the next article of the cambridge declaration is sola gracia (“grace alone”)

Sola Gratia: The Erosion of The Gospel
Unwarranted confidence in human ability is a product of fallen
human nature. This false confidence now fills the evangelical world;
from the self-esteem gospel, to the health and wealth gospel, from
those who have transformed the gospel into a product to be sold and
sinners into consumers who want to buy, to others who treat
Christian faith as being true simply because it works. This silences
the doctrine
of justification regardless of the official commitments
of our churches.

God’s grace in Christ is not merely necessary but is the sole efficient
cause of salvation. We confess that human beings are born spiritually
dead and are incapable even of cooperating with regenerating grace.

Thesis Three: Sola Gratia
We reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God’s wrath
by his grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit
that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin
and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life.

We deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature

last week i preached a series of revival services that emphasised the content of the gospel; namely justification. one of the passages i preached from was romans 5:6-11 where paul writes:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

notice here that before salvation in christ, all people are referred to as:
* sinners
* enemies of god
* deserving of his wrath

paul also says in well known chapter 3 of romans that “none are righteous, no not one… there are none who seek after god” and that “all have sinned”. in chapter 6 he says that “the wages of sin is death”.

so salvation is not “how to have a better____________ “(marriage, financial situation, etc.) it is not simply “how to have your best life now”. it is this: that by nature of being born a human, your very nature is that of an enemy of god and we are all deserving of his wrath. not simply god’s frustration, hurt feelings/ego, or his displeasure, but we are born deserving of his wrath.

the gospel is that the wrath of god justly deserved by every person ever born (except christ-for he was/is utterly perfect and righteous) is just. it is our “wage”- what we have earned by being his enemies.

“but god..” paul says. god sent christ so that whoever would repent of their sins and believe in christ would have their sins paid for- not simply “forgotten” or ignored, for their must be a payment for sin – blood must be shed. (heb. 9:22)
christ paid that punishment for all who believe in him. that is why we need the gospel, to go from being an enemy of god deserving of his wrath to be reconciled to him, to be justified because of the work and righteousness of christ. and that is not deserved, earned or merited by us.

paul spells this out, among other places, in ephesians 2 (emphasis in bold are mine)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you
once walked, following the course of this world, following the
prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in
the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in
the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body
and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the
rest of mankind.
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 [god] 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.
For we are his workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand,
that we should walk in them.

it is by the grace of god that we are saved, not by our “picking ourselves up by
our bootstraps” or being smart enough to figure out what we need. salvation is not
simply “being religious”. salvation has nothing to do with us saving ourselves.
it is only because of the love and mercy of god that anyone who calls on the name of
the lord will be saved.

if it weren’t for “but god…” we would all reap what we have sown- the wrath of god.

anything less than this is not the full gospel. anything less is a half-truth. and as j.i. packer rightly observed, “a half-truth presented as a whole truth becomes a complete untruth”.

let us be a people whose gospel tells us what we are saved from, and who does the saving- which is the only true gospel.

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