By Allen Mandishona
Saved by GRACE alone, through FAITH alone in CHRIST alone, standing on SCRIPTURE alone for the GLORY of GOD alone.
The above is a literal translation of the ‘five solas’ as they were believed by our beloved protestant reformers.
After the famous 95 thesis of Martin Luther, the reformers had the ‘five solas’ as a pillar of their theological and devotional underpinning.
The word sola is a Latin word meaning ‘alone’ or ‘only’. These were the basics of what the reformers used to distinguish themselves from the Orthodox Church.
Below are the five solas and some brief descriptions of what they stand for:
• Sola Gratia (by Grace alone)
• Sola Fide (By faith alone)
• Sola Christus (by Christ alone)
• Sola Scriptura (by scripture alone)
• Soli Dei Gloria (Glory to God alone)
The above five were developed as a defense mechanism (apologetic stance) against attacks on their faith.
If we are to combine the above five ‘solas’, we would say : We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, standing on scripture alone for the glory of God alone. In other words, all our Christian walk should focus on that. It is because of some slight deviations, which I am convinced, if allowed to continue, can result in a legacy of errors and heresies for our future generations, that I have undertaken to write this short piece of work.
I see some are beginning to have faith not in Christ alone, but in Christ and in some other things, not only in Christ but in other men even men raised by God, simply because we seem to be neglecting the five solas which most of the protestant Pentecostal and charismatic family embraced even from the early days of Christianity. I would wish for now, to just focus on two ‘solas’, the (i)Sola Christus and (ii) Sola Scriptura
“Solus Christus” is the teaching that believes Jesus Christ is one with God, that by His death and bodily resurrection He is the unique and only mediator between God and man, and that there is salvation in no other name except the name Jesus. For this belief to withstand the test of scripture, for scripture says’ …in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established’(Mat18v16). By that same token, this teaching must be supported by at least two verses.
The book of Acts demonstrates that our ONLY object of faith should be Jesus. Acts 4v12 says’ …for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved…’ that means its only through the person and works of Jesus(His name, his atoning death, burial and resurrection),that we can be saved.
In Romans 10v9, the apostle Paul says ‘ That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart, that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved’. That clearly shows our focus is Jesus and we should not have faith in anyone else or anything else.
Now the practice that is a cause for concern is that which has to do with the ministry of mediation or priesthood. The bible clearly shows us that Christ is our mediator in the new testament and no man can ever fill that gap. There is no basis whatsoever, at least in the new testament, to turn to anyone, I mean anyone, to be a mediator between God and man except to Christ.
In the new testament, we are made priests and kings, that means we can approach the throne of God on our own without going via other men. Let me make this clear, this does not mean we do not need those that Jesus called to lead us, the likes of pastors, prophets, teachers and so on.
All I am saying is that, even if they help us as God ordained workers, we should never base our faith on them. In other words, if we believe that God can hear us only if our pastors stand between us and God, we stand the danger of living as old testament saints in a new testament and the danger of that is, many will end up placing their faith in man rather than in Christ alone.
Today we have people who are so convinced they need the prayer of so and so who is mightily used by God and besides that so and so, they have no hope or faith that their case will be dealt with or that God can hear them besides their man of God.
We have many people who, not only have faith in Christ, but also believe that over and above Jesus, they need holy water, they need anointed oil, they need aprons and handkerchiefs from men of God. No no no, that ends up with people believing in a salvation that is not in Christ alone, but in Christ and in things.
I am not saying they are wrong in themselves, for the bible even in the new testament talks about elders praying for oil for healing. What I am emphasizing is that, if that becomes doctrine or a basis of a people’s belief system, where people actually are made to believe, expressly or by implication, that without those things, they are not safe, then there is a problem as we can then never truthfully say,” it’s by Christ alone”.
If such a believer is unable to have oil or water, he believes he cannot make it and that is placing our faith in things and not Christ.
There are many deviations from this ‘Christ Alone’ but because of time and space, I will end here for now.
“Sola Scriptura” is the teaching that the Bible is the only inspired, perfect, sufficient, inerrant and authoritative word of God and the only source for Christian doctrine. The idea is that scripture is the only inspired, infallible and final authority for faith and practice.
