RELATED: Doctrines of Grace
Grace is God’s unmerited favor to ill-deserving sinners in Jesus Christ. The presence of the risen Christ, extending God’s forgivness and power so that God’s provision of His Son for redemption is effected through the agency of the Holy Spirit in the heart of man.
Grace is eternal (II Tim. 1:9), immutable (Rom. 11:29), sovereign (Rom. 9:11-24), effectual (Eph. 2:8-9; John 6:37, 39, 44, 63-65), and destroys all room for human boasting (I Cor. 1:29-31; 4:7). It means that the Triune God gets all the praise, honor, and glory for our salvation: The Father for planning it, the Son for purchasing it, and the Holy Spirit for applying and uniting us to it (Eph. 1:2-14). Christ is not only efficient, but is alone sufficient for salvation (Heb 9:12; 10:10) such that our own merit or works righteousness can do nothing to either attain or maintain our justification. The assistance of grace does not even depend on the humility or obedience of man ... for it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble ...as the Apostle says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). Faith is, therefore, not a product of our unregenerated human nature (John 1:13, 6:63-65; Rom 9:16) but is exercised as the infallible result of the work of the Holy Spirit opening our eyes and ears to the beauty of the gospel, turning our heart of stone to a heart of flesh and uniting us to Christ.
Secularism tends to make people selfish and individualistic. Religion and morality in general tend to make people tribal and self-righteous toward other groups (since their salvation has, they think, been earned by their achievement). But the gospel of grace, centered on a man dying for us while we were his enemies, removes self-righteousness and selfishness and turns its members to serve others both for the temporal flourishing of all people, especially the poor, and for their salvation. It moves us to serve others irrespective of their merits, just as Christ served us (Mark 10:45).
At the heart of the Reformation was one of the most fundamental questions of the Christian faith: How can I be saved from eternal damnation? The answer of all the leading Reformers was one and the same: only by God's free and sovereign grace. As J. I. Packer and O. Raymond Johnston have pointed out, it is wrong to suppose that the doctrine of Justification by faith alone, that storm center of the Reformation, was the crucial question in the minds of such theologians as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin. This doctrine was important to the Reformers because it helped to express and to safeguard their answer to another, more vital, question, namely, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ's sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith.
Michael A.G. Haykin