(The Five Solas of the Reformation)
By Christ Alone
by Bob Burridge ©2014
The world we live is very confused about the person of Jesus Christ. Most people know the name, and think they know who he was, and what he taught. But to many, the facts preserved in the Bible are either unknown, intentionally rejected, or mixed up with other ideas about him which are totally false.
It’s not only those outside the church who are confused. There is a well accepted distortion of him that fills the shelves in religious book stores, that finds its way into the pulpits of churches, that’s promoted by popular radio and TV programs, and is followed by misguided internet blogs and websites. We see that distortion in movies, and hear it sung about in concerts, and on best selling Christian music CDs.
While some intentionally change what God’s told us about him, many are just poorly informed. There’s an appalling lack of good Bible education today, even in many of our Seminaries. The focus has changed in some churches from determining exactly what God said, to teaching what people want to hear, and to making them like what they’re told.
Sadly, most people today, who sincerely think they know Jesus, know a false Christ. He’s made up by well-meaning but poorly informed teachers, authors, pastors and promoters. He’s confused with mystical ideas, humanistic beliefs, religious rituals, and misleading art work. The work he came to do is lost by adding to it things people think they have to do themselves, or things they think the church has to do for them so they can be made right with God.
Correcting popular views is never easy.
Explorers were once put to death for challenging the old maps of the world. Scientists were jailed for theories that went against what those in power wanted people to believe. Reformers of the church were locked away in prisons, tortured, hunted by assassins, and many of them were executed publicly for daring to question what most people believed.
Though truth is often the target of attacks and hatred, it’s still the truth. While the world combines the facts of Christ with frivolous ideas that don’t come from the Bible, he continues to be what he always is.
One of our responsibilities as God’s children is to separate the facts from the fictions. Christ is not just one element along with others that make people right with God. Christ Alone is the foundation. He’s the way, the truth and the life. Christ stands alone without anything else added. He is Savior, Lord, and Good Shepherd.
Christ Alone is God in human flesh,
the only Redeemer of lost and hurting people.
It’s the life and death of Jesus as our Savior that alone satisfies the guilt of his people whom he represented.
The world imagines Christ to be little more than a great teacher or impressive religious figure. He is diminished to stand along with the innovators of religion and philosophy. Most think it is very kind of them to list him along with names like Moses, Gandhi, Mohamed and Buddha,
There was an early Roman Emperor named Severus. He wanted to win over the growing number of Christians in the Empire. He added Jesus to the names of the pantheon of gods recognized by Rome. He was shocked that the Christians were far from impressed. It actually angered them. Severus couldn’t comprehend why his tolerance wasn’t appreciated.
But God’s people don’t see Christ as one of many gods. He stands alone as the one Savior of men’s souls, the one way by which we are made right with God.
Christ stands Alone as the only way by which
we are re-united with the God who made us.
This is a plain fact revealed directly in the Bible, not once but repeatedly. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, except through me. ”
That’s hardly the Jesus we hear about today. Christ isn’t accepted as the only means by which people are made right with God.
This idea of Christ Alone is considered to be immoral bigotry by the world. They say it shows prejudice against other religions which they believe are equally good and true. It has even been called “hate speech” by many who would like to eradicate Christianity and its influence from the public place.
The truth is quite the opposite to that. We don’t hate those wandering along those other ways. Our heart’s desire is to reach out to them in love to see them embrace the one true Savior. If it was not for God’s grace, we too would have each remained on that way to destruction.
The fact of “Christ Alone” can’t be denied by anyone who accepts the Bible as God’s word. The Apostle Peter said in Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
To deny this defies all that we have in the historic records of what Jesus actually said and did. Christ isn’t just one good option for lost hearts — he’s the only option.
Only Christ and him Alone can satisfy the emotional
and spiritual needs of fallen creatures.
Sadly, many who call themselves “Christian” aren’t satisfied with Christ Alone. They add to the work of our Savior, and add to his teachings turning the gospel into a mere emotional experience. This makes God’s amazing promises into an illusion when Christ does not stand alone.
In a past sermon at First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Mississippi, the PCA’s first moderator, Dr. Ligon Duncan, said we need reformation again. He listed three areas where Christ and his teachings don’t stand alone anymore.
