Solus Christus: Christ Alone
The Five Solas
Donald Smarto, now a national leader in prison ministry, before he came to Christ was in seminary, preparing to enter the Roman Catholic priesthood. He had developed a fascination with all the trappings of Catholic religion–the sacred rituals and the ornate vestments. One night he went out to the movies, where he saw a scene that shocked him. In the movie there was a scene in which a bishop dressed in sacred robes was caught by a gust of wind that parted his garments to reveal what was underneath: a rotted skeleton. At that instant, Smarto’s conscience cried out, “That’s me!” But as he soon as he said it, he tried to deny it. He drove back to the seminary, and the whole way back he was muttering, “That’s not me. It can’t be me. I’m a good person!”
Frantically Smarto rehearsed his many pious deeds–his fasting, his penance, his prayers–searching for some assurance of his salvation. Finding none, he went out into the corn fields, where he wandered for hours. Eventually the moon clouded over and the night became so black that he could not even see his hand in front of his face. He began to panic, and in his fear he cried out for a sign from God. As he waited, panting in the black darkness, he heard a faint humming sound. Slowly he walked toward it, until he bumped into a hard, rough, wooden post. He put his hands out to feel it. “Of course!” he said to himself, “It’s a telephone pole!” As he stood there, the clouds parted, and he was able to see again. He looked up, and there, silhouetted against the moon, was the wooden crossbar that supported the phone lines. He was standing at the foot of a giant cross.
In that moment, everything Don Smarto had ever learned from the Bible came into focus. He realized that all he needed to do to be saved was to hold on to Christ and His cross. He described his experience like this:
Now I knew, I really knew, that Christ had died for me. It was coupled with the more important revelation that I was a sinner, that I was not the good person I had thought I was a moment before. All at once I embraced the telephone pole and began to cry. I must have hugged that piece of wood for nearly an hour. I could imagine Jesus nailed to this pole, blood dripping from his wounds. I felt as if the blood were dripping over me, cleansing me of my sin and unworthiness.
Christ alone reminds us that salvation is by and through the work of Jesus Christ only. It means that through the cross and the empty tomb Jesus has done it all so that now no merit on the part of man, no merit of the saints, no works of ours can add to his completed saving work.
During October, we are looking to the great biblical truths that were recovered during the Protestant Reformation: Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, and Christ Alone, all to the Glory of God Alone. What these doctrines share in common is that they all find their meaning in Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Salvation in Jesus Christ is the message of the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. When we accept Scripture alone, the Scripture itself points us to Christ alone. Grace is unmerited favor, undeserved blessing. Jesus Christ is God’s gracious gift to sinners. The reason that salvation is by grace alone is because it is offered in Christ alone. It is because salvation was accomplished by Christ alone that it is accepted by faith alone, without the addition of any works of our own.
All of this is for the glory of God alone: soli Deo gloria. When we give praise to Christ for his work on the cross, we are giving glory to God, for Jesus Christ is God incarnate. Since we are saved by Christ alone, and not by ourselves, all the honor and glory of our salvation returns to God, and to him alone.
Solus Christus: Christ Alone