October 31st marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Perhaps the most well-known doctrines that the reformation emphasized are the five solae (often referred to as “solas”), literally meaning “alone.” What significance does each sola have to evangelism today?
Sola scriptura (Scripture alone)
This doctrine teaches that the Bible alone is the highest source of authority on how to live the Christian life. This doesn’t mean church tradition holds no importance, but rather that the infallible Word of God is the benchmark by which all other faith matters are evaluated. For our evangelism efforts, this means that our words must primarily flow from the Bible, not from church tradition or a system of philosophy or logic. When we present the gospel, our presentation should be saturated with Scripture. The power of the gospel is found in God’s words, not ours.
Sola gratia (Grace alone)
Grace refers to undeserved favor from God which cannot be earned. It is only because of God’s favor that He saves anyone. God rescues people from the penalty of their sin (eternal separation from Him) because He chose to, not because He sees any goodness or merit in us or even the potential for goodness or merit. Salvation is not a partnership or cooperative effort. It is God doing 100% of the saving.
Sola fide (Faith alone)
We are saved through faith alone in Christ alone. This means that we bring nothing to our salvation except trusting in Jesus. As an old hymn says,
“Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” No amount of good works or intentions, religious rituals or pedigree can help a sinner take even one step toward heaven. Our goal in evangelism is for the listener to trust in Christ alone.
Solus Christus (Christ alone)
This truth centers around the fact that salvation is found in Christ alone: “For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Evangelism is about lifting up Jesus’ name and inviting people to come to Him by faith. We invite people to trust in a person, not religion, not “Judeo Christian” values, not even a set of propositions. Only Christ saves.
Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone)
This fifth sola emphasizes that the glory for our salvation belongs to God alone. If we have the privilege of seeing someone trust Christ after explaining the gospel to them, we should be careful to give God all the glory and credit. Just as a farmer can take no credit for a seed bursting forth with life, we have no control whatsoever over whether a person comes to faith. Our job is simply to deliver the gospel message and leave the results in God’s hands.
As the hymn says, “To God be the glory, great things He hath done.”
(Note: This article originally appeared in EvanTell's 2017 Fall issue of Toolbox. View our Toolbox archives!)