Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)

by Lauren Dyck

“But man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another – God alone.” (Martin Luther)

Sola Gratia: The doctrine of “grace alone” (grace= unmerited favor) seems to have been mostly defined in the course of differing views of man’s free-will. Augustine and Pelagius had contentions regarding this doctrine early on in the 4th and 5th century, where Pelagius denied the imputation of the sin nature resulting from Adam’s original sin, whereas Augustine, appealing to scripture, came to believe in the doctrine of “original sin” and “total depravity”. Based on that view, Augustine concludes that the only possible way of salvation was by the grace of God alone. He writes, “The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord must be understood as that by which alone men are delivered from evil, and without which they do absolutely no good thing, whether in thought, or will and affection, or deed.”

Luther, similarly, had contentions with Erasmus (a Catholic priest) regarding the will of man. Erasmus, though not as strongly as Pelagius, accredited man’s will as a key factor in salvation to which Luther strongly objected. In fact, Luther’s, “The Bondage of the Will” was written in response to Erasmus’s work, “Diatribe Concerning Free-Will”.

The advocate of salvation by grace alone appeals to verses like Romans 3:10-18, 5:10, 6:6, 20, 8:7; Ephesians 2:1-5; Jeremiah 17:9; etc., to argue that man is dead in sin, enslaved by sin, wicked, does not seek, does no good, and if his soul is dead, then his will cannot overturn that state. Therefore, he needs God to impose His will in bringing dead men to life, and if man has to exert any autonomous work or decision that falls outside of God’s grace, then it is adding to His work. This eliminates the notion of various accepted models of salvation, for example: God takes 9 steps towards your salvation, but you must take the 10th. That an example like this is even used should shock us, as by it’s very argument, it claims that man does 10% of the work of salvation. Another is: God casts a vote, the devil casts a vote, and you cast the deciding vote. Here too, the argument necessitates man’s work for salvation – in this case, 50% – and therefore is flawed from it’s core; never mind the fact that this argument puts God on an equal plane with man and the devil himself. All other models of salvation, aside from grace alone, involve an action from man, and must be rejected.

The apostle John writes, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” – John 1:12-13 (emphasis mine)

Further, the apostle Paul tells us, “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” – Romans 9:15-16 (emphasis mine)

Therefore, man is saved by God’s Grace Alone!

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9


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