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Thursday, May 27, 2010

True Confessions of a Reformed Catholic: Solus Christus

“Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah"-- because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!" Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves. Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant. And they asked Him, saying, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" Then He answered and told them, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things. And how is it written concerning the Son of Man, that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I say to you that Elijah has also come, and they did to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him” (Mark 9.2-13 NKJV).
In the last post we began looking into 5 of the precious family jewels of the Church of Jesus Christ. Over the centuries these jewels had been packed up and set aside in the ecclesiastical attic and forgotten, and the Reformers in the 1500s pulled them back out, dusted them off, and started putting them on display again. The 5 Solas: Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Soli Deo Gloria. I must warn you, that to gaze on these precious family heirlooms can be dangerous. If they get a hold of you, if they take root in your affections and desires and thinking, they may very well spoil how you see much that parades itself as Christian today. But as J. Gresham Machen once wrote: “Indifferentism about doctrine makes no heroes of the faith.” So, if you’re ready for the challenge, then be prepared. In this post we will be looking at the 2nd ‘Only’: Solus Christus.

What Solus Christus Means: It plainly and simply means ‘Christ alone’ or ‘only Christ’. It doesn’t mean Christ to the exclusion of the Father and the Spirit, but Christ to the exclusion of all created rivals. This is an important distinction. Here in Mark 9, in this true, historical episode from the Gospel according to Mark, you get a good sense of Solus Christus. Christ is the central focus of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). He is the central point for Elijah coming to begin the final act of world history (12-13). Even the Father declares, ‘This is my beloved Son. Hear Him.’ and when we look around, we will see “no one anymore, but only Jesus […]’—there are no mediatorial or revelatory or devotional competitors. Solus Christus means (at the least) the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ alone is (1) the gravitational source of Salvation; (2) the nuclear fission of sanctification; and (3) the reason and rapture of our service.

· Jesus Christ alone is the gravitational source of our Salvation: (read Colossians 1.15-22). The weight of God’s mercy and grace come through and on the shoulders Christ Jesus alone. He opens the door through His incarnation, holy life, death and resurrection, for us to be reconciled and restored to the Father. That excludes our looking somewhere else, or to anyone else to save us. He alone makes us fit to be God’s own children. By the time of the Reformation, many people and ecclesiastical leaders had forgotten this. There arose several strange notions that somehow we could initiate our own salvation, we could meet God halfway, that ‘god helps those who help themselves’, that we could call in the surplus-goodness of holy women and holy men to add to our attempts at pleasing God. But the Reformers saw what the Church, at least in principle, had affirmed from the beginning: ‘there is no salvation in any other, for there is no other name given among men under heaven by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4.12) but Christ Jesus alone. All we like sheep had gone astray, we had followed everyone our own way; and so we each and everyone had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Therefore God had to initiate our rescue, and God had to execute our liberation, and God has to finalize our deliverance. He did this, is doing this, and will complete this by Jesus Christ alone, His unique, unrepeatable, one-of-a-kind Son. Romans 10.9-10: “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

“Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect? The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism 21).
· Jesus Christ alone is the nuclear fission of our sanctification: (Read 1 Corinthians 1.23-31). Again, not to the exclusion of the Father and the Spirit, but to the exclusion of all creaturely rivals: pilgrimages, votive offerings, WWJD bracelets, the Prayer of Jabez, speaking in tongues, emotional highs, or that plastic Jesus sitting on the dashboard of your car.

· Jesus Christ alone is the reason and rapture of our service: (Read Ephesians 2.18). Worship is not some kind of divine Tupperware sales meeting or Amway rally [which is about me getting pumped up and doped up on happiness]! Instead, it’s about Christ, because of Christ, and through Christ.

The Present Need: Here, in our time, the serious and singular place of Christ Jesus is being quickly forgotten. There are those who are expecting to experience God without the Christ of history and faith. Others talk about Jesus but solely as a role model, like some super Albert Schweitzer or superior Mother Theresa or first-class Dali Lama [the ‘What would Jesus Do/Drive/Eat/Wear’ crew]. Some talk about Jesus but in terms of their personal uber-therapist. Many people who call themselves Christians have allowed a multitude of other things to blot-out Jesus [politics, middle-class standards, free-market economics, successfulness, or end-times hysteria]. Also there are loads and loads of others who act as if Jesus Christ is not sufficient, and so add oodles and oodles of gadgets, requirements, and gimmicks to ‘get people saved’ or ‘make people holy’. What ought we to do, then, to recover this important family heirloom?

1st-A church’s worship must be self-consciously because of Jesus, about Jesus, and through Jesus. So, for example, we must reclaim the sacraments, pulling them out of the discard pile and (on the one hand) clear away all the superstitious clutter from them; and (on the other hand) recognize that Christ Jesus is the center and meaning and goal and the substance of both sacraments (not my faith, not the minister’s holiness, not family tradition).

2nd-Based on what I said in the previous post, and what we see in Mark 9 [and 1 Corinthians 10], Bible studies and Bible reading must become increasingly wrapped up tightly around the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, Jesus Christ our sole Lord and Savior.

3rd-We should again be coming to Jesus Christ alone, our Prophet, and Priest, and King. All 3 feed into our salvation, sanctification and service.

Solus Christus. Mark 9.2-8

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