Why the Reformation Still Matters Today

“Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it”. This famous statement is especially true in the life of the Church. This month we celebrate the 500-year anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church, which began what is now known as the Protestant Reformation. The fundamental teachings of this movement were summarized in the 5 solas (latin for alone). Each Sunday morning in the month of October we will take a look at one of these solas and see why they are foundational for the Church even today.

The capstone to this month-long celebration will be on Oct. 29th for our Reformation Heritage Sunday where we will welcome the new President of Reformed Theological Seminary in the morning for a combined Sunday School class and preaching in the worship service. Then in the evening at 6PM our choir accompanied with orchestral music will lead in a Reformation chorale performance. We will finish the day with a fabulous reception put on by the ladies of the church. It will be a celebration – all month long. Join us and invite others.

The following is an excerpt on the solas from a book called Echoes of the Reformation by Brandon Smith:

The five solas of the Reformation were birthed out of Luther’s convictions, though developed long after his death. They still echo in our world and our lives today, if we’re willing to listen. 

Sola Scriptura – Scripture Alone

All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

The Church in Luther’s day didn’t mesh well with this Scripture. They taught that the Pope could access God in an equal way as the Bible. The Pope, in a very real sense, had as much power as Scripture.

But Paul tells Timothy here that Scripture is from God and makes Christians “complete.” It’s not Scripture + the Pope, or Scripture + anything else. Scripture alone is all we need to learn about God and teach others about God. 

Sola Gratia – Grace Alone

For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace. (Rom. 6:14)

The Church can’t sell grace, and Luther knew this. Indulgences put an unbearable law back on God’s people. The Church said, “Do this and do that, buy this and buy that, and God will give you grace when it’s time for punishment for your sins.”

Grace is most easily defined as “unmerited favor.” God gives grace because he’s loving and merciful, not because we deserve it. It’s free. Absolutely, positively free. We are saved by grace alone.

Sola Fide – Faith Alone

For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)

We are justified—declared to be right with God—through faith alone. This sola is perhaps the cornerstone of the Reformation. Luther’s struggle with his own sin, his continued feeling of being an absolute wretch, reminded him that faith was all he had. He couldn’t offer anything else. Knees on the ground, palms in the air—he had faith that God saved him, and that was his only hope.

Solus Christus – Christ Alone

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Luther saw the Church abusing its power, taking Christianity away from Christ. In his eyes, they had put the Pope in place of Christ. He once said, “You are not lords over the pastoral office … You have not instituted the office, but God’s Son alone has done so.” When it comes to salvation, Christ alone. And even when it comes to church leaders, who are supremely important to the church according to Hebrews 13:17—Christ alone.

Soli Deo Gloria – Glory to God Alone

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands. (Ps. 19:1, CSB)

God’s glory alone? Well, the Church ran into a bigger problem here—God can’t have all the glory if we play any part in salvation. And the Church was determined that works were an essential part of salvation, not just an outflow from it. Luther rightly fought against this. God gets all the glory, not us. We’re just blessed to be able to look up and see the heavens declaring his glory.

May these five core truths help us to understand and enjoy the goodness, grace, and glory of our God.