On October 31, 1517 in the average German town of Wittenberg, history was made. This was the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door and called for an open dialogue about the corrupt practices committed by the pope, the priests, and the bishops in the Church at large in the 15th and 16th century. Luther’s intent was merely to examine the practices with his academic colleagues in an attempt to purify the Church, but hindsight shows us that this actually turned out to be the first definitive step towards a world-wide transformation: the Protestant Reformation.
Nearly every non-Roman Catholic church today, including Southern Baptists like us, can trace our beginnings and core values back to this historic moment. The values asserted in the Protestant Reformation are commonly referred to as the 5 Solas, which can be summarized as: “We are saved by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) in Christ alone (solus Christus) according to Scripture alone (sola scriptura) to the glory of God alone (soli Deo gloria).” Notice that each one of these points has the word “alone” in it. This was intentionally added in order to oppose the prevailing view of the time that we are justified by faith with our works, grace with accumulated merits, through Christ and dead saints, according to the authority of Scripture with the authority of tradition, and that the glory for man’s salvation belongs partly to him, partly to God, and partly to other intermediaries.
It is hard to underestimate the importance of these doctrines in fact, the reformers saw them as absolutely essential to the gospel and it is my firm belief that we should too. Of course, we don’t have to know these specific theological terms, but we must affirm and defend the truth that they communicate. If not, then we run the risk of following a man-centered gospel, which is no gospel at all. Many of us have friends and loved ones who are caught in a variety of man-centered gospels who need to hear the truth in love. Christian, know your Bible, pray for your friends and loved ones, continue to learn from Church history, and share the truth in love.