It is customary during the month of October for reformed churches to remember their historical roots and for reformed Christians to reflect upon their identity as protestants.
Bible study during the month of October 2013 was held at the McShaffrey home and we considered the historical background, scriptural basis, and modern implications of the Five Solas of the protestant reformation.
I. Sola Scriptura – “Scripture Alone”
Historical Context – The roman church acknowledged three sources of truth which resulted in the binding of consciences with extra-biblical doctrines:
- Holy Scriptures
- Oral Traditions
- The Magisterium
OT: Psalm 19:7-11
NT: 2 Timothy 3:10-17
Modern Implications – Historically speaking, men like Wycliffe, Hus, and Tyndale were persecuted for trying to get the Bible into men’s hands. Today, Bibles are available in nearly every language and on the shelf of nearly every home.
Do we even care anymore? Do we read it? Do we allow it [alone] to determine our theology, worship, piety, and ethics?
II. Solus Christus – “Christ Alone”
Historical Context – The roman church caused the people to trust in human mediators who were presumably a little closer to God than we were and, therefore, able to help us approach him:
- Submission to the Pope
- Confession to the Priests
- Prayer to the Saints
OT: Job 9:1-3, 32-33
NT: 1 Timothy 2:5
Modern Implications – Romanism continues to extol human mediators. Mary has even been elevated to the position of co-redemptrix. Protestant churches has even begun to soften the exclusivity of Christ’s claims as the only Mediator (John 14:6).
We must remain steadfast in our “Christ Alone” conviction so that he alone is confessed and exalted (Phil. 2:9-11).
III. Sola Gratia – “Grace Alone”
Historical Context – The roman church has chosen the “middle ground” between three historic understandings of man’s ability to contribute to his salvation:
- Pelagian (man has what it takes)
- Semi-Pelagian (man needs God’s help)
- Augustinian (man contributes nothing)
OT: Psalm 14:2-3
NT: Ephesians 2:1-10
Modern Implications – Rome continues to place unwarranted confidence in the ability of man to participate in his own salvation. Evangelicals are guilty of doing the same by promoting their “gospels” of self-esteem and self-help.
We must maintain our utter dependence upon God’s unmerited favor from beginning to end.
IV. Sola Fide – “Faith Alone”
Historical Context – The roman church claims that faith alone is not sufficient to justify man. Works are also necessary, not just as proof of the genuineness of our faith, but in this manner:
- Justification is an ongoing process
- It begins by grace and through faith
- But it is kept and increased through works
OT: Habakkuk 2:4
NT: Romans 3:20-21
Modern Implications – Rome has officially pronounced “anathema” upon those who believe that faith alone justifies. Evangelicals sometimes give the unfortunate impression that works are indeed essential to our justification.
We must maintain our confession that a man is justified NOT by the works of the law, but by faith alone.
V. Soil Deo Gloria – “To God Alone be the Glory”
Historical Context – The roman church, due to its teachings on ecclesiology and soteriology, (unwittingly?) ends up ascribing glory to things other than God. Examples:
- Veneration of Places and Relics
- Veneration Saints and Martyrs
- Veneration of the Consecrated Host
OT: Isaiah 42:8, 48:11
NT: Revelation 4:8-11, 5:8-14
Modern Implications – The roman church displaced the centrality of God’s glory through its forms of worship and devotion.Evangelicals commit similar errors when they turn worship into entertainment and preaching into marketing.
We must continue to guard jealously the glory of our God against all that threatens to steal (or even share) it.