Doctrines of Grace

'Grace' comes from the Latin word gratia, and it means something free, unmerited and unearned, 'gratis', as we say. The Gospel is good news of God's  free, unmerited and unearned pardon and restoration granted to sinners who have faith in the Lord Jesus
Christ.

The Bible makes it clear that all people are sinners, all have fallen short of that which God intends us to be. Worse, this propensity for sin, for going wrong, is something we have inherited from our origin so that no matter how hard we may try, we cannot help but do and
think and say sinful things, as a compass needle cannot help but point to the Magnetic Pole. We are all the 'children of wrath', as St. Paul puts it, under God's Judgement.

The New Testament tells us that there is only one man without sin - Jesus Christ. He is the only man without sin because He is the Son of God. He was made to be sin for us, so that in His own self He paid the penalty due to us for our sins. He not only suffered the physical agonies of crucifixion for us, but also endured the spiritual darkness, desolation and horror of complete separation from God His Father. Moreover, He told His disciples beforehand that this is what would happen, and He told them why it would happen, that in the Father's love for His world, He had been born into the world precisely for this reason, so that He should give His life a ransom for many. The Bible tells us that Christ, who is righteous, became sin for us. His righteousness is imputed to us in place of our sin, which He has nailed to the Cross. As Martin Luther said, if the all the world were believers, God would see nothing in the whole world but cleansing and righteousness. Thus is salvation the free and unmerited gift of a loving God.

'Justification' means that we are declared 'just' (innocent, morally right or fair) by God because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We appropriate the gift of Justification by faith. That is, we stop trying to save ourselves by what we do, and trust that Jesus Christ has 
saved us. That is what faith means - trust. A drowning man has to stop trying to save himself by his own, wild thrashing around, or he will surely die. Instead he has to trust himself to the life-guard who has jumped in to save him. He will only be safe when he relaxes and trusts the life-guard to hold him up and get him out. In the same way, we are only saved, only justified, when we trust the
promise of God, that the Blood of Christ, shed for us, has taken away our sin. There is no need for pious works of our own, for 'it is finished', as Christ cried out on the Cross.

So, salvation is of Grace - that is, it is a free gift of God's love: He of His own Sovereign Will, sent His Son into the world to accomplish our rescue.  We claim the result of His sacrificial self-offering by faith - by hearing the Gospel ( Gospel means 'good news') and
trusting that the sacrifice of Christ works for us. Even this faith, this trust, is a gift of God. He puts His Holy Spirit into our hearts to stir up faith, otherwise the good news falls on deaf ears.

It is a complete re-orientation of our lives. Our faith, if it is real, then shows itself in the way we live our lives. Helped by the Holy Spirit, we find that we want to please God by living the sort of lives He wants us to live. Children of God by Adoption and Grace Alongside Justification comes Adoption. St. John 1:12 tells us "but as many as received  him, to them gave he power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:'

Those who believe on the name of Jesus Christ, as Lord and Saviour, are adopted by God as His sons and daughters. From being the children of darkness and wrath, they become the children of God. As we go on in the faith, as children of God, we will find that more and more we will want to live as God's children and will grow to hate the sinful lives we used to live; and more and more we will
want to please our Heavenly Father. When we slip back into our old ways, God our Father promises to forgive us, as we confess our failures honestly to Him. By His Holy Spirit, by His Word and Sacraments, He will help us to live as we should, lives that bring honour to our Heavenly Father.

None of it is our doing. As the Apostle Paul said, it is all Grace from start to finish. This teaching about Adoption, Grace and Justification by Faith alone is at the heart of the good news, and it is at the heart of what we teach in the Free Church of England. It is the official doctrine of the  Established Church of England, according to the Book of Common Prayer (1662) and the 39 Articles.