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More on Sola Gratia

posted May 23, 2017, 10:24 AM by First Baptist

In our study of Acts 15 on Sunday, we learned how a number of early believers were uncomfortable with the doctrine of sola gratia (grace alone). Sola gratia means that God’s acceptance of us is entirely by grace, without any personal merit whatsoever.


Thankfully, the apostles spoke very clearly & forcefully on this. And yet, the church has always had to do battle with this tendency we have to mix together law & gospel, merit & grace, what we do with what Christ has done.


One objection to the doctrine of sola gratia is that it encourages unrighteous living. Specifically, the concern is that, if God accepts us no matter what we do or don’t do, that gives us license to sin. A poet put it this way:


“I like committing crimes.

God likes forgiving crimes.

The world is really admirably arranged.”


Let me say, first, that a right understanding of grace should provoke or give rise to this concern; in fact, if this isn’t a concern, our understanding of grace is probably deficient.


But the answer isn’t to moderate grace by mixing in some element of personal merit (however small). Instead, we need to understand how the apostles dealt with the concern about grace giving a license to sin.


What the apostles talked about was the EFFECT of grace. And what grace does is change our desires, or what one author calls, our “want to.” Quoting Bryan Chapell:


“Prior to experiencing the grace of God, our inclinations are hostile or indifferent to him. But when the kindness and mercy of God become profoundly real to us, at the same time that we deeply perceive how totally undeserving we are of them, then we desire nothing greater than to love him – and to love what and whom he loves.


I am not contending that grace removes all the allure of sin, but our love for it (which gives sin its power) is broken by the greater love grace produces.”


This is an important insight, summed up in these words by the apostle John: “We love because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).


And so, let’s continue to celebrate God’s grace and not worry that we’re going too far with it. The apostle Paul certainly wasn’t concerned, as evidenced by these words:


“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” (Titus 2:11-12)



Pastor Dan