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. Ephesians 2:8-9
October 31, 2017, known as Reformation Day, marks the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which began when Martin Luther nailed his list of ninety-five theses on the door of All Saints’ Church in the German town of Wittenberg. The list, which outlined a number of abuses by the Roman Catholic Church, was a bold public statement by Luther, although he probably had no idea just how significant his actions would prove in the aftermath of that fateful day in 1517.
Of course, history tells the story of trials, resolve, martyrdom, and great awakenings that were born out of the Reformation. Meanwhile, the Word of God spread like wildfire as the Scriptures were translated into common languages (by Luther and others) for the first time and the development of the printing press made it possible for ordinary people to read and study the Bible for themselves.
Any number of Protestant denominations arose out of the Reformation, including the Lutherans, Methodists, Calvinists (Reformed churches), Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians, and more.
So what was so revolutionary about Luther’s ninety-five theses that it changed Christendom forever? Now that five hundred years of dust has settled, what are the major takeaways from this momentous event?
Perhaps the most important theological understanding that emerged from the Reformation is the preeminence of Scripture in our lives and faith. Prior to Luther’s act, believers considered the church and its leaders in Rome to be the ultimate authority on any doctrinal issue. But today, numerous churchgoers might say, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.”
However, there are really five major pillars, all closely related, that came out of the Reformation and have stood the test of time:
Sola Scriptura. Sola scriptura is Latin for “by Scripture alone,” meaning that the Word of God is the sole infallible authority over Christian faith and practice. “All scripture is breathed out by God . . . that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Sola Gratia. Sola gratia means “by grace alone.” This means that the totality of our salvation is a gift of grace from God. “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” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Sola Fide. Sola fide is Latin for “by faith alone.” In other words, salvation comes by way of faith, not by works. We can do nothing to earn or buy our way into heaven. When the jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Paul also wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. . . . For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith” (Romans 1:16-17).
Sola Christus. Sola Christus means “in Christ alone.” This is the belief that Christ is the one and only mediator between God and man, and He is the only way to salvation. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Soli Deo Gloria. Soli Deo gloria is Latin for “glory to God alone.” In other words, we must give every part of our lives to God and do all for His glory alone. Johann Sebastian Bach signed each of his compositions with the initials SDG to declare that God alone was to receive the glory for the wonders of His creation and redemption. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
In 1521, a few years after the incident at Wittenburg, Martin Luther stood trial before an assembly of the Holy Roman Empire and was ordered to recant his teachings. Although the words were not recorded in the trial transcript, tradition holds that Luther concluded his defense by saying, “Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”
Do you stand with Luther? Do you stand on Scripture alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone?
O Lord God Almighty, I come before you now in humility, with a heart full of gratitude for your amazing grace that saves this wretch. Thank you for saving me by faith in Christ alone. Thank you for your Son, your Word made flesh. Thank you for the Scriptures, which reveal the truth of my sinful state and the means by which I can be saved. To you be all glory, now and forevermore. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
Walking by faith and enjoying the homeschooling adventure of a lifetime!