Here is one of my favorite references regarding the nature of Salvation by Grace. It is out of the book "A Summary Of Christian Doctrine" by Edward W.A. Koehler pages 78-79 written in 1939 and taken from the second edition published in 1951. Edward Koehler was faculty at Concordia in River Forest, Ill and died in 1951.
PART VI. SALVATION BY THE GRACE OF GOD THROUGH THE REDEMPTION IN CHRIST JESUS
1. The necessity of grace. -- All men have sinned (Rom 3:23), and are , therefore, guilty before God (Rom. 3:19), under the curse of law (Gal. 3:10), and deserving of death (Rom. 6:23). Left to himself, it is absolutely impossible for man to achieve his own salvation, for "by the deeds of the Law shall no flesh be justified" (Rom. 3:20). Salvation by the merit of our works is impossible; hence, divine grace is necessary for us to be saved.
2. The certainty of divine grace.--The grace of God is not an imagination or a possibility, but a divinely revealed fact. Moved by His love and compassion for man, God resolved to save him by the death of His Son (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8-10). The grace of God, then, is the moving cause, and the redemption through Christ is the meritorious cause of our salvation. Man, lost by his own works, is saved by the grace of God in Christ. "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men" (Titus 2:11). "By grace are ye saved through faith...not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph 2:8-9). Salvation by works is impossible, by grace it is sure. "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed" (Rom 4:16).
This doctrine of salvation by grace distinguishes the Christian religion from all other religions in the world. All others teach that, because man sinned, man must make amends and appease the wrath of God. While they differ as to the method and means by which this may be done, theya re agreed in principle that man must achieve his salvation by his own efforts and works.--The Bible teaches that man's salvation is achieved exclusively by the grace of God. Human ingenuity never could have devised the plan of salvation as it is revealed in the Bible (1 Cor. 2:6-10); it runs utterly contrary to our way of thinking; it is "foolishness" to us (1 Cor. 2:14). This doctrine, being the chief doctrine of our faith, marksthe Christian religion to be of divine origin, while all others are human inventions.
3. Definiton of grace.-- In our definition of "grace" we do not include that goodness which God shows to all His creatures (Ps. 145:9), but confine ourselves to the grace by which God saves sinners.
The word "grace" is sometimes used as a gift, quality, virtue , or power which God imparts to man gratuitously (Rom. 15:15; 1 Pet. 4:10). But when we speak of "saving grace," we do not mean anyof these things, nor do we mean an "infused" or a "prevenient" grace, by the proper use of which man is supposed to be able to effect his conversion. The grace by which God saves us is a personal attribute or quality in God, which manifests itself in His attitude toward man and in His promises and gifts, but which is not imparted to man. (Example: We can show our love to our neighbor in various ways, but we cannot impart our love to him.) According to Romish teaching "grace" is not a quality in God, but an infused "quality inhering in the soul" of man, by the aid of which he is to do good and to obtain forgiveness. When the Romish Church says that we are saved "by grace," it means something entirely different from what we mean when we say that we are saved by grace. The grace of God by which we are saved is the "favor Dei," which is that merciful, affectionate disposition, that good will of God toward men, according to which He forgives sins to those who are worthy of eternal death. It is the unmerited love of God toward men (John 3:16; Titus 3:4-5).-- From this concept of grace must be excluded every regard for the merit of man. God's grace is not in the least affected, motivated, or influenced by any worthiness in us; in fact the slightest injection of man's merit and worthiness utterly destroys the concept of grace. "If by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work" (Rom. 11:6). The grace of God and the merit of man are exclusive terms. Man cannot be saved partly by the grace of God and partly by his own merit; it might, conceivably, be the one or the other, but never both. As man cannot be saved by the merit of his works, it follows that his salvation is possible only by the grace of God.
It is a grace in Christ Jesus. While the merits of man are indeed excluded from the concept of grace, the merits of Christ must necessarily be included. "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24). There could be no grace for sinners with God, unless the demands of His holiness and justice had been fully satisfied by the active and passive obedience of our Redeemer. Hence we may not think of the grace of God apart from the redemption by Christ. God is gracious to sinners only in Christ and for Christ's sake. They who trust in the grace of God, but rejet the vicarious atonement of Christ, trust in something that does not exist, and will some day find God to be a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). The grace of God is given us by Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:4).
4. Attributes of saving grace.--
(a) the grace of God is universal. It is not limited to certain individuals, , the elect, as Reformed theology teaches but it extends to all men. "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men" (Titus 2:11). "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). "God will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4); (Ezek. 33:11). As Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2) so also the grace of God in Christ goes out to all men. But the Bible does not reveal that there is grace and redemption also for the fallen angels.
The fact that only a few are saved (Matt 7:13-14), and that these are saved solely by the grace of God, does not invalidate the truth that God is gracious to all men. Both propositions, that grace is universal, and that grace alone saves, must be maintained on the basis of the Scriptures. If the grace of God did not include all men, no man could be sure of it, because every one must then be in doubt whether God's grace is really intended for him. Neither can any one be sure of God's grace if in any way it depended on his merit, because he could never be certain that he is personally worthy of it.
(b) The grace of God is active. God's grace is not an idle sentiment, but manifests itself in what He did and what He still does for the salvation of men. Because God loved the world, he sent His Son to save the world (John 3:16). "God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). By the preaching of the "Gospel of grace" (Acts 20:24), God continues to offer all men the saving benefits of Christ's redemption. All the acts of God, whereby men are brought to faith, justified, sanctified, preserved, and finally saved through faith, are motivated by this grace. "By grace are ye saved through faith" (Eph 2:8)
(c) God's grace is serious and sincere. This appears not only from what His grace prompted, and still prompts, Him to do, but also from the definite statements to that effect. God swears, saying: "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live" (Ezek. 33:11). Christ weeps over impenitent Jerusalem (Luke 19:41) and says: "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not" (Matt. 23:37). There should be no doubt in the mind of any one that the grace of God is unfeigned, honest, and sincere.
(d) The grace of God is efficacious. The declaration and offer of God's grace in the Gospel possesses inherent power to impress and move the heart and towork acceptance of the offer. The Word of God, which offers this grace, works effectually in them that believe (1 Thess 2:13). As the offer of grace by the governor of the state has power to work in the heart of the convict the acceptance thereof, so the offer of God's grace has power to work in the heart of the sinner that faith by which he accepts it. The reason that it does not always do this, lies not in a lack, deficiency, or weakness of the offered grace, but in the perverse will of man. "Ye would not" (Matt. 23:37). "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost" (Acts 7:51)
Feel free to borrow this post for your oj/sj discussions.