The Protestant Reformation ultimately reconnected the church with the essential tenets of Christianity through what was labeled The Five Solas. (In Latin, “sola” means “alone” or “only.” ) These are five major teachings of the Bible that Martin Luther and the reformers fought to uphold during that time. At a time when church and politics were closely aligned, and corruption and false teaching had spread throughout the church, the Protestant Reformers attempted to return everyone to the Scriptures. To battle the practice of indulgences, religious authority, superstitions of all kinds and even the teaching of salvation itself, they helped the world make their way back to the gospel.
The five solas were their attempt to summarize biblical teaching on salvation and are summarized below:
1. Sola Scriptura: “The Bible alone.” Scripture alone is our ultimate authority, and Scripture alone is the source of our faith and life. Not the pope, not the church, not the traditions of the church or church councils. The Bible is our ultimate authority for understanding God, salvation, and how we are to live our lives. (Romans 3:21, 2 Timothy 3:16–17)
2. Sola Gratia – “Grace alone.” Salvation is grounded in God’s grace alone, not any human effort or merit. It is only by the unmerited favor of God that Christ went to the cross and paid the price for man’s salvation and declared him righteous before God. Man is by nature depraved—he has no virtue that commends him to God. Therefore God’s grace to him is truly undeserved, and God’s grace alone has the power to draw people to himself. (Romans 3:24, Ephesians 1:7)
3. Sola Fide – “Faith alone.” Salvation comes through faith alone not by any other means. Only total righteousness is acceptable to God, and that is found in Christ, not us. Man can only accept Christ’s work by placing his trust in him. Man is justified by faith alone in the finished work of Christ, not by any works of his own. The process of sanctification in the life of a believer is a process of becoming more like Christ, where our good works are a result of that faith. (Romans 3:25, Ephesians 2:8-9)
4. Sola Christus – “Christ alone.” Salvation is accomplished by Christ alone, and mediated by Christ alone, and not by anyone or anything else. Christ alone was the perfect Savior, and he alone is our final priest and head of the Christian church. In order for believers to be justified in the eyes of the Holy God, these sins must be accounted for and this can only be accomplished through the atoning death of Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:24, John 14:6; Acts 4:11-12)
5. Soli Deo Gloria – “To God alone be glory.” Salvation’s purpose is for God’s glory alone, not any other end. God should be thanked, praised and given full credit for his sovereign grace and spiritual and physical provision. The efforts of man should not elevate and celebrate men but God. We should bring him glory in our work, in our homes and at play. He, not we, should be the center of all things.(Romans 3:26, Revelation 4:11)
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever” – Westminster Catechism
What the Five Solas Mean
The doctrine that the Bible alone is the ultimate authority was the “Formal Principle” of the Reformation. Rooted in this, the five solas outline the plan of redemption and salvation in the Bible, stating that salvation is by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. Just as the Protestant Reformers battled against corruption in the church of their day, so today do we need to fight for modern evangelicalism to get back to scripture and back to biblical truth.