Luther’s insight that salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone cannot be divorced from “on the basis of Scripture alone.” For it was directly as a result of his commitment to Scripture that Luther came to rediscover justification by grace alone through faith alone.
Together with his contemporaries, Luther held that the Bible is the Word of God and that it does not mislead or deceive us. But Luther took an important stand that had cultural and political consequences beyond Rome.
Unlike his opponents in the Roman Catholic Church, Luther rejected the notion that an infallible magisterium (teaching authority established and handed down by church leaders) is necessary for the right interpretation of the Bible.
While maintaining a deep appreciation for the church catholic (catholic means “universal”), California Synod Lutherans believe that Scripture alone — not Scripture and tradition, Scripture and the church, Scripture and human reason, or Scripture and experience — stands as the final standard of what the Gospel is. This belief sets us apart from most Christian denominations today, and even sets us apart from the official teachings of many modern Lutherans.
The key to understanding Scripture properly, we believe, is the careful distinction between the Law and the Gospel. The whole Bible can be divided into these two chief teachings. The Law tells what God demands of sinners if they are to be saved. The Gospel reveals what God has already done for our salvation. The chief purpose of the Law is to show us our sin and our need for a Savior. The Gospel offers the free gift of God’s salvation in Christ.
It is in the proper distinction between Law and Gospel that the purity of the Gospel is preserved and the three solas of “grace alone,” “faith alone” and “Scripture alone” are united.