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Quick Answers: What are the means of grace?

The best way to understand what God's means of grace are is to turn to the book of Acts and to observe what the first Christians were doing after their salvation.

In Acts 2:42 we read this:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Of course the apostles' teaching would be essentially the equivalent of what we have today in the Scriptures, the Word of God. The breaking of bread is most certainly the Lord's Supper, not an ordinary meal but the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. The prayers would be believers gathering together at regular times for prayer.

It's on the basis of this example in Scripture that theologians have developed the teaching of the means of grace. These are the means or the instruments that God uses in order to sanctify his people, to grow us in our faith and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, to grow us in Christ-likeness.

These means of grace have been referred to as the outward and ordinary means by which Christ communicates or applies to us the benefits of his redemption. They are outward means in that they are not found within ourselves, but they are outside of ourselves. We have the Word of God; we go to the Scriptures, we open the Bible, and read God's Word. We hear the Word of God proclaimed on the Lord's Day by a minister of the Gospel. The sacraments, the Lord's Supper and baptism, are ordinances that Christ has given to the church that we attend to as his people. Prayer is something that we not only can engage in ourselves but we also, like the early believers, take part in praying together.

These are outward means in which they are not subjective, but they are something that we do, and we do them together along with the people of God. They take place in the context of the fellowship of God's people.

They are ordinary means in that they are not some kind of extraordinary, unique experience that we as believers must have in order for us to grow in our faith and love for Christ, but they are ordinary, they are always available to the church and we can avail ourselves of them and we are called to do so. They are the means by which it is God's purpose to grow us in our faith and to conform us more and more to the image of Christ.

As Christians, we don't have to be searching for some incredible, extraordinary experience for us to grow in grace, but we are called to engage ourselves, to attend to these means of grace, and in that way, we grow not only individually in our faith in Christ but we grow together as the body of Christ as we attend to these means together.



Scott Johnson (MDiv, Westminster Theological Seminary) is the pastor of Mt. Rose Reformed Church (OPC) in Reno, NV. He is married to Robyn and they have five children.


Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of other contributors on this site.


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