The Rebirth of Grace at the Reformation
Jesus, the apostles and the early church all believed and preached that sinners were saved by grace alone, and not by our works. But as history rolled along the church slowly became more and more corrupt, and focused on the good works of the people as they vigorously tried to live by the stringent and unbiblical standards of the Roman Church.
In the beginning of the 16th-century the pope and others in authority began to stress the paying of indulgences as a means to reduce ones personal time they would spend in purgatory after death (this is an unbiblical Roman Catholic doctrine), as well as the time of suffering of their family members. The money raised was to help pay for the building of St. Peter's Basilica and to pay off some heavy personal debts.
The biblical doctrine of grace – salvation by grace alone – and living a Christian life by resting in the finished work of Christ - as opposed to the works salvation view of the Roman Church needed a 'rebirth', and early Reformers such as Wycliffe and Hus got the ball rolling, but it was Martin Luther and his direct attack against the practice of selling indulgences that jump started the revolution – the protest – the birth of the Protestant Church.
The definition of grace that is expressed in the scriptures tells us that grace is the freely given, unmerited, undeserved, and unearned favor and love of God.
Merit means: To have a claim to respect and praise.Deserving means: To be rightfully worthy of rewardEarned means: To gain in return of one's service.
We don't merit, deserve or can we possibly earn God's salvation, and that is why grace is freely given to those who are incapable and unwilling to rest in Christ. The Spirit must place His love – His life – into the sinner, which then brings faith, repentance, and life – true life – everlasting life – to the now redeemed child of God.
We can be thankful that the Triune Lord God loved us enough to grant us His saving grace. Don't try to work for it, just rest in what Christ has already done for us.