Today we stand at an end of the Grace revolution God launched upon the world in the 16th century. The respected contemporary theology winning the hearts of masses is the Pharisaism of Christ’s day, transformed into the movements of Western (Latin) Christianity, Eastern Christianity, Talmudic Judaism, and Islam. In addition the Protestant movement of today, including even strict nonconformist sects, has been absorbed into the Latin tradition to an extent that it bears no clear uncompromising testimony of the doctrines of free and unmerited Grace.
The importance of the debate over God’s true purposes in causing the the Grace Revolution and its aftermath cannot be overemphasized. Most do not even want to discuss the issue in good faith. In an era when the undying obsession lies in unity with Latin (Western) Theology, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Pharisaic Talmudism in exalting sacramental, mystical, experiential, and sacerdotal theology, the 5 Solas have definitely been relegated to the ‘irrelevant trash heap of history’ by the populist theologians, politicians, and media personalities of our time. In some cases there is a ‘tongue and cheek’ confession of certain 5 Solas ‘language’ but this is not genuine belief in the gospel of Grace. Gospel language is not the gospel, though most present-day teachers will tout snippets of gospel wording in their teaching as evidence of Christian orthodoxy. Those who truly believe in every one of the 5-Solas and in their full implications are impossible to find in the populist religious masses. The retort against those of us who defend the kernel of New Testament Grace teaching is ‘no one believes that anymore’, with expression of a passionate desire to ‘move on to bigger and better ideas’.
The 5-Solas in their original context fully encompass the genuine New Testament gospel doctrine. Though these were not all ‘packaged’ together as a unitary confessional teaching until the 20th century, all were part and parcel of what has been called the Reformation. The ‘Reformation’ in its essence (discarding the sacramental, sacerdotal, and Patristic quirks) was really a transformation, regeneration, and restoration of the doctrine of Christ and the apostles with regard to Grace. The Latin theology introduced by the post-apostolic ‘fathers’ was a destruction of the Grace doctrine taught by Christ and the apostles. Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and apostate Protestantism only perpetuate the false teaching of these Latin and Byzantine theologians on final salvation, merited by a transformed character of ‘Christ in you’ instead of pure Grace residing in the Godhead and ordained in the eternal counsel of the Father.
sola gratia (Eph. 1:3-12; 2:4-9) embraces the truth that salvation as purposed by God the Father, transcendent of time and space, is grounded exclusively in His gracious purpose. The doctrine confesses the Father’s desire to show undeserved and eternal favor to an innumerable multitude of human beings, worthy only of death and the wrath to come. God’s desire to show this grace to a specific number that He pre-ordained for salvation is entirely unconditional toward those who receive it in time. Those whom God has purposed to show Grace in Christ are sure and certain to receive this gift of Grace, it is not of ourselves, not dependent on the exercise of the human will (Rom. 9:16).
Many teachers of all traditions will shout that salvation is owed ‘entirely to God’s grace’. But most of them have no idea of what Grace really is. Many of the same sages will qualify this confession of free grace with utterances like ‘receiving and keeping grace depends on the exercise of your free will.’ This notion is applied to both the event of ‘getting saved’ or ‘being born again’ and ‘staying saved’ or ‘getting sanctified’. The truth that salvation is sola gratia can never be comprehended by those who go around shouting ‘grace’ as an issue of ‘unworthiness’ that God must first correct in Christ, setting the stage to get saved or stay saved by exercising free will on our part. Unless affirming Grace is tied to God the Father’s eternal purpose, which is an inexorable plan to exercise undeserved favor in Christ toward a specific multitude predestined to salvation, belief in Grace as affirmed by Christ and the apostles will die entirely. It rarely exists in the current age.
