Five 'Sola' Proclamations
Foundations of Reformed Life Theology
Reformed Life Theology(RLT) does not pursue a new theology.
RLT is a faith movement that seeks to persuade the Christian Church to go back to the Bible. It is rooted in historic traditions and teachings of John Calvin and other sixteenth century reformers.
RLT is also a theological movement challenging various theological communities to go back to reformed theology.
As a theology, there is nothing better than the reformed theology. However, no matter how good a theology may be, if it becomes a mere intellectual discipline without the life-rejuvenating power of Jesus, it falls short of being the theology that Christians ought to uphold and practice.
Many churches and theological schools pursue reformed theology today; yet, they have lost the spiritual power due to a lack of understanding and appropriate praxis.
Self-denial and self-sacrifice empowered by the cross have become scarce. Furthermore, passion for Lord Jesus among the Korean churches has become a thing of the past.
In such a theological climate of our time, RLT seeks to rekindle passion for the reformed theology by pronouncing and reaffirming the series of its five “Only”(sola) proclamations. These proclamations are the foundations of our confessions and movement
Only the Bible (Sola Scriptura)
- “Only the Bible” proclamation affirms that the sixty-six books of Old and New Testament books are written in inspiration; and therefore, constitute the only cannon applicable to our faith and life. The Bible teaches us what to believe and what is required of us pertaining to our relationship with God. Until the Reformation, Roman Catholics insisted that not only the Bible, but also the Church and tradition were the sources of Christian truth. In contrast, the reformers asserted that only the Bible is the Word of God and thus has the final authority over the others. However, prescribing to “Only the Bible” does not mean that God’s power and wisdom demonstrated in the midst of the created world and man’s common knowledge are denied. Traditions and customs handed down through the Church are given a proper place. Therefore, the main emphasis is that the Bible is the final authority to interpret and assess the true meaning of all these things. The Bible is esteemed to be the final authority, because it consists of the final revelations about Lord Jesus. Man’s salvation was accomplished and completed through Christ’s saving work. Along with the completion of man’s salvation through Jesus, the revelation of God also came to completion; since no new revelation was needed after the complete work of Christ. With such understanding, we uphold that God's revelation came to completion with the closing of the cannon and thus, “Only the Bible.”
- “Only the Bible” emphasizes the importance of the Scripture as the guide and principle for Christian faith and life. Yet, such a confession would be useless, if we do not read and meditate upon the Bible diligently. We have to remember that “while the Bible is the bestseller of all times, it is also the least read book.” The original author of the Bible is the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it would be wrong to attempt to understand the Bible solely on the basis of academic investigations. The Bible proclaims, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20~21). Since the Bible was written in inspiration, a sound interpretation of it would be very difficult, if not impossible, unless the interpreter is filled with the Holy Spirit. The reformers used to assert the principle “The Bible must be interpreted by the Bible.” By this principle, we believe that the reformers emphasized the important role of the Holy Spirit in the interpretation process. They were saying that unless we humble ourselves and get down on our knees and seek the Spirit’s guidance, we cannot attain proper interpretation of the Bible.
- Practical Suggestions
- Christians who read the Bible will experience the presence of God deep in their hearts when the Spirit guides them. Only the pastors praying for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to guide them can proclaim the life-filled gospel. Bible schools that promote theological educations other than the Bible-based one must be discouraged. Since theology is the result of faithful reading and meditation of the Bible, any theology not mindful of the Bible would be an irony. Therefore, offering required courses on the Bible reading and writing as a part of the curricula at Baekseok Seminary and Divinity School may be considered as a significant move in a new direction. We have to restore the authority of the Bible not only in theological dialogues, but also in the everyday life of Christians.
Only Christ (Solus Chistus)
- “Only Christ” means that Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and humankind and is the only Savior of our lives. In other words, it proclaims that Jesus is the only way to the eternal life. At the time of Reformation, the Roman Catholics acknowledged the possibility of a mediator other than Christ between God and humankind and thus promoted a too church-centered soteriology. We can never overemphasize the importance of Church in Christian life. However, unqualified equating of the Church and the Kingdom of God is problematic.
