Once upon a time, many years ago, there lived a farmer who owned a mule. With that mule the man did all his plowing and cultivating. On Saturdays he would hitch his mule to the wagon and go into town for groceries and necessities.
But the farmer, being the frugal man he was, grew increasingly concerned over the rising price of the oats and hay that he fed his mule each evening. He decided upon a simple plan. In order to save money, he would substitute sawdust for some of the oats, and straw for some of the hay that he fed his mule. So that evening, instead of giving his mule a full gallon of oats, and half-a-bale of hay, the farmer only gave him three-quarters of a gallon of grain, the remaining one-quarter gallon being sawdust. He also replaced a third of the hay with straw. It worked. The mule didn't seem to mind the leaner meals. Well, over the course of several months the old farmer began to substitute more and more sawdust for oats, and more and more straw for hay. He was, of course, pleased with the money he was saving in oats and hay. Everything went fine for a long time. The mule became satisfied with sawdust and straw. The problem was that the poor ‘ol mule eventually dropped over dead of starvation.
What’s the moral of the story? The same leanness can happen spiritually to the Body of Christ. The changeover from truth to error in the Church is sometimes a slow, but gradual process, and the Body of Christ doesn't always perceive the change in spiritual diet. They become satisfied with the error that has replaced the truth. But, before they know it, they're dead.
This is what happened to the Church in Europe. Between A.D. 400 and A.D. 1,500, church leaders gradually exchanged truth with more and more error, so that one the eve of the Reformation, very few professing Christians actually knew what the Bible taught, and that much of what they were being taught by their priests and bishops simply could not be defended Scripturally. The Gospel had essentially been lost. In the centuries before Martin Luther and the Reformation there had been periodic attempts at reform, but all had been squelched.
The crucial question of the Middle Ages was, “How is the sinner justified before God?” Over the course of centuries, the Roman Church had appropriated that power to itself. This power was located in the seven sacraments that the Church administered to its adherents. Theologians taught that God had bestowed His grace to the Church. The Church, then, became the custodian of grace and had the authority to mediate it to the faithful by means of the sacraments. There could be no salvation apart from the Sacraments. As a result, people were in bondage to the Church, because what the church could ‘give’ it could also ‘take away’. The Gospel was distorted, if not actually lost, by this incorrect teaching.
October 31, 1517, is a landmark date that will forever be a day of monumental importance as long as church history is studied and the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached. It was on that date that an Augustinian Monk name Martin Luther nailed 95 bullet points to the door of the local church protesting the abuses of the Roman Church—particularly in the selling of indulgences. Before he knew it, Luther’s students had copied down his protest, printed it via a brand new invention called the Printing Press and distributed it throughout Germany and then all of Europe. It was a ‘flashpoint’ in history. The result was the Protestant Reformation.
The Reformation was a Spiritual Revolution that monumentally changed the course of Western culture. More than anything it was a reformation of the preaching of the Bible, and a reestablishment of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—that a sinner is saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the Scriptures alone!
The Reformation was essentially a 'back to the Bible' movement. The Reformers sought to restore the church to the pristine teaching of Scripture in a variety of areas, most importantly 'the doctrine of salvation'. The emphasis of the Reformation was encapsulated in popular slogans that made it easy for the people to remember. These slogans are known as the five solas of the Reformation; Sola being the Latin word for 'only'. The five slogans that became the heart-and-soul of Protestant and Evangelical faith are:
- Sola Scriptura—that is, that the Bible alone is the final authority in faith and practice. Scripture, as opposed to church tradition or ecclesiastical authority, is the final authority for the believer.
- Sola Fide—that is, we are justified by faith alone, not faith plus works.
- Sola Gratia— that is, we are saved by God's grace alone, freely given to us, and not because of anything we have done, or deserve. God, out of a heart of mercy, confers His grace on sinners. The Church can neither confer grace nor take it away.
- Sola Christus—that is, we are justified by the substitutionary atonement of Christ alone. We are saved through the person and work of Christ; not Christ plus the sacraments or Christ plus good works, but by Christ alone.
- Sola Deo Gloria—that is, all things are to be done to God's glory alone.
Sadly, each of these solas is under attack today, and not just in liberal churches, or in the secular world. We would expect these doctrines to be discounted in the secular world, but they are being undermined even in the evangelical church today. Studies reveal that 35% of evangelical seminarians deny that faith alone in Christ alone is absolutely necessary for salvation. If we lose these solas, we lose robust, biblical Christianity, because without them we lose the gospel itself. That is why we're looking at each. We've already examined Sola
Scriptura, Sola Fide and Sola Gratia. This morning, we're going to see that In Christ alone our hope is found. He is our Cornerstone, and our Solid Ground.
