The Five Solas: Soli Deo Gloria

What if I could give you the answer to every existential question in 3 words?  Seriously.

  • Why does the universe exist?
  • Why am I here?
  • Why do things happen?
  • What is the meaning of life?

1 blog post. 3 words.

This isn’t some semi-gnostic, TBN, “God gave me the secret to the universe while I was sleeping” craziness. Not anything that could be used to sell some mysterious spirituality which would get me invited to Oprah’s next birthday bash.  Real answer, from scripture.

Ready?

Soli…Deo…Gloria

This is it.  The dividing line of God-centered (theocentric) vs. Man-centered (anthropocentric) religions. The reason that everything in the universe was created. The reason you exist.  Why miraculous works were performed in scripture, and why Jesus came.

A concept so beautiful that Johan Sebastian Bach finished his sacred compositions with SDG.

It is the purpose for all existence.  Let that sink in, it is the very reason for all things.  And you may well have grown up in church without ever hearing about it.

The answer? Soli Deo Gloria. Glory to God alone.  God does all things for His own glory.

As always, anytime someone dares to speak for God, they’d better be bringing scriptural passages (not just single verses strung together across books/authors/and subjects), in context. 

How did all things come into existence, and for what purpsose?

[15] He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. [16] For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. [17] And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. [19] For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, [20] and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

(Colossians 1:15-20 ESV)

How were they created? by Christ (v16) Why? For Him and for His glory (v16-18).

Let’s look again:

[1:1] Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
[2] Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
[3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, [4] even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love [5] he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, [6] to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. [7] In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, [8] which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight [9] making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ [10] as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
[11] In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, [12] so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. [13] In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, [14] who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

(Ephesians 1:1-14 ESV)

Wow! Do you see it? You, as a believer in Christ, were blessed as HE chose YOU before the foundation of the world to be adopted in Christ to HIS glory! (v1-6).  God works this, and ALL things to the council of His will to His Glory!

The reason for all things?  God’s glory.  He does ALL things to His own glory.

So what about me? Where do I come in?  Isn’t God concerned with my happiness? My success?

God is for God. Please get that. I know, your Mom, the nice lady in your small group, and your Purpose-driven Pastor told you that God is just impotently standing around, hoping and waiting for you to step into that “God-sized-dream” he has for you, but it’s just not so. It’s just not scriptural. God works all things to HIS glory. The good news for us, as shown above, is that since God is the absolute standard of goodness, the things He works for those who love Him and whom He has called will ultimately lead to our JOY (if not necessarily our temporary happiness).  This should change your view on virtually every aspect of your life.

Success is no longer judged by my desires, or the worlds standards, but by what brings the most glory to God. In this view Paul, the prisoner is more exponentially more successful than Paul (Saul) the respected academic and Pharisee.

Happiness is no longer our focus, but joy; knowing that in spite of any temporal situation, the ultimate outcome (even if it never comes in our life on earth) is our joy, to His glory.

It is why Jesus didn’t come for temporal happiness, but for God’s glory;

[37] All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. [38] For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. [39] And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
(John 6:37-39 ESV)

The Father has given His people to the Son, the Son has come to earth to do the Father’s will, and that is that he lose none that the Father gave Him, but raise them up on the last day. “Happy”? Crucifixion is, literally, where the term “excruciating” comes from. “Successful”? The creator of the universe being executed in a manner so shameful that it wasn’t even spoken of in polite company. “Prosperous”? Hardly. Jesus, who is God, became a servant, was born as a man, and was executed. He who knew no sin became sin.  Why? To do the Father’s will, for His glory. Unfathomable!

With this view, my worship is no longer about my preference, but His glory. Not about my feelings or self-esteem, but my complete immersion in the truth as revealed in His word, to His glory. God’s glory will be made manifest in all men, either through his perfect grace to those who are in Christ, or through his perfect justice to those who are not.

In closing, we see that not only are the 5 Solas wrapped up in Soli Deo Gloria, but the purpose of the entire universe in encapsulated in the life-changing realization that all things are being done, actively, by the God of the universe to His glory which is to the ultimate good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Get this. Soak in it. Pray that the Holy Spirit would change your heart and that God would be gracious in showing you this truth.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Marc

Further reading:

Here is a tremendous little book, free in .pdf: God’s Passion for His Glory by John Piper

The Five Solas: Sola Gratia

What are the Five Solas, and why would I spend time reading about them on your blog instead of playing Doodle Jump? Or Words with Friends? Or watching sneezing Pandas on YouTube?

