Back To The Basics, Part 3:
Core Tenets Of Our Faith

The five most basic tenets of Christian faith are five Latin phrases that originated during the Protestant Reformation. The word "sola" is the Latin word for “only” or "alone", and was used in relation to five key teachings that defined the Reformation movement. These five core tenets outlined the differences in doctines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church and the beliefs of the Reformers.

The Roman Catholic church was at the peak of it's authority, holding absolute power, and was guilty of many false doctrines and practices that violated Biblical teachings. In view of all these false teachings, the German reformer Martin Luther, a dedicated scholar, diligently searched the Scriptures and developed his now famous “95 Theses”, which rejected those beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic church, saying they were unbiblical teachings that corrupted men's souls. His dissent with the Church brought about a massive Reformation movement, and led to his excommunication from the church.

The emphasis of the reformation was 5 core tenets: Sola fida, Sola Christus, Sola gratia, Sola Scriptura and Soli Deo gloria. We are saved by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone, based on Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone. Never by our own works, never by purchasing indulgences or paying money to the Church, never by keeping all the rules and laws of religion. Salvation is through Jesus Christ alone, by the grace of God.

The 95 Theses served as a blasting critique of the indulgences and good works (which usually involved monetary donations to the church) that popes could grant to the people to cancel out penance for sins. Each of these solas was a rebuke as to the excesses and false doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. They are also an instruction for every generation to hold fast to the teaching of the Holy Bible as the only and ultimate authority.The five core tenets of the Protestant Reformation remain relevant to us today. We are called to focus on Scripture, accept salvation by grace through faith, magnify Christ, and live for God’s glory.

  • Sola fide: “Faith alone”
  • Sola fide emphasizes salvation as a free gift. The Roman Catholic church allowed the use of indulgences (donating money) to buy status with God. They saw good works, including baptism, as being necessary for salvation. Sola fide stated that salvation is a free gift to all who accept it by faith. Salvation is not based on human effort or good deeds , but rather on faith alone.

    For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to
    faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. (Rom. 1:17)

    Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace
    with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (Rom. 5:1)

    But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God,
    it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. (Gal. 3:11)
  • Solo Christus: “Christ alone”
  • Solo Christo emphasizes the role of Jesus in salvation. The Roman Catholic tradition had placed church leaders such as priests in the role of intercessor between the laity and God. Reformers emphasized Jesus’ role as our “high priest” who intercedes on our behalf before the Father. Jesus is the One who offers access to God, not a human spiritual leader.

    For there is one God, and one mediator between God
    and men, the man Christ Jesus; (1 Timothy 2:5)

    For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize
    with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been
    tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

    Believers, those who have trusted Jesus Christ for their salvation, rather than their own deeds, are assured of salvation and eternal life.

    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. (John 3:16-17)

    The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold
    the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)

    Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life:
    no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)

    Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name
    under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

    Unbelievers face judgment and condemnation, not simply because of their deeds, but rather because they have not met the one and only criteria: they have rejected Jesus Christ's ultimate atonement for sin. Judgment is not merely punishment for sin, it is JUSTICE for sin. Sin has to be paid for, or there is no justice.

    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. (John 3:18)

  • Sola gratia: "Grace alone"
  • Sola gratia emphasizes grace as the reason for our salvation. In other words, salvation comes from God's grace, rather than what we do. The Roman Catholic church of Martin Luther's time offered a remedy for any wrong-doing. They believed - and still believe today - the sinner can say a prescribed number of prayers, do the recommended acts of penance, make the recommended donations, and the slate is wiped clean. The focus is on what they do: keeping the laws of the church. Our own deeds can never save us and get us into heaven. The Bible teaches that Christ alone can save us, wipe out our sins with His atoning sacrifice, and assure us of a place with Him in heaven. God's great grace, not our actions.

    For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is
    the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

    Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according
    to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and
    renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which He shed on us abundantly through
    Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by His grace, we should
    be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5-7)

    And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace
    is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more
    grace: otherwise work is no more work. (Rom. 11:6)

    Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified
    in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20)

  • Sola scriptura: “Scripture alone”
  • The Roman Catholic Church of the time of Martin Luther and the other "Reformers" considered the writings and traditions of their church as the ultimate authority and instruction, even when it contradicts the Holy Scriptures. Sola scriptura emphasizes the Holy Bible alone as the source of authority for Christians. By “Scripture alone”, the Reformers rejected both the authority of the Roman Catholic Pope and the "sacred traditions" of the Church.

    Only the Bible was “inspired by God” and “God-breathed”. Only Scripture is profitable to us, for teaching and instruction. Anything taught by the Pope or in tradition that contradicted the Bible was to be rejected. The idea of "Scripture alone" led to the translation of the Bible into German, French, English, and other languages, and prompted Bible teaching in the common languages of the day, rather than in Latin.

    But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matt. 4:4)

    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, throughly furnished unto all good works. (Tim. 3:16-17)

    Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is
    of one's own interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old
    time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)

    Many believe that if they live a “good” life, doing good and helping others, then God will look at their good deeds and allow them into heaven. They see it like a giant spiritual scale: as long as their good deeds outweigh their sins, they'll be alright. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Our good deeds can never be good enough to get us into heaven.

    Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter
    into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of
    my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that
    day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?
    and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name
    done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto
    them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
    (Matthew 7:21-23)

    Others believe in a God so kind and loving that He will never send anyone to hell. They forget that God doesn't want anyone to go to hell, but they chose it for themselves by rejecting Jesus. This false view of God goes against all the Bible's teachings. They have created a comfortable false god: one who requires nothing from them, but rewards them anyway.

    The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count
    slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should
    perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

    Jehovah God Almighty is indeed a kind and loving God; kindness and love are a part of His character. But Scripture is very clear: God is also pure, and holy, and just, and righteous, and He cannot ignore our sin. Sin has to be paid for, or there is no justice in Him. And we cannot pay for it ourselves, no matter how “good” we try to be. The ONLY thing that can save us from the penalty sin demands is Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son, who was sent to earth for that very purpose.

    Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me
    from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. (John 12:27)
  • Soli Deo gloria: "Glory to God alone"
  • Soli Deo gloria emphasizes the glory of God as the goal of life. Rather than striving to please church leaders, keep a list of rules, or guard our own interests, our goal is to glorify the Lord. The idea of soli Deo gloria is found in verses like :

    “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
    do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

    But he that glories, let him glory in the Lord. (2 Corinthians 10:17)

    Now unto God and our Father be glory for
    ever and ever. Amen. (Philippians 4:20)

    Faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone, based on Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone: that is the only way we can be saved, and assured of eternal life. There is no room for our own works, there is no authority other than the Holy Bible, and there is no authority ever given to any church to provide indulgences for sins. In our day and time, just as in Martin Luther's, we need to return to the very basic core tenets of our faith!

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