At that moment, what you never see is someone pull on the sports jacket, straighten their hair, or work to keep their composure. No, for that person, the less composure you have, the better. In fact, enthusiasm is the primary factor for getting your name called. Of course, being outlandish in your dress may help some people too, but ultimately dressing like that is a part of the enthusiasm. See, while waiting in line to get into the show, the show’s crew looks for those who are enthusiastic, asks them a few questions, and then puts their name in as possible contestants.
The Price Is Right, like so many other aspects of our lives, tells us that if we do enough we can get the attention of others. Maybe the enough is standing out from the crowd. Maybe it is doing enough work. Maybe it is helping others. Maybe it is being the best. And the list goes on. Maybe the purpose is to get on a game show, to get a promotion or a raise, to be liked by a certain person or group, or to earn an award or a scholarship. But the key for most of our lives is to do enough so that we get the attention of someone and get our reward.
This mindset is the issue with today’s topic – sola gratia, by grace alone. This sola is similar to sola fide (by faith alone), but it has a different purpose. As I shared when a few weeks ago, sola fide stands against the teaching that we attempt to justify our faith by our works. That is, our faith may save us, but we need to prove it by what we do. The Bible teaches that our works have no part of our justification, therefore it is not faith+works that saves us, but faith alone – sola fide.
Sola gratia, on the other hand, stands in contrast to working to get the attention of God. That is, if we do enough, God will notice, and give us an award. That award, in this case is grace. Again, that idea is not found in the Bible, which is why last week’s topic, solus Scriptura is so important. We may read and hear many things, but what does Scripture say? That is the benchmark for a true believer! And regarding grace, Scripture is clear that nothing we do can earn favor with God in order for Him to give us grace. That is, we are not given grace by works, grace stands alone.
Of course, we should serve God because we are saved, but out of thanksgiving, not obligation.
As I have done each week in this series on The Reformation, we need to clarify a few ideas. First, although the term The Reformation is most common, the idea was considered a protest of sorts, so it is also known as The Protestant Reformation (Protest-ant) Reformation. But to understand this idea, we need to know what reformation means.
Reformation (Re – Form – Ation)
- RE – from a Latin word; has an element of “again” or “again and again”; a backward motion (like retrace or revert); return
- FORM – to construct or frame; to arrange or organize
- ATION – an act of process
Let us now dive deeper into understanding grace, and specifically grace alone. I encourage you to take a moment to read the focal passage for this week – Ephesians 2.1-10.
Grace Is an Amazing Concept (Ephesians 2.1-5)
Of course, it is, you say, we sing Amazing Grace all time. But let’s take a moment to truly appreciate how amazing grace really is. Let’s begin by comparing grace to mercy.
Mercy is really a precursor to grace. See mercy is not giving someone a punishment they deserve. That is, someone deserves something negative, but mercy spares them. Because I led off this message with a game, perhaps some of you remember the game Mercy where two individuals lock hands and by squeezing and twisting both try to compromise the other. Once near a state of utter defeat, the compromised person asks for mercy.
Grace, on the other hand, is receiving something positive you do not deserve. In the game I just mentioned, grace would be that the loser received a prize for losing. The victor may or may not receive a prize, that is not the point. But the loser would not deserve a prize, and yet receives one.
This is truly an amazing concept. Mercy we can understand. But who would think up the idea of grace? Nobody – but God. But God! Most people have a hard time accepting something for nothing. But grace is not receiving something for nothing. It is far more than that. It is receiving something when nothing is so many steps higher than nothing that it is inconceivable.
And that is where this passage begins. We were children of wrath. That is, God had every right to destroy us. But God – God showed His mercy to us (by the cross). Notice verse 5 – He took dead people (you and I) and didn’t just forgive our sins – He made us alive. That is why the empty tomb is so important. Yes, we must believe Jesus died for our sins. We must appreciate His work upon the cross, but if He didn’t rise from the dead, how would we know? Would it truly matter? Verse 4 is about God’s mercy – overcoming our sin, but God didn’t stop there. No, He added grace and offered us life – eternal life, and that begins the moment you receive Jesus.
Grace Provides an Unbelievable Result (Ephesians 2.6-7)
So, now maybe you are beginning to see how amazing the concept of grace is. But as amazing as grace is, consider what the result of God’s grace is.
As I have mentioned many times before, most people ask the wrong question: “Will I go to heaven?” In the coming months, we are going to consider the problem of the question in a couple of different ways. But the essence of the problem is the focus is on a place (idolatry) not a person (Jesus).
Yet, verses 6 and 7 do talk about our present and future home. First, Paul wrote that by the grace of God we have been:
- Raised up with Christ. We know longer have to consider ourselves in a lowly position. We are fellow heirs with Christ. He has raised us figuratively, and one day will do so literally.
- Seated with Christ. I just mentioned that one day we will be raised literally. But notice these first two items are in the past tense. Not just past tense because Paul wrote the words nearly 2000 years ago, but Paul wrote them in past tense then. In some manner, when we die to self and begin following Christ, our address changes. Yes, Christians and non-Christians walk around this earth until their bodies stop. Yet, Christians talk about going home which is only possible if your home is elsewhere. And according to these words, our home is where we are seated with Christ.
