A Close Look at “Sola Gratia” (Part3)
November 13, 2005 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos
We are looking at the five doctrinal pillars of the Reformers of the 16th century and these are expressed in five Latin phrases:
- sola Scriptura
- solus Christus
- sola gratia
- sola fide
- soli Deo gloria
Total Depravity.In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem refrains from using the phrase total depravity because it can easily be misunderstood. And so, without using the term he gives this explanation: It is not just that some parts of us are sinful and others are pure. Rather, every part of our being is affected by sin—our intellects, our emotions and desires, our hearts (the center of our desires and decision-making processes), our goals and motives, and even our physical bodies. Paul says, “I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh” (Ro 7:18), and, “to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted” (Titus 1:15). Moreover, Jeremiah tells us that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). In these passages Scripture is not denying that unbelievers can do good in human society in some senses. But it is denying that they can do any spiritual good or be good in terms of a relationship with God. Apart from the work of Christ in our lives, we are like all other unbelievers who are “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart (Eph 4:18).] The Scriptures clearly affirm fallen humanity’s total depravity, as the following verses will verify: Gen 6:5: “The LORD saw . . . that every inclination of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil all the time.” Gen 8:21: “The LORD … said in his heart: ‘ . . . every inclination of [man’s] heart is evil from childhood.’ ” 1Ki 8:46: Solomon declared that “there is no one who does not sin” against God. Ps 130:3: “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?” Ps 143:2: “ . . . no one living is righteous before you.” Eccl 7:20: “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” Eccl 9:3: “…The hearts of men . . . are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live…” Isa 53:6: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way...” Isa 64:6: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…” Jer 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Ro 3:9-23: “…Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10 As it is written: [then follows a fourteen-point indictment against the entire human race—all drawn from the Psalms with one exception] . . . for all sinned and are continually falling short of the glory of God.” Gal 3:22: “But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin…” Eph 2:1-3: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” 1Jn 5:19: “…the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” The second condition of fallen man is…
Total Inability.Wayne Grudem writes: This idea is related to the previous one. Not only do we as sinners lack any spiritual good in ourselves, but we also lack the ability to do anything that will in itself please God and the ability to come to God in our own strength.” The Bible specifically mentions several things fallen humanity cannot do: Mt 7:18: “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” Jn 3:3,5: In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again . . . no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” Jn 6:44,65: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.’ ” Jn 14:17: “…The world cannot accept [the Spirit of truth], because it neither sees him nor knows him…” Jn 15:4,5: “…No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine . . . apart from me you can do nothing.” Ro 8:7,8: “the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” 1Co 2:14: “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1Co 12:3: “…no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.” The third condition of fallen man is…
Real GuiltThis means that the sinner he deserves God’s punishment. Dr. Robert Reymond writes: Because of man’s corruption and inability to please God, he is deserving of punishment, for his sin is not only real evil, morally wrong, the violation of God’s law, and therefore, undesirable, odious, ugly, disgusting, filthy, and ought not to be; it is also the contradiction of God’s perfection, cannot but meet with His disapproval and wrath, and damnable in the strongest sense of the word because it dishonors God. God must react with holy indignation. He cannot do otherwise. Here is how Wayne Grudem explains the sinner’s guilt: When Adam and Eve sinned, they became worthy of eternal punishment and separation from God (Gen. 2:17). In the same way, when human beings sin today they become liable to the wrath of God and to eternal punishment: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). This means that once people sin, God’s justice would require only one thing—that they be eternally separated from God, cut off from experiencing any good from Him, and that they live forever in hell, receiving only His wrath eternally. In fact, this was what happened to angels who sinned, and it could justly have happened to us as well: “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of nether gloom to be kept until the judgment” (2 Peter 2:4) So there are the first three aspects as to why amazing grace has, for many people, become “boring grace.” Grace is not appreciated because people fail to understand and feel in their heart the great truths of (1) the sinfulness of sin (or total depravity), (2) man’s spiritual inability (or total inability), and (3) God’s judgment (or real guilt). It is this state of affairs that makes necessary the grace of God. To deny man’s total depravity, total inability and real guilt is to rob God grace of the only context in which it has any meaning. If men are not corrupt, they have no need of the saving benefits of the cross! If men are not sinners who are incapable of saving themselves, they have no need of the Savior! If men are not lost, they have no need of the Lord’s mercies! It is only when men see themselves as they truly are—sinful, incapable of saving themselves, and guilty before God—will they once more put back amazing into grace.: Now let us look at the fourth aspect as to why grace is not appreciated. It is because people are ignorant of…
God’s Sovereign Freedom.In explaining this topic, James Montgomery Boice says, In this day of multiple human “rights,” most people wrongly assume that God owes us something—salvation or at least a chance at salvation. But . . . God does not owe us anything. He shows astonishing favor to many—that is what grace means—but He does not have to. If He were obligated to be gracious, grace would no longer be grace and salvation would be based on human merit rather than being sola gratia. When we say that God is not obligated to be gracious we are talking about sovereign grace.  Here is another insight regarding God’s sovereign freedom from Terry L. Johnson: Grace is God’s favor freely extended to the undeserving. We might note that when Satan and his hosts rebelled against God they were cast into hell and no redemptive provision was made for them. God was not required to save them and He chose not to save them. Neither is He obligated to save fallen humanity. Were He required to save, then grace would not be grace—it would not exist. Grace, after all, in order to be grace, must be freely given . . . Obligated grace is merely another term for justice. Justice is that which is morally required. Grace, by definition, is that which is not required but given freely anyway. If God must intervene to save us, then He is obligated to do so. And if obligated to do so, His intervention becomes a matter of fairness, equity and justice. This, however, is contrary to the whole doctrine of grace. Grace is unrequired, unobligated, self-determined, self-motivated, freely given mercy of God in Christ. The Bible shows that all of the three Persons in the Godhead are involved in the manifestation of sovereign grace. Today we are going to look only at the role of the Father.
- The role of God the Father: election.