Church Education Trust

Christian Belief

ST009/6 The Means of Grace.


The Means of Grace.

The means of Grace and the Christian Sunday he must now transfer our thought to the present day. It is essential not to break the links with the past, but we must build upon it and upon all we know of worship in the church through the ages, and in this way consider the question of worship in the church today.

Worship is usually considered to be one of the "means of grace", but it would seem more correct to say that the "means of grace" form that full content of our personal and collective relationship to God which makes worship the most exalted and the most glorifying to God. 

By the term "means of grace" is meant those helps and activities in the Christian life which are the normal channels through which God mediates His grace to our lives, while God can, there is no doubt, impart His grace to us by a flash of revelation without any outward means or activity, yet normally He does not do so but works through certain recognized channels which He has shown to us in His word. 

While these means of grace minister blessing to us personally and individually, yet they are of no real purpose unless this personal blessing comes to us also through the corporate ministry and worship of the church. The New Testament has nothing to say about monastic or "desert island" Christianity. 

It just is not the New Testament pattern. While we must not in any sense devalue the importance of personal contact with God and personal prayer, yet again and again it is in corporate worship that the Spirit of God falls and the power of God moves on a community.

These means of grace are the work of God, Prayer, Christian Fellowship, the Sacraments; these together make worship which can be called the supreme means of grace. Some would disagree with this and make the Word of God the supreme means of grace. 

Both are so important, however, that it is almost splitting hairs to make a distinction. To these can be added the Christian Sunday as being that gracious gift of God whereby we may turn aside from the normal activities of the week and the means of grace may be enjoyed to the full. 

In this section we shall deal with the Word of God, Prayer, fellowship, Worship and the Christian Sunday. The Sacraments will be reserved till the next section as they have particular significance and there have been more differences of opinion concerning them than concerning the others.

(a) The Word of God.

The Scriptures claim to be the voice of God speaking to mankind, and they are therefore the basis of our communion with and obedience to God. We are "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the wcord of God, which liveth and ebideth forever" (1 Pet.1:23). It is the word of God which is the Sword of the Spirit (Eph.6:17), and by it comes faith (Ro.m.10:17). 

The truth contained therein and even the very words of Scripture themselves are the instrument used by the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of sin and need, both in the hands of the preacher and the personal worker. 

The preaching of the Word is to be in demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Cor.2:4). Paul tells us that the Scripture is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim.3:16). This means to say that it is useful for instruction in the truths of the Gospel, for the prevention of failure and the bringing back into the right way, as well as for all the instruction which is needed for the soul to be fed and the spiritual life maintained in health.

(b) Prayer.

Prayer is talking and listening toGod; in other words it is communion with God. When using the word of God and based on it, prayer is the means of maintaining the spiritual vitality of the soul. It is also the channel by which the love of God flows into the heart and back to God and out to others. 

Wiley states the elements of well ordered prayer as;

  1. Adoration, which ascribes to God the perfections which belong to His nature, and which should be uttered in deep devotion, reverence, confidence and affection;
  2. Thanksgiving, or the pouring forth of the soul in gratitude;
  3. Confession, or deep penitence, submission and humility;
  4. Supplication, or a prolonged earnest looking to God in dependence for needed blessings;
  5. Intercession, or a pleading for our fellowmen with sincere desires for their spiritual welfare," (Christian Theology Urol.III p.153).  

He points out, too, that four of these elements are found in one verse from the pen of Paul, "I exhort therefore that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men." While prayer can, as a means of grace, be private or in the family, we are thinking; particularly here of corporate prayer in the assembly of believers.

(c) Christian Fellowship.

There is no fellowship like Christian Fellowship, It undoubtedly has its faults because of the human side to it, and because no man, however clean and right his heart, is perfect in every way. But there is something deep, true and satisfying about real Christian fellowship. It sharpens us, it strengthens us; it brings comfort and encouragement. 

We are told to "consider one another to provoke unto love and good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.2 (Heb.10:24,25). 

And again, in the same epistle, "exhort one another daily ... lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." (Hebrews.3:13) and '"obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give an account, that they may do it with joy,and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."' ( Heb.13:17). 

Along this line the Church of the Nazarene manual has a good passage. "The privileges and blessings which we have in association together in the Church of Jesus Christ are very sacred and precious. There is in it such hallowed fellowship as cannot otherwise be known.

There is such helpfulness with brotherly watch-care and counsel as can be found only in the church. There is the godly care of pastors, with the teachings of the Word, and the helpful inspiration of social worship. And there is co-operation in service, accomplishing that which cannot otherwise be done.'' (pp.214,215).

(d) Worship.

It would seem that worship includes all the foregoing and raises them to their highest state. It is based on and gathers round the word of God; it must include prayer; and in it Christian fellowship reaches its deepest and fullest. While an individual can worship God truly on his own, and while corporate worship does depend on the true worship of the individual believer, yet it is still true that corporate worship can reach a height impossible to an individual. 

Worship does not only concern the mind, the will or the affections, it is the whole being of everyone present going out to God. This going out to God means adoration, reverence (or a godly awe), praise and submission, which includes obedience; while there is the slightest disobedience in the will, there cannot possibly be true, full worship.

All these are means of grace and all are necessary to the life of the church and to its expression and witness to the outside world. None of them is mechanical; just reading the word, saying prayers, meeting for fellowship or worship is of no avail unless the Spirit of God moves upon believers. He alone can bring grace down to man through the means; nevertheless the means are meant to be used and they are God's appointed way to bring His grace to man. 

Exactly how these various means are to be used is not laid down and the form of the local worship may vary greatly, but if the Holy Spirit is present and at work, then the most formal of services can be touched with fire, and if he is absent, the freest of services can be utterly lifeless.

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