The Bible teaches us about God and about ourselves. God is holy, wise, good, and perfectly righteous. He cannot have fellowship with sin, and is of purer eyes than to behold evil (Hab. 1:13; Rom. 1:18). He cannot deny Himself or His own justice. The soul that sins shall die (Ezek. 18:20). The Bible also teaches that all men are sinners and under the wrath of God. There are no exceptions (Ps. 53:1; Rom. 3:12; Eph. 2:1-3). Since this is true, the most important and fundamental question for all men is this: â€śHow we can be righteous before God and received again into His favor?â€ť If men remain under Godâ€™s curse, every other issue becomes irrelevant. Since it is not possible for man to save himself, if man is to be saved it can only be the gracious work of God. The church of the Middle Ages taught that forgiveness of sins is dispensed by the church and given to those who bow the knee to the Roman pope. The sacraments of Rome were the media through which the Pope distributed Godâ€™s favor. Today, we try many different things to seek Godâ€™s favor. But salvation cannot be purchased from a televangelist or mega-preacher; and it cannot be earned with any works. God cannot be bought, bribed or swayed. If an earthly judge accepts bribes or assigned community service to a criminal worthy of death, we would consider him a wicked judge. But God is a perfectly righteous and holy judge, and will judge all men according to their works. It is the Scripture alone which teaches us the only way that we might be righteous before God.
As the Heidelberg Catechism summarizes, Question and Answer #60. How are you righteous before God? Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.
The only hope for mankind is the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was born of the virgin, Mary. He is true God and true man in one person. He died in our place, and rose from the dead. He obeyed the law of God perfectly for us, and took the penalty for our sins upon himself. By faith, we are united to Him. Our only righteousness before the judgment throne of God is that which He accomplished, and the only sacrifice for sin that is acceptable to God is the one that He provided on the cross. This salvation is not mediated by the church or by sacraments, but is mediated by our only mediator, Jesus Christ. He is our only prophet, priest and king. We are reformed because we worship and serve only One King, we hear and submit to only One Prophet, and our only hope of salvation is in the One Sacrifice offered by our only Priest. Since He is our only Prophet, Priest and King, the salvation that he has obtained for us is complete. He is called Jesus because he has fully saved us from our sins and salvation is not to be sought in any other. Therefore we reject all devices of men that seek to add anything to the completed and perfect work of Christ. Free will, political activism, good works, mystical feelings, therapists, science, saints, holy places, things and relics are all deceptive, since they seek to add to that which is complete, as scripture says:
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power (Col. 2:8-10).
This grace is not earned, but received by faith alone. We are commanded therefore to give up all ideas of saving ourselves through decisions, resolve, or good works, and trust in the perfect work of Christ alone.