“You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is righteous I will give you.”
᛭ INI ᛭
Jesus only. “Jesus, Jesus, Only Jesus,” as the old hymn puts it. That was last week. Solus Christus. Jesus only. Jesus solely. Jesus alone.
Over the next three weeks, we get three more solas: Sola gratia (“by grace alone”); Sola Scriptura (“by Scripture alone”); Sola Fide (“by faith alone”). This week it’s sola gratia: “by grace alone,” that is, “by God’s undeserved favor alone.” Grace and mercy, as far as the Scriptures are concerned, are very close synonyms. We are saved on account of, because of, by virtue of, by grace alone, mercy alone, underserved favor alone.
God the Father, only for the sake His Son, saves us by grace alone, His undeserved favor, but it’s not just salvation. It’s the calling unto salvation and the delivery of salvation. As far as Jesus’ parable is concerned, the calling and the benefit are the same. So it is always by grace alone—beginning to end: sola gratia.
((3. The Lord calls sola gratia.))
In Jesus’ parable, the Lord of the Vineyard calls workers into His Vineyard. No matter when He calls them into His vineyard, the calling is the same. At 6am He went out and said, “You go into the vineyard.” At the third hour He says, “You ALSO go into the vineyard, and whatever is righteous I will give you.” “In the same way also” (ὡσαύτως) He went out at the sixth and ninth hour. At the eleventh hour He also goes out and says, “You ALSO go into the vineyard.”
So also His call is the same in the Old Testament as in the New Testament. It’s all “by grace alone.” He called Abraham who believed in the false gods of Ur. Everyone before the flood was evil the Lord’s sight—everyone!—but “Noah found favor,” “found undeserved favor.” Sola gratia. The children of Israel were also called out of Egypt by grace, and their calling foreshadowed our own: they, too, were baptized, they, too, ate spiritual food, drank spiritual drink.
No matter when or where the Lord calls through His promises, His Gospel, it is always sola gratia, by His underserved favor alone. It’s not based on anything in the person He’s calling to Himself. Abraham, Noah, Moses, the Israelites, you, me—the Lord doesn’t call anyone because they’ve got it together, because they’re better than anyone else. It’s all grace, underserved favor, mercy. Otherwise, there’d’ve been no one crossing that Red Sea, no one to be on, let alone build the Ark.
((2. The Lord saves sola gratia.))
The Lord calls by grace alone because He saves by grace alone. The Lord saves sola gratia, and that’s very clear in our Old Testament reading. He saves the people of Israel not because they were strong, not because they had great faith, not because they were more numerous than anyone else. He saves them from the Egyptians because He promised to do it.
He promised it to Abraham some 500 years beforehand. The Lord’s salvation always rests on His Promises, and His promises flow out of His undeserved favor. Just think about the Israelites in our reading. They’d just made it out of Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, and the very next moment they’re like, “We’re going to die from thirst! Let’s go back!”
The Lord is merciful. He’s patient. He’s long-suffering. He saves them by grace. He saves the grumbling. He saves the fearful. He saves the dying. He saves those who sin against Him, who’d rather have slavery in Egypt, or whatever other lame stuff we’d rather have. It’s all rooted in His favor, His clearly undeserved favor. That’s sola gratia.
Sola gratia means you don’t get what you deserve, you don’t get what’s fair. The Israelites deserved to die of thirst. We deserve all sorts of things for our sins, too. But God the Father laid on His Son the iniquity of us all. The Triune God is a God “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He forgives iniquity and transgression and sin.” That’s clear as day at Calvary where the Son of God bore the punishment that we by our sins have deserved.
((1. The Lord delivers His Gifts sola gratia.))
But the Lord’s not done. Yes, He calls into the faith by the Gospel, the Good News of what Jesus has done for us. Jesus acted out the Trinity’s sola gratia all the way to Calvary, suffering, and death. The Spirit calls by that Gospel sola gratia, no matter when or where. But the Lord isn’t done. He also delivers His Gifts sola gratia.
That’s how the Lord of the Vineyard paid His workers. It wasn’t fair, which is what those called at daybreak wanted. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t just. But it was righteous! It was sola gratia. Those who only worked an hour or less got paid a full day’s wage. So did those who only worked three or six or nine or all twelve hours! “Didn’t you agree with me for a denarius?” They had!
They grumble against the merciful and gracious and kind Owner of the Vineyard. We do, too. We sin by taking sola gratia away on the backend. On the one hand we celebrate “free grace” for ourselves or those we love and like, but decry “cheap grace” for those who don’t measure up to our standards or have wronged us in some measly way. We point to works or lack thereof of others, but quickly silence any talk of our own sins that cheapen of grace.
(This isn’t to talk of faith and fruit, but if we turn the focus to fruit in such away that the fruit matters for salvation, that good works actually matter for salvation—when we do that, we not only lose sola gratia, but we loose faith alone, too. But more on that in a couple weeks.)
But the Lord gives out His favor, His forgiveness, His mercy freely. It is and always is sola gratia. Water from a rock. Payment for the workers. Or Baptism. Or Absolution. Or the Supper of Jesus’ body and blood. He gives it out. It’s all received by faith. And workers, those who are actually in the vineyard, actually receive the denarius. Those not in the vineyard, don’t. Freely given. Freely received. Sola gratia.
Over the next three weeks, we get the three solas: Sola gratia; Sola Scriptura; Sola Fide. This week it’s sola gratia: “by grace alone,” that is, “by God’s undeserved favor alone.” Grace and mercy, as far as the Scriptures are concerned, are very close synonyms. We are saved on account of, because of, by virtue of, by grace alone, mercy alone, underserved favor alone.
SOLA GRATIA IS JUST HOW THE LORD DOES THINGS.
It’s how He calls us to salvation. His Gospel goes out: “Go into the vineyard and whatever is righteous I will give you.” Certainly wasn’t fair. It was righteous! Sola gratia! He also lead the people through the waters by Moses. So He calls you again today. Scripture. Sermon. Supper.
He prepared the Vineyard for us. Isaiah 5 is all about that. Check it out. Isaiah 5. Anyway, the Son fulfilled the Law to grant us free access. That’s His free salvation. He lived a holy life in our place, and suffered the punished for our sins. We taste of His His fulfilling the Law today: “He took bread…in the same way also (ὡσαύτως) He took the cup after Supper.” Passover past and done. Lord’s Supper now for you—“my body and blood for your forgiveness.”
All His gifts are that way. He gives each and everyone not because we deserve it, but precisely because we don’t. He makes us deserving. That’s faith. But more on that then. But sola gratia is how He acts toward us: from beginning to end. Free forgiveness, free mercy, free favor, underserved favor.