Grace Alone

by Elijah Paniagua

About ten years ago, I first heard the song “Grace Alone” performed by The Modern Post. With a catchy melody, it was easy to listen to and evoked a sense of joy and celebration within me. At the time, I was in college, relatively new to my faith, having been saved only a few years prior at age of sixteen, and playing the bass guitar on Sundays for my church. When our Director of Music introduced the song to our team and taught us how to play it, I was hooked. It was fun to play and my best friend on drums was able to show his immense talent to the glory of the Lord with a driving beat and exciting fills. The point I’m making is that I love this song and I have since day one.

This was before I truly considered the lyrics and the depth of truth that songwriter Dustin Kensrue interlaced with the upbeat melody. Only when reading through the lyrics some years later did I realize how impactful this song was to me personally. The first verse reads:

I was an orphan lost at the fall;
Running away when I’d hear you call,
But Father, you worked your will.
I had no righteousness of my own
I had no right to draw near your throne,
But Father, you loved me still

In these lines, we cut to the heart of the truth behind the title itself, recognizing that we were not only lost, but in our sin actively ran from the Lord, with no righteousness of our own and no right to draw near to him. Despite this, the Lord “worked his will” and showed us the light of salvation because he loves us, in spite of our failings. The song continues:

And in love, before you laid the world’s foundation,
You predestined to adopt me as your own.
You have raised me up so high above my station;
I’m a child of God by grace, and grace alone

Here in the first chorus, Kensure weaves together the concept of predestination—the awesome truth that God knew and chose us to be fellow heirs with Christ before we were even born. In doing so, the Lord raised us from death to life, and from the lowest wretchedness and sin in which we once lived to a new station where we can call ourselves God’s children. This is not because of anything we have done, but by “grace, and grace alone.”

Skipping ahead a bit to the second chorus, we are introduced to a couple of new themes and concepts that are worth reviewing. It reads:

By your blood I have redemption and salvation.
Lord you died that I might reap what you have sown,
And you rose that I might be a new creation.
I am born again by grace, and grace alone.

In these lines, we now see that not only did the almighty God of the universe choose us before we were born, but he sent his son Jesus, whose blood was spilled on our behalf so that we may reap what he had sown, rather than the wrath that we had stored up for ourselves in our sin. As we know, however, the story doesn’t end there. Christ died, but he also rose from the dead, and in doing so he gave us the opportunity to be born again. We are now dead to our sin and alive in Christ Jesus by “grace, and grace alone.”

The final verse and the refrain at the end of the song is where Kensure repeats the melody repeats so he can pack in several more powerful truths.

And at your touch my sleeping spirit was awakened;
On my darkened heart the light of Christ has shone.
Called into a kingdom that cannot be shaken;
Heaven’s citizen by grace, and grace alone.
So I’ll stand in faith by grace, and grace alone
I will run the race by grace, and grace alone
I will slay my sin by grace, and grace alone
I will reach the end by grace, and grace alone

Reading through these words, it’s difficult not to be overwhelmed by the gravity of our current state relative to the death in which we once resided. In saving us and choosing us, the Lord has enabled us to pursue him so we can “stand in faith, run the race, slay our sin, and reach the end” all by “grace, and grace alone.” Without Christ and the Father, none of this is on the table. Rather than stand, we would lay dead. Forget running! We’d be slaves to sin, not slaying it, and the only end we’d reach would be a bitter one. All of this is supported in Scripture. Ephesians 2:1-10 reads:

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 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.

How hugely encouraging and awe-inspiring is it that the Lord took us out of our sin and death, and made us “alive together with Christ?” We can rest in these truths, fearing no heavenly retribution, knowing that Christ Jesus died and was raised again for our sake so that we may be “seated with him in the heavenly places.” Beautiful powerful truths like this are worth celebrating, singing, and enjoying corporately as the Body of Christ so we may never forget that it is by grace, and grace alone, that we were ever given the opportunity.

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