River of Life: Five important doctrines

Change-maker: Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic monk and theologian, challenged the authority of the pope.

Change-maker: Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic monk and theologian, challenged the authority of the pope.

On October 31, 2017, we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. On this date in 1517, Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic monk and theologian, nailed his 95 theses to a church in Germany, challenging the authority of the Pope and the selling of “indulgences”.

Church officials were selling “indulgences” to the people as a means of releasing them from having to exact penitence for their misdeeds. “Indulgences” were also claimed by the church to limit the amount of time the purchaser’s loved one would have to spend in purgatory.

Rather than heed the call to reform, the Roman Catholic Church sought to silence the Reformers. Eventually, new churches emerged, forming four major divisions of Protestantism: Luther’s followers started the Lutheran Church, John Calvin’s followers started the Reformed Church, John Knox’s followers started the Presbyterian Church in Scotland and, later, Reformers in England started the Anglican Church.

At the heart of the Protestant Reformation lay four basic questions: How is a person saved? Where does religious authority lie? What is the church? What is the essence of Christian living? Protestant Reformers developed what would be known as the “Five Solas” (sola being the Latin word for “alone”). These five essential points of biblical doctrine clearly separate Protestantism from Roman Catholicism.

1 “Scripture Alone”. The Bible alone is the sole authority for all matters of faith and practice. 

2  “Salvation by Grace Alone”. Salvation is proof of God’s undeserved favour; we are rescued from God’s wrath by His grace alone, not by any work we do.

3 “Salvation by Faith Alone”. We are justified by faith in Christ alone, not by the works of the law. It is by faith in Christ that His righteousness is credited to us as the only possible satisfaction of God’s standard.

4 “In Christ Alone”. Salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone; no one and nothing else can save. Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross is sufficient for our reconciliation.

5 “For the Glory of God Alone”. Salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God for His glory alone.  

These are the reasons for the Protestant Reformation. The Five Solas are just as important today in evaluating a church and its teachings as they were in the 16th century.

Pam Sammut, Tenterfield Community Church