Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)

We are saved BY grace alone, THROUGH faith alone, IN Christ alone, FOR good works.

NFL legend Mike Ditka was giving a news conference one day after being fired as the coach of the Chicago Bears when he decided to quote the Bible.

"Scripture tells you that all things shall pass," a choked-up Ditka said after leading his team to only five wins during the previous season.

"This, too, shall pass." Ditka fumbled his biblical citation, though.  

Interestingly, the phrase "This, too, shall pass" doesn't appear in the Bible.  Ditka was quoting a phantom scripture that sounds like it belongs in the Bible, but look closer and it's not there.

Ditka's biblical blunder is as common as preachers delivering long-winded public prayers.

The Bible may be the most revered book in America, but it's also one of the most misquoted. Politicians, motivational speakers, coaches - all types of people - quote passages that actually have no place in the Bible,


•      "Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

•      "God works in mysterious ways.”

•      "Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”

•       “Yea, verily, God wants you to be happy.” Oprah 1:1

•      “If you work hard enough, you’ll be successful.” 2 Jobs 4:04


(Bonus: What about the phrase, “God helps those those who help themselves”? According to Barna, nearly 84% of people surveyed believed this was in the Bible!)

Similarly, the phrase “grace alone” (or, in the 5 Solas, “sola gratia”) isn’t found verbatim in the Bible. But you miss what it really entails and you miss your salvation.

We believe salvation is by grace alone in faith alone in Christ alone. This is a distinct assertion of the Reformation. Certain theology had asserted that our right standing with God was based on our cooperation with his grace. Against this type of teaching, all of the Reformers emphasized that salvation is by grace alone.

There are knots in our stories the hands of grace alone can untie. If the gospel is grace alone, then every conversion is a miracle. Only the salvation that is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone is to the glory of God alone.


In this passage, the apostle wants us to understand what God has saved us from. And he wants us to be crystal clear on how he has saved us. Paul knows that your understanding of how you have been saved is essential to the living of the Christian life.

The biblical gospel announces that sinners are saved from God by God through God to God for God. Our big problem is God. What do sinners do with a righteous God?

A famous Scottish preacher said “Hell is eternity in the presence of God. Heaven is eternity in the presence of God with a mediator.”

Do you see his point? If you are a guilty sinner, the last very last thing you want is the unmediated presence of a holy God


That is what you need to be saved from. Because if God were to deal with you as you deserve – you would be undone, eternally condemned, and under his final judgment without any help. But in his mediation, through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God has saves you from himself, essentially.


2:1 – “You were dead in your trespasses and sins”

What is our condition? We are D E A D.


You are dead in your trespasses and sins. The wages of your sin is death (Rom. 6:23). And, very obviously, you cannot create the saving you need – because you are dead. Apart from Christ, we unable to experience the very reason you are created.

2:2a - “in which you formerly walked in accordance to this world”


We were not walking with God. We were walking to the course of this world. We were walking in trespasses and sins. We were marching to the beat of our own drum. We were in rebellion against God, not in fellowship with him.

Just as Adam and Eve chose to listen to the snake and reject God’s word and to walk their own way, so we, apart from Christ, were walking in the course of this world in trespasses and sins. And we needed to be saved out of that walk and rebellion.


2:2b “to the prince of and the power of the air now working in the sons of disobedience.”

We were in fellowship with and under the power of the evil one. Do you remember when Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews of his day who claimed to be children of Abraham? He said to them, “You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44).

Paul says that is the case of all of us apart from Christ! We were walking with and under the power of the prince and power of the air. We are slaves to the evil one. 

2:3a – “Among them, we too all formerly lived in the lusts and flesh and indulging the desires of the flesh and mind.”

Not only were we under the dominion of the evil one, but we were also in bondage to our own evil desires so that we didn’t want to give them up. We treasured our desires more than God. And we followed our desires to our destruction.

2:3b – “We were by nature children of wrath.”


We deserved the wrath of God. Romans 2 reminds us that, when we stand before the throne of God’s just judgment, we are without excuse. We have no argument against his just condemnation of us. That is the situation that we are in. That is what Paul says we are apart from Christ spiritually.

Praise God that The Son of God became the Son of Man so that children of wrath might become children of God.

2:3c– “Like the rest of mankind”

These are not just bad people. Rather, EVERYONE US APART FROM CHRIST.

Jew or Greek.

Slave or free.

Male or female.

Apart from Christ, we are in this predicament and in this bondage. This is why we must be saved by God and why we must be saved by grace alone. Why? Because we aren’t in a position to cooperate with that grace.

WHAT ARE WE SAVED BY (Eph. 2:4-7)?

2:4 “ But God”


Are these the best words in the Bible? Perhaps so!

Notice the big change from our predicament (and not to our solution of our predicament).

Who is the subject of the next sentence? Our predicament …. BUT GOD

We thank God that he is a big spender & no sinner coming for mercy has ever depleted him, & none ever will.

2:4 says: "But God, who is rich in mercy..."

Seven of my favorite words joined together in the Bible. This is radical grace for the exhausted.

Read it again: “BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of HIS love…” That is, he has opened the door for our salvation by a most costly payment: The blood of His Son!

Notice, though, that Paul immediately piles on this just God who every right to condemn you and responded in the most surprising, generous, loving way.


“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love in which he loved us – even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive.”


God doesn’t love us because of something in us. Here it is emphasized that it is his mercy and his great love that is the impetus of our great salvation.

Not our deserving. 

Not something in us that compels him.

But something in him that compels his love to us


And it goes on in 2:5: “Made us alive together in Christ.”


You don’t cooperate with resurrection.  No, you have to be raised by someone else in resurrection. Not only this – but he has to pause and say:

“By grace you have been saved.”


Paul says it again in 2:8. However, he can’t wait, so he says it right away! 


2:6: Not only made you alive, but raised you up with him, and seated you with his son in heavenly places.

God has made you his child to sit at his table with his Son and reign with him. You contribute nothing to this – but only the sin that needs forgiving. God does it all!

What a reminder to us, Christian, that the dire need of the world today is churches alive, brimming, enthralled with God's glory in Christ.

But there is so much silliness going on. A hard human heart is not overcome with gimmicks,  gadgets, and cheap tricks.  It is only conquered by the word of God and prayer. The gospel is not a program, gimmick, phase, or product to me. It is bread, water, sunshine, and shelter for the soul. May we boldly with all love and compassion preach and teach the true, biblical Gospel!

WHAT ARE WE SAVED TO (Eph. 2:8-10)?

2:8 “ By grace you have been saved”


Just in case you thought it was your deserving or something you did, Paul emphasizes it for the fourth time:  “by grace you have been saved.”

But you had to contribute something, right?  Paul says no! Salvation doesn't start with you. Even your faith is a gift from God. New life is a gift, opened by faith, that keeps on giving grace, upon grace, upon grace, and so on.


In other words, your salvation, has been received and not gained. You didn’t gain it or earn it. All you did was receive was the gift he gave. That faith is not a contribution to your salvation – it is the means by which you take it.

2:8: “Not ourselves it is the gift of God.”     

I heard of a person who recently got a gift for himself for his wife to give to him.


That’s not how salvation works! God gives the gift to YOU. YOU don’t give the gift to yourself.


2:9: “Not a result of works so that no one may boast”


If our salvation is tied to what Christ has done then we should not look at the lost and say, “We are better than you.” The only thing we can boast in is the love and grace of Christ.

Are we justified by works? Yes. Jesus' works, not ours.

And this leads us to a life of good deeds that he marked out for us (2:10)!