The Five Solas of The Protestant Reformation–Part 4 Sola Gratia: Grace Alone

The Christian worldview about Sola Gratia, Grace Alone, frames our understanding about the Trinity’s role in the sovereign and redemptive work of salvation.  We focus today’s attention on the context, definition, attributes, and implications of grace.  
 
Our key verse is found in Ephesians 2:8-9:  “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (NASB).
 
Context of Grace
Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church addresses several eternal truths about sin and salvation.  The bad news is that sin does not discriminate based on one’s cultural or religious affiliation.  In fact, sin causes the total spiritual depravity of humanity originating from Adam and Eve’s rebellion (Genesis 3).  The good news (Gospel message) is that salvation through Christ is the cure for our spiritual depravity (Romans 5:12-21).  In other words, Paul emphasized that God’s grace is sufficient and efficient for both Jews and Gentiles.  
 

Definition of Grace You may be familiar with this acronym when defining grace:  God’s riches at Christ’s expense. While true, it demands further investigation. In Ephesians 2:8-9, we understand grace because of its Greek word, charis, which refers to a spiritual “manner or act” characterized by “the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.” 1  In other words, God addresses our wicked heart condition because we don’t have the ability to do so ourselves.  Tony Evans puts it this way: “Grace can be defined as the goodness of God to people who do not deserve it, could never earn it, and could never pay it back. For it is the God of grace that offers His goodness to undeserving mankind.”  2

 
Attributes of Grace
To be perfectly clear, unbelievers do not possess God’s perfect grace:  grace only comes from God because only He can direct it toward us. Warren Wiersbe clarifies the distinctions between God’s intrinsic and relative attributes by explaining the connection between His love and His grace:
 

“By nature, ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8). But God would love even if there were no sinners, because love is a part of His very being. Theologians call love one of God’s attributes. But God has two kinds of attributes: those that He possesses of Himself (intrinsic attributes, such as life, love, holiness), and those by which He relates to His creation, especially to man (relative attributes). For example, by nature God is truth; but when He relates to man, God’s truth becomes faithfulness. God is by nature holy; and when He relates that holiness to man, it becomes justice.

 
Love is one of God’s intrinsic attributes, but when this love is related to sinners, it becomes grace and mercy. God is “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4) and in “grace” (Eph. 2:7), and these riches make it possible for sinners to be saved.” 3
 
This is a sobering reminder that Sola Gratia involves a saving grace originating from God as part of His sovereign desire that all humanity be saved.  Several notable scriptures address this topic including Titus 2:11 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,” Titus 3:7 “so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life,” Acts 15:11 “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are,” and Romans 5:15  “But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.”
 

Implications of Grace So how does grace function for believers in a practical way?  

First, we can’t work for or earn God’s grace based on any human standards.  Romans 11:6 says “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”  Second, we can’t lose God’s grace.  Wiersbe explains “Since we have not been saved by our good works, we cannot be lost by our bad works. Grace means salvation completely apart from any merit or works on our part.” 4  This principle is closely aligned with what scripture teaches about God’s view concerning faith-based righteousness rather than works-based righteousness (see my previous blog regarding Sola Fide:  Faith Alone).
 
Third, we shouldn’t abuse or take grace for granted.  Romans 6:1–14 cautions believers about practicing sin as if we have a grace card or a get out of free card.  More specifically Romans 6:1-2 reads “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”  
 

Our study will continue in the next blog when I discuss Solus Christus “Christ alone.”

 
1  Strong, James. A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible. 2009 : 77. Print.
2  National Religious Broadcasters. Five Evangelical Preachers Highlight ‘Solas’ of Reformation at Proclaim 17,  March 7 2017, nrb.org/news-room.
3 Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Vol. 2. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996. Print.
4 Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Vol. 2. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996. Print.

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