1st He said we need doctrinal reformation.
“We need reformation in biblical teaching so that we take seriously what the Bible says.”
2nd We need to reform the testimony of our church members.
He mentioned several polls that show that the lives of church members are in many respects indistinguishable from those of the pagan world.
3rd We need to reform our worship.
He said the church has become “frivolous and man-centered in its worship.”
His three points summarize our present need very well.
1st There is a serious need for doctrinal reformation.
The teachings of God’s word and particularly the words of Christ have been blended with other ideas. When the Bible and the work of our Savior are not taken just as they are their meaning is altered.
The Christ known by most people today can’t stand alone because he’s not the real thing. A false Christ is a poor substitute. He must supplemented. This waters down the display of his power and the comfort he is able to give his people.
2nd We also need to reform the testimony of our church members.
Many church goers are indistinguishable from pagans in the world because Christ and his teachings don’t stand alone anymore as their standard for living. They blend in the cultural standards of a world that denies the idea of “Christ Alone”. That mixture ruins homes, work places, schools, neighborhoods, and nations.
Many limit spiritual living to only certain things like going to church or to a Bible study. Such a world-view is not able to shape how we treat those around us, how we do our work, and how we control our entertainment and make moral choices. They give to missions, and may even take part in a trip to some mission field, but they fail to be missionaries to those God brings into their lives every day here at home. Many imagine a Christianity that saves you from hell, but lets you live for the devil.
3rd And finally, we need to reform our worship.
Entertainment has replaced humbly coming to Christ to worship him for his sake alone. People come to church to feel good, to have a good time, to be entertained, instead of going to give God faithful and biblical worship, and to be equipped to serve their Savior as they leave the building.
Some even move worship from the Lord’s Day to Saturday nights when it’s more convenient. Maybe they assume that God didn’t understand how important it would be in the 21st century to sleep in on Sundays, or to do other things where church might get interfere.
It diminishes Christ to reject his ways, replacing them with what we think is better. When our personal interests or cultural norms dictate our moral choices like that, then Christ doesn’t stand alone as the Lord of our lives. That’s why one of the great slogans of the Protestant Reformation was Christ Alone.
Jesus told us that we find out what’s right and true from him alone.
In Matthew 11:27-28 Jesus said, “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
People love to quote the part about coming to Jesus and getting rest, but they seldom connect that with what he said right before that in verse 27. Only God the Son knows God the Father, and only God the Father knows God the Son. No human, no matter how wise he thinks he is, no matter how enlightened he feels, no matter how contemporary his ideas might be, no human knows the Father except that God the Son reveals it to him.
When we come to him for rest from our labors, we come on his terms, in his way, for his purposes. We need to be instructed by Christ Alone, not by the current trends and theories of men.
Just as the popular and powerful Church in the 16th Century needed Reformation, the popular and powerful churches of the 21st Century need Reformation again.
A central concern of the Reformation was
the sole-sufficiency of the work of Christ.
The Bible makes it clear that Jesus paid for sin completely. He credits his people with his own righteousness so we can be reunited with God. There’s nothing left to earn. It’s all accomplished by Christ Alone.
In the ages before the Reformation it wasn’t “Christ Alone”. The church told its people they had to do hard things to earn forgiveness. They said the church was the agency for giving out the benefits of Christ’s work.
The Reformers took us back to the Bible. They showed that our works are the result, not the cause of our forgiveness from God. The cause was Grace, and it was Christ Alone who came to make that possible.
In more recent times, some take this principle way too far, and reject good works all together. They trivialize salvation and evangelism making it just deliverance from damnation. This leaves them to live like the world while they cling to their free ticked to heaven.
The Bible says that though salvation is earned by Christ Alone, the person truly redeemed by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, will see the importance of living for the Glory of God Alone.
Going to any extreme makes others run off to the other extreme. In reacting against that careless living and superficial gospel, some have gone back to the error of the Pre-Reformation Churches. They say that our works are necessary along with the work of Christ. They teach that he doesn’t give us his righteousness, we have to earn it on our own.
