Following on from Sola Scriptura, the assertion that Scripture holds the place of ultimate authority, came four more solas; sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus and soli Deo gloria.
Sola Gratia: (grace alone)
Here is the teaching that separates Christianity from all other religions and philosophies. Every other religion gives advice on how to live if you want to reach heaven\nirvana\fulfilment\happiness\enlightenment… ‘Do A B and C and you might just be able to earn it.’
I suspect most people think Christianity is another voice in that great assembly, preaching moral living that it’s particular God might be satisfied.
But Christianity does not declare: ‘God is good, you be good and he’ll accept you.’
God is too good! And you have already failed. You’ll never earn it. You need grace. Not a combination of God’s grace and your goodness, grace alone welcomes us into God’s favour and presence.
When we have been accepted by God, as his much loved children we do good things. But it’s a grateful response from acceptance, not a pitiful plea for acceptance.
It’s all grace, all gift.
(It’s worth noting that there is another error common within the church today, to speak of grace as being nice and not judging other people. Well it may be nice to be nice, but grace is about forgiveness for sin.)
Sola fide (faith alone)
What is the means by which we lay hold of this great gift of grace? Is it automatic? Do I need to belong to a certain race, be born in a certain country, partake in certain religious rituals?
No, the gift of God’s grace is received by faith.
Not just believing that God exists, or just that he loves you. I would even go so far as to say not just believing in the sense of mental assent to the truth that Christ died for you.
But trusting, trusting in Jesus life and death and resurrection.
Solus Christus (Christ alone)
Which leads us to Solus Christus. Faith in Christ alone.
Faith in his life- without sin in our place.
Faith in his death- for sin in our place.
Faith in his resurrection- conquering sin in our place.
Someone has said that Jesus lived the life we could not live, died the death we deserved to die, to secure for us the gift we could never afford!
Soli Deo Gloria
Justification (being made right with God) is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. Who then gets the credit, the glory? God alone!
Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-10:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.
Salvation is gift- from start to finish. All gift, all grace. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, not by good works or rites and rituals performed by the church on our behalf. That’s what Luther and the Reformers were willing to take their stand for, and I -for one- am glad they did.