The Five Solas: Solus Christus

We’ll continue this week with the fourth of five “Solas”, Solus Christus (sometimes written as Solo Christo)

I think Mark Bell has done an outstanding job of summing up how the other Solas tie into Solus Christus:

“Grace Alone, Faith Alone, and Christ Alone are tightly connected.  Notice the prepositions in the following sentence: Salvation is by Grace Alone through Faith Alone in Christ Alone.  That is solid, biblical Christianity!”

Solus Christus is the belief that our salvation comes ONLY through Christ:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” – the words of Jesus in John 14:6.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” – Acts 4:12. (The Apostle Peter)

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” – 1 Tim. 2:5 (The Apostle Paul)

Can’t get much clearer than that! There aren’t multiple paths to heaven. (Other religions, spiritualities), there isn’t even anything which HELPS Christ save you (works, saints, priests, money, good intentions, etc.).

Christianity is incredibly *inclusive* in that all are called to come to Christ, and all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.  However, it’s entirely *exclusive* in its path:  Solus Christus.

While few of us would argue that something or someone other than Jesus is capable of saving us, or that “all religions are paths which lead to truth/heaven” (Oprah Winfrey’s generic spirituality), how we live this out in our daily lives (and unfortunately even in our church lives) is often at odds:

Do we view Christ as central in our view of scripture?

1. The Bible is about Jesus:

“And beginning with Moses and the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” – Luke 24:27.

“You diligently search the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me” – John 5:39.

“We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” – John 1:45.

It is evident in these and other passages that Jesus claimed that HE was the major subject of the Old Testament Scriptures—from Moses all the way through the prophets. He believed that they were all writing about him! This is either grandiose monomania, or he was giving his hearers the key to understanding what the whole Old Testament is all about. (Rod Rosenbladt, Christ Alone)

So when you read the story of David, you aren’t David. David was a real, historical, man who killed a real, historical, giant. Your problems aren’t your “Goliaths”.

You aren’t Daniel. Your struggles are not your “Lions Den”.

Jesus is the better David. Jesus is the better Daniel.  Jesus is the hero of the Bible. The scriptures, according to Jesus himself, are about…. HIM!

The problem with seeing yourself, rather than Christ as the hero of these stories? It’s not only narcissistic (all about you), and legalistic (commanding you to *do* rather than focusing on what has been *done*), it’s setting you up for failure.  Be honest with yourself, if you truly face giants in your life, you don’t kill them with your stone, you miss. Often. Repeatedly.  Rather than tell you to throw more stones harder, turn your focus to the better David, Christ. Christ, who conquered the giants of sin, death, and the grave!

Let that sink in. When you read the bible, are you looking for Christ and his supremacy, or are you looking for “life tips” and seeing yourself as the hero? Big question. Big difference. If you don’t get what Jesus was saying about being supreme in scripture, you’ll begin to see yourself in the storyline, and you’ll focus on your giants, and your performance… or you’ll see Christ as supreme, see Him as the hero of each story, the better Adam, the better David, the better Daniel, the better Jonah.. and you’ll give Him glory for what He has done and for the grace he extends as victor over death, sin, and the grave.

Think about it.

Marc

Why Christian Dads should DIE on Fathers Day

This may well be the most poorly worded, least organized blog post I’ve ever written, and that’s OK.. because it will likely be the most heartfelt as well.

Yesterday was Fathers Day, and we celebrated it like I imagine many families do; Bright and early, my three princesses presented me with adorable drawings, beautiful cards, and a couple of very cool (and always practical for Dad) gifts. We then went to church. As the sermon began to honor Fathers, I felt it. It was warm and comforting. As I heard all of the things a Father was supposed to be and supposed to do, I mentally checked each. Let’s just put it out there, I’m a good Dad. Scratch that, I’m a GREAT Dad. (I’ve got handwritten certificates in beautiful marker colors from my kids to make it official). I am, in fact, the World’s Greatest Dad!

Preach it Pastor!

Spend time with your kids? Check!
Teach them to read their bibles by example! Double Check!
Raise them in church? Yep!

It felt good. Like totally killing it at work, and showing up for a performance review to pick up the bonus check. I’m totally nailing Fatherhood.

