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The Sola's Of The Reformation PDF Print E-mail

Approximately 400 years ago there was a great spiritual darkness over Europe. It blighted all of life. While there were remarkable advancements in learning, science and the arts, there was much confusion, fear, uncertainty, hurt and despair among much of the population. There were grave injustices in society. There was great superstition, ignorance and abuse of position for worldly gain in the professing Church - in fact that time was very similar to our society today.

Something wonderful and incredible happened though. Almighty God by His Word and Spirit worked a great work in the countries of Europe. A remarkable change occurred in the thinking, understanding and souls of millions of people, that transformed the lives of individuals, families and society. It was a transformation that was as wonderful as that which occurred in the days of Jesus Christ our Saviour, and of the Apostles. We call this wonderful work of God’s grace and power, The Reformation.

At the time of the Reformation there was such a thirst after the Lord, that His Word to us, the Bible, people studied and prayed over it as perhaps never before. From this seeking of the Lord, and prayer and the study of the Bible, people received such light and life that the deep longings of their souls and lives were truly satisfied. The Saviour, Jesus Christ, was revealed in all His glory and wonder. Individuals and families, as they trusted in Him, found life for now and eternity.

As our fathers and mothers of the Reformation prayed and studied, they found the Lord in His Word teaching five great principles and precious truths that were foundational for the Christian faith and the life - truths for happiness in time and eternity. They were truths that would not share their claims with other beliefs. They were so important and profound in revealing the Lord and His importance and value, that they stood alone. They are great absolutes of Biblical Christianity. They are the essential profession of the Reformation. These truths are often referred to by their Latin names. They are: Soli Deo Gloria (God’s Glory Alone), Solo Christo (Christ Alone), Sola Scripture (Scripture Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone) & Sola Fide (Faith Alone).

These truths of God’s Word have been the badges and banners of Christ Jesus’ people in all ages. In these truths we profess and find our blessed hope in the Lord. Let us learn them, remember them, live and believe in the light of them! Here is hope and life for our selves, our families and those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death in society around us.


Soli Deo Gloria - God’s Glory Alone

Is there a reason and purpose for our existence? Increasingly man today does not believe there is any real purpose. The modern secular western world’s thinking about life is rooted in an evolutionary view of the world. It believes all is simply random and chance. We are accidents of time and meaningless undirected forces. There is no design, purpose and meaning to life. The ancient catch cry of the gladiators, who expected to die any day, “Let us eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” is the cry of the modern western man. The eastern religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, are also without a sense of meaning and purpose in life. They teach that life is so meaningless, that only as we escape this world and life can we find meaning. They have no real answers for life in this world.

Our Creator though, speaking in the Bible, tells us there is meaning and purpose for life. Christ Jesus, God in flesh, who came among us into the world that we might know true life, tells us there is a “way, truth and life”. ( John 14:6). He told us He has come that we may find “life more abundantly”. ( John 10:10). The Lord tells us that there is “fullness of joy ... and pleasures evermore” ( Psalm 16:11).

So, there IS a reason and purpose for life that gives it meaning and fulfillment. We need to remember however, and the Bible makes it clear, that finding the reason for life is not found in man. We are not complete in ourselves. There is a divine restlessness in man, that cannot ever find meaning apart from God. The prophet Isaiah was moved of God to tell us, “But the wicked (those without God) are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God to the wicked.” ( Isaiah 57:20-21). Meaning and purpose and contentment are to be found in God and in His ways alone. “For with Thee is the fountain of life: and in Thy light shall we see light.” ( Psalm 36:9). Augustine of Hippo, after trying just about everything in life to find meaning and purpose, found to his great joy and peace, that this is so. He concluded that “all our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in Thee, O Lord!”

We need to remember then, that the Lord God Almighty is at the centre of all of life, and He and His purposes for life, give it true meaning. This is what we are told by our Creator. “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen”. ( Romans 11:36). Thus our highest authority for life, daily life, real life in this world, is to be the Lord and His Word, the Bible. “Thou are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” ( Revelation 4:11). So it is we can say that the place where we find reality and meaning and purpose for life now and eternally, is in knowing God, and living for God - the way He has told us. Our very creation is to acknowledge God and live for Him. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” ( 1 Corinthians 10:31). Our purpose and direction and meaning and fulfillment as people are found when we live for the glory of God. Soli Deo Gloria.

