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5 Solas

The 5 Solas: Sola Gratia

5 Solas

“By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” –Ephesians 2:8-9

This is Part 4 in our series “The 5 Solas: History & Implications For The Church.” Click below to view the others:
Today we’ll be considering Sola Gratia (Grace Alone). Sola Gratia teaches us that a person is saved from their sins by God’s Grace alone. That’s it! No amount of good works, trying harder, doing better will help you get into heaven. At the same time, your sin will not keep you from entering heaven. Why? Because Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life, a life we could never live. And he died on the cross, paying the price for sins that we could never pay. We can’t improve on, or add to, the perfect, finished work of Christ.
Grace alone means that undeserving, unworthy sinners, of God’s own choosing, receive the unmerited, unearned favor of God—the benefits of Jesus’ work. This truly is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. The Reformers recovered this. It wasn’t that the Roman Catholic Church did not or does not teach that Salvation is by Grace, it does. The issue is that Grace must be accompanied by good works.
In the Catholic Church, it is taught that you are saved by grace (Baptism), but that grace is diminished by sins that are committed. It’s regained and maintained by works, such as the sacraments, acts of mercy, etc. That seems fair, but grace goes beyond “fairness,” and actually gives us what we do not deserve, what we cannot earn—His love and forgiveness, once for all!
Today, the majority of Evangelical Christians do believe that Salvation is by Grace. Yet they also believe that the individual does play a part in their own Salvation, no matter how small. They’ll say that “God votes for you, the devil votes against you, but you cast the deciding vote.” When you choose Christ, the Holy Spirit changes your heart. You’re born again.
Another example is that the sinner is very, very sick—sick to the point of death. God supplies the life saving medicine, he opens the bottle, pours it on the spoon, brings it to your mouth; all you have to do is open your mouth. He does 99.9%—sounds very reasonable, fair even, but ultimately, it rests on us—something we do. So, it is not salvation by Grace, alone. The Bible teaches us that we contribute nothing to our salvation. The effects of sin leave us uninclined, unwilling, and unable to do the slightest thing in terms of salvation.
Several years ago, I suffered a major heart attack. The last thing I remember was my friend, who’s a nurse, saying “sit down.” The next thing I remember is waking up in the back of an ambulance, my friend spraying nitro under my tongue. I had gone into cardiac arrest. They performed CPR, used the defibrillator. I could do nothing to save myself. I was passive—I simply received with gratitude the gift. That’s what salvation by grace alone is like. Through the gospel, He changes hearts, and we receive and rest upon him.
To really gain an appreciation from Sola Gratia, you need to understand two things—the seriousness of sin and the sufficiency of Christ. These two come together beautifully in Eph. 2:1-10 and captures the essence of Sola Gratia. Let’s do a quick study of these passages:
Verses 1-3 deal with our sinfulness and we learn several things. Apart from grace, who is considered spiritually dead? The Ephesians (whom the letter is addressed to), Paul and those who are with him, and every single person (all mankind).
What does it mean to be spiritually dead? One, we’re guilty. We’ve violated his law, we do not do what we ought to do, and we do the things that we shouldn’t do. It means we’re in bondage to sin. We don’t seek God, but serve the world, the flesh (our own desires), and the devil (the enemy of God). It means that apart from grace, we stand condemned under the wrath of God and the punishment our sins deserve—yeah it’s that bad. Paul doesn’t say that we’re simply sick spiritually, no! He emphatically states that apart from grace, we are dead in our trespasses and sins. God would be right to leave us here, yet Paul turns from us to God.
Verses 4-10 point us to God’s grace. This teaches us that even when we were hopelessly, helplessly lost (spiritually dead), he made us alive. Not because of anything in us or about us, but on the basis of his unconditional love for, and deep mercy towards his people; those who by grace believe on and trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation.
To what end? That we might show, now and forever, the riches of God’s grace toward us in Christ Jesus. How do we show it? In our gratitude, our obedience, our desire to live for him, through him, and to him.

Joe Griffo is Pastor of Redeemer Church of South Hills in West Mifflin, PA. Learn more about him here
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