A Close Look at “Solus Christus” (Part1)

September 25, 2005 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos

  My anniversary message last July has led us to a series of messages regardingthe wonderful lessons that the Lord has taught us as the SDG church for the past 9 years. In this series the Lord brought us to take a close look at the 5 solas of the Reformation of the 16th century. We have looked at the first, Sola Scriptura, meaning “by Scripture alone.”   Now let’s look at the second great sola, Solus Christus, or Solo Christo. This means Christ alone. This declares that our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to the Father. Just as sola Scriptura means several things, such as Scripture is absolutely necessary, absolute authority, sufficient and clear, so also solus Christus means several things: Christ is the only Savior, His is the only Sacrifice, He is the only Mediator. (I have taken this idea from Terry Johnson, author of the book The Case for Traditional Protestantism. Like James Boice, Terry Johnson writes about the five great “solas” of the Reformation of the 16th century.)  

The Only Savior

There are many people today who abhor the idea of absolute truth. These are people who hold on to the philosophy called relativism. Relativism says there is no God and therefore there are no absolutes in any area of life. This philosophy believes that truth is relative. I like Terry Johnson’s description of people with this view of life. He writes, [Relativists] … are happy to say of our religious convictions, whatever they might be, How wonderful of you. What they mean is, ‘What is true is what is true for you.’ Of your moral convictions they are happy to say, ‘What is right is what is right for you.’ All religions and moral systems are of equal worth. None is superior to the rest. For contemporary people there is no final truth. There may be truth when it comes to the law of gravity, or the laws of thermodynamics, but not in religion and morals. The only requirement in religion is that one be sincere in one’s beliefs. We are all on the same road to the same place, they say. Our differences are superficial. This is the orthodoxy for twenty-first-century secular man. Dare to say that there might be a single truth in religion and morals, and one is accused of arrogance (‘You think you alone are right’), of bigotry (‘and you think everyone else is wrong’), and intolerance. Belief in ultimate truth is heresy in the light of the present day orthodoxies of relativism, pluralism, and secularism. (The Case for Traditional Protestantism, p. 48)   In contrast to this relativist philosophy what do the Bible and the Reformers assert? Terry Johnson writes, Classic Protestantism asserts that God has revealed Himself through the prophets and apostles and recorded that revelation in His Word. That Word reveals a plan of salvation which has at its heart the incarnation of the Son of God. This ‘Son of God’ is not merely a great man, even a divine man, but ‘God the Son,’ the God-Man, the second person of the Trinity united to human flesh. He is the ‘Savior of the world.’ What He does is not just of tribal or local significance, but of universal significance. (The Case for Traditional Protestantism, p. 48)  

Look at some of Christ’s claims for Himself:

  • Look at Christ’s universal claim regarding His Saviorhood: Jn 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
  • Look at Christ’s exclusive claim regarding His Saviorhood: Jn 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (Notice the word “the.” Christ reinforces His exclusiveness by the negative: no one comes to the Father except through Me.)

Look at what others have said about Christ

  • John the Baptist said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29)
  • Peter said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Ac 4:12)
  • John the Beloved testified, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1Jn 4:14)
  • Paul wrote, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst.” (1Ti 1:15)
  • Ro 5:18-19 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
  • 2Co 5:18-19 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through, Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Look at what the heavenly host will say about Him.

Rev 5:6-10 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song:  "You are worthy to take the scroll   and to open its seals,  because you were slain,   and with your blood you purchased men for God   from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our  God,   and they will reign on the earth."   Here is a description of Christ’s unique character and amazing influence which accordingly proves that He is Lord and Savior of the world. This comes from an anonymous article entitled ‘The Incomparable Christ,’ quoted by Terry Johnson in his book, The Case of Traditional Protestantism.   More than nineteen hundred years ago there was a Man born contrary to the laws of life. This Man lived in poverty and was reared in obscurity. He did not travel extensively. Only once did He cross the boundary of the country in which He lived; that was during His exile in childhood. He possessed neither wealth nor influence. His relatives were inconspicuous and had neither training nor formal education. In infancy he startled a king; in childhood He puzzled doctors; in manhood He ruled the course of nature, walked upon the billows as if pavements, and hushed the sea to sleep. He healed the multitudes without medicine and made no charge for His service. He never wrote a book, yet all the libraries of the country could not hold the books that have been written about Him. He never wrote a song, and yet He has furnished the theme for more songs than all the songwriters combined. He never founded a college, but all the schools put together cannot boast of having as many students. He never marshaled an army, nor drafted a soldier, nor fired a gun; and yet no leader ever had more volunteers who have, under His orders, made more rebels stack arms and surrender without a shot fired. He never practiced medicine, and yet He has healed more broken hearts than all the doctors far and near. Every seventh day the wheels of commerce cease their turning and multitudes wend their way to worshiping assemblies to pay homage and respect to Him. The names of the past proud statesmen of Greece and Rome have come and gone. The names of the past scientists, philosophers, and theologians have come and gone, but the name of this Man abounds more and more. Though time has spread nineteen hundred years between the people of this generation and the scene of His crucifixion, yet He still lives. Herod could not destroy Him and the grave could not hold Him. He stands forth upon the highest pinnacle of heavenly glory, proclaimed of God, acknowledged by angels, adored by saints, and feared by devils, as the living, personal Christ, our Lord and Savior. (pp. 56,57)  

