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Grace Alone—Salvation as a Gift of God

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Historians and theologians alike have long recognized that at the heart of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation were the five solas: sola scriptura, solus Christus, sola gratia, sola fide, and soli Deo gloria. These five solas do not merely summarize what the Reformation was all about but have served to distinguish Protestantism ever since. They set Protestants apart in a unique way as those who place ultimate and final authority in the Scriptures, acknowledge the work of Christ alone as sufficient for redemption, recognize that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, and seek to not only give God all of the glory but to do all things vocationally for his glory. 2017 will mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. And yet, even in the twenty-first century we need the Reformation more than ever. As James Montgomery Boice said not long ago, while the Puritans sought to carry on the Reformation, today “we barely have one to carry on, and many have even forgotten what that great spiritual revolution was all about.” Therefore, we “need to go back and start again at the very beginning. We need another Reformation.”[1] In short, it is crucial not only to remember what the solas of the Reformation were all about, but also to apply these solas in a fresh way in light of many contemporary challenges. [1]James Montgomery Boice, “Preface,” in Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 12.

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“Grace is the heart of the Christian gospel. It is a doctrine that touches the very depths of human existence because it not only reveals to us the very heart of God but draws us back into that precious communion with him that was so tragically lost at the fall.” (Page 19)

“Human alienation from God is something that affects us at the deepest level, and it is a problem of catastrophic proportions. The anodyne, coolly objective ways in which we discuss sacrifice in the lecture room, or the transformation of the cross into an item of costume jewelry, are eloquent testimonies to the way we have turned the problem of the human condition and the response of God’s grace into ideas that verge on being mere abstractions. The violent nature of sacrifice stands in judgment on the inadequacy of such conceptions and reminds us of the powerful, existential dimension of human rebellion and divine grace. Sin is violent, lethal rebellion against God; and biblical grace is God’s violent, raw, and bloody response.” (Page 31)

“On the one hand, it was typical for ancient Near Eastern covenants to be ratified by the cutting in two of sacrificial animals, between which the covenanting parties would pass as a way of saying, ‘If we break the terms of the covenant, may we be torn in two as these creatures have been!’ Yet in Genesis 15, Abram does not pass between the carcasses; only the Lord does this. In taking this action, the Lord unconditionally and unilaterally pledges himself to Abram and his descendants. As we see in the New Testament, this action prefigures the work of God in Christ on the cross at Calvary, where he takes up the penalty for our sins in the fulfillment of the covenant.” (Pages 26–27)


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