In the Middle Ages the priest was seen as having a special relationship with God and mediated God’s grace and forgiveness through the sacraments. If you belonged to the Church of Rome, you would attend mass and work hard at being a good Catholic. If you died before your soul was fully cleansed, you go to purgatory where you are purified through pain until you are ready to stand before God. Now if you’re lucky, you might have a caring family who could purchase time off your sentence by making a donation to the Church by purchasing an indulgence. After the indulgence was paid, the Catholic Church would dip into what is called the Treasury of Merit.
The Treasury of Merit (Latin: Thesaurus Meritorum) was like a bank account made up of all the good deeds of the saints of all time. Jesus contributed to this considerably and so did Mary. Being sinless (according to Rome), she gained far more merit than what was needed for heaven, and so the extra merit she acquired was added to the treasury, along with the merits of saints. The Treasury of Merit is placed under the charge of the Pope, who alone possesses the keys, and he can dispense merit at his discretion.
You say, “So where did they get all this from?” They made it up. You won’t find any of this in the Bible. The point here however is salvation according to Rome is summed up in two words: JESUS PLUS. It’s Jesus plus the sacraments, Jesus plus good works, Jesus plus Mary and the Saints, and Jesus plus purgatory when all else fails. It is against this that the Reformers stood up and said – “No, salvation is in Christ and Christ ALONE.”
Three Scriptures to remember
Let’s start with some Scripture. The first one we are going to look at is Acts 4:12.
“There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)
Well, that’s clear. If you want to be saved, if you want to have your sins forgiven, there is only one person you can call upon and that is Jesus. Calling upon St Anne won’t save you. Calling upon Mary won’t save you. Calling on Allah won’t save you. Only calling upon Jesus will save you. Let’s go to another Scripture: 1 Timothy 2:5
“For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5)
There is only One God – the Creator God, the God of the Bible. And there is only one mediator who can give us access to God – the man Christ Jesus. He is the perfect mediator because he is both God and man and understands both parties. And he is the perfect mediator because he alone qualifies for the job. That takes us to the third key Scripture: Hebrews 10:11-12
“Every priest stands day after day ministering and offering the same sacrifices time after time, which can never take away sins. But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb 10:11-12)
Under the Old Covenant, the High Priest acted as the mediator. He would go into the holy of holies and make atonement for sin. He would intercede for the people. God would hear his prayer, forgive the Israelites and care for and provide for them. This was a temporary, provisional system. As important as this work of the priest was in the OT, no priest and no animal could take away a man’s sins. It was all pointing to a time in the future when God would send someone to be the perfect mediator.
To qualify for this role, Jesus needed to be two things:
- Firstly, he had to be a member of the human race (in order to represent us).
- Secondly, he had to be holy and sinless, which he was, because he was conceived without sin and lived a completely sinless life.
Jesus, by dying in our place and bearing the punishment for our sin, mediated for us. He reconciled us to God. And having been raised up again from the dead, he now sits at the Father’s right hand, making intercession for us. His priestly work hasn’t finished; it continues.
Two truths to affirm
Flowing out of those three Scriptures are two truths we can affirm:
Truth #1: Your salvation is secured by Christ alone.
Christians sometimes say, “Salvation is not earned. It is free.” That is not entirely true. It is earned, just not by us. Christ, by his perfect life and atoning death, earned our salvation. He bought it. He worked for it. We often say, “I am saved by grace, not by works.” But we should go further. We should say, “I am saved by grace through faith in the works of Jesus Christ.” It’s his work that saves you. Faith doesn’t save you. Faith doesn’t justify you. It is faith in what Christ has done that saves you.
Think of Jesus Christ as the power station, faith as the power line, and we are the house. Faith cannot create power; it can only transmit. Whether your faith is great or small is immaterial. Jesus said if you have faith of a mustard seed you can say to a mountain “go here” and it will move. It is not the amount of faith that’s the issue but the object of faith. Any amount of faith in Christ is sufficient to release from God’s power station cleansing power to save you.
Truth #2: Your salvation is sustained by Christ alone
Salvation is not just something that happens in the past, when you first repented and believed. It is happening every day. The bible teaches 3 tenses in salvation:
- You were saved (Past)
- You are being saved (Present)
- You will be fully saved (Future)
Hebrews 10:25 says,
“Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them.” (Heb 7:25)
Did you see that? Save completely, or as some translations put it – save to the uttermost. When Christ saves us, he ensures that he will keep us to the very end. For he who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it until that final day (Philippians 1:6).
So, we’ve had our 3 Scriptures and our 2 affirmations. Now for the one application.
One application to make
The application is this: Since Christ alone earned your salvation and Christ alone sustains your salvation, He is sufficient for your every need.
- You don’t need any other saviour
- You don’t need any other mediator
- You don’t need any other redeemer or rescuer or liberator.
The mistake the Roman Catholic Church made was not that they didn’t believe that Jesus could save. They did. He just wasn’t enough. You needed something more. You needed Jesus plus the sacraments, Jesus plus encountering a relic, Jesus plus praying the rosary, Jesus plus prayers to the Saints and on and on it went. It never ended, which is why no one was actually fully assured they were accepted by God or not.
We can easily fall into the same error today. Be on your guard. Because you will have people come and tell you that having Jesus is good, but to be really spiritual you need something more. You need Jesus plus visions from God, Jesus plus speaking in tongues, Jesus plus social activism, Jesus plus positive thinking, Jesus plus a healthy self-esteem, Jesus plus a special encounter with God.
If you have Jesus, you have all that you need. He is sufficient. All the fulness of the Godhead dwells in Him Paul tells us, and in him you are complete (Colossians 2:9-10). “Christ Alone” is something the Reformers stood for, lived for and even died for. It was something that William Tyndale was willing to go to the stake for.
“Understand me well, it is the blood of Christ that opens the gates of heaven and not your works… it is not by what you have done, but by what Christ has done for you.”
Solus Christus – Christ alone. Never forget it. He is all that you ever need.
Note: this post is based on a series preached at our Church called “The 5 Solas.” You can listen to it on our website here.