“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 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 who 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 who 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/gift 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!

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.
Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his [Jesus’] mother that He is designated for the rise and fall of many of Israel, and as a sign that will be opposed as a sword pierces through souls, revealing the hidden thoughts of the heart.

The infant Jesus is being presented at the temple to observe what was written in the Law of Moses (vss 22-24).  They encounter Simeon who was a devout Hebrew who had been promised that he would see “the consolation of Israel” (vs 25) before his death.

Scripture-block application to this question

God’s grace manifested in Jesus of Nazareth, who by the “sword” of His mouth, would convict all to be either for or against His cause.

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

He [Jesus] came to His own people, but they did not receive Him.  However, anyone that did — by believing in Him as the Christ — He gave the right to become a child of God, having been born again, not of blood or of carnal things or of man’s ability, but of God.

The beginning of John’s testimony of the things he witnessed about Jesus’ time on earth.  He elaborates on Jesus, the Son of God’s, manifestation in the flesh (vs 14).
Scripture-block application to this question

Being a child of God is a “right” bestowed through belief in Jesus and being “born…of God”.

Jesus answered her, If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, Give me a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.
Jesus said to her that if she knew the gift (e.g. grace) of God was asking her for a drink, she would have asked and He would have given her living water.
Jesus is speaking to the woman at the well in Samaria at the very beginning of His public ministry.  The “living water” statement is prophetic language repeated by Jesus in 7:38, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” It’s also confirmed in the following verses by John to be referencing the Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 55:1, Jeremiah 2:13, and 17:13 all talk about “living waters” as well as numerous other prophetic imagery regarding “streams”, “waters”, and “rivers” of life.

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus says that God’s grace (“gift of God”) appeared to the woman at the well and if it’s acknowledged it provides “living water”.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

You have been saved by God’s gift and by living obediently. Salvation isn’t possible because of anything you did, so don’t boast about being saved. Rather, we are part of what He planned from the beginning and should live out our salvation doing good each day.

Paul is writing to the Ephesians (Christians), and specifically here, Christians who had been Gentiles (vs 11, 3:1).  He reminds them of their past lives in sin (vss 1-3) and being cut off from God’s promise (vs 12) that had been available only to the “circumcision” (Jews).  However, they are now “brought near by the blood of Christ” (vs 13).
Scripture-block application to this question

The gift of God’s grace is manifested through one’s faith…which is further manifested in a life of good deeds.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
What’s the conclusion then?  We should never continue in sin just so that God’s grace will be magnified. We can’t continue to live in sin after dying to it.  It was our baptism into Christ Jesus that united us in His death.  Our baptism was a death burial together with Him so that just as He was raised to glory by the Father, we too will be raised to have a new life.

Paul is making the broader point of the richness and fullness of God’s grace toward sinful man (chap 5) before turning to man’s response (and responsibility) for salvation. Through the beginning verses of chapter 6, Paul correlates Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection to the Christian’s “death, burial, and resurrection” to a new [spiritual] life.

Scripture-block application to this question

Grace requires a response to turn from sin, walking in (e.g. living out) a “newness of life”. Dying to sin is being buried “with Him” in baptism (e.g. being born of God2).

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

Pay attention! I,Paul, am saying that if you accept circumcision then Christ will no longer be of value to you.  I’ll say it again, that every man that accepts circumcision must adhere to the Old Law.  As a result, you would be separated from Christ and justified by the law.  In other words, fallen away from grace.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians encouraging them to not be led away by a “different gospel” (1:6).  He shares his personal testimony (1:10-2:10) and other events including his rebuke of Peter and Barnabas who had been swayed by Jewish Christians holding Mosaic traditions above the command of Christ (2:11-14).

Scripture-block application to this question

One can “fall away” from the grace of God once received by failing to remain committed to Christ and His gospel.

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

So, together with him [God, the Father], we implore that you don’t receive the gift of God in vain.  God through Isaiah said, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’  Listen! Right now is the favorable time, and now is the day of salvation.

Paul is literally imploring some at the church of Corinth to “be reconciled to God” (5:20) after reminding them that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (5:10)

He quotes here from Isaiah 49:8, which goes on to speak about God giving His people “a covenant…to establish the land” and that “springs of water will guide them” (vs 10).

Scripture-block application to this question

God’s grace can be “received in vain”.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Paul is imploring some at the church of Corinth to “be reconciled to God” (5:20) after reminding them that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (5:10)

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

God’s grace appeared, bringing salvation for all people and training us to renounce sin and its passions.  As a result, we live godly, righteous lives, controlling ourselves in the present age and waiting for the appearing of the glory God – Jesus Christ, our hope.  He gave himself to redeem us from all lawlessness, purifying us as a people for His own possession and eagerly doing good.

Paul is writing to a young preacher, Titus.  He provides instructions regarding many of the other roles in the congregation including pastors/elders and deacons in chapter one. He continues to give instruction regarding behavior to certain segments/groups within the church: older men (2:2), older women (2:3), younger women (2:4), younger men (2:6), and finally slaves (2:9).  With all of these, their behavior is to be exhibited as would “accord with sound doctrine” (1:9, 2:1, 2:10).

Scripture-block application to this question

God’s grace appeared9 to bring salvation to everyone, and if received2 and acknowledged3, provokes the individual to renounce sin (e.g. dying to it5 / being born again2) and live a Godly life of “good works”.

Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.
The Word [Jesus] became flesh and lived among us. We witnessed his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth who came from the Father.

The beginning of John’s testimony of the things he witnessed about Jesus’ time on earth.

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus was the very manifestation of God’s grace (and truth).

Leave your comment below…

…and if you’re wondering more about what we’re doing and why, here are some links we hope can help explain it (and maybe even get you excited about contributing):

what do you think?

related to 'How are we saved by grace only?'

lend your own study to the discussion

PUBLIC COMMENT POLICY: While your email is required, it will not be posted publically.
All comments are vetted for potential spam before being published, but will not be restricted otherwise.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments