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A WORD FROM PASTOR JON

GOD’S GRACE IN THE WESLEYAN TRADITION – JUSTIFYING GRACE
Coming from the Wesleyan Tradition, we are set apart by our understanding of God’s grace. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, defined grace as God’s bounty, or favor: God’s free, undeserved favor.
While we understand it is manifested in various ways, there is only one grace. All grace is God’s and the adjectives (prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying) reflect the various works of the self-same Spirit. In the concept of prevenient grace (introduced in August Newsletter), God takes the initiative to reach out to be in relationship with us. In justifying grace, we believe God continues to take the initiative, so in that sense, all of God’s grace is “prevenient.”
Wesley compares salvation and God’s grace to a house. Each of the movements of God’s grace corresponds to a different part of the house of salvation. Last month we understood that prevenient grace was compared to the porch of the house where we are welcomed or invited to come in. Wesley compared justifying grace to the door of the house. When we respond to God’s invitation and enter the house of salvation, we are right with God and have assurance that our sins are forgiven.
JUSTIFYING GRACE – Justification and Assurance – We believe God reaches out to all of us who are willing to return to God’s ways, with a grace of accepting and pardoning love. In justification, we turn to participate in God’s ways and are, through faith alone, forgiven and restored to God’s favor through the action and example of Jesus Christ. Just as justifying text in a word processor or on a typewriter aligns the text in a certain way (i.e. right or left justified), justifying grace aligns us with God1.
Quoting Robert Tuttle, Jr. Justifying grace is the work of the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion whereby the process of moving toward disobedience is stopped and the process of moving back toward obedience is begun2.
Justifying grace causes a relational change between ourselves and God. We are brought to realize and have faith that we are restored to right relationship with God.  We come to know that we are God’s children, and we are forgiven. In that alignment, we become new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Wesley teaches us that justification is another word for pardon. It is the assurance that our sins are forgiven which comes from repentance, of turning towards God’s gracious gift of new life in Christ.
In talking with your Christian friends from other churches, you may hear them using terms to describe this change, such as conversion or being born again. For those from the Wesleyan Tradition, we are certain that this is something that can only take place in us by the power of God’s grace.
Our doctrinal and theological statement found in our Book of Discipline describes the timing of this change of direction as follows, “sometimes justification comes about instantaneously; sometimes it is a gradual process. Either way, it is a new beginning; it is not an end.3 A new beginning justifying grace is part of an ongoing process which we will look at next month.
Scripture reference: Romans 3:21-26: But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ (or through the faith of Jesus Christ) for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus… (NRSV).

Faithfully yours,

Pastor Jon

References:

  1. 1st UMC Wichita Falls, Texas http://www.fumcwf.org/wesleyan-doctrines/ justifying-grace/
  2. Robert G. Tuttle, Sanctity Without Starch: a Layperson’s Guide to a Wesleyan Theology of Grace (Lexington, KY: Bristol Books, 1992), 80.
  3. The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 2016, 52.   Kenneth L. Carder, Living Our Beliefs: the United Methodist Way, rev. ed. (Nashville, Tenn.: Discipleship Resources, 2009), 79-81.