The Five Solas (sola from the latin “alone”) are the bedrock of much of what you believe if you are an evangelical christian. (Great, a history lesson.. with latin no less.) OK, before you run off and start looking for “fail compilation” on YouTube, stick with me for a minute. You need to know these things for a few key reasons:

1. Only by knowing what you believe can you identify and defend against what you don’t.

2. Really smart people have defined these truths over the centuries. I get it, they dressed funny and they’re all dead now, but in spite of the fact that they didn’t have iPhones or access to google, they did the heavy biblical, linguistic, and theological lifting that most of us have no ability (or work ethic) to accomplish.

3. It gives us an early warning capability. There is truly nothing new under the sun; every “new wave” that hits the modern evangelical church is a simple twist on a centuries old heresy. If you don’t understand them, you’re easy prey to them. (Molinism anyone?)

4. We’re called to do so in scripture:

[15] Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

(2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)

With that… Sola Gratia!

What is Sola Gratia?  The doctrine of Sola Gratia (By Grace Alone)  asserts that our justification before God and our salvation are both ONLY by God’s grace and not dependent on ANY action or condition provided by man.  So, as we understand form Sola Fide that salvation is by faith and not works, we also understand that faith itself is a gift of  grace.

Why is this important?  First of all, it’s important because this is rarely, RARELY taught anymore.  In fact, in casual conversation with fellow christians, I find that MOST believers state a position which actually contradicts not only the historic christian faith, but their own denominations.  If that surprises you, please keep reading and honestly evaluate your understanding at the conclusion. Which of the three common views did you hold when you started reading?

The question here, the answer to which has been played out over the centuries of church history, is: How is man able, in his fallen/sinful state, to make a “good” choice (faith)?  There are three primary views: Two of which are orthodox views;  That due to man’s fallen nature, God must enable his faith (Augustinianism and Arminianism), while the third is the view that man’s will was not compromised by “the fall” and he is therefore capable of exercising faith without divine enablement (Pelagianism).

Note: While each of these men held various beliefs on this complex issue, it is important to note that these names/beliefs attributed to them are to point out specific differences. It is not unusual in church history for extensions of these beliefs (used to provide greater clarity in the differences of thought) to be assigned to a person who never held them. (For example, many things now labeled under the umbrella of Arminianism were never held by Jacob Arminius himself, but are seen as an extension of that school of thought).

Augustinianism:

As is typical in church history, much of what we believe is clarified in response to false teaching (heresy).  In other words, someone started teaching something unusual, and church leaders would meet to clear up what it is we actually believe.  These councils were important in clarifying the christian faith as well as documenting the discussions.

In the early 400’s (412-415), a teaching by Pelagius, stating that man’s fallen nature did NOT prohibit him from exercising faith, began to gain popularity. In response, Augustine responded, and Augustine’s views were affirmed during the Council of Carthage, and the Council of Orange (during which Pelagius was declared a heretic).

Augustine defended the view that regeneration precedes faith but also that it must precede faith. Because of the moral bondage of the unregenerate sinner, he cannot have faith until he is changed internally by the operative, monergistic (God working alone, without our assistance) work of the Holy Spirit. Faith is regeneration’s fruit, not its cause.

In other words, our nature is dead in sin and God must change our “heart of stone to a heart of flesh” by an act of his grace BEFORE we exercise faith.

Click here to read some of Augustines’ writings against Pelagianism:
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf105.html

Arminianism:

This belief is attributed to Jacob Arminius. He held that God’s work in us consisted of “Prevenient Grace” which undoes the effects of sin sufficiently that we may then freely choose to believe. An individual’s act of faith then results in becoming part of the body of Christ, which allows one to appropriate Christ’s atonement for oneself, erasing the guilt of sin.

If this sounds similar to Augustinianism, it is in many respects. The main differences (which will not be discussed in detail on this post) are: The extent/efficacy of the atonement, The “resistibility” of God’s grace, and the security of the believer.  For the purposes of man’s depravity, however, they are quite similar and orthodox.