Of course, this truth of the Word of God that our fathers loved, is the opposite to man’s natural thinking and instincts. Naturally we would live without God. Naturally we say, “all to the glory of man, of self!” By nature, we are man centred. We try to play God, and to be THE great authority in our life. We try to pull God from His throne and to put ourselves there. Man, who would live without God is described as those “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen” ( Romans 1:25). For the man who would live without God, his help, answers for life and its meaning, is “of man, thorough man and to man”, instead of “through, of and to God.” We then wonder, why is the world, with so much learning and technology and the apparent capacity to do so much to give meaning and happiness, truth, justice and love to life, so lost and mixed up? Why is there a sense of meaninglessness for so many who have so much? It is that we have forgotten God, and fail to give Him the glory due to His name. We no longer live with a daily consciousness of the reality of God and His Person and ways as the centre of our life.

Sadly, even some professing Christians in their beliefs and living, also err here. While they may acknowledge that God is there, and give some credit to Him and His Word for our life, they leave out the soli in the great Biblical motto of truth, Soli Deo Gloria. They want a half way house, where a proportion of our life is under God and for Him, but a proportion is under ourselves and man, and for ourselves and our will and wishes. To do this though, is to give man a place he does not have. If a person is to know God aright, and His good ways and life we own up that all of life is under and for God. God says He will not give credit to any other for the glory that is His due. “I am the Lord: that is My name: and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to graven images.” ( Isaiah 42:8) Perhaps this is a major contributing cause to the secularization of the professing Church of Christ Jesus today. We need to remember the soli - alone when we come to the place of God’s glory in our beliefs and living. It is Soli Deo Gloria, not simply Deo Gloria. Let us then remember our calling to “Give unto the Lord ... glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

We are to realize that the principle of Soli Deo Gloria is to be applied to all of our life. In the area of salvation, the Lord is to receive all the credit. It is not our will and power that saves us, but the Lord alone. We are saved by His sovereign grace. ( Ephesians 2:8-9). In the area of our daily work, we are to work as unto the Lord, and not as unto men. ( Ephesians 6:7). It means, for example, we are not to be clock watchers. We give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. In our view of marriage and the family, we are to recognize the roles and callings of husband and wife, men and women and the place of covenant children. ( Ephesians 5:22-28). In our relationships and problem solving in life, we are to follow the principles of behaviour God has given us. ( Ephesians 4:22-32). Note how the book of Ephesians, having dealt with the centrality and glory of the Lord for all of life in the first chapter, goes on in the following chapters to apply to daily life, how we are to live for the glory of God in all of life?

Finally, let us remember that to “glorify God” does not mean we make God glorious. God is already glorious, and His glory can never be added to nor taken away. God’s glory is in and of Himself. What it means rather, is that we acknowledge and reflect God’s glory - we show it in our life. We think upon it and we seek to describe it. We point to it. We live in the light of it. “... that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” ( 1 Peter 4:11).

Yes, the wonderful and good news is that there is truly a great reason and purpose for man’s existence. There is meaning and order in the creation and life. It is found in knowing the true God in Christ Jesus. It is living daily in the light of this great One. It is living so that we give Him His place and thus acknowledge His glory, and that in fact all glory belongs to Him. Soli Deo Gloria!


Solo Christo - Christ Alone!

Our fathers and mothers of the reformation understood the Bible to clearly teach us that for life, both now and eternally, we need Christ uniquely, Christ exclusively, Christ absolutely. They found in the Bible that Christ alone was able to meet mankind's greatest needs of heart, mind and life. He alone can rescue us from the desperate state we are in by nature.

It is simply a matter of observation that in all of history, mankind has felt in great need. Mankind has felt inadequate. Mankind has felt something greater than himself is in the universe, and he is not right with it. Because of this great need, there has been an accompanying great need for someone or something to help. Thus man has ever made to himself, prophets, priests and kings; to give him knowledge, peace and security.

