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A conversation with Joel Beeke

photo: Michelle DeBella-Bharath

BENYOLA: Dr. Beeke, thanks for this opportunity to discuss your series of lasting Reformation contributions. I wish we had time to flesh out every one of these points. Let’s talk about your first and second points on the list. You have referred to the five solas — sola gratia, sola fide, sola Christus, sola Scriptura and soli Deo Gloria — as “five battle cries of the Reformation.” All of this, of course, rests on the formal cause of the Reformation, which is the question of what is our supreme authority. Will you please explain the five major principles that the Reformers implemented in the churches to establish and retain Scripture alone as the ultimate authority for God’s people?

BEEKE: First, the Reformers regarded the Bible as the great book of the covenant of grace; and the gospel as the final revelation and purest distillation of the covenant of grace. So at all points, they were concerned to identify and underline the Bible’s revelation of the grace of God in Christ, and the sheer and unmixed graciousness of the covenant bond by which He binds His people to Himself for salvation and eternal life.

Second, the Reformers acknowledged that all the promises of God in the covenant of grace are made to faith; that is, to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as the only Savior. Faith, we say, is the empty hand by which the sinner lays hold upon the riches of God’s grace in Christ. “The principle acts of saving faith are, accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace” (The Westminster Confession of Faith, 14.2).

Third, the Reformers affirmed with the apostle Peter that Christ is “the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name given under heaven among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:11, 12; cf. Ps. 118:22). Christ is the only Savior of sinners, and the sole Mediator of the covenant of grace.

Fourth, the Reformers were bold in proclaiming such truths because they found them set forth at large on all the pages of Holy Scripture. Indeed, they found Scripture to contain all that is necessary for man’s salvation, faith, and life. They were not anti-intellectuals, and valued knowledge of all kinds, but they esteemed Scripture above all other books as the written Word of God.

Finally, the Reformers were set ablaze by the vision of the glory of God to be seen in the face of Jesus Christ, attested in Holy Scripture, visible to the eyes of faith, and empowering and ennobling all the promises sealed in the covenant of grace. In all these ways, the theology of the Reformation resettled the church upon the foundation laid down by God as her Builder and Maker, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.

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