I call this series “A Sola A Day to Drive the Heresies Away.” The five Solas were Latin phrases that emerged as slogan of the Protestant Reformation.
How a person could be justified and is justified — as a sinner reconciled to a Holy God — how that happens was the primary question the Reformers were seeking to address. The Reformers declaration that justification is by faith alone may have been their most radical claim.
In the 1,000 years prior to the Reformation a multi-layered bureaucratic industry had developed in which the agents of the church — popes, priests, monks, councils — created opportunities for the church to benefit financially from the need of people to be forgiven. In order to “achieve” justification, the common person had to be processed through what we view as layers of ecclesiastical red tape and only then would justification be conferred — by the church, through the priest.
As with the doctrine of grace we discussed yesterday, justification was not understood to be freely offered by God in Jesus Christ but instead, was something that had to be earned. If you had doubts that your loved one earned a sufficient amount of it prior to death, you could pay the priest and other church higher ups to seek God’s indulgence on their behalf after death. This practice robbed not only the people of their money but the Roman Catholic Church of its moral authority and mooring to the Bible.
It was as radical in the 1500’s for the Reformers to declare that justification was by grace alone, in faith alone, in Christ alone as it was for Jesus to declare that He and the Father were One. To declare that faith is a gift, and not something you buy nor earn — and grace is a gift — not something conferred by the church, and that Christ gives it to all who believe in Him, was a revolutionary liberation.
All of this literally, figuratively, eternally and temporally hangs on the Cross of Jesus Christ. So, the final Sola, Sola Christi, which we will examine on Monday is the key.
To stand at the foot of the cross is to know the depravity of Sin, the immeasurable grace of God, the nature of sacrificial love, the character of Christ, what obedience looks like, and the reality that there can be nothing left to do or say. We stand there on feet of faith alone.
It is by faith — not apart from reason but reasoned faith in the historical reality of Christ on the Cross — it is by the certain knowledge of faith that I accept the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, which enables me to read and receive and respond to the Bible as the Word of God, Jesus as both Savior and Lord, and willingly cooperate with the Spirit in the sanctification now underway.
We often put our faith today in what we can see, feel, hear and touch — if we need light we flip a switch, if we get a headache we pop a pill, if we want nearly anything we order it online and we have faith that 1,000 things will happen seamlessly to deliver it to us in 24 hours or less. We put our faith in one another on the road and we put our faith in air traffic controllers, computers and pilots to do for us things that we cannot comprehend. That’s why, when it comes to faith in God we think it’s our decision to make. We think it’s up to us to believe. As if in our believing it comes true.
The big news of the Reformation in 1517 remains big news today: Faith is a gift by which we are justified and in which we live. We are justified by faith and we live by faith — not in ourselves, but in God alone. That takes us back to the beginning of our Solas conversation, back to Sola Dei Gloria — this is now and always has been not about us but about God. It’s about God’s glory. Yes, even your faith, your faith experience, your faith expression, your justification by faith, your life of faith — is to the glory of God, alone.
How do I know? The Bible tells me so. As Peter writes in I Peter 1:7, “These” – the trials you’re experiencing in life – “these have come as proofs of the genuineness of your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
Listen to Carmen on The Reconnect as she celebrates the Reformation by focusing on “A Sola A Day to Drive the Heresies Away!”