Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013 6:00 pm
The Messenger, January 31, 2013
Sola Gratia: By Grace Alone
By RB TOLAR
Special to The Messenger
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
Grace: God’s unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor toward those wicked sinners to whom He grants salvation. But I don’t feel like a wicked sinner, do you? Nonetheless, when God’s Word tells me that my heart is “deceitful” and “desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9),” what can I do but bow to the authority of scripture? In other words, our salvation is due to God’s goodness and not to anything good in us.
Even this faith in Christ, through which my salvation comes, even this I am unable to conjure by my own power or my own desiring (Romans 9:16). How can I, when I am “at enmity” with God (Romans 8:7) and am “controlled by my sinful nature (Romans 8:8)”?
Jesus brought this truth home when He stated that, “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44).” In case we missed His point, He reinforces it with the declaration that “no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him (John 6:65).”
What are we to do? This faith that is required for our salvation is beyond our ability to attain. We are as dead as the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision. Indeed, we desire neither faith in Christ nor anything else about Him (Romans 3:11). I was not a “seeker.” That role belongs to the Savior who came “to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).”
The whole human race is lost. Our only hope is that God will be gracious to us. We need a “new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26)” before we can see clearly our hopeless condition.
Jesus speaks plainly to Nicodemus in the third chapter of John’s gospel: “you do not receive our testimony” (verse 11). One must be “born again” (verse 3), the Savior declared, before one can even see God’s kingdom, much less desire it.
Scripture is filled with witness that we can add nothing to our salvation to complete it. The passage from Ephesians cited above, though perhaps the best-known proof of salvation by grace alone, is but a summation of something Paul had stated earlier in the passage: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even while we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-7).”
Did you see it? God’s “rich mercy,” His “great love” and “kindness toward us.”
To put it simply: God’s grace.
Why should we want to add anything to that?
Editor’s note: RB Tolar is a member of Grace Presbyterian Church in Troy. He strongly urges readers to consult the scripture references used in this article “to see if these things are so” (Acts 17:11b).