The Five Solas—Sola Gratia
One of the things I really enjoyed when I first began attending the Baptist church with Linda, (forty years ago) was the emphasis on music—particularly congregational hymns. After I was saved, there was one hymn which became particularly dear to me. It is the one we just sang. The first stanza reads:
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt.
Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured, There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace. God's grace. Grace that will pardon and cleanse within.
Grace, grace. God's grace. Grace that is greater than all my sin.
What a wonderful hymn that is! The fathers of the Protestant Reformation reclaimed the Gospel of the New Testament that had essentially been lost for a thousand years: The message of "Sola Gratia," or Grace Alone.
Sola Gratia meant grace at the start, grace to the end, grace in the middle, grace without fail, grace without mixture, grace without addition, grace that allows no boasting, grace that precludes all glorying but in the Lord. Salvation is either all of grace or none of it is of grace. Adding anything to the grace of God, negates the grace of God. The only thing sinners bring to the table of redemption is their sin! Everything else comes from God. As Martin Luther said, "If any man ascribes salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knows nothing of grace, and he has not learnt Jesus Christ aright." We are justified by simple faith, trusting in the grace of God manifested in the redemptive work of Christ. Our salvation is accomplished without any human works of goodness or human merit involved, but by faith alone, and even this faith we need to call upon Jesus is the gift of God. We have no reason for boasting, for any boasting of man robs God of His glory.
- "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB95).
- ILLUS. One of the newer hymns of the faith is one we sang this morning: In Christ Alone (My Hope Is Found). The second half of the second stanza rings out: ‘Til on that cross as Jesus died The wrath of God was satisfied: For every sin on Him was laid; Here in the death of Christ I live. God’s grace sent His only begotten Son into the world to die for me. It is faith in His atoning death alone whereby I am redeemed.
Are Christians to be a people full of Good Works? Yes! But the works we do are the fruit and not the root of our salvation.
The passage under consideration in Ephesians speaks of God's marvelous grace. It does so in a unique way. Paul speaks of the progression of God's grace in terms of three verbs. In the first ten verses Paul presents the past, the present, and the future of the Christian: what he was (vv. 1-3), what he is (vv. 4-6, 8-9), and what he will be (vv. 7, 10).
I. VERB #1: YOU BEING DEAD IN SINS v. 1
- a children's nursery rhyme reminds us of man's spiritual condition outside of Christ
- the rhyme goes: Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall; All the king's horses, And all the king's men Couldn't put Humpty together again
- like Humpty Dumpty, man has had a great fall in his life
- it took place in a garden thousands of years ago
- the evidence of that fall is the mayhem we experience in our own lives, and in the culture around us
- ILLUS. All too sadly, the last week illustrates afresh the consequences of mankind's fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. The result was a nature deprived of God's presence and influence. That deprived nature rapidly digressed into a depraved nature that is at enmity with God. The result? Consider some of the headlines from his last week ... A sixteen year old Scottsdale, AZ teenager is arrested for two rapes. A New York City nanny stabs to death two young children in her care. A Massachusetts man was arrested for beating his girl friend senseless with his pet python. He’s been charged with domestic assault and battery and animal abuse. In New Hampshire, police are investigating cocain-laced candy being given out to children on Halloween night. In Michigan, a pastor murdered his fiancee’s daughter to fulfill a sex-fantasy. In Georgia a mother stabs her new-born son to death because she didn’t want the responsibility of caring for a baby.
- listen to how the bible describes us ...
A. WITHOUT CHRIST A MAN IS SPIRITUALLY DEAD AND ETERNALLY DOOMED
- "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins," (Ephesians 2:1, NIV)
- in verse one Paul reminds his readers that there was a time, not too far in the distant past, when they were dead in trespasses and sin
- they may have felt very much alive, and may have looked very much alive, and may have acted very much alive, but they were actually in a state of prolonged death
- they were dead and doomed, but were not aware of it
- ILLUS. Off the coast of North Carolina lies Cape Hatteras. It is known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic." It is estimated that 2,300 ships lie buried in this graveyard's sands. Most are there by accident, but many of these ships found their death through treachery. On moonless or stormy nights, men called "wreckers" would lure unsuspecting ships to their doom. Legend maintains that the town of Nags Head, North Carolina takes its name from these wrecker's deploying false lights. The Nags Head legend states that in the 1700s, wreckers would hang lanterns from the necks of mules (colloquially called "nags" at the time) and walk the animals very slowly up and down the beach. The alleged intent was to fool mariners into believing that the slow-moving lights were ships drifting at rest or at anchor, prompting the ships to change course and subsequently run aground. Ship's captains, mistaking the lights for beacons of safety, would steer toward the lights only to go aground and be wrecked by pounding surf. Eventually the sands would hide the wreck, but not before every last thing of value had been taken by these men who had lured the ship to its death.
