Are You Saved by Grace Alone?

Are You Saved by Grace Alone?

If not, then you’re not saved.


Dr. Trey Talley, Lead Pastor and Elder
Author of The Missing Gospel of Modern Christianity
If you don’t understand grace, then you will never rightly see your sinfulness or the holiness of God. However, our world and even many professing Christians have a view of grace different from what Scripture teaches. This is extremely problematic, because a correct understanding of grace is vital for a proper understanding of the gospel.



Simply defined, grace is unmerited favor received from God. Saving grace is not deserved, earned, or merited by us. Sadly, many people have distorted God’s grace by having too high a view of themselves and too low a view of God. Such a skewed view will often lead people to assume that they have worked to achieve God’s favor and that He is obligated to give them His saving grace. However, the moment any amount of self-merit enters one’s definition of grace, it is no longer the same grace taught by the Apostle Paul.

To correctly understand the beauty of saving grace, we need to remind ourselves of what we truly deserve. We are all guilty before God and deserve His wrath. Paul explained to the Romans that sins do not just disappear or go unpunished. Instead, every sin of every sinner will be punished by God. He writes:

But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil…. (Romans 2:5-9)
Wrath…judgment…fury…tribulation? Yes, this is the only thing that we truly deserve. However, Paul writes something absolutely amazing at the end of his gospel summary. He writes that he had “received grace.” Paul was a sinner who deserved the wrath of God, but now he was no longer a person owed the wrath of God; instead, he had received the free, undeserved, unmerited, saving grace and mercy of God. But, how can a sinner who deserves the wrath of God receive grace?
Many people think of themselves in a much better light than they should. It is human nature to compare ourselves to others, grade on a curve if you will. You might hear people say something like, “Well, I am much better than most people.”, or “I do sin a little, but not nearly as much as my friends.” Such statements reveal a distorted view of God’s holiness and their own sinfulness. As Paul teaches, every sin deserves eternal punishment, and the wrath that each sinner deserves is being stored up for the Day of Wrath when God will fully execute his judgment.



“What about all the good things that I have done? Don’t they act as a counterbalance the bad things?” Although people often assume that they have done enough good to outweigh the bad, that is not the way God operates. God does not place all of a person’s good deeds on one side, and all of a person’s bad deeds on the other side to determine who will receive grace. Even if this were the case, there would be nothing for God to place on the “good” side of the scale, for the Bible says, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”, or as Paul writes, “None is righteous, no, not one.”1 While we might think ourselves to be “pretty good,” the Bible paints a much different picture of who we are by nature. As Paul writes in Ephesians:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.2
“By nature deserving of wrath,” that is who we are. Wrath is what we deserve, and wrath is what God owes us.



Salvation is not given to those who are doing better in life than others. God does not look to see who is working the hardest in life at being good to determine who deserves salvation. Those who think they are deserving of salvation because of their own merit are the furthest away from salvation. Just look at the parable Jesus told of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisees depended heavily on their good works and believed that they had earned righteousness; however, tax collectors were the lowest of the low in Jewish society and were known to be horrible sinners. Let’s see what Jesus says of these two men who came to the temple to pray:

Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:10-14)
The Pharisee pridefully trusted in himself and bragged about his goodness to God. However, it was not the “good” Pharisee’s prayer that Jesus approved of, but the “sinful” tax collector’s prayer, who acknowledged his sinfulness and his need for mercy. The tax collector understood his position before God. He knew that he was a sinner in need of mercy and that he was in dire need of salvation from God. However, the Pharisee did not admit his sinfulness, or need of any mercy, and instead boasted of his own righteousness to God.
At one-time Paul, himself was one such Pharisee and not just any Pharisee.3 He had climbed the ranks and was the Pharisee of Pharisees, yet by the grace of God, he finally saw himself for the sinner that he was and realized that everything good he was doing was useless to earn his salvation.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith . . . (Philippians 3:7-9)
Paul realized that all of his self-righteousness had the total combined worth of a pile of trash. For many years, he had worked very hard to earn righteousness as a strict adherent of the law, yet once he encountered true salvation by grace, he understood that all he had done to try to earn salvation was useless. He now saw the error of his ways, understood his inability to earn righteousness, and looked to the only truly righteous One, God incarnate; Jesus Christ. By the grace of God, through faith in Christ Jesus, Paul had gained everything. What is more valuable than being saved from sin and the wrath and curse of God that we deserve as sinners? Nothing. Additionally, what is more wonderful than knowing that this salvation does not rest on us and our own record, but on the perfect record of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.



