Many people have keys. Keys to their houses, keys to their suitcases, keys to open lockers, and even keys to “success”; but did you know there is only one Key that unlocks scripture, and opens the door to Salvation? Luther had a name for this “Key”–Solus Christus (Christ Alone) or perhaps today we would say, “Jesus Only”. This is the “Key” that we inherited as heirs of the Reformation and of Christ, this is the “Key” that we were born under in the waters of Holy Baptism, this is the “Key” which daily preserves our life with God, and this is the “Key” which will open the Gates of Heaven when we breathe our last breath. For more about this “Key”, here is a chapter from Dr. Robert Preus’ “Luther: Word, Doctrine, and Confession” *See Below for Chapter excerpt from Dr. Robert Preus.
Christ, the Center of All Doctrine
One more statement from Luther must be cited before we respond to the question of the nature, the meaning, and scope of Luther’s solus Christus principle, the centrality of the doctrine of justification. I quote at length from Part II of the Smalcald Articles:
The second part treats the articles which pertain to the office and work of Jesus Christ, or our redemption.
The first and chief article is this, that Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, was “put to death for our trespasses and raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). He alone is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). “God has laid upon Him the iniquities of us all” (Is. 53:6). Moreover, “All have sinned” and “are justified freely by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus by His blood” (Rom. 3:23-25).
Inasmuch as this must be believed and cannot be obtained or apprehended by any work, law, or merit, it is clear and certain that such faith alone justifies us, as St. Paul says in Romans 3, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law” (Rom. 3:28), and again, “That He [God] Himself is righteous and He justifies him who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).
Nothing in this article can be given up or compromised, even if heaven and earth and things temporal should be destroyed. For as St. Peter says, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “And with His stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:5).
On this article rests all that we teach and practice against the pope, the devil, and the world. Therefore we must be quite certain and have no doubts about it. Otherwise all is lost, and the pope, the devil, and all our adversaries will gain the victory.
What, then, can we glean from the many, many citations from Luther concerning what we have called the solus Christus principle?
It is obvious that justification before God and the work of Christ as Propitiator and Redeemer belong extricably together and, so far as Luther is concerned, really constitute the same article (articulus, doctrina, locus)…. Luther’s solus Christus principle springs from his exegetical studies which conclude that the entire Scriptures were Christocentric in their content. How often does he make statements like the following,
“Christ is the sum and truth of Scripture”; “The Scriptures from beginning to end do not reveal anyone besides the Messiah, the Son of God, who should come and through His sacrifice carry and take away the sins of the world”; “Outside the book of the Holy Spirit, namely the Holy Scriptures, one does not find Christ.” Such statements make the Christocentricity of Scripture a hermeneutical principle for Luther. “One must not understand Scripture contrary to Christ, but in favor of Him; therefore Scripture must be brought into relationship to Christ or must not be regarded as Scripture.” To Luther Scripture cannot teach anything against the vicarious atonement of Christ and the doctrine of justification.
Since Scripture is Christocentric and therefore all Christian doctrine must center in Christ, the Savior; the purpose of Scripture and the purpose of all doctrine in the church is soteriological. It is for our comfort, our forgiveness, our union with God. Luther never tires of making this point. Scripture makes us happy, trustful, confident Christians and puts us at peace with God. It is our defense against temptation and the devil, the world, and our flesh. It instructs us in true worship and service of God and in how to be a good theologian. All these and other blessings Christian doctrine affords us because of the great power of Scripture which underlies all teaching in the church. And Scripture and Christian doctrine and preaching are powerful because they point us to Christ and His grace.
Christian doctrine and preaching not only point us to “Jesus only” but confer upon us sonship, faith in Christ, fellowship with Him, and all blessings which we have through Christ. [Christ is the only way to God.] “All the works which Christ performed are recorded in the Word, and in the Word and through the Word will He give us everything, and without the Word He will give us nothing.”…I am in Him and He is in me through faith. Amen.