By Grace Alone- Sola Gratia
By Grace Alone, what a reassuring doctrine that we find in the pages of Scripture and stated so well in The Five Solas of the Reformation. When considering this important teaching we must consider what grace is and how we are justified before a Holy God. Can we merit God’s favor or is it truly a gratuitous granting of favor upon sinful people by the One before Whom they stand condemned?
Grace is not earned
None of us can earn what is freely given. None of us deserve what God alone can grant. We cannot work harder to gain what we cannot earn. The Apostle Paul very clearly taught this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when penning the epistles to the churches under his care.
Romans 3:24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus
Romans 5:15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
Romans 11:6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
Ephesians 2:5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Titus 3:7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
As we can see, Paul thought the Grace of God was of the utmost importance and that it was by grace through faith that we are justified, but it was not only Paul who esteemed the primacy of grace over works:
John Calvin writes, “If, on the part of God, it is grace alone, and if we bring nothing but faith, which strips us of all commendations, it follows that salvation does not come from us.”
“Yes, dear friend, you must first possess heaven and salvation before you can do good works. Works never merit heaven; heaven is conferred purely of grace.”
“The delusive doctrine of works blinds the Christian’s eyes, perverts a right understanding of faith, and forces him from the way of truth and salvation.”
“He who does not receive salvation purely through grace, independently of all good works, certainly will never secure it.”
Clement of Rome (30-100): “And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Clement, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 32.4.
. Epistle to Diognetus (second century): “He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! That the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors The Epistle to Diognetus, 9.2-5.
Jerome (347–420): “We are saved by grace rather than works, for we can give God nothing in return for what he has bestowed on us ” Jerome, Epistle to the Ephesians, 1.2.1.
John Chrysostom (349-407): “For Scripture says that faith has saved us. Put better: Since God willed it, faith has saved us. Now in what case, tell me, does faith save without itself doing anything at all? Faith’s workings themselves are a gift of God, lest anyone should boast. What then is Paul saying? Not that God has forbidden works but that he has forbidden us to be justified by works. No one, Paul says, is justified by works, precisely in order that the grace and benevolence of God may become apparent.” John Chrysostom, Homilies on Ephesians, 4.2.9.
Salvation by Grace through Faith
Sola Gratia is firmly grounded and coupled to Sole Fide ,that is Salvation by grace through faith. As faith properly understood is not a work, tieing these two scriptural principles together does nothing to harm God’s sovereignty or to negate that salvation is a gift from Him. When we come to God we must believe He exists and trust that He is true to what His Word says. We are saved by Grace through faith and not of ourselves as we cannot commend ourselves to God.
How do we add to grace? Even if grace is freely given can we supplement it by obeying the commands found in the Bible? NO! We cannot. We obey the commands of Christ because we have received grace and love the One who gave Himself for us. We are conformed to the image of Christ by the working of the Spirit because we are already in Christ, not in an effort to become ” more saved ” or to make grace effectual. A grace that does not save to the uttermost is no Scriptural Grace. A grace that is not lavished upon its recipients as fellowheirs with Christ and adopted as sons is not the grace given to us by God.
I thank God that grace is free, unmerited, that is saves, and that is lavished upon us. Sola Gratia is not merely concept that we can ignore, it is foundational to the faith once delivered to the saints. The thought of ” by grace alone ” should be indelibly etched into our hearts and minds as we look to Christ for our salvation.
Sola Deo Gloria