Knowing God is Knowing Who You Are!
By Catherine Ng
The 16th century Reformation movement may feel distant, but its implications remain ever relevant today. The movement spearheaded by Martin Luther and other reformers like John Calvin, Zwingli, and Melanchthon, transformed Christianity and eventually led to the emergence of Protestant denominations such as Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, and other Reformed churches that exist today.
The Reformation is all about God and is a reminder for us to be on guard always and not fall away from the truth. Personally, this has been crucial in helping me find my centre in Christ and understand how God could accept a sinner like me.
What we inherited from the Reformation are five tenets, or foundational principles. Let’s examine these tenets in greater detail and how they are central to our understanding of salvation:
1. Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptural)
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
One of the main objections Luther raised against the Catholic Church was its emphasis on teaching and tradition over the authority of the scriptures, especially on the means of salvation. Luther maintained that its teaching on indulgences as a means of deliverance from sin and temporal punishment in purgatory was not scriptural and de-emphasised repentance, making the Christian think they could buy God’s forgiveness.
It was the scriptures that convicted Luther that being good or doing good deeds could not save him.
Instead, he preached that salvation is a gift from God: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
2. Christ Alone (Sola Christus)
The scriptures bear witness that Jesus is indeed fully man and fully God. Only through the work of Christ in His life, death, and resurrection can one be saved. Christ is the sole agent of salvation, and one cannot be saved apart from Him.
Thus, our union with Christ matters, as God imputed Christ’s righteousness to us. Often, however, we derive our identity from what we have, own, and do. For me, I was always worrying about doing good and being perfect in my work, and never felt free to enjoy life.
But I realised that knowing God is to know who and whose we are. Our identity is not in what we do, but in what Jesus did for us at the cross of Calvary. Luther had found his identity in Christ, and so have I.
I echo this hymn “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand”, that “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name”.
3. Grace Alone (Sola Gratia)
Salvation is not earned nor gained by human works or by righteousness of any kind, which we can see in these two verses:
“As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one…” (Romans 3:10)
“But God shows His love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Therefore, the relationship between God and humans could be restored. Salvation is provided solely through God’s gracious love in Christ:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
I thank God for His free grace to me every single day, and am glad I can live under His marvellous grace.
4. Faith Alone (Sola Fide)
We receive the gift of salvation by faith alone, which contrasts with the traditional Roman Catholic position that it is faith plus human works that produce salvation. According to the Protestant view, the Christian does works that are pleasing to God but does them as an expression of faith, not as a cause for salvation. Faith is trusting in Christ alone, and involves a relationship with Christ. There came a time in my life when I had to transfer what I had been trusting in, to trusting in Jesus Christ alone, and I thank God for His goodness.
We proclaim the word of faith: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)
5. To the Glory of God Alone (Soli Deo Gloria)
The life we live now, we live for the glory of God alone:
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
As The Westminster Catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
Christians glorify God by obeying Him in evangelising and ruling over the creation:
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)
As we live through challenging times amid the Covid-19 pandemic, many lives are filled with fear and the future is uncertain and scary, but let us continue to place our faith in Christ! We have hope not only in this life but in the next. The future, while uncertain, can be entrusted to God, and He will help us through. May we be encouraged to continue to persist in hope, as this quote from C.S. Lewis says:
“Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christian who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”