“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” Ephesians 2:8
Sola Gratia, which is to say “grace alone“, is part of the Five Solas of the Reformation. Sola Gratia is shorthand for saying that salvation is by grace alone and cannot be merited in any way. The reformers disdained the Roman Catholic view of salvation that salvation was not by grace alone but one”™s righteousness was also required for salvation. (They did not teach that grace was not necessary, as most people would assume, but they added individuals”™ works to grace; which makes it not grace at all (cf. Gal. 5:4)).
What is grace?
Grace is unmerited favour or undeserved privilege; grace cannot be earned neither can it be purchased by money, it is completely free. Grace humbles the one to whom it is given (cf. Eph. 2:8-9), because they don”™t deserve it by definition. God saved us out of Love and grace, none of us has what it takes to be loved by God. “For God so loved”¦“ there is nothing we can do to motivate Him to love us, God loved us while we were yet sinners and undeserving of His love (cf. Rom. 5:6-8); that is grace!
Can works save us?
The Roman Catholic Church taught (and still teaches) that before one could be justified by God, that individual had to show some evidence of righteousness. This idea of a works based salvation was not new at all; during Paul”™s days, a certain group called Judiazers were teaching that except a person keeps law he/she cannot be saved.
Today we have modern day judiazers (legalists) who try to earn the grace of God. Some today teach that unless you keep the Sabbath you cannot be saved, others say that unless you tithe you cannot be saved, others say that before you are baptised you are not a true Christian and the list goes on. All these are just an attempt to earn God”™s favour. But even our most righteous deed are nothing but filthy rags (Isa. 64:6).
“Your good works are bad, on top of that your bad works deserves God”™s curse and hell.” Timothy Brindle, reformed rappers
The issue of Purgatory
The Roman Catholic Church also taught that when a person dies and they were not “righteous enough”, they would have to go to a place called Purgatory first before the can go to Heaven. In Purgatory they would be purged of sins and suffer until they are refined enough for heaven. The duration of time a person spends in Purgatory would depend on how righteous a person was before they died.
The Reformers saw this as a distortion of the gospel. This meant that we earned salvation, and that Christ”™s work was not enough to save us. When the church then started selling Indulgencies to take people out of Purgatory, the Reformers then saw this as fraud. The church was selling people something that God had already offered for free, as a gift (cf. Eph. 2:8).
So what do works do?
The objection that people commonly make is that: if we are saved only by grace, why do any good deed at all? The answer that the Reformers gave to this question was that good works should be the fruits of our salvation, not the root; they are the consequence of it and not the cause.
Most people today think that by doing works of righteousness they do God a service and therefore He is obligated to reward them for their obedience. That notion is nothing but a religious fallacy, You do not bring anything to the cross, like the hymn writer said “nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling”. We must not trust on our own works for salvation, but in Christ”™s finished work alone (Solus Christus)
Repentance not only has to be repentance from bad deeds but also from good deeds. Going to church, giving, looking after the poor etc. are all good and important things in the life of a Christian, but they don”™t commend us to God; it does not mean God will love you more because you have done Him service. And since God is self-sufficient, He does not need our works to be who He is.
However, we must be careful not to use grace as a license to sin (Rom. 6:15). Being justified by grace does not mean that we are free to sin as the antinomians conclude. Those who are truly saved will do good deeds that are pleasing to God; they will do them, not to earn God”™s favour, but as a response of thanks giving to Him for saving them.
“Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”” Rom. 4:4-8
Salvation is by Grace alone (Sola Gratia) through faith alone (Sola Fide) in Jesus Christ alone (Solus Christus). You who despise God”™s grace and mingle it with your own merits, why don”™t you lay down your burden and rest in the Savior”™s feet, come and buy wine and milk without money and without price (cf. Isa. 55:1). “God doesn”™t Love you more because you do good nor does He love you less because you mess up, He loves you simply because He loves you” (Through Hymn, Reformed Rapper). It is only by Christ”™s death and resurrection that we are justified.
O sinner, you who seek to be justified by your own works of righteousness, is it a difficult thing to trust in the merits of Him who died to save sinners? And you who boasts of your salvation, you ought to be ashamed of yourself, you were saved by grace.
Soli Deo Gloria