Of course, the Bible makes it very clear that we certainly are in great need. We have a profound problem called sin. Our backs are by nature to God. We lack peace with God, and thus peace among ourselves, and peace within ourselves. We are said to be "... alienated and enemies ... by wicked works ..." to God. ( Colossians 1:21). We are told "There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked." ( Isaiah 48:22). The sentence of death in the most absolute sense, is upon us because of our problem of sin. "For the wages of sin is death ...". ( Romans 3:23). Further, the Lord in the Bible has taught men in all ages that we do indeed need a prophet, priest and king to be the one who would rescue us from death and solve our greatest problems - ethical and spiritual problems. Mankind since the beginning of the world was taught, just as we are, to look for a prophet, priest and king - that which God, not man, would provide. Moses said, "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet ... unto Him ye shall hearken". ( Deuteronomy 18:15). From the days of Abraham, a priest was set forth for men to look for, as Hebrews 7 tells us. In verses 15 - 17 we read, "And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, who is made ... after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec". A prince or king, who would be a good and righteous leader and would truly protect and care for men, was a great promise God held out from olden times. In the prophet Isaiah we read: "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. ... For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgement and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." ( Isaiah 9:2 & 6-7). Yes, men certainly have longed for such princes and kingdoms as this!

To appreciate the greatness of the work of Christ, as we are shown Him in the Bible, let us more fully consider the work of prophets, priests and kings.

A Prophet is a person who brings knowledge. Yes, it can be of future events, but essentially a prophet is a teacher, giving us meaning to life. He brings us the truth of a matter, and what is right. He comes with knowledge from God so that we might understand life and events in the world around us. In all of history, men have sought such people. They have greatly felt the need of such a gifted person.

Priests, are really those whose work is to make things right between us and God, and to bring peace with Him, and thus inward peace. From the beginning, men have felt a distance and chasm between themselves and a Supreme Being. They have felt themselves alienated from Him. Thus men have ever felt the need of help to put things right with the Supreme One; to be able to communicate with Him and to be at peace with Him, and to know peace within themselves. Of course, men did not always know the true and living God, and fell into many superstitions and errors concerning Him. Yet the basic sense of the need of help to bridge the gap, and to make things right for them with that Great One, has ever been a deep felt need of mankind.

The Kings that men have made for themselves have also reflected a deep felt need of mankind. To have a leader that is worth following, that can bring victory over enemies, give security and care for us with fairness and compassion, have ever been the desire and dream of men. They thus look for leaders, captains, those who are very capable and thus can be an authority, to bring security and order, and that can be followed with all our hearts.

The Lord in the Bible makes it clear that Christ Jesus is the One who most wonderfully, fully and perfectly accomplishes all the functions of a Prophet, of a Priest and of a King for those whose trust is in Him. God has sent such a Person, in whom all three offices are completely combined. He is the perfect Saviour and Helper of mankind. What is more, and we need to note it most carefully, the Lord tells us that Christ alone can guarantee and give to us that which the work of a Prophet, Priest and King represents. Mere men, no matter how great they may be in fulfilling the role and work of these offices, are imperfect, and in the end limited. Thus we have the great truth for our life, and the meeting of our greatest needs, summed up in that great cry of truth, Solo Christo - Christ Alone!

There is an exclusiveness and uniqueness about the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. John 14:6: "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me."; Acts 4:12"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."; 1 John 5:12: "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."; Revelation 1:17-18: "And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death."

Let us consider then, something more of this Unique One, as a Prophet, Priest and King, to give us knowledge, Peace and security.

Christ Jesus as a Prophet reveals truth to us. He teaches us Who and What God is. He shows us the way to heaven, and how to live now. He gives us an understanding of, and meaning to, life. No other can adequately do so. Only Christ is able to give a right knowledge of what to believe and how to live. It is Solo Christo - Christ Alone as our great Prophet. John 1:18: "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him."; Acts 3: 22"For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever He shall say unto you."; Hebrews 12:25: "See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven: ..."

We so need to remember that Christ is our great Prophet today, when men, in their desperation to find understanding and meaning to life, make prophets of mere fallible men today. They end up then with false prophets. When we make materialism, science, our own minds - rationalism, our feelings - subjectivism and the so called "experts" of this world, our prophets, we will be deceived. So it is, that the great catch cry of the Reformation rings down through the ages, the catch cry of the truth of God's Word in all ages: Solo Christo - Christ Alone as our Prophet. Jesus said: "All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him. Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." ( Matthew 11:27-30), & 2 Corinthians 4:6: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

Christ Jesus is the one and only Priest we need! He alone is the One that can be our Mediator and make peace for us with God. 1 Timothy 2:5: "For there is one God, and One Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." & Hebrews 2:17, 5:6, & 7:25 - 28: "Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.""As He saith also in another place, Thou are a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec."; "Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an High Priest became us, Who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, ... to offer up sacrifice, ... for this He did once, when He offered up Himself ... the Word of the Oath, ... maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore." Only He can make right the wrongs we have done. Only He can make peace with God, and give us inward peace, meeting our deepest needs, and giving joy and contentment. Romans 5:1-2: "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Jesus said: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." ( John 14:27).

