We are exploring the foundation of Presbyterian theology: scripture, faith, grace, Christ, and the glory of God. Last week we covered how God primarily uses scripture to teach us today. This week we’ll explore “Faith” and “Grace.” Next week we’ll round out the final two.
Johann Tetzel, a German Dominican priest in the 16th century, created a catchy jingle in his attempt to sell indulgences for the Catholic Church: “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” He meant that a person could buy the salvation of another person’s soul by giving money to the church. This was known as the sale of indulgences.
Martin Luther, a protestant reformer, strongly advocated against the sale of indulgences. In fact, one of his 95 theses declared that the only thing that increases when “money clinks” is greed and avarice (theses #28). The reformers believed that only God can save.
Therefore, two of the five solas became “through faith alone” and “by grace alone.” The presbyterian church continues this belief today.
We believe that a person is saved simply by the grace of God.
Grace is unmerited.
To have merit is to have earned something. In my doctorate program, my grades are given to be based on merit. I’ve earned them through the work I’ve produced. This is true whether I earn an A or a C. That’s why a student shouldn’t complain about a low grade— they’ve earned it!
Grace is unearned. It is freely given to me, not based on my behavior or actions or intentions or beliefs. The Bible refers to grace as a gift.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
God’s love is given to humanity as a gift.
I do not give gifts to my children at Christmas because they’ve earned them by their behavior. I give them gifts because I love them. God treats us in the same way.
Simply because we exist, we are loved. That’s grace.
How do we fully understand grace? Through faith.
The reformers kept grace and faith tied together as partners. One doesn’t make sense without the other. They go together.
Faith is having confidence in things unseen— in this case, having confidence that God has given you grace as a gift.
When I put my faith in that belief, my whole life changes. I live differently when I truly believe in the transformative power of God’s grace in my life.
By grace. Through faith.
The Presbyterian Church continues to stand on this belief.
Don’t forget— this Sunday is our Thanksgiving Dinner (with pictures with Santa) beginning at 5 pm in the Fellowship Hall!
In the morning I’ll preach on 1 Chronicles 16:34—Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
See you on Sunday!