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Relationship of God As Missional and Prevenient Grace.

God is on a mission but He is not alone. God’s mission is to reconcile a lost humanity to

Himself and to use the reconciled to bring glory to Him through their lives and actions. The idea

of prevenient grace is attractive to the mission of God because it paints a picture of an involved

God. God though the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of people prior to them coming to salvation

but also continues to go ahead of them. The Spirit is continually revealing sin and empowering

repentance so that the believer may move toward sanctification. God’s grace is constantly going

before the believer to reveal the good works they are to do so that God’s glory will be revealed.

When we speak of the Wesleyan term “prevenient grace” we are using words to describe

the activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of human beings. The Wesleyan idea being that of the

Holy Spirit “coming before” salvation to prepare the hearts of humanity to receive. The ordo

salutis of John Wesley (and most Arminian’s) places the work of grace as preeminent in the

process of salvation. That is to say, the Spirit works graciously on the human heart so that they

may have faith to call on the Name of the Lord for salvation. From faith then comes a joining

together with Christ whereby the person is then justified and regenerated. Reformed theology

would place the act of prevenient grace as an act of the Holy Spirit toward the elect bringing the

human to regeneration so as to have faith and be justified.1

The act of regeneration and justification by faith is also a powerful means of God to

complete His mission of reconciliation. The Adamic fall created a great gulf between the

holiness of God and sinful humanity. Beginning in Genesis 3:15 a thread of hope begins to

emerge in the biblical narrative of God’s reconciliatory action toward fallen humanity. There are

glimpses of God’s mission of reconciliation being accomplished in the graceful acts of

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Reformed doctrine would most likely not use the term “prevenient” but “effective” grace or call.
atonement. Even though the blood of bulls and lambs were shadows of greater things to come in

Christ they were nevertheless symbols of a gracious God who desired fellowship with His

people. Even the enemies of God’s people were instruments of grace used as tools to further the

mission. God’s purpose for Israel was that they be an attractive light for other nations to

recognize His glory (Isaiah 60:1-3 New International Version). Ultimately the mission of

reconciliation, for Israel and others, would be completed in the sacrificial death of Christ. His

sacrifice would be an act of grace to compel people toward Him as the Spirit applies grace to the

hearts of human beings (John 12:32). Thus the work of Christ to assure our salvation is made

effective for us as the Holy Spirit comes to enliven the dead by grace (Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13, 14).

Grace, working on the heart, is completely sufficient to regenerate lost humans who can now

fulfill God’s mission of reconciling the world (2 Cor. 5:19).

Even though graceful actions of the Spirit have brought persons to faith in Christ the

work of the Spirit is not finished at salvation. Both Wesleyan and Reformed ordo salutis would

include the doctrine of sanctification. In his sermon, On Working Out Our Own Salvation, John

Wesley states, “by sanctification we are saved from the power and root of sin, and restored to the

image of God” (Wesley, 1872, Sect. II.1). The previous statement is linked with the causal act of

justification that reconciles the unbeliever to Christ. But moves the idea forward toward a

restorative act in the believer’s life following salvation.

As we consider sanctification we must also view it as an active work of the Holy Spirit

whereby the believer progresses toward perfection in Christ through grace. The process of

sanctification is not separate from the mission of God but is intrinsically linked. That is to say,

one who has placed their faith in Christ will show the fruits of that faith as he or she lays aside

sin and does the good work prepared for them in advance (Heb. 12:1; Eph. 2:10). Just as Israel
played its part in attracting nations to Yahweh and Christ compels men to salvation; the work of

sanctification enables the believer to fulfill his or her mission to be lights that shine so that God

is glorified (Mat. 5:16). The implication being that as the believer submits to the restorative

sanctifying work of the Spirit they are transformed into the image of God becoming spiritually

attractive. In this sense grace is always prevenient. The grace of God is always preparing the way

for the believer to fulfill his or her mission on earth. At the same time grace goes before the

believer instructing them in godliness and right Christian living (Titus 2:11-12).

Prevenient grace and the mission of God can be viewed as two dependent links: salvation

and sanctification. Since the fall of humanity God has graciously provided means by which

humankind could be restored to relationship with Him. The decisive act of grace seen in Christ

provides the means of salvation. The Holy Spirit works in the hearts of human beings to

regenerate them so they can respond in faith to the work of Christ and be justified. After being

justified the Holy Spirit continues to work in the heart to help the believer progress in their

sanctification. As the believer moves forward he or she becomes more and more molded into the

image of God and becomes keenly aware of their particular role in fulfilling God’s reconciliatory

mission.
References

Wesley, J. (Speaker). (1872). On Working Out Our Own Salvation.