How very sad and tragic that men try to make mere men their priests, when God Himself has come among us to be our Priest. Yet still, men try to make priests to themselves, not only in various religions but in materialism, hedonism, trust in such movements as the United Nations. They trust in such to bring them peace. However we see all around us, it simply does not work. Only Christ, Solo Christo is the answer, only He can bring peace with God and peace within us.

Throughout the Scriptures the Kingship or Leadership and Rule of Christ is held up to us as one of His great works and offices. He has come to rule in understanding, justice and compassion over us, and to defend and deliver us from the enemies of our soul and life and happiness. David celebrates in song the Kingship of the Lord Jesus Christ in various Psalms. He is seen as Solo Christo King. For example, Psalm 2:6; 21; 45 & 72. In Psalm 45:1-4 & 6-7 we read: "My heart is (Heb) bubbling up: I speak of the things ... touching the king ... Thou are fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into Thy lips: therefore God hath blessed Thee for ever. Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O most mighty, with Thy glory and Thy majesty. And in Thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; ... Thy Throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of Thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows." Christ Jesus claimed absolute Lordship or Kingship over all things in Matthew 28:18: "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth." Speaking of Christ, the Lamb of God, John the Apostle is moved of God to write: "for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: ..." & "And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." ( Revelation 17:14 & 19:16 - see also the verses 11-16.)

Thus it is that Christ is our great Lawgiver. The bounds of life and behaviour are from Him. He is our great Judge. We are to fear only Him. Psalm 2:2-3 & 10-12: "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His anointed (Christ), saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. ... Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him." Jesus said: "If ye love Me, keep My commandments."; "Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." ( John 14:15 & 15:14). Jesus said: "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." ( Matthew 10:28)

Years ago, when Christ walked upon this earth, the people in their rebellion against Him said, "We will not have this man to reign over us." ( Luke 19:14). So too today, men will make, to their hurt, all sorts of despots and rulers their final authority in life, rather than Christ Jesus. It is not only the rule of "experts" or big government, or big religions, but also the rule of our ego - self will. If we would know true security and welfare, in all of life, for what is right and wrong; our absolute rule for life - the king of conscience, beliefs and behaviour; the King we follow is Solo Christo - Christ Alone.

All the prophets, priests and kings of this world, under their many guises, will fail us. There is however a Prophet, Priest and King of which this can never be said. It is Solo Christo - Christ Alone. Of Him it can be truly said, "He faileth not." ( Zephaniah 3:5).


Sola Scriptura - Scripture Alone

As we search the Bible, the Scriptures, and read God’s message of life to us; as we hear His voice speaking to us in His Word, what do we see and hear Him saying there about the Scriptures themselves? We are told that they are clean and enduring. They are perfect, righteous, sure & right. They are for making us wise. They give joy & light and are thus desirable. There is a reward to be found in them. All these descriptions communicate to us that the Scriptures are to have an absolute place in our life. We are told this in Psalm 19:7-11, where, under various synonyms, the Scriptures are described to us:

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.”

All of Psalm 119 tells us of the unique and absolute place the Scriptures are to have in our life and thinking. For example, in Psalm 119:105 we read: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” What is our feet and our path but our life and conduct, day by day? The verse clearly implies that each of us lives in a world where there is great darkness of understanding of God and life, and what belongs to our true peace and happiness. We are left in the cold darkness, unless that the Lord had given His word to us to be a lamp and a light to give understanding and warmth to our hearts. The verse indicates that the Scriptures are the only such lamp and light to our lives in this world. They are this, because they are the words of God, who is light!

The Lord, in the prophet Isaiah, tells us that there is only one place to go if we want life and light. We read in Isaiah 8:20, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” The only sure guide, our only rule for belief and living, is God’s Word, the Scriptures.