The Only Sacrifice for Sin

Jesus is the only Savior. How does He save? By His death on the cross. How does the cross save? How does it work?   James Boice writes, “In order to understand the Cross we must begin by considering the seriousness of sin. Sin is an infinite offense against God’s utterly upright character. If we don’t understand that this is how serious sin is, we will assume that all God needs to do is forgive us, indeed, that He owes us forgiveness. “We forgive other people,” we think. “Why shouldn’t God just forgive us?” … But God cannot “just pardon,” and to think so is itself an offense.”   A holy God does not wink at sin. Because sin dishonors a God who upholds a just, moral order there is a need to make reparation for damage done or to make amends. Sin demands punishment. ‘The soul that sins, it shall die’ (Eze 18:4); ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Ro 6:23). Forgiveness requires death as well: ‘Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness’ (Heb 9:22). Because the sin committed against God is an infinite offense, there is a need for an infinite sacrifice to pay for sin. These are all addressed in the Cross of Christ.   Someone said, the Cross of Christ is the very heart and essence of Christianity. The meaning of the death of Christ on the cross is so rich and complex so that its full comprehension will always lie beyond our grasp. The theology of the Cross might be described by the words one writer used to describe the theology of the fourth Gospel. He called it “a pool in which a child can wade” as well as “an ocean in which an elephant can swim.”   We begin to see the complexity of the Cross as soon as we list the words commonly used to explain it: atonement, propitiation, expiation substitution, sacrifice, satisfaction, redemption, ransom, mediation, reconciliation, and so on.   Let us look more closely at some of these words to understand what the Cross is all about:
  • Atonement
  • Expiation
  • Redemption
  • Propitiation
  • Substitution
  Let me begin with the ATONEMENT. This term carries the idea of removing offense by payment of ransom and so bringing the offender and the offended together. In Christian theology, atonement is the central doctrine of faith and can properly include all that Jesus accomplished for us on the cross…. Our Lord's work of atonement looks in four directions: toward sin, toward us, toward Christ, and toward the Holy Father.  
  1. Towards sin:
  Expiation. Expiation is what is done to crimes or sins or evil deeds: Jesus provided the means to cancel, or cleanse, them.  
  • Jn 1:29 “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
  • Lev 16:7-10, 20-21
  1. Towards us
  REDEMPTION. A metaphor used in both OT and NT to describe God's merciful and costly action on behalf of sinful human beings). The basic meaning of the word is release or freedom on payment of a price, deliverance by a costly method. To appreciate the NT theme of redemption, the position of human beings as slaves of sin must be assumed (John 8:33-34). Thus they must be set free in order to become the liberated servants of the Lord (Mark 10:45).   RANSOM. The price paid for the redemption of a slave (Lev 19:20); a reparation paid for injury or damages (Exod 22:10-12); a fee, fine, or heavy assessment laid on a person as a substitute for his own life (21:30). In the NT the term signifies the redemptive price offered by Christ on the cross for the redemption of his people (Mark 10:45; 1 Tim 2:6).
  • Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
  • 1Pe 1:18,19 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
  • Rev 5:9,10 And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll   and to open its seals,  because you were slain,   and with your blood you purchased men for God   from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our  God,   and they will reign on the earth."
  1. Towards God
  PROPITIATION. Propitiation describes what Jesus does to God. Jesus is the subject of this action—He is the one who propitiates. God is the object—He is the one propitiated. By Christ’s sacrifice, God’s anger is appeased and turned aside.   The word propitiation means “atoning sacrifice” or the sacrifice which appeases the wrath of God for sins and obtains His favor.
  • Ro 3:25 God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement. [NIV note: Or as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away]
  • 1Jn 2:2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. [NIV note: Or He is the one who turns aside God’s wrath, taking away our sins…]
  • 1Jn 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. [NIV note: Or as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away]
  • Heb 2:17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. [NIV note: Or and that he might turn aside God’s wrath, taking away].
