A Close Look at “Solus Christus” (Part2)
October 2, 2005 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos
We are looking at the great lessons the Lord has taught us and our current focus is on the five great doctrinal pillars of the Reformation of the 16th century, the five “solas.” We have already studied the first, sola Scriptura or Scripture alone, and this declares that Scriptures are sufficient and absolute authority in matters of faith and practice.
Last week we began to consider the second “sola” which is solus Christus or Christ alone. This declares that our salvation is accomplished by the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ, and only through His perfect Sacrifice on the cross. Borrowing the idea of Terry Johnson, author of the book The Case for Traditional Protestantism, we see three principles under the doctrine of solus Christus:
- Christ is the only Savior
- His is the only Sacrifice
- He is the only Mediator
Under the first principle, Christ is the Only Savior, we learned that the Bible teaches that Christ alone is the Savior of the world. In stark contrast to the pluralistic view that all religions lead to one God, Christ makes this exclusive claim in John 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
And this is the unanimous declaration of the writers of Scriptures:
- that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1Jn 4:14), and
- that 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)
Under the second principle, His is the Only Sacrifice for Sin, we learned it is only by Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross are sinners saved. This is how the Lord Jesus saves. Because the sin committed against God is an infinite offense, there is a need for an infinite sacrifice to pay for sin. Without the shedding of Christ’s blood, there can be no forgiveness of sins.
- Christ’s death was substitutionary. He gave His life ‘a ransom for many.’ He died in the place of sinners.
- Because of the death of this perfect Lamb of God our sins have been taken away, expiated, i.e., cancelled and cleansed.
- Because Christ gave His life as a ransom for many, He purchased sinners for God with His precious blood, so that they are redeemed and set free from sin.
- Because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice, God is propitiated, His anger is appeased and turned aside.
- And this sacrifice of the Son of God was complete, final and sufficient. It does not need to be repeated or supplemented. 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.
And again, let me repeat what one Bible teacher said, “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.”
And so there are the first two principles of solus Christus: first, Christ is the only Savior, and second, His is the only Sacrifice. Today, let’s look at the third principle:
Christ is the only Mediator
We have seen that Christ is the only Savior, and His is the only Sacrifice. Now we need to know, how do we receive the benefits of what Christ did on the cross?
A. What the Roman Catholic Church says
Let me answer this question first using the Roman Catholic official documents. The answer of the RCC is this: While Christ may have acquired the gifts, graces and blessings for believers through his death, it is only through Mary can we receive those benefits. Listen to these quotations:
From St. Bernardine of Siena, Sermon on Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, note 6.
'Every grace that is communicated to this world has a threefold course. For by excellent order, it is dispensed from God to Christ, from Christ to the Virgin, from the Virgin to us.'
From Pope Leo XIII Encyclical on the Rosary (Octobri mense) of 1891:
... it is right to say, that nothing at all of that very great treasury of all grace which the Lord brought us--for 'grace and truth came through Jesus Christ' [Jn 1.17]--nothing is imparted to us except through Mary, since God so wills, so that just as no one can come to the Father except through the Son, so in general, no one can come to Christ except through His Mother.
From Pope Benedict XV declared "All gifts which the Author of all good (God) has deigned to communicate to the unhappy posterity of Adam, are, according to the loving resolve of His Divine Providence, dispensed by the hands of the Most Holy Virgin" (AAS 9, 1917, 266).
From Pope Pius X calls Mary "the Dispenser of all gifts, which Jesus has acquired for us through His death and His Blood" (D 1978 A).
From Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), ##61,62
... in suffering with Him as He died on the cross, she cooperated in the work of the Savior, in an altogether singular way, by obedience, faith, hope, and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls. As a result she is our Mother in the order of grace. This motherhood of Mary in the economy of grace lasts without interruption, from the consent which she gave in faith at the annunciation, and which she unhesitatingly bore with under the cross, even to the perpetual consummation of all the elect. For after being assumed into heaven, she has not put aside this saving function, but by her manifold intercession, she continues to win the gifts of eternal salvation for us. By her motherly love, she takes care of the brothers of her Son who are still in pilgrimage and in dangers and difficulties, until they be led through to the happy fatherland. For this reason, the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adiutrix, and Mediatrix. (Note: a more popular Catholic article uses the titles, “Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”) This however is to be so understood that it takes nothing away, or adds nothing to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator. For no creature can ever be put on the same level with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer....
