The Solas of the Reformation
Issues, Etc. Transcript
WILKEN: Greetings, and welcome to Issues, Etc. I'm Todd Wilken. Thanks for tuning us in.
Right here in Romans 3, beginning there at the 20th verse, Paul writes, "By works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the law and prophets bear witness to it, The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of the God and are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood to be received by faith."
These are famous words from St. Paul. He's talking about the nature of the Christian faith, the very heart and center of the Christian faith. These are words that in the 16th century Reformation, these are words that resonated in the heart and mind of Martin Luther, and these are the words that gave rise to what are called the great Solas of the Reformation—grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone—those solas are the subject of our conversation on Issues, Etc. this evening—The Solas of the Reformation.
If you have a question or a comment and like to join this conversation with Dr. Rod Rosenbladt—he joins us in a moment—our call-in number: 1-800-730-2727. That's our number. We also have an Issues, Etc. Forum where you can post questions or comments live during the program. Go to our Web site: issuesetc.org. Under the "What's New" section you'll find the Issues, Etc. Forum.
Rod Rosenbladt is a regular guest here on Issues, Etc. He's professor of systematic theology and Christian apologetics at Concordia University in Irvine, Calif. He's co-host of the national radio program, The White Horse Inn, and author of the booklet, Christ Alone. Rod, welcome back to Issues, Etc.
ROSENBLADT: Thanks. Good to be here.
WILKEN: Rod, in this famous passage from Romans 3 that so moved not only Luther but the entire 16th century Reformation—I read a lot about grace and faith, but I do not see the word sola—that is, alone—in particular faith alone—and Luther included that in his translation of this passage. How do you respond to someone who says, "The word alone just isn't in there in Romans 3."
ROSENBLADT: You say "That's correct!" [laughter] The word isn't. It's, however, the sense of the argument. And there are various reasons that Luther did that, and he replied to his critics at the time, "Do they think I don't the language? Do they imagine I don't know how to translate? Of course I know the word isn't there in the text, but it's the sense of the argument here."
In the same way you can say if somebody says, "You know, the word Trinity isn't in the Bible." But you say, "But you surely hold to it on the basis of the content." And the Christian would have to say, "Yes, I do." It's knowing how to read. The argument here is that opposed to any sort of works being part of what makes us right before God, faith in Jesus nude or just by itself is what puts the sinner right with God—just trusting God's answer. And Luther would say, "If you're saying that, you're saying what the text would say," or another way of saying it is faith alone.
WILKEN: We're going to be talking about the four great solas of the 16th century Reformation—faith alone one of them—grace alone, for Christ's sake alone, Scripture alone are the others. It strikes me that many claim the legacy of these great solas of the Reformation. However, among those who claim this legacy, do you think it's really the heart and center of their teaching and practice today?
ROSENBLADT: Well, you know, I was associate Intervarsity staff for the better part of two decades when I was in another synod, and the truth of the matter is that that was confined to evangelistic meetings. I used to tell my students at Westmont, "You don't have the preaching of the Gospel in your church." And they would say, "Absolutely we do! It's a Bible-believing church!" And I'd say, "Well, then, give me some examples of the sermons." And, of course, they all were recipes as to how to progress in your sanctification. And I said, "Look, that's not the preaching of the Gospel—recipes on how to get better." I'm not much of a church buff, but out here in California you can't avoid church marquees, and you see what's coming the next Sunday, and most of it at best is sanctification; at worst it's bad psyc done by pastors that I can't imagine believe that they were really trained in clinical psyc. but are going to do it anyway!
WILKEN: So, let's see if we can—at least to the degree that we can on this program during this hour—let's see if we can do a bit of remedial work. The term you've already used but needs some clear definition obviously given your answer—the term justification. That's going to occupy the first three solas that we're going to be talking about. What does the term mean?
ROSENBLADT: It means to be declared righteous as in a courtroom, and the Bible presents it that way. We're the accused, and we're accused rightly, and we're guilty of the accusations against us. We have not any way that even we can worm our way out of it. The charges are true. And someone else takes our punishment for us and satisfies Divine justice. Then on the basis of a justice satisfied by another in our place substituting for us, God declares us as if righteous—or declares us righteous when empirically we still have sinful hearts that are awful. But we are declared as if innocent, and so God who is the highest Law will not hold us culpable anymore because someone else substituted for us and died for us. We're declared as if innocent.
