Reformata Semper Reformanda!
On October 31, 1517, a young pastor and Bible teacher in Wittenberg, Germany posted 95 Theses (or “things he wanted to discuss with other pastors and teachers in the church” — what we might call a group distribution email to the clergy or a blog today!) on the door of the Castle Church in his home town.
Not intending anything other than a discussion with other pastors and teachers, Martin Luther was used by God to begin a reformation of the church by returning to the foundation of Scripture alone.
Scripture alone taught that salvation was not sold by indulgences and grace was God’s alone to give. The Pope was offering salvation, hope, and the chance for Uncle Buck to get out of purgatory if the people of the town would pay the right price.
Luther’s ’95 Theses’ questioned the authority of the Pope to be able to offer salvation, hope, or redemption for money. These 95 things Luther wanted to discuss caused Luther to seek ultimate authority for the church in the Scriptures and not in the whims of popes and councils, because both had erred; Scripture alone was the Church’s authority and sole rule of faith.
What came from this study of Scripture alone, and asking what Scripture taught concerning man’s salvation, hope and life in Christ, was the realization and experiencing of true salvation, real hope, and the abundant life found only in Christ.
The doctrines, or teachings of the Reformation established upon, and rediscovered in Holy Scripture alone were: faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.
The “Solas” or the “Alones” of the Reformation were affirmed by the reformers as the foundational teachings of Scripture that accentuated the heart, or foundational teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, against the false gospel of the Medieval Roman Catholic Church (cf. Galatians 1:6-9).
These five “Solas” could be called the pillars of our faith because they teach us about our great salvation in Christ.
The “Solas” exalt God in his sovereignty and grace, and direct a sinner to their only hope of salvation found in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.
These five “Solas” also define and affirm what it means to be an Evangelical. In a day when many of those who claim to be evangelicals teach a gospel that is closer to the Medieval Roman Catholic “gospel” (which is/was no gospel at all!), it is important to be reminded of these five “Solas” or “alones”.
The term “Evangelical” or “Gospeler” was first made popular by Martin Luther. It was a term used in opposition and contradistinction to Medieval Roman Catholic theology that had made the traditions of man equal with Scripture’s authority; this Medieval system of belief taught that man was saved by cooperating with God’s grace; in addition to Christ as Mediator, there were also saints and Mary that should be venerated; the focus of the scriptures was not Christ as much as man, and the heart of the gospel found in justification by faith alone was denied.
To be an “Evangelical” during the Reformation, as well as to confess to be one today means to know, understand and believe these five biblical “Solas” or “Alones”: 1) Sola Scriptura; 2) Sola Fide; 3) Sola Gratia; 4) Solus Christus; and 5) Soli Deo Gloria.
This 497th anniversary of the Reformation, let us at KCPC be reminded of our commitment as confessing evangelicals, and we will prayerfully ask God to continue to help us by his grace to make these known to our community.
On Reformation Sunday every year it is good to be reminded of the essential “Solas” of what we believe, and to continue by God’s grace in making them known, with hopes for a more profound Reformation in our own hearts, and in the hearts of those in our community. May God send another reformation today through the preaching of the true gospel!
Sola Scriptura – “Scripture Alone” – The Right Foundation
ESV2 Timothy 3:16-17: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
We at KCPC reaffirm the infallible and inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured.
We at KCPC deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian’s conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a vehicle of revelation.1These affirmations and denials are adapted from ‘The Cambridge Declaration’ of 1996 by the Alliance of Confession Evangelicals. See online: http://www.alliancenet.org/cc/article/0,,PTID307086_CHID798774_CIID1411364,00.html
What was the Formal Cause of Reformation? The formal cause of the Reformation was a return to Scripture alone as the sole and infallible authority of our faith and life. In the Medieval Period, the Roman Catholic Church’s traditions and doctrines of the papacy had eclipsed the authority of the Scripture as final judge of all matters doctrinally and with regard to the Christian life and worship.
When Martin Luther posted his now famous Ninety-Five Theses, he pointed to the importance of Scripture alone being the guide for doctrines and life.
The Reformation was a return after many years to an appreciation of the Word of God, or the Scriptures alone as the sole and infallible rule for faith and life.
In the Medieval times where the Church’s tradition and mere opinions of men were believed more than Scripture, Martin Luther was used by God to bring the Church back to an appreciation of Scripture alone.
