Reformation Day

The Five Solas of the Protestant Deformation

Happy Reformation Day!

Originally published September 15, 2017

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. October 31, 2017 will commemorate the date in 1517 when Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 theses – a list of grievances against the Catholic church for unbiblical doctrines and practices – to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Luther’s calls for reform spread quickly throughout Europe, inspiring the likes of church fathers Ulrich Zwingli (Zurich), John Calvin (Geneva), and John Knox (Scotland) to join the effort in their own locales. As they worked to address the issues raised in Luther’s document, these men codified what we know today as the “Five Solas of the Reformation,” the basis of Protestant church doctrine. The five solas are:

1. Sola Scriptura– Scripture alone is the basis for all church doctrine, belief, and practice. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

2. Sola Gratia– Salvation is by grace alone. It is an unmerited gift of God based solely on His goodness, not our own (because we don’t have any). (Ephesians 2:8-9)

3. Sola Fide– Salvation is through faith alone. Faith is a gift bestowed by God. We are saved only by placing that faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross, not by doing good works or by any other attempts to earn salvation. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

4. Solus Christus– Salvation is found in Christ alone. As Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

5. Soli Deo Gloria– God saves man for God’s glory alone, and Believers are to live our lives to glorify Him alone. (Romans 11:36)

The five solas should be the foundation of the church’s orthodoxy (beliefs or doctrine) and our orthopraxy (church practices). But over the past five centuries there’s been a declension. A downgrade. The church has become deformed from the beautiful biblical portrait of a bride “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” because we’ve functionally replaced the Five Solas of the Reformation with pragmatic, and often idolatrous, solas of our own making…

No longer is Christian doctrine and practice governed strictly by sola Scriptura, especially among Christian women. Now it’s all about our own personal feelings, opinions, and life experiences. Won’t go to a church that preaches sin and repentance because it offends your sensibilities? You’ve become accepting of homosexual “marriage” because someone you love dearly has adopted that lifestyle? Believe God is in the habit of talking to people because you’ve “heard His voice”? Then you’re basing your doctrine and practices on your own feelings and experiences rather than on what the Bible says.

The Christian’s instructions for life and godliness are found in only one place: the Bible. We do not squish Christianity into the mold of what makes us happy, what we agree with, our relationships with others, or the things we’ve experienced. We start with the Bible and we bring everything else in our lives – everything we think, feel, believe, say, and do – into submission to it. If a personal feeling, opinion, or experience conflicts with Scripture, it is wrong. We don’t change Scripture to fit our perspective, we change our perspective to fit Scripture.

If you want to know what road the modern church is headed down simply pick up your Bible and turn to… the Old Testament. Especially the verses that say “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Jesus said the way to greatness was humility, servanthood, and anonymity. We want glory, recognition, and applause. God says, “walk in My ways.” We say, “I’ll consider that if it fits in with my plans, is agreeable to me, and makes me look good to others.” We “welcome” the Holy Spirit into His own church as though we own the place. We are so used to being on the throne of our own lives that we use words like “letting” or “allowing” God to do something without even realizing it. We don’t ask, “Is it pleasing to God?”, we say, “If it’s pleasing to me, it must be pleasing to God.” Goodbye soli Deo gloria. Hello soli ego gloria.

More and more, “Christians” are driven by the selfish greed of “What can God do for me?” rather than the pursuit of holiness. So-called Christian teachers who will scratch itching ears are sought out, and an abundance of hucksters are at the ready, eager to “give the people what they want” in order to make a fast buck.

These people who claim the name of Christ care nothing about following in His footsteps – or even knowing what those footsteps are – craving instead the temporal creature comforts of wealth, success, popularity, health, self esteem, and influence. They want to be told what their flesh wants to hear, and they want to believe that’s Christianity. Share in Christ’s sufferings? Never. Away with the Via Dolorosa. Lead us down the primrose path.

