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Theology: The Five Solas

“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason — I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other — my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

Martin Luther

What are the five “solas”?

The “Five Solas” are short Latin phrases that together served as foundational principles of the Protestant Reformation. In a time of corruption and false teaching in the Roman Catholic Church the Reformation was a movement that returned to the Scriptures, and there they found the doctrines of grace and salvation. Instead of indulgences, the Mass, the Pope, Mary, purgatory and other superstitions, the Reformation rediscovered the “old paths”: The gospel (lit. “the good news”) of Jesus Christ.

The Five Solas were the Reformers’ summary of biblical teaching—not on everything—but on salvation. “Sola” is the Latin word for “alone.” They taught that salvation is: By God’s grace alone, on the basis of Christ’s work alone, received through faith alone, to the glory of God alone. And they said: The Bible alone is the ultimate authority for understanding all of this—and not the Church. What follows below is a brief description of the Roman Catholic Church’s position, the Reformation’s response, and then some key Scripture texts that support the Five Solas.

The Roman Catholic Church taught:

  1. Scripture + sacred tradition + teachings of the Pope + church councils are authoritative for salvation

  2. Grace + our cooperation is the reason we’re saved

  3. Faith + our own works is what justifies us

  4. Christ + Mary + all the saints work to save us

  5. Glory to God + the Mary and the saints + us

The Protestant Reformation gave these Five Solas in response:

  1. “Sola Scripture” (Scripture Alone)

  2. “Sola Gratia” (Grace Alone)

  3. “Sola Fide” (Faith Alone)

  4. “Solus Christus” (Christ Alone)

  5. “Soli Deo Gloria” (To God Alone Be the Glory)

Key Bible Texts

Sola Scriptura:

  1. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

  2. Galatians 1:6-9

  3. 1 Corinthians 14:37-38

  4. Jude 1:3-4

Sola Gratia:

  1. Romans 3:23-25

  2. Romans 11:5-6

  3. Ephesians 2:4-10

  4. 1 Corinthians 15:10

Sola Fide:

  1. Romans 4:4-5

  2. Galatians 2:16

  3. Romans 5:1

  4. Ephesians 2:8-9

Solus Christus:

  1. John 14:6

  2. Acts 4:11-12

  3. Romans 8:1-3

  4. 2 Corinthians 5:21

  5. Galatians 2:21

  6. Galatians 5:2-4

Soli Deo Gloria:

  1. Ephesians 1:4-6,

  2. Ephesians 1:11-12

  3. Romans 11:33-36

  4. Isaiah 2:12-17


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