It is important to note that the doctrine of Scripture alone does not reject good tradition or faithful teachers in Church History who teach and line up with Scripture, but Scripture alone stresses the importance of testing all beliefs and habits of the Christian’s life and worship as to whether they are Scriptural or not because the Scriptures are the very truth given to the Church by the Holy Spirit.
The Reformation was a return to an understanding and appreciation that Jesus did not leave the Apostles or the Church without objective truth, but that he sent his Spirit to lead them into all truth to give us an inspired, infallible text that teaches us about God, Christ, and how we live, serve and worship as Christians.
The Scriptures are the Foundational Authority for Doctrine and Practice in the Christian Life- 2 Tim. 3:16-17- “All Scripture is God-breathed out…”
The Scriptures are Inspired by God– “God breathed out” (2 Tim. 3:16). This is special revelation from God- -about God.
The Scriptures are Perfect and Sufficient– “All we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4; 2 Tim. 3:15); whereas popes and councils have erred.
The Scriptures are Infallible– Infallibility is the inability to err. Infallibility entails inerrancy which is the actual absence of error.
The Scriptures are Authoritative– God speaks to his people by His Spirit through the Word (Heb. 3-4; 12:18-29)
The Scriptures are Necessary– This includes the Explicit and Implicit Teaching found in Scripture by “Good and Necessary Deduction”
As the Westminster Confession of Faith teaches in chapter 1, section 6:
The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the word; and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed.
Sola Scriptura teaches that the Bible is the only infallible source of God’s special revelation to mankind. In the Bible, we learn about God, about life and doctrine.
In Scripture we have all we need for life and godliness.
When tradition is scriptural, then we affirm the good and importance of tradition, such as found in creeds and confessions, but we always make the Bible our final authority in all matters pertaining to life and doctrine.
Application- What should I believe and confess?
“I’ll study my Bible together with all the saints (Eph. 3:18). I will seek to learn from my pastor, elders, teachers and other brothers and sisters in Christ. I will seek to realize more and more the privilege I have of the written revelation of God in my own language, and seek to memorize, meditate and pray it, because it is God’s special and sufficient revelation to His people!
“Father, help us to take more time to meditate upon your Word. Grant that we may be more filled with the Word of Christ dwelling in us richly. Let us live as if all the words of Scripture were truly true (because they are!!).”
Sola Fide- “Faith Alone”- The Church Stands or Falls on this “Sola” – The Right Standing before God
ESV Romans 3:27-28: Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
ESV Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness…
We at KCPC reaffirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. In justification Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God’s perfect justice.
We at KCPC deny that justification rests on any merit to be found in us, or upon the grounds of an infusion of Christ’s righteousness in us, or that an institution claiming to be a church that denies or condemns sola fide can be recognized as a legitimate church.
What was the Material Cause of Reformation? – The only gospel or “the truth of the gospel” revealed in Scripture alone which is the sole authority given to us by God. This “material cause” of the Reformation was Sola Fide or the important doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone. Righteousness of Christ received by faith- Romans 4: Abraham’s faith was imputed (“reckoned”) to him as righteousness.
Declared righteous/Imputation – We are not made righteous then justified; we are declared righteous by faith alone and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us; those who are truly justified will grow in grace, sanctification, and good works to show forth their justification (Make important distinction between justification and sanctification, more on this next week, DV).
We are saved, justified by faith, receiving, resting in and accepting the righteousness of God in Christ. Faith is an instrument and/or means to receive the salvation offered to us by God in Jesus Christ. Faith is a gift, not a work. We are not saved because of our faith, but through our faith (again the focus on faith as the means of receiving).
“Christ saves by through faith.”
“The saving power of faith resides not in itself, but in the Almighty Savior on whom it rests….It is not faith that saves, but faith in Jesus Christ….It is not strictly speaking, even faith in Christ that saves, but Christ that saves through faith.” – B. B. Warfield
As believers, we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness, and we are reckoned/declared/considered righteous as was Abraham. We receive an “alien righteousness” from God, the righteousness that was earned by Jesus Christ and is imputed to us; God clothes us in Christ’s righteousness and this is received by faith alone!
