The Five Solas:

The five solas of the Reformation are possibly the most important doctrines in the Christian faith. They can rightly be regarded as a universal statement of faith for all reformed or protestant denominations, and are a concise collection of foundational truths without which saving knowledge cannot be rightly understood, and cannot be preserved from one generation to the next.

A man may rely upon Jesus Christ for salvation, and yet remain poorly instructed in the fundamentals of the faith, and so be unable to articulate the Gospel with sufficient clarity so as to differentiate from certain heresies; and so he in preaching to others might lead lost sinners to falsely think themselves saved.

This illustrates one reason why the five solas are so important. They are essential components of a true and saving Gospel, being present to one degree or another in every true saint, regardless of how clearly he understands them. A saint through unlearned and undiscerning but sincere preaching efforts could well result in great numbers of false converts who, through a poorly preached gospel, adopt a false assurance of their good standing with God; and thus, the sheepfold is inundated with goats and wolves when these five watch words are forgotten; but the purity of the Church of Jesus Christ is furthered when these five solas are held fast, because the true Gospel causes offence to unconverted sinners who are more often than not unwilling to abide the preaching of truth.

The five solas are:

Sola Scriptura; Sola Gratia; Sola Fide; Solus Christus; Soli Deo Gloria.

In English, they teach as follows:

Scripture alone (teaches salvation) by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.

Any gospel that falls outside these parameters is “another gospel” (see Galatians 1:6-10), and will lead people into error and eternal ruin. Any professing believer who stands against any of the five solas is one who holds to a false gospel, and so must be regarded by every saint as accursed from Christ, so long as such a heretic continues to stand against the truth; and we are to have nothing to do with them, (see Romans 16:17). This is not to be done for the sake of contention, but for the protection of the flock of the Lord Jesus Christ; for the purity of His beloved Church; and for the furtherance of the glorification of God in and through His chosen people.

The five solas, often called “rallying cries” or “watch words”, are Scriptural responses to Roman Catholic heresies; and these responses were developed during the Reformation. The same is true of the five points of Calvinism which are Scriptural responses to the five remonstrations of the Arminians. Both the five points of Calvinism and the five solas responded to false teachings by holding them against the Word of God and countering them with a positive statement in opposition to each error. They are concise Scriptural affirmations of foundational truths, which aided Christians to contend for the faith, refuting error in a manner that is easy to memorise and teach.

Sola Scriptura:

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the foundation of all faith and practice was a combination of Scripture, as well as apostolic tradition, and doctrines of the magisterium and papacy.

The Reformers responded that the foundation of all faith and practice is Scripture alone.

Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6; Matthew 15:1-9; Luke 24:27,44-45; Colossians 2:8; 1 Timothy 1:4-7; 4:1-3,6-7; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Titus 1:9-14; Hebrews 13:9; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Revelation 22:18-19.

Sola Gratia:

Rome teaches salvation by grace, as well as merit; both of the sinner who would be saved, adding merit unto his own account through his own efforts; and also that of previous notable saints whose excess holiness, they say, is deposited into the “treasury of merit”, which Rome teaches is a store of the merit of holy people which is applied to the account of practising Catholics.

The Reformers responded declaring that salvation is by grace alone; and by definition grace can never, in any way, shape, or form be merited, but is, as a matter of inescapable fact, a free gift. Grace simply means unmerited favour.

Acts 15:11; Romans 3:23-24; 4:4-8,16; 6:14-15; 11:5-6; Ephesians 2:4-9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 2:11; 3:4-7.

Sola Fide:

Rome teaches that salvation is obtained through faith, as well as works such as the taking of the sacraments, pilgrimages, donations of money, repetitious prayers, fastings, and so on.

The Reformers responded that salvation is obtained through faith alone; God requiring utter and flawless perfection of one’s good works from cradle to grave, being too Holy to accept anything less; and that even the best of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in God’s perfect sight; and so we must solely trust in and depend upon the promise of salvation which is in Christ. This is what faith is, and it is faith alone through which a sinner is justified.

Genesis 15:6; Jeremiah 17:7; Habakkuk 2:4; John 3:18; Acts 13:38-39; 16:31; Romans 3:22-31; 4; 5:1-2; 9:30-33; Galatians 2:16; 3:2-14; 5:4-6; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 3:4-9; Colossians 2:20-23.

Solus Christus:

Rome teaches that sinners must obtain salvation not only from Christ, but through Mary and the saints also. As mentioned previously, the treasury of merit is a concept that Rome teaches, which puts the Catholic in a state of dependence upon the merit of other saints; but they also teach that Mary is like a reservoir of grace, and Catholics must beseech her for the grace which they claim is in her, which they also claim she dispenses according to her will. Rome also teaches that the saints and Mary intercede for us, which is clearly seen in the prayer known as the Hail Mary: “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

The Reformers responded with the Scriptural truth of salvation being in the person and work Jesus Christ alone; Christ imputing His righteousness to sinners, having taken upon Him their sins on the cross, suffering God’s just wrath in the place of His people; and He alone intercedes for us before God’s throne, neither needing nor accepting assistance from any saint in heaven.

John 14:6; Acts 4:11-12; 13:38-39; 20:28; Romans 5:1-2,6-19; 1 Corinthians 1:13; 2:2; 15:1-23,57; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Galatians 6:14; Colossians 1:12-22; 2:8-23; 1 Timothy 2:5; {Titus 1:4; 2:13-14; 3:6; cf. Isaiah 43:11; 45:21-22; Hosea 13:4.} 1 John 5:5,10-13.

Soli Deo Gloria:

Lastly, Rome teaches what Martin Luther called the “Theology of Glory”. This is the teaching that the glory due for the salvation of men is divided between God, Mary, the saints, and the sinner being saved.

The Reformers responded with the Biblical affirmation: “Soli Deo Gloria”; To God alone be the glory!

Jeremiah 9:23-24; John 17:4-5; Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 1:29-31; 2 Corinthians 10:17; Galatians 6:14; {Titus 1:3; 2:10,13; 3:4; cf. Isaiah 43:11; 45:21-22; Hosea 13:4.}

Having given Scriptural proofs for, defined, and commented on the importance of the five solas; I urge you to embrace these blessed truths afresh, and to study to know the certainty of each one so that you might have a sure and steadfast faith, established solely on God’s Word rightly divided; so that no man may deceive you, and so that you might establish others solidly in the true faith.

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15