Weekly Church Devotion from Pastor Haydn Sennitt –
“The Five Solas of the Reformation: Scripture Alone“
This month we celebrate the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation, which began when God Almighty used a quirky, obscure German monk named Martin Luther to question the theology of the Catholic church. The Roman Catholicism, much like Soviet Russia, was assumed to be ‘invincible’ – her popes determined who controlled Europe politically and militarily! Were it not for Luther’s revolution, we would probably all be Catholic now. Arguably though, the modern Protestant church isn’t much different with its own compromises.
The Reformation centred around some pivotal notions, called the ‘Five Only’ statements. These are 1) that the Christian faith rests ONLY on the authority of the Bible alone (Sola Scriptura); 2) that salvation is a gift, by grace ALONE (Sola Gratia); 3) salvation is by faith ALONE, and not good works (Sola Fide); 4) that there is salvation in NO name other than Jesus Christ (Solus Christus); and 5) that the salvation of the soul is for the glory of God ALONE, and not of self (Soli Deo Gloria). Over the coming weeks, we will look at how these statements ground our faith.
Martin Luther discovered that false religion teaches that man is not justified by Jesus Christ, but by ‘good’ activity. In Catholicism, this involved paying taxes to the church (called Indulgences), and regularly going to Mass. He soon discovered though that Catholicism had wrongly understood justification (Romans 3:20, 24), and that there was no place (Purgatory) where dead souls can justify themselves by good works (Hebrews 9:27). Much to his astonishment, he discovered that the Catholic position of priest was null and void because Jesus is now our high priest (Hebrews 10:11-14), and that every child of Christ is a priest (Exodus 19:6).
Today, we may take these truths for granted, but back then they were revolutionary, and they came from the Word of God. They were not thought bubbles of Luther and Calvin.
The Holy Scriptures substantiate their own authority. We read in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV): “… Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing … how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings [i.e. the Bible], which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”. The Bible reveals God’s will and equips us to be fruitful for Him. Jesus quoted the Bible and promised that they would never ever disappear (Matt. 5:17).
But isn’t the Bible written by fallible human beings and contaminated by a ‘little bits’ of error)? Um, no, as we see in 2 Peter 1:20-21: “[Know] this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”.
Without God’s Word, how do we know how to please Him? Who is our Maker/Saviour, and what is He like? Who are we in relation to Him and how do we understand others? Without the Bible, we cannot work this out ourselves – it must needs be revealed to us by God, which is why the Bible is so important to the Christian faith. In our own understanding we are so warped (Proverbs 4:23), but God’s Word sets our hearts and minds straight to please Him (Psalm 40:7-8). Let us walk in confidence, knowing that God and His Word are trustworthy.
I will never forget your precepts, for by them You gave me life – Psalm 119:93.
~ God bless, Pastor Haydn.