- the Bible calls those wreckers the world, the flesh and the devil
- man's basic trouble is not being out of harmony with his heritage or his environment or his inner-self, but being out of harmony with his Creator
- his principal problem is not that he cannot make meaningful relationships with other human beings but that he has no right relationship to God, from whom he is alienated by sin
- his condition has nothing to do with the way he lives; it has to do with the fact that he is dead even while he is alive
- he is spiritually dead while being physically alive
- because he is dead to God, he is dead to spiritual life, truth, righteousness, inner peace and happiness, and ultimately to every other good thing
- the lost sinner is a dead man walking
- ILLUS. Some of you are familiar with that term. It refers to someone who is condemned and about to die.
- it’s that fate of every sinner in the world
- trespasses is a word that means to slip, fall, stumble, deviate, or go the wrong direction
- sins is a word that originally carried the idea of missing the mark, as when hunting with a bow and arrow
- it then came to represent missing or falling short of any goal, standard, or purpose
- in the spiritual realm it refers to missing and falling short of God's standard of absolute holiness
- both of these nouns are in the plural and signifies people's repetitious involvement in sin
- taken together, the two words emphasize the breadth of the sinfulness that results from spiritual deadness
B. REMEMBERING WHAT WE WERE HELPS US APPRECIATE WHAT WE’VE BECOME
- "All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." (Ephesians 2:3, NIV)
- in verses three Paul reminds the Ephesian Christians—and us—of where they once were spiritually and what they now are by the grace of God
- because we were "dead" in our "transgressions" and our "sins" we followed the ways of this world
- our way of life was characterized by evil, ungodliness, and unrighteous attitudes and action
- because of this, Paul says that we were by nature objects of wrath
- while it is true that many people live moral and respectable lives outwardly, the wicked, sinful nature still dominates the unregenerate man's character
- the lost man's depravity may be held in check by training, teaching, laws, folkways or social mores, but the wicked, depraved nature of fallen man resides in the heart
- if given opportunity, it will spring into action like a lion who has been stalking his prey
- because we were "dead" in our "transgressions" and our "sins" we followed the prince of the power of the air
- this prince is none other than Satan
- 1 John 5:19 tells us that "The whole world is under control of the evil one"
- though they may not know it—and would probably even deny it—the unsaved are now in the clutches of this "ruler" and follow in his opposition to God
- because we were "dead" in our "transgressions" and our "sins" we lived in the passions of our flesh
- in our passions, we carried out the desires of the body
- ILLUS. The attitude of the unregenerate man is, If it feels good, do it!
- it's not just with the flesh that we sin, but also with the mind
- we were, but we ain’t no more objects of God’s wrath
- disobedience, following the ways of the world, and giving our allegiance to Satan makes a man the object of God's wrath
- if you want to find out about God's wrath you need to be reading the book of Revelation
- on the other hand, obedience, following the ways of God and giving allegiance to Christ make a man an object of grace
- ILLUS. In his book Lincoln, Gore Vidal tells about the day when the president's cabinet came together to discuss what would happen after the war was over. The question on everyone's mind was, "How should the Union treat the rebellious southerners." Most wanted to punish the South as a vanquished enemy. When they asked Lincoln how he planned to deal with the South, Lincoln said, "I will treat them as if they never left."
II. VERB #2: GOD, BEING RICH IN MERCY v. 4
- "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:4-5, NIV)
- God's judgment reveals who we are—God's mercy reveals who God is
- ILLUS. Mid-way through her reign as queen there was an attempted assassination of Queen Elizabeth I of England. What made this case so unusual is that the would-be assassin was a woman who sought to do so dressed as a male page. She had secreted herself into the queen’s boudoir, awaiting the convenient moment to stab the queen to death. She did not realize that the queen’s attendants would be very careful to search the rooms before Her Majesty was permitted to retire. They found the woman hidden there among the gowns and brought her into the presence of the queen, after confiscating the dagger that she had hoped to plant into the heart of the sovereign. The would-be assassin realized that her case, humanly speaking, was hopeless. She threw herself down on her knees and pleaded and begged the queen as a woman to have compassion on her, a fellow woman, and to show her grace. Queen Elizabeth looked at her coldly and quietly said, “If I show you grace, what promise will you make for the future.” The woman looked up and said, “Grace that hath conditions, grace that is fettered by precautions, is not grace at all.” Queen Elizabeth caught the idea in a moment and said, “You are right; I pardon you of my grace.” And they led her away, a free woman. History tells us that from that moment Queen Elizabeth had no more faithful, devoted servant than that woman who had intended to take her life.
