What are the "four solae"?

· author: Thomas · reading time: ca. 2 min.

The “four solae” summarize the basic ideas of the Reformation: Only through personal faith that Jesus Christ died for our faults do we go to heaven – not through good deeds. For evangelical Christians, only the Bible counts as a foundation.

In 1517, Martin Luther started the Reformation, which gave rise to today’s Protestant denominations. The essential basic ideas of the Reformation were later summarized in four points, the so-called “four solae”.

As an evangelical Christian, I still consider the “four solae” to be a useful guide for matters of faith. They themselves have no authority (unlike the Bible) and they do not conclusively answer all questions of faith, but they are a good summary.

The “four solae” are designated by the Latin terms “fide”, “gratia”, “Christus” and “scriptura”. These are always preceded by the word “solus” or “sola”, which means “alone” or “only”. The plural of this word is “solae”. Translated into English, the “four solae” are called:

  • “by faith alone”
  • “by grace alone”
  • “through Christ alone”
  • “by Scripture alone”

The “four solae” have the following meaning in detail:

Sola fide

Only through his personal faith does a Christian enter heaven, not, for example, through baptism, participation in the Lord’s Supper, or membership in a particular church. Such things are only an outward sign of an inward decision.

Sola gratia

Only by grace from God does a Christian go to heaven, that is, because he has accepted that God, out of love, has forgiven him all his faults. Good deeds, donating a lot of money, following certain rules/commands or going to church regularly, on the other hand, do not lead to heaven.

Solus Christus

Only by believing that God, in the form of His Son Jesus Christ, took our mistakes upon Himself and then went to heaven as a pioneer, a Christian also goes to heaven. No other God, saints, angels, priests or other people can make that happen.

Sola scriptura

Only what is written in the Bible, the Holy Scripture, serves as the basis for defining what constitutes Christian faith. What people have made up afterwards, even if it was practiced by a large church for a long time, for example, must submit to that.