The five “sloas,” expressed in concise Latin, are theological convictions of the Reformers. They are:
- Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone
- Sola Gratia, by Grace alone
- Sola Fide, by Faith alone
- Solus Christus, Christ alone (or Solo Christo, through Christ alone)
- Soli Deo Gloria, Glory to God alone
Sola Gratia vs. Human Merits
Both Sola Gratia and Sola Fide are theological convictions pertaining to salvation: We are saved by God’s grace alone, by faith alone.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Eph. 2:8-9
The word “sola” means “alone.” Salvation is achieved by nothing else but God’s grace. Christ’s redemptive act on the Cross sealed our salvation, he alone is our Savior. Not our good works, nor spiritual disciplines, nor penitence, nor the receiving of “sacraments” contribute anything to our salvation. Salvation is by God’s grace, through Christ, from beginning to the end.
Luther was tormented by his feeling of unworthiness: unworthy to be called God’s child, unworthy to be his servant. He did everything he could to make himself worthy: He confessed his sins. Often after a confession he realized he forgot to mention a certain sin so he returned to make another confession. He prayed. He fasted. He obeyed all the rules of his Order (Augustinian.) But no matter how hard he tried he was still a tormented soul. Then one day he discovered the truth of Sola Gratia, that salvation has nothing to do with him. It is wholly by God’s grace. His merits are not only irrelevant but also unrequired. Like a light this discovery shone into his soul. His bondages were gone. He was free.
Sola Gratia! Salvation is a free gift. It’s not earned, it’s received.
Sola Gratia vs. Free Will
Does human will play a part in salvation? If salvation is by God’s grace alone, does it mean not only the achieving of salvation, but also the receiving of salvation is by God’s grace? Does it mean he enables some people, chosen by him, to make a decision to receive salvation, a decision they otherwise are unable to make? Or does Sola Gratia pertain only to the achieving of salvation but not the receiving of it? Yes, salvation is free, but each person needs, and is able, to make his/her own decision on receiving it or not.
This is the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism, Presbyterians and Methodists, and that’s the place I don’t want to go to. No, I don’t want get into a theological debate. For all the purpose of this short devotional, suffice it to say what the Bible has said: It is by grace you have been saved. It is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
Sola Gratia vs. Boasting
Sola Gratia takes away our bosting. We like to feel good about ourselves. It all starts with a little boasting. Then pride. Then arrogance. Before we know it, we’re soaked in a feeling of superiority: victims of our own illusion that we lose the ability to see or treat other people equally.
For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? 1 Cor. 4:7
The knowledge that we contribute absolutely nothing towards our salvation, and everything that define us, keeps us humble. Everything I have, I receive from God. My life, my works, my intelligence, my ability
to earn money, to raise a family, to make friends, all are from God. Sola Gratia makes all of us equal, equally created and equally saved. It is good medicine to a troubled soul, releasing me from the prison of pride so I can live a happy life. Happy to see people who are different, to embrace them, to call them brothers and sisters. So where is boasting? Sola Gratia! There is only grace. No boasting.
Sola Gratia vs. Self-pity
Self-pity and bosting are flip sides of the same coin. When Sola Gratia takes away my boasting it takes away my self-pity also. The knowledge that I’m saved by God’s grace alone creates in me a sense of humility as well as a sense of dignity. If God deem me so valuable to have his Son died in my place, whom am I to feel sorry about myself? Christ has died for me, in God’s eyes I must worth something.
More than boasting we are oftentimes victims of self-pity. We’re easily hurt. Feeling unappreciated. Or like Luther, unworthy. We doubt our own value. We need constant affirmation and confirmation. And we feel lonely. Yes, it is in loneness we’re most vulnerable. Self-pity sets in and we’re trapped in depression. No, it is not the place God wants us to stay.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. 1 Cor. 15:10
Sola Gratia! God’s grace is effective. It gives me confidence and purpose. It leads me out of self-pity to live a productive life. Like Paul. Like Luther.
Sola Gratia and Eternal Security
If salvation is by God’s grace alone, not by my own merits, then I’m eternally secured. I cannot undo God’s grace. God alone saves me and he saves me to the end. Without Sola Gratia I don’t have the assurance of salvation. How can I be certain I’m a saved person the moment I die? What if I do something wrong in the future? What if I forget to confess my sins? With Sola Gratia I am free from these worries. It’s all by God’s grace. Not me, but Him. Praise his holy name!
Sola Gratia and Christian Living
God’s grace enables me to live a fruitful life. Instead of giving me a license to live a life anyway I want to (So, it’s all by God’s grace? I won’t lose my salvation no matter what? Good. I’ll party till I die.), it compels me to live a life that pleases God.
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Cor. 5:14-15
God’s grace gives me a firm foundation upon which a happy and fruitful life is to be built. I’m loved. My value is affirmed. My eternity is secured. I’m free to live a life for the one who saved me. Sola Gratia and Soli Deo Gloria! By his grace I’m saved and to his glory I shall live.