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  • Writer's pictureTrey Talley

10 Key Points of Reformed Theology

Updated: Feb 17

On October 31st, the thoughts of many are on candy and costumes, but on this day in 1517, the thoughts of one man were centered on theological clarity. On this day, just over 500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Thesis to the door of the Wittenberg Chapel. These were 95 points of disagreement with the teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. He had hoped that this would lead to some great discussions within the Roman Catholic Church; however, (long story short) Luther was ordered not to challenge the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, excommunicated by the Pope, and even had a price placed upon his capture (dead or alive), by the Roman Catholic Church.

What did Luther say to cause such a harsh response?

Primarily it had to do with the fact that he believed the Bible to be the supreme standard of truth. The problem was that the Bible was being hidden from the people. It was unlawful to possess a Bible or to preach, teach, or even speak from the Bible in a language other than Latin, which had become a language reserved only for scholars. The inaccessibility of the contents of the Bible meant that over 99.9% of the people had no way of knowing what was in the Bible. As Luther entered a monastery and was allowed access to a Bible, he was shocked to discover that the Roman Catholic Church’s core teachings were not in the Bible. There was nothing in the Bible of purgatory, a Pope, the Treasury of Merit, praying to Saints, relics, or repetitions of the Hail Mary.

Most important, Luther discovered that the Bible taught a salvation that was by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. Luther was a brilliant man, whose most important work was the translation and distribution of the Bible to the people in their native language. Luther went on to teach and write for many years, but here are some key points that Luther and the other early Reformers taught that can be easily remembered known as the Five Solas. The Five Solas are based upon five Latin words with the Latin equivalent of the English word “alone” placed before them. These are meant to be five quick reference points to the theological difference between the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformers.

The Five Solas

  1. Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura) - The Bible is the sole written revelation of God, our only infallible rule for faith and life, and alone can bind the conscience of believers absolutely. No Popes, Councils, Priests, traditions of the church, organized, or unorganized religion has authority over the Bible. God is the Supreme authority, and His Word bears His authority. It is our role to submit to the Word that He has authorized. Psalm 119:9-16; Matthew 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:16

  2. Grace Alone (Sola Gratia) - Our salvation rests solely on the work of God’s grace. There is nothing a person can do to earn, work, or achieve salvation. Salvation is the unmerited favor of God given to a person due to the perfect work of Jesus Christ. Romans 2:4, 3:20-26; Ephesians 1:3-8, 2:8-10

  3. Faith Alone (Sola Fide) - Justification is by faith alone. By God’s free grace, the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed (given) to us by faith and is the sole ground of our acceptance by God, by which our sins are pardoned. This faith consists of a knowledge of the Gospel, believing the Gospel to be true, and a trusting in the Gospel alone for one’s salvation. Romans 5:1; Galatians 2:16, 3:6-11; Ephesians 2:8-10

  4. Christ Alone (Solus Christus) - Jesus Christ is the only mediator through Whose work we are redeemed. There is no one else who is qualified to mediate between you and God. This exclusion includes Mary the mother of Jesus, all “saints,” or anyone else other than Jesus Christ. John 14:6; John 3:16; Colossians 1:13-20; 1 Timothy 2:5-7

  5. To God Alone Be Glory (Soli Deo Gloria) - Salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God; therefore, to God alone belongs the glory. Since mankind is dead in his sin, and deserves nothing but the wrath of God for rebelling against God, any mercy bestowed upon sinners in salvation should result in giving the glory to God, and Him alone. Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Ephesians 3:21; Colossians 3:17; 1 Peter 4:11

These Five Solas reveal a clear, concise theology that says, “We believe that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to God alone be the glory, and we rely on the Bible alone for our source of authority.”

The theology of the early reformers such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, William Tyndale, etc. spread quickly as Bibles, and Bible-based teachings began to be produced in mass due to the printing press.

However, in the early 1600s, a man named Jacobus Arminius went against the Reformers teaching. The followers of Arminius created an acronym that stood for their points of disagreement. However, the acronym came to be loved by those to whom it was meant to mock, due to its truthfulness and ease of remembering. The acronym T.U.L.I.P, along with the Five Solas, became an easy way to remember the key theological points of the Reformation.


Total Depravity – Often referred to as Total Inability. Every human being is born a sinner and can do nothing in and of himself to right his sinful position before God. People are born sinners and actively pursue sinful behavior. People are spiritually dead in their sins and cannot make themselves come to life spiritually. Mankind is a slave to sin and cannot set himself free. John 6:44; Ephesians 2:1-10; Revelation 3:9-20

Unconditional Election – God, not man, is sovereign over all things, including salvation. Salvation is not based on a condition that we have met. It is based on God’s own free sovereign choice. We, as humans, do not contribute to our salvation. Romans 8:30; Romans 9; Ephesians 1:4-5

Limited Atonement- Also referred to as Definite Atonement or Specific Atonement. Jesus Christ died only for those whom the Father had given Him. His work was perfect, and all those for whom He died will be saved, because He has taken the wrath that they deserved. Jesus died in the place of all the elect taking, paying for their sin, and making peace between them and God. John 10:11-14; John 17:2-9; Romans 8:30

Irresistible Grace- All those for whom the Son died will come to Him for salvation. They will be made willing to come to God on their day of salvation. God regenerates them, bringing them to life, causing right belief and right affections for Him. Since no one seeks after God, God supernaturally seeks and saves all who are His. This is purely an act of His unmerited favor towards His elect. John 6:37; Philippians 1:29; Titus 3:5

Perseverance of the Saints- God guards the salvation of his elect. Everyone the Son died for will persevere and enter into heaven. Both the beginning and the preserving of their salvation is the work of God. There is no power in existence that can remove the believer out of the saving hand of God. John 6:37-38; Ephesians 1:14-15; 1 Peter 1:3-5

Together these ten points are the heart of the Reformation. The Reformers did not create these doctrines. Instead, the Reformers were simply returning to the actual teaching of the Word of God.

This Halloween, don’t just think of costumes and candy, consider Christ, and be thankful for those who cared enough to risk their lives to teach the truth of the Bible.

Dr. Trey Talley, Lead Pastor and Elder

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