Why the Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation Matter: Part 1 Overview

What do you know about the Protestant Reformation?  Is this topic just another pontification about church history?  I assure you: it’s not.  The Protestant Reformation and the Five Solas are fundamental to our understanding of scripture and salvation.  Today’s task involves summarizing origins and implications of Protestant Reformation including the Five Solas.
 
Any reference to the Protestant Reformation includes three essential elements: Martin Luther, his 95 Theses, and the Five Solas.
 
First, who is Martin Luther?  Born in 1483 in Eisleben, Germany, Luther originally aspired to become a lawyer but later became a monk.  Throughout his diligent Bible study, he wrestled with the relationship between man’s sin nature and salvation through Christ.  Is essence, he faced questions many ask today: What does salvation involve? What role do man and God play in human history? What can and should man do to be saved?  What’s Christ’s role in this process?
 
The turning point which led to the Protestant Reformation occurred as Luther’s studies focused on Romans 1:17–the Apostle Paul’s definitive statement about justification by faith.  To this end, religious scholars point to Protestant Reformation beginning in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  1
 
What motivated Luther to write and post his 95 Theses and why do they matter? First, his actions originated from a genuine concern about practices of the Catholic Church.  “Luther publicly objected to the way preacher Johann Tetzel was selling indulgences. These were documents prepared by the church and bought by individuals either for themselves or on behalf of the dead that would release them from punishment due to their sins. As Tetzel preached, ‘Once the coin into the coffer clings, a soul from purgatory heavenward springs!’”  2
 
In questioning the motives behind and lack of scriptural support for the Catholic Church’s selling of indulgences, Luther sincerely desired to have a thoughtful and frank discussion with his fellow theologians.  Simply put, their practices didn’t square with his conviction about justification by faith and its implications about salvation, prayer, and Heaven.
 
While scholars and historians articulate numerous reasons about the central focus of the Protestant Reformation, I appreciate Bingham’s views about two fundamental reasons: “It was about who can say what’s true and it was about how to reconcile who we are with who God is.” 3 At issue is Martin Luther’s statements about the role that man, God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit play in salvation.  What does it take to be saved and what’s the process for determining who goes to heaven or hell after we die?
 
The answer comes from what’s referred to as the Five Solas derived from the latin term solas translated as only or alone, all to God’s glory.   They are Sola Scriptura (scripture alone), Sola Fide (faith alone), Sola Gratia (grace alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone).  
 
Each of the Five Solas are fundamental and foundational truths upon which Christians stand.  Without them, Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection are nothing more than a dot in the line of eternity.  God forbid.
 
In the coming weeks, I’ll talk about each of the Solas and practical applications for our daily Christian living.  
 
1   “Martin Luther and the 95 Theses.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 29 Oct. 2009, www.history.com/topics/reformation/martin-luther-and-the-95-theses.
 
2  Galli, Mark, and Ted Olsen. “Introduction.” 131 Christians everyone should know 2000 : 35. Print.
 
3  Bingham, Nathan W. “What Was the Reformation All About?” Ligonier Ministries, 13 Oct. 2018, www.ligonier.org/blog/what-was-reformation-all-about/.

Leave a Reply