I read somewhere, “a rose by a different name smells as sweet.” In other words, however, Catholic defenders clarify the position of Mary and explain that her mediatorial work takes nothing away or adds nothing to the dignity and efficacy of Christ as the one Mediator, the fact still remains that if a person can only receive the benefits of what Jesus Christ did on the cross through her, then Mary’s role, in effect, diminishes the usefulness of Christ’s own work.
According to the Catholic doctrine, Mary’s work as Mediatrix began at the annunciation, when she gave consent to become bearer of the Savior. And, according to them, this saving function has continued when she was at the cross and has not been interrupted even after her assumption to heaven.
I would like us to look into this for a moment, before looking at what Christ has done. What does Scripture reveal to us regarding the role of Mary. Is she truly the dispenser of grace?
- Mary could not have been a mediatrix and even if hypothetically she did, she could not have begun her mediatorial work during the time of the annunciation because just a few moments after the announcement of the angel, Mary said in Lk 1:47, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” By this statement, Mary acknowledges that she is as much a sinner as any descendant of Adam, and also in need of a Savior. The dispenser of grace cannot be at the same time in need of grace.
- In John 2 we find Mary and the Lord Jesus in a wedding at Cana. Catholic defenders say that when Mary approached Jesus to tell him that host had no more wine, Mary was taking on an active role as mediator. That this is a lesson for all to look to Mary so that they can receive all graces from the Lord Jesus. But a careful reading of this passage and a basic understanding of the purpose for this gospel shows us that the focus of the passage is not Mary but Jesus. (Read Jn 20:31. Take note that in Jn 2:11, the author tells us the purpose why this story was included his gospel. It was here at the wedding at Cana that Christ first revealed did his first miracle and thus revealed His glory. (Notice that it was the glory of Christ that was revealed and not (not Mary’s). This passage also tells us the result of the action of Christ. It says that the disciples “put their faith in him” It didn’t say, and they put their faith in Mary.
- Jn 19:25-27 is another passage used by Catholic defenders to support Mary’s role as Mediator. They claim that Christ Himself specifically gave Mary this role. Woman here is your son. This was supposed to be a metaphor of the spiritual motherhood of Mary. For them they see that when Christ gave Mary to the apostle John, this was a picture of her being a model for the church. She is given by the Lord to the church to be her spiritual mother.
A better explanation is the comment of Albert Barnes.
Behold thy son! - This refers to John, not to Jesus himself. Behold, my beloved disciple shall be to you a son, and provide for you, and discharge toward you the duties of an affectionate child. Mary was poor. It would even seem that now she had no home. Jesus, in his dying moments, filled with tender regard for his mother, secured for her an adopted son, obtained for her a home, and consoled her grief by the prospect of attention from him who was the most beloved of all the apostles. What an example of filial attention! What a model to all children! And how lovely appears the dying Saviour, thus remembering his afflicted mother, and making her welfare one of his last cares on the cross, and even when making atonement for the sins of the world!
- Turn to Acts 1:14. Here in this story we find Mary in the upper room with the a group of disciples, numbering about 120 (Ac 1:15). You will notice that Mary does not take the leadership role. Peter does. Peter does not approach Mary and ask for her intercession on their behalf as they made that important decision as to who to choose in replacement of Judas. You will notice that Peter and the group prayed directly to the Lord.
- Take note also, that when Peter preached his first sermon, he points to Christ as the one who directly imparts on the people the Holy Spirit. It was not through the intercession or mediatorial work of Mary. They did not have this idea that Mary was the dispenser and administrator of the graces of Christ. Peter said in Ac 2:33
Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
The Lord Jesus Himself poured out the Spirit to the people. He is the one who mediates.