- that is exactly the way the grace of God works in the life of the sinner—
- we deserve judgment, death and hell
- we receive grace and become a faithful servant of God
A. GOD'S MERCY HAS MADE US "ALIVE WITH CHRIST" v. 5
- the KJV uses the term quickened
- it is an interesting word
- it means that God has taken something that was dead and infused life into it by joining it together with something that was alive
- this verse teaches us one of the greatest, but most misunderstood truths of the Scriptures
- God did not send His Son into the world to make bad people good
- God sent His only begotten son into the world to make dead people live
- verse 4 is one of the great redemptive passages of the New Testament
- in it we discover that...
- God's love motivates
- God's mercy pities
- God's grace pardons
- but grace does more than that—it saves all the way
- it delivers men from the greatest woe—everlasting damnation
- it bestows upon them the choicest blessing-everlasting life for soul and body
- the verse clearly indicates that the ground of our salvation lies not in us but in God
- "We love him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19, KJV)
- it was because of the riches of his mercy, greatness of his love, and amazing character of his grace, that God "made us alive together with Christ even though we were dead through our trespasses"
B. GOD'S MERCY HAS "RAISED US UP IN CHRIST" v. 6
- in verse five Paul describes the reason for God's grace
- it is to take that which was dead and make it alive
- in verse six he reveals the goal of God's grace
- it is to resurrect us in Christ and establish our rule with Christ in the heavenlies
C. GOD'S MERCY IS A "JUSTIFICATION OF HIS INCOMPARABLE GRACE" v. 1
- no man will be able to stand before God and accuse Him of being unfair in the distribution of His grace and mercy
- the lost sinner will get exactly what they deserve—God's justice
- the saved sinner will get exactly what they don't deserve—God's mercy
- even now each believer's life "Is hid with Christ in God"
- our names are inscribed in heaven's register
- Heaven's grace fills our hearts, and its power enables us to be more than conquerors
III. VERB #3: YE, BEING SAVED ONES v 8-9
- here is the last of the three main verbs of this passage
- the first verb was "you, being dead in sins" reminds us that God save man from something
- the second verb was "God, being rich in mercy" reminds us that God has saved us by something
- here, the third verb "ye, being saved ones" tells us that we are saved to something
- God's purpose in our redemption is not simply to rescue us from hell, as great a work as that is
- we are saved by grace, through faith for a purpose
- grace is given in order to do good works v. 10
- ILLUS. When the learned, and wealthy John Selden, the 17th century English political scholar, was dying he said to pastor, "I have surveyed most of the learning that is among the sons of men, and my study is filled with books and manuscripts (he had 8000 volumes in his library) on various subjects. But at present I cannot recollect any passage out of all my books and papers whereon I can rest my soul, save this from the sacred Scriptures. He then quoted Titus 2:14 ... "'The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and wordly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purity unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works'" (Titus 2:14).
- “in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:12, NIV84)
- God saves sinners not to solve their problems but to bring glory to Himself
A. SALVATION IS BOTH A GIFT AND A DEMAND
- the moment God saves us by His grace He has a plan of good works for our lives
- God does not save us to inactivity
- "Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." (John 20:21, NIV)
- when we think of the raw materials He has to work with, His achievement is all the more remarkable
- indeed, this masterpiece is nothing less than a new creation through union with Christ, for "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Cor. 5:17)
Two or three years before the death of John Newton, when his sight was so dim that he was no longer able to read, a friend and brother in the ministry called to have breakfast with him.
Their custom was to read the Word of God following mealtime, after which Newton would make a few short remarks on the Biblical passage, and then appropriate prayer would be offered. That day, however, there was silence after the words of Scripture 'by the grace of God I am what I am' were read.
Finally, after several minutes, Newton spoke, "/ am not what I ought to be! How imperfect and deficient I am! I am not what I wish to be, although I abhor that which is evil and would cleave to what is good! I am not what I hope to be, but soon I shall be out of mortality, and with it all sin and imperfection. Though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor yet what I hope to be, I can truly say I am not what I once was: a slave to sin and Satan. I can heartily join with the apostle and acknowledge that by the grace of God I am what I am!? Then, after a pause, he said. 'Now let us pray!'"