The Battle Cry of the Reformation

In times of war, even the bravest soldier can be crippled with fear as the battle looms ahead. In difficult times, the soldier may forget what he is fighting for or begin to doubt if it is a noble cause. Then he hears the general shout and he is reminded and encouraged. Simple words, yet words filled with meaning and power— just what he needed to hear. We call these words a “battle cry.”

A battle cry could be a yell to rattle the nerves of the opposing forces. Or it could be a political or religious phrase to inspire the men to fight. One of the most legendary of these cries comes from a battle at a small Franciscan mission in southern Texas in 1836. Mexican General Santa Anna and his men outnumbered and outgunned the small band of Texas independence fighters. After 13 grueling days, they stormed the fort. Among those who lost their lives were Colonel William B. Travis, James Bowie, and the famed Davy Crockett. The phrase “Remember the Alamo” became the battle cry of General Sam Houston and his men as they fought and eventually captured Santa Ana at the Battle of San Jacinto.

During the Reformation the same idea applied. The leaders of the Reformation knew the battle ahead would be a tough one. Not only must people be ready for discipline from the church, but also from the state. In fact, many people lost their lives in horrendous ways throughout the battles during the Reformation era. However, these were not physical battles, men attacking each other on the field of war. No, these were battles of ideas and beliefs. For the Reformers, the weapon of choice was not a sword or a bow, but books, chief of which was the Bible, but secondly, the writings produced and distributed throughout the land.

The Reformation leaders wrote many books and pamphlets in order to show their positions were founded not on their own opinions, but on the Bible. However, they needed a way to make clear the most foundational tenets they espoused. How did they do this? Through the use of the battle cry.

The battle cry of the Reformation is found in five short Latin phrases that succinctly proclaim the protest of the Protestants: Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria. Each of the Five Solas highlights a Biblical truth that had been eaten up by the traditions of the Roman Church. Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura) means the Bible alone is the sole authority for the church, doctrine, and life. Grace Alone (Sola Gratia) proclaims we are saved by God from sin and death because of God’s grace, not because we have merited any goodness of our own. Faith Alone (Sola Fide) states we appropriate God’s salvific grace only through faith in Jesus Christ. There are no outward religious ceremonies that can merit or manipulate God’s grace. Christ Alone (Solus Christus) means the reason God can be just in forgiving sinners is because Christ was the perfect and complete sacrifice for sin. We cannot add anything to the perfectly sufficient work of Christ on the cross. Finally, To the Glory of God Alone (Soli Deo Gloria) means that because salvation is 100% a work of God that God alone receives the glory.

Together these phrases make up the battle cry of the Reformation. In hearing them now we are reinvigorated by the amazing grace of God. In studying them, we come to understand how thankful we should be for those who gave their lives for this truth. In shouting them as our battle cry, we are reminded that so many people are still under the yoke of religious tradition today, and that our mission as followers of Christ is not over. We must continue to preach and proclaim these truths to the world! Soli Deo Gloria!

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ

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