I. IN CHRIST ALONE WE ARE ABLE TO KNOW GOD
- "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,” (Colossians 1:13–19, NIV84)
- like a lighthouse that shines its light out into a stormy sea to warn sailors of dangerous reefs and shoals, so the Apostle Paul shines a light onto the falsehood and error that had crept into the Church at Colossae
- he does that by reminding us of the preeminence of our Lord, Jesus Christ
- the passage of Scripture I just read to you is perhaps the greatest Christological passage in all the Bible
- meditate on this passage for any length of time and it will simply take your breath away!
- through it, the Apostle lays a solid foundation for our faith and the life of the Church
- it is a foundation to which we can anchor our souls in full assurance of faith
- the New Testament writers—as well as our Lord, Jesus Christ—warned of deceivers who would try to dupe those who are followers of Christ
- the 1st century was full of charlatans, spiritual quacks, and religious schemers who shrewdly manipulated truth and half truths in order to persuade believers to follow their perverted version of the gospel
- the passing of centuries has not changed the deceptive intentions of scheming men
A. A WARNING OF IMMINENT SPIRITUAL DANGER
- "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ." (Colossians 2:8, ESV)
- through the preaching and teachings of Epaphras a fledgling congregation had begun in the city of Colossae
- Epaphras had been saved under the preaching and teaching of the Apostle Paul, and had returned home preaching the same Gospel to his family and friends
- \“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.”/ (Colossians 1:3–8, NIV84)
- in fact, one modern-day translation of Col. 2:8 says, /See to it that no one kidnaps you through philosophy which is characterized by empty deception
- the church in Colossae faced a particular form of strange doctrine/
- it was a mixture of Greek philosophy, mystery religions, and Jewish legalism
- the Apostle Paul emphatically warns these believers, /See to it that these deceivers don't take you captive with this different gospel
- no Christian ever intends to be deceived or taken captive by a different gospel/
- but countless genuine believers have been and are being caught off-guard and swept into grievous error
- ILLUS. As far back as 1982, Robert Schuller planted the seed for what has today become the wholesale undoing of the Reformation. In his apostate book, Self Esteem: A New Reformation, he attacks the very core of “Reformation Theology” by saying that it “failed to make clear that the core of sin is a lack of self–esteem” and that the reformers were “rampantly reckless in assaulting the dignity of the person” by insisting on the depravity of man’s character. In Schuller’s gospel, a literal hell has no place. Instead “A person is in hell when he has lost his self–esteem.” Such apostasy is almost beyond comprehension. If that is not shocking enough, Schuller later wrote in 1984: “I don’t think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition.” Think of it! Schuller is claiming that it’s actually unchristian to tell people of their sin and need for salvation in Christ! Nevertheless, countless millions are following this apostate theology. Even preachers like Rick Warren, who by his own admission, was greatly influenced by Schuller’s philosophy of evangelism, shuns preaching on sin and repentance. And don’t even get me started on Joel Osteen.
- the examples could go on and on and on
- Paul counters the false prophets and the false gospels of his day with the central, foundational, and cornerstone truth of biblical Christianity—Jesus Christ is God incarnate—and in him alone is redemption
B. TO KNOW CHRIST, IS TO KNOW GOD
- "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily," (Colossians 2:9, ESV)
- to know Christ is to know God, because Jesus was completely God
- ILLUS. Imagine yourself as Peter or James or John, walking with Christ somewhere north of the Sea of Galilee. You follow him up a mountain, and when you reach the top you are astonished as Jesus, your friend and teacher, is transfigured before you. His face shines so brightly you can't look at him, and his clothes are whiter than the brightest white you've ever seen. At his side appear Moses and Elijah, talking with him. You drop to your knees, and face down you hear a voice from heaven: "This is my Son; listen to him!"
- Jesus Christ is God
- regardless of how much men deny it, He is God
II. IN CHRIST ALONE, WE ARE ABEL TO BE SAVED
- “Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:35–40, NIV84)
- if Jesus Christ is completely God, and He is, He is also completely able to save us
- Jesus says the will of our Heavenly Father, is that everyone who looks to Christ and believes will have eternal life, and that none of God's Elect shall be lost, but will be raised up
- the cry of the gospel is that we are justified before God by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone
A. JESUS ALONE IS THE AUTHOR OF SALVATION
- “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3, NIV84)
- we need nothing more than faith in Jesus—Jesus Christ plus nothing!
