We have discovered that true Salvation is by Christ alone through faith alone and that it is found in the Scriptures alone. We must keep in mind that our subject is the means of eternal salvation. We know every person has a date with destiny in which he or she will pass from this life. Most people have an internal sense that there is something after death and that there must be some kind of judgment for the things done in this life. Therefore, the deepest question within the soul of any person is the question of eternity. How can a person be prepared for eternity? How can a man or a woman, a girl or a boy be saved? As the warden of the Philippian jail asked, “What must a person do to be saved?”
The attempts to answer that question often leads straight to human endeavor. Indeed, what must a person do? Were you to construct a table showing all of the world’s religions, you would find that all but one depends on human effort. The vast majority of religious teaching is all about doing good works, collecting good karma or having our good deeds outweigh the bad. Only one teaches that we cannot possibly do enough good or develop enough personal righteousness to balance our egregious wickedness and sinfulness that has caused God to be our enemy and incurred His righteous and eternal wrath. Only one–true biblical Christianity, teaches that God sent a Savior to pay the penalty for the sins of the human race and only true Christianity teaches that salvation is acquired by the grace of God through faith. Only Christianity!
Grace alone or sola gratia is the fourth of the five solas that emerged from the days of the Reformers of the early sixteenth century. Five hundred years ago, it was necessary for the church to declare with clarity how a person can be saved. Today, it is still of vital importance that the church once again explain to the world surrounding it what it means to be saved and how exactly salvation is obtained. In fact, as the day of the return of Jesus Christ draws nearer, it may be even more important today. They were all considered to be of vital importance for the salvation of souls. The five areas or solas that we have been investigating were marked out by what we would call the evangelical church through spiritually motivated men and women. The other four areas are sola Scriptura or God’s Word alone, solus Christus or salvation through Christ alone, sola fide or salvation through faith alone and soli Deo Gloria or salvation for the glory of God alone.
Today in our discovery of grace alone we will see aspects of God’s grace in our lives: We are saved by grace, sustained by grace and grace is sufficient for every part of the Christian life.
Salvation Is All God’s Doing. (Ephesians 2:8-9) If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you have probably heard a definition of God’s grace. Usually we know it as God’s unmerited favor. One person developed an acrostic for grace: Grace is God’s riches at Christ’s expense. All of the focus is on God and none is on the sinner. An expanded definition would be: The unmerited favor of God made known through Jesus Christ and expressed supremely in the redemption and full forgiveness of sinners through faith in Jesus Christ.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that in God’s mind there is no word that reveals His heart more clearly than grace. God is the God of grace. The poet wrote:
Grace–tis a charming sound, harmonious to the ear. Heaven with the echo with resound, and all the earth shall hear. Saved by grace alone, this is my plea: Jesus died for all mankind, and Jesus died for me.
Because of the horrendous nature of the sin of all people, all that humanity could ever expect in view of its sin was the eternal wrath of a holy God, punishment and eternal banishment from His glorious presence. That is the judgment all people young and old, wherever and when-ever they have lived. The only righteous judgment for sin is eternal condemnation.
Grace changes that. The infinitely holy God stepped down from His seat of judgment, out of eternity and willingly took upon Himself at Calvary’s cross, the guilt and penalty of human sin, thus satisfying His justice and making possible the bestowal of His mercy. And He did that not for those who were His friends but for those who were His enemies; unlovely creatures saturated with sin. By the way, that is you and me.
Grace is God’s favor freely conferred and with no expectation of return and finding it’s only motive the superabundant lovingkindness of the Giver. This grace is seen in only one place: the lonely hill of Golgotha and the cross of Jesus Christ–this is the vivid picture of the God of grace. What we could never do for ourselves or ever deserve, the Lord Jesus accomplished through grace alone.
There Is Nothing People Can Do to Save Themselves. We know the Bible teaches all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. This is an idea known as total depravity. Human depravity does not mean that all people are as bad or as wicked as it is possible to be. By human standards, some live exemplary lives. There is quite a difference between the kind-hearted atheist who lives down the road and turns out to be a good neighbor and friend and the Adolf Hitlers, terrorists and serial killers of the world. But that illustration only shows the degrees of sinfulness not its reality or its eternal consequences. According to the Bible, any soul that sins will die.
