Sola Gratia

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

As stated in the previous article concerning Sola Scriptura, this October 31st will mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. By stating Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), the Reformers rejected anything or anyone who contradicted biblical authority.

Sola Gratia (grace alone) is the second of the Five Solas. This one is important because it distinguishes the true gospel that saves from false gospels that cannot save. Sola Gratia simply acknowledges that the Bible teaches that salvation is a gift of grace from God through faith. The passage above is one of many that support this claim. The grace of God is based on God’s mercy and not on anything good in us. This is the reason we cannot boast in our works.

Why do we need God’s grace, and why not rely on our works? It is because the Bible clearly teaches that we are all sinners, an imputed condition on humans since the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden (Romans 5:12-21; Genesis 3). We are hopeless and helpless without God’s grace. We would die in our sin and face His judgement for all eternity.

There are those who do not want to accept what the Bible teaches about man’s condition. They want to be the masters of their own destiny. There is something in man that says, “I need to work out, or earn, my salvation.” The problem is that no matter how good our righteousness is, there is nothing good enough that allows us to enter into God’s blessed holiness in heaven apart from Christ’s righteousness.

The Apostle Paul states: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world…But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)”… Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-5.

Therefore, the free gift of God is His grace (God’s riches at Christ’s expense). When you believe what Christ did on the cross, and that He rose again three days later, the Bible says you will be saved. Since this is the case, we are saved by grace alone so that we may boast (proclaim) about the works of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, rather than anything we could ever boast within ourselves.

This is God’s grace, His gift to you. It is unmerited and free to whomever believes and calls on the Lord Jesus Christ by faith.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Glenn Tatum

Sola Scriptura

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

This year, October 31, marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. On October 31, 1517, the posting of his theses sparked a revolution that initiated the Protestant Reformation. What were these 95 theses? They were Luther’s calling for a “disputation on the power and efficacy of indulgences out of love and zeal for truth and the desire to bring it to light.”

His initial purpose was not to separate from the Catholic Church, but to reform it. Luther’s strong stance in the Word of God led to him being labeled a heretic and condemned by the church. When asked why he had done what he did, he answered, “I never wanted to do it, but was forced into it when I had to become a Doctor of Holy Scripture against my will.”

From the Reformation came the Five Solas. These five statements from the early Reformers distinguish them from the Roman Catholic Church. The word “sola” is a Latin word that simply means “only” or “alone.”

• Sola Scriptura: “Scripture alone”
• Sola Fide: “Faith alone”
• Sola Gratia: “Grace alone”
• Solus Christus: “Christ alone”
• Soli Deo Gloria: “To the glory of God alone”

In light of this, the church where I serve is celebrating the Reformation by memorizing Scripture based on the Five Solas. This month’s memory verse just happens to be Hebrews 4:12. The other two were 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 1 Thessalonians 2:13. These verses emphasize that the Bible alone is the only source of authority for Christians. By stating “Scripture alone,” the Reformers rejected any religious tradition or authority that claimed to have divine power as declared by the Roman Catholic Pope. Thus, anything or anyone who contradicts the Bible is to be rejected.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 reminds us that the only divine authority we have for the church is not found in man’s wisdom or declarations, but in the divinely inspired Word of God. For “All Scripture (Old Testament and New Testament only) is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

These words are life to the Christian. They teach us about God, man, sin, Jesus, salvation, the church, eternal life, heaven, and the Christian’s walk. They are our counsel as the Holy Spirit guides and teaches us how to walk in a way that brings glory to God through Christ. Therefore, if you believe in Christ alone, you only need His Word alone to live and hope for eternal life.

Glenn Tatum
Pastor of Community Groups & Caring
NorthCreek Church, Walnut Creek, CA

Freedom to Serve through Love

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13

How are seniors in churches perceived? One perception I hear is, “I can’t wait to retire so I can travel and play games like our seniors do.” Another is that seniors do very little, assuming that because they are retired from their vocational labor, they have also retired from spiritual labor. Or, that they are too old to serve at church. There is always a little truth in perception, but if one broaden their scope they might be surprised by what they see.

Seniors at my church are examples, not of those who use their “freedom” as “an opportunity for the flesh,” “but through love serve one another” in ministry. Here are some examples in how our seniors serve through love:

  • Sunday school (teaching children and adults)
  • Worship and media (singing in choir, lights, cameras, graphics, instruments, serving and prepping communion, stuffing worship folders, and greeting)
  • Hospitality (cooking, cleaning, waiting on tables)
  • Caring (visiting, praying, preparing and delivering meals to shut-ins, widows/ers, and those who are sick)
  • Memorials and funerals
  • Missions (personal, local, and global)
  • Biblical counseling
  • Retirement centers (leading singing, teaching, visiting, praying)
  • Major outreach events
  • Community Groups

These are just some of the areas from the top of my head that I can think of. The amazing part of their service is that many have been serving for decades simply for the glory of God. I thank the Lord for all these seniors who choose to use their freedom to honor the Lord and who demonstrate love by serving the body of Christ.

I close with this final note. The Apostle Paul expresses through exhortation that if you are able and not serving, find a place to serve. Not only will you be glorifying the Lord, but you will be loving His church. Start using your freedom in Christ to serve and love others today.

Comfort as we have been comforted

“Blessed be the God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 1.3-5

Once during Queen Victoria’s reign, she heard that the wife of a common laborer had lost her baby. Having experienced deep sorrow herself, she felt moved to express her sympathy. So she called on the bereaved woman one day and spent some time with her. After she left, the neighbors asked what the queen had said. “Nothing,” replied the grieving mother. “She simply put her hands on mine, and we silently wept together.” – source unknown

Sometimes the giving of comfort involves the simple act of just being with someone. No words of advice, no action to follow up on, just the simple act of being with someone and holding their hand during their time of grief. Especially if you have been in their place, you know what you would have wanted in being comforted.

The word “comfort” is mentioned six times by Paul in these few verses. The word itself means to be called along side of. The word pictures two objects paralleling each other with the weaker one leaning on the stronger one for support. I have used this word numerous times while cycling with friends. Some days you feel good while riding, yet somedays while climbing a hill you don’t seem to have the energy to make it up. I have on occasion come along side a weaker rider and place my hand on their back and while using the strength in my own legs push them up the hill to encourage them so they do not fall behind. Why do I do that, because someone else has done that for me.

Probably everyone of us have experience afflictions in life. Paul promises that God will “comfort us in ALL our affliction” with the sole purpose “that we will be able to comfort those who are in ANY affliction.” Where does the source of our comfort come from, from Christ and His sufferings and they “are ours in abundance.” They are excessive and abound more than we could ever imagine or think. This is the beauty of God’s grace and the church.

What is our role as comforters? To come along side others and share in their suffering so that they may share in our comfort that comes from God (2 Cor. 1.7). A great book on this is “Comfort the Grieving” by Paul Tautges published by Zondervan. Therefore, comfort one another in Christ.