Sola Gratia: Grace Alone
The Five Solas
Simply defined, grace is God’s unmerited favor. If you did anything to earn it or deserve it, it is not grace. If God owes it to you because you’re a pretty good person or you’ve tried to do the best you can, it is not grace. If God gives it to you because He foresaw that you would believe in Him of your own free will, it is not grace. Grace means that you get the opposite of what you deserve. You deserve God’s wrath because you have sinned against Him. Instead, He saves you by His grace.
Grace cuts directly against the grain of human thinking, because it is not fair. We value fairness. If someone does wrong, he should get what he has coming. If someone does right, he should be rewarded. But if someone does wrong and gets rewarded in spite of it, we protest, “That’s not fair!”
Take a guy who is a thief. He has stolen from hardworking people. On some occasions, he has hurt his victims or even killed them. But he shrugs it off and continues his life of crime. Finally, he is apprehended and convicted. On death row, he hears that God will forgive all of his sins if he will trust in Christ, even though he does not deserve it and he cannot make up for what he has done. At first, he can’t believe it. It sounds too good to be true. But then he does believe it. He trusts Christ to save him from eternal judgment. He dies and goes to spend eternity with God in heaven. That’s not fair!
Or, take the case of a guy who is very religious. He prays several times a day. He fasts twice a week. He gives ten percent of his income to charitable causes. He doesn’t swindle people out of money. He treats others fairly. He has been faithful in his marriage. He thinks that doing all of these things will commend himself to God. But, he dies and goes to hell. We cry, “That’s not fair!”
But, I didn’t make up these stories. The thief was hanging next to Jesus on the cross. Jesus paid his debt and the thief went to heaven that very day (Luke 23:39-43). The religious man was the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable who thought himself to be righteous (Luke 18:9-14). He was not justified from his sins, because he was trusting in his own good works to save him.
If God were fair, we’d all go to hell, because we all have sinned. God did not compromise His righteousness or justice to forgive us. His justice demands that the penalty be paid. Jesus paid the penalty on the cross for all that trust in Him. In that way, God can be both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). Someone has rightly described G-R-A-C-E as, “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” We naturally resist God’s grace because it robs us of all our pride. But there is no other way of salvation. It is by grace alone. –Steven Cole