Luther and the Five Solas

Luther-nailing-theses-560x538Martin Luther was born to November 10th 1483 and died February 18th 1546. He began and ended his life in the same city Eisleben, Germany. He had what one might call a foxhole conversion. Caught out in open country on horseback in a terrible thunderstorm he made a vow to God that if God would save his life, he would serve him the rest of his life. For Luther, a Roman Catholic, serving God with your life meant becoming a monk. Erfurt was Luther’s spiritual home. It was where he studied and where he would the monastery as an Augustinian Monk in 1505.

 

Luther threw himself into the life of a monk. Torturing himself in an extreme ascetic lifestyle. Going without sleep and food for long periods, exposing himself to cold, beating himself with a leather strap. He once said that if anyone could’ve earned their way into heaven through being a monk it was him. He confessed his sins in confessional for hours each day. He had bouts with Satan, crying out in his monastic cell against the enemies accusations against him which he keenly felt. He could gain no assurance of peace with God and his mind was constantly fixed on the wrath of God due to sinners. He was a sinner. He was guilty before God. And he could find no way to undo his own condition before the Judge of the World.

 

The text that would begin to change his life was Romans 1:17, “For in it (the Gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” He had read this passage many times. The “righteous shall live by faith”, but he was not righteous and so excluded himself from it applying to him. But one day he saw that “the righteousness of God was revealed from faith for faith” and that the righteousness of God proceeded from the Gospel, which is Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. His perfect work. Luther could place his faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and be justified or made innocent before God. Luther would not have to fear the wrath of God any more. His long nights battling with Satan and enduring bodily suffering as well as his long days of misery in mortal terror of hell were over in a moment. He was freely justified by for God by faith in Jesus Christ. He began to write, talk, and debate others openly about the Roman Church’s error concerning how man is justified before God. At first this involved complicated arguments from Scripture, early Church Fathers, and other Roman Catholic authoritative writings. But Luther began to see the problem more clearly once the debating began. The Roman Church had elevated the writings of men to be equal in authority to sacred Scripture. And so from Luther’s early work, and from other Reformers of his era that followed him the Five Solas were developed. In the beginning these Five Solas were mainly discussed and applied around the doctrine of Justification. But over time their utility grew to help form the backbone of all the reforms that would eventually bring into being a Church that existed apart from the Roman Catholic Church, the Protestant Church. What began as a re-discovery of a single lost doctrine, Justification, became a full-fledge recovery movement to excavate the foundation of the original Apostolic Church. The reformers, including Luther, eventually left that corrupt and false union built around the “doctrines of men” and set out to bring to light the “One True Religion” that was established by Jesus Christ and to form a more perfect union established on the Gospel.

 

The Five Solas, or the five Latin phrases used at first to define how man was made innocent before God, or Justification, but which later came to also help uncover the foundation of the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” are as follows

 

Sola Scriptura-             Scripture Alone

Sola Gratia-                  Grace Alone

Sola Fide-                    Faith Alone

Solus Christus-             Christ Alone

Soli Deo Gloria-          To God Alone Be The Glory


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