WILKEN: The classic formula that a man is justified by grace through faith for Christ's sake alone—
ROSENBLADT: Good for you!
WILKEN: —the alones—that one alone counting for everything there, also how important are the prepositions there: by grace through faith for Christ's sake alone?
ROSENBLADT: They really are. For instance, if you switch these around so that faith is the reason that you're acquitted, you've done your wrong work in prepositions. Christ is the reason that we're acquitted. Faith is simply the empty hand that grasps Christ. The reason we're acquitted is Christ and His death and His blood in a substitutionary way—or in our place. When we say by grace, we mean that it's God's generosity way beyond even mercy that's the animating factor here or the ground for it. Then we say through faith, and that means simply that we grasp it and we don't get any credit even for that. God gives us even the faith to grasp. And on account of Christ is what I said earlier, the whole basis for it is really that He has satisfied justice and gone to the cross in our place. So we don't even get credit for our believing! You know, we shorten it into justification by faith, and from that many people get the idea that Protestants are in favor of faith somehow. No, justification by faith is the short way of saying justification free because Christ took the penalty we deserved.
WILKEN: And this other sola that we'll take up first, with about 2-1/2 minutes before we go to this break. The one that is not properly part of the justification formula but is nonetheless a major question during the 16th century Reformation, that is, Scripture alone. Let's make our case from Scripture for Scripture alone.
ROSENBLADT: Well, the common verses are 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21. 2 Timothy 3:16 is the familiar one that most catecheses students memorize. On inspiration, look it up on your own, and Peter—nobody has, you know, has Scripture that is beginning in the human will on the contrary God Himself spoke through selected prophets as He carried them along by the Holy Spirit and spoke through them. It's verses like that. And plus it's all the verses all over the place where the way in which you argued in the New Testament was to say that you were speaking in consonance with what the Old Testament said.
WILKEN: So, in other words, when Christians assert that the authority for Divine revelation and all things pertaining to God and salvation is Scripture alone, they are simply making assertion—they are making an argument the same way Scripture argues about itself.
ROSENBLADT: Absolutely! And we get fooled into thinking that we somehow have to defend this! Actually, it's the other way around! Let the other guys defend why they have a weird view!
WILKEN: We're talking with Dr. Rod Rosenbladt about the solas of the Reformation. Already into the one that begins our conversation, namely, Scripture alone. Dr. Rod Rosenbladt is professor of systematic theology and Christian apologetics at Concordia University in Irvine, Calif. He's co-host of the national radio program called The White Horse Inn and author of the booklet, Christ Alone. If you have a question or a comment and would like to join this conversation, our call-in number: 1-800-730-2727. Write it down. Give us a call. Or if you'd like to post a question or a comment on our Issues, Etc. Forum, just go to our Web site, issuesetc.org. When you get there you'll find a section called "What's New." Click on that, and you'll find the Issues, Etc. Forum awaiting your questions or your comments on the solas of the Reformation with Rod Rosenbladt. We'll try and get those questions or comments in a little later in the program. When we come back, a little bit more on Scripture alone and then we'll take up grace, faith and Christ. Stay tuned.
WILKEN: Next week on
Issues, Etc. we'll discuss "Papal Authority and Roman Catholic Doctrine"
with Dr. Ron Feuerhahn of Concordia Seminary here in St. Louis. Do all the
teachings of Roman Catholicism date back to the early church? What about
doctrines like purgatory, papal infallibility, the Immaculate Conception, and
indulgences? We'll talk about all of that next week on Issues, Etc. with
ROSENBLADT: Well, as a matter of fact, what you find is a tremendous amount of scholarship done on this and other subjects that exploded during the 16th century, so, empirically, that isn't the way it's gone. You don't have that—I suppose you could find little fundamentalists circles somewhere in the United States that would say "I don't want to know anything." But it doesn't characterize the 16th century guys. Could I give a couple of bibliographic answers first?
