In a culture that insists on highlighting the freedom and capability of humanity (be it the individual, the race as a whole, or a bit of both), an emphasis on the doctrine of salvation through Christ alone becomes all the more important bring to the fore. This is what we find in Articles 15 through 18. With the human condition clearly established as a hopeless position of death in all things spiritual in the previous set of Articles, it is also now pertinent to set forth what God has to resolve that situation.
Article 15 begins with the basic Christian dogma that Jesus, being God the Son, lived an entirely sinless life. Of the Devil, Jesus was able to say “he has no claim on me” (John 14:30). This one of the absolutely necessary cornerstones of Christian teaching on salvation, as it is Jesus’ perfect righteousness (intrinsic, not just earned) that is shared out to (and “covers”) those who are united with him.
The other major touchstone is described in Article 17: God’s peremptory, decisive, and intentional action to save sinners. Again, if the human condition through sin is one of spiritual death, then it must be God who steps in to give new spiritual life before a person can be considered righteous, worthy in any way of God’s grace. In a culture that loves to reward good effort and condemn inactivity, this doctrine of human helplessness and divine initiative is hard to swallow.
Articles 16 and 18 wrap up the package of God’s work of salvation briefly and succinctly, continuing the human reliance upon God all the way through the Christian life: there is never a point at which we gain mastery over sin ourselves. We cannot look to ourselves for strength, we cannot “claim” victory through our own strength of faith. Even corporately, the Church has not become the power source of salvation; only in the name of Jesus Christ are we saved.
The centrality of God, from beginning to end, is a key feature of the biblical faith. Although there are many details and difficult questions that come up along the way wherein Christians honestly disagree and debate, we are united in the singular confession that Christ alone is the source of our salvation; we can turn ultimately to none other.