The Five Solas - Solus Christus
The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century changed Christianity forever. Stephen Wellum,* in his essay, “What the Reformers Taught and Why It Still Matters,” wrote “Roused to action by the corruption and abuses they saw in the Roman Catholic church of the time, visionary pastors and leaders like Martin Luther and John Calvin spearheaded a movement that transformed Christianity and eventually led to the emergence of the Protestant denominations that exist today.”
If we are to learn from the reformers, we do well to study the five solas. But if we are to grasp the substance of the solas and profit from them, we must bear in mind two points. Along with Wellum, the majority of reformed writers today, note that “First, all the solas are interrelated and mutually dependent; you cannot have one without the others. Second, the five solas are just as important today as they were in the Reformation for capturing the heart of the gospel.”
While all five solas are vital for the church’s reform today, there is one which fills a unique role. The import of Christ alone (solus Christus) cannot be underscored enough. Thus, Wellum writes, “Without minimizing this mutual dependence, however, we need to consider that one sola plays a distinct part in connecting the others to bring us the full glory of God in the gospel. Solus Christus stands at the center of the other four solas, connecting them into a coherent theological system by which the reformers declared the glory of God.”
In support of the centrality of the doctrine solus Christus, Wellum reaches back into church history mining the best of theologians like Calvin, Bavinck, and many others. Herman Bavinck, for example, rightly taught that the center to all Christian theology is Christ: “The doctrine of Christ is not the starting point, but it certainly is the central point of the whole system of dogmatics. All other dogmas either prepare for it or are inferred from it. In it, as the heart of dogmatics, pulses the whole of the religious-ethical life of Christianity.”
Still, he didn’t rely solely on ancient theologies to demonstrate that the uniqueness of solus Christos has been the position of the church across the centuries, and more importantly, why it still matters for today. He also marshals in the likes of J.I. Packer and even more recent theologians such as Michael Reeves. He notes Packer’s helpful analogy of a central hub that connects the spoke on a wheel. Packer explained that “Christology is the true hub round which the wheel of theology revolves, and to which its separate spokes must each be correctly anchored if the wheel is not to get bent.” Also recognizing the integrative force of Christ alone, Reeves emphasized that “the center, the cornerstone, the jewel in the crown of Christianity is not an idea, a system, or a thing; it is not even ‘the gospel’ as such. It is Jesus Christ.”
Summarizing the uniqueness of the Reformation truth of Christ alone, Wellum declares that “all of our efforts at theology ultimately rise and fall with Christ alone. Only a proper understanding of Christ can correctly shape the most distinctive convictions of Christian theology.” In other words, if we are wrong here, we will be wrong everywhere else.
This coming Lord’s Day we can begin to recover the reformers’ basic insights of solus Christus by focusing on two teachings: Christ’s exclusive identity (who he is) and his sufficient work (what he has done). Though basic to the reformers’ theology, these two aspects of Christology are either neglected or, even more sadly, rejected by many today. And that is why, if the church is to proclaim the same Christ as the
reformers did, as the ancient church did, we must embrace Christ alone (solus Christus) with the same clarity, conviction, urgency, and abundance of joy.
I trust that you will join us this Sunday as we look at solus Christus (Christ alone) for the continual reforming of the church. Please take a moment to pray for our service this week, that God’s Spirit will bring gospel renewal to us.
Let me also remind you that on the following Lord’s Day (10/29), which is Reformation Day on the church calendar, we will give special thanks to the Lord for the provision of the building as well as a time of dedication for its use to the glory of the Lord. We hope to have some special guests on this day.
Soli Deo Gloria,
*I commend to your reading Stephen Wellum’s book, “Christ Alone - The Uniqueness of Jesus as Savior: What The Reformers Taught and Why It Still Matters.”