On what basis are we justified (declared right before God)? This is the question that was the driving force behind the Reformation. Are we saved because of works we did?
The Reformers answered this question with the phrase “Solus Christus”, which literally means Christ alone in Latin. This was shorthand for saying that salvation is only through the once for all mediatorial work of Jesus Christ alone and that His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are the basis for our justification.
The problem of sin
The only way one can inherit the kingdom of God is by perfect obedience. But Since Adam – who was our head – sinned, the human race has been in constant rebellion against God. So we are faced with a problem: not only are we not deserving of heaven (because of our sins), we are fully deserving of suffering God”™s wrath in hell.
Christ our Substitute
The Reformers rightly taught that the only way that God could be able to reconcile us to Himself is if someone pays the debt that we owe by dying under His wrath for us. That person had to be sinless and also infinite; sinless in order to qualify to die for others as a substitute, and infinite to be able to suffer God wrath in time.
Christ came and lived the perfect life that God required from us, and also suffered God”™s wrath in order to satisfy God”™s justice. We are accepted before God based on the work that Jesus Christ accomplished. Our works can never save us because they can never be good enough to please God.
Christ our Mediator
Jesus Christ said He was the only way to God the Father and that no one can go to the Father except through Him (cf. John 14:6). By the time of the reformation popes and priests had become mediators between the people and God. But the Reformers objected by arguing that Christ alone was the mediator between God and men (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5-6). It is only through the once for all mediatorial work of Christ that we receive salvation.
In the final analysis salvation is by works alone; but the Reformers held to the position that it is not our works that save us, but the finished work of Jesus Christ alone. Our works cannot save us, and adding them to the work of Christ annuls the Cross of Christ (Gal. 2:21).
“In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all??”
Here in the love of Christ I stand.”
Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Soli Deo Gloria