There’s a lot of talk about Grace going around…especially in this blog series. As one of my friends put it, if we don’t talk about grace, then what’s the point of going to church? Exactly. We need to talk about grace, because it is God’s gracious acts that allow us to be who we are.
Before we get into this weeks topic of grace however, we need to talk about the flip-side of grace: sin. Sin is the problem that grace provides the solution for. In the church, there are many doctrines. The one that is important for us today is the doctrine of Original Sin. Original Sin states that Adam, being the originator and common ancestor of us all according to Genesis, sinned causing the initial rift to come between God and Man. This means that forever, any who are human will have a natural bent or tendency to sin. It is in our very nature. Some churches and denominations call this the Total Depravity of Man, meaning that there is absolutely nothing good about mankind and there is no possible way that they can become good without God. The logic of this makes sense, but it also tells us that there is an act of God working in us to make us see this.
That act of God is what John Wesley called Prevenient Grace. Prevenient comes from Latin meaning “that which goes before,” or preceding in time. So Prevenient Grace is the grace that allows us to come to a realization of who God is, accept the invitation to relationship with Him, and start down the path of changing our lives. Prevenient Grace is what allows us to have any hope of being saved. Without Prevenient Grace, we couldn’t even have the thoughts that allow us to agree with any doctrine of sin. We couldn’t take the first step (“The first step is admitting you have a problem.”) without Prevenient Grace.
This grace is the grace that all subsequent acts of God are built upon. It is this grace that first calls us to be in community with God. It is this grace that tells us in our heart of hearts that there is something more to this life than the flesh and bones, mind and synapses, tendons and blood that make up our physical lives. It is God’s work of Prevenient Grace in humanity that has caused religion to ever happen. It is because God pours out His Grace preveniently to all people at all times that there is any such thing as a search for God, a search for the eternal, and a search for the true religion. Much of those searches have gone astray, but we can see the work of Prevenient Grace in the lives and minds of all culture, all religions, and all people everywhere at all times.
I thank God for the Prevenient Grace that He has poured out on us all. Because of this first gift of grace, we can be ready to receive the second gift of grace that we will talk about next week, the grace that saves.