“Saved by grace only” is a catchy phrase that permeates websites and papers discussing salvation. We can’t prove it, but it seems to be “de facto” doctrine among most evangelicals. The grace only doctrine has its own Latin banner – sola gratia. It is the mantra for whole movements and the namesake for websites, and local churches.
How Scripture answers "How are we saved by grace only?"
Based on these “grace passages”1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, we are definitely saved by God’s grace. Specifically, the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. God “graced” mankind with the manifestation of deity in the flesh1,2,8. God has given the “right”2 or the “gift”3 of salvation…but notice too that none of these “grace passages”1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 teach that we are saved by grace only. Just examine these numbered points that correspond to the scripture-blocks below:
- 1 God’s grace is a sign that can invoke a negative response. It can be “opposed” or rejected but it will also reveal the secrets of the heart (implying that revelation may not be satisfactory to God).
- 2 God’s grace is only received by those that believe and are born again.
- 3 God’s “gift” may not be immediately recognized.
- 4 God’s grace in or upon someone is only manifested by their belief and good works.
- 5 God’s grace is received through our death (to sin) and burial and resurrection in Christ (through baptism).
- 6 Those that have accepted God’s grace can become “severed from Christ” by disobedience. They have “fallen away from grace”.
- 7 God’s grace can be received “in vain”.
- 8,9 God’s grace “appeared” with “salvation for all people”, but one must “renounce ungodliness” and live “godly lives” being “zealous for good works”.
These “grace passages”1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 – including even the signature “grace only proof-text” passage4 – all teach a grace that is indeed free for all1,2,3,4,7,8. But each person must “receive” it2 in belief2,3 (e.g. “faith”4) and respond by being born again2,5 (dying to sin8) and living a life of obedience4,5,6,7,8. None of this means man “earns his salvation”. A born again believer still struggles with sin. Indeed, it’s only through God’s grace4 that we can say “now is the day of salvation”7!
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