Today we are continuing our look at the five distinctive principles of the Reformation, also known as the 5 Solas. Our aim as we study these principles is to see why the Reformation still matters today.
The Reformation rediscovered that “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). And therefore, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Christ alone saves. Without Christ there is no salvation (John 14:6). Faith apart from Christ is worthless (1 Corinthians 15:17). Rightly understood, Christ is at the center of the Reformation—the indelible core of each sola. He is the Incarnate Word of sola Scriptura, the object of sola fide, the provision of sola gratia, and the delight of soli Deo gloria.
The key concept the Reformation restored to the preaching of the gospel is Christ—as our substitute (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18). There would be no justification by faith alone without Christ and His substitutionary sacrifice (Romans 3:24-26). The gospel is good news fundamentally because God has done in Christ what man cannot do for himself (Romans 8:1-4). The only substitute for sinners is Christ alone.
How relevant is solus Christus? John Calvin answers:
We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ [Acts 4:12]. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him” [1 Cor. 1:30]. If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects [Heb. 2:17] that he might learn to feel our pain [cf. Heb. 5:2]. If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross [Gal. 3:13]; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge (Institutes, II, xvi, 19).
Soli Deo Gloria
Creation exists for God’s glory. Salvation exists, first, for God’s glory. All things serve this one supreme end—soli Deo gloria. The meaning of this slogan captures the champion aim of the Reformation, namely that in all things, religious or otherwise, life is lived for the glory of God alone.
The Reformation rediscovered God as the center and goal of life. As it is written, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). But its principle is not just “glory to God” but “glory to God alone!” It is the soli (“alone”) part that conflicted with Rome.
God alone is deserving of glory in salvation and in all matters of the church. God shares His glory with no one. This is the chief end of all of the other solas. It reflects the restoration of God to the center of reality and orders all things accordingly. It humbly bows in acknowledgement that all things are from Him, through Him, and to Him. And it opposes every effort of man to seek the praise and glory of men.
This revived perspective gives a profoundly new outlook on all of life. While it most immediately pertains to the gospel itself, through the gospel it touches everything.
Living for the glory of God purifies and delights the soul. It is the only orientation of life that answers the design and purpose of both creation and salvation. Soli Deo gloria redirects our world to be rightly God-centered with deep-seated meaning and satisfaction. The Reformation restored to humanity the reality that sunsets, stars, mountains, music, food, love, and a host of other natural gifts of God ring with His glory for our joy.
These writings are from our Reformation resource website: reformation stewards.com. We encourage you to look at the resources available to learn more about the history of the Reformation to glorify God and increase our joy in Him!