With the Pope coming to America this last week, I decided that I would write a short five part series on the Five Solas of the Reformation. These five points are stated below:
- Sola Gratia – By Grace Alone
- Sola Fide – By Faith Alone
- Solus Christus – In Christ Alone
- Sola Scriptura – By Scripture Alone
- Soli Deo Gloria – To the Glory of God Alone
This first post is in the first sola known as Sola Gratia, or by grace alone. Rome has taught and still indeed teaches that man is saved by grace and merit. Now Rome does not believe that we are saved by merit.
They agree that we must have God’s grace. Rome rejects the Pelagian view that says that God’s grace is not necessary for salvation and instead adopts a Semi-Pelagian view saying that we cooperate with God’s grace through the sacraments/system of the church and our own merit with our human free will in order to bring us salvation. This is of course opposed to the Reformed position and the Scriptures which make it explicitly clear that we are saved by Grace alone and merit has no play at all whatsoever. We will look at three Scriptures that prove that we are saved by Grace and Grace alone.
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.
— Romans 11:6 (NASB)
I don’t know how much clearer the concept of justification could be here. In justification, grace stands directly opposed to works. We contribute nothing to our justification. God does everything. Sinclair Ferguson said that “the most difficult concept for sinner to grasp is undiluted grace, to which we contribute nothing.” This is the truth of God’s grace as opposed to merit for justification.
God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.
— 2 Timothy 1:9 (NASB)
In this passage we have clear teaching that we have a holy calling not according to our works, but according to God’s grace. We are not saved by works but we are saved unto good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). The result of being saved by grace is ultimately good works, but they are not the cause of our salvation.
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
— Titus 3:4-7 (NASB)
These verses show the Trinitarian work of God in salvation. The Father chooses to save, the Son redeems, and the Spirit regenerates. You see absolutely nothing here about our merit. In fact, the only time this passage mentions merit or deeds is when it says that it is NOT on the basis of our works. It is all because of God’s grace and mercy. As President Jonathan Edwards of Princeton Seminary said, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” This is why God is glorified in salvation, because we do nothing and he does everything.
I hope this short discussion has been helpful. Our merit means absolutely nothing to God. They are just like filthy rags, before and even after he saves us. But as the old hymn goes, “Thou must save and thou alone” (Rock of Ages). God must save, and only he can save the lost sinner’s soul. And with that I leave you with this great hymn of the Christian faith:
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!