What are the Reformed Solas? Sola is a Latin word which means ‘alone.’ The Solas are meant to point out the unique nature of our faith and to distinguish it from worldly counterfeits.
Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura)
Scripture is God’s word. That means our conscience is bound to believe and obey whatever it teaches. It is our highest authority and is the standard by which we judge all truth claims (Deut. 4:1-4; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3). There are other legitimate authorities in life (parents, government, church, etc.), but the Bible is our supreme authority above all others. When push comes to shove, the Bible is ranked over every other authority on earth. The Bible is given by God to be our ultimate authority. This is the meaning of sola scriptura. Scripture alone is sufficient to guide a Christian’s conscience in what they believe and how they live in this world. This is known as the Formal Principle of the Reformation.
Christ Alone (Solus Christus)
“Christ Jesus…became to us…righteousness “ (1 Cor. 1:30). Christ himself is the only way of salvation. He is the only Savior. Jesus himself claimed: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The apostles continued to preach that “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). He is the only one who both suffered and survived God’s wrath as a substitute for God’s people. He is the only mediator available between God and men (1 Tim. 2:5-6).
Grace Alone (Sola Gratia)
Grace is God’s favor toward us even though we don’t deserve it. It is a free gift. By the gift of grace we are saved (Eph. 2:8). By definition, grace from God excludes the possibility of us earning God’s favor. As Paul explained, “if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Rom. 11:6). This free gift from God does not require (or even allow) our works because if we contributed something to our own salvation, then we would be able to boast about it (Eph. 2:9).
Faith Alone (Sola Fide)
We receive God’s grace through faith. Faith, by itself, is the instrument by which we receive the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. We are freely justified before God in our union with Christ, “not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phil. 3:9). None of our own works contribute anything to our reconciled standing before God. “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5). This is known as the “Material Principle” of the Reformation.
Glory of God Alone (Soli Deo Gloria)
The Bible always directs us to God as the only One we are to worship and praise.
The first commandment is “you shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:2). Jude says, “to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority before all time and now and forevermore” (Jude 25). And Paul says, “for from him, and through him, and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36). Because God deserves all the glory, we should give him that glory in whatever we do. “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do; do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).