What Are the Five Solas, and Did Elvis Sing About Them?

‘O Sole Mio

When I am driving long distances, particularly when I’m alone (as far as I know), I sometimes sing aloud certain songs to keep me alert. Sometimes I sing songs I know well, and other times I make up lyrics to fill in the gaps for songs I know little of.

One particular song is “‘O Sole Mio,” or “It’s Now Or Never.” I will usually sing to myself and use the words interchangeably, adding in what I know of the chorus of “It’s Now Or Never,” then make up the rest from there. The whole idea is to sing loudly, operatically, in order to keep the blood and oxygen flowing, but sometimes my own lyrics crack me up, especially when I expand on the sexually predatory characteristics of Elvis’ version.

Credit: Wikipedia

Actually, the older (1898) Neapolitan song has nothing to do with the English-language hit recorded by Elvis Presley in 1960. ‘O sole mio actually translates into “my sunshine,” while It’s now or never translates into: “I’m so turned on by your looks that we should have a one-night-stand…I’m outa here come daylight.”

So why am I telling you this? I’m glad you asked.

Sole is the Italian word for “sun.” Luce del sole is Italian for “sunlight.” So, by way of a totally unrelated personal story, I want to segue into something that should be important to us all… I want to shine some luce del sole on the Solas 🙂

“It’s now or never . . .” (Elvis)

The Five Solas

Sola is the Latin word for “alone,” and for a practically 500 years non-Catholics (such as myself) have held five particular “solas” near and dear to our theological hearts.

1. Sola scriptura: “Scripture alone”
2. Sola fide: “faith alone”
3. Sola gratia: “grace alone”
4. Solo Christo: “Christ alone”
5. Soli Deo gloria: “to the glory of God alone”

What do they mean? Well, nothing Elvis Presley was singing about, that’s for sure. The following can be found on a great website whose link is already on my sidebar, GotQuestions.org.

Sola scriptura emphasizes the Bible alone as the source of authority for Christians. By saying, “Scripture alone,” the Reformers rejected both the divine authority of the Roman Catholic Pope and confidence in sacred tradition. Only the Bible was “inspired by God” (2 Peter 1:20-21) and “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Anything taught by the Pope or in tradition that contradicted the Bible was to be rejected. Sola scriptura also fueled the translation of the Bible into German, French, English, and other languages, and prompted Bible teaching in the common languages of the day, rather than in Latin.

Sola fide emphasizes salvation as a free gift. The Roman Catholic Church of the time emphasized the use of indulgences (donating money) to buy status with God. Good works, including baptism, were seen as required for salvation. Sola fide stated that salvation is a free gift to all who accept it by faith (John 3:16). Salvation is not based on human effort or good deeds (Ephesians 2:9).

Sola gratia emphasizes grace as the reason for our salvation. In other words, salvation comes from what God has done rather than what we do. Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Solo Christo (sometimes listed as Solus Christus, “through Christ alone”) emphasizes the role of Jesus in salvation. The Roman Catholic tradition had placed church leaders such as priests in the role of intercessor between the laity and God. Reformers emphasized Jesus’ role as our “high priest” who intercedes on our behalf before the Father. Hebrews 4:15 teaches, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus is the One who offers access to God, not a human spiritual leader.

Soli Deo gloria emphasizes the glory of God as the goal of life. Rather than striving to please church leaders, keep a list of rules, or guard our own interests, our goal is to glorify the Lord. The idea of soli Deo gloria is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

The five solas of the Protestant Reformation offered a strong corrective to the faulty practices and beliefs of the time, and they remain relevant today. We are called to focus on Scripture, accept salvation by grace through faith, magnify Christ, and live for God’s glory.  © Copyright 2002-2017 Got Questions Ministries

Never heard of the five solas of the Protestant Reformation before today? Well, I hope this shed some sunlight – luce del sole – on them for you 😉


Filed under Christianity, God, grace, Martin Luther, Theology

43 responses to “What Are the Five Solas, and Did Elvis Sing About Them?

  1. http://server.firefighters.org/kjv.asp
    Looks like my post vaporized. but here is a help I use for free rather than waste my ears on Elvis.