Spotlights. Merch. Audiences of thousands. Agents. Entourages. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the Christian celebrities from the secular. The star-struck church has created its own caste system in which biblical fidelity is measured by how many books you’ve sold, the number of attendees at your megachurch or conferences, and the size of your audience on social media. That many followers? That number of bestsellers at the Christian retail chain? She must know what she’s talking about. We’ll use her books for our women’s “Bible” study – no vetting necessary! But that 85 year old pastor who’s been faithfully expositing the Word to his rural congregation of twenty for the better part of his life? No kudos. No esteem for honorable servants of the Lord such as he. We want glitz and glam and hype and bling. We want to be cutting edge, relevant, and attractional. Because maybe – just maybe – some of that glory will rub off on us. And so it goes – we follow the latest and greatest Christian authors, bands and personalities, attracted more to their pretty faces, stylish clothes, and charisma than to sound doctrine, while Christ’s sheep, relegated to a dark corner of the sanctuary, bleat to simply be fed the Bread of Life and the Living Water.

What’s hot rightthisminute? What’s the current style, the latest trend, the fad du jour? The Church of What’s Happening Now wants to know. Whether it’s today’s Christian bestseller that simply every small group is using now, dahling, or caving to whichever way the wind is blowing today when it comes to the world’s sexual morality, if we can just ride the viral wave of the immediate we can get people in the doors, money in the offering plate, and souls into Heaven. Maybe.

Vox populi, vox Dei? Have we forgotten how uncool it was to be the only one building an ark before rain was invented? That idol worship was the latest thing going in Jeremiah’s day? That it was the crowds who cried “Crucify Him!”?

The God of the Bible is not hip and groovy. He’s seen as hopelessly out of touch with current morals and values. A doddering old fool who just can’t seem to get with the times. His holy ways are antiquated and obsolete. We’re modern and educated and wise to the ways of the world. We know better how His church and our lives should run.

Just what is it we’re building our Christian doctrine and practices on these days? ‘Cause it sure isn’t the unadulterated written Word of God and the original five solas. Maybe it’s time we took a good hard look at how far we’ve slidden in the last five hundred years. How far we’ve strayed from the purity of Scripture and doctrine the Reformers worked so hard for, were imprisoned and persecuted for, were martyred for.

Maybe it’s time for another Reformation.


Additional Resources:

Why We’re Protestant: An Introduction to the Five Solas of the Reformation by Nate Pickowicz

What was the Protestant Reformation? at Got Questions

5 Questions and the 5 Solas at The Cripplegate

1&2 Timothy Bible Study

1 & 2 Timothy: Lesson 13- Wrap Up

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Read 1-2 Timothy

Questions to Consider

As we wrap up our study of 1-2 Timothy today, re-read these brief epistles and think about the things God has taught you through His Word.

1. Was there anything new God taught you that particularly impacted you? What was it, and why was it so significant?

2. In what ways is the church today similar to the way it was when Paul wrote these letters to Timothy? In what ways is it different?

3. In what ways do you see churches and pastors today obeying or deviating from the instructions in 1-2 Timothy? How has this affected the church itself and the church’s witness to the lost?

4. Drawing from your study of 1-2 Timothy, make a list of 10 adjectives that should describe the structure (how things operate, how the church is led, orderliness, etc.) of a biblical church.

5. Again, drawing from your study of 1-2 Timothy, make a list of 10 adjectives that should describe the spirit (how church members regard and care for one another, how a pastor is to care for his flock, etc.) of a biblical church.

6. What did you learn from the study that challenges you to be a better member of your church? What are some practical ways you can carry out what you’ve learned?

7. What did you learn about pastors and their responsibilities that can help you encourage, pray for, and help your pastor?


Homework

Spend some time in prayer this week asking God to show you how to put into practice one thing you learned from your study of 1-2 Timothy.

Recite all of your memory verses from 1-2 Timothy. Which one is most meaningful to you right now?

