The Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation
At the end of this month we will celebrate the 498th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation when we remember that on that first “Reformation Day” (October 31, 1517) Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg. He challenged the religious establishment to a debate about the facts of the gospel and the Christian life, appealing ultimately to the Scriptures as the sole infallible authority for the believer in matters of faith and practice.
We are continuing our look at the key distinctives of the Reformation, known as the Five Solas. What are the Five Solas? How do we relate to them today? How are we actively carrying on in the spirit of the reformation? Answering these questions will tell us where the reformation is today.
Solus Christus: Christ Alone
The gospel is exclusive. The only Lord, the only Savior, the only Redeemer of fallen man is Jesus Christ. Some have said that any sincere person from any religion or faith will eventually make it to heaven. Jesus disagrees. He says quite matter-of-factly that He is the only way, eternal life is found only in Him.
John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Acts 4:10-12 – Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the “stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
The Puritan Catechism
- Q. Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?
A. The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5), who being the eternal Son of God, became man (Jn. 1:14), and so was and continues to be God and man, in two distinct natures and one person for ever (1 Tim. 3:16; Col. 2:9).
Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689 – XIII. Christ the Mediator
The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience and sacrifice of Himself which He, through the eternal Spirit, once offered up to God, has fully satisfied the justice of God, has procured reconciliation, and has purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of Heaven for all those whom the Father has given to Him.
This office of Mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ, Who is the Prophet, Priest, and King of the Church by the Free Will of God, and this office may not be transferred from Him to any other, either in whole or in part.
The way, the truth, and the life. He lays down three degrees, as if he had said, that he is the beginning, and the middle, and the end; and hence it follows that we ought to begin with him, to continue in him, and to end in him. We certainly ought not to seek for higher wisdom than that which leads us to eternal life, and he testifies that this life is to be found in him. Now the method of obtaining life is, to become new creatures. He declares, that we ought not to seek it anywhere else, and, at the same time, reminds us, that he is the way, by which alone we can arrive at it. That he may not fail us in any respect, he stretches out the hand to those who are going astray, and stoops so low as to guide. Presenting himself as a leader, he does not leave his people in the middle of the course, but makes them partakers of the truth. At length he makes them enjoy the fruit of it, which is the most excellent and delightful thing that can be imagined.
No man cometh to the Father. This is an explanation of the former statement’, for he is the way, because he leads us to the Father, and he is the truth and the life, because in him we perceive the Father. As to calling on God, it may indeed be said, with truth, that no prayers are heard but through the intercession of Christ; but as Christ does not now speak about prayer, we ought simply to understand the meaning to be, that men contrive for themselves true labyrinths, whenever, after having forsaken Christ, they attempt to come to God. For Christ proves that he is the life, because God, with whom is the fountain of life, (Psalm 36:9) cannot be enjoyed in any other way than in Christ. Wherefore all theology, when separated from Christ, is not only vain and confused, but is also mad, deceitful, and spurious; for, though the philosophers sometimes utter excellent sayings, yet they have nothing but what is short-lived, and even mixed up with wicked and erroneous sentiments.
The Cambridge Declaration
As evangelical faith becomes secularized, its interests have been blurred with those of the culture. The result is a loss of absolute values, permissive individualism, and a substitution of wholeness for holiness, recovery for repentance, intuition for truth, feeling for belief, chance for providence, and immediate gratification for enduring hope. Christ and his cross have moved from the center of our vision.
We reaffirm that our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to the Father.
We deny that the gospel is preached if Christ’s substitutionary work is not declared and faith in Christ and his work is not solicited.