Recently several denominations have been threatened by a movement where New Testament teachings are being re-evaluated. Our own efforts are elevated to being equally a part of our redemption along with the work of our Savior. These two stand side by side making the Gospel into something it never was. This is not a new truth. It’s an old confusion dressed up in a modern outfit.
The price has been paid by Christ Alone. There’s nothing left for us to do but to trust in it, and to be transformed by that promise of God.
We who are redeemed are born
to new spiritual life by Christ Alone.
Though good deeds are never the cause of our salvation, they certainly are a necessary fruit of it. Real grace doesn’t yield apathy. God’s free gift of redemption from death to life is totally unearned, but it’s a costly possession. The infinite price to get it was paid by Christ Alone. When redeemed, we in gratitude want to sacrifice our selfish trinkets that offend God.
In Romans 12:1 Paul says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
Our whole person, body and soul, needs to be dedicated to God’s service. We are told here to make our bodies a living sacrifice. This would have reminded Paul’s original readers of the Old Testament sacrificial system.
There were two kinds of sacrifices in the time before the Cross.
Some sacrifices were to show how God would send Messiah to make atonement for sin. Animals were killed ceremonially to show that sin required death, and that the coming Savior would be the Lamb of God who would die in his people’s place.
This can’t be what Paul was referring to here when he says we are to be a living sacrifice. He is not asking you to give your body, your life, to represent Christ’s atonement.
But, there was another kind of Old Testament sacrifice that exactly fits what Paul meant here. Some sacrifices were instituted to show a believer’s gratitude for God’s mercies. The meal offerings and thank offerings were a response of the redeemed heart.
Since we are redeemed from the spiritual death of sin, we must be living sacrifices showing our thankfulness to God for his mercies. That means that we need to be a sacrifice that continues and grows, one that’s alive, as we give our daily energies to serving our Lord and Savior — Christ Alone.
Earlier in Romans 6:13 Paul had already explained this. There he said, “And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God”
Peter said about the same thing. 1 Peter 2:5, “you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Christ gives you life to enable you to live obediently, to live within God’s revealed boundaries by the promises of his gracious covenant. In Christ we show our gratitude by learning to walk daily in newness of life.
The Right understanding of the Christian life
is that it is lived by the power of Christ Alone.
To do that you need to know the truth about the real Christ of the Bible. You need to be hungry to know your Bible well. You need to know Christ and his teaching first-hand by reading about it every day. You need to listen to lessons about Christ as a fascinated student of God’s promises. You need to have a strong desire to show how thankful you are by living by his teachings.
It is quite amazing to realize that your hope, your power to change you life, does not depend upon your own ability to be better than others. It depends on Christ Alone. It is God’s grace alone that makes you able to rest in that truth.
It’s sad when people are always worrying that they haven’t done enough, or that they can’t measure up. So many have lost track of those biblical slogans that spurred the 16th Century Reformation, that empowered the ancient prophets and Apostles. The Bible Alone, Grace Alone, by Christ Alone, Faith Alone, And it’s all aimed at the one great goal: for God’s Glory Alone.
It’s no wonder that so many tire of churches that teach such shallow things today. It’s no wonder that those who go to the superficial churches need to be always pumped up emotionally to feel like things are OK when they don’t really see a need for a change in their lives. Salvation does not come alone as a mere ticket to heaven. It comes as a life changing power that transforms you. It not only saves you from hell. It saves you from apathy, from emptiness, from futility. It gives you a confidence that drives you to thankful service by living in ways that honor Christ.
Superficial Christianity is dangerous and becomes a well deserved target of the world. It replaces real hunger for truth and passion for godliness, with fancy programs, cultish pride, and soul-numbing entertainment. It makes the Church into an agency for delivering what the world sets up as human goals. It misses the whole point of why we’re here, and of what we ought to be doing.
Victorious Christian Living is so assured by grace that it seems like Christ’s work can’t be enough. But it is. In Christ Alone there is power, comfort, transformation, and encouragement. It makes you want to obey out of gratitude for grace. It is not a list of pre-requisites for earning God’s favor. It is yours in the sole-sufficiency of Christ Alone.
Bible quotations are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.