The Almighty Lord assures us that the Scriptures are trustworthy. They can be absolutely relied upon to show us the way to be made at peace with God, and to be saved. They are given specifically for what we are to believe. They are for our doctrine of life - how we are to live and conduct ourselves in all of life. They are inspired and perfect! This is what the Lord tells us in 2 Timothy 3:15-17, “... the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

We need to remember, as God reminds us, that the Scriptures are not simply a collection of men’s ideas about God. They are not written and compiled by the initiative and will of man. True, men were used, but they were directed and moved by the Holy Spirit to write what they wrote. Thus the Scriptures are infallible, inerrant and inspired. They have no mistakes and are the very words of God to us, in all their entirety and parts. It is plenary (entire, absolute) inspiration. It is verbal (each word) inspiration.

Our fathers and mothers in the faith of the Reformation, saw, as they waited upon God in prayer and the study of the Scriptures, that the Scriptures themselves claim and teach in very clear language Sola Scriptura - Scripture Alone.

What are some of the implications and results of this great principle of divine truth for us and our thinking and living? Obviously they are to be taken most sincerely and seriously for our daily lives. They have an eternal impact.

One very important implication for us is that we ought not to have any other supreme guide or authority for the principles and basis of what we believe and how we think. This is because man by his fallen constitution is blind, and unable to find the right way himself. Thus we are told in Jeremiah 10:23, “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” We need divine instruction for what are the right ideas and beliefs, and the right way to live, if we would find true life and peace. It is ideas and feelings that give us the direction and foundation for how we live. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he...” ( Proverbs 23:7). All our ideas are to be built on God’s “ideas” as it were. Our beliefs and the way we live are to be based on what God says is the way to live. We bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” ( 2 Corinthians 10:5). For Almighty God knows best. He has perfect knowledge and wisdom. “For with Thee is the fountain of life; and in Thy light shall we see light.” ( Psalm 36:9).

So it is that if we would find true life, happiness and all that matters, we must be guided by the absolutes of Scripture. Our fathers in the faith believed, in the light of what Scripture itself taught, that it was to be our only rule of faith and life.

We are to be like the Bereans of old, referred to in Acts 17:11, and judge all matters by the Scripture.

Of course there are those who believe in the Scriptures being our guide. They are for Scriptura but they forget the Sola. There are those who have other things as a guide to their ideas and living, as well as Scripture. In addition to Scripture, there are those who add, for example, tradition, or rationalism - the authority of their own minds and feelings. The Lord makes it clear though that the only true way to know Him and true life, is that the Scriptures be our absolute authority in all knowledge and understanding of life.

We would do well to stop and ask ourselves, are we practically living, day by day, out of the principle of Sola Scriptura? We should ask ourselves, “Are the truths of Scripture foundational for all my understanding and living? Do I read and pray over this Word of God daily? Do I remember that man shall not live by bread alone, and that we need God’s Word for our life? Is it true for me that if God says a thing in the Bible, that is it?” It is in these ways we show the reality of whether we are living out of the great truth of Sola Scriptura.

The great principle of Sola Scriptura - Scripture Alone, has profound implications for us. It is light on our path and words of life and blessing. Our fathers in the faith found it to be so. If we would be a true Biblical Christian, the great reformational principle of Sola Scriptura should be one for which we would both live and die.


Sola Gratia - Grace Alone

A great question asked and pondered by hearts and minds, both at the Reformation and since, is how can we get out of the troubles we as mankind are in at present? Where is our answer? Where is our rescue? The answer of the Gospel is, in Christ Jesus - God in flesh among us.

Having seen the answer of rescue as in God's work in Christ as He is shown us in the Scriptures, the big question then was, where will be find the ability to act on this knowledge? Where will we find the power and strength to believe and continue on day by day in these good things? By what means will we obtain and retain life? The answer that the Lord has given in the Bible to this question in all ages, is that catch cry or motto of the Reformation, Sola Gratia - Grace Alone! That is, our ability to believe and continue on, is by the undeserved favour, love strength, mercy and care of the Lord exclusively.

This is truly a great truth that we need to consider well, and hide in our hearts and minds all our days. The Lord teaches us in Scripture that we have humanly insurmountable problems that our rebellion against God has caused. Our wills, intellects, consciences, emotions - our total beings - do not work properly to enable us to have the ability and strength of soul or character to turn to God in Christ, and to follow Him.

