Christianity can be traced back to the early church in the Book of Acts where it is recorded that the believers were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26). From then on, the church continued to spread its wings across nations and it soon became the largest religion on earth. Around the 16th century, the reformation movement that wanted to change some doctrinal issues in the catholic church was not successful resulting in a breakaway that came to be known as the protestant church. This resulted in the formation of many denominations including the Lutheran Church.
Lutheranism is based on the teachings of Martin Luther, who was one of the visible leaders of the Reformation movement. Martin Luther raised many issues that he believed needed to be reformed in the church but they can all be encapsulated in his five solas. These solas are:
- Sola fide: Salvation is by faith alone.
- Sola scriptura: Scripture alone is the source of religious authority.
- Sola gratia: Salvation is by grace alone.
- Solus Christus: Jesus Christ alone is the savior of humanity.
- Soli Deo Gloria: Glory to God alone.
These five solas are the primary differences between Lutheranism and Christianity because they represent the things that Luther wanted to change in the church. Let’s have a look at each of them in more detail.
What is the difference between Lutherans and Christianity?
The differences between Lutherans and Christianity can be summarised under the five Lutheran solas namely salvation by faith alone, scripture alone, salvation by grace alone, jesus christ alone, and Gory to God alone.
Let us take a closer look at each of these below:
Sola fide is a Latin phrase that means “by faith alone.” Martin Luther championed this doctrine in response to the prevailing view in Christianity at the time that man could be saved through their good works. Even though the catholic church believed in salvation through faith in Jesus, they also believed that good deeds also contributed to one attaining the grace of God. Salvation by Faith alone is a doctrine that emphasizes that salvation can only come by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It emphasizes that there is no other avenue through which man can be saved except by believing in Jesus Christ. It also emphasizes that those who die without accepting Christ have no recourse in the afterlife. This is unlike what the catholic doctrine teaches which believes that the intercessions of departed saints and other Christians can help save the souls of the departed.
Sola scriptura is a Latin phrase that means “scripture alone”. The scripture-alone doctrine emphasizes that the Bible is the sole source of authority in the church. Martin Luther taught that Christians should only rely on the Bible on matters of doctrine as opposed to church councilors, church tradition, or the papacy as was the case for Christians in his time. The scripture alone doctrine is based on the principle that the Bible is the infallible word of God which contains the will of God for the church. Before Luther taught this, Christians believed that the Pope was the divine leader of the church and that he had the divine mandate of determining the doctrine of the church. Lutheranism teaches against looking upon the pope or any other church leader as the authority since such authority can only be sourced from the Holy Bible.
Sola Gratia is a Latin phrase meaning “by grace alone.” Sola Gratia works hand in hand with Sola Fide because it emphasizes the absence of human effort in God’s plan of salvation. In simple terms, man is sinful and can’t save himself. Instead, he must accept the grace of God through which they can then be saved by faith.
The emphasis on grace means that salvation is a free gift. As such, no amount of labor, goodness, or human effort can help one earn salvation. This is one of the reasons why Lutherans do not observe the seven sacraments that are observed by the Catholics. The Catholics believe that the seven sacraments are a means to God’s grace which contravenes the concept of being saved by faith alone.
Solus Christus is a Latin phrase that means “Christ alone.” Martin Luther emphasized the words of Jesus in John 14:6 where he asserted that He was the only way to God. This doctrine seeks to remind believers that Jesus should be the central focus of the believer because he is the one that came to die for man’s sins. Catholics often pray through Mary and other saints but the Solus Christus doctrine emphasizes that this shouldn’t happen. Instead, believers are encouraged to recognize Jesus as the only mediator between man and God and the only avenue through which man can access God whether for the forgiveness of sins or when seeking answers to prayer.
Soli Deo Gloria
Soli Deo Gloria is a Latin phrase that means “To God alone be the glory.” This doctrine emphasizes that only God should be worshipped. Martin Luther was seeking to correct the common practice of kissing the pope’s feet which was done by early Christians as a sign of reverence. Even though kissing the pope’s feet is no longer practiced today, there is still a form of reverence that is attributed to the papacy. Lutherans believe that such reverence should only be attributed to God. This doctrine is founded on the teachings of the early church where the Apostles were quick to remind laity that they were just ordinary men who were being used by God and they shouldn’t be worshipped or reverenced in any way.
As we have seen, the five solas that were the foundations of Protestantism are also what Lutheranism emphasizes and what makes them different from Christians. Most of the things that Lutheran sought to reform in the 16th century seemed normal to the Christians at that time and this is perhaps the reason why his message of reformation wasn’t received well in the church.