During the Reformation of the 1500’s, the reformers developed five key statements using the Latin word “sola,” which means alone. In this five-part series I will examine each of these. They are: Sola Scriptura (scripture alone), Sola Gratia (grace alone), Sola Fide (faith alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be glory). I’ll admit up front, I’ve always struggled with Sola Fide, and I’ll discuss that when the article is presented. But when you realize that they aren’t meant to literally be taken alone, but in cooperation with each other, and when you properly identify and explain each, then you can gain an appreciation for these statements. We start with Sola Scriptura.
“All scripture is breathed by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16,17).
One of the central debates at the time of the Reformation was the place of the Bible. Was it merely one of several avenues to discover God’s revelation? Were the traditions of the church, and the decrees of the Pope, additional avenues of God’s revelation, as the Catholic Church taught? The leaders of the Reformation said no to those questions. God’s Word in scripture stands alone as our guide to faith and practice within the church of Christ. Everything else should come from or be gauged by what scripture says on the topic. When it doesn’t speak on a topic, there should be freedom of opinion.
The Apostle Peter tells us that God’s Word is “imperishable” (1 Peter 1:23), and “remains forever” (1:25). Jesus in his sermon on the mount says, “Until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5: 18). As Jesus later prays for unity within the church, he prays that God will “Sanctify them in truth; your Word is truth” (John 17:17). God’s Word can save you, James tells us (James 1:21). Isaiah declared that God’s Word goes out and does all that God intends for it to do (Isaiah 55:10, 11). Jeremiah likens it to a “hammer that breaks the rock in pieces” (Jeremiah 23:29). The writer of Hebrews tells us, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). It is the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17), the Apostle Paul tells us, and he exhorts us to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16).
If God commands, we who follow are to obey. This impacts our character and our service within the church and within the community where we live. It impacts everything about our life! Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).
Many people, those who call themselves Christian included, think we should just have some vaguely defined “faith” in God and then live as our heart directs us. But prophet Jeremiah told us long ago, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). No, we don’t follow our heart, we follow God through Christ as he directs us in scripture. Sola Scriptura!
Cross Point: “A simple layman armed with Scripture is greater than the greatest Pope without it” Martin Luther. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” Psalm 119:105.