We have total inability! We have not the strength and ability to hear the voice of truth the Lord speaks to us in the Scriptures. We have not the sight and understanding of ourselves to see that life is only perfectly fulfilled when we live for the glory of God. We naturally cannot see the loveliness and beauty of Christ, and why He had to die. We have not the teachableness of heart so that we would be taught of God, and obey His teachings as we have them in Scripture. In short, left to ourselves, we would never hear, see, understand, feel and act to choose God and life in Christ. We cannot and will not, find our way home to God and heaven of ourselves. We will perish because of our problem of depravity.

How then shall we be moved, enlightened and enabled to believe, embrace Christ, and follow Him all our days, and so assuredly enter glory and heaven? How shall we know peace with God, and peace within our souls? It shall be by Sola Gratia - Grace Alone.

Our Saviour tells us plainly that we are lost of ourselves, and cannot find our way home. He, in His grace, comes to do the work we cannot do of ourselves. “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” ( Luke 19:10). The Lord, by the apostle Paul, tells us that we will only have hope in this dark world, as the Lord by His Spirit and Christ's work (grace) takes hold of us. We simply do not have the strength otherwise. “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” ( Romans 5:5-6). That we by nature have our backs to God, and are not inclined in our thoughts and wills to seek God or turn to Him, we are clearly taught by God. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” ( 1 Corinthians 2:14). The truth is, that we are in fact dead as far as our ability to act to save ourselves. Our life, our quickening, is from God alone. We are debtors to His sovereign grace. “And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;” ( Ephesians 2:1). We are saved by Grace Alone - Sola Gratia.

Scripture very much emphasises the truth of salvation by grace alone. One of the most clear places where we are taught this great truth of life, and taught it most beautifully, is in Ephesians 2:4-9. We read: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” Does not this spell this great truth of the Reformation out most clearly?

The Parable of the Seeking Shepherd that our Saviour taught us, also brings out in a most beautiful way, that by nature we are lost sheep. We have gone astray. We have not the ability to find our way home. He, in His great grace comes to find and to save. “And He spake this parable unto them, saying, what man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” ( Luke 15:3-6). Note, the sheep was lost; that means the sheep had no way of knowing, or ability to be able, to get home. It was the Good Shepherd who did all the work. He searched for it. He put it on His shoulders. He carried it home. It was He, not the sheep, that said, “I have found my sheep.” Here we see the truth that we are saved by Sola Gratia - Grace Alone.

The Scripture tells us that the experience of coming to, and obtaining, the life that God has given us in Christ, is like the birth of a child, (Cf. John 3:3). This also brings out the great truth of salvation by grace alone. A child cannot conceive or be “born itself”. It is conceived and born by the power and work of another. “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” ( John 1:13). The credit for the opening of the heart so that it may believe, is given to God, not to man. Acts 16:14, “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.”

So it is that we are brought by God to stand before the profound truth that it is God's sovereign grace that puts us right with Himself, and keeps us unto His eternal kingdom. We are not the workers of our righteousness. Scripture says, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; ...”. ( Isaiah 64:6). We are justified, or made right with God, by His grace. “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:”. ( Romans 3:24). How we must ever remember the truth of this verse if we would know true and eternal life. We are utterly cast upon the good and great God, who has come among us in Jesus Christ, and reached out to us, when we could not, and would not, reach out for Him.

It is Grace Alone - Sola Gratia that works in us so that our character and being are changed from what is not right and lovely, to what is progressively made more good, just, pure, lovely, in short, more holy. We are sanctified, or made more holy, by this wonderful work of God's free grace. Paul's parting words to his brothers at Ephesus, was to put them in mind that it was the grace of God that would further build them up in the Lord, not their own or another mere creature's power. “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” ( Acts 20:32). Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.”

Above all, it is this wonderful love and care of God to unworthy people, called grace, that will keep and preserve us, so that we will be brought at last to the glory of His eternal Kingdom in a new heaven and earth. Christ takes all the credit that this will certainly be so. We may never think it is through our ability. He says in John 10:28-30, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are One.”

Thus it is that we can see Scripture holds up before our eyes, a Saviour whose grace is sufficient for every need. He has said, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” ( 2 Corinthians 12:9). It is sufficient grace! It is sovereign grace! It is abundant grace! It is free Grace! We can rejoice and be glad in the knowledge of the grace that God has for us. We conclude as Paul does in Ephesians 1:6, All “to the praise of the glory of His grace.”

