Why the Doctrine of “Christ Alone” is Vital to Christianity

To trust in (πείθω, be persuaded in, won over to) Jesus Christ is to be convinced that He alone can rescue, He alone can save.  The key phrase in the question above is “Jesus Christ alone”.  “Alone” means that I trust in Jesus Christ and no one else, including myself.  Neither my willpower nor my works are able to help me in my effort to be right before God.

  • With regards to the futility of human willpower: Romans 9:16 says that God’s mercy “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”
  • With regards to the futility of human works: Titus 3:5 says that God our Savior “saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

Because of Adam's sin, every member of the human race possesses a will that is in bondage to sin (Romans 5:12).  A will that is in bondage is not free!  Every human being that has not received Christ is dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1).  As such, those who are not in Christ need the Holy Spirit to raise them from spiritual death so that they can choose God and trust in Jesus alone (John 3:3-8, 1 Peter 1:3).  In John 11, Lazarus was dead.  It was not Lazarus' cooperation with God that resulted in his resurrection.  It was the word of Jesus Christ alone (John 11:43) that raised Lazarus from the dead.

There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).  Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one will come to the Father except Him (John 14:6).  Jesus is indeed the eschatological fulfillment of Jacob’s ladder:  believers are able to enter the spiritual realm of God’s glory only on Christ.

Martin Luther believed that Christ alone is the “first and chief article” of the Christian faith.

In his effort to prepare himself and others to stand before a Roman Catholic council and defend his faith, He wrote the following :

  • The first and chief article is this: Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins and was raised again for our justification (Romans 3:24-25).
  • He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), and God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).
  • All have sinned and are justified freely, without their own works and merits, by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood (Romans 3:23-25). This is necessary to believe. This cannot be otherwise acquired or grasped by any work, law or merit. Therefore, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us.  As St. Paul says:
  • For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:28)
  • That He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. [Romans 3:26]
  • Nothing of this article can be yielded or surrendered, even though heaven and earth and everything else falls (Mark 13:31).[1]

Furthermore, genuine faith is not faith in faith.  Genuine faith has an object, and that object is Christ alone.  B.B. Warfield described the doctrine of faith alone in this way: “The saving power of faith resides thus not in itself, but in the Almighty Savior on whom it rests.”[2]  This is an important distinction, for the devil would gladly raise Sola Fide above Solus Christus in an effort to remove our eyes from Christ and on to ourselves.

Finally, the doctrine of justification by faith by God’s grace rests on Christ alone because He alone fulfilled the law, satisfying the wrath of God against the sinfulness of men.  Leviticus 16:22 talks of the scapegoat:  “The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.”  Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the scapegoat.

It is through Hi stripes that we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

[1] Smalcald Articles II, I, 1-5.

[2] Biblical Doctrines, vol. 2 of The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 1932; repr., Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 504.

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