Ordinary Means of Grace
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18
This newsletter article is based upon an article entitled “Ordinary Means of Grace”, written by
Rev. Nicholas Batzig. I was struck by the title and the concept. Here is a synopsis of Reve. Batzig’s thoughts.
Over the last several years, I have witnesses a large shift in inventory at a local bookstore that is part of a large, national book chain. It seems that the emphasis has shifted from selling books to selling an endless array of toys, gifts, accessories and other “do-dads.” I can understand why as the demand for the printed word has given way to other forms of communication, most of which are now electronic. Browsing through the “religious book section” is very telling as it reflects the priorities and interests of Christians. A brief survey reveals that the top fifty best selling Christian one are books that relate the faith to matters of: finance, purpose, personality, success, self-esteem and relationships. While books on the Triune God, scripture, prayer and other important attributes of faith are very rarely rare. Shouldn’t we be more concerned about growth in the grace of Jesus Christ than fleeting pleasures?
“Ordinary means of grace” is a term most have probably heard, but its meaning and application is probably fuzzy and vague. What does the term really mean? Before we “unpack” its meaning, let’s consider how we come to know God. It is safe to say there are various almost conflicting accounts of who God is, what God does and what attributes God has. At that first Pentecost, Peter declared; “It shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21) How does this happen? The answer is through ordinary means of grace. This term refers to the vehicles through which God’s Spirit enables believers to receive Christ and the benefits of redemption. Take a moment to ponder that point. A office manager that I worked with was always frustrated by a lack of initiative by her staff. She would say; “They assume I was born knowing everything in this department.” The staff relied on her knowledge and experience while never making any attempt to learn anything beyond what they already know. How about in our Christian walks? Do we fail in our desire to learn more, grow more and trust more? As I have said before, the Body of Christ is weakened when we fail to learn more by applying ordinary means of grace to our lives.
So how do we know what we know? So how do we know God? Is our knowledge about God what we learned years ago and we aren’t interested in learning more? Or have other things taken our attention away from being with the Lord? I must caution one and all against neglecting these means of grace, as they will be detrimental to your peace of mind, your assurance, and ability to place your faith in something solid. In these difficult times, not is not the time to neglect this concept.
So how do you know God? God could have chosen to reveal all that was necessary and at once, but we know this is not how fair is learned or understood. Instead God reveals the attributes of the Trinity through the Word, through Sacraments and through Prayer. How does this really work? Let us take a brief look at each topic.
Christ teaches us that scripture is the primary means of salvation (Luke 16:31; 24-27; 44-45). The preaching of the Word was the central work of the Apostles in Acts as well as in the Epistles. Faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ which Paul teaches us in Romans 10:17. 19th century Princeton seminary theologian, Geerhardus Vos stress the absolute necessity of the written Word in as means of teaching, converting, and building up the Body of Christ. Vos stated that “we can think of the Word as a means of grace without sacrament”...since through hearing and learning salvation comes.
In Titus 3:5, we read that God has appointed the Sacraments as a means of grace. What does that mean? What are the Sacraments? The Sacraments are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. How do they work? They do not work by themselves; there are no magical powers in them, apart from a cultivated and receptive heart. They instead operate through the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who are called. Westminster Confession states that “the Sacraments exhibit grace, but at the same time they do not confer any power upon them...but upon the work of the Spirit…”(WSC 27.3) Paul makes the connection between baptism and the grace of salvation in Titus 3:5: “[God] saved us...by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.”
Most people believe in the power of prayer, but that power is at best vague and undefined. Prayer becomes a means of grace as it is shaped by the Word of God. Can you see the purpose of prayer: to be in accordance with the Will of God?
So how do we apply these ordinary means of grace to our lives? We are called to use all three in our spiritual lives; they become integrated and dependent on each other. Vos stated: “...it is impossible to think of Sacraments as a means of grace without the Word.” The Sacraments depend on Scripture and the truth of the Scripture speaks in and through them. That is the basis of Christian life; it consists of the Word, and Sacraments and Prayer.
In the upcoming month, I challenge you to apply these “ordinary means of grace” to your lives. I pray that practicing these “ordinary means of grace” will make them a permanent part of your spiritual life. Pray with each other, pray for each other, be in the Word in worship and through the Sacraments. God has promised to be with us forever. Let us seek him now, more than ever, through the “Ordinary Means of Grace.”
Yours in Christ,