The Five Solas are five Latin phrases that emerged as rallying cries during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. They represent the fundamental theological principles held by the reformers as they sought to reform the Roman Catholic Church and return to the doctrines taught in Scripture. The five solas are:
Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
Sola Scriptura emphasizes the belief that the Bible alone is the ultimate authority for Christian faith and practice. The reformers rejected the Roman Catholic belief that tradition and the Church have equal authority with Scripture. Sola Scriptura teaches that the Bible alone is the infallible, authoritative Word of God and is therefore sufficient for all matters of faith and practice. All traditions, teachings, and doctrines must be in accordance with the teachings of Scripture.
Several key Bible passages support Sola Scriptura:
2 Timothy 3:16-17 states that all Scripture is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” This verse teaches that Scripture is inspired by God and therefore trustworthy and sufficient to equip the believer for every good work.
Hebrews 4:12 declares that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” God’s Word is alive and active with the power to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Isaiah 8:20 instructs, “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.” God’s people are commanded to test all teachings according to Scripture. Any teaching contrary to God’s Word is false.
Sola Scriptura was key to the Reformation because it provided an objective standard for evaluating church teachings and traditions. By affirming Scripture alone as the supreme authority, the reformers called the Church back to a biblical foundation.
Sola Fide (Faith Alone)
Sola Fide emphasizes salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ. The reformers rejected the Catholic teaching that salvation is achieved through faith plus works. Sola Fide upholds the biblical truth that we are justified by faith in Christ alone, apart from any human effort or good works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This doctrine is supported by several passages:
Romans 3:28 declares, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”
Galatians 2:16 states, “Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law.”
Romans 4:5 says, “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”
Sola Fide recognizes that our good works cannot earn salvation. We are made right with God by His grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. While good works have an important role in the Christian life, they are a result of salvation, not a requirement for salvation.
Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
Sola Gratia emphasizes salvation by God’s grace alone. The reformers rejected the Catholic view that God’s grace works together with human effort. Sola Gratia upholds the biblical teaching that our salvation rests solely in the work of God’s grace for us (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This doctrine is supported by the following verses:
Romans 11:6 states, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” Grace and works cannot coexist for salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-9 declares, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Salvation is entirely by God’s grace, not any human effort.
2 Timothy 1:9 says, “[God] saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” God’s grace is the sole basis of our salvation.
Sola Gratia exalts the goodness and kindness of God who saved us by His grace when we deserved wrath. There is nothing we can do to earn salvation. Our right standing before God is by His grace alone.
Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
Solus Christus emphasizes salvation through Christ alone. The reformers rejected the Catholic emphasis on the intercession of saints and insisted that only Jesus can provide salvation. Solus Christus affirms that there is no salvation apart from Christ’s atonement on the cross (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
The exclusivity of salvation through Christ alone is taught in the following verses:
John 3:16 declares, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Salvation is found only through faith in Christ.
Acts 4:12 states, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” There is salvation in no one but Jesus.
1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Jesus is the sole mediator between God and man.
Solus Christus was crucial to the Reformation because the reformers reestablished that Jesus alone qualifies the sinner before God. No saints, Mary, priests, or popes can provide salvation – only faith in Jesus Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)
Soli Deo Gloria means “glory to God alone.” The reformers believed the motive and purpose of all life should be to glorify God. They rejected self-glorification and taught that only God deserves glory. Soli Deo Gloria reminds us that in all things, we exalt and give glory to God alone (1 Corinthians 10:31).
The following verses affirm Soli Deo Gloria:
1 Corinthians 6:20 declares, “For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” We were purchased by God and live for His glory.
1 Peter 4:11 states, “In order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” In all things, may God receive all glory through Christ.
Romans 11:36 says, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” All things exist for God’s glory.
The centrality of Soli Deo Gloria fueled the Reformation because it called believers to live not for their glory, but for God’s alone. In all of life, Soli Deo Gloria.
The Five Solas – Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria – were the guiding theological principles of the Protestant Reformation. Together they emphasized the authority of Scripture over tradition, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and the glory of God as the ultimate purpose in all things. These rallying cries called the Church back to the foundational tenets of biblical doctrine. The Reformers upheld the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word to address all matters of doctrine and practice for Christian life. They affirmed that our justification comes not by our merit but by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone, who bore our sins on the cross. In response, believers live not to glorify themselves but to glorify God alone in all aspects of life. The Five Solas exalt the sovereignty of God in our salvation and provide an anchor for maintaining pure biblical doctrine. They remain as relevant to the Church today as they were five centuries ago.