Midweek Advent Sermon – Sola Gratia (Gen. 6:1-8, Eph. 2:1-10, John 1:14-18)
Dear people saved by grace alone: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
For our midweek services this Advent we will be studying the three solas of the Reformation. While we won’t be learning much Latin in these sermons, we can learn these three terms. Sola means “only” in Latin, and these three solas of the Reformation clarify the Scriptural teaching concerning salvation. The three solas are sola gratia, sola fide, and sola Scriptura. What they mean is that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, as taught in Scripture alone.
Tonight we examine sola gratia – the Scriptural principle that we are saved by grace alone.
Scripture teaches that by the Fall of Adam, all men have become sinners, and according to God’s judgment pronounced in the Law, all men are guilty and subject to eternal damnation. Our first reading condemns all mankind by saying, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5) On our own, mankind is incapable of doing good because of the condition of our hearts.
Scripture furthermore teaches that we cannot change this verdict of condemnation by striving to keep the Law. Trying our best to do what is good and right cannot change our guilt nor can it fulfil the Law of God. In fact, Scripture specifically teaches that if we attempt to be justified by keeping the Law we are under a curse (Gal. 3:10) because we cannot fulfil the Law’s demands of perfection (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16).
Thus, we see the necessity for grace. If we cannot save ourselves by fulfilling the Law, the only way for us to be saved is by grace.
Grace describes the unmerited favour and goodwill of God towards us, despite our sins, despite our failures, despite the Law’s just judgment of condemnation against us. Grace is God saying that He will not charge us with the sins that we have committed. God shows us grace because Christ was charged with all of our sins and paid the full price for them. On account of Christ’s death in our place, God the Father shows us grace, that is, He gives us the free, unmerited gift of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
As we heard in our Epistle lesson, we were dead in our trespasses and sins, but out of God’s grace, we have been made alive together with Christ. “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.” (Eph. 2:8-9) Grace is God’s free gift of forgiveness. It is not our own doing. It is a purely underserved gift because God is loving and merciful.
God offers His grace to everyone, without exception. There is no one on the earth for whose sins Jesus did not pay. God desires for all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (I Tim. 2:3-4). God says, “I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” (Ezek. 18:32)
While God’s grace is offered freely to everyone, there are those who reject it. They reject God’s grace freely offered, and instead strive to work to save themselves. Such people reject the Scriptural teaching that without God, man is dead in his trespasses and sins. They think that there is something good in man that he can work to bring out if he only tries hard enough. As we heard earlier from Scripture, such men are under a curse (Gal. 3:10), because there is no one that does good; not even one (Rom. 3:12).
There are also those who misunderstand grace to be a ticket to live in sin, like a get out of jail free card. They presume to remain in sin and not turn away from it because of grace. But Hebrews 10 says, “If we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” (v. 26) Here you are warned that if you do not turn away from your sin, Christ’s sacrifice for sins does you no good. You have only hell in your future.
Romans 6 says, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:1-4)
We are to walk in newness of life already now, not just when we are raised from the dead. We already live a new life as God’s baptized children. We certainly do so imperfectly, but we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism and thus He gives us the desire to do God’s will; the desire to do what pleases God instead of doing what pleases our sinful flesh.
Even though we now strive to do what is good, it is not that striving or that doing that saves us. We are still saved by grace alone. Sola Gratia.
Grace is evident perhaps no where better than in Baptism. An infant who is helpless and is not able to do anything good is baptized into Christ’s death and receives the forgiveness of sins. It just seems too easy; too simple; too underserved. That’s why when grace is rejected, Baptism is rejected.
But God shows His grace by giving it to babies, by giving it to the elderly on their death beds, by giving it to the thief on the cross. God shows His grace by freely offering it to everyone regardless of what they have done or left undone; regardless of the sins you struggle with every day; regardless of your failures to do what the Law demands of you.
God’s grace is free and underserved. God’s grace rescues us from ourselves, from the world, and from hell and the devil. God’s grace is certain because He has promised it to us in His Word, which never lies.
As we sang:
By grace! On this I’ll rest when dying;
In Jesus’ promise I rejoice;
For though I know my heart’s condition,
I also know my Saviour’s voice.
My heart is glad, all grief has flown
Since I am saved by grace alone. (LSB 566 st. 6) Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.