Furthermore, Paul continues with one more result. In fact, Paul mentioned this as the very reason for God grace (notice the “so that”). What is the reason? That, in the coming ages (that is, eternity), God might show His immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness towards us. Now, some people say that they don’t want to be with God for eternity because the place called heaven is boring. OK, that is their loss. Let me share why.
Think of the greatest sight you have ever seen. Now, try to capture the details of that scene. What made it so special? Could you describe what made it special in just a few words or might you need more? If you could describe it at all, then the sight was measurable. But God wants to pour out on your grace that is immeasurable. That means whatever awaits is better than anything we can imagine now. There is more to come – are you kidding me? We haven’t even scratched the surface of what God has in store for us. You and I, those people who were dead, who were children of wrath, but because of mercy, and now grace, have a God who has more in store for us – far better than this present world can contain. What awaits cannot currently be understood. We receive an unspoiled eternity with God. Boring. Hardly. Unbelievable. Absolutely!
Grace Is God’s Ongoing Gift (Ephesians 2.8-10)
These verses are at the core of understanding sola gratia – by grace alone. Clearly, verse 8 says we are saved by grace due to a gift from God. As we have already established, the concept of grace could only originate from God. But then verse 9 adds, our works have nothing to do with our salvation. Why? Because we know how we are – when we do something good, we want others to know about it. And God is one of the others in that statement. We want God to know when we think we have done something good. And this was the understanding that the reformers such as Luther were arguing against. The idea at the time was that grace did save people, but a person could get God’s attention by doing good and thus God would show that person favor. But grace is not earning favor, it is unmerited favor. When we work we expect to be paid. Grace, on the other hand, is a gift. We cannot demand payment from God; we can only cry out for mercy and pray He extends grace.
Verse 10 makes this even more clear. It says that we are His workmanship – that is, God created us – that we might do good works. OK. But He created those works that we should do them. This is critical. What this means is two-fold:
- God created people who would do good works for Him once they were saved (in Christ)
- God knew the works before they are done by those who are in Christ.
Why is this important? Because we cannot earn favor for what should be done. Think of it this way. Suppose you go to work every day for a week. Suppose you do all of your necessary tasks for the week – tasks which are a part of your job description. At the end of the week, you go to your boss and say, “Aren’t you going to thank me for doing my job this week?” What do you think your boss will say? It will probably be something like, “Well, all you did was what is expected!”
Verse 8 says that nothing we do can earn God’s favor to be saved – it is a gift. Verse 10 says that all we do once we are saved is what He intended for us to do from before time began. But let me go a little deeper because we have bypassed one very important word in verse 8.
Our grace comes through faith. The word we cannot miss is faith, but the word through is important as well. Grace is the reward for those who have faith. Again, let me paint a picture. Let’s say you are at an amusement park. You have walked from the parking lot right to the gate. You can see and hear the excitement on the other side of the gate, but unless you go through the gate, you cannot experience the fun for yourself. (pic of people standing to get into amusement park)
The same is true with grace. Grace is God’s gift and is available to all, but it can only be received through faith. But, it is important to note that grace is not a one-time gift; rather it is an ongoing gift, like a lifetime pass to the amusement park. Titus 2 says that God’s grace is given as a means for us to “renounce ungodliness and wordly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” I can’t speak for you but I still have a few worldly passions, and I am not always as self-controlled or as godly as I would like to be. Thus, God’s grace needs to be continually apart of my life. Grace is not just a one-time vaccination against sin or for salvation, it provides a boost for the ongoing training we need.
And that is where our works do enter the scene. Our works are not to earn grace, but because of grace. God created us good, to do good works, for a good Christ – all of which was done before we were created. So, how can our works help us to be saved if God created us for these works in the first place?
Grace is, indeed, an amazing concept, provides an unbelievable result, and in between is continually given so that we might become more godly and be better prepared for the age to come. And the best part about it is that grace is a gift, so, the price is right.
I began by discussing the game show The Price is Right. But our life is not a game. And the price of sin came with the ultimate cost – death. Not our death, but the death of God’s own Son. But because Jesus death covers all our sin, the price is right for us if we will just place our faith in Him. Why is the price right? Because GRACE makes it so. As has been said many times by many people, GRACE can be thought of as: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Christ paid the ultimate price so that we could gain the ultimate gift. I can guarantee you will never get a better offer than that. The price is indeed right.
JOURNEY: J – Jesus
Once again, our JOURNEY letter this week is J for Jesus. It is God that gives grace, but He does so because of the work of Jesus. It is not what we can do, it is what He has done. It is not by grace plus works by which we are saved, it is by grace alone.
NEXT STEP(S): Live. Serve God. Our work is in thanksgiving to what He has done for us. He created us for work, and He has many tasks outlined for each one of us. The tasks He has assigned me will be different than what He has assigned you, but if we all do our part, just like players on a team all must do their part, then He will do great work through us. All for His glory, and all because of His grace.