Reformation Day is coming up soon (October 31st)! This is the day each year that the protestant Church commemorates and celebrates the gracious work of God in reforming His Church. As a part of history, the Reformation was a time of rediscovering and recapturing the central gospel truths that seemed lost by the majority for so long. And as a movement, it is still happening in many hearts and churches all throughout the world. This is why we use the word “reformed” to describe our church; we are ever-seeking to be a real part of this gospel-awakening, Reformation movement of God.
One way we can be about this is remembering and celebrating the this work of God (which began so many years ago and is continuing still) on Reformation Day. As we seek to do this, it might be helpful to learn or refresh our memories as to how and why we can celebrate and continue in the reformation to which God calls us. In order to do this, it will hopefully be helpful to understand what we believe about the tenets of the Reformation. Reformed Theology (or Reformation Theology) is one of the Distinctives of Peine Ridge Church. And when we speak of Reformed Theology, we mean several things by it. One of the things we mean is that we seek to gladly embrace the Five Solas of the Reformation (Biblical ideas recovered by the great protestant reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries). We believe that the Bible clearly teaches these five truths, but that overtime, many in the Church lost touch with, obscured, or even came to deny these truths. They are as follows:
- Sola Scriptura (Latin for “by Scripture Alone”) — This phrase refers to the Biblical doctrine that the Bible is the only true, authoritative, infallible, trustworthy, necessary, powerful, perfect, unchangeable, and sufficient Word of God. This means that no word, book, person, group, or organization can contradict the Bible and still be true or trusted. We must believe and obey the Bible as the very Word of God Himself, and nothing else on earth can take its place or be on par with it. We can only have sufficient and saving knowledge of God, this world, life, ourselves, and Jesus by Scripture, and Scripture alone. (II Timothy 3:15-17; II Peter 1:20-21; Revelation 22:18).
- Sola Gratia (Latin for “by Grace Alone”) — This phrase refers to the Biblical doctrine that all of salvation is, from first to last a free, unmerited, and even anti-deserved gift of grace from God. No one is chosen, forgiven, reconciled, adopted, sanctified, or glorified by God apart from His grace, and His grace alone. (Ephesians 2:1-10).
- Sola Fide (Latin for “by Faith Alone”) — This phrase refers to the Biblical doctrine that justification (being declared innocent and righteous before the Holy God) comes by grace only through faith. It is not by works. It is not because of pedigree. It is not through religious rites or spiritual practices. Since justification is part of God’s saving work of grace which cannot be earned or worked for or deserved, and since we are sinners whose “righteous deeds are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:1-10), therefore justification must be by faith in another, not ourselves. We must believe in God’s gospel in order to be justified. As sinners who deserve hell and are desperate for God, we can only be justified by Him by faith, and faith alone. (Romans 3:28; 10:10).
- Solus Christus (Latin for “in Christ Alone” (or Solo Christo meaning “by Christ Alone”)) — This phrase refers to the Biblical doctrine that salvation, and specifically justification, is accomplished by Christ alone and is received by placing our faith in Christ alone. Jesus Christ came to save sinners who trust in and surrender to Him alone. No one else is Lord. No one else can save. If Jesus Christ would not have come, lived, died on the cross, rose again, ascended to reign, and promised to return, we would have no hope, no salvation. There is no other mediator between God and man except the God-Man, Jesus Christ. Because of who He is and by what He did (and does) as Prophet, Priest, and King, there is good news for all who repent and believe in Christ, and in Christ alone. (Romans 3:21-26; John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
- Soli Deo Gloria (Latin for “to the Glory of God Alone”) — This phrase refers to the Biblical doctrine that God deserves all glory. God, because of who He is in and of Himself, is the most worthy and infinitely deserving One. But God alone deserves to be honored and praised not only because of who He is, but also because of what He has done. Due to His works in creation, providence, and salvation, He is not only deserving of glory and honor, but shows and proves Himself to be such. While the distinction between the Creator and His creation is infinite, we, as God’s human creations, made in His image, have all the more reason to live to glorify Him. The gracious and powerful work of God in saving sinners may just be the clearest and greatest proof of God’s unique worthiness to receive all glory. All that God does is done to, and all that we do should be done to, the glory of God alone. This is the one overarching, all-encompassing goal of all that was, is, and will be: God’s glory, and His glory alone. (I Corinthians 10:31; Psalm 8:1, 19:1; 29:1-2; 57:5; Isaiah 6:3; 42:8; 43:7; 48:11; Luke 2:14; John 5:8; 17:24; Romans 11:33-36).
These five solas are important. Not only because they are true/Biblical (though, yes, this too), but also because embracing or rejecting them has many practical implications for us all. By the rejection of, or even the neglect of, these truths, we will live foolish, selfish, and destructive lives. If we allow other things (anything!) to compete with God’s Word for authority in our lives, we will go astray in countless ways. If we seek to live and be justified before God by works and not by faith alone, then we will often use people instead of sincerely serving them. This is manipulation, not love, and it ruins relationships. If we deny the absolute necessity of grace alone, then we will think that we can somehow earn and deserve God’s saving goodness. The result is a self-serving arrogance, foolishly and wickedly thinking that all (or at least the some) glory belongs to us, and not to God alone. But the most important and beneficial implication of embracing the Five Solas of the Reformation is that when we cling to Christ alone for salvation, life, and fullness of joy, we shall it in Him. Even if there were no temporal, relational, and practical benefits for adhering to these truths, there is (most importantly) everlasting and saving benefits! Because there is, in all of us, ways in which we forget, neglect, or obscure these solas in our hearts and lives, may we seek to always be reforming, asking the Lord to continue this work in and through us for His glory, and His glory alone.