When I was in high school, I heard a pastor explain grace in the form of an acronym: God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense.
Grace is a gift, an invitation to receive God’s riches and become heirs of God’s kingdom.
I grew up in a United Methodist church, and the more I learned about what it means to be Methodist, the more I learned about grace.
You see, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, considered grace the cornerstone of the Christian faith. He described God's grace as having three different forms: Prevenient Grace, Justifying Grace, and Sanctifying Grace.
Here’s how it’s explained in The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (2012):
“By grace we mean the undeserved, unmerited, and loving action of God in human existence through the ever-present Holy Spirit. While the grace of God is undivided, it precedes salvation as ‘prevenient grace,’ continues in ‘justifying grace,’ and is brought to fruition in ‘sanctifying grace.’”
Here's a closer look at those three forms of grace:
Meaning: We love because God first loved us.
This form of grace is about God reaching out to us in love. Prevenient means to “come before.” Thus, prevenient grace is "grace that comes before our response to God, before our acceptance of grace, before we’re even aware of God at all. Prevenient grace is available to all people, whether they ever accept that love or not.” (source)
Meaning: There is nothing we can do to earn God’s love and grace.
In this form of grace, we acknowledge that God offers grace and forgiveness and acceptance to all who are willing to receive it; it is not contingent on our actions or beliefs or values or social standing or good deeds. There is nothing we have done or can do to deserve this kind of grace - we must simply accept it as the gift that it is and in turn, extend this kind of grace to others in our lives.
Meaning: We are transformed and sanctified by the gift of God’s grace.
The word sanctify means to “set apart or declare holy.” In Sanctifying Grace, God sets us apart and calls us holy, freeing us from sin and transforming us into God’s likeness. "Sanctifying grace invites us to open ourselves to be shaped by God so the sacredness of a life of love can infiltrate our way of being.” (source)
This is the form of grace that we receive again and again after salvation, because “salvation is not a static, one-time event in our lives. It is the ongoing experience of God’s gracious presence transforming us into whom God intends us to be.” (source)
Planning a worship service focused on grace? Here are a few hymns, songs, and anthems to consider.
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Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Crown Him With Many Crowns
All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name
’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus
And Can It Be, That I Should Gain?
I Sought the Lord
Grace Greater Than Our Sin
O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
O Worship the King
Lord, I Want to Be a Christian
My Hope Is Built
God of Grace and God of Glory
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
Wonderful Grace of Jesus
God of Compassion, in Mercy Befriend Us
Come, Let Us Use the Grace Divine
Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) (Chris Tomlin)
Your Grace Is Enough (Matt Maher)
This Is Amazing Grace (Phil Wickham)
Come to the Table of Grace (Barbara Hamm)
God of Grace (Keith & Kristyn Getty)
Forever Reign (Hillsong)
What Grace is Mine (Kristyn Getty)
Grace Like Rain (Chris Collins, Todd Agnew, et al.)
Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace) (Hillsong)
Fullness of Grace [Christmas] (Keith & Kristyn Getty)
Amazing (Matt Redman)
The Wonderful Cross (Chris Tomlin, Isaac Watts, et al.)
Grace to Grace (Hillsong)
O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing (arr. Mark A. Miller)
Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) (arr. James Koerts)
Grace (arr. Mark Hayes)
Your Grace Still Amazes Me (Lloyd Larson)
You Are Known (Heather Sorenson)
Amazing Grace (arr. Brian Stevenson)
Wonderful Grace of Jesus (arr. Larry Shackley)
Grace Alone (arr. Tom Fettke)
Table of Grace (Pepper Choplin)
Grace on Grace (William Beckstrand)
Amazing Grace (Craig Courtney)
What are your favorite grace-themed hymns, songs, and anthems?
More helpful articles:
United Methodists and Grace
Teaching Grace in Christian Education
Worship Planning Theme: Spirit
Worship Planning Theme: Music
Worship Planning Theme: The Good Shepherd
Worship Planning Theme: Water