God is the main Actor in the story of the Reformation, as we saw last week. This week, we dive into the heart of the Reformation as we take a closer look at the Five Solas, the core beliefs of the men of the Reformation:
- Sola Scriptura: according to Scripture alone.
- Sola Gratia: by grace alone.
- Sola Fide: through faith alone.
- Solus Christus: in Christ alone.
- Soli Deo Gloria: for God’s glory alone.
We want to put these in contrast with the Five Points of Calvinism:
TULIP, or the Five Points of Calvinism, were guided by the opponents of the Reformation. At the Synod of Dort, there were 5 accusations or rejections to the Protestant faith. Those accusations were answered by these five points. While they are true and good responses to objections, they are not full expressions of the core beliefs of Calvin or the Reformers. They are like 5 bones—important and essential, but without connective tissue, they’re not all that effective. The Solas are even more helpful in understanding why the Reformers risked their lives.
Over the next few episodes, we will walk through each of these Five Solas. We want to see what each statement means, Scripture proofs for each statement, some errors they counteracted, and how the truths were re-emphasized in later generations. These solas need to be constantly revisited in every generation. The church must always be reforming. We don’t adjust the church to the fluctuating cultural, but we check our fluctuating churches and our fluctuating hearts with the Scripture and use these helpful solas as a guide.
In this episode, we will look closely at the first of the solas:
What does this mean?
Scripture alone is our infallible source of divine revelation; the final authority for faith and practice. It alone is our authority—it is the Word of God.
This means we should not make any statement about the Christian life, even casually, that cannot be found in Scripture.
The Scriptures were written by God through men inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Protestants taught that the Bible is perspicuous, meaning understandable by all. However, Catholics believed the average church member could not understand its words, teachings, or doctrines, requiring church leaders to do the work of interpretation and application for them.
In 1647, the Westminster Confession was drawn up. Shortly after this, their Baptist brothers wrote the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. In Chapter 1, they wrote of the Holy Scripture:
The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.
( 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Isaiah 8:20; Luke 16:29, 31; Ephesians 2:20; Romans 1:19-21; Romans 2:14,15; Psalms 19:1-3; Hebrews 1:1; Proverbs 22:19-21; Romans 15:4; 2 Peter 1:19,20 )
Sola Scriptura does not mean Solo Scriptura. God has given us teachers, good books, and other helpful tools in addition to Scripture (though not instead of). Sola Scriptura does not mean we don’t have to go to church to hear the Word preached, either. We do not adopt the mantra: ‘Just me and my Bible.’ Nor can we read certain passages and respond, “To me, I feel it means…” We can’t let our feelings guide us. Instead, we have to look at its true meaning in its context and in light of the entire Bible.
It should be the goal of every Christian to search the Scriptures sufficiently. This is the work of our whole lives. We can trust and rest that God has given us everything we need in His Word.
HAPPY REFORMATION DAY!
On this Reformation Day, choose to be counter-cultural. (We’re not saying, 'No, trick-or-treating.' We’re not saying you have to dress up, either.) Look to the work of God in His church throughout history and ask, ‘What does it mean for us in our day?’
God is not just the God of the past, but the God of the future, and the God of right now. So let us faithfully ask, “Lord, what does it look like for us to obey You today?”
In this Supporter Appreciation Episode, John Snyder preaches on II Chronicles 31 at Christ Church Radford in Radford, VA. This episode is accessible to all! In the sermon, John asks and seeks to answer questions like: What do you do after seasons of extraordinary kindness from God? What do you do when these seasons are followed by unexpectedly hard times? How do you keep running well?