Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. This is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Yes, we are saved through faith (next week’s topic), but we are saved by grace. What does that mean? Simply that we do not, we cannot, earn our salvation. It is beyond our grasp without God extending his grace. Many people, some of them Christian, think salvation is about being a good person. If the good outweighs the bad, that’s all God requires, so just be a good person and you’ll be in heaven one day. Are you tempted to think that yourself?
Think about it this way. God is perfect. You and me, not so much. In fact, if we are honest, we will admit that we are indeed sinners who fall far short of God’s perfection. When we look at the standards of the Bible’s teaching, both Old Testament and New, we quickly see that we think wrong things, we speak wrong things, we do wrong things, we contribute to breakdown in relationships, we all have some form of discrimination we practice, on and on it goes. Even the best of us. Indeed, God is perfect, and we are not. The result: a gulf exists between the perfect God and the imperfect you and me.
How do we bridge this gulf? Not through good works, we’ve just admitted we are imperfect, so there is no way to regain the perfection needed, right? Actually, wrong. And that’s where God’s grace through Christ comes into play. Jesus was the only perfect man, the only perfect human, to ever live. As such, his death became the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and his resurrection became our hope for eternity. When we accept him as Lord, submit to him in baptism, repent of our sins to follow him, we become a child of God. And here’s the really special and unique thing: we are clothed with Christ!
That’s what we’re told by the Apostle Paul in his book to the Galatians. He says, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ…and if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Clothed “in-Christ” suddenly the gulf is removed, God sees us as perfect, we have been reunited!
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). We don’t deserve, we don’t earn, the many benefits of being a Christian, but as we draw near to Christ, as we follow in his shadow, those benefits touch us in this life (as do hardships and persecution that Christ promised), and they will be secured and beyond measure in the eternal life we experience after death. If we are “in Christ.”
Martin Luther struggled in his quest to truly find God early in his life, even early in his ministry. He knew his sins all too well, he knew he didn’t deserve salvation. But he discovered the grace that comes by faith in Christ and all his perspective changed. So can yours.
Cross Point: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).