It really is hard to understand that some professing Christians today, as well as in the past, believe that it is only part the grace of the Lord, (only part of his strength and love), and part the strength and love of man for the Lord, that makes us able to seek, choose and follow the Lord. They acknowledge the reality of God's grace, but it is not Sola Gratia - Grace Alone. They leave out the sola - alone part of the truth. The above passages of Scripture make it clear, it is all of God's grace.

In this world we live in today, we are constantly indoctrinated by the spirit of the age around us to believe in the supremacy and adequacy of man to find truth, life and happiness, and the power and ability to do what is necessary to obtain such things. Humanism, that belief that makes man, the creature, his intellect, will and feelings the ultimacy for life, is the spirit of the age to-day. It is not only to be found being loudly advocated in our society today, where man would live without God; but tragically many professing Churches of Jesus Christ, are also aping our humanistic society in making man to have the ability of himself to seek and find God and the answers to life. They bring humanism into the Church and mix it with the teaching of the pure Word of God. We so much need to see the bankruptcy of this belief, and to see clearly the wonderful truth that God showed our fathers and mothers of the Reformation. We are saved, changed for the better, made the children of God, kept and brought to glory by Grace Alone -Sola Gratia.

As we bring the bright message of good hope in Christ Jesus to a very needy world around us, let us ever stand and bear witness to the fact that our hope is never to be found in man - the poor creature. Our hope for this life and all its institutions, and for the life to come, is found in the sovereign grace of God alone. It is Sola Gratia.


Sola Fide

Today in many professing Christian circles, the great Biblical truths that gripped the hearts of our mothers and fathers of the faith in the past are forgotten or unappreciated. We do need to remember though that we are the poorer for this. Those truths gave men such a view of the glory and wonder of God that it caused them to have a profound awe and deep love for Him. They had a depth to their lives all so often lacking today. They knew a peace and certainty for life and death that is missing in many ways from Christianity today. They truly knew how to live and how to die - and the way to heaven. Our fathers and mothers of the Reformation were privileged indeed.

At the Reformation, the Lord restored to men the great truths of His Word. We have already looked at Soli Deo Gloria - To God Alone Be The Glory; Sola Scriptura - Scripture Alone; Solo Christo - Christ Alone and Sola Gratia Grace Alone. A fifth profound truth that our reformed fathers and mothers exalted in for our life in time and eternity was Sola Fide - Faith Alone.

We cannot read the Bible for long before we realize how important faith is. There is much emphasis on this thing of the soul, (or the heart and mind), called faith or belief. We are told by the Lord Himself that faith is so important, without it we cannot possibly see God. It is crucial for life and the enjoyment of God. In the book of Hebrews 11:6 we read, "But without faith it is impossible to please (God): for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Our Saviour taught us that when we have faith, or believe in Him, we have eternal life, and if we do not believe we will perish. ( John 3: 16 & 18). "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." ... "He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

When the Bible speaks of faith in God, a saving or true faith, what does it mean? It means taking seriously God and His message in the Bible to us, though we cannot physically see or hear Him. Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." We have faith in God when we obey what He tells us in the Bible, fear His threatenings, and warmly embrace His promises for this life and the life to come. True faith will lead us to consciously accept the claims of Christ Jesus, and rely on him for acceptance by God and eternal life.

Practically, faith means to confide in a person or thing, to lean upon it or to commit our self to it. It is being convicted that another's testimony is true so that we have confidence in that person or what he says. It is trusting another. This faith and this alone - sola fide is what God uses to connect us to Christ the Saviour and so make us right with Himself.

Faith is not a physical thing of course. It is an activity of the soul. It belongs to, and lives within our inner life, our character, our mind, our personality. Our soul, or inner self and character expresses itself and operates via our intellect, emotions and will.

In the light of what God tells us about faith in the Bible, we say there are three elements to true faith or belief. As much as we are capable of being exercised in them, these are what we need if we would have that true faith that alone is the instrument to bring the saving work of Christ to our lives. There is an intellectual element, an emotional element and an element of acts of the will.

Faith in God involves out intellect. It is in our mind that knowledge and facts are learnt and remembered. Thus, God has taught us facts about history, about the nature of man and the world, facts about Himself. If we would properly know God, and have a meaningful faith in Him, we must learn and know some of these basic facts. Psalm 9:10, "And they that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee: ..." Romans 10:17, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." Philippians 3:8, "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: ... "

True faith also involves our emotions. Our feelings, yearnings, desires and such subjective things as peace, joy, fear and love are all involved in true faith. We are thus told to, "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all they strength, and with all thy mind; ... " Luke 10:27.

