Jude 1:3-4 Romans 1:9-17
On the authority of Scripture alone, salvation is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone for the glory of God alone.
A. Sola Scriptura
God’s written Word is the ultimate authority.
It is the only sufficient and infallible rule of faith and practice. 2 Tim. 3:15-17
It is the only sufficient, infallible and authoritative source of all saving knowledge. Gal. 1:8-9
The authority of Scripture is wholly dependent on God, its Author, and not on any other. 2 Pet. 1:19-21
B. Sola Gratia
God bestows His grace freely and sovereignly on those whom He chooses.
He is not obligated to grant men anything. Rom. 9:10-16
If grace were required, it would instead be an act of justice. Rom. 4:4
If grace were earned it would instead be merit. Rom. 11:6; 4:5
C. Sola Fide
God declares us righteous on the basis solely of our faith in Christ and His righteousness being imputed to us. Rom. 3:20-28; 2 Cor. 5:17-21
We are justified by our faith alone but not by faith that is alone. Gal. 2:16
Genuine faith will be accompanied by the fruit of good works. Jam. 2:14-18
D. Solo Christo
Christ alone has fully satisfied God’s just penalty for the sins of His people. Heb. 10:14
No work or merit of our own is worthy of God’s consideration with regard to salvation. Isa. 64:6 Rom. 8:3
No work or merit of our own is necessary for our salvation. Gal. 3:13 1 Cor. 1:31 Phil. 3:9
E. Soli Deo Gloria
Salvation is for God’s glory alone and not our own.
God saves His people to magnify the glory of His own Name. Isa. 43:7 Eph. 3:20-21
He saves them to have a people who would live in a way that reflects His character. Gal. 5:22-23
Since we did not and can not contribute anything to our salvation, God alone receives glory. Jonah 2:9
God says in His Word: “I sovereignly and freely choose (Eph. 1:4-5) to save you; I give you faith in my Son, the Lord Jesus (Eph. 2:8-10); on the basis of your faith in Jesus’ righteousness and not your own, I declare you righteous (Rom. 3:26); I give you My Spirit (Rom. 5:5 1 John 3:23; 4:13) Who will make His presence known in you (Rom. 8:16) and through you (Gal. 5:22-23); I do this for My own glory (Isa. 43:7 Eph. 3:20-21).”
Luther, born the son of a miner in 1483 in Eisleben, Germany, trained to be a lawyer but changed course to become a priest in 1505 and was ordained in 1507. In 1508 he began to lecture in the University of Wittenberg, earned his doctorate in 1512, and was granted a permanent lecture chair that year.
As Luther studied the Scriptures, he began to articulate the major doctrines of justification by grace through faith, sola scriptura, and the priesthood of all believers. Luther increasingly saw the inability of the doctrine of penance to deal with real guilt and his need of forgiveness and it drove him nearly to despair – regardless of how much he confessed or the penance he did, he was never convinced that he was forgiven. In the midst of this he came on Romans 1 and its treatment of the “righteousness of God”; his misunderstanding of the doctrine had brought him to hate it since he could never achieve it by his own actions. As he pondered on the passage Luther began to see that righteousness is a gift to be received from God and not something to be earned by works. He then went on to discover that his mentor, Augustine, held the same view, that man was in bondage to sin and not able not to sin but needing salvation as a gift from God.
The hawking of indulgences by Tetzel (When a coin into the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs) prompted Luther’s posting of ninety-five theses challenging academics to debate the doctrine. On October 31, 1517 (All Saints’ Eve) he placed his ninety-five theses on the chapel door as a way to begin an informal debate on the subject of indulgences, particularly the abuses of the doctrine as practiced by Tetzel for fund-raising purposes. Instead of a debate with academics only, the controversy spread across Germany, eventually bringing Luther to the point of declaring against the infallibility of the Pope and church councils.
Luther was first concerned with the doctrine of penance, the teaching that an individual had to become purified by works of meritorious obedience before they would gain entrance to heaven. For most medieval Christians that satisfaction would occur for them in purgatory since they lacked the ability to pay off their debt during life. Indulgences are actual written documents which could be purchased from the church and were guaranteed to remit all or part of the debt owed to God and were based on withdrawals from the treasury of merit.
Luther came to see that the sale of indulgences was unwarranted by Scripture and encouraged people to turn away from God and his law as well as from Christ and his forgiveness. Luther desired that the church reform its practice by making true repentance a requirement, view only the work of Christ as meritorious and recognize that the church’s real treasure is the Gospel. As a result of Luther’s debates in Heidelberg and Augsburg, he was required to appear before the Diet of Worms.
There he was challenged by Cardinal Johann Eck, “Martin, you have not sufficiently distinguished your works. The earlier were bad and the latter worse. Your plea to be heard from Scripture is the one always made by heretics. You do nothing but renew the errors of Wyclif and Hus. How will the Jews, how will the Turks, exult to hear Christians discussing whether they have been wrong all these years! Martin, how can you assume that you are the only one to understand the sense of Scripture? Would you put your judgment above that of so many famous men and claim that you know more than they all? You have no right to call into question the most holy orthodox faith, instituted by Christ the perfect lawgiver, proclaimed throughout the world by the apostles, sealed by the red blood of the martyrs, confirmed by the sacred councils, defined by the Church in which all our fathers believed until death and gave to us as an inheritance, and which now we are forbidden by the pope and the emperor to discuss lest there be no end of debate. I ask you, Martin answer candidly and without horns do you or do you not repudiate your books and the errors which they contain?”
Luther replied, “Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”
The earliest printed version added the words: “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.” The words, though not recorded on the spot, may nevertheless be genuine, because the listeners at the moment may have been too moved to write.