 

1&2 Timothy Bible Study

1 & 2 Timothy: Lesson 12

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Read 2 Timothy 4

Questions to Consider

1. Recalling that 2 Timothy was written as a letter, no chapter and verse markings, notice how chapter three flows into chapter four. Read 3:15-4:2a. What is the focal point of these verses?

2. We’ve seen charges in previous chapters, and chapter 4 starts off with a charge. Break down the charge in verses 1-2,5 into three sections:

1. The seriousness and grave responsibility of the charge– Describe the gravity and weightiness of this charge to Timothy and all other pastors. How does this type of charge compare to others you’re familiar with, such as the swearing in of a witness in court or the President taking the oath of office?

2a. What are pastors being charged to do?– Think about some of the shenanigans you may have seen in the church- pastors preaching about movies, conducting interviews with Christian (or not) celebrities during the sermon time instead of preaching, pastors who preach “God told me” extra-biblical revelation, sermons that consist mainly of jokes and personal stories, etc. Considering the seriousness of the charge to “preach the Word” do pastors have the leeway – before God – to do such things?

2b,5. In what manner are pastors to carry out this charge?- What does it mean to “be ready in season and out of season”? What do the words reprove, rebuke, and exhort mean? What would that look like in your church, from your pastor? Why would a pastor need to exercise “complete patience”? If a pastor shies away from preaching about certain biblical issues, is he correctly carrying out the charge to give “complete teaching”? What do each of the points in verse 5 mean, and how should pastors carry them out as they preach the Word?

3. Keeping this serious charge to pastors in mind, examine 3-4 light of 1-2,5. Notice that verse 3 starts with a pivot point, “for,” which, in this context, means “because.” Why does the Holy Spirit, via Paul, hammer so hard on preaching the Word in 1-2? Because 3-4. Explain what verses 3-4 mean.

If “people will not endure sound teaching” (3) and will “turn away from listening to the truth” (4), what is the point of pastors preaching the Word (2)? If people are just going to turn away anyway, why bother? Think about this in light of these passages. Who is the church for? How does preaching the Word benefit the sheep (Believers) a) by nourishing them with Scripture and b) by drawing a line of distinction between true Believers and false converts who only want their itching ears scratched? How does this line of distinction help us with evangelism? How does it help the spiritual health of the church?

4. Examine verses 6-8. Notice that verse 6 starts with “for” (because). Why (6-8) is Paul passing down all these instructions in 1-2 Timothy to Timothy especially, and to all pastors?

5. Put yourself in Paul’s shoes as you read 6-22. Recall where Paul is as he’s writing this (go back to the introduction in lesson 8 {link above} if necessary), and what is transpiring (16). Notice the theme of being deserted by others. How many times does Paul mention others deserting him? Does he seem to want revenge for this? Who is Paul’s comfort when deserted by others? (17-18) Do you get the impression Paul feels sorry for himself? Does he focus on His circumstances or does he choose to focus on spiritual truths? Make a list of the spiritual truths he focuses on in these verses. How could you apply and focus on these comforting spiritual truths the next time you’re in a difficult or lonely situation?

Compare the “faithful to the finish” life of Paul to other Bible characters (Solomon, Uzziah, etc.) you’re familiar with who started the race well, but turned from God later in life. Ask God to help you run the race well and finish faithful.


Homework

Do you think the “time has come” (3)? What is one way you have personally seen verses 3-4 fleshed out in the church today? How would this situation have been helped or changed if the pastor had taken seriously his charge in verses 1-2? Take some time to pray for those involved in that situation.

Have you ever seen a “verse 3-4 situation” in which the pastor did take seriously his charge to preach the Word, reprove, rebuke, etc., and the story had a happy ending with repentance and restoration to the truth of the gospel? Consider dropping a note to the pastor thanking him for obeying God in that situation.


