5 Reasons Why “Christ Alone” Is at the Center of the Five Solas
These so-called solas were the rallying cry of the Reformers nearly 500 years ago. And binding them together was a fifth: Christ alone.
That’s the thesis of Stephen Wellum’s new book by the same name on the uniqueness of Jesus as Savior.
Solus Christus stands at the center of the other four solas, connecting them into a coherent theological system by which the Reformers declared the glory of God. (19)
Wellum offers five reasons why Christ alone came to form the center of gravitational force of the Reformation—and why it’s also the heart of Christian theology.
It’s the Lynchpin of Reformation Theology
First, Christ alone is essential for coherent Reformation doctrine. Wellum summarizes how Christ is at the center of the five Reformer solas in a number of ways:
- Through Scripture alone we come to know the person and work of Christ alone
- Our salvation is through faith alone; faith’s object is Christ alone
- God’s grace alone leads to our reconciliation and adoption through Christ alone
- His goal in our redemption is God's glory alone; the radiance of that glory is in Christ alone
“The word spoken by God, the faith given by God, the grace extended by God, and the glory possessed and promised by God cannot make sense apart from the Son of God who became a man for our salvation” (20).
Reformers Reflected the Centrality of Christ in Scripture
The Reformers emphasized Christ alone at the center of their theology and doctrine because Scripture itself places Christ alone at the center of God’s eternal redemptive plan for the cosmos.
Wellum argues there is a main point to God’s unified Word:
The triune God of the universe in infinite wisdom and power has chosen to bring all of his purposes and plans to fulfillment in the person and work of Christ. (21)
This central governing purpose neither diminishes nor diverts attention from the persons and work of the Father and Spirit. "Scripture teaches, rather, that all the Father does centers in his Son and that the Spirit works to bear witness and bring glory to the Son” (21).
Wellum quotes Michael Reeves to summarize: “[t]o be truly Trinitarian we must be constantly Christ-centered.”
Reformers Reflected Christ’s Self-Witness
Thirdly, the Reformers reflect Christ’s own self-witness. Wellum draws our attention to three such episodes:
- Luke 24:26–27. “On the road to Emmaus, Jesus explained his death and bore witness to his resurrection as the Messiah by placing him at the focal point of God’s revelation” (21).
- John 5:39–40. “He confronted the religious leaders for not finding eternal life in him as the goal of humanity” (21).
- John 5:22–23. “He was remarkably clear-minded and comfortable in his role as the anointed one trusted with the end of the world” (21).
“To follow Jesus as his disciples, then, the Reformers confessed that Christ alone is the person around whom all history pivots and the focus of all God’s work in the world” (21).
Reformers Reflected Apostolic Witness to Christ
Not only did the Reformers emphasize Christ alone because Jesus did, they did so because the apostles did. Wellum offers three examples:
- “The opening verses of Hebrews [1:1–3] underscore the finality and superiority of God’s self-disclosure in his Son.”
- “Paul comforts us with the cosmic preeminence of Christ” in Colossians 1:16–17.
- “And Paul encourages our hope in Christ by declaring that God’s eternal purpose and plan is ‘to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ’ (Eph 1:9–10)” (21–22).
All of Scripture declares in unity that “God brings forth a new redeemed and reconciled heaven and earth by and through Christ alone” (22).
It's the Lynchpin of All Christian Theology
Wellum leverages insights from Herman Bavink's Reformed Dogmatics to summarize this final reason why Christ alone is pivotal to the Reformation solas:
The doctrine of Christ is not the starting point, but it certainly is the central point of the whole system of dogmatics. All other dogmas either prepare for it or are inferred from it. (275)
Ultimately, all of our theological endeavors rise or fall with Christ alone. “Only a proper understanding of Christ can correctly shape the most distinctive convictions of Christian theology” (23). Consider these four doctrines offered by Wellum as examples:
- Trinity. Scripture reveals the Son's coming as a man in eternal relation to the Father and the Spirit.
- Humanity. We understand who we are in dignity and depravity in relation to Christ's person and work.
- Salvation. Christ makes sense of the why and how of divine-human reconciliation.
- Atonement. We can come to correct conclusions about Christ’s death only when we regard his person correctly (23).
“From beginning to end, this book confesses with the Reformers that Jesus Christ bears the exclusive identity of God the Son incarnate and has accomplished an all-sufficient work...” (27)
See for yourself why Michael Reeves says Wellum “proves just how vital it is for us today to stand firm on both” Christ's identity and work (14).
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