The Means of Grace
Grace is God’s favor toward His people who do not deserve it. God can extend grace using whatever means He deems right. Grace ebbs and flows to meet the needs of people in varying circumstances, but it flows like a river for those who daily depend on God to be their Provider. Grace meets our physical and our spiritual needs. Grace is given to Christians to make us holy and conform us to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom 8:29). We have the imperative to work out our salvation (Phil 2:12), but we are given gracious means to accomplish what is required (Phil 2:13). It is the Spirit at work that accomplishes what concerns us (Ps 57:2; 138:8).
The means of grace are the spiritual disciplines we employ to receive the goodness of God. There are five means of grace: Bible study; prayer; worship; the Lord’s supper; and the Lord’s Day observance. We should engage these activities, not with a sense of duty or obligation, but as spiritual delights. As noted, there are other means God uses, but these are the main tools employed by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11), who is at work providing the grace to our disciplined work.
Satan, the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), engages in spiritual warfare to derail our spiritual efforts (Eph 6:10–20). He deceives us into thinking these spiritual disciplines are not important enough to prioritize. He distracts us with alternative uses for our time, talents, and treasure (1 Jn 2:15–17). He engages us, to exhaust us with his agenda of activities, and this often detracts us from extending the means of grace to our children (Dt 4:10; 6:7; Prv 22:6).
Too many children only know the cotton candy pleasures of vanity fair. Their disciplines are secular education, sports teams, social clubs, and endless hours of video amusement. How would you fare, today, if you were asked to give an account of the stewardship of your children? Instead, of wallowing in guilt or in the florilegium of “how to” literature, may we simply do these things prescribed for us.
First, Bible study is prescribed by the Bible itself as a daily meditation (Jos 1:8; Ps 1:2). God is happy to reveal His Word to us (Jas 1:18, 21). By faith, we trust the Bible to be the Word of truth and the Word of life (Ps 119:160; Jn 17:17). Man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Lk 4:4). When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we need to be thinking of something more than bagels or pizza.
Bible study becomes a delight, and then it becomes a delightful discipline. In it one can spiritually taste and see that God is good (Ps 34:8). It is the indwelling Holy Spirit who teaches us God’s Word (Jn 14:17, 26). It is the Spirit, who is the Lord, who gives us understanding in everything (2 Tim 2:7). What we need is the truth because it is the truth that sets us free from bondage to wrong ideas and fallacious thinking (Jn 8:32; Gal 5:1), in the dark realm of sin and death (Eph 2:2).
The Holy Spirit teaches us the subject of the Bible, which is Jesus Christ. As we learn Christ, knowing Him illumines our path on the way of life (Ps 119:105; Jn 14:6; Phil 3:8). We are led by the Spirit and the Word in the pleasing way of the Lord (2 Cor 5:9; Gal 5:25; Heb 11:6), learning and doing His will, in preparation for being in His glorious presence for eternity. Sanctification is God’s will for His own (1 Thess 4:3), and without holiness no one can see the Lord (Heb 12:14). We are washed by the water of the Word (Eph 5:26), having been baptized by the Spirit (Acts 1:5; 10:47; 1 Cor 12:13).
Being daily cleansed, daily fed, daily illumined, daily strengthened by God’s Word, Bible study becomes our daily priority. How blessed we are to gather with others to devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42). As we learn from one another, we love the ones who are loved by Christ, who promised to disclose Himself to us (Jn 14:21).
Bible study groups provide the means for proper application of the Word, as group counsel, to problems and circumstances with a measure of balance. One’s agitating zeal can be tempered by a Word timely spoken by a brother. One’s debilitating depression can be lifted by a word aptly uttered. We need God’s Word, and we need to learn it together, as iron sharpens iron.
Second, prayer is a continuous means of grace. Christians are to pray at all times (Col 3:17), pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17), and pray in the Spirit (Eph 6:18). God never puts down His proverbial phone. He is ever listening and answering His people who call on Him (Joel 2:32; Rom 10:13). Prayer is the communication from heart to heart and from mind to mind. God knows our hearts, and He has given us the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16).
Jesus Christ went to the secluded place to pray to His heavenly Father. He taught His disciples to pray to “our Father,” who is in heaven. Christians approach God the Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus, who is ever making intercession for us (Heb 7:25). Praying in the Spirit builds us up in the holy faith (Jude 1:20). Praying actually demonstrates our faith in Him, who is called, “invisible God” (Col 1:15). We lay our petitions before Him and ask for His will to be done (Mt 26:39).
We must learn to pray, and the Bible is filled with prayers. We can and should pray the words of the Bible, especially the Psalms, God’s ordained prayer book for His people. In addition, we can learn through the example of recorded prayers, by specific people like: David, Solomon, Moses, Jesus, and Paul.
God’s Word reveals God’s will for His people. When we ask for something from God, we can know what to ask for by His revealed Word. For instance, if we are convicted by the Spirit for our neglect of Bible study, we can first, ask God to forgive us, and then ask for Him to inspire us to be diligent in our employment of the means of grace. When lingering sins plague us, we can seek God’s help to increase our affections for Him, instead of the world’s cheap substitute. We need to pray to the Father, in the name of the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Third, worship is a means of grace for God’s people. Sunday morning at 11:00am is a great time for God’s people to be together and to worship our God in a corporate setting (Heb 10:25). If this is the extent of your worship, however, then you are not employing this means of grace nearly enough.
