Our Reformation Heritage

The Five Solas of the Reformation


I.      Sola Scriptura  -- Scripture Alone


            Why do you think this phrase became so important during the Reformation – that Scripture alone is the source of Christian doctrine?


What do these examples of Jesus tell us about the purpose of Scripture?


Matt 4:1-11


Luke 4:14-21, esp. v 21


Matt 22:23-32, esp. v 32


Matt 26:23-24


Matt 26:52-54


Luke 24:25-32


How do the examples Jesus gives us compare to the uses of Scripture Paul mentions as he writes to Timothy?  See 2 Tim 3:14-17



What does Peter tell us about the Old Testament Scriptures?  2 Pet 1:16-21



What does Jesus say about the Old Testament Scriptures?  John 5:39



How was the time of the Reformation similar to the time when Jesus walked the earth?  Mark 7:6-8


How is the philosophy and thinking in today’s world similar to the thinking in Paul’s day?  1 Cor 1:18-25



If a person says, ‘I believe the Bible is the Word of God, but not the words of God,’ what is he really saying?



What about a person who says, ‘It is not faith in the Bible that saves, but faith in Jesus that saves.’


II.  Sola Gratia -- By Grace Alone


What is grace?


The Catholic church has a phrase that describes their view of how we are saved – ‘infused grace’.  But to them, grace is more like a substance that God gives us, rather than an attitude that God has toward us.  They teach that God pours grace into us, which enables us to live the holy life that deserves salvation.   How is this idea not grace at all?



In Eph 2:1-10, esp 8-10, Paul explains the free gift of salvation.



What does Paul add when he writes to Titus?  (3:4,5)


Isaiah pictures our receiving salvation from God as similar to receiving a new set of clothing from him.  Is 61:10-11

Paul adds the picture of a courtroom when he says God declares us righteous Rom 3:20


But what was one way early Christians were tempted to turn away from God’s grace?  Gal 5:1-6



The Council at Jerusalem met and discussed this very thing in Acts 15.  How did Paul reason that there was no need for the rite of circumcision anymore?  Acts 15:11



How might Christians today despise God’s grace?  Rom 6:1,  Jude 4



Does the teaching of ‘saved by grace alone’ undermine the teaching that Christians should do good works?



When disciplining children for wrong things they do, how should we and how should we not speak to them about doing what is right?



Many Christian groups hold revival meetings from time to time to get members excited about serving God.  Why don’t Lutherans usually do this?



Mixing works with God’s grace is not just a Catholic problem.  Can you name some practices of various other Christian denominations which may downplay God’s saving grace by adding some work done by people and claiming God is more pleased with those who do this work, than with those who do not?



III.  Sola Fide  -- By Faith Alone


What is faith?



Read Hebrews chapter 11.  What word could be substituted for the word faith in each of the examples given in this chapter?


How important is it to have faith?  Heb 11:6



What is the opposite of faith?  Matt 21:21, James 1:6



What does Jesus say about the importance of faith?  John 6:28,29; John 5:24; Luke 23:42-43



The writings of Paul explain most clearly the role of faith in our salvation.  What is taught by these passages regarding faith?


Rom 1:17



Gal 3:6-9  &  Rom 4:1-12



Phil 1:29 & 2 Peter 1:1



2 Peter 1:3-9



If faith is needed to be saved, how can an infant be saved?  Or are they an exception to Hebrews 11:6?  Does an infant have saving faith, or does God let all babies who die go to heaven, and only start condemning children when they are old enough to understand what believing in Jesus means?  (Passages to discuss:  Ps 8:2, Jn 3:18, Ep 2:3, Rom 3:19, Gal 3:22)




How do we answer the charge that the only place in Scripture where the phrase “by faith alone” occurs is in James 2:24?  Read James 2:14-26



IV.  Solus Christus  -- By Christ Alone


It could be argued that it was this sola that began the Reformation, because it was this sola that Martin Luther argued for in his posting of the 95 theses.  What false path to salvation was being offered by the Roman church at Luther’s time, which totally bypassed the need for Jesus Christ?


This sola is most clearly taught by Paul in his first letter to Timothy, ch 2, vv 5,6.  Which practice of the Roman Catholic church is different from what this passage teaches?