It is impossible to wrap our minds around the nature of God’s grace completely. Still, in his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul attempts to enlighten us once again as to the magnificent beauty of God’s grace to undeserving recipients:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:4-9)
According to this passage, who should receive the credit for salvation? The answer is, obviously, “God.” However, so many professing Christians still think that they have done something to deserve God’s grace in salvation. Yet, Paul says that salvation, “is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Some will at least agree that they need grace to be saved, but they still believe that salvation is a mixture of grace and their own good works. However, any amount of self-worth or self-merit changes the unmerited nature of God’s grace to a grace that is merited. We must remember that grace is not a reward, it is an undeserved gift from God. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote:

Grace is a great word in the Bible, the grace of God. It is most simply defined in these words—it is favour shown to people who do not deserve any favour at all. And the message of the gospel is that any one of us is saved and put right for eternity, solely and entirely by the grace of God, not by ourselves… Do what you like, you will never save yourself… We deserve nothing but hell. If you think you deserve heaven, take it from me you are not a Christian.

Any man who thinks that he deserves heaven is not a Christian. But for any man who knows that he deserves hell, there is hope. Out goes all your self-righteousness. It is all by grace, and entirely the mercy and compassion and the grace of God. It is God, who, in spite of us, and in spite of the world being what it is, sent his own Son into this world and then sent him to the cross.4
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, preached salvation by faith in Christ that was received purely by the grace of God. Such saving grace is unmixed with human works. Even our faith, as Paul writes, “is not our own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”5 God does not believe for us, we believe, but we only do so because He has chosen to give us saving grace.


Rightly understanding your inability to save yourself and that God did everything brings humility and thankfulness. Every day, we should thank God for not giving us the wrath we have earned and deserved. Instead, He has given us His unmerited, undeserved salvation through Jesus Christ. He did all of the saving work; you did nothing.

Today, if you realize that you have been relying on your goodness to save you, repent of that sin, see yourself for who you truly are, and look to Jesus Christ alone for your salvation.


1. Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:10

2. Ephesians 2:1-3

3. Acts 22:3-5

4. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Christopher Catherwood, The Cross: God’s Way of Salvation, 74-75

5. Ephesians 2:9


10 Key Points of Reformed Theology

10 Key Points of Reformed Theology

Dr. Trey Talley, Lead Pastor and Elder
Author of The Missing Gospel of Modern Christianity
On October 31st, the thoughts of many are on candy and costumes, but on this day in 1517, the thoughts of one man were centered on theological clarity. On this day, just over 500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Thesis to the door of the Wittenberg Chapel. These were 95 points of disagreement with the teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. He had hoped that this would lead to some great discussions within the Roman Catholic Church; however, (long story short) Luther was ordered not to challenge the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, excommunicated by the Pope, and even had a price placed upon his capture (dead or alive), by the Roman Catholic Church.

What did Luther say to cause such a harsh response?

Primarily it had to do with the fact that he believed the Bible to be the supreme standard of truth. The problem was that the Bible was being hidden from the people. It was unlawful to possess a Bible or to preach, teach, or even speak from the Bible in a language other than Latin, which had become a language reserved only for scholars. The inaccessibility of the contents of the Bible meant that over 99.9% of the people had no way of knowing what was in the Bible. As Luther entered a monastery and was allowed access to a Bible, he was shocked to discover that the Roman Catholic Church’s core teachings were not in the Bible. There was nothing in the Bible of purgatory, a Pope, the Treasury of Merit, praying to Saints, relics, or repetitions of the Hail Mary.
Most important, Luther discovered that the Bible taught a salvation that was by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. Luther was a brilliant man, whose most important work was the translation and distribution of the Bible to the people in their native language. Luther went on to teach and write for many years, but here are some key points that Luther and the other early Reformers taught that can be easily remembered known as the Five Solas. The Five Solas are based upon five Latin words with the Latin equivalent of the English word “alone” placed before them. These are meant to be five quick reference points to the theological difference between the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformers.

