This article explains that to the Reformers, salvation was solus Christus, that is, in Christ alone and based on his merits.

Source: The Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth, 2004. 3 pages.

Solus Christus: Christ Alone

Christ is all, and in all.

Colossians 3:11

It should be self-evident to a serious student of the Word of God that these simple yet supremely profound words express that Christ is the sum and substance of the Holy Scriptures and that He is the heart and soul of all theology. This text alone proves that this is true. And yet, how important it is today to consider the great significance of these words — especially in light of our commemoration of the Protestant Reformation which formulated solus Christus (Christ alone) as one of its five “solas.”

The issue in the Protestant Reformation was not that the doctrine of Christ is an essential component of Christian dogma. Rather, the Reformers, guided by God’s Spirit, came to the troubling conclusion that the church no longer taught that salvation is by Christ alone on the basis of His merits alone. Instead, the common teaching of the day was that salvation was to be acquired by the intervention of Christ plus the intercession of Mary and the saints, and that in order to be a partaker of salvation one needed his own merits and those of the saints in addition to Christ’s merits. Thus, instead of teaching that there is no other Name given under heaven whereby a sinner must be saved (Acts 4:12) and that salvation is through Christ alone, the church was teaching that salvation was the result of Christ’s work plus human effort and merit.

The Reformers recognized that such teaching was dishonoring to Christ, contrary to the Scriptures, and thus utterly repulsive to God Himself. How great, therefore, was their zeal to reassert the absolute supremacy of Christ and His finished work in their exposition of the Holy Scriptures! They had rediscovered that Christ is indeed all, and in all! This discovery dramatically transformed their ministries — ministries which the Spirit of God honored for being true and faithful to the Word He inspired.

If, therefore, we are to be true sons and daughters of the Reformation, we must have the same unwavering commitment. Christ must be at the very center of all our preaching, teaching, theology, and personal experience. The heartfelt confession of every Christian’s life must be: Christ is my all, and in all.

Let us now examine the Scriptures to ascertain how Paul arrived at the magnificent conclusion that Christ is all, and in all. One of the key passages that opens the meaning and purpose of the Scriptures is John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John here introduces the Lord Jesus Christ in a unique manner by calling Him the Word — the Word who has eternally been face to face with God, and who is God Himself. Jesus Christ is the living Word of God, the Logos.

To understand why the Holy Spirit designates the eternal Son of God by this remarkable name, we need to consider for what purpose we use words. We use words to give expression to our thoughts — to communicate what is on our minds and lives in our hearts. This is precisely what God delights to do. John tells us that God the Father has done so in the person of His Son who is therefore referred to as “the Word.” In other words, the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the Person in whom the Father reveals His eternal thoughts to us. He is the Person in whom the Father reveals what lives in His heart. He is the revelation and very embodiment of the Father’s heart.

This is what John is saying when he writes, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). From eternity to eternity the heart of His Father is His dwelling place, and He has come in the fullness of time to declare to the children of men who His Father is. He Himself is the revelation of the Father, and therefore He is designated as the Word of the Father. Christ underscores this truth when He responds to Philip’s request of “Show us the Father,” by replying, “Hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).

At two other occasions, the apostle John specifically refers to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Word. In 1 John 1:1, he writes, “That which was from the begin­ning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; and in Revelation 19:13 he expressly tells us regarding the Lord Jesus Christ that “his name is called The Word of God.”

Given this plain witness of the Scriptures, we conclude that there is an intimate connection between the Living Word of God and the written Word of God. Christ Himself, the Living Word, does not leave us in doubt about that relationship. In John 5:39, He says of the written Scriptures, “They are they which testify of me,” and in Luke 24:44, He gave His disciples unforgettable instruction how all the Old Testament Scriptures — Moses, the prophets, and the psalms — testify of Him.

Thus when we compare Scripture with Scripture, we conclude that the written Word of God is about the Living Word of God. The written Word of God is the Father’s written testimony regarding the Living Word of God, His Son Jesus Christ. It is “the record that God gave of His Son” (1 John 5:10). The entire Word of God, therefore, is about Christ, from Genesis to Revelation. Its glorious theme is solus Christus!

When we consider what the Father says about His Son in these Scriptures, we should not be surprised that this should be the grand theme. The Word of God tells us that the Father loves His Son (John 3:25, 5:20, 10:17, 15:9-10, 17:23-24, 26), delights in Him (Prov. 8:30), and is well-pleased with Him (Mat. 3:17, 17:5). This means that the Son is the supreme and eternal object of His Father’s love. The Father is therefore eternally preoccupied with the glory and beauty of His Son in whom He beholds the perfect image of Himself (Heb. 1:3), and everything He does is motivated by the love He has for His Son. The entire universe was cre­ated for Him (Col. 1:16b), and all things in heaven and earth, which reflect His glory (Ps. 19:1), are named after Him (Eph. 3:15).

Yet nothing is so designed to bring glory to His Son as does the marvelous work of redemption. By that work it pleases the Father to redeem fallen sinners from destruction and to make them the recipients of the love with which He loves His Son. The Father has eternally chosen His Son (Eph. 1:5) to conform sinners to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29) — sinners who in the fullness of time have been redeemed by His Son (Gal. 4:4-5), united to His Son by His Spirit, drawn to His Son, wrought upon to believe in His Son, and become followers of His Son. Everything the Father does by His Spirit in the work of redemption revolves around His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the object of His eternal delight. It is the love He has for His Son which He sheds abroad in the hearts of His elect, which leads such sinners to love the very Son whom the Father loves. The Father will not rest until sinners become well pleased with the Christ with whom He is well pleased. Nothing so delights the Father as when sinners find their delight in His altogether lovely Son.

Because the Father loves the Son, Christ is the focus of His work. The more His Son is glorified, the more the Father is honored and delighted, and therefore He will not cease to deal with His people, stripping them of all that is not Christ, until the confession of their life becomes solus Christus: Christ is all, and in all! Christ tells us that the special work of His Spirit is to glorify Him. Since it is the Father’s good pleasure that His Son should have the preeminence (Col. 1:18-19), His Spirit works ceaselessly until this Christ has the preeminence in the hearts of His people. Since the Father is preoccupied with the Son, those sinners who have been chosen in His Son and redeemed by His Son should also be preoccupied with His Son. Only when we put all our trust in Christ and His finished work, boasting in Him and His righteousness alone, do we truly honor God for who He is. Only when we believe in Christ do we say “amen” to God’s revelation of Himself and fully endorse all His attributes, for “he that hath received his testimony (Christ’s) hath set to his seal that God is true” (John 3:33).

Since the Father’s and the saints’ singular focus is solus Christus, the singular focus of the church and her ministries must be solus Christus. Only that min­istry that bears witness to the living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, will truly be the ministry of His Word. Only such a ministry will be endorsed by the Spirit of Christ who has inspired the written Word to bring sinners to the living Word. Since it is His goal to bring sinners to the confession that Christ is all and in all, how diligent we ought to be to see to it that Christ will be all and in all in the preaching and teaching ministries of the church! Solus Christus must be the goal we pursue until that blessed day when solus Christus shall be an everlasting and perfect reality. Only when this is our goal and practice will God truly be exalted to the highest and then soli Deo glorify will become the logical sequel to solus Christus. As 1 Corinthians 15:28 says, “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” Only then can we truly consider ourselves to be Reformed.

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