“Solus Christus: the Center of the Reformation”
November 12, 2017
Rowland Taylor was a Reformer living in England who died on February 9, 1555. He was identified as a Protestant, questioned, imprisoned, and then taken from London to his hometown of Hadleigh “where to his great delight [he was] to be burned before the eyes of his parishioners.” J. C. Ryle tells his story:
When he got within two miles of Hadleigh, the Sheriff of Suffolk asked him how he felt. “God be praised, Master Sheriff,” was his reply, “never better. For now I am almost at home. I lack but just two stiles to go over, and I am even at my Father’s house.”
As he rode through the streets of the little town of Hadleigh, he found them lined with crowds of his parishioners, who had heard of his approach, and came out of their houses to greet him with many tears and lamentations. To them he only made one constant address, “I have preached to you God’s Word and truth, and am come this day to seal it with my blood.”
On coming to Aldham Common, where he was to suffer, they told him where he was. Then he said,—”Thank God, I am even at home.” When he was stripped to his shirt and ready for the stake, he said, with a loud voice,—”Good people, I have taught you nothing but God’s Holy Word, and those lessons that I have taken out of the Bible; and I am come hither to seal it with my blood.” He would probably have said more, but, like all the other martyrs, he was strictly forbidden to speak, and even now was struck violently on the head for saying these few words. He then knelt down and prayed, a poor woman of the parish insisting, in spite of every effort to prevent her, in kneeling down with him. After this, he was chained to the stake, and repeating the 51st Psalm, and crying to God, “Merciful Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake, receive my soul into Thy hands,” stood quietly amidst the flames without crying or moving, till one of the guards dashed out his brains with a halberd. And so this good old Suffolk incumbent passed away. [Ryle, Five English Reformers, 14]
Taylor was one of 288 believers put to death in the last four years of Queen Mary’s reign of England (1555-1558) for their commitment to the Protestant faith. They weren’t Catholic and they refused to renounce their protestant beliefs, so she put them to death by burning them at the stake.
For what did they die? Simply for believing that Christ alone was the means of salvation — Solus Christus.
Last week we noted that the foundation of the Reformation was Sola Scriptura — every defense of truth that marked the Reformation was based on the authority of the Word of God. What the Reformers believed about Christ, grace, faith (justification), and God’s glory was dependent on what Scripture said. It can also be said that while Sola Scriptura served as the foundation for the “house” of the Reformation, and grace and faith served as the pillars that supported the house, and that God’s glory is the roof for this house, covering every aspect of Reformation truth, Christ is the center of the house. Scripture points to Him and His plan of redemption, grace and faith have Him as their object, and in a most unique and singular way, He gives glory to God.
The doctrine of Christ was also critical to the Reformation because there may have been more aberrant teachings about Christ than any of these other doctrines. From the Catholic Church there were multiple attacks on His work, denying the sufficiency of the salvation He provided, and from outside the Catholic Church there were denials of the hypostatic union of his deity and humanity, rendering Him an incapable Christ. The Reformation re-affirmed both the person and work of Christ and re-established that it was Christ alone that provided a salvation from sin that was satisfying to God.
As Luther wrote in his Large Cathechism, “There was no counsel, no help, no comfort for us until this only and eternal Son of God, in his unfathomable goodness, had mercy on our misery and wretchedness and came from heaven to help us…Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and righteousness and every good and blessing.” [Quoted in The Legacy of Luther, 161.]
So we say of Christ,
Christ alone is sufficient to provide salvation for sinners. There is no salvation by any other means.
- What Does Solus Christus Mean?
- Christ’s person: Christ is the eternal God-Man — fully God and fully man
- Christ’s work: Christ eternally satisfied God’s wrath against sin
- Christ’s offices: Christ is eternal Prophet, Priest, and King
- Why Was Solus Christus Necessary?
- What the Roman church (and others) thought about Christ then
- What the Roman church thinks about Christ today
- Is Solus Christus Taught in Scripture? (Colossians 1:15-20)
- Christ’s person (vv. 15-17)
- Christ’s work (vv. 18-20)
Download the rest of this sermon on Solus Christus and Colossians 1:15-20.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website tomorrow morning.