Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)

Posted: April 2, 2009 in Church History, doctrine, General Discussion, Scripture, Theology
Tags: , , , , ,

From Reformation Theology

Ask yourself, what makes you to differ from your unbelieving neighbor? Is it the grace of Christ alone that saves or is it grace plus your good will? Where did this faith come from? Does it naturally arise in some and not others? Or is your faith itself a working of God’s grace to change your heart? Is it something that came forth from our unregenerated human nature? The witness of Scripture would affirm that sinners are, not partly but wholly helpless and impotent in their sin. The Reformers vehemently opposed the synergistic doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church by confessing that God redeems His people by a free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying us in Christ when we exercise faith, but also resurrecting us from spiritual death by His quickening Spirit in order to bring us to faith.

Grace is God’s unmerited favor toward undeserving sinners like us. Being unmerited, people can do nothing to obtain it. In other words, grace is not conditioned upon anything God sees in us, like our merit or even our good will. But here is precisely where protests rise from Roman Catholics and even some modern Evangelicals. These complaints, unfortunately, are against one of the central components of the biblical doctrine of regeneration. Note that Evangelicals will, without exception, affirm that they are saved by grace, but many will actually hesitate when they are told that they are saved (regenerated) by “grace alone”. It is more than many can bear and often even creates resentment. I know as I have often been the one bearing the brunt of the resentment. This anger arises, most likely, because sola gratia (or grace alone) means that God chooses to save His own prior to any movement of their own will (i.e. we contribute nothing to our salvation). It strips man of any and all hope from himself, including his faith. This is important because if God left men to their boasted will we would all perish, for no poison-filled well, like us, would freely use their polluted will to choose God, for the Scriptures affirm that the natural man hates the light and will not come into it (John 3:19, 20). Therefore, in His great mercy and, in spite of ourselves, God regenerates His people through the work of Christ’s grace wrought in us. Exercising faith is our responsibility so, of course, we affirm that all men have a will and make voluntary choices, but since our will is broken and spiritually bankrupt, if we are ever to exercise faith in Jesus Christ it will mean that God must do a supernatural work of grace in our heart to disarm our natural hostility and restore our brokenness lest our hearts remain like stone, and we as a stiff necked people will refuse to come to Jesus Christ. We do not repair ourselves and then believe. Rather, we believe because God has repaired us, has illumined our mind that we might see and believe.

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