The Grace of God – Prevenient Grace

graceLast week I wrote about two qualities of God’s grace, firstly, it is resistible (we can all say “no” to God because of free will) and secondly, it is universal (God’s grace is available to absolutely everyone, not just a select few). I also wrote that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, talked about grace in four different aspects: prevenient grace, convincing (or convicting) grace, justifying grace, and sanctifying grace. This week I would like to write
about God’s prevenient grace. Before jumping into prevenient grace, we need to remember several important concepts:

1) All of humankind was created in the image of God.
2) Sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve.
3) Sin has impacted everyone, there has been no one, there is no one, and there will be no one that is born sinless. This is known as the doctrine of original sin. (see Psalm 51:5, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12)
4) Sin destroyed the image of God in people.
5) People are totally incapable of changing this situation.

Because original sin destroyed the image of God in each and every
person, we lost our ability to know good and we are alienated from God. Not only do we lack the capacity to know good, sin changes the human heart so that it predisposes people towards sin and disobedience. This understanding is not just that of John Wesley but of Luther and Calvin, too. Original sin leaves us in darkness, spiritually polluted, disdainful of good, and with a heart desiring evil. Original sin puts us in a very bad place without hope and without anything we can do about it.

But this is not the end of the story. God, out of His great love for
each and every person, would not leave us in such a condition. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him’” (NRS, John 3:16-17). The gospel of John also tells us, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (NRS, John 1:9). The light which enlightens everyone, not some, not many, not even most, but everyone.

The work of Jesus Christ made possible for the image of God to be at least partially restored in absolutely everyone. This action does not require any act or deed or word on our part. This work of God is known as prevenient grace, the grace that goes before. It goes before we know God, it goes before we are convinced of our own sinful nature, it goes before we make any decision to accept Christ into our hearts, minds, and life.

Prevenient grace is the one exception of grace being resistible. God finds no pleasure in the death of even a single person, sinner or not. God has chosen out of His great mercy, compassion, and loving-kindness to not leave anyone in the dark and hopeless state caused by original sin. God desires that everyone at least have the ability to choose Him over evil. Prevenient grace is free to everyone, it is not earned, it is not selective. Prevenient grace breaks the total control of sin in the life of a person and in part restores the image of God, enough so that each of us can know God, and His moral law. Prevenient grace is the source of our conscience. Prevenient grace is the source of any good done by any person, believer or not.

Prevenient grace restores free will.

Prevenient grace has acted on every person ever born and everyone who will ever be born. And finally, prevenient grace restrains human wickedness, even in those persons who do not even acknowledge the existence of God.

To deny original sin and prevenient grace means that at least one person has the capacity to be good and to live a life worthy of eternal life with God without any action or help or interference from God. Once that claim is made, the barn door is opened, and the incarnation of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross is made
worthless and unnecessary, because, if even one person does not need salvation, why not all?

Prevenient grace is just the beginning. In the coming weeks, we will consider convicting grace, justifying grace and sanctifying grace.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Scot

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