seek to live by it daily in service to Christ and others despite our weaknesses and limitations.
Sola Fide (By Faith Alone)
The Catholic Church taught that, although essential, faith was not sufficient for salvation; salvation requires faith plus works. However, the Reformers boldly pronounced it was faith alone that saved them. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:8-10). Salvation and daily living are contingent upon faith in Christ. As we face life’s daily challenges, we must constantly remind ourselves that the answer to life’s difficulties always begins with faith in Christ. The writer of Hebrews proclaimed, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6). Therefore, the answers to life’s problems must focus on faith in Christ alone.
Sola Scriptura (By Scripture Alone)
The conflict between the Reformers and the Catholic Church dealt with the authority in the Christian life. Rome taught that the authority for the Christian life was in Church’s tradition and teachings (known as the Magisterium), plus the Bible. The Reformers taught that the authority for daily Christian living was in Scripture alone. The Bible exclusively maintains the authority for the Christian’s all matters of faith and life. Where there are many sources of helpful information, only the Bible maintains authority. Regarding the Scriptures, Paul wrote, “All Scripture was given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). Therefore, the Scriptures maintain formal and functional authority in all matters of living.
Solus Christus (By Christ Alone)
Jesus Christ is the person behind all the other Solas. Salvation comes only by and through Jesus, as He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Paul wrote, “But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many” (Rom 5:15). Peter preached, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Christ alone is the Mediator between God and man. He is the message we preach. He is the person we trust. Jesus is the center of the Christian life. Therefore, Jesus alone is the heart of daily Christian living.
Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)
Christians are to proclaim and live for God’s glory alone. God is glorious (Ps 138:4-6). Jesus manifested the glory of God among men (John 1:14). As Christians, we are to live our lives in bringing glory to God (1 Cor 10:31). God receives the glory for anything good, honorable, and notable that is done. All fruit of righteousness is produced through Jesus Christ for the glory of God (Phil 1:11). Our salvation and sanctification resound to the praise and glory of God alone (Eph 1:3-14). Therefore, we live daily in the power of Christ for God’s glory.
Kevin Carson is the Pastor of the Sonrise Baptist Church in Ozark, Missouri (www.sonrisebaptist.com). In addition to his pastoral ministry, he serves as the department chair of biblical counseling at the Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri (www.gobbc.edu). He also serves as a counselor at Sonrise Biblical Counseling Ministry, is ACBC Certified, IABC Certified, a council member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, author, and is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats and seminars. He and his wife, Kelly, have four children.