The Five Solas

  1. Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura) – The Bible is the sole written revelation of God, our only infallible rule for faith and life, and alone can bind the conscience of believers absolutely. No Popes, Councils, Priests, traditions of the church, organized, or unorganized religion has authority over the Bible. God is the Supreme authority, and His Word bears His authority. It is our role to submit to the Word that He has authorized. Psalm 119:9-16; Matthew 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:16
  2. Grace Alone (Sola Gratia) – Our salvation rests solely on the work of God’s grace. There is nothing a person can do to earn, work, or achieve salvation. Salvation is the unmerited favor of God given to a person due to the perfect work of Jesus Christ. Romans 2:4, 3:20-26; Ephesians 1:3-8, 2:8-10
  3. Faith Alone (Sola Fide) – Justification is by faith alone. By God’s free grace, the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed (given) to us by faith and is the sole ground of our acceptance by God, by which our sins are pardoned. This faith consists of a knowledge of the Gospel, believing the Gospel to be true, and a trusting in the Gospel alone for one’s salvation. Romans 5:1; Galatians 2:16, 3:6-11; Ephesians 2:8-10
  4. Christ Alone (Solus Christus) – Jesus Christ is the only mediator through Whose work we are redeemed. There is no one else who is qualified to mediate between you and God. This exclusion includes Mary the mother of Jesus, all “saints,” or anyone else other than Jesus Christ. John 14:6; John 3:16; Colossians 1:13-20; 1 Timothy 2:5-7
  5. To God Alone Be Glory (Soli Deo Gloria) – Salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God; therefore, to God alone belongs the glory. Since mankind is dead in his sin, and deserves nothing but the wrath of God for rebelling against God, any mercy bestowed upon sinners in salvation should result in giving the glory to God, and Him alone. Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Ephesians 3:21; Colossians 3:17; 1 Peter 4:11


These Five Solas reveal a clear, concise theology that says, “We believe that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to God alone be the glory, and we rely on the Bible alone for our source of authority.”

The theology of the early reformers such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, William Tyndale, etc. spread quickly as Bibles, and Bible-based teachings began to be produced in mass due to the printing press.

However, in the early 1600s, a man named Jacobus Arminius went against the Reformers teaching. The followers of Arminius created an acronym that stood for their points of disagreement. However, the acronym came to be loved by those to whom it was meant to mock, due to its truthfulness and ease of remembering. The acronym T.U.L.I.P, along with the Five Solas, became an easy way to remember the key theological points of the Reformation.


Total Depravity – Often referred to as Total Inability. Every human being is born a sinner and can do nothing in and of himself to right his sinful position before God. People are born sinners and actively pursue sinful behavior. People are spiritually dead in their sins and cannot make themselves come to life spiritually. Mankind is a slave to sin and cannot set himself free. John 6:44; Ephesians 2:1-10; Revelation 3:9-20
Unconditional Election – God, not man, is sovereign over all things, including salvation. Salvation is not based on a condition that we have met. It is based on God’s own free sovereign choice. We, as humans, do not contribute to our salvation. Romans 8:30; Romans 9; Ephesians 1:4-5
Limited Atonement- Also referred to as Definite Atonement or Specific Atonement. Jesus Christ died only for those whom the Father had given Him. His work was perfect, and all those for whom He died will be saved, because He has taken the wrath that they deserved. Jesus died in the place of all the elect taking, paying for their sin, and making peace between them and God. John 10:11-14; John 17:2-9; Romans 8:30
Irresistible Grace- All those for whom the Son died will come to Him for salvation. They will be made willing to come to God on their day of salvation. God regenerates them, bringing them to life, causing right belief and right affections for Him. Since no one seeks after God, God supernaturally seeks and saves all who are His. This is purely an act of His unmerited favor towards His elect. John 6:37; Philippians 1:29; Titus 3:5
Perseverance of the Saints- God guards the salvation of his elect. Everyone the Son died for will persevere and enter into heaven. Both the beginning and the preserving of their salvation is the work of God. There is no power in existence that can remove the believer out of the saving hand of God. John 6:37-38; Ephesians 1:14-15; 1 Peter 1:3-5
Together these ten points are the heart of the Reformation. The Reformers did not create these doctrines. Instead, the Reformers were simply returning to the actual teaching of the Word of God.
This Halloween, don’t just think of costumes and candy, consider Christ, and be thankful for those who cared enough to risk their lives to teach the truth of the Bible.


