The fourth major mark of the Reformation is Solus Christus. In English, it basically means Christ Alone. It refers to the fact that with regards to Salvation, the only way we can be saved is through the work of Jesus Christ. Salvation means to be rescued from condemnation. It means to be able to stand before God and declared righteous. For many in our church it would seem that that is obvious from what we teach. But let’s consider alternatives that have been put forward in the past and a few that have been popular today.
- Saved by Good Works- One recurring way of salvation that many believe is that if you’re a “good” person than you’ll go to heaven. This comes out in various forms; nowhere more than at a funeral. At a funeral people will say all the accomplishments or the ways a person set a good example. They will describe the person with various compliments. I am not saying that we shouldn’t do that. We should honor those who pass and seek to remember people well. However, there is an implicit understanding that a person is saved by the deeds that they have performed. At the same time, we will all agree, no one is perfect. Everyone has sinned (Romans 2:23). This is also a difficult place to place your confidence. How do you know you have done enough? When you are lying on your deathbed, will what you have done have been enough? You can say we did- but that’s just your opinion- how do you know it’s really been enough?
- Saved by Religion- This one is tricky because it looks so spiritual. If I haven’t done enough good, perhaps I can perform some religious ritual to make it right- earn some merit perhaps? Religious ceremony is certainly something that God instructed his people to perform. Isn’t Communion and Baptism practices that Jesus himself taught his disciples to do?
- Saved by Embracing Yourself- This is a more modern one that has become more and more popular. This one teaches that eternal salvation is not necessarily what’s the most pressing issue. What matters is the quality of life that you’re living today. This certainly matters, but the answer that is found is not by recognizing God’s rule and reign in your life. What matters most is that you feel good about yourself and that you have a good sense of self-esteem. The problem with this is what happens when you don’t feel good about yourself? What happens when there are real things that you regret and sins that are in your life? What happens when the way you see yourself is wrong? The answer is not to escape and paper things over.
The reason why the Reformers insisted on the idea of Salvation by Christ alone is not just simply because it feels good, or because it’s a good idea, but because it’s what the original Apostles taught according to Scripture. Over the years the churches in the West had drifted away from this doctrine and instead embraced a salvation whereby a person had to merit favor from God. They were teaching that Christ’s work was not complete and that a person had to contribute to their salvation.
It was this breakthrough that made the Reformation stand apart from the past. Christ’s words of declaration on the cross that, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) should be the source of comfort for all believers. This is because our salvation is something that God alone can give. We need to be rescued. We don’t need a hand up, but new life. This means two things. First it means that God alone receives all credit. His grace saves us. His grace also keeps us in step with him. Second, it should give the believer confidence that when a sinner turns to Christ, we can rest in the continued hope of God’s promise.