Of the three "pillars of the Reformation," we've already considered the first--Word Alone--in the article on believing the Bible is God's true Word. We will be explore what the Bible has to say about faith another article. Here, let's find out some of what God says to us about grace. The whole Book is really about God's grace, but we can narrow down our study and limit ourselves to five Bible passages about grace. The order here is according to how they are arranged in the New Testament.
Let's start with Acts 15:11, "We believe that we are saved in the same way they are--through the grace of our Lord Jesus." Quite a heated debate arose in the early Church about the role of the Jewish Law in the life of new non-Jewish believers. Some wanted to force the non-Jewish believers to become Jews by circumcision and following the Jewish laws to include them in the Christian fellowship. The conclusion to which the Holy Spirit guided the disciples was that no one could be saved by following the Law. They knew they were saved only because Jesus is gracious. So, they also placed no restrictions on the non-Jewish believers. Our sins are forgiven and we are reconciled to God not by anything we do. We are saved only because God is gracious.
The Apostle Paul, also writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, affirmed salvation by grace and not by works. In Romans 11:5-6, he wrote, "So in the same way at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. Now if it is by grace, then it is not the result of works—otherwise grace would no longer be grace." Grace here is "the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues" (https://biblehub.com/greek/5485.htm). If we can do anything toward our salvation, then God's merciful kindness is not God's merciful kindness.
The Letter to the Galatians is perhaps the strongest and sternest reminder of the centrality of grace. The argument is so powerful, in fact, that Christ's death is bet against it. "I do not regard the grace of God as nothing. As a matter of fact, if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nothing!" (Galatians 2:21).The whole point of Christ coming to us and dying our death is so that we don't have to try to be declared not guilty of our sins by being obedient to the Law. The truth is that no matter how hard we may try, we can't. Really, all we can do is rely on what Jesus did for us in His death and proved for us by His resurrection.
What exactly happens for us when we are saved is expressed clearly in the Letter to the Ephesians. “"In him we also have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in keeping with the riches of his grace, which he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight" (Ephesians 1:7-8). Salvation is redemption because Jesus shed His blood when He died on the cross. Redemption is the forgiveness of sins. God forgives our rebellion, our disobedience, because He is rich in grace. He is so rich that He, in all His wisdom and insight, lavishes His grace on us.
There are many more passages to study, but Titus 3:4-7 is a great place to conclude now. "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward mankind appeared, he saved us—not by righteous works that we did ourselves, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and the renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs in keeping with the hope of eternal life." Notice that God's kindness and love caused Him to do all we need to be saved. Not even our righteous works can do anything. The declaration that we are no longer guilty is ours because of His grace. The final outcome is eternal life.
Our human inclination is to take some credit for reconciliation. The truth is we can claim nothing. It is only because of God's grace that we can be freed from our slavery to sin and have our sins forgiven. It is by God's grace, His merciful kindness, that we are brought back into fellowship with God and can live in the certainty that we will be with Him for eternity.
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage Version® (EHV®) © 2019 Wartburg Project, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.