2022 Conference Theme: Sola Gratia
The Only Ground for Glory
APRIL 29-30, 2022
This conference aims at making much of Christ through what the Reformers called the chief point and the essential issue of salvation.
Grace is a common but overloaded word. Often it is used in terms of divine help or strength kindly given. But the grace of sola gratia does not help or strengthen sinners, it saves them. The greatest issue at stake in this matter is the glory of God. How one understands grace will directly and immediately effect perception and praise of God. If salvation is truly by God’s grace alone, then all glory, honor, and praise is due to God alone.
We resolve to celebrate salvation by the gift that boasts in Christ—the only ground for glory.
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Sola Gratia Overview
Grace is a common but overloaded word. Often it is used in terms of divine help or strength kindly given. But the grace of sola gratia does not help or strengthen sinners, it saves them.
How is the gospel utterly unique? What makes Christianity different from all other religions and philosophies? How can the hopeless find hope? How can the faithless believe? How can the spiritually dead eternally live?
The Reformation did not create anything new. It preeminently rediscovered the gospel as the message that salvation is wholly a gift from God, entirely without human contribution. Luther’s greatest work was not on the issue of justification by faith but salvation by grace. He saw sola gratia as primary in the discussion of the means of salvation. When Erasmus argued that faith was dependent on the sinner’s free will Luther enthusiastically responded,
I praise and commend you highly for this also, that unlike all the rest you alone have attacked the real issue, the essence of the matter in dispute, and have not wearied me with irrelevancies about the papacy, purgatory, indulgences, and such like trifles, with which almost everyone hitherto has gone hunting for me without success. You and you alone have seen the question on which everything hinges, and have aimed at the vital spot; for which I sincerely thank you, since I am only too glad to give as much attention to this subject as time and leisure permit. (Luther, Works, 33:294)
This conference aims at making much of Christ through what the Reformers called the chief point and the essential issue of salvation. Represented by the phrase sola gratia, this key theological conviction acknowledges that sinners are saved apart from works by grace alone. Justification by faith alone (sola fide) is closely related to salvation by grace alone (sola gratia). The focus, however, shifts. In sola fide it is on man’s receiving, in sola gratia on God’s giving. And the former depends on the latter. God’s grace depends not on man’s faith, but man’s faith depends on God’s grace. This conference centers on treasures of immeasurable importance. It addresses matters that have to do with Christ and His glory, with the gospel and its power, and with man and his everlasting joy.
A Christian Distinctive
This theme is an exclusive and absolute distinctive of Christianity. All religions seek a way of salvation, but only in the gospel of grace does God fully initiate the redeeming pursuit of rebels. Yet saving grace is not sentimental injustice. It is not a compromising God overlooking guilt or tolerating the sinner. It is the costly act of a perfectly righteous and holy God in the giving of Himself in Christ. The work of Christ embodied in His suffering and death on the cross accomplished redemption by satisfying God’s justice on behalf of the guilty. The sinner contributes nothing but the cause of Christ’s suffering. But salvation is more than redemption accomplished, it necessarily involves redemption applied. Salvation is truly by grace only when it includes the application as well as the initiation of redemption. This more closely touches the essence of sola gratia, which speaks of a full and decisive sovereign, saving grace. Here all the benefits acquired by Christ’s death are applied by the Holy Spirit. What Christ gained for those dead in sin must be applied to make them alive.
To be Proclaimed and Believed
The Reformation was the outworking of the rediscovery of God in His amazing grace. Grace defines the whole of its cause, its means, and its accomplishments. Salvation as a gift of God was rediscovered. The good news of grace in Christ and Him crucified was once again publicly proclaimed and received by faith. The gospel is the good news of grace. It is preeminently about God’s gift to sinners.
To Enlarge our Hearts
Salvation by grace alone is a subject of a peculiar amazement. It is purposed to incite wonder and awe, humility and reverence, gratitude and praise. Uniquely revealing and captivating is the doctrine of sola gratia, a concentrated consideration of which will enlarge and encourage our hearts as it deepens and develops our understanding.
Only Ground for Glory
The greatest issue at stake in this matter is the glory of God. How one understands grace will directly and immediately effect perception and praise of God. God’s glory is the central compromise when grace is misunderstood. If salvation is truly by God’s grace alone, then all glory, honor, and praise is due to God alone. Tamper with grace and you tamper with God’s glory. Any other claim robs from God the glory of salvation and demeans the work of Christ. We resolve to celebrate salvation by the gift that boasts in Christ—the only ground for glory.