Brian Shelton, “The Biblical Case for Prevenient Grace”

, posted by Steven Wolf

The Bible teaches that all people are called to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:1; Acts 16:30-31), while also acknowledging that we are dead in sin and cannot come to God of our own accord (John 6:44 & 65; Romans 3:9-12; Ephesians 2:1; Philippians 2:13). How do we reconcile these seemingly contradictory realities—the biblical call to repentance with what is often called total depravity? Watch this Seven Minute Seminary video with Brian Shelton as he explains what bridges this gap.

Throughout church history many have described the enabling effect of God’s grace as prevenient grace. This grace that “goes before” is the work of God’s Spirit on human hearts to loosen sin’s natural grip on us. Prevenient grace testifies to God’s being the initiator of our relationship with him and reveals him as one who pursues us. It becomes distinctly Wesleyan in its reach and scope by going beyond Reformed common grace and toward reconciliation with God.

Four passages that John Wesley referred to often were (NIV): John 1:9 (“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world”); John 12:32 (“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself”); Romans 2:4: (“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?“); and Titus 2:11 (“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people”).

Three qualities of prevenient grace:

  1. Prevenient grace is enabling.
  2. Prevenient grace is transformative.
  3. Prevenient grace is universal.

Two important qualifications:

  1. Prevenient grace is not universalism.
  2. Prevenient grace is not saving.