The confession of ‘solely by Grace’ embraces all of the doctrines of God’s attributes, including sovereignty, immutability, eternity, and omnipotence. The biblical doctrine of God is compromised severely by the Patristic and Latin legacy of salvation owed to both grace as defined by Paul plus ‘transforming grace’ to maintain the grace received in ‘initial’ salvation. A teaching of variable or conditional salvation and grace that can be lost inevitably leads to belief in a god that is not fully sovereign and unchanging from eternity to eternity with unlimited power to save. Pharisaic, Patristic, and Latin theology invariably teaches that God’s desire to exercise grace can be nullified by the free will of man in rebellion.
solo Christo (Rom 3:24,25, 5:6-11, 8:1,2; 1 Cor. 1:30, 2 Cor. 5:21; Col. 1:12-20, 2:8-10, 3:1-4) embraces the truth that God the Son acted in history to provide a complete and perfect substitutionary life and death for sinners, abolishing all condemnation on behalf of the Father’s elect multitude purposed to receive Grace. In the passages cited, Paul is clear that Christ the God-man is the sole repository of eternal grace and life for all those predestined for salvation. The focus of Paul here is not the mystical ‘Christ in you’ or ‘Jesus Christ living in me’ parroted constantly by false teachers. These teachings focus on personal experience and label it ‘Jesus Christ.’ The two expressions are each used only once in Paul’s epistles and refer to something entirely different from Latin (Patristic and Roman Catholic) doctrine. The reality portrayed is the Holy Spirit among the body of Christ exalting the Christ of the gospel as the primary focus and passion of our existence.
The confession of ‘solely by Christ’ embraces all the doctrines of Christ’s person and work. His true Deity and humanity co-existing in one person, incarnation without natural male insemination, impeccability (inability to sin), suffering and human death as the God-man to atone for all sin of elect human beings, resurrection to eternal Lordship over all creation, and final coming in glory to rule over a regenerated material Earth and immortal believers resurrected in body are all part of what is confessed in this reality.
Let us return to a life focused on the gospel of Christ’s Divine/human person and finished work of salvation rather than obsession with the mystical experiential duplication of Christ taught in Patristic/Latin theology.
sola fide (Rom 1:16,17, 3:21-31, 4:1-5:2, 10:8-13; Gal. 3 Eph. 2:8,9; Heb. 10:38,39, 11; John 5: 24; 1 John 5:10-12)
The most radical doctrine of the anti-Latin theology revolution is ‘faith alone’. The teaching does not refer to an attribute in human beings that merits or completes salvation. In God’s mind, salvation is already perfectly complete on behalf of His people foreordained to eternal life. This is based on the exercise of sola gratia and solo Christo eternally purposed in the Trinity. The creation of faith in God’s elect does not change their status of justification in His presence at the time it occurs, since justification of the elect in Christ is a reality constant in all of time and eternity. Sola fide is instead the manner in which the Holy Spirit brings the knowledge and assurance of salvation to human beings. In the state of their conception in iniquity, the people of God are exclusive slaves of sin and unaware of their inclusion in the election of Grace. The work of regeneration from death to life performed by the Holy Spirit resulting in the gift of faith, called the Seal of God in scripture, reverses this hopeless internal state of the elect that was their previous heritage.
All the language of scripture suggesting that justification is in us, indeed that Christ Himself is in us, needs to be interpreted in light of this truth. We are not in ourselves made Christ or made justified. Instead, Christ possesses our souls in a matter that we come to worship Him in all of our being. The gift of eternal justification is treasured in us to the extent that it becomes our whole basis of life and being.
Although saints are all foreordained to good works as a part of experiencing salvation, no amount of works can bring assurance. It is impossible to know whether a sufficient quantity of any good work or obedience to God’s commands has been experienced or performed at any time. This is why sola fide as the gift of God in us assuring salvation is so critical and indispensable to our confidence and sanity in this world.
Solo Christo and sola fide are indispensably connected in the doctrine of Christ’s imputed right-doing and reconciliation in His death. There is hardly a doctrine more criticized or despised in all of professed Christianity. Theologians have falsely dissected Christ’s life and death into two entirely separate forms of obedience, one called ‘active’ and the other ‘passive’, in order to deny that the right-doing of Christ in his life prior to death is imputed to the elect. But the scriptures (Rom. 5:18, others) view the obedience of Christ constituting believers just as a single act, beginning with His incarnation and culminating in His eternal resurrection from the dead. There is no moment in that obedience, including Christ’s final suffering on the cross and physical human death, which can be isolated or compartmentalized as exclusively bringing justification apart from the rest. Evan-jelly-fish-anity loves to attempt this, adding further that ‘justification’ is something to worry about only at the beginning of Christian life. The messages witnessed constantly in the media only focus on the ‘initial decision for Christ bringing salvation’ and ‘living for Christ thereafter in obedience’. Justification based on Christ’s entire work as a continuous, daily assurance that is needed by the elect until entry into glory is not the focus of ‘evangelical’ religion at all. Christianity in all its denominational forms has gone back to the Latin teaching of the post-apostolic so-called ‘fathers’.