  There are many people and even Christians who do not know or understand this word. One reason is because the word “propitiation” is an unusual word and it is far from the experience of ordinary people. The word justification is still used in our law courts. The word redemption is used in pawnshops. But propitiation is foreign to us. “Propitiation” is a word that is taken from the world of ancient religion. It signifies what the worshiper does when he or she presents a sacrifice to a god. It is an “atoning sacrifice,” an act by which the wrath of the offended deity is appeased or turned aside.   In the Bible it is never we who take the initiative or make the sacrifice; it is God Himself who, out of His great love for sinners, provides the way by which His wrath against sin may be averted. Moreover, He is Himself that way—in Jesus. God himself placates His own wrath against sin so that His love may go out to save sinners. The sacrifices in the OT did not make God gracious; they were provided by a gracious God in order that He might act graciously towards His sinful people (Lev 17:11).  
  1. Towards Christ
  Substitution. Christ’s death was substitutionary. Jesus said He gave His life ‘a ransom for many’ (Mk 10:45). He died ‘for’ or ‘on behalf of’ many. He died in their place. His blood of the new covenant was ‘poured out for many’ (Mk 14:24), that is, on their behalf, in their place, for their benefit.   Similarly, Paul said in 2Co 5:14 For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. The apostle says ‘one died for all,’ therefore, in Him ‘all died.’ Jesus died as our representative. As our representative, He stood in our place.   Gal 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."   The punishment due to us was meted out to s substitute, a replacement. Isa 53:5-8   Because the sacrifice of the Son of God was substitutionary, it was complete. It is final and sufficient. It does not need to be repeated or supplemented. Jn 19:30 says, When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.   The writer to the Hebrews said,
  • Heb 7:26,27 Such a high priest meets our need--one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
  • Heb 10:12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.
James Montgomery Boice defines solus Christus this way: Solus Christus means that Jesus has done the necessary work of salvation utterly and completely, so that no merit on the part of man, no merit of the saints, no work of ours performed either here or later in purgatory, can add to His completed work. In fact, any attempt to add to Christ’s work is a perversion of the gospel and indeed is not gospel at all (Gal 1:6-9).   In closing, let me show you an important application of the principle of solus Christus. I have taken this from Terry Johnson’s book, The Case for Traditional Protestantism. He writes:   The position of Rome, articulated by the Council of Trent (1545-63), reaffirmed by Vatican II (1962-5) was that ‘the sacrifice of the mass is propiatory, both for the living and the dead,’ and even that the Lord is ‘appeased by the oblation thereof’ (Session 22, chapter II). The Council of Trent also anathemizes the following:   Canon I: If any one saith, that in the mass a true and proper sacrifice is not offered to God; or, that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ is given us to eat: let him be anathema.   Canon III: If any one saith that the sacrifice of the mass is only a sacrifice of praise and of thanksgiving; or, that it is a bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice; or, that it profits him only who receives; and that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead for the sins, pains, satisfactions, and other necessities: let him be anathema.   This doctrine of the Mass denied the finality and sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ if the cross is in need of continual supplementation thought the altar. Communion is a Supper, said the Reformers, not a sacrifice (1Co 11:20). It is served upon ‘the table of the Lord,’ not an altar (1Co 10:21). His sacrifice was once for all and anything that weakens our sense of its finality robs it of its glory.   The Reformers rejected the terms ‘priest’ and ‘altar’ as appropriate for Christian ministry. Priests clothed in vestments offer sacrifices upon altars. Christian clergy are pastors or ministers dressed in simple robes lwho feed and tend God’s sheep through the ministry of God’s Word.   They rejected the ‘treasury of the saints’ as superfluous. Nowhere does Scripture mention such a treasury. Moreover, one need not go to saints for merits (even if they had any—they do not_, because Christ’s merits are sufficient.   They rejected the doctrine of Purgatory, where the souls of believers are alleged to go to be purged of the guilt and stain of unpaid (or unatoned) sins. In Christ there are not unpaid sins. For the believer, Christ’s sacrifice covers all his sins for all time. Moreover death is final. ‘It is appointed for man once to die and after this the judgment. (Heb 9:27).   They rejected the sale of ‘indulgences,’ whereby one could purchase the benefits of the treasury of merit thereby reducing one’s temporal punishments in Purgatory. Merits are not for sale. They are freely reckoned to our account in Christ.   They rejected prayers for the dead, because, as Calvin put it, The entire law and the gospel do not furnish so much as a single syllable to pray for the dead.’ They did not pray for the dead because the dead are in eternity. Their future is sealed. Either by Christ’s sacrifice they are in heaven or because of rejecting Him they have descended into hell. His sacrifice was once for all and sufficient for all our sins! The whole ministry of the church is transformed by one’s view of the finality and sufficiency of Christ’s atonement.