God is with us in Word and Sacrament

Midweek Advent IV

Midweek Advent IV

Solus Christus


The Reformation was about sufficiency—the sufficiency of God’s grace, that is, his favorable disposition toward us sinners because of the work of His Son, Jesus, for our salvation; the sufficiency of faith that God gives to us by the promise and proclamation of God’s grace because of the work of His Son, Jesus for our salvation, and that faith simply receives the benefits of what Christ accomplished on the cross, which is the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation; the sufficiency of the Scriptures that reveal this message of God’s grace because of the work of His Son, Jesus for our salvation. You can see the common denominator here: because of the work of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. In other words, all the other solassola gratia, sola fide, sola Scriptura—are summed up by this last sola: solus Christus. This is about the sufficiency of Christ and His work for our salvation.

Christ alone accomplished our salvation. He did this by his perfect life (active obedience) and His substitutionary death (passive obedience). Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is our only source of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

The problem then was that many believed that Christ’s works were not sufficient, and something needed to be added. They either added to or took away from His work, and replaced Jesus’ works with human works.

In many cases, people were told that they had to do something in addition to what Jesus had done for them. Whether it was an outward action (indulgences, fasting, pilgrimages, charity), or an inward disposition (feelings of happiness, love, devotion), people were told that the works of Jesus were not enough, that they had to cooperate with Jesus and do their part in order to be saved. Sometimes these actions and dispositions were good in themselves, but the problem was requiring them as something that needed to be added to what Jesus had already done on the cross to forgive their sins.

In other cases, the Lutheran Reformers fought to keep others from taking away from what Jesus was still doing through His Word and Sacraments. Some of the more radical reformers taught that Jesus’ body and blood weren’t given or received in the Lord’s Supper, or that Jesus didn’t really save through Holy Baptism. They taught that the Sacraments were about obeying Jesus’ command rather than receiving Jesus’ gifts. Luther insisted that these Sacraments were also Christ’s work alone in giving forgiveness, life and salvation.

Thus solus Christus, that our salvation is the work of God in, through, and by Christ alone, that his work is sufficient to save us, helps us to get the other solas correct.

We are saved by grace alone (Sola Gratia), but this grace that we receive from the Father comes to us through Jesus Christ. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17; see also Acts 15:11; Romans 5:21). We receive grace and blessing from the Father only because of Jesus’ death on the cross in our place.

We are saved through faith alone (Sola Fide), but our faith is merely receiving all the saving works of Jesus as a gift. “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:21a, 22a; see also Galatians 3:26; 1 Timothy 1:14). Faith is trust in Christ, and not faith in our own faithfulness. It’s not our act of believing that saves us, but Jesus’ death that brings us forgiveness. Faith clings to Jesus as our only hope in the face of eternal death.

Our theology flows from Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura), but Scripture is trustworthy because it is about Jesus from beginning to end. Jesus told His disciples, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44)  We listen to God’s Word in the Scriptures because there we hear Jesus speaking to us.

As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this church year, it’s easy to get caught up in the various personalities, the historical events, and the literature of the 16th century. Our challenge is to see Jesus Christ at the heart of the Reformation, and at the heart of our teaching and practice still today. Amen.


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