This means that scriptures carry veracious authority, the legitimate, truthful authority upon which believers ought to derive all teachings and practices. This does not mean that, all the other instructions of the church are not helpful or authoritative, rather unlike them, the word of God is infallible, that is, it is error free, perfect, foolproof and flawless while everything and everyone else is fallible.
For this cause, all other authorities, even if what they say and teach is valid, because they are fallible or imperfect, they must always be subordinate to the teachings of scripture. It is only scripture that carries with it the breath of God. 2Tim3v16-17 says, “all scripture is give by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction…” and “…that the man of God may be perfect…”.
The word so translated ‘inspiration’ comes from the greek word theopneustos which means God-breathed. In other words, God superintended over the writings of scripture so its authority is derived from God for He breathed over it during its writing. Our new birth was necessitated by Christ and His word or scripture. James 1v18 says ,”of His own will begat He us with the word of truth…” that means scripture is an important aspect in the regeneration process of man.
I have heard people says statements like , “ in our church we do such and such and believe so and so”. Some say in our church we pray for water, some for oil some for this and that. No problem with all that. My only issue with that is, if you ask many of them, they won’t be able to support what they believe by at least two or three scriptures. It’s just church tradition and customs.
It’s so disheartening to see people sometimes elevating church tradition above the word of God. The word of God may say one man one wife, but we hear some say in our church we have as many as we want because David had many, because Solomon had many. They forget we are living in a totally different testament.
We need to interpret the old testament in light of the new and never should we live like old testament saints during a new testament dispensation. That’s where we have a huge challenge. The notion of scripture interprets scripture is also an important notion that is usually ignored despite the clear benefits of it.
Many other things that clearly were for the old testament saints are being done in a new testament dispensation yet when they came to Jesus in the new testament, with a prostitute caught in the act, they wanted Jesus to accept them to exercise capital punishment on the woman.
That capital punishment was an old testament phenomenon yet they wanted to do it in the new dispensation and Christ rebuked them for that. Not saying we disregard the old, but just that we need to understand that the old was a shadow of the new and that the old is interpreted in light of the new.
By all this, I am not saying we should disregard the authority and leadership we are given by God, but am just saying we need to put our priorities right. We need to give the word of God the position it should, the authority it carries. Its’ so easy for a leader to issue a word and expect his followers to take it as law or final authority, yet scripture is so clear that our only final authority is the bible.
Sometimes I am taken aback when I hear people say ‘ I do this because our leader said so’ not even because the bible says so. The danger of this is that, man gets elevated to the position of scripture and before you know it, followers begin believing in their leader more than in Christ and His inerrant word.
Some are beginning to deviate from the basic principles and practices of our charismatic and Pentecostal fathers and are getting swept away by some ‘ good to hear’ but unscriptural teaching. I am reminded of the Berean church that had the audacity to ‘question’ the teachings of Paul to the extent of thoroughly scrutinizing all he would say in a bid to avoid strange doctrine.
The craving for new revelation has also become an ingredient for strange and wayward teaching all in the name of ‘new truths’. I love revelation, I love it big time, but we should bear in mind that even when God through His Spirit reveals secrets to us, it’s not like a ‘new thing’ altogether, it’s the old truth that we did not know.
For me, I believe there is nothing like new truth. The Holy Spirit through His illuminating work is said in John 14 that He will reveal all truth to us. What is revealed is something that has been hidden, not that it did not exist ,but just that it was unknown.
So I see men crying for new revelation as if it never was, it never existed and some get carried away by this. It’s simply because we sometimes do not take the word of God the way we should. It is our rule of thumb and our measuring line and we should always remember that it is our final authority.
I have a heavy heart in writing this because, to some, it would appear as if I am fighting what I believe. But no, it’s because when I see the secondary given pre-eminence, I get concerned.
When I see the word from men being taken as equal with God’s word, that should be a cause for concern. When we see church tradition and teachings being talked about and referred to more than the bible, then there is a problem that we need to correct before we pass it on to new future generations.
All having been said and done, I am convinced that there is still room for us to measure up to scripture and go back to our ‘first love’ for the Lord.
A great man of God once said this to me that ,’ if you seem to have been lost in the jungle when in a journey, the best thing to do is to go back to where you started and start all over again’. Having said that, am convinced that some kind of going back to ‘basics’ no matter how backward that may seem, can be the best we can do to avoid completely falling away from grace.