“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.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Pelagians, Semi-Pelagians, synergists and Roman Catholics alike would not deny the necessity of grace as it relates to soteriology; Rather, the debate was over the sufficiency of grace. During the time of the Reformation, the church was plagued by Rome’s “man-centered” theology, which taught that salvation was a cooperative effort between God and man. Although Rome rejected the teachings of Pelagius, the Catholic church remained adamant that man’s fallen nature still possessed the ability to respond to the Gospel, inspite of the Bible’s clear teaching that apart from God’s grace man does not have this ability. In other words, salvation was dependent not on God’s grace alone but on man’s choice plus God’s grace. This synergistic view of soteriology allowed for Rome’s “works-righteousness” salvation, indulgences, Marian dogmas, the papacy and purgatory to become complimentary to God’s grace. The reformers rejected this and affirmed the Bible’s teaching that we are saved by grace alone, and not by following the traditions of Rome. (John 1:13, Ephesians 2:8-9)
What good news is there in a gospel that offers salvation insofar as you cooperate with God’s grace? The Gospel is truly good news when we realize that a Holy and righteous God decided, out of the good intention of His will, to take worthless and vile sinners and grant them 100% forgiveness of sins because of Christ’s substitutionary atonement; to release them from their bondage to sin and give them new hearts with new desires that please God; to grant them eternal life on the basis of Christ’s merits imputed to them by faith alone. We are saved not by trying to follow traditions, rituals, or because of our own efforts; rather, we are saved because of God’s grace alone. May we reflect on the words of John Newton’s classic hymn “Amazing Grace” as we stand together with the reformers proclaiming the grace of God that is sufficient to save all those who call upon Him.
- “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear, And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear the hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils and snares, we have already come.
‘Twas Grace that brought us safe thus far and Grace will lead us home.
The Lord has promised good to me, His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil, a life of joy and peace.
When we’ve been here ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now, I see.”