fundamental: sola gratia (by grace alone)

Grace is and English word used in the New Testament to translate the Greek word εστηκαμεν, which means “favor without recompense or any compensatory act”. Recently I overheard a conversation between a group of people at my restaurant when a young gentlemen (whom they referred to as The Walking Encyclopedia) was asked to define “grace”. I found his response telling; he said, “I confess that I don’t understand it,” and after a pause said, “I don’t think that they understand it either, who so often speak of it.”

Over a century ago, Reverend T. Phillips, in a sermon to the Baptist World Congress said this:

“Grace is something in God which is at the heart of His redeeming activity, the downward stoop and reach of God, bending down from the heights of His majesty to touch and grasp our insignificance and poverty.”

Truly, the world and all of it’s wisdom knows not God. The true meaning of grace is often hidden from the wise and prudent, and revealed to those our world with all of its purported wisdom calls fools.

Many years ago, the Reverend Leon Nicholson lamented in one of his sermons that the word grace was become less and less used. I must lament that it has been used even less since then. This is what Pastor Leon had to say on the subject:

“Grace means favor, grace, pardon. Grace and love are essentially the same, only grace is love manifesting itself to the unlovely. Love may exist between equals, or it may rise to those above us, but grace from its nature can only flow in one direction. Grace always flows down. Grace is love indeed, but it is love to creatures that humbles itself. For this reason God’s love to sinners is always called ‘grace’ in the Scriptures. And therefore all that He does for us in Christ, and all that is disclosed to us of His goodwill in the Gospel, is called grace.”

One thing is evident. The Bible repeats its strain over and over again…

“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.” – Paul, Letter to the Ephesians

“…he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” – Paul, Letter to Titus

I could keep listing all of the references. There’s Galatians 3.11; Phillipians 3.8-9; Acts 13.39; and 2 Timothy 1.9. What need do we have of further witness? It is evident from the Bible that the way of Works is closed. Along the narrow track of Works we find the fallen Tree of Life and the broken tablets of the Law, and God Himself has fixed a notice there, large and legible, so that he who finds himself there may run into a better path. The announcement reads, “NO THOROUGHFARE!” It is given By Order, and the King’s great seal is fixed on it. There it will stand for all of eternity. Levitical instructions, Davidic confessions, Prophetic and Apostolic declarations are the voice of the Lord of Glory Himself – the voice that breaks the cedars of Lebanon and strips the forest bare – declaring that salvation is by grace alone!

Man’s fall is so complete, God’s justice is so inexorable, heaven is so holy, that nothing short of Omnipotent love can lift the sinner, magnify the law that sinners have mutilated, and make the sinner pure enough to dwell in Light. The thought of saving sinners is God’s, born in the secret places of his great loving heart.

“Grace first contrived the way to save rebellious man.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1869

The accomplishment of the wondrous plan reveals God’s great grace throughout. He sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world. God freely delivered His Son up for us all. In all of the humiliation of the crucifixion, God acknowledged Christ as His own Son, and made Him to be sin for us…He that knew no sin. He raised Him up from the dead back to life on the third day, that we might be reconciled to Him.

Here is grace at every turn.


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