“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before Him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.” —Romans 4:16-17
We have all heard that salvation is by “grace alone,” and also by “faith alone,” yet also in “Christ alone,” as well as through “scripture alone,” and finally for “God’s glory alone.” Now, one may wonder that, if they are all together and speaking of the same thing, then how can they be alone? That’s a fair question. The answer to that is that each one speaks of a certain aspect of true Biblical Christianity:
1. Scripture Alone (sola scriptura). No traditions, feelings or intuitions are used as man’s rule, standard or guide for life and doctrine. The scriptures contained in the Old and New Testament are the only sufficient, certain, and infallible standard to guide us in how we may glorify God and enjoy Him. Since nothing can be added to the revelation of scripture as the absolute authority and standard for doctrine and exercise of our faith before God, then the holy scriptures are truly singular, unique and without additive as man’s sufficient guide.
2. God’s Glory Alone (soli deo gloria). All life and all of life is to be lived for the glory of God alone because He is sovereign Potentate over all. In other words, every creature of God, and the individual life lived out by that creature, was designed to give God alone glory as King. There should be nothing and no thing that receives glory except God alone; and therefore, it may be truly said that all that is accomplished by God’s sovereign works of creation and providence are done for His glory alone.
3. Christ Alone. Salvation comes by Christ’s finished work on the cross alone; and it is He alone that is the only Mediator between man and God. There is no one else to whom man is to look for salvation. It is by Christ’s righteousness and not any good work we have done that meets with God’s satisfaction; it is to Christ’s perfect sacrifice that God honors as the blessed payment for the sin debt owed to Him; it is to Christ’s shed blood that secures for repentant men forgiveness of sins from God; it is in Christ’s holy death that man are granted life by God’s grace. Therefore, salvation is provided by Jesus Christ alone, offered through Jesus Christ alone, received in Jesus Christ alone, and secured with Jesus Christ alone.
4. Grace Alone (sola gratia). Because sinful man is radically depraved, possessing a fallen nature that stains every aspect of man’s life with sin and imperfection, there is nothing in him that is truly and perfectly good; and therefore, he cannot merit or assist salvation in any way. Since every area of man’s life since Adam’s fall is stained with sin, all fall short of giving God glory. Salvation is completely and entirely given by God’s free and sovereign grace, as fallen man can do nothing to achieve or secure grace; else salvation would come by obligation and, therefore, not grace at all.
5. Faith alone (sola fide). When God saves a soul, that soul is justified by faith alone, trusting unto the work that Christ has done to secure salvation. Not a single work of man is added to trusting faith in Christ to merit salvation, therefore, it is by faith alone, a grace gift from God, whereby sinful souls are saved unto eternal life. It is to this truth we will speak that we will examine in our next article.
Therefore, we conclude and rightly proclaim that salvation is wrought by God’s free and sovereign grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, according to scripture alone, for God’s glory alone.
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Read the previous article in this series, “Blessed Imputation” (Romans 4:5-8).