WILKEN: Please do.
ROSENBLADT: All right. One of the ones is Sola Scriptura—the Protestant position on the Bible—it comes out from the Sola Deo Gloria Publishers and especially I'd like to refer people in that book to the article by John Armstrong. He's a Baptist. It's called "The Authority of Scripture," and he sums up in many ways the passages on which everything is based and where the arguments are with the Romans. Then more recently a brand new one by Keith Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura. It's recommended by Chuck Arand on the back—the professor at St. Louis seminary—as well as R.C. Sproul. The Shape of Sola Scriptura by Keith A. Mathison.
Some of this is kind of difficult to do just in seven minutes on the radio, but when you have volumes that are coming out like this, they can be of tremendous help.
The framework for this, I think, is what do we find from the Lord Himself on that major question, "Where do we find knowledge of God?" and in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, you find that the Lord Himself is a ranting, raving fundamentalist on the authority and verbal inspiration of the Old Testament text. That's how He argues it with His opponents. What do the Scriptures say? Or "Well spoke the Holy Spirit through David when he wrote …" You know, Jesus believed that He or the Father were the authors of the Old Testament, but beyond that He didn't appeal to other things!
WILKEN: Then there's another criticism when the terms sola Scriptura or Scripture alone comes up. I've heard it many times from listeners to this program. They'll say, "Look, the Roman Catholics have one Pope. The Protestants by putting forth what they considered to be a bogus notion of sola Scriptura—Scripture alone—have many popes! In fact, every man makes himself his own pope!" How do you respond to that?
ROSENBLADT: Well, it's amazing what diverse Protestants have in common compared with that. When we talk about Scripture's sufficiency and perspicuity, from the very beginnings we meant in its basic message. We weren't saying there weren't things there that were difficult. And even the Roman Catholics scholars have to admit there are things in there that are just plain ol' difficult. We will all get to our death and never have cracked some particular verses in Scripture and we'll have to learn in that heavenly school when we get there. But the basics—it's amazing what I and a Baptist and someone else can get along on in terms of fundamental Christian doctrine. If somebody wants to say, "If you don't agree on everything, then you've got as many popes as you've got believers." It's simply a bad argument.
WILKEN: Why is it necessary to assert Scripture alone today, Rod?
ROSENBLADT: Well, it's not just Rome's and Eastern Orthodoxy, though they're, of course, a large part of that and won't lay the unwritten traditions on the table so we can test it by St. Paul. That's the most familiar. But it also includes the Charismatics who some of them mean what they say when they say "the Lord spoke to me." Or they look to some message in tongues interpreted by an interpreter, and if it different from Scripture, I can't tell it from the way they talk. So you've got in kind of Schweremer Protestantism—a kind of a doctrine of continuing revelation—that isn't that different from Mormonism, that God speaks to His people after the Book of Revelation in ways that we ought to expect if the church is faithful. This is not much different from somebody saying "it's the Bible insofar as it's correctly translated along with these three books that I've got that are also God's word." That means trouble. The old cult expert Bjornstadt said that one of the things that characterizes a cult is that "they've got a Bible in the left hand and a Bible in the right." And even though the Pentecostal brethren don't talk like that, they have a doctrine that sounds like it—like revelation is still going on in the way it did in the apostolic writings. That's dangerous.
WILKEN: Let's talk about grace alone. What is grace?
ROSENBLADT: I hope I don't upset the seminary professors here, but I'm looking for an analogy. I would say it's God's incredible generosity based on the death of Christ, that He is generous in ways that we wouldn't ever guess. Probably the best biblical example is Luke 15, the story of the prodigal son, where things happen that are so good that it's almost too good to be true.
WILKEN: So the old formula was the favor of God or more properly put, the undeserved favor of God toward sinners for Christ's sake. Is that still a workable definition?
ROSENBLADT: Yeah, sure! Sure, very workable.
WILKEN: That term favor seems a bit week in our modern parlance. Is that why you talk about ‘unbelievable generosity'?
