Dear Brethren,

The greatest revival in Church history must be the 16th Century Protestant Reformation which is best remembered on 31 October 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses at Wittenberg. We must not forget this great spiritual revival so that we may be warned against apostasy and be exhorted to seek the “old paths” (Jer 6:16). Our Church has specially set aside this month October to remember Reformation with weekly biography of Reformers, quiz to refresh our memory, reformation video to be screened on 21 and 28 October, Christian book sales and finally commemorating Reformation Sunday on 28 October worship service.

The key doctrinal feature of the Reformation is best summarised in five Latin watchwords : Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solo Christo and Soli Deo Gloria.

Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)

The Reformation was wholly founded on the Word of God only: Sola Scriptura! All the Reformers, like Luther, rejected the doctrines of tradition, councils and popes, wherever they contradicted Scripture. Conversely, they sought to build every reformation principle they advocated from the Scripture. Scripture alone is the perfect inspired and preserved Word of God and the final authority for all matters of faith and life. Thus, the Reformation rejected the unbiblical Roman Catholic doctrines such as Purgatory, Transubstantiation, worship of Mary, saints and angels. Neither is there any basis for believing in the validity of an infallible apostolic succession. It was for this reason that the Reformation was essentially anti-papacy.

Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)

All the Reformers believed that sinners are justified (declared righteous by God) and saved wholly by grace through faith (Eph 2: 8,9). The Reformers  agreed that man is totally depraved, and that apart from the grace of God all men would be lost. Works do not earn us any merit towards our salvation at all. We are saved only by the grace of God: Sola Gratia! This high view of God, and our indebtedness to Him, together with the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God, forms the basis of the Christian life of the believer under the Reformation umbrella.

Sola Fide (Faith Alone)

The words that had the most impact on Martin Luther’s salvation were: “The just shall live by faith” (Rom 1:17; Hab 2:4; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38). It was after a full realisation of the meaning of this verse that Luther began to repudiate the Romish doctrine that both works and faith are necessary for our salvation. If man is totally depraved, how could any work be sufficient to merit his salvation? Even our righteous deeds are filthy rags in the sight of God (Isa 64:6)! But the just shall live by faith! We are saved by faith trusting only in the Lord Jesus Christ who lived a perfectly righteous life on our behalf, and then suffered and died in our place for our sin.

Solo Christo (Christ Alone)

Solo Christo is a very important reformation principle which was especially developed by John Calvin, who says: “Christ is the beginning, middle, and end—that it is from Him that all things must be sought—that nothing is, or can be found, apart from Him”. The Reformers, moreover, taught that there is only one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2:5). Therefore salvation is not to be found through the Church. Man must go directly to God through Christ. The priests do not qualify to be mediators; neither do Mary and departed saints, and neither do angels. Solo Christo, Christ alone is the mediator.

Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)

Soli Deo Gloria was a principle that had been eclipsed by the pomp and power of the papacy and of the Roman Church prior to the Reformation. It was because the Reformers saw that glory must be ascribed to God alone and that God must be glorified according to His self-revelation and the means He has instituted, that they cared not to please men (Gal 1:10) as they sought to bring the Church back to biblical purity. We may say that it was the principle of Soli Deo Gloria that drove the Reformers on in their work.

Elder John Leong