Summary: The Seventh Article of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene.
What a great day to be in the house of the Lord! This morning, we are going to continue our walk through the Articles of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene. We have already looked at:
I. The Triune God
II. Jesus Christ
III. The Holy Spirit
IV. The Holy Scriptures
V. Sin, Original and Personal
This morning, we are going to move to our seventh Article of Faith, which is:
VII. Prevenient Grace
Here is the description of this 7th tenet of our faith:
We believe that the human race’s creation in Godlikeness included ability to choose between right and wrong, and that thus human beings were made morally responsible; that through the fall of Adam they became depraved so that they cannot now turn and prepare themselves by their own natural strength and works to faith and calling upon God. But we also believe that the grace of God through Jesus Christ is freely bestowed upon all people, enabling all who will to turn from sin to righteousness, believe on Jesus Christ for pardon and cleansing from sin, and follow good works pleasing and acceptable in His sight. We believe that all persons, though in the possession of the experience of regeneration and entire sanctification, may fall from grace and apostatize and, unless they repent of their sins, be hopelessly and eternally lost.
I think that the first thing that we should get out of the way is, what is ‘prevenient.’ Most of us church folk understand grace, but prevenient is a word that most of us have never used or even seen. Prevenient is a word that means ‘goes before.” So prevenient grace is the grace that goes before salvation. When we are talking about prevenient grace, we are speaking about the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and minds of non-believers. This grace works on their hearts and minds so that they may come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior, Without the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and minds, no one can come to Salvation.
The first part of our explanation of prevenient grace states that part of what God did when He made us in His image was to give us free will. Mankind was made with the ability to choose between right and wrong and good and evil. God told Adam and Eve that they were free to eat of every tree of the Garden except from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He told them that if they ate from that tree, they would surely die. Since they were given free will, they chose to disobey God and therefore brought sin into the world.
Free will is one of the most important pieces to our theology because it is where we differ from Calvinists, but I will come back to that a bit later.
As we have seen in our Bible studies, mankind consistently chooses evil. No matter how many miracles God showed the Israelites and no matter how much He blessed them, they consistently grumbled and complained. And we are no different from them. Genesis 6:5 says:
The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.
Because of the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind will always choose their own way, rather than God’s way. This is what the Apostle Paul speaks about when he talks the ‘carnal man.’ In Romans 7:15-20, Paul tells us:
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
The flesh inevitably does the things that the spirit does not want it to do because it is permeated throughout with sin. You might recall that on the night that Jesus was to be arrested, he asked Peter and John to watch and pray for so that they would not fall into temptation. However, they repeatedly fell asleep. Jesus said “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” We cannot, by our own will, choose to do right because original sin, which we talked about previously, is already at work within our flesh. It is only through prevenient grace that God sends His Spirit out so that we can come to Him and turn from our sinful ways.