This past Wednesday I was asked to speak in chapel at Trinity College of Florida. They were doing a mini-series on the 5 Solas since it was Reformation week. Each speaker was given 10-15 minutes to explain one of the 5 solas. They asked me to speak on Sola Gratia. Below is my transcript.
Sola Gratia is a Latin phrase for Grace Alone. It expresses the Reformation doctrine that salvation is all by God’s grace from Election, when you were chosen by God before the foundations of the world, to when you will stand in the presence of Christ someday completely glorified.
The key to understanding Sola Gratia is: understanding that there is nothing that any individual can contribute to their attainment of righteousness.
This was actually up for debate far before the Protestant Reformation ever occurred. You see it was St. Augustine that fought one of the first battles for Sola Gratia.
B.B. Warfield said, “It is Augustine who gave us the Reformation.” It’s worth noting that Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk and that Calvin quoted Augustine more than any other theologian.
It was St. Augustine’s prayer that provoked one of the greatest controversies the church has ever seen.
Augustine prayed, “Grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou dost desire.”
In other words, Augustine was asking God for the grace to obey his commands, and then to reveal those commands so that he might obey.
A British Monk named Pelagius had a HUGE problem with this because he believed that everyone had the ability to obey God if they so desired. He taught that instead of the entire human race being tainted by the fall, Adam was simply a bad example of what not to do. He taught that one only needs not to sin and it was possible to live a perfect sinless life and achieve absolute complete righteousness before God. He even believed that some people had done so.
Augustine taught the opposite…that the fall affected everyone, and therefore no one was good. No one had the ability to attain righteousness on their own. He taught the sinful nature was imputed to us through Adam as our federal head.
Pelagius’ teachings were condemned as heresy at the Council of Carthage in 418. However, his teachings continued on and eventually the Roman Catholic Church would embrace a Semi-Pelagius view and teach that each person takes the first step toward God before God pours out his grace to save.
So it’s important to understand that the Reformation was not a period in history where the church was developing new doctrines, but rather it was a time where the church was recovering the TRUE gospel from those who had corrupted it.
The Bible is clear salvation is by works, but it is not by our works, so we cannot boast at all. Our righteousness was completely secured by Christ alone by His Grace alone through Faith alone for the glory of God alone.
Romans 3:11-12 says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.
The Bible is very clear that apart from the grace of God, we cannot do anything good. You might say, “I disagree…my buddy who does not know Christ does good things all the time, in fact he walked a little old lady across the street just the other day.
The question isn’t whether people do good deeds based on our definition of good, the question is whether people do good deeds based on God’s definition of good.
You see every “good deed” gives glory to someone. If you don’t know God, and if you don’t love Christ then your good deeds are intended to bring glory to yourself. They are intended to give you praise…to make you feel good about what you did…which is nothing more than selfishness. So at the end of the day, Paul is right. No one is righteous.
Furthermore, this idea that the fall did not affect all of humanity is in direct violation to Romans 5:12 which says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”
No one is excluded from Romans 5:12. No one is excluded from Romans 3:23.
Romans 5:18-19 says, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the on man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”
This passage is clear that our obedience cannot save us. We cannot attain salvation through our own efforts, but we can attain salvation through the obedience of Christ.
Our works don’t save us, but Christ’s works do!
Look at the next two verses…20-21 “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, GRACE abounded all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, GRACE also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
You see It is Christ who credits us His righteousness that leads to eternal life. This was all GRACE. It was a favor that God gave to us that we did not merit in any way.
2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he (God) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
This is GRACE. It’s the Great Exchange. God took our sin and put it on his son, and then took his perfect righteousness and placed it on us. That is the Gospel! That is what happened to you at the moment of salvation.
Don’t ever think for one minute that you did anything. You were incapable to do anything because you were DEAD.
Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were DEAD in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – BY GRACE YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED.
Look at verses 8-9 “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.
Notice the verse doesn’t say that we were saved by our faith, as if to say we took the first step and used some “faith ability”…no it says we were saved by HIS Grace!I will close with a quote from the Prince of Preachers. Charles Spurgeon in his book All of Grace he says this, “Grace is the first and last moving cause of salvation.”
Sola Gratia. Be Edified.