As Protestants, we hold to what are called the "five solas" of the Reformation. These are doctrinal pillars at the core of the Reformation debate. They set us apart from Catholicism or any other religion.
When we talk about five solas, we are talking about particular doctrines that stand on their own. Sola means alone.
One of these solas, sola gratia, refers to the reality that we are saved by grace alone. But what does that mean? We use the term grace a lot, but what does it mean?
Sola gratia, grace alone, speaks to the reality that our salvation is a gift. That's what that grace word means; it is a gift. It is something that we don't deserve that is given to us by God. It is not something that we earn or work for.
This topic was part of the debate in the Reformation. The Catholic church taught that God provides this gracious salvation but you have to take the sacrament to receive that grace. No, there is no part of ours that we contribute. God gives us salvation completely as a gift.
That takes us all the way back to before the foundation of the world. Paul writes in Ephesians 1 that we were predestined for adoption as sons in Jesus Christ. Ultimately, God chose to save us before we chose to come to him in faith and repentance. It starts with God as a gracious gift that he carries out.
The reality of our salvation is a gift as God bestows on us blessing after blessing. He gives us adoption, reconciliation, justification, and sanctification. We see in the Scripture that all these things are blessings that he gives us freely through Christ by the Spirit.
Our salvation is really grace. It is a gift from beginning to end. God predestined for salvation; he chose to be saved not because of anything done by us but because of his kindness and love. It's by grace as we walk through this life as God is kind to continue to forgive and sanctify us. It will be finished by grace as God sustains us, preserves us, and brings us into glory by his power and for the sake of his name.
Daniel Ruben (MDiv, Midwestern Baptist) is a pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Carson City, NV. He is husband to Shaelby and father of two.
Note: The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of other contributors on this site.