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    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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GRACE ALONE

grace boiceJames Montgomery Boice:

The words sola gratia mean that human beings have no claim upon God. That is, God owes us nothing except just punishment for our many and very willful sins. Therefore, if he does save sinners, which he does in the case of some but not all, it is only because it pleases him to do it. Indeed, apart from this grace and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit that flows from it, no one would be saved, since in our lost condition, human beings are not capable of winning, seeking out, or even cooperating with God’s grace. By insisting on ‘grace alone’ the Reformers were denying that human methods, techniques, or strategies in themselves could ever bring anyone to faith. It is grace alone expressed through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ, releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from death to spiritual life.

ON REFORMATION DAY

Samuel A CainOn October 31, 1517, a young monk in Wittenberg, Germany posted 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church. His intention was to begin a discussion with other scholars in the Catholic Church over the abuse of Scriptures by the church. Little did Luther know that God had chosen him to hammer out the beginnings of what came to be known as the Reformation. Scripture (Sola Scriptura), not tradition, was to be lifted up once again as the true and only word of salvation provided by God.

As the Reformation spread over Europe, the Protestant reformers summarized their basic theological principles into five Latin phrases. These phrases or slogans are known as the Five Solas. They stand in direct contrast to some of the medieval teachings of the Catholic Church. The Five Solas are: “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture alone); “Sola Gratia” (Grace Alone); “Sola Fide” (Faith Alone); “Solus Christus” (Christ Alone); and “Soli Deo Gloria” (To God Alone Be Glory).

“Sola Scriptura” (Scripture alone) means that all the truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught in Scripture. Continue reading

Sola Gratia

Quoting Dr. K. Riddlebarger:

Simply stated, if the Scriptures are clear that men and women are sinful by nature and cannot do anything to save themselves or even prepare themselves to be saved, the Scriptures are equally clear that it is God who saves by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone. This means that it is God who acts first, upon the sinner, while the sinner is dead in sin. For as we have seen, the sinner is enslaved to the sinful nature and its passions, and will not come to God, as Paul declares. But the good news is that while sinners do not seek God, God seeks sinners. And this is what we mean by the phrase, grace alone.

To Be Born Again Is The Work Of God

Five Solas

In John 3, Jesus is telling us about our condition – telling us that something must happen to us if we are to see and then enter the kingdom of God. In the same gospel, our Lord tells us that “we must cross over from death to life” (John 5:24), and that none can even come to Him unless the Father not only draw them (6:44), but also enables them to come to Him (6:65). It is clear in John 3:3-8, that “flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to spirit.” Looking at John chapter one, we see that “we are born not of natural descent, nor of a human decision or a husband’s will, but [we are] born of God (John 1:13).” We often quote the first part of the verse, “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” and we then interpret this to mean, that unless we first choose God we cannot be saved. But the very next clause tells us just the opposite, namely, “we are born not of natural descent, nor of a human decision or a husband’s will, but [we are] born of God.” Kim Riddlebarger explains this teaching further:

Many Evangelicals identify themselves as “born again” Christians. And indeed, as our Lord expressly states in John 3:3-7, “unless one is born again,” they cannot see, much less enter into the kingdom of God.” What then, does it mean to be “born again?” Historic Protestants, both the Lutherans and Reformed, have not placed the notion of being “born again” at the center of the Christian faith in the way in which many of our Evangelical contemporaries do. The reason for this is not because Lutheran and Reformed Christians reject the idea of being “born again.” Instead, they equate John’s teaching on being born again with the larger Biblical category of “regeneration.” That is, being “born again,” is a synonym for being “regenerate,” or “being made alive,” and therefore, while an essential aspect of the Christian life, it is approached from the perspective that regeneration is something God does, not man.

Another reason historic Protestants have not stressed being “born again,” is because regeneration is an act of God upon the sinner, whereas the New Testament, on the other hand, stresses that the Gospel is something that God has done for us in Christ outside of ourselves, and that the Gospel alone – the message that Christ died and rose again for sinners (1 Corinthians 15:1-8) – is the power of God unto salvation. It is through preaching the Gospel, the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ for sinners, that God gives the new birth, or causes one to be “born again,” to use John’s phrase. The new birth, it is important to note, does not come through preaching the new birth, it comes through the preaching of Christ crucified!

If being “born again” or “regenerated” is an essential aspect of the Christian faith, what exactly do we mean by the term? The noted Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof, defines regeneration as “a work in which man is purely passive, and in which there is no place for human co-operation….The creative work of God produces new life, in virtue of which man, made alive with Christ, shares the resurrection life, and can be called a new creature.” Indeed, no one will ever see heaven if they are not regenerate or “born again.” (“What the Scriptures say about Sola Gratia”)

What Does It Mean When We Say: “We Are Saved By Grace Alone”?

Dr. Riddlebarger of Christ Reformed Church, Placentia, CA writes:

When we use the term “grace alone,” what we mean is that our salvation from the wrath of God – our deliverance from hell – is because of something good in God, and not because of anything good in us. The Biblical conception of human nature after Adam and Eve’s fall into sin is not a pretty picture, and Amerians, who seem to have an unlimited confidence in human nature and human goodness, have a very difficult time accepting what the bible says about the human condition. In a democratic culture such as ours, we believe that our vote counts, and that by exercising our right to choose, we can actually and significantly change the world around us. We are all taught from our youth that we have it within ourselves to accomplish anything, if we simply put our minds to it and give it our best efforts. And when we become Christians we carry that optimism over into our theology. If God tells us to do something, it must be because we have the ability to do what he commands! Choice becomes everything. And thus we fall headlong into one of the greatest heresies in church history, the heresy of Pelagianism, a theme to which we will return at the end of this lecture. It is really quite simple; grace alone doesn’t make much sense to an American who doesn’t think that much is wrong with the human condition in the first place. For if people are basically good, why then, do we need grace in order to be saved.

But to those who understand what the bible teaches about the effects of sin, grace alone is our only hope of heaven. And thus when we speak of grace alone (sola gratia), we are speaking of the fact that God saves us, because of his mercy and graciousness toward us, and not because of something – indeed anything – in us that makes us desirable to God. We really cannot understand grace alone unless we understand what it is, exactly, that sin has wrought upon us. (“Grace Alone: An Evangelical Problem?”)

More by this author. . . .

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