Solus Christus: The Bedrock of the Reformation
In Acts 4, the Apostle Peter stands before the leaders of Israel and identifies the cornerstone of all faith, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The bedrock and cornerstone which lies at the center of the other solas of the Reformation, connecting them all together by a single theological redemptive thread is solus Christus––Christ alone.
When German Reformer, Martin Luther, preached from the gospel passages on John the Baptist, he always emphasized how John was consistently pointing to Christ. He encouraged the church to follow in John’s footsteps and point people to the Lord without fail. Luther emphatically believed the message the church must constantly preach was the message of Christ being the only way of salvation. However, he was quick to point out that this type of preaching is not always easy. Luther declared:
The devil does not intend to allow this testimony about Christ. He devotes all his energy to opposing it and will not desist until he has struck it down and suppressed it. In this respect, we humans are weak and stubbornly perverse and are more likely to become attached to saints than to Christ. Within the papacy they have preached about the service rendered by these beloved saints, that one ought to rely on their merit.
Why is solus Christus (Christ alone) at the center of the solas of the Reformation? Why do we proclaim that Christ alone is at the center of all Christian theology? I want to offer three reasons:
1. Solus Christus is the cornerstone of all Reformation doctrine
God’s self-disclosure to man is through the person and work of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture––sola Scriptura. The purpose of the grace of God culminates in our reconciliation and adoption through Christ alone––sola gratia. God’s grace is appropriated to the believer through faith in the finished and perfect work of Christ on the cross and his glorious resurrection from the dead––sola fide. The ultimate end of God in our redemption is his own glory and we are transformed from one glory to another to reflect his glory for all eternity––sola Deo gloria. All Reformed doctrine flows as individual streams form the ocean that is the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Solus Christus is the center of God’s redemptive purpose
One of the amazing facets of Scripture is that despite the different time periods, different authors, and different cultures in which it was written––woven throughout the Bible from creation to the new creation is a single theme. If you pull that single crimson thread it will reveal that God’s revelation to man of His redemptive plan through his only begotten son, the Lord Jesus Christ. All of the purposes, plans, decisions, decrees, and promises of God find their ultimate and final fulfillment in Jesus Christ. All the Father does centers in his son, and all the Spirit does bears witness and brings glory to the son. So, as the reformers began to recover this central truth of Scripture, they arrived at the single conclusion that Christ is the center and fulfillment of God’s revelation to man.
3. Solus Christus is the conscience of all Christian theology logical
More than a century ago, the Dutch Reformed theologian, Herman Bavinck emphasized that the center of all Christian theology is Christ, “The doctrine of Christ is not the starting point, but it certainly is the central point of the whole system of dogmatics. All other dogmas either prepare for it or are inferred from it. In it, as the heart of dogmatics, pulses the whole of the religious-ethical life of Christianity.” In short, all of our efforts at theology ultimately rise and fall with Christ alone. The distinctive convictions of our Christian theology are correctly shaped only in a proper understanding of Christ. Christ alone connects all the doctrines of our theology like an unbreakable golden chain because Christ alone stands as the cornerstone of all the purposes and plans of God himself. Where there is a misunderstanding of Christ, there is a misunderstanding of theology, salvation, the church, and God.
Christ alone is not a slogan, it is the center of the solas by which the Reformers recovered the grace of God through faith alone and declared the glory of God.