    • Considering that the Reformation took place before the 1600’s, which one do you think they were referring to? Considering that Luther’s German version and Tyndale’s English New Testament were within four years of each other (1522-1526), I guess it depended on your choice of language. It’s possible, however, that they were already working behind the scenes with influencers of King James and knew that the one-and-only Authorized Version would be published in 1611, and they looked forward in faith to when the truly inspired Word of God would be transmitted to man. Even though the Geneva Bible would become the primary translation in English during the 16th century and used by everyone from Shakespeare to the Pilgrims, they were surely looking forward to the inspired collection of 80 books (including the Apocrypha up until the 19th century) called the King James Version. It’s just so unfortunate, in my opinion, that William Tyndale had to be burned at the stake for his translation…if he could have just held out for another 75 years he’d had the real thing in his hands.

      • Too many words Anthony!

        Christianity as I believe did not come from Luther. The man still believed that sprinkling water upon the head of a baby was salvational.

        My advice is don’t look to Luther.

        Go past Luther to find Christianity.

        Because if you think Luther rescued the Body of Christ, the Church, and that the Church was in the blasphemers of Rome….

        Would you like to discuss that aspect?

        Plus, I need paragraphs. 🙂

      • Was typing on my phone. Couldn’t see more than a few lines at a time, so I didn’t realize I needed some space. Sorry.

      • I certainly do not think Christianity “came from” Luther. However, even though he had some things wrong, his realizing salvation was by grace through faith, that his righteousness was not dependent upon his own holiness, was revolutionary.

        Yes, there were Christians who believed salvation was a free gift of God long before Luther started nailing things to doors, but Luther was positioned to influence the whole of Western culture by freeing Europe from papal authority.

      • And yeah, I can get carried away at times.

    • It wasn’t about which book of the bible but about the reliance on the bible and no some popes new way of seeing how things would be or some tradition. Our faith would be based on what the bible says.

      • Yes, but different bibles say different things. How do you decide which one is correct?

      • Actually, often they can say different things and both be correct. Proverbs 26:10 is a great example.

      • Thats pretty easy. I was concerned about this 30-40 years ago. I thought some of the differences may corrupt my understanding of salvation. I forget most of those issues now. The bloodless bible and just recently the removal of the Jewish nation out of the Danish bible and the catholic bible etc.
        So, back then I bought a parallel bible. It was 4 inches thick. And I bought a Greek to English translation word per word new testament.
        Every text that seemed to matter as people preached and I read, I would check to see. And Honestly it was a waste of time. Sure, I rather have a Old King James but Almost never would I have ended up thinking differently about Jesus Christ, Salvation and Heaven. I even had a Jehovah Witness bible. I would not read that but as I did my devotions I would come across verses that disagreed with their theology. I would then go to their bible and underline it. And say, this is not the scripture but a distortion before I read it. , (knowing they intentionally altered verses.) Still they are not that swift, they missed so many verses that when they came to the door I would pull out their bible and share the gospel with them. If it was just slightly warmer I think their hair would have started on fire. it happens today when they visit. I do it from memory but its less effective. Them seeing me read from their bible has this devastating effect.

        The fact is, Jesus is God the almighty in flesh, nothing can make you alive, we are all dead in our sins, and only forgiveness by his blood and a literal spiritual resurrection by Gods spirit can give us new life. And while holiness is expected, it cant raise the dead. Only God can through his spirit, Being Born Again. The Communion, or Attending church or doing good deeds cannot give you life. Only Jesus, and his spirit in you can give you life. And you can find that in every bible. While Romans 8 is wordy, vs. like vs. 9 interchange the spirit of God and Spirit of Christ. And vs. 11 and 15 etc. spell it out. Every bible I can remember has this chapter. I don’t have the parallel bible with me now but I use Bible gateway and you could too to see vs. 9 and see a dozen versions.

      • Brother, I’m impressed. You have done your homework like a true Berean.

      • I’d swear a couple times the JW’s at the door were about to spontaneously combust. I learned fast that if you disagree with them they have been taught to shut their minds, trained actually to say, this person is not of the truth so do not hear them. So they would ask about something that you would disagree with and the devil would use your words to shut their minds.
        So, I would avoid using anything but their bible. And I would read the underlined portions, and say, this is your bible what is this saying, you tell me. I had one guy who would come weekly to my home for a study thinking he would convert me. We sat on my deck drank coffee and his hair would start sizzling. It really helped to have it all underlined in their bible.
        Because of an abusive guy years back I left all my belongings behind.. long story.. So I lost that work of art. And all my books from bible school including that Greek lexicon, bible history and church history books etc.. I have asked every JW that has come to my house for one if they had an extra but so far, none have parted with one. The Watchtower makes for a great for starting camp fires.

