In honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this month, we'll look at the "Three Solas" that comprised the foundation of Luther's teachings. This week we'll look at Sola Gratia - Grace Alone.

“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!” Christians love to sing of the saving grace of God—and rightly so. John tells us about Jesus that, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” (John 1:16). Many of the New Testament letters begin and end with the writers expressing their desire that the grace of Jesus would be with His people. The very last words of the Bible read: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Rev. 22:21).

The Reformers understood the importance of the grace of God to the Bible’s teaching on salvation. In fact, one of the slogans that came to define Reformation teaching was sola gratia, which is Latin for “by grace alone.” Christians are saved by the grace of God alone.

There is a popular misunderstanding among Lutheran Christians about the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on grace. Sometimes it is said, “Rome teaches that we are saved by works, but Lutherans teach that we are saved by grace.” This statement is not correct. Rome does teach that one is saved by the grace of God.

So where is the difference? It lies in a single word—sola (“alone”). Martin Luther and the Reformers maintained that the sinner is saved by the grace of God, His unmerited favor, alone. Nothing the sinner does earns him God’s favor. Nor does the sinner cooperate with God to gain his salvation. Salvation, from beginning to end, is 100% God’s gift to us though we are unworthy and undeserving. As Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.”