Since no sinner (that includes all people) can remove their own sins, we are therefore dead in our sins and trespasses and since that is true, if we are to be saved, God must take the initiative. Even though every Christian was dead in his or her sins, God made them alive because of His grace alone through their faith alone.
Our text in Ephesians says salvation is, “not of yourselves.” The preaching and teaching of the apostles was that we are saved by grace alone. Down through the centuries, only those who were saved by grace received eternal life. The only way to be saved today is by grace. We are told in this verse, that salvation is not a result of works. Period! There is nothing we can do to be saved!
Salvation Must Be Accepted as a Free Gift by Faith. So then, salvation is by grace alone. How is it received? It is received by faith. Faith is the means by which a person is saved. They believe the message that God will save them through the work of Jesus Christ and they surrender all of their own efforts and accomplishments and abandon themselves to place their eternal destiny solely in the hands of the Savior, Jesus Christ. That is what it means to be saved by grace.
Only on the basis of God’s grace the Christian has been saved from wrath and continues in God’s safe keeping. Salvation is received only by faith. The salvation that was purchased by Christ’s death is universal in its provision but it is not universal in its application. A person is not automatically saved because Christ died but is saved only when he or she places their trust and complete confidence in God’s gracious provision.
It is God’s grace through faith in Christ that saves. Well did John Newton write:
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.”
How? By grace alone!!
Believers in Jesus Christ Stand in Grace. (Romans 5:1-2) There is an added blessing to being justified by faith. Once we are saved, we are not left to fend for ourselves in this evil world. We have been given something more. Through Christ we “stand in grace.”
This word draws the picture of a Christian living in an unseen bubble that completely surrounds them every moment of their lives. That bubble is God’s grace. It is always there. Al-though we are disobedient, the grace bubble is still there surrounding us. Although we fail we cannot leave this grace that envelops us. We live in grace. It is God’s gift.
The word here “standing” bears the idea of permanence, of standing firm and immovable. Although faith is required for salvation, it is God’s grace, not the believer’s faith that has the power to save and keep us saved. God’s grace guarantees the believer’s salvation. We are saved by grace and we will be eternally kept by grace. You live in God’s grace constantly.
Believers may fall into sin, but their sin is never more powerful than God’s grace. Those sins are the very reason Christ died and His death paid the penalty for them. If a dying Savior could bring us to God’s grace, surely a living Savior can keep us in His grace. Standing in the sphere of grace, we have constant forgiveness.
Believers Are to Pray For Grace. (Hebrews 4:14-16) The sustaining and keeping power of God’s grace has given the believer some amazing benefits. Living in God’s grace means that we can appeal to God personal for grace. We need to understand that God’s grace is what we need in our lives.
When we are tempted, face trials or fail, we have a Savior who understands our difficulties. We are welcomed to God’s throne, appropriately called the throne of grace, in order to receive mercy and find grace. When troubles invade our lives what we need most is a fresh application of God’s grace, which He freely gives in response to our prayers.
Believers' Experiences Are Defined By Grace. (1 Corinthians 15:9-10) In these verses Paul calls himself the “least of the apostles.” Why does he feel that way? The reason he does so is made clear. It is because he persecuted Christians. In fact, he developed quite a reputation as a heartless hunter of Christians so that he could persecute them. These bad things are going through his mind and he does not feel worthy of God’s grace. Then something happened to his angry and vindictive heart. He met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus and was changed by God’s grace. Only God’s grace could change such a sinner and turn him into the apostle who took God’s Word to the gentile world.
From that point forward, all of Paul’s experiences were interpreted by God’s grace. He was saved by grace, labored in grace and sustained by grace. Grace changed the way he looked at his life, his ministry and other people. He had become a man of grace. It is amazing what the benefits of God’s grace can do for you. We need to learn to live in that grace.
God’s Grace is Sufficient in Suffering. (2 Corinthians 12:7-8) It is God’s purpose in our lives to show us that from beginning to its end, the Christian is completely and totally dependent upon God’s grace. How often we attempt to prove to God we can manage without Him, only to find how hopeless that is? We are dependent upon Him for the very air we breathe. It is better is we come early to the conclusion that we are in continuous need of God’s grace.
