One of the most important doctrines to rise from the Reformation is known as sola scriptura, which is Latin for “by Scripture alone.” The Reformers argued that the Bible is the sole, infallible authority of faith. And although the Reformation was not a single, unified movement, most of the reformers were motivated by similar desires. One of them was to restore the Bible to a central place in Christian doctrine. God’s Word was to be held above the authority of the church, they said, and Protestants around the world celebrate that belief in church every week.
In preparation for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, here are five Bible verses that had special significance in the Reformation and are no less powerful today. Whatever your Christian tradition, you might wish to take a few minutes to ponder these essential verses.
1. Romans 1:17
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” — Romans 1:17 (NIV)
The famous reformer Martin Luther identified this verse as one of the key inspirations for his work. Luther saw in it (and in other verses, like Habbakuk 2:4) a powerful reminder that it is through faith in God’s grace, and not through good works, that humans are justified before God.
2. Ephesians 2:8
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift…. — Ephesians 2:8 (CSB)
Another verse that emphasizes salvation as a gift of grace, not something we’ve earned through our own merit—a key belief of the reformers.
3. 1 Peter 2:5
…like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. — 1 Peter 2:5 (NRSV)
One of the most provocative and controversial beliefs of the reformers was that because every Christian is considered part of the “priesthood,” there was no Scriptural basis for the office of priesthood as the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches understood it. This remains a key distinction between these branches of Christianity to this day.
4. 2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is breathed out by God and 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. — 2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV)
“Sola scriptura”—the belief that the Bible contains everything we need to know in order to be reconciled to God and live righteously. This idea elevates Scripture above all other authorities, including the church and Christian tradition.
5. Matthew 11:29-30
“Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. The burden that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light.” — Matthew 11:29-30 (NCV)
The Protestant reformers believed that centuries of church tradition had placed a heavy burden on the backs of believers, and pointing to verses like this one, they reminded Christians that the gospel of Christ is meant to free people from guilt and sin.
Millions of Protestants celebrate these teachings today—and although the Protestant Reformation was specifically a criticism of the Catholic church, believers from all branches of Christianity can find value in the reformers’ call to keep our focus on Christ and his saving gospel. So take a few minutes today to read through (maybe even memorize) these Bible verses.