Solas (Romans 1)



ð  With one swing of a mallet a movement was launched. With one swing of a mallet a world was turned upside down. With one swing of a mallet history was altered. With one swing of a mallet a monk named Martin Luther nailed a document known as “The Ninety-Five Theses” on the church door at Wittenberg.

ð  October 31, 2017 will mark the 500th year anniversary of Martin Luther’s beginning what would become known as the Protestant Reformation. Today’s message will examine the “5 Solas” that would become the rallying cry of the Reformation.

ð  Book of Romans … Romans 1_Solas


At the heart of the Protestant Reformation lay four basic questions[1]: How is a person saved? Where does religious authority lie? What is the church? What is the essence of Christian living? In answering these questions, 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. The Reformers resisted the demands placed on them to recant these doctrines, many even to the point of death. In all, the 5 Solas were in response to specific corruptions of truth within the Roman Catholic Church during the Dark Ages, and are still relevant today to corruptions of the Christian faith.

Romans 1:1-18

Solas = Alone

–        Christianity is exclusive… we are distinct and fight against syncretism.


  1. Sola Scriptura: Scripture Alone

–        Paul writes Romans as a continuation of the OT Scriptures (Rom 1:1-2).

–        Paul was set apart for the gospel (Rom 1:1) and eager to preach the gospel as the fulfillment of OT prophecies in Jesus Christ (Rom 1:15).

è What are you immersed in and eager to share?

–        Before the Reformation, the Holy Bible was literally chained to a pulpit inside the church because books were expensive and rare. Monks hand-copied Scripture, so the investment to the Bible needed to be protected. The printing press wasn’t invented until 1436 and having copies of books was still uncommon.

–        The 16th C. church, before the Reformation, was all in Latin and unintelligible to most, along with literacy rates between 5-30%.[2]

–        RCC supplemented and strayed from Scripture for their own personal gain – building institutional comfort.

o   The concept of indulgences…

o   RCC adds 7 books to OT known as the Apocrypha or deuterocanonical. The books are They are Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), and Baruch. The Catholic Bible also includes additions to the books of Esther and Daniel. Should the Apocrypha be included in the Bible? There was significant debate in the early Christian church, with a majority of the early church fathers rejecting the idea that the Apocrypha belonged in the Bible. Further, Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate was forced to insert these additions into the Bible, and then later formally became officially part of the Catholic Bible during the Council of Trent.

o   RCC adds papal authority (ex cathedra), contrasting the teaching of the apostles (Eph 2:19-20; 2Tim 3:16-17).

o   RCC traditions to Scripture. Traditions should only be valid when they support Scripture.


–        Men like John Wycliffe (1382) and William Tyndale (1526) began to translate and print Scriptures.

–        On January 1, 1519, Huldrych Zwingli, still a “Roman Catholic” priest at this point, did away with the traditional Latin lectionary and began expository sermons on the New Testament in his own native tongue. By 1525, he’d finished the entire New Testament and then moved on to exposit the Old.

–        Luther translated the Bible into German for his people and had published the Old Testament by 1534

–        The unchaining of Scripture to shift congregation members from passive recipients to active participants read and reflect God’s word was indeed a Reformation.
è God’s word is available… every person, home.

o   Since the beginning we have been tempted to doubt, distrust, diminish, dismiss, and depart God’s Word. (Gen 3:4 “Did God really say…”)

o   “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” – G.K. Chesterton

o   Martin Luther’s reply to Pope, “Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning, unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me! Amen!”

o   We must return to being a people who believe the Bible, and the only way we truly believe is by truly reading it…

è God’s word is absent among unreached parts and peoples, and this task is part of the Great Commission.  

History is afraid of what has been added to Scripture that misses the message, but we should fear more what’s lost when we refuse to believe it.  #SolaScriptura


  1. Sola Gratia: Grace Alone

–        Paul’s frequent refrain is “in/through Christ” (Rom 1:5, 7).

–        Grace is greater than kindness or even karma. Many people relate to God by trying to be kind and good. The idea is that if we do enough good to outweigh the bad, then we can feel affirmed and God will accept us. This view works against true contentment because it results in endless comparisons and never fully measuring up; we think we measure up based on our belittling of others, but in reality even our comparisons fall short because the standard is Jesus, which we all fall short. Therefore, we cannot relate to God based on kindness or karma, but on grace.

o   If we were to swim from MD to Great Britain (or even Hawaii), some would get farther than others but we’d all fall short. Smart ones would suggest taking a plane. Ahh, yes, but that would be outside help, which displays Christ as the Grand Jet.

–        The Reformers pointed to the Christian’s “alien righteousness,” attained fully through Christ’s finished work at Calvary. This understanding upended the Roman Catholic Church and its notions of grace merited through church sacraments: baptism, eucharist, confirmation, confession, last rites anointing of sick, matrimony, priesthood.

è Only unfathomable grace can save you w/o human goodness and despite human depravity.

o   Rom 8:1-2 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

Grace is > kindness or karma. We cannot earn or luck our way to heaven. God’s grace is that amazing to save sinners, like me. #SolaGratia

è Self-worth is measured by God not good works. You are loved and graced if you receive it.

è Those who truly receive God’s grace understand it is their role to reflect that same grace to those who least deserve it.

à Rom 1:14 “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to foolish”

à Rom 12:10 “Outdo one another showing honor”

à Rom 12:11 “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit.”

à Rom12:14, 21 “Bless those who persecute you… Do not be overcome by evil, overcome evil w/ good.”