ROSENBLADT: I'm trying to get to the movies and to the images somehow from the words—something that will take us by surprise. When God's grace in Christ has gotten across, there's a sort of a [gasping sound] in the hearer—the same way when the bicycles took off in E.T. years ago—or some of the things that are portrayed in some of the Speilberg's amazing stories when it was on years ago—that sort of thing—so that the person before they're offended are surprised. "No-oo! No! Surely not!" And it could be that for the first time they've grasped the Gospel, that the righteousness is somebody else's and the whole thing's free.
WILKEN: With only a minute here before we go to the break, if someone says grace alone, what are they necessarily rejecting?
ROSENBLADT: They're rejecting any sort of works on our part—piety, performance, anything—all of that is out as if it were the enemy.
WILKEN: Dr. Rod Rosenbladt is our guest. Our call-in number: 1-800-730-2727.
Folks, if you're enjoying our discussion on the solas of the Reformation, you need to get our Issues, Etc. Journal. Each edition contains a feature called "The Wittenberg Trail" where authors share their spiritual journey to the Reformation. In the latest issue, for instance, Aaron Wolf of Chronicles Magazine describes his journey out of the legalism of fundamentalism and evangelicalism to Christ-centered, cross-centered theology in the Reformation. His article is titled "A Beggar on the Wittenberg Trail."
I've also written an article on vocation, titled, "Locus and Focus—God's Will for Your Daily Life." And we also have a review of Armageddon, the latest book in the Left Behind series.
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When we come back, we're still in the middle of grace alone. We'll go on to faith alone and Christ alone—the solas of the Reformation are the topic of our conversation with Rod Rosenbladt. Some say there's a fifth, that is, to God's glory alone. We'll talk about that in due course and take your phone calls.
WILKEN: Welcome back to Issues, Etc. I'm Todd Wilken. [Commercial spot] We're talking about the solas of the Reformation. Dr. Rod Rosenbladt is our guest. Rod, one more question on grace alone. Many Christians speak today as though grace were something in them—a substance that they somehow can nurture and increase by their efforts. How do you respond to this notion of grace?
ROSENBLADT: Well, it's not the biblical notion of grace. The biblical notion of grace is God having a gracious attitude to sinners because justice has been satisfied by Him in dying in Christ in their place. Let me mention a quick place where Lutheran listeners can get a lot of information on this in just three pages. Now it's in a very large book by Martin Chemnitz called The Examination of the Council of Trent. It's the first of those four volumes, and the first volume covers both justification and sola Scriptura. One page 582-83-84—I've got it in front of me right now—that's three pages. You can borrow this from your pastor, Xerox those three pages—there's a section called "The Commonly Exclusive Particles Used by Paul." And in that he has the verses that have to do with grace but also the way in which they are used in such a way that grace really means grace! But they're literally printed there. I couldn't recommend more highly those three pages in Chemnitz's Examine, or Volume One of The Examination of the Council of Trent. Two passes with the Xerox machine and you've got it.
WILKEN: Let's talk, then, about another sola of the Reformation, one that is most well known probably, and that is faith alone. What is faith?
ROSENBLADT: Faith is counting everything—or betting all the blue chips on Jesus and His blood—and forgetting that you think you've got righteousness in a work before the judgment seat of God. It's giving up on any righteousness in yourself and betting everything on somebody else's.
WILKEN: So, would it be fair to say faith is by definition the way Paul places it in these passages like Romans 3 and Galatians 2, where he talks about faith as opposed to works—
ROSENBLADT: Yes, always.
WILKEN: —faith is by definition a total dependence on what Jesus has done rather than depending upon what I have done.
ROSENBLADT: Absolutely! Sola Fide is another way of talking about Jesus! It's not a way of talking about our psychology. Faith means giving up on my righteousness, just saying it sucks! It's filthy like filthy rags, as Isaiah says, and it just won't count. What it'll do is count against me at the end and saying "All I've got—all I've got is what He did on the cross! It's all I have!" That's faith.
WILKEN: Is faith something I do? Is it an act of my will?