Suggested Memory Verse

1&2 Timothy Bible Study

1 & 2 Timothy: Lesson 11

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Read 2 Timothy 3

Questions to Consider

1. Recalling that 2 Timothy was written as a letter, no chapter and verse markings, read how chapter two flows into chapter three (start around 2:22). What has Paul been discussing in chapter two and how does he transition into a new, yet related, line of thought in chapter three? Notice how 3:1 functions as a pivot point between the two trains of thought.

2. When are the “last days“? (1) What word does Paul use to describe the last days? (1)

3. Study 1-9, taking care to read 2-5 as one (long) complete sentence. Notice the set and subset of people Paul describes in this passage. What is the set described in 2-5 (notice the first two words of 2)? Are these verses generally speaking of Christians or non-Christians? Which words and phrases in these verses lead you to this conclusion? What is the subset (“For among them…”) of people described in 6-9? If Paul speaks of false teachers as being a subset of non-Christians, what does this imply about the spiritual condition of most false teachers?

4. How does verse 5(b) tell us to deal with the types of people described in 2-5? Does this include false teachers? Which words and phrases in verses 4b-6a lead us to this conclusion?

5. What do the phrases “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” and “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” mean? Are these phrases describing lost people in general, or false teachers, or both?

6. Carefully examine verses 6-7. Why do you think the Holy Spirit intentionally specifies women in verse 6? Think about the women you know who have been “captured” by false teachers and how verses 6-7 describe them.

7. Look closely at 6-9. Who were Jannes and Jambres? (8- use your cross references, click here for more help). Who do the words “these men” (8) and “they” (9) refer back to (6)? Why do you think the Holy Spirit brought Jannes and Jambres to Paul’s mind when he was writing about false teachers? What are the similarities between these two men and the false teachers Paul is describing?

8. Keeping in mind that this is a letter written to a pastor, and to pastors today, why is it important for pastors to be aware of these things, and what sorts of practical actions should they take in response to these instructions and warnings?

9. Notice how verse 10 serves as another pivot point to a new line of thought. Describe the compare and contrast element Paul uses here between 1-9 and 10-17. Who/what is being compared?

10. Imagine you’re Timothy reading this letter. Make a list of the things in 10-17 that you would find encouraging as a pastor.

11. What can we learn about persecution from verses 11-13? Does God always “rescue” Christians from persecution?

12. Read verse 15 in light of 1:5, and explain the impact godly mothers and grandmothers can have on their children and grandchildren when they train them in the Scriptures.

13. Study verses 16-17. How do these verses refute the unbiblical idea that the words Jesus spoke during His earthly ministry (“red letters”) somehow carry more weight than the rest of Scripture? (Ex: “Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, so it must have been OK with Him.”) How do these verses refute the unbiblical argument people sometimes make about 1 Timothy 2:12 that, “That’s not God giving that command, that’s just Paul’s personal, human opinion.”?

14. Peek ahead to the first few verses of chapter 4, and notice how chapter 3, especially verses 16-17, feed into the the thoughts in chapter 4.


Homework

Review verses 4b-9, and consider a) how the Holy Spirit describes false teachers and the spiritual damage they do to the church, and b) how the Holy Spirit instructs us to “avoid such people”. Think about how this applies to individual Believers and the church today – the music we use in worship service or listen to on Christian radio, the materials we use in Bible study and Sunday School classes and for our own personal Bible study time, the evangelical celebrities we follow and share on social media and the ones quoted by our pastors and shared by our church’s social media pages, the conferences we attend or that our church hosts, etc.

Make a list of practical ways you and/or your church can obey verse 5’s instruction to “avoid such people” and pray for God to give you and/or your church leaders wisdom in this area.


