Sola Gratia

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, December 11, 2020 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

This is the second of the “Five Solas” of the Christian faith. Sola Gratia is Latin for “Grace Alone.” Our salvation is by grace alone. There is absolutely nothing we can do to earn it. When Martin Luther coined this phrase, it was in response to the Roman Catholic Church selling indulgences as a fundraiser for the Sistine Chapel and other things. By buying an indulgence, someone could “pay for their sin” in advance and not have to worry about confession. When Luther saw what the Scriptures actually taught, it infuriated him because the RCC was teaching a completely false doctrine.

Before I can move on, I have to deal with a lingering question: What is grace? Many people confuse this term with mercy. In the simplest form, mercy is the withholding of judgment which is due. Grace is unmerited favor. I want to emphasize on these two words: “unmerited” and “favor.”

“Unmerited” means you don’t deserve it. It is not owed to you. You have no right to claim it. You have it for only one reason: someone chose to give it to you. It is not because you were a good person. It is not because you did some heroic deed. It is not even because you restrained yourself from doing an evil deed. It is a gift completely by the will of the person who gave it without regard for what you have done.

“Favor” is along the lines of “pleasure.” When Nehemiah approached the king with his wish to deal with Jerusalem, he had the king’s favor. When Esther approached the king to expose Haman and save the Jews, she found the king’s favor. If you have the “favor” of someone, it means you are on their good side and they will do something for you. It’s not necessarily because you earn it or deserve it but because that person is pleased with you. Likewise, when we have God’s favor, it’s not because we are special. It’s because God is pleased with us.

IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU! I’ll emphasize this point more when I address “Sola Gloria Deus,” but this is about God and not about us. God doesn’t offer us salvation because of anything special about us. He offers it because HE gets the glory out of it. He grants us favor because it pleases Him that mankind might be saved. Now, don’t get me wrong; it also glorifies God to punish sinful, wicked humans. He has no obligation to grant us favor or to give us grace. Every single one of us have sinned and we all deserve death. The only thing we are ‘owed’ is death, and we must understand this if we are to understand the Gospel. Our salvation is a gift of the grace of God, not by our own works, lest any of us boast.

Now grace is something more than just a free gift. It’s also an empowerment. God doesn’t just offer salvation as a free gift; He also offers us the empowerment to actually live and walk in salvation. We all have our owns sins we constantly deal with. We know our propensities, but the grace of God is not merely about saving us from those sins. It is about giving us the power and ability to walk free of them. Now, I’ll be dead honest here. This is a truth I know but I haven’t yet fully grasped. There are areas of my life where I can definitely say I am not walking in freedom from sin. And I’m not talking about perfection here. And it’s going to be one of those things that when I ‘get it,’ I will be like, “It was that easy?” And the answer will be: “Yes.” And here’s why.

It’s not in our doing. All we have to do is receive and believe. It is a gift from God, and He does not desire that we walk lost in sin. He wants us to walk in freedom. The gift is there for us. But we have to receive it. This is a work we do, but not a wage-earning work. This is not a job that we do to where God owes us. When we work a job, we put in so many hours and our managers and bosses owe us the money that is agreed to in our contract. That is a works-based wages. We get paid for doing a job. But salvation is not works-based. There is no contract. It is a gift of God. But that gift is applied through the vehicle of faith. (I’ll address that more next week.) Any “work” we do is an outflow of the actual work that Christ did in us.

God’s grace is also a protection. This one we really don’t understand until we’ve been around the block a few times and have learned what is out there. God has protected me from many things in which I look back and I realize I shouldn’t still be here. I can picture two occasions where a stranger drove up and asked me for personal information about where I lived or directions, and being as clueless as I was then, I gave it. Looking back, those could have been people who’d have kidnapped me and done unspeakable things to me. I also know how God has protected me from letting my sinful side turn loose. Let me make this clear: it is God who restrains the sinful nature in man, not man’s self-control. And more and more, God has been releasing His hand of restraint in society, turning society loose. It is the grace of God that enables life and it’s also grace that protects.

Don’t confuse grace-empowered works with man’s works. John MacArthur in an interview with Todd Friel some years back was discussing MacArthur’s book The Truth War. In the interview, MacArthur mentioned how he spoke with the Mormon head honchos at Brigham Young University about salvation by grace. The Mormons agreed that salvation was by grace. MacArthur then asked how it worked and the Mormons said, “Well, it’s salvation by works, but isn’t it gracious of God to let us do it.” I see this issue FREQUENTLY. We use the same terms and same vocabulary, but when it comes to how it plays out and how it is practiced, obviously we aren’t using the same dictionaries. So be watchful that when someone proclaims the same creeds of historical Christianity, he/she may not be thinking the same thing we are. So, ask them what they mean and how it works. If they know the real thing, they’ll reveal the real thing. If not, they won’t.

Next week, I’ll examine the vehicle by how the grace of God is delivered and received: the vehicle of faith.

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