God's Preparing, Accepting, and Sustaining Grace
God's grace is a wonderful gift to humankind. Grace is God's love freely offered to us. We do not do anything to "earn" it. Take a moment and reflect upon how you have experienced God's grace in your life. Jot some notes down, if you like, before reading the next paragraph.
Did you know that John Wesley believed that God provides us with three kinds of grace? He believed in:
- prevenient (preparing) grace
- accepting (justifying) grace
- sustaining (sanctifying) grace
God's prevenient grace is with us from birth, preparing us for new life in Christ. "Prevenient" means "comes before." Wesley did not believe that humanity was totally "depraved" but rather God places a little spark of divine grace within us which enables us to recognize and accept God's justifying grace. Preparing grace is "free in all for all," as Wesley used to say.
Today some call God's justifying grace "conversion" or being "born again." When we experience God's justifying grace, we come into that new life in Christ. Wesley believed that people have freedom of choice. We are free to accept or reject God's justifying grace. Wesley emphasized "Free Grace" saying:
The grace or love of God, whence cometh our salvation, is FREE IN ALL, and FREE FOR ALL.... It is free in all to whom it is given. It does not depend on any power or merit in man; no, not in any degree, neither in whole, nor in part. It does not in anywise depend either on the good works or righteousness of the receiver; not on anything he has done, or anything he is. It does not depend on his endeavors. It does not depend on his good tempers, or good desires, or good purposes and intentions; for all these flow from the free grace of God; they are the streams only, not the fountain. They are the fruits of free grace, and not the root. They are not the cause, but the effects of it.
Wesley believed that, after we have accepted God's grace, we are to move on in God's sustaining grace toward perfection. Wesley believed the people could "fall from grace" or "backslide." We cannot just sit on our laurels, so to speak, and claim God's salvation and then do nothing. We are to participate in the what Wesley called "the means of grace" and to continue to grow in Christian life.
Some Christians tend to focus on God's justifying grace, but Wesley asserted that the Christian walk does not stop with acceptance of new life in Christ. Wesley said in his sermon, "On Repentance of Believers":
It is generally supposed, that repentance and faith are only the gate of religion; that they are necessary only at the beginning of our Christian course, when we are setting out in the way to the kingdom.... And this is undoubtedly true, that there is a repentance and a faith, which are, more especially, necessary at the beginning: a repentance, which is a conviction of our utter sinfulness, and guiltiness, and helplessness.... But, notwithstanding this, there is also a repentance and a faith (taking the words in another sense, a sense not quite the same, nor yet entirely different) which are requisite after we have "believed the gospel;" yea, and in every subsequent stage of our Christian course, or we cannot "run the race which is set before us." And this repentance and faith are full as necessary, in order to our continuance and growth in grace, as the former faith and repentance were, in order to our entering into the kingdom of God.
This article was originally posted here.