The good news of the gospel has been summarized for us so well in what we refer to as the Solas of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), and Solus Christus (Christ Alone). Why was it so important to the Reformers to add the word sola, or “alone,” to these descriptions of how God brings salvation to us? What happens when we use the word mostly instead of alone?
If Scripture Alone is not the means of salvation, then we would be left inventing our own ways to find favor with God. Most of the religions of the world are a result of mankind’s desperate attempt to find a substitute.
If Grace Alone is not how we are saved, then how would we ever have confidence we are righteous in God’s sight? The reason there is so much striving and so little resting even among Christians is because we look inside of us to see if we look like a child of God rather than looking at what God has done for us by grace alone.
If it is not through Faith Alone that we are saved, then we will add good works to Christ’s atonement as a way of balancing the scales in our own eyes. It is our predilection towards good works as a mean of salvation that interprets the Old Testament stories as moral tales rather than the story of Christ.
If it is not through Christ Alone that we are saved, we will invent a way to give ourselves a role in our salvation. Sadly, even some evangelicals have succumbed to the lie that there is some spark of life or goodness in us that is necessary for Christ’s finished work of salvation to be operative in us.
But the good news is that it really is through Scripture Alone, by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, and through Christ Alone that we have been saved. For those who treasure the Solas, the pressure is off. The means of our salvation is firmly fixed in the word of Scripture. The “how” of our salvation is God’s grace. The “instrument” of our salvation is faith (and even that is a gift from God). The “who” of our salvation is clear—Christ.
We are free to abandon all compulsion to earn our salvation. We have no need to measure our salvation against how successful or good we are. It is God who has done it all and he provides everything he requires of us. When we embrace that truth, we can respond with worship, thanksgiving, praise, and obedience to his call to care for each other and share this Good News with all people.
Roy Heggland serves the CLB as Associate for Biblical Stewardship.