The pillars of the Reformation are Latin phrases called the solas. These are Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), Sola Gratia (grace alone), Sola Fide (faith alone), and Solus Christus (Christ alone). Together, these describe the formula of justification usually articulated; the Christian is justified by grace, through faith, on account of Christ alone. Of course, this idea wasn't created in the Reformation but comes out of Scripture. The Reformation formula of justification causes the believer to understand salvation as being extra nos—a Latin phrase meaning outside of ourselves. In Sola Scriptura, we see the reformers tackle the question of formal principle. What is the source of Christian knowledge? Luke 24:27 states, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Christ is the center and subject of all God’s revelation. The truth of Christianity is not a product of mere men or their traditions that are the creations of men. Rather, truth is found in Christ, and Christ is found where God breathes and speaks. Sola Scriptura is a confession that knowledge of Christ and His work comes extra nos and is ready to be delivered to the wanting ears of sinners.
Sola Gratia and Sola Fide are the modes of the extra nos confession. If Christ is not accessed by our works, deeds, or actions, then how does the sinner come in contact with His saving work? The apostle Paul answers this question in nearly all his epistles but perhaps most succinctly in Romans 3:22-24, “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 God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Paul uses the instrumental phrase διὰ πίστεως, which is a prepositional phrase meaning “through faith”, and what is called an instrumental dative τῇ χάριτι which means, “by grace.” These phrases explain the means by which an action is done. In the case of Romans 3 these phrases help explain how a sinner is justified before God. The means are not from within ourselves—rather they belong to God alone, Who out of His great love sent His Son to die for wretches like you and me.
In the verse above, notice the Object upon which the means of our salvation rests. It is Jesus Christ alone Who is named as the Worker of redemption. Christ is the answer to both the Who and the how of our extra nos salvation. As pastor Donavon Riley put it so well a couple of weeks ago, “Jesus’ Golgotha work for us, the Lamb crucified for the sin of the world, is the beginning and end, the alpha and omega of the Christian Faith.” The incarnate God comes and does the work that we cannot. He gets His hands bloody and gives up His life that we might gain ours. The Christian life is one gifted extra nos, that out of our hopeless lives of sin we have the sure hope of salvation on account of the blamelessness of Christ.