We have been saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone.
What is grace? One definition says it is simply “courteous goodwill.” That can certainly be true, as humans use the term grace in multiple ways, as we do with a plethora of other words. However, as it pertains to the Christian faith, grace is defined as the free and unmerited favor of God toward sinners, as manifested in salvation.
Christians believe that God has saved us by grace alone–the first sola, or slogan, of the Reformation. This belief is in stark contrast with every other world religion.
In other world religions such as Islam, Roman Catholicism, Judaism, etc., you must perform certain deeds in order to either obtain God’s grace or keep it. Problem is, that directly contradicts what the Bible says about how man is made right, or is justified, before God.
The Bible’s teaching on salvation comes with no confusion: man is saved by grace alone. Period. End of story. It’s that clear. Ephesians 2:8-9, among another verse we will get to, explicitly states this:
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 (ESV).
You have been saved by grace. As if the first part wasn’t clear enough, the apostle Paul felt compelled to clarify even further: you had absolutely, positively, nothing to do with it (“and this is not your own doing”). Your salvation, as the text goes on to say, is not a result of your works, but wholly of what Jesus did. It’s all of grace! There is no room to boast. In the words of Jonathan Edwards: “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.”
There’s no wiggle room for applauding ourselves. We are incapable of twisting this verse to mean something different. It is clear: we are saved by grace. Let’s turn our attention to another grace-filled verse in Titus 3:5:
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (ESV).
Salvation is not a result of man’s wonderful works, as if such a thing exists; no, salvation is the result of the mercy of God in Christ. He saved us by his mercy.
Friends, it’s not grace plus works, nor is it mercy plus our righteousness. How is man saved? Man is saved by the sheer mercy and grace of God that manifests itself in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus was, and is, our only hope.
This salvific grace has colossal implications. Are you naturally inclined to rely on yourself? Do you make a habit out of doing things your own way? Is the idea of needing help foreign to you? The grace of God shatters any notion of self-reliance. It’s the wrecking ball that demolishes any attempt of doing things our own way. What once was foreign is now here to stay. Grace changes everything.
Grace changes how we live our lives. There is no more need to perform for God’s favor. No more need to do “good deeds” to earn God’s love. We now cease from attempting to please God by our own merit. God’s grace shuts us up. “Grace,” Charles Spurgeon strikingly said, “puts its hand on the boasting mouth and shuts it once for all.”
There is no room for arrogance, pride, or conceit in those whom Christ redeemed.
Furthermore, the marvelous reality of grace is not that it is some tangible thing or an abstract idea. Grace is not something that Jesus gives to us. Grace is a person: Jesus Christ. He gives us Himself. Let me leave you with this splendid remark by Sinclair Ferguson:
Grace is the grace of Jesus. If I can highlight the thought here: there is no “thing” that Jesus takes from Himself and then, as it were, hands over to me. There is only Jesus Himself. Grasping that thought can make a significant difference to a Christian’s life. So while some people might think this is just splitting hairs about different ways of saying the same thing, it can make a vital difference. It is not a thing that was crucified to give us a thing called grace. It was the person of the Lord Jesus that was crucified in order that He might give Himself to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.