Paul here describes a thorn in his flesh. While some spend hours debating what that thorn was, what is important for us is to know that the thorn was painful. We do not have long lists of the things Paul prayed for, but we know he prayed for this thorn. Whatever it was it was painful and distracting enough for him to pray over and over again to have it removed. There are many things in life that are so painful that we turn to prayer. While things are going the way we want them to go, we sometimes find that the motivation to pray is illusive. But, when things get painful and desperate, then we turn to prayer. We need to be more humble and keep things in perspective.
It is when we pray that we turn to God and His grace. Grace, in God’s hand, is a dynamic force that totally transforms our lives and our attitudes. It is God’s grace that sets the Christian faith apart from all other religions. God is gracious, merciful and kind, which is in contrast to the false gods of false religions who are at best indifferent and need to be constantly persuaded and appeased.
God’s Grace Is Sufficient In Weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) Not only was Paul’s thorn in the flesh painful, it also made him weak. In fact, Paul says Satan sent a messenger (a demon) to torment him. The suffering weakened Paul and kept him from having the human energy needed for his work. I am sure Paul wanted God to remove the thorn in the flesh. From our point of view that would have been a much better answer to the prayer. That is not how God answered his prayer. He told Paul His grace is sufficient.
God’s grace is given to the Christian at salvation and remains fully operational throughout his or her life. God’s grace springs from an unlimited supply that is never exhausted. As God answered Paul’s prayer, He affirmed the total sufficiency of His grace for every need in life–to believe the Gospel, to understand and apply God’s Word to all of life’s issues, to overcome sin and temptations, to endure sickness and suffering, to bear disappointments and pain and positively, to obey God, to serve Him and to worship Him through all of lives moments. God’s grace is always sufficient for even the deepest pain Christians may experience.
God’s Grace Is Sufficiently Powerful. God’s grace brought great power to Paul’s life when he recognized his weakness. In fact, it was in the midst of his weakness that Christ’s power reached its greatest expression. It was when Paul recognized his weakness that Christ could allow His grace and His power to accomplish His will in Paul’s life. In this case, God’s grace kept Paul humble and made his work even more effective so that God alone was exalted.
Christ’s power is best displayed against the backdrop of human weaknesses so that God alone is praised. Rather than removing the problem, God gave grace. God’s grace is sufficient and will be into eternity.
How matchless and wonderful is God’s grace! What an amazing blessing grace is for the sinner–granting him or her full pardon and forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ! How rich and superabundant is God’s grace for the Christian–an ever-ready resource of benefit and mercy to meet all of life’s blessings and difficulties! God’s grace is given freely as a gift–no one can deserve it and no one can ever earn it. God’s grace is available to all by faith.
The poet wrote: “Wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching to all the lost. By it I have been pardoned, saved to the uttermost. Chains have been torn asunder, giving me liberty; for the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me!” Has God’s wonderful grace reached you?
Over the decades a story reaches us from London during the last years of the nineteenth century. As a man hurried home from a busy day at work, just ahead of him a little girl came out of a store with a pitcher of milk. Suddenly her little feet stumbled on the pavement and the pitcher fell and broke and the milk drained into the gutter. The little girl began to weep as if her little heart was broken. “Don’t cry little girl, we’ll fix it.” “No,” she cried, “My mommy will whip me!” He stooped down and tried to put the pieces of the pitcher back together. The little girl stopped crying but as she tried to put the handle on the reassembled pitcher, it broke again, this time into more pieces. Once more she launched into a deluge of tears. They tried once again to put the pieces back together, but to no avail.
Finally, the man picked up the little girl in his arms and took him to the pottery shop and bought her a new pitcher. Then he went back to the place where she bought the milk and paid have the pitcher filled. Then he took the girl and the pitcher and the milk to the little girl’s home. “Do you think your mother will whip you now?” the man asked. “Oh, no sir, this pitcher is much better than the one we had before.”
We are saved by grace. Human effort cannot put the pieces of a sinful life back together in righteousness. God answered in His grace, by giving His Son to pay the price for our sins. Are you saved by grace?
Updated 10/23/2017 by Pastor Vernon Welkner