ROSENBLADT: It is! Is it, but you can't do it! [laughter] It's kind of a funny thing. You've got to do the believing, and you can't! God the Holy Spirit has got to create it in you, and the way He does that is by the preaching of Jesus—the preaching of the Gospel—and by being baptized in water, and by going to the Lord's Supper. God creates faith in Jesus in us because there isn't any faith in us in our hearts. Luther said that he finds when he looks in our hearts, there's no faith in Christ and so He has to create it ex nihilo or out of nothing the same way He had to create the universe. He has to create it out of nothing, and He does.
WILKEN: So, is this why Paul says "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the message of Christ"?
ROSENBLADT: Yep! Absolutely! Absolutely. The passage in Romans 10 is absolutely central to this.
WILKEN: So, if I am talking properly the way Scripture talks about faith—even if I'm describing that which occurred to me—my own faith—faith is not going to be talking about itself but rather about what Jesus has done.
ROSENBLADT: No. Absolutely. The subject when faith comes up is always Jesus and not me! Christian faith is focused on its object and not on the believer and how he's doing the believing. And it's just critical especially in America because we want to find something else that we can do. And you say, "Well, you gotta believe in Jesus." And the guy says, "Great! I'll have a couple of cups of coffee, and I'm sure it'll come to me." And that's foreign to Scripture. God has to give the gift of faith in Jesus, and there's no other way to believe in Jesus. We can't work it up. Now the thing is that the Holy Spirit already believes in Jesus. It's we who need to believe in Jesus, and we can't do it. We've got to have a supernatural help.
WILKEN: The final sola of the 16th century Reformation, Christ alone. What does it mean?
ROSENBLADT: Well, first of all, it means is that He's the only way to salvation, the same way you find in the Book of Acts: "There's no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." And of course that's under total attack today! But that's the first thing. At least it means that, that there is no other savior—none! Anywhere! He is it! And that's definitely worth a long conversation, and today I will get a long conversation because most of the world thinks that the church got together—bigoted as it is—and said, "We're gonna say that we're the only one."
Now, the secondary meaning to that is what we've been talking about, that Christ is necessary because we have failed at the law, everyone of us. We simply cannot at the final judgment present anything that we think is our goodness, because it's nowhere near what's required. What's required is total perfection 24/7 from the time we were born till the time we die, and anything less than total perfection will be condemned. So a second sort of level of Christ alone is that He is the only way in—the same way we've talking of sola fide.
WILKEN: Does it not only mean that He's absolutely necessary but that what He has done in His perfect life, His death and resurrection for us, is entirely and completely sufficient to save a man?
ROSENBLADT: Absolutely. One of the things that you're saying here is don't add anything to it; it is completely finished. When He said "It's finished," He meant it. And about the only way you can screw this up is to try and add something to what He did. That—in Galatians, Paul says now that's just about the only way that you can get yourself to where Christ's death is of no effect to you is to try and add something to it. Don't.
WILKEN: We're talking about the solas of the Reformation—grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone. Dr. Rod Rosenbladt is our guest. Our call-in number: 1-800-730-2727. Barbara's up first. She's listening on KGNW in Seattle. Barbara, welcome to Issues, Etc.
BARBARA: Hello! I just want to say that just hearing you tonight has been such a gift to me, because I've got a brother who's a Seventh Day Adventist, and Christianity—I'm a Christian, and my sister was and is and my other one is—and we often debate in our family over these very subjects. And I need to get a hold of your books and just absorb them and read them. But you've cleared justification up, and it makes me want to say that—it makes me think also that of thinking in supernatural terms, and I don't hear that very much on the radio anymore. But it also makes me think of that we were made before the foundations of the world, too? Does that address that? I mean, God is so awesome. He does everything and we—He's a gift to us. All we do is accept Him, and He—it's like He does all the rest!
ROSENBLADT: Yeah, and even the acceptance He gave you that, too! Part of the wonderfulness of this is that we're going to get there and we're going to laugh at some of the thoughts that we had that we put something into this deal, and we'll laugh at it. The Bible tells us now that even our acceptance of this wonderful gift is His work in us. But we don't really believe—in heaven we really will believe that and we'll laugh.
WILKEN: We'll laugh at our notion that somehow we added into this somehow.
