Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
Saved by Grace Alone
When he was a Roman Catholic “monk,” Martin Luther would have said that grace alone was the “gasoline” that propels the car of salvation. However, the “Reformer” Martin Luther would have affirmed that Grace Alone was the “entire” car itself. In other words, all of salvation, from beginning to end, was by Grace Alone. For Luther, the issue of salvation by grace alone through faith alone was not about a simple disagreement concerning some personal or “trivial” matters. The issue had to do with the spiritual well-being of individuals like you and me. Because grace is so misunderstood today, and so “cheapened,” it is important to consider some aspects of God’s amazing grace.
First, let’s consider the MEANING of Grace. Grace is God’s unmerited (we cannot earn it!) and undeserved (we are not worthy of it!) blessing and favor, based upon Christ’s sacrifice, applied by faith in Christ to the sinner who deserves death and condemnation. Ephesians 2:8-9 best encapsulates this definition of God’s Grace, “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 that no one should boast.” What a text! We have been raised from spiritual death (see the previous context), not on the basis of anything we do or our inherent worthiness, but as a gift, by His grace! None of us has room to “boast,” but only in the cross of Christ!
Second, what is the MOTIVE of God’s Grace? What compels God to look down upon rebel sinners who have committed mutiny against Him? The same chapter of Ephesians 2:4-5 tells us, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions), by grace you have been saved…” God is motivated not by anything that we “do” or “deserve” but by His sheer love, mercy, and grace. Here is where human love so often falls short. We are accustomed to loving “because” of the inherent beauty of a person, perhaps some qualities or characteristics about them, but God loves us “even when we were dead in our transgressions.” Paul had already made the point in Ephesians 2:1 that we were all “dead in our trespasses and sins.” Why repeat it again later on in Ephesians 2? Is he trying to “rub it in?” No. He is accentuating and belaboring the point of our sinfulness, that God loves us, even despite how lost we were. This is Amazing Grace, indeed.
Third, how does God DEMONSTRATE His Grace? Human love often falls short here also, for so often we express “love” or “affection” to one another without action. But God demonstrated His great love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). Grace may be “free” to us (to put it in human terms), but it cost God the Son of His love, Jesus. He who had experienced perfect fellowship with His Father from eternity was the great sin-bearer who took upon our sin (Isaiah 53) and was “cursed” on the cross for you and me (Gal 3:3). Jesus is the “embodiment” of the grace of God! This is why Titus 2:11 says, “For the grace of God has appeared…” How? In the epic, monumental event of the incarnation of the Son of God! Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s grace, “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (John 1:16). In Christ His Son, God has lavished His grace upon us, “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the riches of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” [i.e. “in Christ” Eph 1:4-6].
Finally, we need to remember the PRACTICE of Grace. This is where we deal with the “implications” of God’s grace in our daily lives, personally and in community. Growing in our understanding of God’s grace shown to each of us, and to His church collectively, should lead to a gracious community of faith. First, the more you understand the grace of God, the more you grow in RELIANCE upon the Spirit of Grace. We can never “improve” upon the work of Christ. Jesus scored a perfect 10 on our behalf! Therefore, we are to be daily relying upon the grace of Christ, less driven to trust in our performance, and more driven to look upon His merits! We will also grow in HUMILITY, for we recognize that it was in our weakness that Christ visited us and showed us His grace. As we grow in the Christian life, it is our weakness that drives us to the throne of Grace, as it did the apostle Paul (2 Cor 12).
Finally, as we grow in grace, it will be evident in our RELATIONSHIPS, be they in the home or in the church. This is especially true in two areas. First, when we sin against one another, are we willing, in imitation of God’s grace, to work hard to reconcile with one another and mutually forgive one another? There is nothing that anyone has, or can ever do against you, that is greater than your sin against an infinitely holy God. Who are we to hold grudges, coddle bitterness, or treat one another with indifference when someone sins against us? Second, in our relationships, growing in grace will mean that we will be willing to lay down our lives in loving service for others. To speak of God’s grace is to speak of His Son sacrificing Himself for us. What about us? Are we willing to live as a “living sacrifice” (Rom 12:1-2) for one another? Setting aside self-interests and self-preoccupation, in order to meet the need(s) of someone else? The Christian who is growing in grace is, to be sure, a maturing Christian.
The great hymn writer John Newton was astounded by this grace. So much so that he penned, from the heart, arguably the greatest hymn in the church’s history, Amazing Grace. Similarly, Isaac Watts was astounded by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” May our understanding of God’s Amazing Grace, beloved, motivate us to worship our amazing God, and to be able to say, “Take my life, and let it be, consecrated, Lord, to Thee!”