The third aspect of true faith is volitional - actions of the will. Our will is that part of our conscious being that resolves to do or not to do. It is what is exercised when we make commitments, choices and decisions. It involves a movement of our consciousness where we determine to, and proceed to do if possible, an action. When a young man proposes to a young lady to marry him, he has an intellectual knowledge of her. He knows something of her appearance and character and life. His emotions are involved - he loves her. However, if he is to marry her, he must come to the point where he moves from the intellectual and emotional to action. He actually proposes, and upon her acceptance, marries her. So true faith moves from the intellectual and emotional to the action of trust. Acts 16:30-31, "(He) said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." Along with having an intellectual appreciation for the Lord, and feelings about Him then, we need to practically act to trust Him. Romans 10:9, "If thou shalt confess (action) with they mouth the Lord Jesus Christ and shall believe (intellectual) in your heart (emotional) that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved." Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; (emotional) and lean not unto thine own understanding. (intellectual) In all thy ways acknowledge Him, (action) and he shall direct thy paths."

It is very important that we realize the Bible makes it clear true faith is God's work in our soul, and not our own. In Ephesians 2:8 we read: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:". This verse at the same time however shows us that God works in such a way that our minds, hearts and wills, being renewed, are enabled to work. We can understand, feel and act because God enables us to do so. The credit for believing is His, not our own.

We cannot have true faith in God if it is only intellectual, or emotional for the devils themselves believe and tremble - an intellectual and emotional element. ( James 2:19). We need to go further and act upon these things.

What a great thing it is to have this gift of God , true faith. It is the thing or instrument that leads us to trust in Christ so that we obtain His righteousness. We are justified by faith, and by faith we have peace with God. Romans 5:1-2, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."

Repeatedly the Bible tells us that we are made right with God by faith alone! It is not faith, plus some of our own works and worth. Our "good" life that we live will never get us into heaven. Our trying to keep God's commandments and doing the right thing, will never bring us peace with God. It is by faith alone - sola fide - in Christ that brings eternal life to us. Again and again the Scriptures make this clear. In Romans 3:28, we read, "Therefore we conclude, that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." Galatians 2:16 says, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." In Philippians 3:9 we further read, "And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: ."

The great truth that we are saved by faith alone, sola fide is beautifully expressed in Titus 3:5 & 7, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the renewing of the Holy Ghost; That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."

It we would know God and be reconciled to Him, we need His Word to teach us, we need Christ's person and work, we need so very much His grace, and we need faith. That faith He works in us. That faith that will believe His Word, and trust in Christ.

All this shuts us up to God doesn't it? We have no where else to go but to Him for true and eternal life. Only He can make us right with Himself. We cannot by our works make ourselves right with God. Knowing this, let us then seek Him most sincerely. Let us call upon Him. For He has promised that those who do so, He will save from the wrath to come, and give true life in this world and in that which is to come. Isaiah 55:6-7, "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God for He will abundantly pardon." Jesus said, "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh recieveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."

We have considered something of the true faith of which the Bible speaks. It is this sola fide that brings us into God's work of salvation in Christ. Without it, we cannot have peace with God. Without it we cannot obtain the benefits that Jesus the Saviour has earned. Let us always remember then the recurrent theme, we are made right with God by faith alone - sola fide!

The Lord at the Reformation gave great truths to men and women. So precious are these truths that they are foundational for true peace and happiness in time and eternity. Without them we are in a mess. Without them we perish. Once again, let us be reminded of them - Soli Deo Gloria - To God Alone Be The Glory; Sola Scriptura - Scripture Alone; Solo Christo - Christ Alone; Sola Gratia Grace Alone and Sola Fide - Faith Alone.

May we learn of, and live out of these great truths. As we do so, we will walk and live with God in Christ. When we live our lives out of these truths of the Reformation, we are building our lives as individuals, families and societies on a solid rock. Let us then, the Lord being our helper, hold fast to these truths, stand for them, spread the news of them around, and have them as the foundations for our faith. In doing this, we will know the blessing of God as individuals, families, church and in the community generally.

Rev. Chris Coleborn,
Cohuna, 1998

 
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