“How can I be saved?” we ask, or “How can I be right with God?” Left to our own devices, the human answer is remarkably consistent: be good. Work hard to do good things and avoid bad things, and maybe it will all turn out right. This seems to make sense—until we try putting it into practice. How much is enough? How can I ever be sure that I will be OK?
The Reformation began with the recognition that we are not able to overcome our own sin. No work or effort we do can ever be sufficient. Our sin is too great and our works too poor. Left to ourselves, we rightly despair. This is where Martin Luther found himself. But then he read, “In [the Gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:17). Here is God’s answer: Grace.
Grace is God’s undeserved favor, love, and mercy towards humanity because of the work of Christ. It is a gift. God freely gives us what we could never deserve.
Nothing we can ever do would be enough. But Christ is. God does it all for us. “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 2:8-9).
Salvation is a free gift from God. We are saved by grace alone.