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The 5 Solas – Solus Christus

5 Solas #4

Solus Christus

Acts 4:1-12; Col. 2 (entire); Hebrews 7:23-8:2; 9:24-28


We’re continuing our short series on the solas of the Protestant Reformation.

5 key watchwords or slogans emerged during that time, that served as a galvanizing tool for those seeking reform in the Church.

Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, & Soli Deo Gloria

And these remain foundational to true Evanglicalism today. Though in all honesty, I find myself more and more hesitant to use the term Evangelical since in our time and culture, it seems to have been hi-jacked as a political tool rather than a sound, historical theological designation. We may need to re-think the name of our own assembly given how evangelical is heard by most ears today. But that is a topic for another time.

These 5 slogans not only crystalized the impetus behind the Reformation, they also present a coherent logic in how they hang together.

In Sola Scriptura, we saw the Reformers were calling the Church back to recognizing the Word of God as the final authority over what we are to believe and to practice, above every council, teaching or individual, even the Pope.

And it is in that Word of God that we come to the revelation that salvation is;

Sola Gratia, by grace alone as opposed to any personal merit or worthiness;

Sola Fide, by faith alone as opposed to any good works one might do no matter how noble or invented even by the Church;

And thus salvation is – Solus Christus, owing to Christ and His finished work on our behalf – alone.

He needs no help saving the souls of lost men. Salvation rests wholly in Him! That, as opposed to what the Church may think it needs to add to the equation.

This 4th point was absolutely essential as it struck at the very heart of what had gone so very wrong in the Church.

As an article in Ligonier Ministry’s TableTalk magazine notes:  “The problem, then, was not the person of Christ. The problem was the work of Christ. The debate centered on the sacramental system Rome had constructed, a system in which the grace of Christ was mediated to the people through an elaborate system of priests and sacramental works. Through this sacramental system, the Roman church effectively controlled the Christian’s life from birth (baptism) to death (extreme unction) and even beyond (masses for the dead).”

In other words, the system the Church had created made the Church the sole dispenser of grace  – without the Church’s mediation in addition to Christ’s work, you could not be saved.

What did that look like? Let me quote from the Catholic Catechism of today. Regarding the sacraments they say: “For the first of these is Baptism, the gate, as it were, to all the rest, by which we are born again unto Christ. The next is Confirmation, by virtue of which we grow up, and are strengthened in the grace of God…’ The third is the Eucharist, by which, as by a truly celestial food, our spirit is nurtured and sustained… Penance follows in the fourth place, by the aid of which health, which has been lost, is restored us, after we have received the wounds of sin. The fifth is Extreme Unction, by which the remains of sin are taken away, and the energies of the soul invigorated… The sixth is Orders, by which power is given to exercise perpetually in the church the public ministry of the sacraments, and to perform all the sacred functions. The last is matrimony…” Catholic Church, The Catechism of the Council of Trent, trans. Theodore Alois Buckley (London: George Routledge and Co., 1852), 149.

Here’s how that logic works: Since the Church alone could give holy orders to make priests, then only those under the authority of the Church could baptize – which they said the mere doing of causes the infant to be born again, regenerated; only they could bestow the Holy Spirit in confirmation; only they could turn the communion elements into the literal body and blood of Christ; only they could hear confession, forgive sin and offer penance; only they could rightly marry you and only they could give you last rites at death. And then beyond that, only they could give you indulgences to help you or others AFTER death.

And the Reformers were saying NO! This is all backwards. You are putting the Church in between Christ and His people.

Instead of it being Christ in His saving work who brings us into the Church by joining us to Himself, you’ve said it is the Church who alone has the power to bring us into Christ by first making us members of IT!

The church then became the mediator between God and man – when the Scripture said: 1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”

And lest you think the Reformers were, or I am, distorting that – let me again cite current Roman Catholic Catechism: “All the sacraments are sacred links uniting the faithful with one another and binding them to Jesus Christ, and above all Baptism, the gate by which we enter into the Church.” Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 248.

