What It Means to be Reformed
One of the best ways to help describe to someone what it means to be a Reformed Christian is by using the the Five Solas of the Reformation. These were the battle cries heard around the world that came out of the Protestant Reformation.
History of the Five Solas
The historical setting of the Reformation involved serious disagreements with the Church of Rome over certain doctrines and traditions. In an effort to return the church to a proper foundation, the Reformers sought to clarify biblical teaching in main areas of belief and practice. The chief areas of reform can be summarized by what is sometimes referred to as the five solas of the Protestant Reformation (“sola” is Latin for “alone” or “only”).
Sola gratia ("grace alone")
Salvation comes by grace only, not through any merit on the part of the sinner. The sinner does not earn or deserve God’s mercy and forgiveness; it is given freely as a gift.
Sola fide ("faith alone")
Justification (that is, being declared guiltless before God) is received only through faith. It is not the result of good works or the efforts of the sinner. Even the faith itself is a gift from God.
Sola scriptura ("Scripture alone")
The Bible is the only inspired and authoritative Word of God and is self-interpreting (Scripture interprets Scripture). Although traditions can be good and profitable, they must be informed by the Scriptures. Only the Bible provides the rule for faith and practice in the Christian church and life.
Solus Christus ("Christ alone")
Christ is the exclusive mediator between God and man. It is only because of His perfect, sinless life and atoning death that any sinner can be right with God. Neither Mary, the saints, nor priests (other than Christ, our great High Priest) can act as our mediator in bringing salvation.
Soli Deo gloria ("Glory to God alone")
Since salvation is accomplished solely and entirely through His works, all glory, honor, and praise is due to God alone.