      • I’m on my way to work so I’ll try later.

      • It changed up quite a bit, but by the grace of God I do still have a job.

      • I’ve got two daughters out of work, and their rent is $900+ a month. It’s a lease, so…

      • My point with claiming to be “sola scripture” is that there really is no such thing without an authoritative scripture.

        Without that it’s a no-mans land of different books and it’s in fact, “sola your own opinion.”

      • That’s a valid concern.

      • As I gave earlier, I have a Audio version. I have had both NIV and King James. And I have had little trust in men when it comes to their version of something. But, Because I am born again, and Christ lives in me. I have something others don’t. Along with my heavy reading over the years, the spirit of God himself convicts me, teaches me, prompts me.
        I may not be the nicest or the best speaker or clearest, but, God uses me, and speaks with me as I study his word.
        I haven’t found a serious conflict when it comes to my opinion.

        Lets say I am with a catholic and they are talking about the host coming from the little tabernacle behind the curtain the priest gets. I simply go to the scripture and I try to see if there is a pattern of belief and form that would justify this or suggest its right. It actually says the opposite. So, my spiritual tires come to a screeching halt. its not about my opinion, its literally about being obedient to what the bible says.
        Depending on what part you want to start with. You can literally start with. No one should call you father. (but they call the priest father.) and no one should call someone a priest, because their is only one high priest Jesus Christ and one advocate with the father. So no one else can advocate for you.
        Then Jesus died once for all. so there is no daily or weekly sacrifice. And, Jesus gave communion, not a host, because he was literally physically alive doing communion. He did not cut off his fingers etc. Nor is there any where that it suggests a transubstantiation.
        Then you look for some tabernacle where you should keep the communion bread. there is no suggestion that the bread is not just something the guys brought from their house. Not holy not special, but just a way to remember, not a way to get life or forgiveness. And there is no law or ordinance set out anywhere that suggests that if I do not do it, that I wouldn’t get salvation.
        It appears that salvation is a moment, like a conversion, 3000 saved the first day of the new faith, not 3000 working at being saved by taking communion. In fact in Acts 2 breaking bread was in peoples homes. As was selling peoples possessions. It would appear that garage sales are a way to be saved if breaking break is a way. If you read Acts 2.
        So, How could someone chose to follow a church or tradition rather than the bible. Luther was right, there has to be a standard. Or we could do anything and lead people anywhere. What next bingo rather than selling your possessions? One has to ask what is necessary and what is essential. Trusting me or some inflated pries is no substitute to reading your own bible. 2 Timothy 3:15-16 Hebrews 4:12, Joshua 1:8, Romans 10:8-11, Acts 17:11, Psalms 119:11 (just a few that come to mind.)

      • Just so I can finish my thought, not that I am suggesting this applies to you. But lots of times people will make an excuse about Solo scripture for two reasons. 1) they do not read themselves and do not want to be bothered so making things muddy is easier.
        2) They do not want authority and are comfortable with the way things are with their priest, and they fear that if they read and it disagrees with their church, they will have to deal with it.
        No one should feel that they are dumb and not able to understand, or believe that some guy says, he knows but you couldn’t know. the fear of confusion may actually a fear that you might have to change.
        Again, not speaking to you, but generally.
        In spite of myself, when I see a scripture like 1st John and I read it, its a cold bucket of water if your heart is hard. But rather than go away from it, I say, Lord break me. Help me to let Your word be king and not my attitude.

        You cant do that if you toss in a wrench of ambiguity, that all things are relative. Does that mean we just give the bible the authority just because. No, but If you have done any study and the spirit has convicted you, it comes clear fast you are dealing with a document past the Koran, past the book of Mormon, past early church writers and false gospels. You get cut to the heart and you say, what is this that I am reading. And then you ask why did they set these things aside and call them scripture.
        You realize that all scripture is Identifiable, breathed from God, and profitable for correction. Not in a particular word, it was written and translated by humans, but that there is so much power in What God preserved through these people that he can speak to you through these texts and has intended to do that specifically, and the apostles and Prophets recognized this special action of God.

      • For me, the Bible is the complete and total authority.

        That having been said, not all Bibles say the same things. In those cases, men make themselves the authority over God’s Word.

