Another of the reformational solas is Sola gratia also known as “Grace Alone.” Understood correctly, this doctrine teaches that our salvation, which includes regeneration, the gift of faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in glory, is purely the work of the Triune God. It specifically excludes any works done by an individual. Their works do not add one iota of merit towards their salvation, not before or after.
God does not look at someone and think, “Well, he or she is a nice person and works hard at being good, so I will decide to save them.” On the contrary, Scripture teaches that our as far as our salvation is concerned, that any work we do trying to earn it, are like filthy rags before God (Isa 64:6).
The classic verses often referred to when teaching that salvation is by ‘grace alone’ is Eph 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” This teaching is reason for great rejoicing and thanksgiving.
Just imagine for a moment if we had to contribute a little towards or cooperate with grace to ensure our salvation. That would be awful, for not only would assurance of our salvation be robbed from us (for we could never be 100% certain that we had ever done enough), it would put into question the whole work of Christ on our behalf.
Thankfully, we know from Scripture that Christ’s work of redemption was not only necessary; it was sufficient to save us completely. Just before Jesus breathed His last dying breath on the cross, He proclaimed, “It is finished” (John 19:30). This phrase appears in the Greek as one word, “tetelestai.” This is a perfect verb, indicating completed action in the past, with abiding results. In other words, Jesus proclaimed that His work of salvation was 100% complete – no more needed to doing. Scripture teaches the same thing in several places. For instance, Romans 6:10, “The death (Jesus) died, he died to sin once for all.” Consider also what the writer to Hebrews writes, “Unlike other high priests, he (Jesus) does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He (Jesus) sacrificed for their sin once for all when he offered himself” (Heb 7:27; cf Heb 10:11-12).
How can we be sure? Because Jesus was raised from the dead! Death could not hold Him for He had no sin of His own. Furthermore, having placed our faith and trust completely in Jesus Christ, death cannot hold us for our sin has been paid for by Christ and that was all by sola gratia alone.
Sometimes I use an acronym to remind people of what ‘grace’ means – “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Edward Mote had a good understanding of what it meant to be saved by grace alone when he penned these words: “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; no merit of my own I claim, but wholly trust in Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid rock I stand – all other ground is sinking sand” (BoW 465).
Edward Mote was not the only one who understood ‘grace alone.’ The slave trader John Newton also understood what it meant to be saved by grace alone, “Amazing grace – how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.” It’s a wonderful truth that Scripture teaches and may we delight in it every day! JZ