What do we mean when we say we are a “Reformed” Church? Part 2 of 10 - Salvation in Christ Alone

[Editor's Note: Read part 1 of this series.]

We believe that salvation from sin to God is in Christ alone!

The Cross of Christ

Reformed Christians confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. He stands at the center of all things, and it is only through his mediatorial and substitutionary work on the cross and the victory of his resurrection that sinners are saved. Jesus stands between God and mankind, representing God to man and man to God, bearing God’s judgment and presenting us innocent and righteous to God. He gave his life as a substitutionary sacrifice for sinners by bearing the penalty for their sin, God’s wrath in the judgment of death. Only through his substitutionary work of atonement can sinners be saved.

The Story of the World

This good news sits at the climax of God’s plan for the world. The plotline of this plan is marked by four chapters: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation.

Everyone, religious or irreligious, narrates the history of the world and their own life in some way, but Christians receive the story of the world from God through His word. God’s story becomes our story. The Triune God is king over all created all things, and he made mankind as his image bearers to live in his kingdom in covenant fellowship with him.  Mankind rebelled, broke covenant, and fell from innocence before God in an attempt to establish our own kingdoms. God redeemed sinners, sending his Son to be king and to overthrow the kingdoms of this world by dying for sin and rising again in victory to bring forgiveness. When the Son, Jesus Christ, comes again to judge the living and the dead, he will bring a new creation as the consummation of God’s redemption. Christians repent of the false stories we have adopted to narrate and shape our lives, and we trust in God’s story and his saving work in Jesus Christ.

There is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved. This storyline (creation, fall, redemption, consummation) provides the foundation from which Reformed theology draws its doctrines and its understanding of the gospel.

The gospel is not the same as the storyline of Scripture. It isn’t everything God has done. The gospel is the good news concerning Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sin and the bringing of new creation. The gospel is the climax of God’s dramatic story of the world.

Christ the Only Savior

While it might seem obvious to Christians that Jesus is the savior, the Reformed tradition has been especially aware of our tendency as sinners to replace Jesus as savior or to incorporate other powers, people, or things into the saving work of Christ. Reformed Christians insist that we must not add to or take away from Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Therefore, we reject any false savior.

We maintain that we cannot save ourselves and that Christ alone has the power to save. We cannot merit, earn, or secure our salvation through our efforts and good deeds. We cannot achieve salvation through self-denial, discipline, or abstaining from bodily pleasure. We cannot reason our way to salvation or educate ourselves to enlightenment.

We maintain that no other person, whether a Christian leader, saint, or martyr, can achieve our salvation but that Christ alone redeems us from sin. We naturally drift from trusting in Christ alone for salvation to putting our confidence in pastors or priests who lead us and pray for us. We naturally seek some other power, apart from the Holy Spirit given by Christ, to intervene on our own behalf so that we are saved. Some even pray to Apostles, to Mary the mother of Jesus, and to other saints. But no one has the power to forgive sin or help us grow in Christ-likeness except God.

We maintain that no created thing can save us. We naturally trust in all sorts of created things (money, power, status, comfort, security, love,  approval, etc.) to save us from our problems. But our ultimate problem is our sinful rebellion against God, and only Jesus can take away our sin.

Jesus Christ is the only savior, and we must flee from accepting any powerless rivals. So Reformed Christians believe that salvation is in Christ alone.

[Editor's Note: Read part 3part 4part 5part 6part 7part 8part 9, and part 10 of this series.]