More: “for as no one can gain admittance into a place without the aid of him to whom the keys have been committed, so we understand that no one can gain admission into heaven unless its gates be opened by the priests, to whose fidelity the Lord has confided its keys” Catholic Church, The Catechism of the Council of Trent, trans. Theodore Alois Buckley (London: George Routledge and Co., 1852), 281.

So the key issue here was this: The church rightly said that Jesus was the mediator between God and man, but it then interposed itself as the mediator between man and Jesus and then added more mediators.

Jesus’ said: John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

And the Church said: true, BUT – “no one can gain admission into heaven unless its gates be opened by the priests, to whose fidelity the Lord has confided its keys”

Now what opened all of this up for Luther especially at the time was this entire practice of indulgences which we’ve looked at briefly before.

And the idea that the Church has at its disposal what is a called a “treasury of merit” – the good works Jesus AND of the saints, which it alone administrates and can mete out at will to the spiritual benefit of the dead.

Since no one could get to heaven unless bona fide priests opened the gates – even after death you were bound to the Church more than to Christ!

So what is this Treasury of merit? Again the Catechism – “1478 An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins.” Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 371.

Now there are 3 things sorely amiss here right off the bat.

  1. This is a total fiction. There is nothing at all to be found in God’s Word about anything remotely like this idea of a treasury of merits which is given to the Church to dispense as she sees fit. It simply does not exist.
  2. Since total obedience to God is only what should be the expected norm for creatures made in the image of God – no merit can possibly accrue from our good works. Remember Jesus’ words to the Disciples – and if there were ANY saints ever who might be laudable – it would be Peter and the rest: And Jesus says “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ” Luke 17:10

What treasury could be accrued from that?

3. At worst, it inverts Christ and the church, at best, it mixes Christ’s redemptive work with that of Mary and the other saints.

Once again Paul reminds us: 1 Tim. 2:5 “There is ONE mediator between God and man.”

So the NT record consistently records things like: 1 Corinthians 1:22–24 “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

What did they preach? Christ and Him crucified, not the Church and its supposed power or authority.

We preach Christ and Him crucified, and not the sacraments.

We preach Christ and Him crucified and not the supposed merits of the saints.

So when the Philippian Jailor asks “what must I do to be saved?” Acts 16:31 Paul & Silas said: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” There were no 7 sacraments to point them to. Christ and Christ alone!

Acts 4:12 for “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Contrary to the council at Trent in its response to the Reformation where they codified as canon law: CANON IV. “If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not indeed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema.”

As we’ve cited so many times in this series: Ephesians 2:8–10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

“Not a result of works” – Neither yours, nor the Church’s nor the saint’s. We are saved by Jesus Christ Himself – it is Jesus who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit: Mark 1:8 “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

And by virtue of possessing the Spirit, makes us one with Christ and His Church: 1 Corinthians 12:13 “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”

Ephesians 2:18–22 “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

The Church doesn’t do these things – it is wholly owing to the work of Christ Jesus – ALONE!

So that was the battle then, and except for those still struggling to exit the Romanist church, the specifics do not seem to apply that much today. Or do they?

I think we can clearly see how solus Christus is still as necessary as ever.

  1. Cults. Every cult, every religious group piggy-backing off of Christianity – Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnessism, The Way Int’l, Branch Davidians, British Israelism, Unification Church, Christian Scientism and a host of others – each one takes the very same tack as Romanism and interpose themselves between the individual and God. You must go through them to get to the REAL Jesus and the REAL salvation. They are the true dispensers of grace.
  2. Secularization of the Church. The framers of the Cambridge Declaration in 1996, men like R.C. Sproul, Alistair Begg, James Montgomery Boice, David Wells and others penned in seeking to recover the solas in our day are helpful here: Solus Christus: The Erosion of Christ-Centered Faith “As evangelical faith has become secularized, its interests have been blurred with those of the culture. The result is a loss of absolute values, permissive individualism, and a substitution of wholeness for holiness, recovery for repentance, intuition for truth, feeling for belief, chance for providence, and immediate gratification for enduring hope. Christ and his cross have moved from the center of our vision.”