      • The great thing is that we both believe we are eternally lost without Jesus Christ, the virgin-born sinless second Person of the Trinity. We also believe in the priesthood of the believer. So many more doctrines, too, I’m pretty confident. But on the issue of translations I believe we will just have to be friends. For that matter, I honestly think somewhere there is a breakdown in communication and though we’re in the same book, even the same chapter, we’re on different pages.

      • I was replying to the other guy. :-).

      • So I am the other guy. Wow. Just the other guy? LoL. My name is Scott. I think your caution is reasonable, but the bible does teach humility so where we differ in Interpretation should be livable And I think there is enough strait forward stuff that most important things are agreed upon.
        The Word of God, the bible is said by many denominations to be more generally the word of God able to direct us. Plenary inspiration. while suggesting a careful tidy work of God, we know that the personality and skill sets of the people involved colour the scriptures. Still, I have trust God is able to communicate through the bible. Every Jot and tittle.
        That said, I know for a fact that when God told Moses to do things exactly the way he said, not all of it is written in the bible. So while we might say, the bible is the truth, its not all of it. Lots of things God said was left out. Even the gospels say that about Jesus. That if everything was written about what he did, the bible couldn’t contain it. So, while considered complete, it is not all that God has said or all of his plans so we are left in the dark seeing through a glass darkly. Still that is no excuse, most believe its enough. .

      • Hi Anthony. I was excited for the last couple of days. Remember that Homeless Idea I had, to have a 10×14 cottage with a bed and bathroom on a camp sort of site with a dinning room and a place for counselling and education and help for those to get back on their feet. Well the plans and photos of what I wanted to have done fell on deaf ears.
        Then when meeting with the mayor, he would give zoning and said he would want 40K for development charges per unit.
        So, I kept up meeting with people and pastors and talked with the mayors pastor and he loved the Idea. But still even the church store front mission didnt seem interested.
        Well, Out of the blue I am reading the paper and Oshawa my city, is using a portion of Camp Samac in the north of the city to help the homeless because of the Corona virus. This allows them more social distancing.

        So, the Idea must have sunk in, and God must have worked. And they likely wanted it to be their Idea so they just did it without me. And I am so Glad they did. I am gleeful that the vision was used, and that the homeless will feel like they are worth something. I thought you would enjoy knowing it and the dynamics of how that worked.

      • Well praise the Lord!

      • I guess just being the Idea guy was enough. I don’t have to be in charge of everything or anything. It was strange to see those who could steal my Idea not even a phone call to say, hey we are doing that, but we don’t want your help. Nothing. But thats fine. Is good to see it happen anyways. Its a weird feeling. grateful but at the same time sort of ripped off. but thankful. Oh well, but Yahoo. feels weird. Anyways. My drawings and plans don’t have to be run by me. still it felt weird when I read it in the paper. Those same guys stole my whole thing. I did feel Gods hand on my sharing the Idea. I didn’t realize that was all that God wanted for my part. I think there is something spiritual to learn in it.

      • I’m sorry about that. It’s encouraging to see that you haven’t let it make you bitter, though. But even if people get the reward on earth for stolen ideas, God knows. The good deeds accomplished, I believe, will still be accredited to your account. God will make sure it all squares in the end.

      • Well their is worse. it happens to ministers all the time. they double attendance and triple offerings, have many saved, Lots of baptisms of young people coming into the faith and then they hear from the board they are looking for a new pastor because you didn’t come to the mens breakfast but spent the time at home with the family. No good deed goes unpunished.

        This gently borrowing or theft of a good Idea is nothing.

        I had it once way back after helping start a church, moved my whole life, paid he piano etc. for the church, a new couple of people decided they wanted to join worship. So great, but about 6 months later one of the board members says to me, hey are you coming to the board meeting, if so we can go together. I had no Idea there was a board meeting.
        When I get there, It turned out, I wasn’t invited because those same two people wanted to ask the board if they could kick me out from doing the worship so they could do it alone. LoL. Imagine showing up to one of those meetings. Those clowns risked nothing, had no talent and were some of those wacky ones from another dimension. They had no Idea even what Christian Character was or the Love of God and there they were trying to axe me and I was as dumb as punch not even realizing there was any sort of problem. They thought that they were Gods gift to the world and thought I was holding them back. Wow.

