Sermon for September 18, 2022

Prevenient Grace

Ephesians 3:16-21 Common English Bible

16 I ask that he will strengthen you in your inner selves from the riches of his glory through the Spirit. 17 I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith. As a result of having strong roots in love, 18 I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers. 19 I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.

20 Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; 21 glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen.

Prevenient is defined as to “go before”.  Another English word that also has Latin roots is “convenient” which simply means to “come together”.

This idea was coined in the early Catholic Church and later reintroduced by theologians John Wesley and Jacobus Arminius as the antithesis of Calvinistic thinking of “predestination”.  Ironically though, all theologians, Wesley, Arminius, and John Calvin were arguing over semantics as they are all talking about predestination but had differences of opinion.

For John Calvin, his theology was that God has already determined who will be saved or “God’s elect” and therefore a person’s salvation was determined before a person was born.  Wesley and Arminius disagreed and instead promoted the much earlier doctrine of prevenient grace.  God goes before and prepares a path.  Calvinism puts no emphasis on person confession or repentance of an individual.  Wesley and Arminius both use various scriptures to prove that it is God’s will for all to be saved using John 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:9.

Here is an interesting tidbit.  Prevenient grace points us to God in a unique way.  According to author Beth Felker Jones in her book “God the Spirit”, Wesley’s understanding has God at the center:

“All are dead and powerless in sin, and God’s prevenient and regenerating grace is made available to all based on the merits of Christ’s work -> prevenient grace enables repentance, contrition -> justification, a gift of grace -> sanctification begins -> entire sanctification -> glorification”[1]

Here is where is gets awesome and I boldfaced it.  God enables, encourages people to repent!  God the Father went ahead and created us and everything else.  Jesus went ahead to taught us the Way and his life, death, and resurrection gives us prevenient grace.  Therefore, according to Wesley and Arminius, we are in the age of the Holy Spirit, who goes before us and enables us to understand that we need to repent.  Therefore, initially, we are not doing it ourselves, God again is helping us.  Therefore, holiness is NOT of our own power, that belongs to God, the Holy Spirit!

[1] FELKER JONES, BETH. 2014. God the Spirit. CASCADE Books. pp. 70.

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