- We live in an age of tolerance and therefore shun exclusivism. In such spirit, “Only Christ” has been undermined greatly or even been threatened. Despite the Bible’s claim that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), religious pluralism does not reside outside of the Church only, but is also prevalent within the Church as well. We cannot deny that we live in the age of religious pluralism. Nevertheless, we have to remember that the early Christian church was also under the great stress of religious pluralism.
- Practical Suggestions
- Korean Church must restore Christ’s spiritual life-force. Preaching the Word must include Christ’s life-giving gospel. It is troubling to realize that the proclamation of Christ’s cross and resurrection has been continually decreasing from the Korean pulpit. People do not come to Church to hear expositions on ethics or worldly knowledge. Sinners do not need sermons decorated with elaborate rhetorics. They need the life-filled gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing” (John 6:63). RLT is a movement seeking to restore the pulpit with the proclamation of Jesus’ bloodstained gospel. Some people assess the present Korean Church’s problem to be the lack of ethical behaviors. Others point to the prevalent unhealthy division of the holy and unholy matters among the Korean Church as the problem. These assessments are valid to some extent. However, RLT believes that these are mere symptoms of the problem, not the core. These side-effects reflect the fundamental problem of the Church that it has failed to proclaim the gospel filled with Christ’s life-resuscitating power. The restoration of Christ’s life-giving gospel in the pulpit is the only hope for Korean Church. Such proclamation is possible only when the Holy Spirit helps and empowers the preachers. Moreover, the preachers themselves must be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to be a part of the life-sharing ministry of Christ. Theological education must change as well. Theologians must not teach theology as an academic discipline only; they themselves must also be filled with Christ’s life-force first and then raise students who can do likewise in ministry. RLT seeks to change all the wrong practices of theological education in order to train pastors to be filled with Christ’s spirit.
Only Faith (Sola Fide)
- “Only Faith” upholds that we receive the salvation and eternal life only through faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, we as the sinners can become righteous only through faith in Him. To the reformers, “Only Faith” meant that no one can attain righteousness through deeds and therefore, the forgiveness of sins was possible only through God’s grace. No one can become righteous through good deeds alone (Romans 3:10~12, 20). The Bible clearly states that we attain righteousness only by faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21~22, 28).
- The reformers’ repudiation of those who argued that we need not only faith, but also good deeds for salvation by “Only Faith” was appropriate. However, emphasis on “Only Faith” does not mean all forms of good deeds are futile and useless. It is wrong to add deeds as a part of the requirement for salvation; it is also wrong to rationalize and be satisfied with faith without deeds. Such misunderstanding has resulted in the absence of ethical behaviors in Korean Church.
- Practical Suggestions
- We confess that salvation has nothing to do with merits or qualifications on our behalf and it was given to us solely on the basis of “Only Faith.” At the same time, there has to be fruits of obedience in our lives. The salvation we have received through faith must be accompanied by good deeds. RLT completely agrees with the biblical teaching that “faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26). The fact that we have Christ’s life has to be demonstrated through two things. We are reminded that Christ’s life must be visible through our words and deeds and therefore, we must strive to make sure that Christ’s life we have received influence our words and actions. Since we receive salvation through faith, it has nothing to do with our deeds, but at the same time that faith will be dead without action. In this regard, RTL is the movement promoting Christ’s life to become actualized in our lives. As people subscribing to the RTL movement who confesses that salvation is by “Only Faith,” we must also be careful to realize that transformed lives are possible after the salvation, only when we abide in faith and the Holy Spirit. If we prescribe to “Only Faith” and yet do not abide in the Holy Spirit, our confession will deteriorate to a mere belief or idea. We have to be careful not to walk in the path of the Galatians who “started in faith, but finished in flesh” (Galatians 3:3). The main source and motivation of our actions do not lie in us, but in the help and guidance of the Spirit that dwells in us. In order to be empowered by the Spirit’s help and power, we must continuously engage ourselves in prayers and communion with the Spirit. RTL is a theology of knees and heart. We are reminded that “this kind can come out only by prayer” (Mark 9:29) and therefore must pursue this movement with much prayer.