Pelagianism:

Pelagianism is a theological theory named after Pelagius and taught during the early 400’s (circa 412-415). It is the belief that original sin did not taint human nature, and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without Divine aid. Thus, Adam’s sin was “to set a bad example” for his progeny, but his actions did not have the other consequences imputed to Original Sin. Pelagianism views the role of Jesus as “setting a good example” for the rest of humanity (thus counteracting Adam’s bad example). In short, humanity has full control, and thus full responsibility, for its own salvation in addition to full responsibility for every sin (the latter insisted upon by both proponents and opponents of Pelagianism). According to Pelagian doctrine, because humanity does not require God’s grace for salvation (beyond the creation of will), Jesus’ execution is devoid of the redemptive quality ascribed to it by orthodox Christian theology.

In other words, man has (in his natural state) the ability to “make a decision” for Christ.  This is not a historical or orthodox christian view. While this is likely what you believed when you started reading this blog post, it is almost certainly not the position of your denomination.  See what happens when people stop teaching that “stuffy theology”? We fall into what has been considered heresy for hundreds of years!

Here are the creeds of the Council of Orange who condemned Pelagius’ teachings:
http://www.creeds.net/ancient/orange.htm

So, ask yourself. Before you read this did you believe that all men naturally had the ability to “make a decision for Christ” on their own?

If so, it’s a heresy. It would be outside of the beliefs of all major denominations, including; Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God, etc.   All of these denominations hold that apart from a divine enablement by God, no man can come to faith in Christ.

It is my sincere hope that this post has given you a new level of appreciation for the incredible grace which God has shown us by changing our hearts to hear the gospel and to come to Christ in repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

As always, i’m available at marc5solas@gmail.com for questions and discussion!

Marc

The Five Solas: Sola Fide

What are the Five Solas, and why would I spend time reading about them on your blog instead of playing Doodle Jump? Or Words with Friends? Or watching sneezing Pandas on YouTube?

The Five Solas (sola from the latin “alone”) are the bedrock of much of what you believe if you are an evangelical christian. (Great, a history lesson.. with latin no less.) OK, before you run off and start looking for “fail compilation” on YouTube, stick with me for a minute. You need to know these things for a few key reasons:

1. Only by knowing what you believe can you identify and defend against what you don’t.

2. Really smart people have defined these truths over the centuries. I get it, they dressed funny and they’re all dead now, but in spite of the fact that they didn’t have iPhones or access to google, they did the heavy biblical, linguistic, and theological lifting that most of us have no ability (or work ethic) to accomplish.

3. It gives us an early warning capability. There is truly nothing new under the sun; every “new wave” that hits the modern evangelical church is a simple twist on a centuries old heresy. If you don’t understand them, you’re easy prey to them. (Molinism anyone?)

4. We’re called to do so in scripture:

[15] Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

(2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)

And now, the rumble royal of the reformation, Sola Fide!

The doctrine of sola fide “by faith alone” asserts that God’s pardon of guilty sinners (justification) is granted and received through faith alone and excludes any and all works. (If you are unclear on what justification is, or the difference between justification and sanctification, please read here: Stuff Christians Should Know). As we have discussed previously, all men are fallen and sinful and under the just wrath of a righteous God. But God, based on the sinless life, atoning death, and resurrection of Christ, grants sinners judicial pardon.

Judicial? As in courtroom? Exactly. This is exactly the language the Apostle Paul uses in the New Testament.  Since we are sinful and God is holy, how can He declare us righteous when we are sinful without compromising His own holiness?

1. He places our sin upon Christ, which makes us then “not guilty”.

If Christ’s work stopped here it would be grace beyond measure. But incredibly, it doesn’t.

If you’ve always just heard that Jesus died for you, well, that’s true. But if all he needed to do was die, why didn’t he just come and die? Because:

2. Christ’s righteous life is applied to us as well.  He fulfilled all the requirements of the law during His sinless life.  So not only are we declared “not guilty”, we are declared RIGHTEOUS!  What grace!

This sounds like stuffy theology? Imputed? Is it really a big deal to be so technical about it?

“No doctrine is more important to evangelical theology than the doctrine of justification by faith alone–the Reformation principle of sola fide. Martin Luther rightly said that the church stands or falls on this one doctrine.” – John MacArthur

Yes, it’s that important. We’re talking, men were burned at the stake rather than deny it important. Ask this guy (Thomas Cranmer) if this it “nitpicky/dry/dead theology”:

So what are some errors here?  Why should we known and guard against them?

