Greetings from Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.
Last week, I wrote on the reformation principle of "Scripture alone." Today, I turn my attention to the proclamation of "sola gratia" or "grace alone." Martin Luther grew up with the understanding that he had to pay his part in salvation. Even though Christ died for the sins of the world, for believers to receive this grace, it needed to be earned.
Penance was done for sins that were committed. Indulgences could be secured for oneself and for others to aid a person here on earth or in purgatory. These acts of devotions earned bits and pieces of grace from the cross that were needed for salvation. Roman Catholic theology continues to teach that God and man are to cooperate in salvation.
Luther learned from Scripture that mankind could do nothing to save himself; man was dead to God. When the disciples asked, "Who can be saved?" Christ answered, "With man this is impossible." (Matthew 19:26)
St. Paul wrote (Romans 3:23) "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," and (Ephesians 2:1) "you were dead in the trespasses and sins."
It had to be a gracious God that saved. God's grace was revealed in Christ's death as all sins of every person were placed on the cross. From the cross grace shines. (Romans 3:24) "And (all) are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."
It is therefore God's grace or divine favor that saves us. (Ephesians 2:8-9) "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Because of the cross, God declares us justified and his child without us doing anything. Some call this objective justification.
There are other definitions for grace that we should be aware of and be able to distinguish. The word grace is at times used for a table prayer. Ex., "John, please say grace for this meal." We also find in 1 Peter 4:10-11 that the word grace denotes a good quality or good works man does because of God's gracious disposition. These are gifts of the Spirit. However, when we speak of being saved by grace or sing the hymn, "Amazing Grace," this is referring to God's gracious favor toward us because of Christ. In the Old Testament, it is called His "steadfast love." We do not accumulate grace to be saved; but, because of Christ's death, God graciously saves us.
Too many times I have heard people say, "Jesus died for me, but I still need to…" Anytime we place our efforts in that sentence, we rob Christ of his glory and we become either arrogant or wonder if we have what it takes. It also causes us to wonder about our salivation.
Our salvation and justification is by grace alone -- the divine favor of God in Christ. Reformation 2017 is still about Jesus.