Contend Earnestly: Five Solas of the Reformation - Sola Gratia - Part I

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Five Solas of the Reformation - Sola Gratia - Part I

This Sola was hardest for me to understand and adapt to when I first learned the theology. I had been taught my whole life the concept of a semi-Pelagian view of man, in that man had a libertarian free will and that man was left with a little good in them after the fall. I was taught that my life was determined by my actions and that I could even change God’s mind through my prayers and the way that I walk in this life. But, Sola Gratia shows us that God’s grace is freely given to whomever God desires, not the other way around.

Here is my definition of Sola Gratia:

This affirms that only by God’s grace is anyone saved. Not by any man’s merit because we are dead in sin and do not desire to even search for God as found in Romans 3.

This is completely against the forces of the self esteem gospel and the health and wealth gospel, where these two teach that what you do, you will receive from God, always and forever with no exception. Not only in your walk with God, but in your so-called pursuit of God before you are saved.

These beliefs tend to transform the gospel into a product to be sold, but Sola Gratia states as Titus 1:11, 2 Peter 2:3 and 1 Timothy 6:5 states; godliness is not sold for gain nor is it used for greed but God’s grace is freely given by our Lord who is in heaven.

God’s grace is given freely by God’s sovereign will not gained by any merit. This also stands against those who feel as though they can persuade men to Christ and who feel as though men are born with a little good in them to choose God. Yet, grace alone states that we are completely dead to sin and only by His grace can we ever attain so great a salvation.

Benjamin Warfield said this in his book titled, “Studies in Theology:”

The centre of the controversy for Luther, lay in the article in which asserts the sole efficiency of grace in salvation

Terry Johnson in his book, "The Case for Traditional Protestantism", puts it this way:

Luther, in his written response to the great Christian humanist scholar Erasmus entitled The Bondage of the Will, called the issue of grace ‘the hinge on which all turns.’ It is the hinge because, if faith is generated from within, if faith is an exertion of the will for which we can claim credit, then faith is a work, and salvation by grace is overthrown. The Reformers said that, in addition to “faith alone,” we are saved by “grace alone.”

Our Condition to Receive His Grace

Have you ever heard someone say about another, “they are such a good person!” or “they do so many good things.” Or a mother say in a court room about her son, “he is such a good boy!”

Are these true statements? For us humans we see a lot of good in people. If I am stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire and someone helps me, I see that as a good person and a good deed. We see this all over our society, whether with Ghandi, Mother Teresa, or Microsoft helping out with tuberculosis. But we must not fall into the trap of Aristotelianism. Which is “reason governs us.” To this Luther stated, and be forgiving here as he uses this in its actual intent, “Reason is a whore.”

You see reason and our experience with others will tell us that there is good in people and that people are good in general, but we must look to a heavenly perspective. We must look to God in understanding our condition.

We must look at the dichotomy of good and then the introduction of evil. You see, when God created man what did God say? Genesis 1:31 states that God saw all He created and said that it was very good. But then in Genesis 6:5 God states:

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually

And just so that you don’t get the idea that this was only pre-flood and things were differently afterwards Genesis 8:21 states again:

the LORD said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth;

The Greek word used here for “intent” means “framework or purpose.” So the framework and purpose of man’s heart is to do evil, not good.

But what happened? How did God go from saying that man was created good to saying that he was framed, inclined and purposed for evil?

Sin. What was the punishment for that sin? Genesis 2:17 states that if they ate from the tree that would “surely die” and every since then people have responded and taught like the devil taught when he said in Genesis 3:4, “You surely will not die!” This lie started with the devil and every since then we have had men like Pelagius, Erasmus and others that followed in this trap of the devil to state, “you surely did not die in your sin, you are merely sick.”

When we speak of Sola Gratia we must know where we stand, we are dead in sin, not almost dead, not sick, not blind, not lame, we are completely dead in our sin. We inherited this deadness from our father, Adam, as stated in Romans 5:12:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned

Again, what spread to all men because of sin? Death. This spiritual death is also spoken of in Eph 2:1 and Colossians 2:13 and we are told that we are slaves to sin, doing the will of our father the devil. Which is evil.

So dead in our sin that we are given man’s condition in Romans 3:10-18.

We find in this passage that we are not good, we don’t understand the things of God, we don’t seek God, we are useless, we do no good, we are continually deceitful and we don’t fear God. This last part is very important to understand. David and Solomon both taught us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The question then must follow: if Romans 3:18 states that there is no fear of God before our eyes, how do we ever attain the wisdom of salvation? The answer is through the understanding of Sola Gratia. To follow this up Isaiah 64:6 states that all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags to God.

These passages fly in the face of contemporary Christendom as we are told that we must look from within. I have heard Rick Warren say that if someone gives him the time to make his points that he could convert anyone at any time. This is why we must believe in Grace Alone. It is by Grace Alone that we are saved. He has to give this freely to whomever He chooses, because if He didn’t then no one would believe.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6-8

We are indeed helpless, ungodly and sinners. Could you imagine if God waited for us to be good or to see good in us before He sent Christ to die for our sins? He had to send His Son while we were still sinners because if He waited for our actions, He would have waited for eternity. Our condition is that we are dead in sin, haters of God, and doing the will of our father the devil before God bestows His grace to us freely.

Next time we will take a look at God’s basis for bestowing His grace.


Stefan said...


Good stuff.

Remember, too, that sola gratia has in view not only what God does in us, but what God does for us.

That is, not only must we confess that regeneration is a matter of grace alone, but so too is justification. While Arminianism tends to obscure the former, Rome and others have historically denied the latter. New life is given by grace alone, but so is that pardon from sin and the imputation of righteousness which is necessary for a right standing before God. These are gifts of God's free and sovereign grace in Christ.

To God alone be the glory,

Seth McBee said...

stefan...thanks for the clarification...

good to hear from you brother...

Justin Evans said...

That is the largest picture of Zwingli I have ever seen.

Ok, now I'm just spam posting on our own blog. I'm done.....

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