For this reason, the message of the apostles were limited to Christ.
- 1Co 2:2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
- 2Co 11:2-3 I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. 3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
The love of Christ for the church can be compared to the love between David and Jonathan, but even more. You see, if Jonathan wanted anything from David, Jonathan did not need the mother of David to talk to him. David himself loved Jonathan. And so is Christ’s love for the church. The church does not need the mother of Jesus before Jesus shows His love to her people. Look at how Paul expresses the love of Christ to the church.
- Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
- Ro 5:6-8 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
- Eph 5:25-30 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing [b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-- 30 for we are members of his body.
B. What the Bible says
In contrast, to the teaching of the Catholic church that Mary is Mediatrix, the Bible declares that Jesus is the only mediator:
1Ti 2:5-6, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men…”
“Contrary to the fanciful human imaginations, the Bible teaches that Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant (Hebrews 12:24); He is the door to salvation (John 10:9); and all God's grace and kindness are given "through Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:7); no-one is saved through Mary; all are saved who call on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13).”
Terry Johnson, author of the book, The Case for Traditional Protestantism, writes:
A mediator is one who intercedes on behalf of alienated persons. How do I receive the benefits of what Jesus Christ did on the cross? Can I go directly to God for them? No. The gulf between God and man is too great. God is pure and holy and cannot tolerate a sinner like me. The benefits of death must be mediated to me through another. Who, then, can go to God for me? Who can plead my case before God? Who can ensure that the merits of Christ are credited to my account and my sin to His? Only one can mediate for me—Jesus Christ Himself.
The Apostle Paul writes,
1Ti 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
Likewise the writer to the Hebrews says that Christ as our mediator intercedes for us.
Heb 7:25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
We are able to ‘draw near to God’ directly because of Christ’s mediation; ‘He always lives to make intercession’ for us. To whom do I turn to get what I need from God? Who can assist me in my search for the forgiveness of my sins and peace of conscience? The answer given by Scripture, Reformers and believers today is ‘Christ alone.’ He alone mediates the blessings of redemption. He alone justifies. He alone forgives. He alone sanctifies. He alone adopts us into the family of God. I go directly to God through Jesus Christ. I need no celestial mediators, such as angels or saints or May; I need no earthly mediators such as clergymen and priests.
As our Mediator, He is our Advocate. John says,
1Jn 2:1,2 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
John sees Jesus Christ as our Mediator, advocating on our behalf by pleading our case on the basis of His own work, His propitiatory sacrifice ‘for our sin.’ The apostle Paul envisions much the same.
Ro 8:33,34 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
If anyone for example, the devil, should try to ‘bring a charge’ against us, to demonstrate from our record that we ought to be condemned, Jesus Himself is interceding at the right had of God on our behalf. ‘He who died’ is the same as He who ‘intercedes and defends.’
As our Mediator Christ ensures our salvation. The Apostle Paul taught this in Romans 4:25. He said that Jesus was ‘delivered up because of our transgressions.’ By His death He paid the penalty of our sins. But he went on to say, ‘and was raised because of our justification.’ What does he mean? Paul means that Christ was raised so that He might ensure the application of the benefits of His death to our account. Christ’s death accomplished our salvation, but His resurrection ensured that what He had accomplished would be applied. By His continual intercession Christ ensure that all those for whom He died shall come to faith in Him, be justified, adopted, sanctified, shall persevere, and, ultimately, be glorified.
Let me close with these words from John Calvin, taken from his Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.xvi.19. With these words may we take to heart the doctrine of solus Christus. Whatever we may need for our salvation, sanctification and glorification, we receive them from Christ alone!
We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ [Acts 4:12]. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him” [1 Corinthians 1:30]. If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects [Hebrews 2:17] that he might learn to feel our pain [cf. Hebrews 5:2]. If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross [Galatians 3:13]; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.