The Grace of God – The Wesleyan Perspective

Usually when we use the term “grace of God” we tend to think
in terms of something gentle and beneficial that brings us a blessing.We say, “There but for the grace of God go I,” referring to God protecting us or keeping us out of a bad situation. But there is much more to grace than this simple understanding. Grace really includes a wide range of God’s activity in each of our lives. God’s grace is absolutely necessary in our Christian life. God’s grace is free and we can do nothing to earn it. Without grace we would be lost and without hope. By grace we are justified. By grace, God rescues us from the guilt and power of sin. By grace, we are transformed into the image of Christ. By grace we are made perfect for eternal life in the kingdom of God at the end of the age.

There are those who would say that a person is not able to
say “no” to the grace of God. These persons describe God’s grace as
being “irresistible.” If God wants to “grace” you, there is nothing you can do about it. This seems to contradict our understanding that God created humankind with free will. He has given us the ability to
choose whether to love Him or not, to choose whether to be obedient
or not, to choose whether to sin or not. As Methodists, we believe we
have the ability to say “no” to God. He does not want us to live in sin apart from Him, but He will allow us to do that if we insist. For Methodists, grace is resistible.

There are those who say that God has predestined certain people to be saved and others to be condemned. This thinking leads to the conclusion that God’s grace is not available to everyone, only to the few who have been elected by God to be saved. This way of understanding is where the saying “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” originated. For those who are not in the elect, it does not matter what they do. If they are good or if they are bad, the end result is the same. This goes against what Methodists believe. A crucial part of our understanding of God is that His grace is available to everyone. That does not mean everyone accepts His grace, remember we believe in free will, but everyone at least has the option. One need only look to passages in both the Old Testament and New to see that scripture supports this understanding. In Ezekiel God
says, “Say to them, As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live” (NRS, Eze 33:11). We are all familiar with John 3:16-
17 “‘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’.”

In conclusion, as Methodists, those who accept the theology developed by John Wesley, we believe grace is both resistible and universal. Salvation is possible for everyone, but not everyone will say yes to God.

In the coming weeks, we will be looking at the various ways that God can work in our lives. John Wesley described these as prevenient grace, convicting grace, justifying grace, and sanctifying grace.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Scot

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