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Reformation Sunday 2018: Solus Christus - Salvation By Christ Alone - 1 Tim. 2:5; Acts 4:12

The doctrine of salvation by Christ alone affirms that only Jesus Christ is qualified and able to save us, that Jesus Christ alone has in fact accomplished the work that saves us, and that it is His work alone to apply that salvation to us. In the words from Timothy and Acts, there is no other mediator, and there is salvation in no one else.

The doctrine is founded on the two aspects of Christ: His person and His work. As we consider the person of Christ, we are asking why is it necessary that Jesus be the one to save us. Couldn’t someone else have done it? To understand why Christ alone is the solution, first we have to understand the problem: sin separates man from God, and we need a sinless blood atonement to cover our sin and restore us to God. Man has a body that can die and blood that can be shed, but sin disqualifies him. God Himself is morally qualified to make atonement, but He doesn’t have a body or blood to be the sacrifice. Man is physically able, but morally disqualified; God is morally qualified, but physically unable!

What we need is a person who unites the sinlessness of God with our human nature. We need God to become a man. And that’s exactly who Jesus is! As the God-man, Jesus alone is both physically able and morally qualified to make atonement for sin. That’s what’s taught in 1 Peter 1:19 and Heb. 10:5. That’s what it means that Jesus’ person is unique, that’s why there is salvation in no one else but Christ alone.

That’s how the doctrine of Christ alone depends on the unique person of Christ, but when we confess Christ alone, not only do we affirm that only Jesus is qualified and able to save, but we also affirm that He has fully accomplished the work that saves us. Not just “He can”, but also, “He did!” Jesus did everything necessary for our salvation.

And so Hebrews 7:27 tells us that Jesus is distinct from all previous high priests because they had to repeat their sacrifices, but Jesus made atonement once-for-all. 1 Peter 3:18 makes the same point: Christ suffered once for sin that He might bring us to God. Sin separated us from God, Christ has reunited us with God. Mission accomplished! Christ has completed His all-sufficient work of salvation.

In the 16th century, the Reformers had to deal with the misconception that salvation was not by Christ alone, but through Christ and His Church. The Catholic church taught that Christ’s work made salvation possible by storing up merit in heaven’s treasure box, which could be given out by the Priests through the sacraments. And so the Church, through her priests and sacraments, formed a second step in the work of salvation.

When the Reformers looked at this picture, they saw that the line had been blurred between Christ and the Church, and a false line had been drawn between Christ and His work. Christ’s work can’t be separated from Christ’s person and placed in a heavenly treasure box to be dispensed by priests! The way you receive the benefit of Christ’s work is by receiving Christ Himself directly, by faith.

But when the Reformers rejected the Roman position, what Rome thought they heard the Reformers say was that you don’t need the church. And here is where we need to distinguish between the Church as an agent of salvation and the Church as an instrument of salvation. Christ certainly uses the Church as His instrument, but when the Bible, the preacher, or the sacraments are used by Christ to apply His work of salvation, it is always and only Christ who does the saving!

In 1 Cor. 1:12-17, Paul responds to divisions in the Church by highlighting the unique work of Christ as opposed to the work of the Church in preaching and baptizing. He asks, “Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” If the Corinthians were saved in any part by Paul’s work, then the cross of Christ would be emptied of its power. Instead, Paul goes on to say that he brought nothing to the Corinthians except Christ and Him crucified. That’s what saved them! Not Paul’s preaching or Paul’s baptizing but the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Confessing this means that we don’t add anything to the finished saving work of Christ. Not the work of the church, not your own personal decision to follow Jesus, not the prayers of the saints, not the good works that you do – none of those things could save you, and none of them are needed, because Christ has done it all.

So with Paul and the Scriptures, and the Reformers who echoed them, we proclaim and rejoice in the doctrine of Christ alone, trusting in nothing but Christ and Him crucified for our salvation. When you have come to Christ, then you have everyone and everything that you need, for salvation is found in Christ alone.

Posted on Wednesday, October 31, 2018 by CJ Bowen