ROSENBLADT: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
WILKEN: Rod Rosenbladt is our guest. We're talking about the solas of the Reformation.
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When we come back from this break, we'll take more of your phone calls on this subject, and before we're done all of these seem to fit together in a way that they can't be separated. We cannot talk about Christ alone without also understanding rightly grace alone, faith alone. We cannot talk about faith alone without understanding grace alone and Christ alone. And likewise, how can we understand what it is to have grace by Christ's work alone received by faith alone unless we rightly understand that all of this taught by Scripture alone? It seems as though we can't one of these out of the formula without destroying the whole thing. We'll be right back to take your phone calls after this.
WILKEN: Paul writes to the Galatians in the second chapter, "We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, and so also we believe in Christ Jesus in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified." Now this and other passages often occupied the hours of study by Dr. Martin Luther in the 16th century. He carried on an ongoing love affair with the epistle to the Romans and the epistle to the Galatians for this very reason—wherein he found so clearly stated the heart and soul of the Reformation, the sinner's justification by grace through faith for the sake of Christ alone. In fact, there is an excellent chapter in the new Issues, Etc. Book of the Month for October with that very title, "The Heart and Soul of the Reformation—Sinners Justification." You need to get this book of the month for October. It's called Lift High this Cross—The Theology of Martin Luther. You can order it by calling Concordia Publishing House weekdays during regular business hours: 1-800-325-3040. Or you can order it online by going to our web site: issuesetc.org. There's a section there titled "What's New." Under that section you'll find Lift High the Cross—The Theology of Martin Luther, our Issues, Etc. Book of the Month for October. When you call or write, be sure to mention Issues, Etc. It's our Issues, Etc. Book of the Month for October, Lift High This Cross.
Let's go right back to the phones. Evan is calling from Pryor Lake, Minn., listening on KKMS. Hi, Evan.
EVAN: Thank you for taking my call. I'm wondering when faith alone it seems that most evangelical pastors would accept that, and they might say that as an Arminianist they chose the faith, but grace alone the way you defined it, it sounds like they would have a hard time with saying grace alone if it's God initiating it. Would you—the average pastor—my Arminianist kind of pastor—what does he think about the solas?
WILKEN: Evan, thank you very much for the question. He's talking there about a—when he uses the term Arminian—a decision theology that would make faith an act of the man's will. How would you respond to his question there, Rod?
ROSENBLADT: Well, ironically, most of them think that they pretty much got the Reformation as their beginning spot. That's—in some cases—kind of dubious. When we held that meeting at Cambridge, Mass., near Harvard to see who would sign up for the solas, and it came out The Cambridge Declaration. There were a lot of fellows from those Arminian churches who had real problems with that. And I can understand why because if you've got the will freed, this thing doesn't really work the way Reformation people have it working. It just doesn't.
WILKEN: So, in other words, if you interpret faith alone to somehow include a conscious act of an unbeliever's will to believe in Jesus and suddenly he's a believer by an act of his will, the whole thing really falls apart.
ROSENBLADT: Yeah, on his own steam all of a sudden it's not the Reformation anymore. It's something else again. It's Jacob Arminius or it's Wesley, but it isn't really the Reformation. You've got to have faith be an utter gift. The [inaudible] as you mentioned quoting Romans that comes by the hearing of the word, but it still is a gift. You tell somebody "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" and they do believe, then they're gonna find out in reading the Scriptures that even in their believing they were given that, too! Scripture's going to teach them that.
WILKEN: Listening on the Internet, calling from Los Angeles, Andy is on the line. Andy, welcome to Issues, Etc.
ANDY: Hello. I'm in the process of joining a Missouri-Synod church. I have a Baptistic background, though. And one of the things that always sort of made me suspicious I guess I would say about the Lutheran claim to sola fide was the Sacraments, ‘cuz I never could figure out in my mind how you can have Sacraments and have faith alone. I'm now realizing that at least in the Lutheran view of the Sacraments that Lutherans think that the Sacraments actually reinforce faith alone rather than detract from that, and I was wondering if you could comment on that.
ROSENBLADT: Yeah, yeah.
WILKEN: Andy, thank you.