sola scriptura (Luke 24:27,32,44-45; 2 Tim. 3:14-17)
In sola scriptura we affirm the Old and New Testaments of Scripture as our only basis of teaching authority. Not the ‘church fathers’, not the succession of bishops and their established doctrine for many centuries, not the elaborate confessions or creeds of any denominational tradition.
The doctrine of ‘scripture only’ is a heritage of the 16th century reformation or revolution away from Latin theology. It is definitely not the doctrine of the 66-book homologoumena (entirely infallible scripture) affirmed by most all sects since Calvin’s 1559 French Confession was published containing the first exclusive list of these books, though affirmed by none prior. The objective of the French Confession was to throw out the Roman Catholic apocryphal books affirmed at the Council of Florence as authoritative, not to fully state all 66-books affirmed as homologoumena. Luther, Oecolampadius, other ‘Reformers’, the Roman Catholic Church, and even Calvin himself affirmed the legitimacy of the homologoumena/antilegomena distinction in evaluating the books commonly affirmed as scripture by most of professing Christianity. Though some different conclusions were reached on exactly where the distinction should be drawn, all of these men saw that affirming such a distinction was necessary to a sane understanding of biblical revelation.
All of the doctrines of the gospel are fully affirmed in the books of scripture commonly accepted as homologoumena, in all generations from the apostles on. This is our only standard of orthodoxy and teaching. Nothing else will persuade us unless it is supported in the Old and New Testaments of Christ’s gospel.
soli deo Gloria (Rom. 9:6-26, Phil. 2:9-11)
Most professing Christians today have no idea what is involved in confessing that all events in history are to advance and culminate solely to the glory of God. This outcome is not possible unless God’s purposes in history are fully achieved with no variance, meaning that all things occur exactly as God has planned and ordered them unto His own honor and glorification. Almost all try and avoid this truth as it relates to election and reprobation. Most believe that God is not glorified in the damnation of unbelievers, that He experiences Divine ‘tears and frustration’ in their rebellion but nonetheless allowstheir bad choices. But a sovereign God allows nothing in the perspective of the scriptures. He positively purposes all things both now and in eternity future. Where scripture states that God or Christ suffered certain events to happen, this simply means that God did not intervene to cause a ‘more positive’ outcome than what transpired. There is no biblical teaching on God failing to achieve every purpose that He desires. It is the teaching of the Bible that God purposes all things to His own glory, including the salvation of elect sinners and damnation of un-elect sinners.
God is not glorified in the doctrines of human free-will, infralapsarian damnation, the ability of men to lose salvation (church fathers, Arminius, Wesley), and all such proposals attempting to exalt the will of man as more important than the ultimate Will of God. Is God vindicated when someone ‘goes to hell’ that might have been saved through further opportunity to exercise free-choice, but such opportunity cut off by an undetermined historical accident? What nonsense is all such teaching, dishonoring both God and man to the fullest. Such beliefs would make man out to be a total fool and God out to be an infinite fool. In such notions, those in heaven are there on the merit of their own choices and were ‘lucky’ enough to avoid the fall of the ‘damnation axe’ on their souls at the wrong moment of life’s sin.
In today’s evanjellyfishanity, the 5solas are anything but what is coveted as the basis of ongoing ‘spiritual’ strength. Most preaching is focused on the pursuit of mystical techniques and rules of obedience as what will bring happiness in the ongoing experience of ‘salvation’. The gospel of salvation in Christ is viewed as ‘only the beginning’, because that gospel is so distorted it is not even the real and true gospel. What is preached is merely ‘gospel language’ to deceive and falsely comfort. May God deliver us from the horrifically deep apostasy of this age and restore the apostolic gospel according to His sovereign Grace and eternal purpose for His elect!
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