        Oh well. I played for about another year and then packed it in. Actually helped with another church where I did a pioneers thing with 7-8- grade boys, and that was a great success. I played the piano for the Pioneer night etc. What a great time.

        so I look back and I say I am grateful for the stolen Ideas . Not as grateful for some of the dangerous people you find yourself around. I am glad for the impact of serving God. I rather be a servant and get smacked around a bit than have no Ideas, do nothing, and just complain.

        If I am going to get pot shots or things stolen, I might as well be doing it for the right reasons, and loving on people. Dangerous work. On the pride that is. LoL

      • Scott, I had no way of knowing your name.

        I read these on my phone so I don’t see the entire thread, just the replies to me.

        To clarify, I completely believe the Scriptures.

        I also believe when you have a bunch of different versions that say different things, only one version can be correct.

        On another note, my writing style in comments and replies can seem terse when my intent is the opposite.

        Anthony, you know, I hope, that I greatly enjoy your blog. 🙂

  2. What are you saying Catholicism teaches about Soli Deo gloria?

    • Thank you for the question, oh Catholic of Honor 😉 What do you THINK I was saying? I would like to know how you perceived it.

      • I understand that the glory of God is the goal in life, O Mr. Baker (“of honor” was chosen to play into the knight for Christ theme; as a Catholic, I have a natural degree of nostalgia for the medieval period—although I wish I had chosen “The Chivalric Catholic” or something now). What I don’t understand is why that is one of the solas introduced in the language of the Reformation. I understand Scriptura, Fide, Gratia, and Christo (although if someone were to ask me whether if I was saved by grace or Christ alone, I would say “yes” without question). I don’t understand Soli Dei gloria, since I most certainly believe that the glory of God is the goal in life. The most basic thing taught in good Catholic catechesis, lesson 1, is that we are made “to know, love, and serve God in this life and be happy with Him forever in the next”.

      • OK, sorry it took so long to get back with you.

        You know, I took a little time to think about your question, and what I came up with is that it must have been in response to the priestly hierarchy, the papal system, and all that jazz. Now, being a Baptist and not a Presbyterian or even Reformed Baptist, I’m not as educated in the Protestant Reformation as many of my brethren. For that matter, I’m a traditionalist, or maybe a Provisionalist, but certainly NOT a Calvinist like those in the “Reformed” camp. Therefore, I’m not constantly looking back into the minds of those guys, even thought I know it would be beneficial. But even though it would seem than both you and I would think it logical for us to seek the glory of God (for God to receive all the glory He is due), it might be argued that the papal system and all the pomp associated with it might have been somewhere in their early thinking.

        Aside from that, if not based on a papal argument, I did notice that of all the “solas” it is the only one that is more like a “worldview” statement. In all things, whatever we do or think, we live to bring glory to God, not man, the state, or the temporal religious systems of the Church. What do you think?

      • Well, I see what you mean. I suppose that this particular one I suppose Protestants take a little further so far as to exclude the ecclesiastical hierarchy, although I thought that was what Solo Christo is about. I consider myself saved by Christ alone through the Church, but I suppose one would say that Protestants take that further than Catholics as to exclude everything other than Scripture. I mean, in the Ten Commandments, there is “Honor thy father and thy mother”. One could argue that there isn’t true Soli Deo Gloria if one must also bring glory to his parents. However, bringing glory to parents actually brings glory ultimately to God who gave them to us. People probably gave more honor to kings at certain times than to the pope. At certain times in the Middle Ages, including in the time of the Reformation, there may have been too much pomp and comfort for the pope. I certainly don’t think being a pope or bishop should make you rich, as happened at certain times in the Middle Ages. (I said I was nostalgic for the Middle Ages, but I recognize that it had its own problems. I do not like the idea of the Feudal System.) I suppose in that case, pastors with a bunch of private jets should also contradict that to some degree. (I assume you agree that pastors should not be able to collect so many private jets.) Luther definitely had a point about the selling of indulgences. It was done away with in the Council of Trent.
        I think it may have something to do with denying Sola Fide. Since Catholics believe God rewards virtue, it is supposed that they believe salvation is to the glory of man. That isn’t exactly true, as Catholicism teaches that virtue is only possible with God’s grace, and we are all technically deserving of hell.

      • It’s definitely something I’ve never really dug into. Thanks for bringing it up. Gives me something to chew on.

      • In other words, I didn’t know what you were saying. That’s why I asked.

      • If I don’t get back to you on this tomorrow, please remind me. Seriously.

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