the centre of the Reformation was the question “How can I be right with God?” It wasn’t that faith and grace were completely absent from the teaching of the church, it was rather that they’d been squeezed out by works, rituals and sacraments.
Grace had become a substance bestowed on you at baptism because of Jesus’s death. However, through life you could lose grace as well as gain it. Sacraments like the Mass, saying confession, doing penance etc were ways to in effect top your account back up. You could gain additional grace by taking up holy orders in a monastery. You could also pay (through a scheme known as indulgences) for your dead relatives to have their grace accounts topped up and that way buy them out of purgatory (an intermediate place between earth and heaven where most people expected to go to pay off their debt to sin in order to purify their souls for heaven).
Martin Luther, John Calvin and others rediscovered that we are justified by faith alone (Romans 4:1-8), this is God’s free gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8). This was spiritual dynamite blowing away hierarchies, rackets and cabals that controlled the church and sought to come between people and God.
We still need to be reminded that everything is through grace alone. It is so easy to slip into a line of thinking where we see Christ’s death as giving us a second chance but after that it is up to us to make our own way and/or to pay God back.
The Gospel reminds us that it is God who has saved us and that he is the one who will keep us. This sets us free from a burden of guilt and enables us to enjoy a wonderful relationship with him.