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The five solas

1. sola scriptura (Scripture alone)

Sola scriptura, sometimes referred to as the formal principle of the Reformation, is the belief that “only Scripture, because it is God’s inspired Word, is our inerrant, sufficient, and final authority for the church” (God’s Word Alone, 23). Notice, the basis of sola scriptura is Scripture’s inspired nature. As Paul says, “All Scripture is breathed-out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). That cannot be said of church tradition, councils, or church leaders, as important as they all may be. While Scripture may have many human authors, it has one divine author. The Holy Spirit, Peter tells us, carried along the biblical authors so that what they said, God himself said (2 Peter 1:21), down to the very words.​
For that reason, Scripture is also inerrant, inerrancy being a corollary of inspiration. Inerrancy means that Scripture is true, without error, in all that it asserts. As the Holy Spirit carried along the biblical authors, he ensured that their human words reflected his own holy character. Hence Scripture is truth because God himself is truth. It is, after all, God’s Word. Inerrancy is essential not only because it provides warrant for our assurance, giving us every reason to believe Scripture is trustworthy, but inerrancy also distinguishes Scripture from all other fallible authorities. Scripture alone is our infallible, inerrant authority.​
Last, sola scriptura means that only Scripture is our sufficient authority. Not only does Paul say all Scripture is God-breathed, but on that basis, Scripture is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Or as the Belgic Confession says so well, “We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein.”​
Sola Scriptura teaches us, in the end, that all other authorities in the Christian life serve underneath Scripture, while Scripture alone rules over other authorities, for it alone is God’s inspired, inerrant, and sufficient word.​
- Matthew Barrett​
Sola gratia (by grace alone). God’s grace alone, not human goodness and effort, saves sinners. Evangelical theology does not teach people to look for salvation in sacraments, good works, or decisions for Christ. It stands opposed to notions of human freedom, willpower, or merit. Salvation belongs to the Lord. The words of Christ resonate with us: Ye must be born again (John 3:7). This implies that mankind is deeply corrupted by sin and that we are unable to save ourselves (Romans 3:10–12; Romans 8:7–8; Ephesians 2:1–3). Salvation is not a matter of receiving instructions about how to help yourself out of a predicament; in salvation, God raises those who are dead in sin to a new life of faith, hope, and love (Ephesians 2:5–10).

Sovereign grace exalts God in blessing us and humbles us in receiving his blessing. Grace calls us (Galatians 1:15), regenerates us (Titus 3:5), justifies us (Romans 3:24), sanctifies us (Hebrews 13:20–21), and preserves us (1 Peter 1:3–5). We need grace to quicken us, to forgive us, to return us to God, to heal our broken hearts, to strengthen us in times of trouble and spiritual warfare, and to keep us to the end. Sovereign grace crushes our pride. We want to be the agents of salvation, not mere recipients. By nature, we rebel against sovereign grace, but God knows how to break our rebellion and make us friends of this grand doctrine. When God teaches sinners that they are depraved to the very core, sovereign grace becomes the most encouraging doctrine of all. From election to glorification, grace reigns in splendid isolation and locates all our life and joy in the Lord. Joel Beeke Reformed Systematic Theology