And then, slowly, I became more and more uncomfortable. Then I didn’t feel so great. Then I felt horrible.

Guilty. I fell into the trap. Law always leads to one of two places in my heart; I either fall to pride when I feel I’m checking the boxes… or I fall to despair when I feel like I’m failing.

Yeah, Marc, you’ve got it.. great Dad. Checking all the boxes. Thank God you’re not like the deadbeat, the selfish Dad, THOSE guys. OK, Marc, trade shirts.. see how this one fits:

And for that, I need to die.  You need to die.  All the Christian Dads who patted ourselves on the back yesterday for not being like the tax collector (or deadbeat/uninvolved Dad) need to die. Die to self. Die to pride. Die to our perceived righteousness through the law.  We’re not getting it right, we just compared ourselves to the deadbeats and think we’re nailing it.

So, for that, I say let me die, and let Him live.  Let Him show to the “deadbeat” Dad in the pew who was beaten down by the law that I found such false comfort in…

What do we have for this guy? The guy who knows he dropped the ball? Who failed his kids?

What do I have for that guy?  There are bad guys out there, I get that. Broken families, broken promises, broken hearts.  But what do we have for that guy? The guy who finds nothing but condemnation in the law?

Matthew 12 tells us that Jesus will not break a bruised reed, and he will not quench a smoldering wick.  As a Christian, you are under no condemnation, brother. Those sins you keep beating yourself up for, that people keep beating you down for, for not measuring up, for failing them, those sins have been paid for. You. Are. Not. Guilty! Soak in the gospel.

But be clear on this; if you are NOT a Christian, if you have not repented of your sins against God, and believed in faith that Christ has lived, died, and resurrected to make the promise in the graphic above apply to you , you’re still guilty of all of that stuff.  You’re still under God’s wrath for those failures.

For those of you doing your best as Dads, keep striving. Your family is worth it!  But know that your striving will always involved failing; when that happens, bask in the grace of the gospel. Remember your justification is through grace and not works, and that every time you shank it as a Dad, it’s been paid for.  For those of you who shanked it already, there’s grace.  I can’t guarantee that the people you hurt will forgive you, but I can assure you, through scripture, that your repentance has led to His forgiveness.  Rest in it.

Marc

The Five Solas: Sola Gratia

What are the Five Solas, and why would I spend time reading about them on your blog instead of playing Doodle Jump? Or Words with Friends? Or watching sneezing Pandas on YouTube?

The Five Solas (sola from the latin “alone”) are the bedrock of much of what you believe if you are an evangelical christian. (Great, a history lesson.. with latin no less.) OK, before you run off and start looking for “fail compilation” on YouTube, stick with me for a minute. You need to know these things for a few key reasons:

1. Only by knowing what you believe can you identify and defend against what you don’t.

2. Really smart people have defined these truths over the centuries. I get it, they dressed funny and they’re all dead now, but in spite of the fact that they didn’t have iPhones or access to google, they did the heavy biblical, linguistic, and theological lifting that most of us have no ability (or work ethic) to accomplish.

3. It gives us an early warning capability. There is truly nothing new under the sun; every “new wave” that hits the modern evangelical church is a simple twist on a centuries old heresy. If you don’t understand them, you’re easy prey to them. (Molinism anyone?)

4. We’re called to do so in scripture:

[15] Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

(2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)

With that… Sola Gratia!

What is Sola Gratia?  The doctrine of Sola Gratia (By Grace Alone)  asserts that our justification before God and our salvation are both ONLY by God’s grace and not dependent on ANY action or condition provided by man.  So, as we understand form Sola Fide that salvation is by faith and not works, we also understand that faith itself is a gift of  grace.

Why is this important?  First of all, it’s important because this is rarely, RARELY taught anymore.  In fact, in casual conversation with fellow christians, I find that MOST believers state a position which actually contradicts not only the historic christian faith, but their own denominations.  If that surprises you, please keep reading and honestly evaluate your understanding at the conclusion. Which of the three common views did you hold when you started reading?

