This week in worship, I am continuing our study of the Reformation Solae, those statements that sum up how we understand the Christian faith. This week, we will look at Sola Gratia, “By grace alone.”
Sola Gratia is the understanding that we are saved by God, for God, according to God’s purpose and plan. Salvation, therefore, is God’s work. We contribute absolutely nothing to salvation. In Ephesians 2:8-10, the apostle Paul writes,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And 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 his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
We love to work for things. We hate being the debt of another person, for anything. We want to do things for ourselves. We grow up going to school, turning in work, and receiving a grade. We pay tuition, and we get a college education. We work, and we receive a paycheck. So, what must we do to be saved? Nothing. There is no work of ours sufficient to save us.
Notice, we are saved by grace. That is the first thing Paul mentions. Faith is an act of grace (and something I will cover more of next week), and it is the grace that allows us to believe. The works we do come after the Spirit of God has begun transforming us. Once God works in our lives, we can reach beyond ourselves and live in obedience to God.
Martin Luther had plenty to say about the Reformed doctrine, and he said this about salvation by grace alone: “We receive absolution [forgiveness] and grace at no cost or labor on our part, but not without cost and labor on the part of Christ.” There is work involved in our salvation. Work that was hard, costly, and painful, but it is not our work, it is the work of Christ.
Christ worked for our salvation. That is what it means to be saved by grace alone.