(This is a follow-up post to The Foundations: The True Gospel)
The Second is Sola Gratia, or Grace Alone, was the overarching theme of the Reformationists, not because the Roman Catholic Church was teaching that salvation isn’t from the Grace of God found in Jesus, but because they teach that other things must to be done as well. They teach that it is Jesus PLUS something that equals salvation. They teach that humanity is saved by the grace of God, and by our own merit.
Some people paint the picture of salvation of being someone who is drowning, and all they need to do is reach up their hand, and God will grab them and save them. They say it’s mostly God’s work, but it requires us to do a little something.
Others will say that God requires certain steps. A Catholic sees salvation as a decision made by faith in Jesus, but also something that has to be maintained through good works, participation in church, and taking the sacraments. An Islamic person is taught that Jesus is a good man, and a great profit, but the only way to get into paradise is to earn it through keeping the Five Pillars of saying the creed, daily prayers, almsgiving, fasting, and going to Mecca. Buddhists and Hindus have to build good karma through positive actions that will eventually lead them to a better state of being. Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons have to work towards trying to be saved too.
It is only the teaching of the True Christian Gospel that has this idea of Grace Alone. Anything outside of this will not lead to being saved! Believing we are saved by works will either lead to pride where we think we save ourselves and are in the place and doing the work of God, or will lead to depression because we never know if we’ve done enough to warrant salvation.
Grace Alone in Scripture
Look at Paul’s explanation of our spiritual condition in Ephesians 2;
“1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
Look how we are described here! We are “dead in our trespasses and sins”. When we sin, the consequence is death. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death…” We are spiritually dead because we have all broken God’s law. Not one of us can look at even the 10 Commandments and say that we have kept them perfectly in our heart, soul, mind and body.
We “follow the prince of the power of the air”, which is another name for Satan. The Bible says there are only two teams – Team Jesus and Team Satan, and you are (or were, by God’s grace) on the wrong team.
We are “disobedient… lived in the passions of our flesh”. We live for ourselves, do what we want, and don’t obey God unless it suits us and our own desires.
We are “children of wrath”. The NIV says it this way, “Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” That is the word for God’s enemies. We were under judgement – guilty and sentenced.
Then comes verse 4:
“4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Saved by Grace, Grace Alone. Dead people can’t save themselves. Enemies don’t become friends. Team Satan doesn’t change sides. We love our flesh and our desires too much to put them aside to follow anyone but ourselves.
But God, in His grace, though we were in a state of total deprivation, decided to change our hearts, redeem us from the consequences of our sin – which we rightfully deserved, and in an amazing act of love, exchanged the life of His Perfect Son, for the lives of worthless wretches like you and me.
“Because of the great love with which he loved us… so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”.
Sola Gratia, Grace Alone, is the answer to the deepest question of our heart: How can I know that I’m saved? The answer is that there is nothing we can do to be saved, and if we have acknowledged we are a sinner, asked for forgiveness, believed that it was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ which paid the penalty for our sin, and then accepted the free gift of salvation… we are saved. There is nothing more we can do. There is nothing we ever did.
God changed our hearts. Jesus died on the cross. The Holy Spirit seals us and reminds us and lives in us. None of that is us, and it is all for His glory! Christians worship, pray, read scripture, do good works, tithe, evangelize… not because we have to, but because we want to, in response to the Amazing Grace God has shown us.
(Thanks to Guy Waters who wrote an amazing article for Ligonier Ministries which inspired this blogpost)