In some contrast to Calvinism which emphasized the majestic POWER of God (He creates and redeems because He can do so and wills to do so), and Arminius who emphasized the JUSTICE of God (He is not only good but He is fair to all men), Wesley emphasized the LOVE of God which takes up and unifies all the attributes of God into a total personality. God’s acts do not arise out of His creative will or out of an inner necessity of any kind, but out of His love. God’s grace is God’s love in action. Grace is the expression of God’s moral freedom.
Grace is the majestic expression of God’s great love. Creation is the revelation of God’s love; hence, it is grace. Grace accounts for all that man is. Man, even fresh from God’s hand, has no natural ability apart from the immediate application of God’s grace. It was “free grace” that “formed man out of the dust of the ground,” made him in God’s image, and gave him the power of dominion. The same “free grace” continues to sustains in life and whatever human powers and goodness may yet be ours.
Wesley did not teach “free will” in man but “free grace” in God. Grace is Christocentric — an outpouring of God’s personal nature through Christ. It is INTENSELY PERSONAL; hence, there can be no distinctions in grace such as “common” and “saving grace.” Wiley stated the case succinctly in the “Debate over Divine Election”: “We hold there is no distinction in the nature of grace between prevenient grace and saving grace, that it’s all of one nature. Consequently, we don’t draw the distinction frequently drawn in Calvinism, between common and saving grace. We think one merges into another.”
By the same logic, it should be noted, there can be no distinction in grace between justification and sanctification. This does not mean that there is no distinction between justification and sanctification, but it does relate the two in a way that is not always done. No theologian can justifiably reject the Calvinists’ distinction between common and saving grace who makes a distinction between “saving grace” and “sanctifying grace.” Certainly the Bible makes no such distinctions.
Since love and grace are qualities of God’s personality, the outflow of these qualities is the outflow of God himself. There are not different kinds of grace accomplishing different kinds of results. Rather, there are varying kinds of appropriations on man’s part of the benefits of grace. This would account for the differences in Christian experience. Grace is not an impersonal POWER, or a THING to be received. It is God making himself available to us. It is the full measure of His redemptive love held out to us without reserve. But the results of grace in man are limited to man’s grasp of God. Each step toward God and each step within the circle of His love requires the highest and noblest response of which man is capable at any give time. These are stages on man’s way, not different “gifts” on God’s part.
This excerpt is taken from Foundations of Wesleyan-Arminian Theology by Mildred Bangs Wynkoop, pp. 96-98. ISBN: 083-410-2544