Suggested Memory Verse

1&2 Timothy Bible Study

1 & 2 Timothy: Lesson 10

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Read 2 Timothy 2

Questions to Consider

1 . Examine the phrase, “You, then, my child…” in verse 1. Who is “you/my child”? Notice how the word “then” in this phrase makes it very similar to phrases like, “Therefore…,” “So then…,” or “Because of this…”. What is our rule of hermeneutics when a chapter or verse starts with this kind of transitional phrase? (Hint: see question 6 in lesson 9, link above). Where should you look next?

How do the themes of suffering for the gospel, not being ashamed of the gospel, and guarding the deposit from chapter 1 relate to what Paul is about to tell Timothy? Trace the line of entrusting the deposit of the gospel, beginning with Christ entrusting it to Paul. To whom did Paul entrust it? To whom is Timothy to entrust it? (2)

2. “Think over what [Paul] says” (7) in the illustrations he uses in verses 3-6, asking the Lord to “give you understanding in everything.” Who do the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer represent? (1-2) What is Paul’s admonition to Timothy and these men in each of these illustrations? Do these admonitions apply only to pastors and elders? How might they apply to the average Christian today?

3. In verses 8-13, we have our repeated motif of Paul summarizing the gospel in the middle of instructing Timothy. What impact has it had on you to see the Holy Spirit continually driving home the gospel in these epistles regardless of what instruction He’s giving pastors and the church? Does your pastor help your church to center on the gospel in everything – sermons, music, worship service, Bible study classes, fellowship, church business, programs, evangelism, missions, and the church member’s daily life? What is the significance of the word “remember” at the beginning of verse 8 and “remind them of these things” at the beginning of verse 14?

4. Explain the significance of the themes of “suffering” (as carried over from chapter 1) in 1-13 and “quarreling” in 14-26.

5. Examine each of the times a form of the word “quarrel” is used in 14-26. (14,23,24) Does this mean that disagreement, controversy, and confrontation are always to be avoided in the church regardless of the issue? Recall the examples of controversy we have already seen in 1 Timothy. What issues did these controversies have to do with? Do they seem to be the same issues of “quarreling” Paul is talking about in this passage? What do “quarrel about words” (14, 1 Tim. 6:4) and “foolish, ignorant controversies” (23) mean? What is the difference between these types of controversies and quarrels and the necessary factions Paul describes in 1 Corinthians? Considering how Paul has already warned Timothy about quelling false doctrine in the church, is rebuking false teachers taking part in “quarrels about words” and “foolish, ignorant controversies” or being “quarrelsome”?

6. Examine verses 15-19. List the things in verses 16-18 that can bring chaos and disorder to the church. Explain the instructions and precepts in verses 15 and 19. Notice how these instructions and precepts bring stability and unity to the church, and how these two verses “bookend” or contain the chaos in verses 16-18. What does this tell you about the church, and you as an individual, walking in obedience to God?

7. Examine verses 20-21 in light of verses 22-25a (note the “So” at the beginning of verse 22). How do verses 22-25a describe how someone may “cleanse himself from what is dishonorable”? What are the characteristics of someone who is “a vessel for honorable use”?

8. Who is “the Lord’s servant” in verse 24? Compare verses 24-25a with the qualifications for pastors and deacons we saw in 1 Timothy 3. What are the similarities and differences? How could you walk out the instructions in 24-25a as a mother, leader, Bible teacher, while evangelizing, or while defending the faith? Verses 25b-26 tell us why pastors, teachers, and, yes, even a mom or a woman sharing the gospel should exhibit these characteristics. What is that reason? How do verses 25b-26 point back to the gospel-centrality of the church, pastors, and individuals we looked at in #3?


Homework

How do we know which controversies are “foolish and ignorant” and which ones are important biblical issues that must be settled according to Scripture? Give 2-3 examples of each kind of controversy that you’ve experienced or witnessed in your church or with other Believers. What would have been the biblical way to handle each of these controversies? Take some time in prayer to ask God to help you avoid foolish, ignorant controversies but to stand firmly in controversies over the truth of His Word, and the wisdom to discern the difference.


Suggested Memory Verse