Thesis 2: Solus Christus. 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.

Donald G. Bloesch, The Church: Sacraments, Worship, Ministry, Mission (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 290.

  1. False teachers in Christianity. I want to be careful but clear here as well – anyone who says that if you send them money or join their group, they will pray for you in some special way that you cannot for yourself or by virtue of your brothers and sisters in Christ – that they have some sort of spiritual hot line no one else has – are doing the very same thing. If you have to join their specific group, get their special teaching (beyond the plain Gospel of the Bible), buy their special book, go to their seminar where they will teach you spiritual secrets for a fee – run like the wind! They have sought like so many others to put themselves between you and Christ – when the Scripture gives us this absolute confidence:

Waxing in depth about the high priesthood of Christ, the writer to the Hebrews sums it up this way: Hebrews 7:25 “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

He – Jesus Christ. No one else.

Is able to save – This is HIS work, to seek and save the lost.

Save to the uttermost – To bring you to full completion by His salvific work, requiring no other intermediary. Justification, growth in Christ’s image, and glorification at the resurrection. He perfects His own.

Those who draw near to God THROUGH HIM – NOT through any other person or organization – it is through Christ we draw near to God.

He always lives to make intercession for us – What saint can possibly pray for us in some way Jesus cannot intercede for us before the throne of His Father? If Christ prays for me – ALL WILL BE WELL – if no one else in heaven or earth ever utters my name to God.

Christ our great intercessor!

Now what can anyone suppose to add to His great saving work without blasphemy?

Christian – you are complete in Him! Turn to Christ Jesus at every juncture. He WILL meet you there.

Unbeliever – He is all you need for salvation, forgiveness of sins, reconciliation to the Father and growth in your spiritual life. He alone could deal with sin, and it is He who gives the Spirit by which you can walk with Him in power and perpetual fellowship. Turn to Jesus today. He alone can save you from bondage to your present sin, and the wrath to come.

John Newton on Matt 22: Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ?”

1 WHAT think you of Christ? is the test,

To try both your state and your scheme;

You cannot be right in the rest,

Unless you think rightly of him.

As Jesus appears in your view,

As he is beloved or not;

So God is disposed to you,

And mercy or wrath are your lot.

2 Some take him a creature to be,

A man, or an angel at most:

Sure these have not feelings like me,

Nor know themselves wretched and lost.

So guilty, so helpless am I,

I durst not confide in his blood,

Nor on his protection rely,

Unless I were sure he is God.

3 Some call him Saviour, in word,

But mix their own works with his plan;

And hope he his help will afford,

When they have done all that they can:

If doings prove rather too light,

(A little, they own, they may fail),

They purpose to make up full weight,

By casting his name in the scale.

4 Some style him the pearl of great price,

And say he’s the fountain of joys;

Yet feed upon folly and vice,

And cleave to the world and its toys;

Like Judas, the Saviour they kiss,

And while they salute him, betray;

Ah! what will profession like this

Avail in his terrible day?


5 If ask’d, what of Jesus I think,

Though still my best thoughts are but poor,

I say, he’s my meat and my drink,

My life, and my strength, and my store;

My Shepherd, my Husband, my Friend,

My Saviour from sin and from thrall;

My hope from beginning to end,

My portion, my Lord, and my All.

John Newton and Richard Cecil, The Works of John Newton, vol. 3 (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 403–404.

The 5 Solas – Sola Gratia

The Reformation – Part 2

Sola Gratia

Ephesians 2 (entire)

Romans 4:3-8

Romans 5:15-21

Romans 11:1-6

 Nearing the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, we’re taking a few weeks to consider the 5 key slogans framing that amazing move of God reviving His church – the five “solas”.

Last we looked at the slogan – Sola Scriptura. By it, the Reformers were calling the Church back to Scripture Alone as its final authority in faith and practice.

