Five hundred years ago, one man completely overturned the way we understand the universe and our place in it. His name was Nicholas Copernicus. For thousands of years, people had thought that the earth, with mankind on it, remained stationary at the centre of the universe, and that the other planets and the sun went around it. Then in 1543 Copernicus published his On the revolutions of the celestial spheres, which showed that in fact it was the sun that was at the centre, and the earth went around it. Now of course we know that the universe is much more complex than even Copernicus thought: the sun itself is not at the centre, but is one arm of a spiral galaxy, which is itself only one among a vast number of galaxies.
In God’s providence, Nicholas Copernicus and Martin Luther were contemporaries: Luther was ten years younger, and died three years later than Copernicus. That they should have lived at the same time is very fitting: because what Copernicus did in the physical realm, Luther and the other Reformers did in the spiritual realm. Their message was that we are not at the centre of the universe but that God, the God revealed in Jesus Christ, is. That message is often stated as the five “solas” that sum up the good news of the Reformation:
– Solus Christus- because of Christ alone
– Sola gratia- by grace alone
– Sola fide- through faith alone
– Sola scriptura- under scripture alone
– Soli deo Gloria- for the glory of God alone
All those are ways of saying that God is the centre of the universe, not us; that he is more important than we are, that everything depends on him and nothing on us, and that he has done everything needed to save us, leaving nothing for us to do. We simply lean on him.
In our sermons and Bible studies for the next few weeks we will look at each of those solas in turn, beginning with solus Christus, Christ alone, in John 14:1-7.