We’re 70 days from Easter. Well, close enough! That’s how this Sunday gets it’s name. We’re about 70 days from celebrating our Lord’s resurrection. Jesus rising from the dead on the third day after being crucified for our sins is so important that we’re already counting down to it, getting ready for it.
During this extra countdown to Eater, these three Sundays with extra funny Latin names, we’re given a gift. We’re given the chance to consider some other Latin words that are so important to us Lutherans. It’s the solas—Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura, Sola Fidei. Sola Gratia: By Grace Alone. Sola Scriptura: By Scripture Alone. Sola Fidei: By Faith Alone. Jesus saves you by grace alone (Sola Gratia), you know this from Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura), and you receive it by faith alone (Sola Fidei).
This week we get Sola Gratia: By Grace Alone. The Lord saves you not because of you and what you do or what you think or what you feel. As with everything else in life, He saves you “only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy.” He saves you for Christ’s sake alone. He saves you for His mercy’s sake alone. You can’t earn it. It’s free. Free salvation—by grace. “Not on the basis of works so that no one would boast.”
Grace means free. Grace means only from His favor, His mercy, His love. He saves you gratis, free, without charge. That’s Sola Gratia.
GOD SAVES YOU BY GRACE ALONE.
((I. He really does!))
The Lord really does save BY GRACE ALONE, but to the world Christianity looks no different from any other religion. Just consider the parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.” Christianity it seems is just like every other religion, trying to get people to sign up, to live a life within its vineyard.
But there appears something different about Christ, the “Lord of the Vineyard.” It’s like He wants to pay people! He’s always trying to find more and more and more workers. He goes out at sun up, at 9a, at noon, at 3p, and finally He goes out at 5pm. Quitting time back then was about 6p. As long as there’s still hours or minutes left, He’ll bring someone in.
And the payment He gives puts away all shadow of doubt. The Lord does want to pay, almost give away His wealth! It’s like it’s free! Because it is! Those who work the full day get a full day’s wage. Those who work one hour also get a full days wage! It’s not fair according to worldly standards, but it is gratis, by grace alone. Free salvation. Infants at the font. Men and women who hear His Word and receive His Sacrament on their death bed, or even death row—Nuremberg even!
To the world it may look sort of the same—one religion among many. But the truth is that in “the Kingdom of Heaven” the Lord’s almost tripping over Himself to pay people. In fact, the Lord’s giving His salvation away! Christ died for all, all people, all sins. Not because you earned or deserve it, but because “I am good,” He says. After all, GOD SAVES BY GRACE ALONE.
((II. We don’t do free very well.))
But we don’t do free very well. In fact, not at all. Our flesh, our Old Adam, how we’re hardwired as human beings after the Fall into sin is the opposite of God doing things sola gratia, for free. We chafe and grumble against God’s free salvation in Christ. Instead of rejoicing over the Master’s mercy to the last workers, the first workers complained. We, too, may look sideways at those who convert on their deathbed or those on death row. Or what of the condemned Nazis leaders who were brought by the Spirit to repentance and faith in Christ at Nuremberg?
Now, that’s a heavy example. I get that. But our thoughts about them betray our own hearts when it comes to the Lord’s grace and favor for all sinners. “Were they really sorry?” “There’s no way they had pure motives.” “They must’ve been phonies who fooled the chaplain.” “We’ve lived right. They didn’t. How can they be the same as us before God?”
We think that way because we’re always trying works in our relationship with God. God doesn’t need your works, but your neighbor does. We don’t even like way of thinking. Paul’s talking about his in our epistle reading. “He clearly shows that he was keeping his body under control, not to merit the forgiveness of sins by that discipline, but to keep his body in subjection and prepared…for carrying out the duties of his calling.” (AC XXVI.38) Your discipline and works won’t get you in good with God, but your discipline and your works will certainly help and benefit those you meet in your daily life.
But even though we’re works focused, we’re selfish about it! Exercise self-discipline, self-control for the sake of my neighbor? No way! Why would I do that if God’s not going to give me credit for it? Why should I bear the burden of the day and the scorching heat for them? Change my life for them? Give my life for theirs? What’s the bear minimum I can do? Or maybe we just jump the shark completely and go on sinning instead… But the Lord says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
So we reject good works. We either selfishly sin. Do what pleases us only. Love those who do the right things for us only. Or we’ll change God’s Law, do something easier for our neighbor, for our enemies. Make up our own good works. Or we mix our works and salvation. Trying to make our works count in some small way before God.
((III. He does it sola gratis because of us!))
And this is exactly why God saves you the way He does. He saves you from your darkest sins and from the so-called good works you try and peddle before God. GOD SAVES YOU BY GRACE ALONE because if He didn’t no one would be saved! You wouldn’t. I wouldn’t. No one ever would be saved unless God saved you by sending His Son, to live purely for you and to die for you, too. Christ’s blood and death atone for you and for all. For each sin. His blood covers our works, too. Gratis. Free. Mercy. Grace alone.
He saved Israel that way, too. Free salvation from Egypt. He sent Moses to save them. He led them by the cloud, brought them through the sea. He continually gave them what they needed to eat and to drink. In spite of their doubt, their sins, their grumbling. He made a promise. So He saved them. Freely. Gratis. Those who wanted their own way got it. Those who didn’t want the Lord’s free promised land got desert.
But the Lord still works for you for free. The price was paid—His Son’s blood, death, and resurrection. You are redeemed. Saved. Justified. Forgiven. Sola Gratia: by grace alone. He continues to pour out His grace and favor and forgiveness upon you. He strengthens your faith in Him. He strengthens your love for others, too. Doesn’t that sound nice? Having a stronger faith. Loving other people more. So He says, “My body given for you. My blood shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” Freely given and shed at Calvary. Freely raised on Easter. Freely given out now for you.
Sola Gratia. By Grace Alone. That’s how the Lord really does things in His kingdom. It’s gratis. Free. Only from His own love and mercy. He saved you. Sent His Son who died for the whole world, “while we were still sinners Christ died for the ungodly.” The Lord wants to give the wealth of the kingdom away. Infants at the Font with His Water and Word. You from the Altar with His body and blood. Morning, midday, afternoon, almost at closing time. The Lord’s still gives the same salvation away. Free salvation. Free for you. Paid for by Jesus. Seventy days until we celebrate that! But still delivered to you today. It’s yours. Gratis, free, without charge. GOD SAVES YOU BY GRACE ALONE.