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Romans and the Reformation 2: Sola Gratia “Grace Alone”

Romans and the Reformation Day 2 – Sola Gratia “Grace Alone”

As author and systematic theology professor Ryan McGraw writes, our theology must be “scripturally grounded, Christ focused, faith driven, grace-saturated, and God-dominated” (What Are the Five Solas? – Ligonier.org). Rather than being confined to the four walls of the academy, these truths should deeply affect our personal lives practically. Today, we will examine the first of the solas—grace alone.

What is grace? Simply defined, it is the unmerited favor God gives us through Christ. Grace has also often been described in the acrostic “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” While grace entails many other important nuances, what is most important to note is that it is the lavish gifting of God to His creatures who are entirely unworthy of it. So then, what do we mean when we say we are saved by grace alone? Ultimately, we mean that grace is the only way by which we can be saved; it is necessary in order for us to be saved, and it is a gift of God that is entirely sufficient to save us (Romans 3:23-24). We do not, and cannot, earn grace as any kind of payment for our own good works because our sins against God have already condemned us to death (Romans 5:17-18). When we accept the free gift of God’s miraculous grace, we simultaneously see just how much we need it and how unable we are to obtain it on our own. 

This awareness of our own inability and our dependence on God’s gracious kindness should last far longer than the day of our conversion, though. Every breath we take and every moment we live is a gift from His hand. Every time we fail and cast ourselves at the foot of Christ’s cross, we recognize that our standing before Him is still only a product of His grace (Romans 5:19-21). In other words, we are saved once and for all time by grace alone, and then we continue in our walk with the Saviour by grace alone. Even the giftings we are given through the Holy Spirit are gifts entirely of God’s grace (Romans 12:4-8).

When we truly grasp the scriptural reality that we are made right with God by grace alone, we are immediately struck by four very practical and vitally important demands. First, grace cannot be won through our own efforts—so we must stop trying to earn it (Romans 11:6). Second, grace has no limits—so we must stop believing it is not available to us (Romans 8:32). Third, grace is offered with no distinction between recipients—so we must keep ourselves humble (Romans 10:12-13). And, lastly, grace is offered without end—so we must receive it and likewise offer it to others over and over again (Romans 8:28-34).

It is freeing to recognize that we are dependent entirely on God’s grace to save and to sustain us. If we had to depend on our own inherent goodness or our good deeds to save us and keep us in God’s favour, we would all be doomed eternally. Nothing we do could ever be enough. Salvation by grace alone is the best news in the world because without it we are lost forever. Instead, God has freely given us His forgiveness and His presence forever. May we always be grateful for the amazing grace of God that brought us from death to life!

“Grace Greater Than All Our Sin” 

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount out-poured–
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Sin and despair, like the sea-waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater– yes, grace untold–
Points to the Refuge, the mighty Cross.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
All who are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!

–Julia H. Johnston (1849-1919)

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