The Reformers also taught and proclaimed that salvation was by grace alone. Why is this sola so important? There are several reasons, but the main one is that it distinguishes the Gospel from every other religion on the face of the earth.
For the Gospel is the great proclamation that God saves men and women, not on the basis of anything that they have done, but by and through his grace alone.
Theologians, when comparing the Gospel to other religions, often distinguish it by saying the Gospel is monergistic rather than synergistic. When we talk about the differences between the two we are seeking to answer the question, “Who does what when it comes to salvation?” In a synergistic view of salvation, God is seen working with man to accomplish it; that is, both God and man bring something to the table. But in a monergistic view of salvation, God alone does the work when it comes to salvation.
I believe that this Sola of the Reformation, Sola Gratia strongly indicates salvation is totally monergistic—God alone works to accomplish it. That is exactly what the Apostle Paul says in perhaps the key text from Ephesians that defines our salvation:
“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 2:8).
It is important to recognize that even those who hold a synergistic view of salvation (that God and man must work together in human redemption) teach that salvation is totally a gift of God’s grace. They would say that the grace which Paul speaks of is totally a gift given by God. Yet Paul seems to be saying more in this Scripture than that God makes salvation possible; indeed, he seems to be saying that even the faith we must have in order to be saved is a gift of God’s grace. In other words, faith is not something I must bring to the table but is given as a gift of God’s grace. This changes our view of salvation from a synergistic one to a monergistic one.
One of the reasons for the differences in views is the different ideas of the human condition before salvation which has an effect on how we even present the Gospel: