BACK TO BASICS – SOLA GRATIA

In previous Back to Basics meditations we looked at Solus Christus and Sola Fide – Christ alone and faith alone. Running in tandem with both of these is Sola Gratia – by grace alone.

Because our relationship with God is through Christ alone, it is a gift. It cannot be anything other than a gift.

Because our relationship with God is through faith alone, it is a gift, and can never be anything else.

Salvation is, therefore, by grace alone – Sola Gratia. It is wholly a gift. It can never be anything else.

If something is ‘by grace’ it is sheer gift. It is not a payment. It is not a reward. It is not deserved. It is not merited. It is not earned. We, in our self-centredness, seem to find this a difficult concept to grasp. We think and feel that we have to merit God’s favour. As a result, we either think we actually are good enough, and are therefore ‘saved’, or we think we are too bad, and are therefore ‘lost’. That is the way our sinful human hearts operate: we put ourselves at the centre and make our salvation dependent on our own actions.

Sadly, many churches and preachers actually give the very clear, and sometimes deliberate, impression that our relationship with God does depend on us: that we personally have to be good enough to gain or to maintain our salvation. This was the case at the time of the sixteenth century Reformation. The church applied the death of Christ only to the sin inherited from Adam, and not to personal sin. This left the Christian with a constant need to perform – to be good enough, and the constant need to make amends for present personal sin. None of this was ever enough. Fear and guilt characterised those who sought to follow Christ. There was no certainty of present acceptance with God. There was no certainty of future acceptance with God. The Reformers taught against this misconception with their message of Sola Gratia.

Similar fear and guilt exist among Christians today. The Reformation cry of Sola Gratia is just as relevant today as it was in the sixteenth century.

We are saved, accepted by God both now and through eternity, because of the death of Jesus Christ, not by any good thing we have done, are doing or ever will do. This is completely a gift – a grace. And it is secure and unshakeable. It cannot be increased or improved by our ‘good’. It cannot be diminished or cancelled by our ‘bad’.

Thus the Scripture says:

That God’s grace is ‘freely given us in the One he loves’ (Ephesians 1:6). That is, God’s grace is not caused or altered by our actions. It depends on Christ alone.

That our salvation is ‘in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding’ (Ephesians 1:7, 8). God knows and understands our absolute inability to ever merit salvation. God knows and understands that we will always fall short of his standard. So with amazing and unlimited generosity he freely gives us in Christ, as sheer gift, what we can never personally merit, earn or deserve.

‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast’ (Ephesians 2:8, 9). This demonstrates ‘the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus’ (verse 7).

God’s gift of complete salvation in Christ has many aspects – adoption as his children, redemption, forgiveness, reconciliation, justification (acquittal), peace, regeneration (new life), eternal life, the indwelling Spirit, and more – and not one of them is given because we were or are or ever will be ‘good enough’. Every aspect of salvation is ours ‘in Christ’ and by grace alone. It is all dependent on Christ.

If we have Jesus Christ we also have, in Christ, every aspect of salvation. Whether we realise it or not.

Because our salvation depends solely on Christ, and not at all on us, it is, as Peter tells us, secure, stable and permanent:

‘In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you ...’ (1Peter 1:3, 4).

Because our salvation is totally by grace – Sola gratia, it is guaranteed:

‘Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed’ (Romans 4:16).

Let us take courage and confidence – not from ourselves, but from our Lord Jesus Christ. The salvation that he purchased for us by his death cannot be shaken. God chose to save us by grace alone. It pleased him to save us by grace alone (Ephesians 1:4 - 6). He wants us to trust his amazing grace, and so to live every moment with joy and peace and confidence in his presence.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2021