As the Heidelberg confesses it so well:
Heidelberg Catechism, Q: 60. How are you righteous before God? A: Only by true faith in Jesus Christ; that is, although my conscience accuse me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sin, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart (Heidelberg Catechism).
Or the Westminster Shorter Catechism captures it in such perspicuous brevity:
What is justification? A: Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
Application- What Should I believe and confess?
“I know that my faith is a gift of God. Each day I will look to Christ for all the righteousness I will ever need to make me right before God.
I know that I have a right standing before God based on Christ’s righteousness alone—apart from any works of my own. I don’t hope in my works or best righteousness, neither do I condemn myself for sinfulness. Rather, I hope in Jesus Christ, daily receiving and resting upon His grace, his forgiveness and righteousness. I am clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, the most beautiful bridal gown in all of the cosmos! I will courageously before man and confidently before God knowing that it is Christ who is my Advocate.”
Sola Gratia- “Grace Alone”– The Right Understanding of Man’s Sinful Condition
ESV Titus 3:5 …He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…
ESV Ephesians 2:4-5: But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved…
We at KCPC reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God’s wrath by his grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life.
We at KCPC deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerate human nature.
We are dead in trespasses and sins, and God must make us alive, and then willing and able to believe; Jesus says:
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
Grace is not granted so that all men will work and essentially save themselves. Grace alone focuses on the grace of God that works on us long before we’re able and/or desiring to follow Jesus Christ. Cooperation with grace unto salvation is not biblical; cooperating unto sanctification is biblical.
Achieving salvation by cooperating with God to the best of one’s ability was not only found among the first century Pharisees, but there was a very similar situation in the time of the Reformation of the 16th century.
It was Martin Luther’s high regard for God’s holiness and the great and impossible demands of God’s Law for sinners to achieve, that kept Luther tossing in his bed at night, frightened by the reality that his sins would damn him! It was Martin Luther’s revelation from Scripture that even our best works are tainted by sin and therefore cannot be meritorious before God’s Holy Tribunal! But then by God’s grace, Luther realized that Christ the Judge was also Christ the Savior!
As a Roman Catholic priest, Luther knew that all the cooperation with God that he could muster would only end up damning him! Luther studied the Book of Romans and realized that a righteousness apart from him, found in Christ alone, received by faith alone, was his only hope to be saved and declared righteous!
Martin Luther was taught by the Roman Catholic Church that men were saved “by grace”, but this “grace” was understood as man’s cooperation with God in order to achieve salvation (“synergism”) – -it was not grace received by faith alone in what God has done fully in Christ.
Martin Luther’s struggle to find God’s grace and to have his wrath appeased in the Person of Christ, led to a reformation of the Church and rediscovery of the gospel! The Reformed teaching (and more importantly, the Biblical teaching) is that we are saved by a monergistic work of God (monergistic: mono= “one”, ergo= “work”).
This means that God alone works in us to achieve our salvation and we are saved not by cooperating with God (even with our faith!), but by believing that God has fully accomplished in the Person and Work of Christ our salvation- – and this is believed by faith alone – -which is not our work, but a gift of God!
Faith receives God’s grace held out in Christ, but faith is not a work in any way that is meritorious before God!
You see, this is the Apostle Paul’s point in Ephesians 2:1-10: Dead men, separated from God and following the prince of the power of the air will not and cannot believe, unless God in his mercy makes us alive and gives us the gift of faith.
The truth of Scripture is that there is only one working to achieve our justification, and this is our Sovereign God who seeks us out and loves us! Remember as Romans 3:10-12 teaches:
“No one seeks after God,” but by God’s grace, he seeks after us to enable us to believe and to release our enslaved wills from the domination and mastery of the flesh, in order that we might be justified by Christ’s Spirit!
No cooperation with man, but God’s work alone in salvation- Eph. 2:6-10; John 1:11-13; Romans 9:11-21 (Read: v. 16)
ESV Ephesians 2:8-9: … 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
The truth of Scripture is that there is only one working to achieve our justification, and this is our Sovereign God who seeks us out and loves us! Remember as Romans 3:10-12 teaches: “No one seeks after God,” but by God’s grace, he seeks after us to enable us to believe and to release our enslaved wills from the domination and mastery of the flesh, in order that we might be justified by Christ’s Spirit!
