Yours in Christ: Pastoral Letters from Resurrection, State College

Solo Christo: In Christ Alone

Dear Resurrection,

The third of the five “solas” of the Reformation is solo Christo, which means “in Christ alone.” We said before that “grace alone” emphasizes that salvation is a free gift of God; “faith alone” describes how we receive that gift; “Christ alone” tells us in whom that gift comes to us.

The Bible makes it very clear that Jesus Christ is the only Savior and the only way to God. Jesus said about Himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The apostles continued to proclaim this same truth as they spread the gospel through the Mediterranean world, which was rife with the worship of many gods. “There is salvation in no one else,” Peter told the Jewish religious leaders who had put him on trial, “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This sets Christianity apart from every other religion; it is why we are, specifically, Christ-ians. Unlike all other faiths, we come to God through Jesus Christ, and Him only.

But the principle of solo Christo is about more than distinguishing Christianity from other religions. The Protestant reformers were very concerned to recover what Paul emphasizes in Titus 2:5—not only that there is just “one God,” but also that there is just “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” A mediator is a go-between, the one who bridges the gap between two estranged parties and brings them back together. Hebrews calls Jesus “the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 9:15; 12:24). When the reformers wanted to articulate what it means for Christ to be our mediator with God, they often spoke of three “offices” that Christ carries out—the offices of prophet, priest, and king—all of which had been usurped in various ways by the medieval church.

In the medieval period, the power of the clergy had drastically expanded in a way that compromised the biblical principle that Christ alone is our priest. Because the Mass was thought of as a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice to God, it had to be offered by a human “priest.” But the Reformers saw in the New Testament that “when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then … he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11-12). That means the church no longer needs other human priests as Israel did in the Old Testament. Why? Because now we have Christ, who has fulfilled all those Old Testament shadows, which have passed away. Now, we are to come to God through Christ alone, not through a new system of priests in the church.

Likewise, the reformers saw that the immense authority of the pope over the church put too much power in the hands of one man. The reformers wanted to emphasize that Christ alone is the king and head of the church (Ephesians 1:22), which required a reformation not only of sacramental teaching, but also of church government, in an attempt to prevent the tyranny of men and uphold the exclusive kingship of Christ.

Finally, Christ alone is our prophet. Many other Protestants teach that we should expect new revelation from God through human prophets today. But Hebrews 1 teaches us that Christ’s coming brought a decisive change to how God communicates to us, just as it brought decisive changes to the Old Testament forms of priesthood and kingship. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Hebrews 1:1-2). We are not to expect new prophetic revelation today because God has spoken to us once and for all in Christ, who has entrusted the church with the written word of the Scriptures—the only divine word we need for our faith and for living the Christian life.

Grace-Based Action Point

Christ’s three offices as our mediator mean that He has brought about a final revelation (prophet), a final redemption (priest), and a final reign (king). You don’t need to look for any new private revelation to guide you through your Christian life; you need to listen to the voice of Christ alone as He’s given it to you in the Bible. You don’t need to depend on any clergyman or saint to bridge the gap between you and God; you need to approach God’s throne of grace directly through the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ alone. You don’t need to burden your conscience with rules or practices invented by people that aren’t found in the Bible; experience instead the freedom of knowing that Christ alone is your king. There is no other mediator. There is no other savior. Your relationship with God is sola gratia (by grace alone), sola fide (through faith alone), solo Christo (in Christ alone).

Yours in Christ alone,

Pastor Simmons