It was not a call to abandon common sense, logic, history, science or the Church fathers, instead to say: where the Bible speaks, it speaks with absolute and final authority for the Church. No council, no organization, no individual has the right to override, ignore, twist, add to or take away from – Scripture. As God-breathed it stands in a place of singular supreme authority, especially over the conscience.

When this fundamental concept the FORMAL concept  is surrendered, then fallen men will inevitably seize that authority for themselves – and someone or something else takes the rightful place of God Himself.

So it is, the second watchword of the Reformation grows directly out of this first one.

Hence we encounter the very next phrase: Sola Gratia – by Grace Alone.

Here, the Reformers were addressing the fact that over time, the Church had begun to redefine Scripture words and terms without reference to how the Bible uses them. And in so doing created a doctrine of salvation that directly contradicts the Bible’s own teaching.

If the Church, or an individual, takes the right to themselves to re-define the words the Bible uses, the Bible can be made to say anything you want to make it say. And nowhere was this more true than when it came to the concept of grace.

Sometimes, when Evangelicals critique the Romanist teaching on salvation, we oversimplify it and just say Rome teaches salvation by works apart from grace. This both inaccurate and unfair.  By the time Luther and the others were calling for reform, the Church’s teaching on salvation HAD become pretty distorted, but it was so because of this issue of definitions. This will play a major role in the 3rd Sola when we look at Sola Fide as well.

So that we do not misrepresent the Roman view – let me quote 2 portions from the Council of Trent which was Rome’s official response to the Reformer’s complaints, and remains their official stance to this day:

CANON 9:  “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.”

Canon 30:  “If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.”

Note 3 key things here:

1. One must co-operate in order to OBTAIN the grace of justification.

2. Christ’s satisfaction is not sufficient for our sin but guilt must still be met by temporal punishment either in this world or in Purgatory before the kingdom of Heaven can be opened to him.

3. And in both cases, the Roman Church said if one does not agree with them on this, they are not just wrong – but are “anathema” – under the judgment of God – cursed by Him and thus ex-communicated from the Church.

Now some might say, yeah, that was then – the 1500’s, surely since Vatican I & II things are far different: Today’s Roman Catholic Catechism lays it out: Paragraph 2027: “No man can merit the initial grace, which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods.”

I took that directly from the Vatican Website, neither an ancient nor outside source.

In Luther’s day, what grace was and how it worked had been so redefined, that it bore very little resemblance to grace the way the Bible speaks of it.

The bottom line issue is one of worthiness when it comes to salvation.

The Reformers insisted that the Bible teaches that an individual’s worthiness could play no role in salvation, or salvation ceases to be a free gift. But the Roman view instead, if only in part, said and STILL says a person can MERIT for themselves and others – all the graces needed to attain eternal life. The worthiness of the individual to obtain eternal life is brought about by cooperating with the grace given at conversion.

Sola Gratia: [The] Latin phrase meaning “grace alone” that expresses the Reformation* doctrine that salvation* is all of divine grace at every stage, from election* to glorification.* Inherent in this phrase is the truth that no merit* of man either before, at, or after his regeneration* by the Holy Spirit* contributes to his salvation. The only merit by which a sinner is saved is Christ’s merit. Thus, sola gratia is usually employed in conjunction with solo Christo, “in or by Christ alone,” to denote that it is solely in Christ and by virtue of His atoning work that men receive the saving grace of God.[1]

So as I said above, at the heart of the issue is a salvation which someone can make themselves worthy of, versus a salvation which is freely given by God – to the undeserving. Or as God’s breathed out Word in Romans 4:3–6 states it: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:”

In other words, this comes down to the very Gospel we preach. A Gospel which announces the free gift of saving grace to all who will believe – versus a NON-Gospel, of entering into a man-made system of rites, rituals and regulations which help you become worthy. And just how worthy you have to be no one can tell you, because Purgatory is yet before you.

So why does this cooperative view of making ourselves worthy fail so miserably? I want to advance 7 Biblical arguments.