What does coming to the front have to do with salvation?

What does coming to the front have to do with salvation?

“Come to Jesus!”, “Come now!”, “Come to the front, Jesus is waiting here for you.”, “Get up and come quickly!”, “He died for you. The least you can do is take a few steps towards Him.”
This style of evangelistic plea has become the focal point of almost every major evangelistic outreach of our day, and the common end of most Sunday worship services. But, are such altar calls and invitations Biblically warranted?


In the middle of the nineteenth century, Charles Finney, a traveling evangelist with piercing eyes, tremendous personality, mesmerizing communication skills, and very little biblical knowledge, began the time of invitation that would soon come to be practiced at virtually every church in America. Finney became known for his incredible ability to stir up large audiences of people and get them to respond to his messages by beckoning them to come forward during his sermons. To many, it appeared that Finney had found a new method of evangelism that was extremely effective, and with the call to the front, results could be seen immediately.
Finney was successfully drawing massive audiences and seeing thousands of people come to the front for salvation. Surely this must have been a great move of God, right? Sadly, Finney’s bigger-than-life personality and his magnetic ability to get people out of their seats to come to the front caused many to overlook the fact that his doctrine was fundamentally flawed.
Finney had distorted the gospel of God, substituted his own version of the gospel and was actually calling on people to believe and respond to “another gospel” that was not from God. Finney did not believe that man was born sinful and required a Savior for the forgiveness of sins. He rejected the biblical truth that we are saved by Christ’s righteousness being applied to us. Finney also did not believe in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, nor did he see any need for it. He believed that it was impossible for Jesus Christ to die for the sins of others.1 He even went as far as to teach that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was just a great example of selflessness, but in no way brought about salvation.2 Finney writes, “It is true, that the atonement, of itself, does not secure the salvation of anyone.3 He had created a Christ who was nothing more than a moral example for people to follow, but Whose work did not and could not save anyone. In fact, Christ’s righteousness, Finney says, “could do no more than justify himself. It could never be imputed to us . . .”4
However, the altar call, which was created by a man who rejected the true gospel, has become so popular, that modern Christians just assume that this is the way that it has always been since the time of Christ. The invitation system is so prevalent that one would be hard-pressed to find a church that does not use some form of Finney’s “altar call” methodology.


So, what about you? Have you ever wondered what is at the front of the church that is not at the back or side of the church for salvation? Truthfully, there is no square footage of a church that someone must go to be saved. God could save a person no matter if they walked to the back, side, front, or even remain seated. Yet, countless pastors and evangelist promote the front as the place to come to be saved as if it is a means of salvation. What does walking forward have to do with one believing the gospel of God? Does physical movement somehow aid in salvation? Is there some connection between being saved by Christ and walking forward while music is playing at the end of church service?
Many professing Christians describe their salvation with such an action as “going to the front,” or “walking the aisle” as well. Such Christians often speak of their physical response of “going forward” as if such activity is an essential element of their salvation. This is a common mistake of Christians living in a “come to the front” era. In supposedly, telling others about our testimony, we often put the emphasis on the walk forward, instead of the message of the gospel. To an unbeliever, it would be easy for them to assume that “going forward” is what a person does to be saved.