The apostle Paul encouraged the church members at Rome to offer their entire lives as a living sacrifice to God (Rom 12:1). Acceptable spiritual service of worship is a priestly activity. We are a kingdom of priests, being a royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:9), with Jesus Christ as our great High Priest (Heb 3:1; 4:14; 9:11). He is ever in the presence of God the Father, performing priestly mediation for His people (1 Tim 2:5). We bring our sacrifice of praise and the work of our hands to Him, who makes them acceptable to the Father. Night and day, with impetus from the Spirit, we are encouraged to draw near to God and diligently seek Him, who rewards us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven (Eph 1:3; Heb 11:6).
A Christian’s lukewarm devotion is nothing short of idolatry (Rev 3:16). We must put away our idols and return to Him, who dwells in the holiest place (Rev 7:17). Our approach is in the Spirit and truth (Jn 4:23–24). The blood of Christ has opened and sustained our permanent access. Why do anything else? If the Cross is a scandal in the world, the scandal of heaven is our absence at the throne of grace. What good is there for us to have a seat with Christ in the heavens and not sit with Him each day (Eph 2:6).
Why neglect the grace and encouragement of Christ, the consolation of the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13:14; Phil 2:1)? It is untenable to imagine any alternative person, place, or thing. Worship God with your whole being and do not succumb to the devil’s temptation to find satisfaction and contentment in cheap idols (1 Cor 10).
Fourth, the Lord’s Supper is an excellent means of grace. It is reasonable to call it the Lord’s Table, communion, or sacrament. It is more than a memorial of our Lord’s death on the Cross. It is a means of grace. We understand grace flows to us through participation in what He has commanded His people to do when we gather. Satan would have us fight over Christ’s gracious invitation to taste the goodness of God (Ps 34:8), but we must resist his cunning ploys to divide us (Eph 4:3).
Jesus Christ is our communion meal (Jn 6). We symbolically taste our salvation in the bread and wine, which represent His body given, and His blood shed for us. Our bodies receive the physical elements, and our souls receive the spiritual grace. Just as the body is nourished and strengthened, so the soul is nourished and strengthened. We take and eat. We remember. We proclaim.
David, the shepherd of Israel, saw the imagery from the days of his youth, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies (Ps 23:5a).” The sheep of the Good Shepherd have a spiritual tableland with rich food in a hostile world. Still, we eat our bread in peace, because He is with us, and no weapon formed against us shall prosper (Is 54:7). Even the lame sheep, Mephibosheth, of the house of David’s enemy, Saul, “ate at the king’s table regularly (2 Sam 9:10).” Are we not the same?
Fifth, the Lord’s Day observance is a means of grace. The devil loves this division in the body of Christ, too. Remember to keep the Sabbath holy is the command in God’s moral law (Ex 20; Dt 5). The weekly Sabbath was one of seven days, in which God provided rest for His people. Notoriously, the religious leaders made the Sabbath a legalistic nightmare. Far from helping Israel call the Sabbath a delight (Is 58:13), they turned God’s once-per-week holy day into a checklist of do’s and don’ts.
God worked six days, and He rested on the seventh at the Creation (Gen 2:2–3). He put the Sabbath day into the moral law (Ex 20; Dt 5). Then, Jesus Christ came into the world, and appeared to the religious leaders, to be the worst Sabbath breaker they had ever known. Jesus’ countercharge pointed to their misuse of the Law, through meticulous efforts to keep the letter of the Law, without any sense of the spirit of the Law.
The Law of God is good (1 Tim 1:8), and it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath (Lk 6:9). The Law is holy (Rom 7:12), and it is spiritual (Rom 7:14). Therefore, we can think of the Sabbath law as a means of grace, for us to pursue holiness (Heb 12:14) and the spiritual life God intends for His people (1 Cor 2:14–15). If we are so caught up in the world, and all of the activities and distractions the devil has prepared for us, then putting a time stop on worldly things makes sense. Keeping the Sabbath Day is an act of spiritual war. It is the laying aside of fear and filth. It is a day of rest from toil. Take time to be holy. Christ has fulfilled the legal obligation, thus, the day itself is embraced by faith.
Christians come to Jesus to enter His rest. Jesus Christ is our Sabbath, and He invites us, “Come to me you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you Sabbath rest (Mt 11:28).” The whole picture of heaven is to enter God’s final Sabbath rest, having been released from our struggles in the world. When we bury a friend or relative, we say, “Rest in peace” or “He was laid to rest.” It is eternal rest in our eternal home (Eccl 12:5).
The means of grace are spiritual disciplines of preparation for our eternal reality. They separate us from this present evil age and corrupt world system (Gal 1:4; Eph 2:2). For those who remember to read their Bibles every day, who remember to pray at all times, who live their lives as an act of constant worship, who remember Christ’s death in the regular assembly of their fellowship, then there is hardly a need for a time-gap-stop to set their minds on the things above (Col 3:2). They are living the Sabbath life. For those who are still struggling in these areas, the Lord’s Day is a helpful time-out in the game of life. We huddle together on the Lord’s Day, get instruction and encouragement, and a brief rest before we re-engage the world, and before the clock expires for us.
Learning the Bible, praying, worship, communion, and Sabbath are all glorious means of God’s grace to us. All of these disciplines are gifts of God, joyfully engaged as delightful disciplines, slathered with grace, for which we should give thanks to the Giver (Jas 1:17). May you receive the grace to make these spiritual disciplines a labor of love as unto the Lord, and may the Lord grant you the riches of His grace, to marvel in His presence and His working…every moment of every day and for evermore.
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 5, 2021