- it is not Jesus Christ plus never sinning again
- it is not Jesus Christ plus baptism (by whatever mode you do it)
- it is not Jesus Christ plus speaking in tongues
- it is not Jesus Christ plus our own strength, ingenuity, or wisdom
- "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV)
- "That sounds awfully intolerant Pastor."
- to a pluralistic society and a culture lost in sin and whose eyes are darkened to the Truth, yes I suppose the exclusivity of the Gospel sounds arrogant, and intolerant
- ILLUS. Another false gospel of our day is "Inclusivism" taught by open theists like Clark Pinnock. Inclusivism is the teaching that, although salvation comes through Jesus, it is not necessary to possess specific knowledge concerning Jesus as Savior. Nor is it necessary to profess faith in Jesus. According to Pinnock, God will use other religions as a means of salvation for people who never heard of Jesus Christ. God will "included" them as His Elect because of their sincerity and positive response to the religion they were raised in. Unfortunately, later in life this is something even Billy Graham came to believe.
- ... explain it away
- ... ignore it
- ... or believe it
- ILLUS. After the resurrection, the Apostle Peter became a bold and courageous preacher of the gospel. In one of his sermons he tells the Jewish leaders that Jesus was the stone which was rejected but which has become the chief cornerstone. He concluded his message by saying: "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
- the name of Mohammad will not save
- the name of Buddha will not save
- the name of Confucius will not save
- the name of Moses or Elijah will not save
- the name of Mary or any other saint will not save
- folks, none of these people died for me that my sins might be forgiven
- none of these other world religious figures rose from the grave so that I could have eternal life
III. IN CHRIST ALONE, WE ARE MADE COMPLETE
- “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10, NIV84)
- you may have mystical experiences, you may have dreams and visions, you may get goose bumps when you hear Sandi Patti sing, and you may make great claims for your spirituality
- but if Jesus Christ and Him crucified and raised from the dead does not fill your heart and mind, then you have bought into deceptive teaching
- the Apostle Paul almost sounds like a broken record—he just keeps coming back to Jesus
- not only in Jesus does all the fullness of Deity dwell in bodily form ...
- but in Jesus, "... in Him you have been made complete ... " (Colossians 2:10)
- for Paul there is no other goal for him than that of knowing Christ in his fulness
- there is no other foundation laid for his life than Jesus Christ
- there is no other treasure than Christ who is the pearl of great price
- there is no other passion than his passion for Christ
- Jesus Christ is the life, joy, and delight of Paul's life
- does Jesus mean all of that to you?
- the word complete or fulness in v. 10 is a verb and is in a tense that implies a permanent, lasting work
- does this mean that we have no room to grow or no need for increasing in knowledge?
- what Paul implies is that in possessing Christ, we possess all we need for our spiritual growth and spiritual maturity
- in other words, we do not need to turn to any other source for spiritual help
- you do not need to turn to horoscopes
- you do not need to call the psychic hot-line
- you do not need to have your palm read
- you do not need to talk to dead relatives
- you do not need to attune your mind to the cosmic energy of some crystal
- let me put it this way, to have abundant life and renewed life, you can do no better than Jesus
- if he cannot satisfy you, then no other spiritual experience or religion or ideology can meet your need
A. CHRIST NOT ONLY SAVES US, HE RENEWS US DAY BY DAY
- being in Christ does not give you a license to sin
- once you are in Christ, you have the responsibility to pursue godliness
- by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us, we are enabled to follow Christ as our new master
- "and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness." (Romans 6:18, ESV)
- instead, we draw upon the same power that raised Christ from the dead, and this allows us to obey Him
- “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:1–2, NIV84)
- that means we must invest our time and energy and resources in those things that draw us closer to Him
- are you doing this, or are you investing your life in the things that subtly undermine your faith?
- "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:3, ESV)
- The following words are from an old engraving on a cathedral in Labeck, Germany: Thus speaketh Christ our Lord to us: You call Me master and obey Me not. You call Me light and see Me not. You call Me the Way and walk Me not. You call Me life and live Me not. You call Me wise and follow Me not. You call Me fair and love Me not. You call Me rich and ask Me not. You call Me eternal and seek Me not. If I condemn thee, blame Me not.
You'll hear a lot of Christians say these days, that "Doctrine is not important." They will insist, that "It doesn't really matter what we believe, we're all just trying to get to the same place." Well, I'm hear to tell you that doctrine does matter. What we believe does matter—especially what we believe about the person, nature, and work of Jesus Christ. What we believe about Christ is of supreme importance in the believer's life. In fact, it makes an eternity of difference. Do not be deceived into seeing Him as anything less than Completely God, Completely Savior, and Completely Lord. In Christ alone we are saved!