The question here, the answer to which has been played out over the centuries of church history, is: How is man able, in his fallen/sinful state, to make a “good” choice (faith)?  There are three primary views: Two of which are orthodox views;  That due to man’s fallen nature, God must enable his faith (Augustinianism and Arminianism), while the third is the view that man’s will was not compromised by “the fall” and he is therefore capable of exercising faith without divine enablement (Pelagianism).

Note: While each of these men held various beliefs on this complex issue, it is important to note that these names/beliefs attributed to them are to point out specific differences. It is not unusual in church history for extensions of these beliefs (used to provide greater clarity in the differences of thought) to be assigned to a person who never held them. (For example, many things now labeled under the umbrella of Arminianism were never held by Jacob Arminius himself, but are seen as an extension of that school of thought).

Augustinianism:

As is typical in church history, much of what we believe is clarified in response to false teaching (heresy).  In other words, someone started teaching something unusual, and church leaders would meet to clear up what it is we actually believe.  These councils were important in clarifying the christian faith as well as documenting the discussions.

In the early 400’s (412-415), a teaching by Pelagius, stating that man’s fallen nature did NOT prohibit him from exercising faith, began to gain popularity. In response, Augustine responded, and Augustine’s views were affirmed during the Council of Carthage, and the Council of Orange (during which Pelagius was declared a heretic).

Augustine defended the view that regeneration precedes faith but also that it must precede faith. Because of the moral bondage of the unregenerate sinner, he cannot have faith until he is changed internally by the operative, monergistic (God working alone, without our assistance) work of the Holy Spirit. Faith is regeneration’s fruit, not its cause.

In other words, our nature is dead in sin and God must change our “heart of stone to a heart of flesh” by an act of his grace BEFORE we exercise faith.

Click here to read some of Augustines’ writings against Pelagianism:
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf105.html

Arminianism:

This belief is attributed to Jacob Arminius. He held that God’s work in us consisted of “Prevenient Grace” which undoes the effects of sin sufficiently that we may then freely choose to believe. An individual’s act of faith then results in becoming part of the body of Christ, which allows one to appropriate Christ’s atonement for oneself, erasing the guilt of sin.

If this sounds similar to Augustinianism, it is in many respects. The main differences (which will not be discussed in detail on this post) are: The extent/efficacy of the atonement, The “resistibility” of God’s grace, and the security of the believer.  For the purposes of man’s depravity, however, they are quite similar and orthodox.

Pelagianism:

Pelagianism is a theological theory named after Pelagius and taught during the early 400’s (circa 412-415). It is the belief that original sin did not taint human nature, and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without Divine aid. Thus, Adam’s sin was “to set a bad example” for his progeny, but his actions did not have the other consequences imputed to Original Sin. Pelagianism views the role of Jesus as “setting a good example” for the rest of humanity (thus counteracting Adam’s bad example). In short, humanity has full control, and thus full responsibility, for its own salvation in addition to full responsibility for every sin (the latter insisted upon by both proponents and opponents of Pelagianism). According to Pelagian doctrine, because humanity does not require God’s grace for salvation (beyond the creation of will), Jesus’ execution is devoid of the redemptive quality ascribed to it by orthodox Christian theology.

In other words, man has (in his natural state) the ability to “make a decision” for Christ.  This is not a historical or orthodox christian view. While this is likely what you believed when you started reading this blog post, it is almost certainly not the position of your denomination.  See what happens when people stop teaching that “stuffy theology”? We fall into what has been considered heresy for hundreds of years!

Here are the creeds of the Council of Orange who condemned Pelagius’ teachings:
http://www.creeds.net/ancient/orange.htm

So, ask yourself. Before you read this did you believe that all men naturally had the ability to “make a decision for Christ” on their own?

If so, it’s a heresy. It would be outside of the beliefs of all major denominations, including; Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God, etc.   All of these denominations hold that apart from a divine enablement by God, no man can come to faith in Christ.

It is my sincere hope that this post has given you a new level of appreciation for the incredible grace which God has shown us by changing our hearts to hear the gospel and to come to Christ in repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

As always, i’m available at marc5solas@gmail.com for questions and discussion!

Marc

The Five Solas: Sola Fide

What are the Five Solas, and why would I spend time reading about them on your blog instead of playing Doodle Jump? Or Words with Friends? Or watching sneezing Pandas on YouTube?

