This week we’re looking at the five Solas of the Reformation. We’ve talked about the book ends: Sola Scriptura and Sola Dei Gloria — and today we look what it means to be saved by grace alone: Sola Gratia. I call this series “A Sola A Day to Drive the Heresies Away.”
To review: On Oct. 31, 1517, a priest named Martin Luther nailed a list of 95 concerns he had with the way the Roman Catholic Church was both interpreting the Scripture and teaching the faith to people who could not read the Bible for themselves to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church. Luther viewed the practices of the Church as deceptive, manipulative and unnecessarily elite. He wanted people to be able to read the Bible for themselves in what we call the vernacular — the regular language of the day.
The advent of the printing press — an unrivaled technological advancement akin to the Internet in our generation — made the reproduction and dissemination of the Bible possible to large numbers of people for the first time in human history. The printing press democratized information and put the Bible within reach. Luther also condemned the Catholic church’s selling of indulgences, the requirement of works added to Christ’s work on the cross and the withholding of the cup from the laity — that means that at the celebration of what was then the daily mass, the people received only ½ of the meal instituted and provided by Jesus. The people got the bread but the priest alone got the cup. Luther was convicted by what he read in the Bible that Jesus meant for everyone to share in both the body and the blood of His sacrifice; and that salvation required nothing be added to God’s all sufficient grace.
Institutions and institutional leaders don’t like to be called out and Luther found himself in a very hot seat. So, over time, as his concerns were shared by others, five foundational statements emerged: Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, and the glory of God alone. Taken together these five Solas of the Protestant Reformation guided the Reformers in the reclamation of the Biblical revelation related to salvation.
Today’s Sola is grace alone.
A central cry of the Reformation was that salvation is by grace — and grace alone.
The Roman Catholic church taught that in addition to the grace of God in Jesus Christ, a person needed to do “works” of righteousness including penance and participation in the Mass — not as part of the ongoing sanctification that is continual but as part of their actual justification.
The Reformers argued that Bible includes no such teaching. They argued that a person’s righteous standing before God is imputed to by grace because of the finished, fully sufficient, work of Christ Jesus upon the Cross.
This is not limited to the teachings of Luther and Calvin. As the Baptist Confession of 1689 says, “Christ, by His obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are justified; and did, by the sacrifice of Himself in the blood of His cross, undergoing in their stead the penalty due unto them, make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice in their behalf; … their justification is only of free grace, that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.”
And in honor of the first Sola we discussed, Sola Scriptura, let’s remind us ourselves what the Bible says about salvation through grace alone:
In Ephesians 2:8-9 God says:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Today’s Sola is Grace. In celebration of the 500th year of the Reformation, live today for the fullness of God’s all sufficient grace, to His glory alone.
Listen to Carmen on The Reconnect as she celebrates the Reformation this week by focusing on “A Sola A Day to Drive the Heresies Away!”