ROSENBLADT: Yeah, good question. It isn't like a pizza where you get one third by believing in Jesus, and you get the next third by being baptized in water, and the last third at the Lord's Supper. This is the same justification given freely three different ways so that they're not really set against one another at all. I go to the Lord's Supper, and the pastor puts into my mouth the forgiveness of sins because somehow in, with and under bread and cheap wine I am receiving the blood of Christ which is the basis for faith alone! They're not different; it's the same gift given three different ways. And for many people their Baptistic upbringing is that these are set against one another.
WILKEN: Back to the issue of Christ alone, which really is—if you were going to draw this thing as a wheel, it would be the hub of the wheel in my way of thinking.
WILKEN: What do we mean—it's very clear what we mean by Christ alone for the unbeliever. We're saying to him, "Only Jesus can save you, and He's done everything to save you," and someone's gonna say, "Well, that's all fine and good for the unbeliever. What do we mean by Christ alone for the believer?"
ROSENBLADT: Even as we live this life and fall into sin and sinful—and, you know, thought, word and deed daily and weekly and all of that, our only hope is the same hope that we had at the beginning: Jesus and His cross and His blood. That's all there is. And when we get to the end of our lives and maybe are breathing our last, it won't be Jesus' blood and cross and how well I've done or how badly I've done in my life of sanctification. The real Christian claim is just Jesus. Die with just that blood, just that cross, and bet everything on it. That's Christianity. Don't get you in there.
WILKEN: Is there a tendency for us to take this as you have put it—a message that's too good to be true and say, "Okay, that's too good to be true for people who need to be saved from their sins, but now as a Christian, you know, I'm kinda on the track. I'm on the way. Do I still need Jesus as a Christian?"
ROSENBLADT: That should just scare the bejeebers out of a Christian thinking that! If we begin to get into the mode of where we think we're progressing on this thing, that red flag should go up, because we remain compared to what Scripture demands and what God demands so far from what's actually demanded of us that this business about I'm getting better, it may be psychologically helpful for you, but theologically it's disaster. To be in the position of utter need like the boy in Oliver coming and asking, "Please, sir, may I have some more?" that's the position of the Christian, where he just needs Christ's cross.
WILKEN: Finally, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone—they seem to be a unit where you cannot take one out without destroying the whole. Is this correct?
ROSENBLADT: Yeah, I think that's correct. They're so interwoven, and finally they're all about Jesus saving the world. You know, it's not about my faith or your faith or anybody else's faith. It's about who God is, what He demands, and how He Himself solved the problem for the world one afternoon, twenty minutes' walk from the center of the city of Jerusalem—as man He died for the sins of the world, and it was enough.
WILKEN: Folks, we're coming to you live this Sunday evening, October 5. We will be taking your phone calls for Rod Rosenbladt in the next hour as well. We'll also be giving away copies of Rod's booklet, Christ Alone, to the best callers in the next hour. Here's the number: 1-800-730-2727. Call during this break. You can also post a question or a comment on the Issues, Etc. Forum: issuesetc.org. Click on the "What's New" link and you'll find our forum. You can also tune in live in the next hour on the Internet. Go to our Web site: issuesetc.org. There you will find the worldwide KFUO logo. Click on that and you can listen live in the next hour as we continue this conversation on the solas of the Reformation with Rod Rosenbladt. Call during this break, and if you get a busy signal, keep calling because we will be freeing up phone lines right away in the next hour.
I need Jesus—Christ alone—just as
much as I did when I was an unbeliever. It's not as though now that I have been
given the gift—the free gift, the total and complete gift of salvation, even the
faith to grasp it is a gift—it's not as though now having been given these great
gifts by God's grace alone—His undeserved favor for the sake of Christ—it's not
as though He pats me on the head and sends me on my way and says, "Okay, now
I've given you a very good beginning. The rest is up to you." You know what?
The rest isn't up to me. It wasn't up to me when I was an unbeliever. It
wasn't up to me when He brought me to faith through the preaching of Christ's
cross and resurrection. It isn't up to me now as a Christian. I still need
Jesus today just as much as I did then. I still need Christ alone.