ESV Romans 9:15-16: For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
In a day when many Bible-believing evangelicals think that they are saved by a decision or a choice and not by the Sovereign work of God’s Spirit working alone; when many Christians are closer in doctrines to the Pharisaical and Medieval models of how a person is saved, we need a Reformation!
Application- What should I believe and confess?
“God worked on me, so I would and could believe and work by grace for Him as His child. I understand that I could never have cooperated with God because I was His enemy, opposed to God and His Kingdom by nature, and would have had no saving interest in Jesus had he not shown me grace and pursued me!
Though I was undeserving of grace, and so worthy of condemnation and the judgment of God, God saved a wretch like me (I feel this wretchedness, O Lord). This is not guilt but a true understanding of the magnitude of my sins against a Holy God! This is not shame but a realization that we are desperately corrupt as a people, dead in trespasses and sins, and opposed to God as enemies. He has mercy on us by grace alone. This leads me, O Father, to rejoice in a loving Savior who truly saves!!”
Solus Christus- “Christ Alone”- The Right Focus of Our Lives
ESV Galatians 3:26 …For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
ESV Hebrews 7:25 …He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
We at KCPC reaffirm 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.
We at KCPC deny that the gospel is preached if Christ’s substitutionary work is not declared and faith in Christ and his work is not solicited.
Pastor Ian Hamilton has said that “Christ is Our Life” was the heart of the Reformation. “The “Medieval Christ” was a remote Christ, not a near Christ; He was everywhere, but nowhere… The Reformation was the recovery of our Lord Jesus Christ in His saving work.”
Christ is the center and focus of all Scripture.
Christ is the “main character” of the entirety of God’s Story (and ours!).
Christ is our righteousness, sanctification and redemption.
Christ “alone” means we must be aware of our constant temptation to look to ourselves for salvation or to remain in salvation (in our estimation!).
Christ is our gracious friend; he is our Prophet, Priest and King.
All of Scripture points to Christ:
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
ESV John 5:39-40: You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
Christ is our righteousness, our right standing before God, because we are clothed in his righteousness…and so we have peace with God (Romans 5).
Therefore, Paul can say confidently and wholeheartedly that “there is no condemnation” before God, and nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8)!
Let’s keep ‘Christ’ in ‘Christian’. Let us focus on Christ, live for Christ, live by and on Christ, and realize that Christ is our life!
Application- What should I believe and confess?
“I will keep ‘CHRIST’ in Christian, and depend upon and live out of my union with Jesus Christ by faith. I will seek to kill remaining sin in me (mortification) as I draw upon Christ’s life and resources that I have available in my union with Him. I will seek Christ in whatever vocation, station, situation, and/or age, so that I may know Him better and the power and grace of His love as my Prophet, Priest and King.
My sanctification will not be because of “more faith” and/or “more works” and/or “more love” or “more of this and that” first- -I need FIRST- -I need Christ—I need more of a living-breathing-praying-rejoicing relationship with the Risen-Ascended-Enthroned Jesus Christ at God’s right hand! He’s alive- – and my life should show it! Help me, O Lord!”
Soli Deo Gloria- “To God be the Glory Alone”- The Right Goal of Our Lives
SOLI DEO GLORIA
We at KCPC reaffirm that because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God’s glory and that we must glorify him always. We must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God and for his glory alone.
The “chief end of man” at KCPC is still: “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever!”
ESV Ephesians 1:3-6: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Let us love and promote God-Centered Worship– Colossians 3:16-17
Let us love and promote God-Centered Living (Coram Deo)- 1 Corinthians 10:31/Romans 14:23 (a practical consideration of living Coram Deo)
Let us love and promote God-Centered Calling– Romans 11:33-36
Romans 11:36: For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Application- What should I believe and confess?
“I will boast in God alone for my salvation, and the riches and mercy I have in Jesus! I will give God all the glory for anything good I do in and for Jesus, and seek to do all for Him. Everything I do, let it be done out of gratitude for all you have done for me! Take away my need for acceptance, recognition, and performance and let me serve you with all the Christ that is within me- -all for your glory alone!”
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|1.||↑||These affirmations and denials are adapted from ‘The Cambridge Declaration’ of 1996 by the Alliance of Confession Evangelicals. See online: http://www.alliancenet.org/cc/article/0,,PTID307086_CHID798774_CIID1411364,00.html|