This article is part three of a series in my church’s Covenant Reformed News.
What Is a Protestant? (3)
Martin Luther (1517) Start of Reformation and Protestantism.
“As well as the truth that the Bible alone is the Word of God (sola Scriptura), Protestants believe in Christ alone (solus Christus).
The Lord Jesus is both fully God and fully man in one divine Person. He is the eternal and only begotten Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, incarnate. As Christ, He is God’s anointed One as promised in the Old Testament. As Jesus, He is the only and complete Saviour. As Lord, He the sovereign governor of all.
We Protestants believe Christ’s virgin birth, sinless life, sacrificial death, victorious resurrection, glorious ascension and almighty rule at God’s right hand.
On the cross, our Lord died for all the sins of all His elect people. All our iniquities were “laid on,” imputed or reckoned to Him (Isa. 53:6) and He bore the punishment for them that was due to us. As our only high priest, He continually prays for us, for “he ever liveth to make intercession for” us (Heb. 7:25).
In order for God to save sinners, Christ’s cross and intercession are absolutely necessary. It is entirely sufficient for all our salvation. We do not need the pope, earthly priests, Mary or the saints to bring us to God (John 14:6; Eph. 2:18; Heb. 10:19-22).
The battle of Protestantism with Rome (and others) is essentially the same as that in Acts 4 between the unbelieving Jewish religious leaders and the apostles, who declared concerning Christ, “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (11-12).
Scripture alone teaches salvation in Christ alone by faith alone (sola fide). Protestantism proclaims that our salvation and perfect righteousness in Jesus Christ is received solely by faith. The forgiveness of sins in Christ’s blood and the imputed righteousness of God (the lifelong and perfect obedience of Jesus) is ours by believing—only by believing! Our justification and legal standing before God, therefore, does not need any supplementation by the works of the the saints, the Lord’s earthly mother, the church or ourselves.
This biblical and Protestant truth is just as necessary today over against Rome as it was in the sixteenth century. Sadly, sola fide is also crucial against much of modern day evangelicalism. Some of those who speak of justification by faith alone actually mean justification by man’s free will alone! They teach that the sinner’s salvation is determined by the decision of his own supposed free will, contrary to the truth of God’s Word (Rom. 3:11; 7:18; 8:7) and the united testimony of the Reformation, including Martin Luther’s great Protestant manifesto, The Bondage of the Will (1525).
Sola fide is vital for the comfort and vitality of the Christian every day. Being justified by faith alone, we have “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1) and blessedness (4:6-9; Ps. 32:1-2)!
To go further, Scripture alone teaches salvation in Christ alone by faith alone through grace alone (sola gratia). Our salvation is a divine gift, an entirely gratuitous or gracious gift, according to the sovereign favour of our merciful God in Jesus Christ, for we were “chosen … in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).
Grace alone, both in time (by the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ) and in eternity (in election)—this is Protestantism, because this is the teaching of God’s Word: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). “So then it is not of him that willeth [so much for man’s free will!], nor of him that runneth [i.e., the exertion of man’s works], but of God that sheweth mercy” (Rom. 9:16).
The fifth of the Five Solas is the glory of God alone (soli Deo gloria). The glory is not man’s (even in the tiniest part), whether by his supposed free will or his good works, for all that is truly good in the believer’s works is entirely by God’s grace (John 15:5; Eph. 2:10). The glory is not even partially the church’s, especially not the false church of Rome nor any other false or departing church.
Salvation is wholly of the Father, through the Son and by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the glory is alone due to the Triune God: the electing Father, the atoning Son and the calling Spirit. Soli Deo gloria is the message of the Reformation, for “our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Ps. 115:3)!
Philip Schaff, the church historian, sums it up well: “Romanism puts the Church first and Christ next; Protestantism reverses the order. Romanism says, Where the Church is (meaning thereby the papal organization), there is Christ; Protestantism says, Where Christ is, there is the Church. Romanism says, Where the Catholic tradition is, there is the Bible and the infallible rule of faith; Protestantism says, Where the Bible is, there is the true tradition and the infallible rule of faith. Romanism says, Where good works are, there are faith and justification; Protestantism says, Where faith is, there are justification and good works. Romanism throws Mary and the saints between Christ and the believer; Protestantism goes directly to the Saviour. Romanism proceeds from the visible Church (the papacy) to the invisible Church; Protestantism from the invisible Church (the true body of Christ) to the visible … Protestantism is a protest against the tyranny of man on the basis of the authority of God. It proclaims the Bible to be the only infallible rule of Christian faith and practice, and teaches justification by grace alone, as apprehended by a living faith. It holds up Christ as all in all, whose word is all-sufficient to teach, whose grace is all-sufficient to save.” Rev. Stewart