The Reformed faith can be defined by the well known acronym T.U.L.I.P. However, another way it can be defined is by the five "solas" which are Soli Fide, Soli Gratia, Solus Christus, Soli Scriptura and Soli Deo Gloria. Perhaps these are familiar and then again perhaps they are not. These may also be more commonly known as "by Faith Alone", "by Grace alone", "Christ alone", Scripture alone" and "Glory to God alone." These phrases were born of the Protestant Reformation and were used to define the Reformers basic beliefs. The Latin sola means "only" or "alone". Each bears its name as a testimony to the heart of the true Reformed faith and each is worth at least a brief examination.
First, a look at Sola Fide which is often called "The Heart of the Gospel" because it answers the basic question of all mankind which is, how can sinful man be justified before a perfect and righteous God? This teaching comes to us through the book of Galatians and particularly, chapter 2, verse 16, which states, "... yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law because by works of the law no one will be justified."
Contrary to others, the Protestants (Reformed) add the word alone. There is nothing we can add to attain our salvation for our works are nothing but "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). "Only the merit of Christ can set us right with God and we access this merit by trusting in Christ alone" (Tabletalk, August 2009, pg. 46). We should also note that we are justified first, the Lord does not wait for us to be righteous first or we would never be justified.
As each sola is tied to one another, a brief study of each is required. Next time: Sola gratia, by Grace alone.
Want more? Here’s a short video from R.C. Sproul of Ligonier Ministries on "Faith alone."