If one wanted an image of what obedience in Christianity looked like, we might simply say, “A hammer and nails.”
In His obedience, Jesus laid on His cross and let the Romans’ hammer and nails secure Him to it, obtaining our salvation. In his obedience, Martin Luther listed his protests against the Roman Church and drove them into the Wittenberg church door, altering the course of history.
We seem to be a people hungry for change; hurling manifestos around like potluck recipes and calling for revolutions like a sweaty, crazed fan errantly shouting a song request towards the stage. We want a movement - more, we want to be a part of a movement.
And yet, among many of those with the loudest voices in the church, I haven’t seen any hammers or nails. I’ve seen a lot of scotch tape and magazine cut outs - declarations made with arbitrary and odd-sized fonts like ransom notes for a fake kidnapping; voices and pens clawing for deconstruction and rethinking like clumsy, intoxicated wrecking balls.
And all the while, beneath this lust for change lies a foundation built with a hammer and nails.
The Reformation, and Protestantism as a whole, raised their banner around five God-glorfying truths, the Solas: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia, and Soli Deo Gloria. These are war cries more revolutionary than Che Guevera, Karl Marx, or any of the contemporary trembling voices calling for change could ever be.
And these, The Five Solas, are what we should be rallying around right now.
In a time when our focus has collapsed in ourselves, when God has moved almost exclusively inside us instead of outside of us, and when the subjective and the relative reign, we need to be reminded of the authority of God’s word. When charismatics are kicking cancer patients in the chest to heal them and Evangelicals are programming their churches like Nickelodeon, we need to be reminded that our ideas might need to be tested against an objective authority. We need a little less spiritual fiction and a little more Biblical truth in our lives.
Jesus isn’t just a teacher, but a Redeemer, Savior, and Lord. We need to be reminded that we did need to be redeemed and saved because we could not save ourselves, AND we indeed needed to be saved from something. This was accomplished on the cross, in our place, by our Lord who was, and is, and is to come. It is only through faith in Jesus that we have salvation and, though the book or sermon might be interesting, the Gospel is not preached if those are not mentioned.
In a time when it seems that there is a lot of “Gospel+and” being taught, when works are quietly creeping in under the cover of well-meaning world saving born from the American can-do spirit, we need to be reminded that salvation comes to us as a free gift, by faith in Jesus alone. Not faith plus what we can do. Not faith plus what we need to do, but simply by faith in Jesus’ work at the cross alone.
Our western mindset is great at feeling that we are owed. We exaggerate, we adjust to people’s perceptions of us, and we tend to carry the general air that we should be catered to. We need to be reminded that our very faith itself is a gift, not a reward and not a wage that we earned. God is not lucky to have us and He doesn’t owe us whatever we quietly or subconsciously want. It is by sheer grace that He saves people as selfish and obscene as we are.
Soli Deo Gloria
Because our salvation is by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible, then we are to live to glorify God, not ourselves, and under His authority, and not our own. This is the most thankful and liberating way to live, in worship. If the sin that we have been saved from is idolatry, then we have been saved for a life and eternity of true worship. We bring nothing to our redemption but the sin we need saving from and so we should live in wonder, awe, perseverance, and hope.
The solas are as revolutionary today because they are built on Biblical truth and Biblical truth flies of the smug face of any culture, be it 1517 Germany or 2008 America, making them applicable to any conversation about cultural engagement or about how to “do” church. More than that, it is these glorious truths that generate the passion, humility, and obedience that lovingly endures the excruciating pain of the cross, and that drives each hammer blow to an empire’s door, straight and true.
Put down the scotch tape and pick up these nails.
Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace.
—Martin Luther, from his Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans
[This is part of Tim Challies’ Reformation Day symposium. You can check out other Reformation Day posts at Challies.com.]