  1. Sola Fide: Faith Alone

To Paul, understanding faith was preeminent in Romans.

–        Rom 1:8, 13 “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because your faith is proclaimed in all the world… I long to see you that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith”

–        Rom 1:17 “The righteous will live by faith”

–        Romans 4:2 “If Abraham was justified by works he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”

In contrast to sola fide, the RCC adds religious effort to faith, combining grace and works for salvation. Martin Luther saw this in the church and wrote, “Nothing in this article [justification by faith] can be given up or compromised, even if heaven and earth and things temporal should be destroyed….On this article rests all that we teach and practice against the pope, the devil, and the world. Therefore we must be quite certain and have no doubts about it. Otherwise all is lost, and the pope, the devil, and all our adversaries will gain the victory.”

è Faith is more than a feeling, but is being convinced God has done and will do what He promises.

o   Rom 4:21; 5:1 “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised… we have been justified by faith”

o   Rom 10:11 “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

è Faith forms a believer and a body – a church (Rom 1:5-7)

We are saved/justified by faith. Through faith God forms believers for good works. Faith also forms us into a body – a church. #SolaFide

  1. Solus Christus: Christ Alone

Paul’s life hinged on the identity of Jesus and his encounter with Him. Promoting and proclaiming Christ was foolishness to the world, but salvation to those who believed (1Cor 1:18).

–        Rom 1:1 “servant of Christ Jesus… set apart for the gospel”

–        Rom 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”

–        1Cor 2:2 “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

In contrast to solus Christus, the RCC added

–        Required religious traditions for salvation, chiefly the sale of indulgences.

o   Indulgences were sort of a spiritual IRA that planned your future comforts

o   Preachers of the day (Johann Tetzel[3]… )

“Sinners would be made cleaner than when coming out of baptism” “Sinners would be cleaner than Adam before the Fall” “as soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs” Listen to the voices of your dear dead relatives and friends, beseeching you and saying, “Pity us, pity us. We are in dire torment from which you can redeem us for a pittance.” Do you not wish to? Open your ears. Hear the father saying to his son, the mother to her daughter, “We bore you, nourished you, brought you up, left you our fortunes, and you are so cruel and hard that now you are not willing for so little to set us free. Will you let us lie here in flames? Will you delay our promised glory?” Remember that you are able to release them, for as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs. Will you not for a quarter of a florin receive these letters of indulgence through which you are able to lead a divine and immortal soul into the fatherland of paradise?[4]

o   Luther in Thesis 82 said if the Pope had this power, he should use it out of love and freely, not out of trivial reasons – raising money to build St. Peter’s basilica in Rome! Ultimately, Luther saw the sale of indulgences counter to his pastoral ministry. How could he preach about repentance, good works and following Scripture if his parishioners could simply pull out their indulgence certificates? The Christian life became consumer driven rather than Christ-centered.

o   A person who “gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God’s wrath” Theses 45[5]

–        Purgatory

o   See Theses 27 or 82 “Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church?” The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.

o   “Of purgatory there is no mention in Holy Scripture; it is a lie of the devil, in order that the papists may have some market days and snares for catching money. . . We deny the existence of a purgatory and of a limbo of the fathers in which they say that there is hope and a sure expectation of liberation. But these are figments of some stupid and bungling sophist.” Luthe

–        Idolatrous worship of saints, specifically prayers to Mary.

Views of Mary

o   Mary as sinless; “Immaculate Inception”. RCC views Mary’s pregnancy of Christ to be “preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”[6] The problem with this view is that it isn’t taught in Scripture, and is actually contrary to the Bible (Romans 3:23).

o   Mary as perpetual virgin, even after the birth of Jesus. This view is not only contrary to Scripture’s teaching with Joseph and Mary’s relationship (Matthew 1:25), Mary’s children and Jesus’s brothers (Matthew 12:46; John 7:1-5; Acts 1:14), but is also portraying a diminished view of God’s creation of sexual intimacy and reproduction (Genesis 1:28).

o   Mary as co-redeemer. “This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation… Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”[7] However, Christ is the only way to the Father (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

o   Mary as intercessor. Catholics pray to God through Mary as an intercessor, believing that she has better access to God than they do, since she gave birth to the Son of God.  However, Scripture commands us only to pray to God through Jesus (John 14; 1Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 4:14-16).

o   Mary as queen of heaven. However, the only time this phrasing is used in the Bible is in a negative manner and not of Mary (Jer 7:17-19; 44:16-27). Mary views herself as “the Lord’s servant” (Lk 1:38) and not as queen.


As pharmacist filling bottles with right content, so faith in the undiluted Jesus of Scripture is necessary for Christianity. #SolusChristus


  1. Soli Deo Gloria: To God Alone Be Glory

–        In Paul’s eyes, all creation was on a collision course with the glory of God.

o   Rom 1:23 “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man… Thefore God gave them up…

o   Rom 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

o   Rom 11:36 “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

o   Rom 16:27 “to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

–        Isaiah 43:7 “everyone… was created for my glory”

è Just as the moon shines because it reflects the light of the sun, so we too must shine to reflect God’s glory.
è We can be glory thieves or glory transferrers

Every person & all earth is on collision course to glory. We mustn’t exchange self or substitutes for our purpose &only hope. #SoliDeoGloria


One little word shall fell him… (gospel – our testimony / Rev 12:11)

One swing of a mallet… Reformation… Salvation (Christ crucified)… For what are you/we swinging mallets?





[4] Tetzel sermon – Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1950), pp. 59-60.




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