Over these next five weeks, we’ll take a closer look at the five pillars of Lutheranism and the Reformation. These phrases give a succinct summary of what it means to be "Lutheran." The phrases were first expressed and have often been retained in Latin. The common thread which you’ll see in each phrase is a form of the word “Sola.” As many Latin words do, there are a number of English words which are very closely connected to this word—‘sole’ and ‘solo’ specifically stick out. This word “sola” means “only” or “alone.” And together, these phrases clarify the only foundation on which we stand.
The fact that we are saved Sola Gratia, by grace alone, is reiterated throughout all of God’s Word, but perhaps the clearest passage of all is Ephesians 2:8-9. “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.” Another passage is Romans 3:23-24. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” The Ephesians passage contrasts grace and works, and the Romans passage makes it clear that what we have done is not good enough, but what Jesus has done is!
The easiest definition to really understand grace is “undeserved love.” That’s what we see explained in Romans 5:8. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Grace is a gift. We weren’t anything special to deserve God’s grace. We don't do anything special to earn it. In fact, we’ve sinned so much to deserve and earn just the opposite. But God has showered his love upon us anyways. That’s grace.
Another helpful definition for grace is this acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. We get all of God’s eternal riches because Christ paid the punishment for our sin and freely gave them to us. If it at all depended on what we do or deserve, at best we could never be sure if we’ve done enough or are good enough. At worst, we’d be confident of the hell we deserve, if we’re honest about our sin and what God says about it. But it doesn’t. Our salvation is Sola Gratia, by God’s grace alone, and that’s why we can be absolutely sure of it!