Our normal human leaning is to try to DO something to earn or keep our salvation. As crazy as it sounds, man has proven over and over again through the bible and through church history to try to add SOMETHING to faith alone. The Judaizers in the New Testament tried adding elements of the law.  Nearly every cult will add Faith +, faith plus some other act.

Note: We’re talking about justification here. There is hard, ongoing, consistent work (empowered by the Holy Spirit) in ongoing sanctification. Again, confusion between the categories of justification and sanctification is fatal! Why?

Scripture itself makes sola fide the only alternative to a damning system of works-righteousness: “Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believesin Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom. 4:4-5, emphasis added).

In other words, those who trust Jesus Christ for justification by faith alone receive a perfect righteousness that is reckoned to them. Those who attempt to establish their own righteousness or mix faith with works only receive the terrible wage that is due all who fall short of perfection. So the individual as well as the church stands or falls with the principle of sola fide. Israel’s apostasy was rooted in their abandonment of justification by faith alone: “For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3). 

While this isn’t one of the more exciting subjects, and it’s easy to assume we’ve “got it”, makes it all the more dangerous.  As much as we “know” that salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone, check yourself. Watch how easy it is for us to bring something other than “the empty hand of faith” and try to add requirements other than faith to salvation. And this, puts us in a category we do NOT want to be in: ”

So, the quick takeaway to keep in mind:  Faith alone in Christ alone. PERIOD.  Anything else added on that is, well….

As always, questions to e-mail at Marc5Solas@gmail.com

Marc

The Five Solas: Sola Scriptura

What are the Five Solas, and why would I spend time reading about them on your blog instead of playing Doodle Jump? Or Words with Friends? Or watching sneezing Pandas on YouTube?

The Five Solas (sola from the latin “alone”) are the bedrock of much of what you believe if you are an evangelical christian. (Great, a history lesson.. with latin no less.) OK, before you run off and start looking for “fail compilation” on YouTube, stick with me for a minute. You need to know these things for a few key reasons:

1. Only by knowing what you believe can you identify and defend against what you don’t.

2. Really smart people have defined these truths over the centuries. I get it, they dressed funny and they’re all dead now, but in spite of the fact that they didn’t have iPhones or access to google, they did the heavy biblical, linguistic, and theological lifting that most of us have no ability (or work ethic) to accomplish.

3. It gives us an early warning capability. There is truly nothing new under the sun; every “new wave” that hits the modern evangelical church is a simple twist on a centuries old heresy. If you don’t understand them, you’re easy prey to them. (Molinism anyone?)

4. We’re called to do so in scripture:

[15] Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

(2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)

With that, the first Sola….. SOLA SCRIPTURA “Scripture Alone”

Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) is the belief that the Bible is the only inspired word of God and the sole guide to our faith. This means that everything that God has ordained for us to know is made clear in scripture alone.

[16] All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [17] that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

(2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

Let that scripture sink in. Understand that Sola Scriptura was written in response to the Roman Catholic church which believed that scripture alone was not the sole guide to faith, but also the extra-biblical (outside of the bible) traditions and rulings of the church. The scriptures make it clear that scripture is “God-breathed”. The greek here is fantastic… θεόπνευστος (theos/God pneuo/breathe). Literally, the scriptures were God-breathed. (Make you want to read your bible more?)

Not only is scripture God-breathed, but it is sufficient to equip the believer for every good work. It’s ALL you need! It’s the breath of God!

(This is NOT to mean “solo scriptura”. We believe the bible is sufficient in all areas of our faith, but there are other books which are helpful for subjects outside of our faith..like car repair, mathematics, world history, etc.)

Now, this was written to say that we have what we need in the Bible. Most of us agree 100% there. We don’t tolerate church leaders giving us “new” stuff outside of scripture. (Joseph Smith/Mormons, Jehova’s Witnesses, etc.)… but do we truly believe Sola Scriptura in practice, or do we allow people to take information, which is not θεόπνευστος (theopneustos/God Breathed) and put it on par with scripture?

In practice, we often unwittingly deny the sufficiency of scripture. How are some ways the modern church brings in extra-biblical sources and puts them on the level of scripture?