  1. Because of how the Bible speaks of our lost condition. Our condition before we are saved is so dire, that God actually has to overcome our resistance to Him in order to save us – Not only are we not worthy, we are actually in opposition to His grace, until by grace, He overcomes it in us. Ephesians 2:1–22 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sin in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

  1. Because of how the Bible describes the inability of man to achieve any righteousness which can be counted as merit. After all, when someone obeys the Word of God, we’re not doing something special, we are only doing what should be expected of us as those made in the image of God. So Jesus tells His own apostles – when you’ve done everything… Luke 17:7–10 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ”
  2. Because it makes God a debtor, and salvation a wage instead of a free gift. Romans 4:3–6 states it: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
  3. Because it slanders Christ and says His blood is not sufficient to cleanse all our sins. Hebrews 10:1–14 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’ ” When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
  4. Because it slanders Christ and says His imputed righteousness is not sufficient to merit all the gifts God desires to give us. Philippians 3:4–9 “though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—”
  5. Because it is simply contrary to the way Scripture presents saving grace. Romans 3:21–25 “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 2for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 2and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”
  6. Because the New Covenant Christ has inaugurated is specifically built upon this principle of free grace: Hebrews 10:15–18 “And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.”

Because no one CAN make themselves worthy, therefore, no one is REQUIRED to make themselves worthy. We must receive salvation as it is, a free gift, with no attention to our own worthiness whatsoever. Christ does not save worthy people, He saves sinners, condemned and unclean and in no wise capable of making themselves worthy of His gift.

So the problem at the time of the Reformation was that people were brought into a slavish system of humanly invented rites, ceremonies, rules, regulations and requirements in order to finally help make themselves worthy of eternal justification. Which would still be followed by indeterminate periods of time in the afterlife in Purgatory, still paying for their own sins until the debt was fully discharged.

Today, the landscape is far different, but the need to be called back to Sola Gratia all the more necessary.

Not because people are so worried about making themselves fully worthy of final salvation – but because in our culture at least – people already judge themselves worthy – and so do not NEED to depend upon God’s grace in Christ alone.

After all – we’re all pretty good! We DESERVE nothing but the best.

God actually owes it to us in some respect. We DO merit it.

In this generation of self-esteem and the celebration of human accomplishment, the idea that we are very worthy beings is drilled into us from almost every corner and that from birth.

Just look at this small smattering of advertisements. See the theme? (Last image = Sony)

Sola Gratia is needed today more than ever because people no longer see themselves as UNworthy. And so the preaching of Christ has to be accompanied by a clear declaration of the true lostness and ruin of human kind. That as God breathed out through Paul in Romans  3:10–18 “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

2 Applications:

Believer – Once in Christ, and we fail and commit sin, our tendency still is to try in some way to redeem ourselves in God’s eyes afterword.

It is a fool’s errand. We cannot do it. If we’ve sinned against other people, we need to make it right with them as best we can. But in terms of having sinned against God – we must cast ourselves back on grace and grace alone, and rest there.

Of course we repent and turn away from our sin anew – but we cannot somehow make up for sin in God’s eyes. Here, by faith, we look once again to the cross, and trust in His unmerited and free grace. We cannot merit forgiveness after we’ve come to Christ, any more than we could before we first came. We stand in this grace as Rom. 5 puts it – always.

Unbeliever – Beloved, there is only one way you can be saved from your sin – and that is to come to Christ guilty, condemned, unclean and in need of the free gift of His grace in Jesus Christ.

If you will not condemn yourself so as to receive His forgiveness and imputed righteousness today, then He will condemn you on the last day, and to an eternal condemnation from which there is no escape or hope of deliverance.

Come today to the Christ who justifies the wicked. He alone is sufficient for your sin.

If the Spirit is convicting you of your sin today, so that you long to be forgiven and reconciled to God – come and by His grace be justified by placing your entire trust in the finished work of Christ at Calvary – and not in any intrinsic merit you think you have, nor any you can somehow earn.

If this is you, any one of the elders here would be more than happy to spend some time with you right now to talk with you pray with you that you might be born again.


[1] Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms (Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International, 2002), 422.