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Sola Gratia: Salvation By Grace Alone

The Reformation doctrine of Sola Gratia is that salvation is by grace alone. Biblically speaking, the highest form of grace is God’s gift of salvation (see Titus 2:11) as His response to human sin. Ever since Adam, we are all born guilty and sinful, and so we need more than creation grace. We need saving grace, grace that deals with our sin. Thanks be to God, that’s exactly what He gives us in Jesus Christ.

The most important thing about grace is that it is a free gift, not earned wages. If you hire me to work for you, and then pay me at the end of the day, that’s not grace, because it isn’t a free gift. My work obligates you to pay me. But gift-giving isn’t like that at all! Gifts are gracious demonstrations of love, usually in the context of a relationship – we give gifts to family members, friends, spouses, not because they’ve done anything for us, but because we love them. If you’re obligated to give it, then it isn’t grace, because for grace to show favor and love, it has to be free gift.

Ephesians 2:8-9 make it very clear that when we’re talking about salvation, we’re talking about a gracious gift from a loving God, and not payment for services rendered. The practical reason why this is the case comes from v.1 – you were dead in trespasses and sins. Why is salvation by grace alone, and not some combination of grace plus works? Because dead people can’t work! It is not just bad theology to think that salvation is by faith plus works, it is an impossibility.

But there’s more: the theological reason why salvation is by grace alone is what we see back in Eph. 1:5-6 – the reason why we were predestined for salvation, the purpose of God’s will in saving sinners, is the praise of his glorious grace. When we assign any of the credit for our salvation to ourselves – to our works, to our free will, to our response to grace, then we are praising ourselves instead of God’s grace. But salvation is by grace not works so that no one may boast.

As we apply this to our own lives, I want us to think about what it looks like for a Church to believe in and live out a proper understanding of sola gratia. What does a grace alone church look like? I also want us to look at what grace looks like in our relationships – marriage, parenting, friendships.

What grace looks like in a Church is that you do not earn your way into fellowship. You are surrounded by people who give much more money than you, who have better behaved children or a better marriage than you, who serve the Church far more than you, and who actually show up to church on time, and none of that has anything to do with whether or not you belong here. You are not valued here because of your works. You belong here because Jesus graciously invited you, and that’s enough.

And how does the Church graciously respond to sin? Christians sin, you know, and not all Churches respond graciously! But a church that understands the grace of God deals with sin by offering the grace of discipline until you repent, and when you repent, by restoring you to full favor and love, no dirty looks, no suspicions, no making you earn your way back in. To see this in action look at 2 Cor. 2:5-8. That’s how a grace alone church responds to sin.

What about in your relationships? Same thing: you do not earn your way into favor. You are not valued because of what you do. So spouses, parents, friends – don’t just show appreciation for what your spouses or children or friends do. Show them favor because of who they are, often in spite of what they do. When your husband or wife or friend fails or sins against you and repents, forgive them, and don’t make them earn their way back into your good graces. When your child melts down, respond to a tantrum with a hug, as well as loving correction. For a biblical picture of grace at work in a dysfunctional family, look at Genesis 45:3-15. Grace transforms relationships, and replaces murderous rage with tears of joy.

This is how God shows His love to you: even though you don’t deserve grace, even though you deserve wrath, He pursues you, calls you, heals you, forgives you, blesses you, loves you, and makes His face to shine upon you. “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.”

Posted on Wednesday, November 01, 2017 by CJ Bowen