John Wesley's Concept of God's Grace

The Bible teaches us that everything we have from God is given because of God's great love for us. United Methodists recognize God's grace at work throughout our spiritual journeys.


John Wesley wrote and preached about the role of God's grace to prepare us, redeem us, and continually shape us into the people we were created to be. He taught that our entire spiritual lives are an act of God's grace. He names at least three periods in our spiritual development and the ways God's grace is at work during those times - prevenient grace, justifying grace, and sanctifying grace.

Prevenient grace: God at work before we know it

When we consider the circumstances that led to us coming to faith in Jesus Christ, we begin to see the hand of God at work in our lives long before we were aware of the Spirit's presence. Those who showed us the healing, forgiveness, and restoration available by faith in Jesus Christ came to us by God's prevenient grace. The word prevenient comes from a Latin root word that means to precede. Prevenient grace then is simply the grace that comes before.

Justifying grace: God making things right

The grace with which we are most familiar is what Wesley called justifying grace. The Bible tells us, "All have sinned and fall short of God's glory" (Romans 3:23). Try as we might, we cannot be good enough. We need God to make things right between us, to justify us.

Sanctifying: Growing in grace

The word sanctify means "to make holy." God's sanctifying grace shapes us more and more into the likeness of Christ. As the Holy Spirit fills our lives with love for God and our neighbor, we begin to live differently. Sanctifying grace signifies to us that we haven't arrived. As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:2, "be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what Gods will is - what is good and pleasing and mature."

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