From the beginning, God has faithfully and graciously blessed His Church. However, with the conversion of Constantine in 312 AD and the Edict of Milan issued in 313 AD, which not only decriminalized Christianity (a very favorable turn of events) but also established Christianity as the religion of the empire (a not so good turn of events) the, “Imperial Church” was birthed. From the birth of the Imperial Church forward, the visible church fell into very difficult times. Excess, intrigue and eventually the bondage of the church to ecclesiastical tyranny became the order of the day. Then, beginning in the late 1300’s and early 1400’s God began to raise men up like John Wickliffe and John Huss who began the work of theological reformation. Almost 100 years later, in 1517, Dr. Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther’s act, though a simple call to discuss Roman Catholic doctrine, caused the initial furor that resulted in what is called the Protestant Reformation. In his 95 Theses, Luther offered a public challenge to a number of objectionable teachings and doctrines, including salvation by works and the practice of selling indulgences (certificates people purchased from the Church that absolved them or loved ones of their sins and promised their salvation and eternal life). Luther argued that salvation could not be obtained by purchasing indulgences, through works of charity, pilgrimages or the performance of religious acts of devotion. Instead, Luther argued that salvation is an act of God whereby He has already provided for our salvation by the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and salvation is given by grace through our faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, Luther argued for the faith, “once delivered to the saints” (Jude vs. 3-4). The Protestant Reformation came to identify and hinge upon 5 Pillars or “Solas” (Latin for “Alone”) that were and remain vital to the recovery of the gospel. These Sola’s are:
- Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.
- Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone.
- Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
- Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King and the only One through whom come all of the blessings of salvation.
- Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.
Placed together our confession is worded like this:
We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as revealed in the scriptures alone for the glory of God alone.
What does this mean for us as the Church today? The call to protect and defend the Christian faith from false teaching and false teachers has not ceased. This call still resonates in our day. We are called to defend the faith, protect the gospel, fight for the faith (by not allowing the Gospel and the teaching of Scripture to be corrupted) that was delivered to us once and for all. These 5 pillars (Sola’s) encapsulate the gospel and are the heart of what we are called to defend today. May we, like the Reformers before us hold fast to the gospel!