Today, I’m back to my Rosaria Butterfield series and the topics that arise from it. Earlier posts are here, here, and here. Another topic from that series that I have mulled on often has been one called the means of grace. You may not know it from that title, but it will not be a new concept to you.
What are the means of grace?
The means of grace is a very old term. It has been around since at least the 1500’s when groups of godly churchmen were organizing Scripture into theological terminology. I suspect it may have been around longer than that. Each denomination as well as the Catholic Church uses the term. They include different things in the term, but I’ll be sharing a reformed view. The definition stated here is rather simple and naked.
For this discussion, the means of grace include prayer, preaching of the Word, and sacraments. For this discussion, the sacraments include the Lord’s Supper and baptism. (Not every denomination agrees here.) You can see that corporate worship is needed for most of these means of grace to occur. That doesn’t negate private prayer, personal reading and study of the Bible of course, but there is something special that takes place, an extra partaking of grace from GOD that can’t be quantitatively assessed when we sit under the preaching of the Word of GOD, pray corporately and take part in the Lord’s supper often.The means of grace include prayer, preaching of the Word, and sacraments, the sacraments include the Lord's Supper and baptism. Click To Tweet
How can such simple things minister something so special?
How can that be? The elements are simple. The preaching is ordinary words from an ordinary man who has been set apart for this purpose. Prayer is ordinary words to an extraordinary GOD. How can this be life changing?
In many ways, I’m not sure I can give a full answer to that. One aspect has to do with faith I’m sure. Faith in the GOD that gave us these simple means that give us extraordinary grace. I just know it is true. Over many years, I have seen the truth of it.How can this be life changing? One aspect has to do with faith. Faith in the GOD that gave us these simple means that give us extraordinary grace. Click To Tweet
As a pastor’s wife, I have known it to be true for sure. I know how human my husband is/was when pastoring. I know how he prepared each week by taking the job he did very seriously. In our family, the fruit of his regular teaching took root. We didn’t go home and criticize or analyze what he said. We did often discuss what GOD was telling us from His Word that morning.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and
do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
It has only been in the last 15 or 20 years that I have understood more of the means of grace when it came to the Lord’s Supper. It always felt condemning to me before. I guess the emphasis on my sin and coming to the table in a worthy manner made me feel very unworthy. But more recently, I have come to understand that none of us is worthy. It is only because of Jesus that we can come to the table. It is only when we refuse to turn from a sin or from forgiving another person that we need to be fearful when coming to the table.
Coming to the Lord’s table is a time we can be refreshed and replenished with the grace He has given us in order to forgive, in order to have victory over sin! What a great reminder of His vast forgiveness to us. Of course, we don’t deserve a drop of it…we never will! And during the week or month between times that we partake of Communion, we get beat up and battered in the struggle of living in a foreign land, of being aliens. We need to be replenished with His grace to keep on in the community of grace, as we all live in this alien culture.
In our corporate prayer, we pray for forgiveness of sin in ways I don’t always do in private. It reminds me of not only the sins of commission, but those of omission that I have committed. What a sting! We are reminded of GOD’s forgiveness when we least deserve it. We also pray for needs in our city, our nation, and our church family. We pray for GOD’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven in spite of evidence to the contrary.
That is also a pathway of increased grace for us. It can’t be measured quantitatively, but I know I have learned much about how to pray as a result of the corporate prayer offered in our churches over the years. That has certainly been a grace to me.
Rosaria’s testimony of the means of grace ministering to her as she was turning from a life of sexual sin and pride
As Rosaria talked about the means of grace and how it helped her in her growth in grace as a new believer and now as a christian for many years, she talked especially of the help it was specifically in overcoming long term sexual sin and pride. She described her sin as being like a sin that was deeply grooved into her mind and soul…like a gully after a heavy storm, or the groove in a record. The regular involvement in worship undid those grooves as the means of grace worked in her life and the Word of GOD preached into her life and ministered to her during the week.
Personal prayer and Bible reading took place as well, but the preaching of GOD’s Word worked in a different way along with the grace offered her in the Lord’s Supper and prayer offered in worship and through the music as well. (Not all prayers are spoken prayers, some are sung.)
So think about the means of grace. Is your soul becoming cold? Are you feeling dry and thirsty? Come to the place that you may be taking for granted…the worship service at your church…with the people of GOD!Are you feeling dry and thirsty? Come to the place that you may be taking for granted...the worship service at your church...with the people of GOD! Click To Tweet
Listen to the Word of GOD preached from a frail human being as it ministers grace to you.
Partake of the Lord’s Supper via simple elements as they minister His grace to you.
Take in the prayer offered on your behalf as it ministers grace in new ways to your heart.
Come away from worship, refreshed for another week to serve.
If your worship does not offer what is needed, you may need to talk to your pastor and/or look around for something that provides a means of grace for you as you seek to grow in grace. But that is not the first step.