While the altar call may be a widespread practice today, there is no scriptural support for such a practice. A quick search of the sermons of Christ and the Apostles shows that the whole “come to the front method” was never used. This methodology is entirely foreign to the Word of God. Many evangelistic sermons are recorded for us in the book of Acts, yet not once is there a call at the end to come to the front. The people are never told to come to the front for salvation; instead, they are told to believe unto salvation.
In his book, The Invitation System, Iain Murray presents the following points to consider regarding the high-pressure methodology of the “Invitation” as used in the modern church:
  1. The invitation system, because it represents an outward response as connected with ‘receiving Christ,’ institutes a condition of salvation which Christ never appointed.
  2. Because the call to come forward is given as though it were a divine command, those who respond are given reason to believe that they are doing something commendable before God, while those who do not are falsely supposed to be disobeying Him.
  3. By treating two distinct issues, ‘come to Christ’ and ‘come to the front’ as though they were one, the tendency of the invitation to mislead the unconverted in regard to their duty. The real issue is as stated in John 6:20 ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on him who he hath sent.’5


That being the case, does the “come to the front method” of evangelism add a non-biblical step into salvation? It is difficult to see how the modern emphasis on coming forward would not be seen as contributing in some degree to a person’s salvation. In fact, I have commonly heard preachers and evangelists say things like, “If there are 100 steps to your salvation, Jesus will take 99, but you must take the first one.”, or “Come now, Jesus is waiting here for you, all you have to do is come Him.” It is easy to see how such words could lead to the belief that walking forward is contributing to one’s salvation. Could such an invitation be seen as adding to the gospel? Could it even be adding human effort (works) as an essential component of the gospel? Some might not believe that “going forward” is that much work, but if it is contributing in any way even just one percent, how can that not be a mixture of God’s grace and human effort?


No one is saved because he or she went forward during an invitation, but some are saved despite their going forward during an invitation. It is possible that some who “come to the front” have genuinely heard the gospel and believed in the gospel for their salvation. Perhaps they understand that walking to the front is not adding to their salvation or required for salvation at all. And maybe they have just followed the speaker’s appeal to walk forward now that they are saved. If their faith is in the Jesus Christ of Scripture, then they are saved no matter if they walked forward, backward, or just stayed seated.
However, it is also possible that a person could not have heard the gospel, not believed in the gospel, and still walked forward under the compulsion of the speaker, peer pressure of friends, or an entirely wrong view of what is needed for salvation. Clearly, such a person is not saved; instead, they have just gone for a walk and gotten a bit of exercise, which has most likely lead to a false conversion. The point is, that genuine salvation and “coming to the front” are not synonymous.
As you reflect on your salvation, perhaps you too made a trip down the aisle. However, this does not mean that you are or are not saved. We should never look to a “come forward” event in our lives as proof of our salvation. It is good for professing Christians to, as the Apostle Paul says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.”6 Paul was not calling on the Corinthians to reflect on a time when they walked forward as a test of their salvation, but he is calling on them to make sure that they believe in Jesus Christ and what He has done to provide salvation.
There is no biblical support that a person needs to come forward to be saved. Many preachers and evangelists act as if coming to the front is a biblical command; however, Jesus nor His Apostles ever used such a practice. With such great emphasis placed on the visual act of going forward, many people tend to confuse their physical activity with the spiritual action of salvation. We, as Christians, should keep this in mind when we evangelize or share our testimonies with others. Even if we did walk an aisle, or go to the front, during an invitation, we must be careful that we do not make such an action a part of the gospel that we are proclaiming to others. The gospel’s call is not to walk forward but to repent, believe, and walk in obedience to Christ.
1. Charles G. Finney, Finney’s Systematic Theology, ed. James Harris Fairchild (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 320-322.
2. Ibid., 209.
3. Ibid., 217.
4. Charles G. Finney, Finney’s Systematic Theology, ed. James Harris Fairchild (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 320-322.
5. Iain Hamish Murray, The Invitation System (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1973), 26.
6. 2 Corinthians 13:5




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