Sola Gratia: by grace alone
During the Reformation, the five solas (as they came to be known) were five biblical truths that the reformers were fighting to recover. The church had moved away from these central basic truths. The reformers sought to bring the church back to a correct understanding of God's word.
Sola gratia is the recovery of the Bible's truth of grace alone. This was a vitally important truth because the church was erroneously teaching that man cooperates with God's grace to be saved. That God does His part in salvation and man does his part.
Sadly, many people in the church today have embraced this same false teaching. This idea is contrary to the biblical teaching of the grace of God. Grace is God's unmerited favor; it is impossible to do anything to earn it. It is a gift! "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Jesus' life, death, and resurrection is the means for salvation. God's grace is the reason and the way that God gives us the gift of Jesus and His atoning work. "We cannot believe, or repent, or understand, or take even the smallest steps toward God apart from His grace. Sola gratia guards the truth that salvation is 'of the LORD' (Psalm 37:39; Jonah 2:9) from first to last, from top to bottom, from beginning to end. It is utterly 'by His doing' that we are saved in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:30)." (Terry L. Johnson, The Case for Traditional Protestantism).
As we embrace sola gratia we need to remember a few key points:
1. Grace is God's favor toward us and we do nothing to earn it. Grace is His merciful and loving disposition toward sinners. It is God's gift to us as Ephesians 2:1-10 explains. Also, we see God giving His grace to His people from Genesis to Revelation and in all places in between.
2. God's grace is what teaches us the gospel of Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11-14). Without God's grace, we would never understand how sinful we are and how much we need Jesus as our Savior.
3. God's grace is His saving provision toward us. This was demonstrated powerfully by His love in sending His only begotten Son (John 3:16). "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith." (Ephesians 3:22-25a)
4. Because we are saved by God's grace alone, we have no room to boast in our good works. We cannot pride ourselves on how good we are. Sola gratia shows us how helpless we are and how dependent we are on God. We must humbly give thanks to Him for His good work in us.
John Newton sums it up beautifully in his hymn, Amazing Grace:
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
Chris Cookston is the pastor at Prineville Community Church. He can be reached at 541-447-6315.
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