The Five Solas (sola from the latin “alone”) are the bedrock of much of what you believe if you are an evangelical christian. (Great, a history lesson.. with latin no less.) OK, before you run off and start looking for “fail compilation” on YouTube, stick with me for a minute. You need to know these things for a few key reasons:

1. Only by knowing what you believe can you identify and defend against what you don’t.

2. Really smart people have defined these truths over the centuries. I get it, they dressed funny and they’re all dead now, but in spite of the fact that they didn’t have iPhones or access to google, they did the heavy biblical, linguistic, and theological lifting that most of us have no ability (or work ethic) to accomplish.

3. It gives us an early warning capability. There is truly nothing new under the sun; every “new wave” that hits the modern evangelical church is a simple twist on a centuries old heresy. If you don’t understand them, you’re easy prey to them. (Molinism anyone?)

4. We’re called to do so in scripture:

[15] Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

(2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)

And now, the rumble royal of the reformation, Sola Fide!

The doctrine of sola fide “by faith alone” asserts that God’s pardon of guilty sinners (justification) is granted and received through faith alone and excludes any and all works. (If you are unclear on what justification is, or the difference between justification and sanctification, please read here: Stuff Christians Should Know). As we have discussed previously, all men are fallen and sinful and under the just wrath of a righteous God. But God, based on the sinless life, atoning death, and resurrection of Christ, grants sinners judicial pardon.

Judicial? As in courtroom? Exactly. This is exactly the language the Apostle Paul uses in the New Testament.  Since we are sinful and God is holy, how can He declare us righteous when we are sinful without compromising His own holiness?

1. He places our sin upon Christ, which makes us then “not guilty”.

If Christ’s work stopped here it would be grace beyond measure. But incredibly, it doesn’t.

If you’ve always just heard that Jesus died for you, well, that’s true. But if all he needed to do was die, why didn’t he just come and die? Because:

2. Christ’s righteous life is applied to us as well.  He fulfilled all the requirements of the law during His sinless life.  So not only are we declared “not guilty”, we are declared RIGHTEOUS!  What grace!

This sounds like stuffy theology? Imputed? Is it really a big deal to be so technical about it?

“No doctrine is more important to evangelical theology than the doctrine of justification by faith alone–the Reformation principle of sola fide. Martin Luther rightly said that the church stands or falls on this one doctrine.” – John MacArthur

Yes, it’s that important. We’re talking, men were burned at the stake rather than deny it important. Ask this guy (Thomas Cranmer) if this it “nitpicky/dry/dead theology”:

So what are some errors here?  Why should we known and guard against them?

Our normal human leaning is to try to DO something to earn or keep our salvation. As crazy as it sounds, man has proven over and over again through the bible and through church history to try to add SOMETHING to faith alone. The Judaizers in the New Testament tried adding elements of the law.  Nearly every cult will add Faith +, faith plus some other act.

Note: We’re talking about justification here. There is hard, ongoing, consistent work (empowered by the Holy Spirit) in ongoing sanctification. Again, confusion between the categories of justification and sanctification is fatal! Why?

Scripture itself makes sola fide the only alternative to a damning system of works-righteousness: “Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believesin Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom. 4:4-5, emphasis added).

In other words, those who trust Jesus Christ for justification by faith alone receive a perfect righteousness that is reckoned to them. Those who attempt to establish their own righteousness or mix faith with works only receive the terrible wage that is due all who fall short of perfection. So the individual as well as the church stands or falls with the principle of sola fide. Israel’s apostasy was rooted in their abandonment of justification by faith alone: “For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3). 

While this isn’t one of the more exciting subjects, and it’s easy to assume we’ve “got it”, makes it all the more dangerous.  As much as we “know” that salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone, check yourself. Watch how easy it is for us to bring something other than “the empty hand of faith” and try to add requirements other than faith to salvation. And this, puts us in a category we do NOT want to be in: ”

So, the quick takeaway to keep in mind:  Faith alone in Christ alone. PERIOD.  Anything else added on that is, well….

As always, questions to e-mail at Marc5Solas@gmail.com

Marc