Romans 5:1–2, 6–11; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:8–9
We will use an illustration throughout this week to help us see how so many church folks become stuck in a powerless, poorly witnessing religiosity. We’ll also discover how salvation or being saved is more than what many in our churches understand it to be. Before we jump into the illustration, a word about grace. John Wesley spoke about God’s “threefold grace,” the first of which I will mention only briefly. Prevenient grace is the work of God the Father, through the Holy Spirit, to woo us to himself. Without this pre-grace, we broken sinners would have no hope of finding God and believing in him. More often than not, we only see this work when we look back on our lives and discover how God used people and events (both positive and negative) to open our hearts to his love, truth, and grace.
Let’s focus on the second—justifying grace—which is offered to us by the Spirit-empowered Son of God through his obedience to the Father. Through Jesus Christ’s incarnation, perfect life, sacrificial death, victorious resurrection, glorious ascension, and powerful enthronement over creation, he has made a way for us to be reconciled to God. We receive this grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ! Those who are in Christ are positionally righteous, free of sin, and reconciled to the Father. That is to say God only sees the righteousness of Jesus when he interacts with those who are in Christ. There is nothing we have done or could ever do to become righteous like this on our own. Ephesians 2:8 says that it is by grace, through faith, that justification happens and we become new creations.
The third is sanctifying grace, which we will discuss tomorrow.
The common problem we human beings face at the justification phase of the salvation process is that we interpret becoming a new creation as becoming a cleaned-up version of the old me who can now live my life basically like I did—except doing a better job at being a good person this time. Maybe two cups of church, a dash of Bible, and a sprinkle of prayer will help us run our lives better.
What we must understand is that, in the spiritual realm, we are new creations starting out as babies. Like babies, we have little or no idea about what to do next, or how to do it. We are completely helpless and in the arms of Jesus. While we are positionally righteous, we remain functionally fallen human beings living in a broken world. So, what happens next? More on this to come.
Share with your group how you have experienced God’s prevenient and justifying grace in your life. Ask God to show you things and people in your past that drew you nearer to him. Spend time thanking Jesus for his love, mercy, and saving sacrifice.