October, 1517 (Part 3)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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. (Ephesians 2:4-10 ESV). As we continue to look at the five basic principles of the Reformation, we come to the next two of the Solas: Sola Fide and Sola Gratia. We are saved solely through faith in Jesus Christ because of God’s grace and Christ’s merit alone. We are not saved by our merits or declared righteous by our good works. God grants salvation not because of the good things we do, and despite our sin. As humans, we inherited from our ancient ancestor Adam a nature that is enslaved to sin. Because of our nature, we are naturally enemies of God and lovers of evil. We need to be made alive, theologically called “regenerated,” so that we can even have faith in Christ. God graciously chooses to give us new hearts so that we trust in Christ and are saved through faith alone. This is perhaps the most difficult tenet to accept for most of the Christian world today. However, it is essential. We are dead in our sin and only the work of God can bring life. We don’t start the process with even the feeblest of efforts. It is all a work of the Holy Spirit as he quickens the heart of an unregenerate human and infuses His life into that heart. It is then, and only then that a man may respond to God’s grace. God also graciously preserves us and keeps us. When we are faithless toward him, he is still faithful. We can only stand before God by his grace as he mercifully attributes to us the righteousness of Jesus Christ and attributes to him the consequences of our sins. Jesus’ life of perfect righteousness is counted as ours, and our records of sin and failure were counted to Jesus when he died on the cross. Sola fide and sola gratia express the teaching of our reading today. The wonderful news about this truth is how it gives us assurance and comfort in the midst of our lives. Because it is a work of God from start to finish, we never need to fear our future. He has begun a good work in us; and, he will finish that work with...

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