Only Grace (Sola Gratia)
- “Only Grace” signifies that all things including faith and salvation were given to us by God’s grace. The Bible testifies that the Lord is the God of Grace. “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8). Our salvation came solely as God’s grace. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith?and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Since ‘we are who we are’ by the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10), we have nothing to boast. The reformers rediscovered Augustine’s theology of grace which had been lost during the Middle Ages. As the consequence, they all had promoted and emphasized God’s grace only and God’s grace became very prominent in their theology, because this grace was the foundation of the doctrine of justification by faith.
- We live in an age where this gospel of grace is seriously undermined and even threatened. Since today’s people live primarily concerned with self-interest and self-fulfillment, it is not hard to find people who refuse the gospel of grace. People prefer their own effort over God’s grace. They are very self-conscious and refuse to give others proper credits. In order to survive in the society of boundless competition, people give the best efforts they can; yet, they are hopelessly anxious. In such an age of uncertainty and anxiety, we must testify to them how wonderful “Only Grace” is through our words and deeds. When we become a people living by “Only Grace,” we will get to enjoy the life of true freedom and peace and rest. In this regard, “Only Grace” is needed today than at any other time in human history. However, if we do not deny ourselves and forgive others while proclaiming to live by “Only Grace,” we are nothing more than arrogant boasters of ourselves and therefore cannot glorify God.
- Practical Suggestions
- The reason why we have disputes with each other is because we have an arrogant heart and think that we are better than others. Such arrogant heart is the result of not realizing that all we are is the result of God’s grace. Consequently, people who realize that all they are is the result of God’s grace cannot be arrogant and therefore, do not fight with each other. “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). We must not stop at proclaiming “Only Grace,” but we should avoid strife and disputes, divisions and resentments, and continue the self-denial and forgiveness of each other. We must be the workers of God who do not expect repayments when we do His work. If we confess that all I have and who I am is by the grace of God, we must share our possessions with others. Since we have received freely, we must give away freely as well. First of all, we must share the gospel of life. And we must not stop there. We must be willing to share all our possession, even our lives.
Glory Only to God (Soli Deo Gloria)
- By “Glory Only to God,” we confess that the ultimate purpose of our lives is to glorify God. As a mirror reflects images before it, so our lives must reflect the glory of God before us. The Bible commands us, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). God does not share His glory with others. “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols“ (Isaiah 42:8). We glorify God not because He is lacking anything, but because the act of giving glory to God makes Him God. Therefore, glorifying God means letting God be God.
- We live in the age of human glorification. We must pray with psalmist that “Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness” (Psalm 115:1). We know very well what this verse means. The answer to the first question in the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith demonstrates this well: “Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” The only way man can become glorified is when he gives glory to God. Therefore, in this age of human glorification, the slogan “Glory Only to God” should remind us that the true purpose of our lives is to glorify God. Our self-fulfillment is not meant to take away glory from God; instead, it should be used to glorify God.
- Practical Suggestions
- “Glory Only to God” challenges us to rely on God only and let His sovereignty rule our lives. We are to deny ourselves and bear the cross and follow Jesus. We must keep in mind that once faithful workers of God can later become the subjects of God’s criticism (Matthews 7:22~23). These workers did not grasp the “Glory Only to God” principle. Therefore, while they were performing miracles, they did not realize that they must work only with God power. “Glory Only to God” also relates to specific deeds in our lives. The essence of biblical spirituality has to do with glorifying God in all our words and deeds. We glorify God when we love and fear Him as our King and our Creator and our Redeemer. We glorify God when we forfeit our own righteousness and accept God’s righteousness revealed in His son Jesus Christ. We glorify God when we adhere to the great commission that commands us to proclaim the gospel of hope and life to the lifeless and hopeless world. We glorify God when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, and encourage the sick. God is glorified when we share Christ’s life with the destitute. In conclusion, RLT’s only purpose is to let ourselves be transformed by the power of the Spirit so that we may resuscitate the Church and glorify God by preaching Christ’s life-giving gospel. We hope to be one to accomplish this wonderful God-given task.