Summary: Grace for Methodists is understood as a three-stage process: prevenient grace, justifying grace, and sanctifying grace. That being said, we need to understand that grace is just that, grace. Prevenient grace, justifying grace and sanctifying grace are not
Grace for the Beginning of the Journey
John Wesley started the Methodist movement after having an encounter with the Holy Spirit in his small group Bible study when his heart as he described it was “strangely warmed.” From that point on, Methodism made significant contributions to the Christian faith in the 18th century. It was the first to emphasize weekly Bible study in a small group as foundational to your spiritual growth. Methodists sought to provide education for the working class poor so they could have better opportunities in life. Methodism has started more schools and colleges than any other denomination. Social justice and acts of charity were at the heart of Methodism. From the beginning, Methodists has been involved in the fight against poverty, war, and injustices as well as ministry to the incarcerated. Amidst all of this was Wesley’s contribution to the theology or beliefs of the faith, especially about grace.
Grace for Methodists is understood as a three-stage process: prevenient grace, justifying grace, and sanctifying grace. That being said, we need to understand that grace is just that, grace. Prevenient grace, justifying grace and sanctifying grace are not three different types of grace, they are 3 different experiences of the same grace based on our circumstances and our response. Grace is available to us throughout our spiritual journey, but at different stages it accomplishes different things and evokes different responses. In today’s message, we’re going to look at the beginning of grace in our lives on the journey of faith: prevenient grace and justifying grace.
So what is grace? God’s grace is unmerited love and forgiveness and it is free for all. God’s grace does not depend upon our good works in order for us to receive it. We cannot earn God’s grace I think we sometimes believe God is like Santa Claus. We believe that if we’re good enough then we’ll get presents or blessings. The good news is that God is not Santa, watching and keeping a record of who’s naughty or who’s nice. God loves us, and there is nothing you can do to make God love you any more or any less than God loves you right now.
That can be a difficult thing for us to get a handle on, especially in our culture today. We live in a culture that is overwhelmingly biased to the belief that we only get what we deserve, and if we just work hard enough, rewards will follow. We learn it from an early age. Be good and you’ll get a surprise and presents. Study hard, and you’ll get good grades. Work hard, and you’ll get ahead in life. Everywhere we turn, there’s a hoop that we have to jump through to receive the promised reward. That is completely the opposite with God. God’s grace is a free gift that cannot be earned. Our faith is the only condition through which receive God’s grace.
Yet too often we try to earn God’s grace. put quote on screen United Methodist Bishop Reuben Job writes, “If we are just good enough, do enough, deny ourselves enough, we will be forgiven, redeemed, and reconciled to God. Following this path brings no peace, assurance, or sense of companionship with God. Rather than asking why we are miserable and have no deep peace and joy in our relationship with God, we just try harder to earn our way to companionship with God. We do this through busyness in the church, prayer, or acts of compassion in the world. We are led to believe that if we work hard enough, salvation will be ours. But the biblical view of life is quite different and John Wesley, grounded as he was in the Bible, was certain that salvation was not for sale. He was convinced that no one could ever earn a place at God’s table…We can never justify ourselves, be reconciled to God or earn our way to heaven on our own. But the marvelous good news is that God offers it all to us as a gift. We are saved, in this world and the next, by grace through faith.” This is the foundation of the Christian faith which stands us apart from every other world religion, including Judaism, salvation by faith alone. There is nothing that we can do to become deserving of salvation. It is only through God’s grace and our response of faith. Our salvation is not brought about simply by living a Christian way of life. It is brought about through faith and faith alone.
God’s grace is free for everyone. This was a profound statement for Wesley who was combating Christians in his day who believed in election and predestination, that is that God has already ordained or chose some to receive salvation and the rest were condemned to hell. Wesley drew on John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.” Everyone, not some, not the good, not those who do great things but everyone. Jesus Christ died for all of humanity, and therefore, everyone is offered the grace Jesus made available through his death on the cross.