1. Vision Casting: If you haven’t been exposed to the seeker-sensitive movement, this is THE focus. The pastor has a vision for what God wants for the church, puts it into a plan, “casts” the vision before the church and that vision (since it’s “directly from God”) is now on par with scripture. (If you ever hear “without vision the people perish” and the speaker is talking about church planning.. run.) In fact, this plan often takes the place of the biblical mandate in many churches, and puts them in direct contradiction/competition with God’s stated plan for the church. (Preaching the Gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sins, and making disciples is often pushed aside for “Meeting the needs of the community”.)

2. Extra-biblical sources/Personal Experiences: Every few years, someone comes out with a “return from hell/heaven” type book and they sell like hotcakes. The problem? It’s not biblical. To say you believe that scripture is sufficient, and to then grab another source is absurd. If you won’t read your bible, but are willing to devour the testimony of a 4-year-old, you need to reconsider. We’ve reached such a state of post-modernity in our country that the one thing you cannot question is someone’s personal experience. So, we unwittingly take personal experience (feeling, “burdens on the heart”, visions, extra-biblical prophesies, “words from the Lord”) and make them equal to scripture. This is absolutely not sola scriptura.

3. Pragmatism: Pragmatism is, in a nutshell, a philosophy which assesses the truth of beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application. In other words, if it works, it’s true. (The problem here should be glaringly obvious! We base truth upon scripture, not upon what the world views as “success”.)

How does this play out?

The Church Growth Movement (aka Seeker-Sensitive)

We’re called to preach a crucified savior, and to call sinners to repentance and faith for the forgiveness of sins. The problem? Telling visitors that they stand as objects of wrath before a Holy God will not likely lead to the “success” of your church.  So what do we replace the offensive message of the gospel with?

The Church Growth Movement (aka Seeker-Sensitive)

Is growing the church bad? I mean, don’t we want more people? Church growth isn’t bad, it’s just not our mission! We are to focus on and preach the gospel, GOD grows His church! If our focus is growth and not gospel it leads to adoption of what works, not faithfulness to what we’re called to.

This is pragmatism. This is pragmatic to the core. It’s market driven. Find out what people want to hear and give it to them. Maybe season it with a “verse” here or there, but nothing offensive like sin, wrath, atonement.  How about better marriages? Better kids?  Happy communities?  And to grow you can’t ask people to repent of sins against a holy God… that won’t do at all. How about “make a decision” to become a “Christ follower”?  “Step into the great plan God has for you?”  That’ll sell.

The problem? In a pragmatic search for “success”, we’ve replaced the god-breathed scriptures with… what?

The Bible speaks very clearly to this in 2 Timothy 4:

[4:1] I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: [2] preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. [3] For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, [4] and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

(2 Timothy 4:1-4 ESV)

Ouch.

Ask yourself the next time you’re listening to a sermon; Are you hearing Scripture? Are you hearing the very breath of God, sufficient for every good work? Is the speaker fulfilling his obligation to preach the word of God? Is the focus on reading, understanding, and applying scripture in context, or are you having you ears scratched?

Here are a couple of ways to tell if you’re hearing the word:

1. Are you learning sections of scripture, in their original context or are you getting a single sentence, without context, sandwiched between cute stories or jokes?

2. Can you take your notes from the sermon (or series) and find it clearly laid out in the text of scripture, or does the message need single verses, plucked from context, to assemble a thought not found clearly taught in the bible? (Red flag:  “This word/verse speaks to…..”  you’re about to hear something from OUTSIDE the text added to it, and I can almost guarantee it will be “do this”/law).

How to test it?  Take the verse that is used, take notes on what is said.. now go BACK to the verse, read the chapter in CONTEXT and see if what was preached is found IN THE TEXT. Is it what the author wrote or would the sermon you were given be completely foreign to the author. Would you ever, from an actual reading of the TEXT, get out of it what was just preached to you?

3. Is the focus more on your felt needs (more money, better job, your goals, happiness) or on Christ? Is the problem you face being defined as a “best life now” or as a sinner under judgement and in need of a risen savior?

4. Is the hero in the story Jesus and his victory of sin, death, and the grave or is it you over the “giants” in your life?

5. Is there a presentation of sin, repentance, and forgiveness or is it a checklist for self-improvement?

Jesus said the scriptures were about HIM. We are called to teach about Him for the remission of sins. If you aren’t hearing scripture, and you aren’t hearing about Christ and his atoning work to call sinners to repentance, what are you trading it for?