Thoughts on Martin Luther and the Five Solas
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” – 2 Timothy 2:15
Martin Luther is considered to be the father of the protestant reformation. He is well known for a document he wrote known as the “95 theses.” It listed the various unbiblical practices of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther posted the document on the door of the church at Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. (Because of his actions, October 31st is known as Reformation Day) Undoubtedly, it was a pivotal point on the timeline of church history.
But where would the church be if it had not been for the boldness of Martin Luther? Would the church still be trapped in the clutches of Catholicism? We will never really know answers to these hypothetical questions. But we can find comfort in knowing that God in His sovereignty gave a German monk named Martin Luther the boldness to confront the heresies that had infiltrated the Catholic Church, an institution which controlled the majority of the religious thought during that time frame.
Luther was born in Germany in 1483. In his youth, he attended a Catholic school. During this time, he showed interest in becoming a monk. However, this displeased his father who wanted Martin to pursue a career in business. So, his father withdrew him from the Catholic school and placed him in another school where he received a degree in law. However, things dramatically changed for Luther after a near death experience in which he was almost stuck by lightning. Luther viewed the event as a sign from God, and devoted his life entirely to ministry. Luther began serving as a monk in 1505. Seven years later, he received a doctorate and began teaching as a Bible professor. It was during this time that Luther began having concerns about the teachings of the Catholic Church. Luther studied the Scriptures with diligence and accuracy (2 Timothy 2:15), and the more he studied the less confidence he had in the Church. He questioned many of the church’s teachings such as Immaculate Conception (meaning Mary was without sin), infant baptism, transubstantiation, the practice of indulgences, and papal authority (just to name a few). These were just some of the concerns that led to Luther writing the “95 theses” which addressed these heresies and others within the Roman Catholic Church.
There are five primary doctrines or slogans that sum up Luther’s “95 Theses.” In Latin, they are referred to as “The Five Solas.” The first one is known as “Sola Scriptura” meaning “Scripture Alone.” It teaches that the Bible is the ultimate source of authority in the life of the believer, not the church. If a church tradition or teaching is contrary to God’s Word, then it must be rejected. To sum it up, the Bible is to be seen as the ultimate and final authority (2 Timothy 3:16). The second doctrine is known as “Sola Fide” meaning “Faith Alone.” It stresses salvation is by faith, and not works (Ephesians 2:8-9). No amount of good deeds will get a person to heaven; for it is faith and trust in Christ that saves. The third doctrine is known as “Sola Gratia” meaning “Grace Alone.” It teaches that no one deserves salvation; for it is a free unmerited gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). The fourth doctrine is known as “Solus Christus” meaning “Christ Alone.” It teaches that by no other name are people saved (Acts 4:12), and that no one comes to the Father except through Christ (John 14:6). Finally, the fifth doctrine is known as “Soli Deo Gloria” which means “Glory to God Alone.” This teaches that everything the believer does and says should have the sole purpose of giving God glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).
These five doctrines of the Christian faith are fundamental in what we as evangelical Christians believe today; for they serve as the pillars we build our theology upon and the framework we use to shape our worldview. With this in mind, let us celebrate these great truths, and may they act as theological markers on the road of life.
– Pastor Eric