I know I blog about Grace Alone a lot. But it seems to be the forgotten doctrine in our age. So here it goes … So many fellow brothers and sisters in Christ will gladly confess the doctrines spoken in the Five Solas of the Reformation, possibly without understanding the implications of some of them, namely Grace Alone (Sola Gratia), of which Martin Luther said was of the most importance in denying the Roman Catholic Church doctrine of salvation = Christ + works (which amounts to you save yourself, as opposed to the Gospel which says God Saves Sinners). These great Reformation doctrines have a logical flow to them that is important to understanding what is at stake in the whole of the message, namely the last point, the glory of God alone (Soli Deo Gloria). It goes like this: salvation is by Grace Alone (Sola Gratia) through Faith Alone (Sola Fide) in Christ Alone (Solus Christus) revealed by the Scriptures Alone (Sola Scriptura) all to the Glory of God Alone (Soli Deo Gloria).
Many pastors, teachers, and lay people it seems will say they believe these while neglecting the first one, Grace Alone, with its immense implications on the rest. They will say we are merely saved through faith in Christ, to which I agree, obviously. But it seems the modern day “Solas” (as opposed to the Reformation Solas) are Four Solas: that we are saved by Faith Alone in Christ Alone revealed in the Scriptures Alone to the Glory of God Alone, while ignoring the first doctrine, Grace Alone. So what’s the problem? The problem is that they aren’t necessarily adding anything to the message of the Gospel, they’re just omitting an essential first part and then in many cases criticize those who spend time on that first part because it’s hard to hear. If in a mathematical equation you start at the second step while neglecting the first, you will wind up with a very different answer than if you had started at the beginning. So also, by omitting Grace Alone from the message of the Gospel, many pastors and teachers, and as a result, lay people, are missing a gigantic, hope-giving, holiness-producing portion of that message (and many are missing the whole message altogether as a result because they see Christ as simply some coach who helps them save themselves through being moral). One example of someone who seemed to not get this point and has now abandoned the evangelical church to become Roman Catholic is Francis Beckwith. Yes we are saved through Faith Alone in Christ Alone, I’m not arguing that, we all agree on that as evangelicals (I would hope). I gladly confess this … but there’s more!
Why did you believe while another rejected? This is pivotal to giving God all of the glory for your salvation, every step, from beginning to end. Many will simply say, well I just believed in Jesus, that’s why I’m saved. So your belief in Christ originated from yourself, from your spiritually dead, evil nature that was turned away from God? The Scriptures beg to differ (Romans 3:9-20). This is boastful at best, glory suppressing at worst. Is this not taking credit for something you did instead of something God did? When I was saved, I saw that God had turned my evil, wretched, rebellious heart to believe in Him and thus be saved. What in the world did I do to make myself believe the foolishness (in the world’s eyes) of the Gospel message? This is why I cried tears of thanksgiving that wondrous night, because God spoke and made me alive. How does God receive any glory in a message that states, “I just believed by myself”? I cannot see that He does.
It is only by the Grace of God, nothing you did, that made you see the truth and beauty of Christ in the work of His life, death, and resurrection, and thus you believed because, well, how can you deny something you see so clearly? Yes, faith in Christ is necessary to be saved. But even before that, you must be spiritually raised from the dead (born again) just as Jesus told Nicodemus (which is why he was so shocked in that passage). To be saved, you must be born again. Regeneration, the new birth, precedes faith. Jesus calls, and when He calls, dead men live. Just as God created the universe from nothing, so also He creates new life in the hearts of those He has determined to save. The raising of Lazarus is an excellent picture of the salvation of men. This is my story, and I would hope all professing believers’ as well. I take no credit for my belief in Christ. I do not believe, nor have I ever believed that it originated in myself. “What have you that you have not received?” (1 Cor. 4:7) I see that which is outside of me (the crucified, risen Christ who suffered on my behalf), only because the Holy Spirit revealed it to me (John 6:44).
When God calls a sinner (through the general preaching of the Gospel to all), an effect is produced, namely, faith in the heart of the sinner to be saved … eyes are open, ears unplugged, hearts softened, scales falling from the eyes (Paul?) to see and hear the wonderful and glorious Christ, and thus believe! God is sovereign in salvation (Grace Alone), saves who He wants, and bases His choice of who to save in no way upon the creature (Romans 9), otherwise this would be the beginning of salvation by works (where God saves you because of something you’ve done, like the foreseen faith position on election). If God chose me because He saw I would believe, 1) what kind of an authentic choice is that on God’s part? God’s choice is then constrained by what the sinner does or doesn’t do. But God answers to no one. He is free in regard to the creature. But 2) you have something to boast about. It would go something like this, “Lord, I am here before you because I believed while this guy, Charlie over here, didn’t. I heeded the call by my own strength.” That is the message I hear communicated from pulpits so often nowadays and it is a dangerous, faulty message. 3) If faith originates in the believer and is not a work of God in the heart, then why in the world do we need to pray for anyone to be saved? What exactly are we asking God to do when we ask Him to save someone who is hard-hearted, rebellious, and wants nothing to do with Christ? Are we not asking God to perform a decisive, all-powerful, supernatural work (raising them from spiritual death) in order that they will believe the message of the Gospel and be saved?
By the modern church omitting something so essential (albeit hard to wrestle with), they have opened up a gigantic door for salvation by works to slip in the back door, and so it is happening it seems in many quarters. In so many churches I’ve heard messages from, even somewhat decent ones, this message is not preached and needs to be. If we sacrifice this wonderful truth, more and more of the Gospel will become eclipsed by man-centered doctrine. This is exactly what Satan wants and he is crafty to disguise himself as an angel of light in the form of “protestant” teaching (at least that is labeled that). Let us return to the sovereign Christ who saves sinners, not with a weak-willed “sit and wait” sort of stance, but with a power, might and determination that gets the job done. This is the Lord Christ I believe in. When Christ called the disciples, Paul, Lydia, the Ethiopian, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, my dad, Ryan McCarthy, Jon Dansby, Ted Kitchens, me, we dropped what we were doing just as the disciples were who were fishing, and followed Him; not because of our strength, might and power to raise ourselves from spiritual death to believe the “foolish” message of the Gospel (1 Cor.), but because God did this in great mercy toward us wrath-deserving sinners. Dead men live when God Himself effectually calls a sinner to be saved through the preaching of the Gospel to all.
More info on the Five Solas …