“The Doctrines of the Reformation – Grace Alone”
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
- Ephesians 2:8-9
As the reformers considered the teachings of Scripture regarding justification, they observed that sinful men and women were are saved by faith alone in the work of Christ alone. As they further developed these doctrines based on what the Bible itself taught, they also came to describe salvation as a gift which is given by God solely according to His grace, a belief which came to be known as Sola Gratia.
The Greek word for “grace” is charis, and is used of the merciful kindness and favor of God which is displayed to sinners who, by their sin, demonstrate themselves to be utterly undeserving of it. As with many of the other doctrines we have considered, the church at the time of the reformation understood that the grace of God was necessary for salvation. The grace of God was understood not as being fully poured out upon the believer, but instead to be imparted to him or her progressively throughout their lives in order that they might eventually merit justification in God’s sight. The reformers rejected this understanding of grace, stating that the work of Christ secured for the believer the full right of sonship which was freely gifted to the sinner by faith alone.
The theological basis for this doctrine is found within the character and attributes of God Himself. One of the most important of these attributes is known as divine freedom. God is free in the sense that He is not constrained by anyone other than himself and does what he pleases (Ps. 115:3). With this attribute in mind, we must recognize that because of the willing choice of man to sin against Him, God was under no obligation to save anyone, for all have sinned and fallen short of His glory (Rom. 3:23). On top of that, God is just, and in light of this attribute God was bound by His own character to judge sin. Because God is also love, He purposed that He would make a way for sinful men and women to obtain the righteousness which they lacked through the sacrificial work of Christ.
It is God alone who freely and graciously reveals Himself to sinful men and women through His Word. Apart from this work of God by the power of His Spirit, no one would come to Him in faith. The work of salvation is therefore ALL of God. In Ephesians 2, the apostle Paul describes the predicament of sinful man using the illustration of a family. In our sin, we were “sons of disobedience” and “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:2-3). There was no merit in us that warranted the work of God on our behalf, and yet He freely accomplished salvation for us in Christ and worked it in us by the power of His Spirit by simply faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9). He did this for no other reason than to display His glory throughout all ages (Eph. 2:7).
Join us this Sunday as we worship God for His grace to us and consider together these things in light of Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:1-11.
Soli Deo Gloria.