Sola Gratia: By Grace Alone

Most of us can define grace as “God’s unmerited favor.” Grace is given without our merit – without our goodness or our worthiness. It is undeserved and given freely.

John 1:14 says that God is full of grace and John 1:16 says “from his fulness we have all received, grace upon grace”. Grace won’t run out over time; it overflows always…even in heaven.

Romans 5:20-21 says that, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Grace can meet every sin, and grace reigns in the life of the believer. As Christians, we are not slaves to sin but slaves of God’s righteous grace.

Salvation comes because God can’t help BUT be gracious – “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it (referring to grace) is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). If God were not gracious, then we would have to work for everything. From Ephesians 2:8-9, we make the following observations:

Grace is given to those who are not worthy to receive it, who will never work hard enough to deserve it and who should give God glory when He gives it. God doesn’t save us because of who we are, but despite who we are. That is grace. When salvation comes, grace has appeared (Titus 2:11).

Sola Gratia means no good works can be used to apply for salvation. Only Christ’s righteousness can be applied (II Corinthians 5:21). And this makes grace costly, because it cost the Lord Jesus Christ His very life. It cost the Father sending His Son. Salvation is expensive in that respect. When Jesus said to count the cost in Luke 14:28, He was saying, “Salvation did not come to you in an easy manner, and the requirement to commit to Me will cost you everything. Weigh whether you want to do that or not.”

So, the greatest manifestation of grace is Jesus Christ. It was at the cross that both the justice of God and the love of God is seen. Because God requires a payment for sin (Exodus 34:7; Hebrews 9:22), God could not cease to be who He is – a just God. Jesus, the giver of grace, took God’s wrath as a payment for our sin. God infinitely cares about sin and sent His Infinite Son to pay for is. That is grace.

Therefore, we can say there is no such thing as cheap grace; grace is necessary because of sin. Carl Trueman reminds us that “Sin is violent lethal rebellion against God; and biblical grace is God’s violent, raw, and bloody response.” (Grace Alone, pg. 11)

The only way to salvation is through God’s grace. Sola Gratia. We say “grace alone,” which means “grace is enough.”

God’s grace is bigger than any human sin or weakness (Romans 3:10-18; Ephesians 2:1-3). Apart from Sola Gratia, we are “dead men walking.” We are doomed and hopeless without Sola Gratia.

We are still in need of God’s grace, and nothing has changed as far as how we get it. We still are not able to work for it.

The question is never, “Is God gracious?” But “how will I respond to God’s grace?” Sola Gratia puts us in our place – as indebted to the One who saved us. It paints God as Sovereign and us as sinners. We are like John Newton said of himself, “I feel like a man who has no money in his pocket but is allowed to draw for all he wants upon one infinitely rich; I am, therefore, at once both a beggar and a rich man.”



John MacArthur, On What Justification Accomplishes

Image result for john macarthurJustification…is what moves us into a new relationship with God so that we can walk in the light as He is in the light (cf. 1 John 1:7). It is what brings peace with God in place of enmity (Rom. 5:1). It is what makes us heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:7). It is the heart of all God’s work on our behalf, beginning with His foreknowledge before the foundation of the world and carrying on to our final glorification with Him (Rom. 8:29-30). And thus it is the very heart of the gospel according to Jesus.” (John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus)

Bought with a Price

When Jesus hung on that cross absorbing the fury of God’s wrath and paying the penalty for man’s sin, He bought us out of the slave market of sin. Jesus didn’t plan on doing some minor repairing or tweaking our former lives. God doesn’t want to repair or even remodel our life; he wants to tear down the entire structure and rebuild. He wants absolute transformation and absolute ownership, because He bought you and He owns you. If you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you belong to Him.

It’s not enough to just say we were bought; the Bible says we were bought with a price (I Corinthians 6:20). Paul is talking about the Son’s blood on the cross. It’s like He was saying, “You were bought and look at what it cost. You were bought – do not forget the price that was paid.”  Or, from God’s perspective, “I bought you – and I paid dearly.” Salvation is very expensive; it cost Someone His life.

When you consider what God received in return for the payment of His Son’s death, you have to scratch your head and think, “How is this fair? How does Jesus’ death equal my salvation? It seems like a huge price to pray for such an eternally significant change of destiny for us. What do we bring God that He doesn’t already have?”

