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by Dr. Andrew Corbett, pastor of Legana Christian Church, and President of ICI Theological College Australia

PART 3...

Denominations are generally waning in this "post-modern" era. Along with the rise of non-denominationally aligned churches has been a growing doctrinal vacuum as preachers become life-coaches and the emphasis is on making the Bible a "How to..." book. A casual reading of some of these churches doctrinal statements reveals some glaring departures with historic Christianity, which should cause us to wonder how or why they differ so much with the 5 Pillars of Biblical Christianity...

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SOLA GRATIA

When it comes to the revelation of salvation: Sola Scriptura (the Scriptures alone). When it comes to the identity of the Saviour: Solo Christo ("Christ Alone!") When it comes to the cause of salvation: Sola Gratia (Grace Alone!). “Grace alone!” Perhaps the most abhorrent and repulsive summary of the most sublime news anyone could ever herald.

Abhorrent? Indeed. We are so conditioned to earn every merit or reward that comes our way that the concept of someone else paying our debt with no thought of seeking any form of payment is truly abhorrent. Repulsive? Certainly. The attitude of “I got myself into this mess and I’ll get myself out of it!” is so entrenched in most people’s thinking that the notion of another exhausting all their resources to rescue us- and then making no demand for any kind of repayment is indeed repulsive! Yet that which most find abhorrent and repulsive is the core of the Gospel: God’s grace.

So alien is the genuine concept of God’s grace that there is no analogy to compare it to. So used to the thinking that gifts are given to procure to some favour from the recipient that when sincere Christians began to teach if God has saved us, we should repay Him by serving Him, that no one for several centuries ever challenged it. Not until this teaching was carried through to its logical conclusion – that we are saved by what Christ has done for us and how we respond to that gift determines whether we are saved or not (this is known as “Semi-Pelagianism”, Christ+our works=our salvation).

Consider the parable that Christ taught in Matthew 18:23-35 and how it relates to grace. Jesus told this paable who forgave one of his debtors. The King showed grace. Even though the debtor seemingly was thankful for such grace he never truly received the impact of it. Because he immediately went out and behaved mercilessly toward one of his petty debtors he demonstrated that he was not a recipient of grace. In the same way it could be argued that our Heavenly Father has shown grace toward to the whole world but not everyone has received that grace.

...to as many as received Him to them He gave the power to become the sons of God."
(John 1:12)

Benefiting from God’s grace is not necessarily the same as experiencing God’s grace. An experience of God’s grace where it grips your soul in total wonder and amazement and leaves you in perfect restful peace causes you to relate differently to people- especially those who have offended (indebted themselves to) you. Gracious living is perhaps the hallmark trait of someone who has experienced God’s grace of salvation. It is therefore not to be understood as that which causes God to be gracious (this thinking betrays the condition of a soul who has not experienced God’s grace).

Someone has said that ‘religion’ is spelt: D – O, while Christianity is spelt:
D – O - N – E!

Since we all benefit from God’s grace in some way theologians like to distinguish saving grace from God’s general grace. The grace from God that allows us the awesome privilege of living on this planet, enjoying the pleasures of life, giving and receiving, working, playing, and expressing ourselves is referred to as “Prevenient Grace” (First Grace). Everybody can benefit from this grace, but only a few go on to experience saving grace. and even then because a person can only be saved by grace first, saving grace is ultimate prevenient grace.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
(John 1:17)

Solo Christo is not primarily a declaration of Christ's uniqueness - although He is altogether unique (unlike any other who may only be unique in personality and appearance).

 

We are told in the Scriptures to keep ourselves in the grace of God and to continue in it.

And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God..
Acts 13:43

It’s imperative to distinguish between what saves us and what happens when we are saved. One is the reason we are saved the other is the result of our salvation. Therefore two people can be living out the commands of Scripture for totally different reasons.

This understanding of grace has caused some to think that God doesn’t care how we live after we’ve accepted His grace because we are already forgiven.

So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving?
I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there?
Romans 6:1-2 THE MESSAGE

We are not saved by belonging to, or attending, a church, being water-baptised (‘baptismal-regeneration’), or making “a decision” for Christ (‘decisional-regeneration’). Salvation by grace is something that the New Testament consistently says we must simply “accept” or “receive” (note Mark 4:20; 1Cor. 2:14; Mark 10:15). When CS Lewis was confronted with the grace of God to save His soul he looked for any other way to find peace for his soul. But none was to be found in what would in reality be derived from his own mental, physical, material, or spiritual efforts. He said something like, I was left with no other option but to simply fall into the hands of God’s grace.

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
Rom. 11:6

While the Reformers cried sola gratia they were countering the Papal teaching that salvation was achieved by Christ’s work combined with our work. But grace is not limited to prevenient grace, or saving grace. There is another aspect to God’s grace that enriches the life of the believer and sustains their passion and zeal for the cause of Christ. We are therefore kept by God's grace and it is this grace in which we can only stand.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
Revelation 22:21

 

Sola Gratia!

Amen.

Dr. Andrew Corbett, September 16th 2006

Next...PART 4, Sola Fide

Previous: Part 2, Sola Christo

Part 1- Sola Scriptura | Part 2- Solo Christo | Part 3- Sola Gratia | Part 4- Sola Fide | Part 5 Soli Deo Gloria | Printable Bible Studies


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