“God’s Means of Grace”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“… “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”’ Hebrews 13:5 “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” Joshua 1:5
So many church attendees have heard that the gospel is something to “settle” with God. An invitation is given to “accept” Jesus and be saved. After accepting Jesus, one then pulls himself up by his own boot straps and gets on with life, or worse, now that your saved you can just go about life as usual!
This type of proclamation is reflective of man-centered religion, referred to as the theology of glory, where suffering is not considered to be part of life in Christ. The real question is not whether one accepts Jesus, but that one is accepted by Him!
The promise God made to Joshua and repeated in the letter to the Hebrews is critical as those whom He chooses live by faith and not by sight, 2Corinthians 5:7. Nothing happens in life, especially salvation, unless God does it. To this end, God has provided the means by which Christians live. They are referred to as God’s means of grace. There are three prominent ones: the Word, Sacraments and Prayer.
There is an initial statement that I must make. The means of grace are for those who have been saved, are being saved and will be saved. In other words God’s means of grace are for Christians.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism Q/A #88, calls them “outward means whereby Christ communicates (to believers) the benefits of redemption.”
The first is the Word. As a believer reads the Bible he is strengthened by God to live for Him. This does not only refer to our private reading of Scripture, but also to its public reading. A distinctive of Reformed Worship is the reading of Scripture in the worship service. In agreement with the Bible, the Ancient Church and the Protestant Reformers, the public reading of Scripture is an element of biblical worship. As such, it is separate and distinct from the text used by the preacher for exposition. Certainly, the preaching of the word is an integral part of this means of grace. As the preacher expounds a text of Scripture, making clear its meaning, grace is received by those who have placed their trust in God. God may also choose to raise a spiritually dead person to life through the preaching of the word in concert with His Holy Spirit during corporate worship. However, the salvation of the lost is not the primary purpose of corporate worship.
The second means of grace are the Sacraments. There are two, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Both are called holy ordinances. Both were instituted by Christ. Baptism was given to the church by Christ, Matthew 28:18-20. Baptism is a sacrament that looks forward to what God will do. It is a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a seal that authenticates God’s promise. It is properly administered to believers and their children. The Bible calls the other sacrament the Lord’s Supper. It is a sign and seal of the New Covenant in the blood of Christ. In this ordinance, the believer looks back at the finished work of Christ on his behalf. It is reserved for those who have been baptized and have made a profession of faith. As either or both of these sacraments are administered in accordance with Christ’s institution grace is received by those who have professed faith in Christ.
Third and finally, Prayer is a means of grace. It is communication with God comprised of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication. Prayer is a means by which God bends our wills to His. We hear from Him and He has promised to answer our prayers in ways that are beyond what we can think or ask.
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He began by saying, “When you pray”, Luke 11:2. He assumed that disciples would pray. Jesus has given believers access to God’s throne of grace. Christians are exhorted to approach His throne with confidence, Hebrews 4:16.
So then, there are three: The Word, Sacraments and Prayer. Each is God’s means of nourishing and strengthening His people. We depend upon His grace, certainly given in these means in order to grow up in Christ.