John tells us what Jesus does for us as mediator between us and God the Father – 1 John 2:1.  What a comfort this is! (see also Rom 8:34)


In Old Testament times, the priests stood between God and the ordinary people.  The writer to the Hebrews goes into great detail showing how the work of Jesus fulfills the work which was done over and over again by the Old Testament priests.  Read Hebrews 9:6-10.  What did the priests do over and over again?


Heb 9:11,12, 15  How has Jesus ended this practice?



In the Old Testament, the priests served God on behalf of the people, much like the Catholic priest does during the mass.  What does scripture teach about serving God – Heb 9:14



What does Peter add to this understanding?  1 Peter 2:4-10



What do we Lutherans teach about the priesthood which is different from the Roman Catholic understanding?



The Roman Catholic church taught (and still teaches) that God dispenses grace and forgiveness through the Catholic priesthood.  There is an unbroken succession of priests from the beginning of the Church right up to today.   In what ways is the priests’ celebration of a Catholic mass different from a Lutheran worship service?



Which verse of Hebrews 9:23 – 28 speaks against the idea that the Roman Catholic priest should offer an unbloody sacrifice of Christ to God the Father?


How should we respond to someone who says “I don’t need to go to church, I can worship God when I am out on the lake fishing, or when I’m in the woods hunting.”



Solus Christus  also speaks against the idea of universalism, that is, that all paths, all philosophies lead to God.  What does the Bible clearly teach about Jesus?  Acts 4:12;  John 14:6



V.  Soli Deo Gloria  -- To God alone be the Glory


Johann Sebastion Bach signed each of his compositions with this expression, and had it carved into the organ bench at the church in Leipzig where he was the organist.


Read Rev 4:11  Why does God deserve all glory and honor from us?



We would not exist had God not created us.  Where did the idea of not giving God all the glory originate?    Is 14:12-15;  1 Tim 3:6;   Ez 28:15-17



How is the fall into sin by Adam and Eve really an act of not giving God all the glory?



What also is a direct result of man’s desire to give glory to himself, and not to God?           Gen 11:1-9



Why did God create us?  Is 43:7, 21



What additional reason does God have to receive all glory and praise from us?                   Rev 5:9-14



There are at least three reasons why this phrase became a saying of the Reformation.  Name these false practices of the Roman church using these hints:




Bishop of Rome





How did Abraham (and likewise how do we) give glory to GodHo?  Rom 4:20



How does Paul say we can honor God?  1 Cor 6:18-20



What can we do to get others to give glory to God?  1 Peter 2:12



Somehow during the Middle Ages the Roman church developed the idea that people who dropped out of society and went off to convents and abbeys to live were somehow giving more glory to God through their lifestyles than the common folk were.  But what had Paul taught about the way we live our lives?             1 Cor 10:31



One of the things that historians say made northern Europe and America the powerful economic forces that they are in this world today, is the “Protestant Work Ethic.”  This way of thinking is a direct result of our understanding that no matter what our station in life is, we give glory to God by working faithfully at the tasks before us.


A modern day heresy regarding giving God all the glory is taught by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  They teach that only the Father deserves all the glory, and that because we worship Jesus as God, we are taking glory away from the Father.  They eagerly point out that Jesus gave glory to his heavenly Father:  See John 8:50, 14:13, and 17:4.  We certainly agree that the way Jesus lived is the very best example to us of how our lives can bring our heavenly Father glory.

But by comparing scriptures, we can easily see that we ought to give Jesus as much glory as we give to God the Father.  One these passages are to compare Is 42:8 with Mt 16:27 and with John 17:5.


Another scripture is to consider what Jesus himself said about giving honor to him.              John 5:23



The human heart has been called an “idol factory.”  Can you name some ways our hearts think and feel which takes glory away from God and gives it to us?



In what ways does the theory of evolution take glory away from God and give it to us?



Today in the seminaries of “liberal” churches the Bible is torn apart and criticized as if it were the writings of men and nothing more.  How does liberal theology take glory away from God and give it to us?



VI.  Conclusion


Why is it important to recognize and remember the Solas  of the Reformation?



In what ways do Protestant denominations today tend to drift back toward Rome?