This is the continuation of a series on the ‘solas’ of the Reformation. We have already looked at ‘Semper Reformanda’ (always reforming) and ‘Sola Scriptura’ (Scripture alone). We are now going to think a bit about ‘Solus Christus’, or Christ alone.
The Cambridge Declaration has summarised Solus Christus quite well:
“Christ’s all-sufficiency means, by implication, that we are insufficient of ourselves. Indeed the Scripture says ‘Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.’ 2 Corinthians 3:5
We reaffirm that our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to the Father. We deny that the gospel is preached if Christ’s substitutionary work is not declared and faith in Christ and his work is not solicited.”
What are some ways in which, we (even genuine believers and Bible-preaching churches) can drift away from Solus Christus? Here are a few thoughts that come to my mind:
– Preach moralism.
This happens when the main point of our sermon or lesson is always something that we must do, rather than what Christ has done and what now can do in Him. Notice the imperatives in the New Testament are surrounded by indicatives. We are commanded to do, because of what Christ has done.
– Preach the Old Testament with no Christ.
This happens when we preach or teach the Old Testament (which we should), but do not see how the passage is related to God’s purpose in redemption, culminated in Christ. (Luke 24:27)
– Equate social activism with evangelism.
This happens when we focus on social and societal reform without proclaiming the objective, propositional truths of the gospel – the substitutionary atonement of Christ. We most certainly should be involved in social and societal reform, but we must not equate that with the proclamation of the gospel. (Romans 10:17)
– Think and act as though second and third-level theological topics are essential to the gospel.
There are many second and third-level theological topics which are very important and ought to be wrestled with and even debated. Some of us who contribute to this blog would even disagree on some of these. However, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and ought to treat each other as such. When I make every area of doctrine an essential, then I am compelled to see those who differ from me on a second or third level issue as unbelievers! Therefore my understanding of the gospel is no longer in Christ alone, but that one agrees with me on every small detail. (1 Corinthians 15:1-5)
– Think or act as though I have to do something to keep myself right before God.
I may strongly believe that my justification is in Christ alone, I couldn’t save myself. However, when I sin, how do I respond? Do I respond as though I believe God is angry with me, that I have to ‘feel bad enough’ before He will forgive me, that I have to do something else to earn God’s favour once again? If so, then I am not trusting in Christ alone for the forgiveness of my sin. His atoning death wasn’t enough, I have to add something.
– Practice evangelism as though there is only one model/approach that can truly get people saved.
This happens when I become too loyal to a tool. There are a number of very helpful evangelism tools available and I am very thankful for those, more gifted than I, who have developed these and use them effectively. However, when I begin to go about my evangelism in a way that communicates, “unless you share the gospel according to this model” or “unless you’ve taken a person through these specific steps” then they really can’t be a Christian, I am not trusting in Christ alone. All I have to do is read the whole of Acts 17 and I see that Paul varied his approach without varying the gospel in the same chapter! Tools are good, we ought to use them. But it is Christ Who saves and He often does that despite the tool.
– Be unforgiving or bitter towards those who have sinned against me.
This happens when I forget what Christ as done for me and that I am saved by grace, through faith, in Christ alone. For the moment I am quite convinced that my salvation ultimately rests in the fact that I am a much better person than the one who has sinned against me and therefore I don’t deserve this!
I know there are other ways in which we can subtly shift from ‘In Christ Alone.’ But that’s plenty for me to work on for now.
Lord help us to remain faithful to Christ and Christ alone. For He is worthy and truly all sufficient!