Those are the types of questions you will ask the rest of your life and it is not my objective to answer all of them for you, but we need to keep asking them because they remind us of how favored we are by God and how infinitely loving He is to us. His measureless love ought to bring us to our knees in humility every time we consider the cross.

Warren Wiersbe, On the Greatest Miracle God Performs

Related image“I believe that saving a lost sinner is the greatest miracle our Lord every performs. After all, it meets the greatest need. God can heal the body and the person becomes ill again and eventually die, but salvation lasts for eternity. Forgiveness produces the greatest results – changed lives that glorify God. But most of all, forgiveness required the greatest price. It costs very little for God to heal the sick, but it cost His Son’s death on a cross for Him to save the lost.” (Warren Wiersbe, Meet Yourself in the Parables)

Q/A Friday: Can Satan Take Away My Salvation?

The Apostle John has written that “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him” (I John 5:18).

This truth he mentions here of knowing that Christian do “not keep on sinning” is something we see several times in John’s 1st Epistle.

If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (I John 1:10).

No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. … No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (I John 3:6, 9).

Now to be fair, Christians sin (Romans 3:23) and they sin often, but they are not habitual sinners. In other words, they may occasionally choose sin but they will never live together in harmony with their sin. They will not habitually love their sin,

And when a Christian does choose to sin, he won’t remain in it. He will confess and repent. The one who remains in sin, loves his sin, and can’t wait to sin again is not a believer.

Why is this the case? Because Jesus freed us from that bondage. His death canceled the power of sin over us.

How do we know that? John says the Christian sees “God protect him, and the evil one does not touch him.” It means the Devil can’t do anything of eternal value to you. No one – even the most powerful demon – can snatch us out of the Father’s hand (John 10:28).

The Devil has no ability to fasten himself onto the Christian and destroy his life. He cannot steal his eternal birthright or remove his heritage. The Devil can tempt us to sin; he can deceive us unto thinking sin is good (Genesis 3), he can even afflict us, but he cannot and will not and has no inkling of power to bring you back into bondage to him!

That is tremendous news for all of us! He cannot hurt us because Our Protector is greater and stronger than our enemy!

In Romans 6:17, Paul writes, about our new slavery. We are no longer slaves to sin but slaves to a different master he says –

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. … For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. … But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life” (Romans 6:17-18, 20, 22).

We are not under sin’s dominion; this life we now have is a slavery to grace (Romans 6:14).

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Q/A Friday: Can a Christian Struggle With Assurance of Salvation?

The short answer to this question is this: “yes, it is permissible” and “yes, Christians will struggle with assurance periodically.” Let e give you an example of this in the Bible and in church history.

When Paul was in his 50’s, he wrote a letter to the church in Rome to instruct them on the grace of God in salvation. This was a doctrinally sound church that had some very mature believers, but what we read in in Chapter 7 must have shocked his original audience. Here is Paul describing his life after he had walked with Christ for almost thirty years –

15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:15-24).

What is this? How could an apostle of Christ, leader and primary missionary in the early church be so despondent and sound so defeated? While Paul never says, “I don’t think I am saved,” he does express the frustration we all have at times. He is unsatisfied with his struggle against sin and likely reacting to some doubt and lack of assurance. He is asking himself, “How could someone who is a slave to righteousness behave like this?” Is it permissible for Christians to lack assurance at times? Absolutely! Paul did.

Here is an example from church history. John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress in 1678. In this work, the main character, named Christian, journeys to the Celestial City. Christian is a man weighed down by a great burden. And throughout the journey, Christian greatly wants to free himself from his burden. What does the burden represent? If you read another of Bunyan’s books, Grace Abounding, which was written in 1666 (12 years before Pilgrim’s Progress at the age of 38 after he had been walking with God for over twenty years), you discover Bunyan struggled with assurance of salvation that was likely Christian’s burden as well. In his book Grace Abounding,

“Sin and corruption, I said, would as naturally bubble out of a fountain. I thought now that everyone had a better heart than I had. I could have exchanged my heart with anyone. I thought none but the devil himself could equal me for inward wickedness and pollution of mind. So I fell into deep despair at the sight of my own sin and corruption.” (pg. 51)

Is it permissible for a Christian to have doubts from time to time or lack assurance? Yes, the godliest of men and women have been down that road.

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