Theology in 3D

Celebrating the Solas, Part 3: Solus Christus

Layton Talbert | November 4, 2017
New Testament, Theology

Solus Christus is the assertion that salvation does not come from, by, or through any church, apostle, preacher, priest, saint, or pope. There is, Paul writes, one God, and one mediator between God and men: the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2:5). Christ alone is the sole Agent who procures, mediates, and dispenses salvation. That assertion permeates the NT, but I’ll illustrate it here just from the letter to the Ephesians.

God the Father’s saving purpose and acts are all located in Christ and only in him. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing  in Christ (Eph 1:3), chosen in him (Eph 1:4), predestined through Jesus Christ (Eph 1:5), and graced in the Beloved (Eph 1:6). In him we have redemption (Eph 1:7), inheritance (Eph 1:11), and security in the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13).

All these are expressions of solus Christus inasmuch as all the benefits of salvation described in these verses are linked explicitly and exclusively to Christ and are accessible through no other means. There is no other channel through which these blessings can be received. They’re not dispensed by the church. They’re not accessible through Mary, or Paul, or anyone but Christ. But beyond that, they express one of the most revolutionary and liberating of gospel doctrines: union with Christ.

That tiny phrase in Christ or in Him peppers Paul’s writings, so much so that we tend to give those words no more attention than we do to punctuation marks. But are you aware just how frequently this language occurs throughout the NT epistles? “In Christ” (about 75x), “in the Lord” (about 40x), “in him” (about 20x). Not to mention multiple occurrences of other related expressions. This expression in Christ is not a superfluous prepositional phrase that could just as easily have been omitted from the text without loss; it is the biggest, most all-encompassing truth in the text—the truth without which the text itself is superfluous!” (Mark Minnick, “First Partakers,” Frontline, January/February 1998).

I don’t know a theologian who captures this any better than the under-appreciated T. D. Bernard from his Bampton Lectures on The Progress of Doctrine in the NT delivered at Oxford in 1864. Choosing 1 Corinthians 1:30 as his theme text, he writes:

      Believers are in Christ, so as to be partakers in all that he does, and has, and is. They died with him, and rose with him, and live with him, and in him are seated in heavenly places. When the eye of God looks on them they are found in Christ, and there is no condemnation to those that are in him, and they are righteous in his righteousness, and loved with the love which rests on him, and are sons of God in his sonship, and heirs with him of his inheritance, and are soon to be glorified with him in his glory….

This idea underlies all that is said, gives the point of view from which every subject is regarded, and supplies the standard of character and the rules of conduct….

The Churches are “in Christ”; the persons are “in Christ.” They are “found in Christ” and “preserved in Christ.” They are “saved” and “sanctified in Christ”; are “rooted, built up,” and “made perfect in Christ.” Their ways are “ways that be in Christ”; their conversation is “a good conversation” in Christ; their faith, hope, love, joy, their whole life is “in Christ.” They think, they speak, they walk “in Christ.” They labor and suffer, they sorrow and rejoice, they conquer and triumph “in the Lord.” They receive each other and love each other “in the Lord.” … “The man is not without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord” (1 Cor 11:11). Wives submit themselves to their husbands “in the Lord”; children obey their parents “in the Lord.”

The broadest distinctions vanish in the common bond of this all-embracing relation. “As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ; there is neither Greek nor Jew, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; they are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). The influence of it extends over the whole field of action, and men “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” The truth which they hold is “the truth as it is in Jesus”; the will by which they guide themselves is “the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning them.” Finally, this character of existence is not changed by [death, for when believers depart] they “die in the Lord,” they “sleep in Jesus,” they are “the dead in Christ”; and “when he shall appear,” they will appear; and when he comes, “God shall bring them with him,” and they shall “reign in life by one — Jesus Christ….”

“Of him are ye in Christ Jesus.” That is not the statement of a doctrine, but the summary of a life.

Union with Christ is the sum and substance of what it means to be a Christian. There is no Christianity without union with Christ. Union with Christ means that my salvation and my identity—and therefore my acceptance and standing before God—is wrapped up in Christ, and in Christ alone “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:7).

2 responses to “Celebrating the Solas, Part 3: Solus Christus”

  1. Esther Talbert says:

    I love this! “When the eye of God looks on them they are found in Christ, and there is no condemnation to those that are in him, and they are righteous in his righteousness, and loved with the love which rests on him.”

  2. Robert says:

    Not sure to whom this might be delivered today but I am thankful for your Solas note giving much credit to the T.D. Bernard, truly a giant post resurrection light.

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