Today is the second of what will be five posts within this larger book of James series on the “five cries (primary tenets) of the Reformation.” The third and fourth will be next week, with the final writing at the very end of this series.
I certainly groove with the Reformation from a purely theological basis. The basic teaching of the total helplessness of man spiritually speaking, yet the incredible and magnanimous grace of God in Christ to do everything to reach out and save, all gives great glory to the Lord. It explains everything about the nature of the human condition and wondrous love of God.
Beyond theology, I have learned over the years that I have some personal family ancestry that dates back to the earliest days of the Reformation in Switzerland. A particular ancestor was a theologian in association with Ulrich Zwingli, also having some connection to Martin Luther. The first Buchman who came to America in 1750 was named “Martin” – surely after the father of the Reformation. So I see myself as a spiritual descendent of these people even more than a biological offspring.
Solus Christus … Christ alone … Christ only. Well, “yes,” you say. Who wouldn’t believe in that? The theology of the church prior to the Reformation (with these beliefs still in practice today in certain circles) involved the teaching of a need for mankind to use the assistance of varied mediators to be in proper relationship and fellowship with God … go-betweens like priests or saints or the mother of Jesus. Beliefs in purgatory called for saints on earth to intervene and intercede for the release of these souls, etc.
The teaching of the Reformation broke into this errant emphasis, calling for the church to rightly see Christ as the only mediator between man and God. It is trust in the work of Christ alone that gives a person salvation and a right relationship with God. The most famous of the Reformers, John Calvin, wrote in his voluminous treatise on faith called “The Institutes of the Christian Religion” that “Christ stepped in, took the punishment upon himself and bore the judgment due to sinners. With his own blood he expiated the sins which made them enemies of God and thereby satisfied him. We look to Christ alone for divine favor and fatherly love.”
The Scriptural passage that best summarizes this is 1 Timothy 2:5-6 …
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.
The word for mediator means: “one who intervenes between two, either in order to make or restore peace and friendship, or form a compact, or for ratifying a covenant.” Indeed that is what Christ has done between God and mankind – that relationship being marred by sin. And as the passage goes on to say, Jesus did this by giving himself as a ransom – this being the idea of a justly required price being paid.
People who are essentially dead cannot pay a price. People who are chained and imprisoned can’t earn their release. People who are completely lost cannot find their own way. The only hope is for someone else to intervene. This is what Christ has done – the only one who could do it, in the only way it could have been done.