The Means of Grace - John Wesley Condensed Sermon
Sermon 16 - The Means of Grace – Detailed outline
John Wesley's Text: "Ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them." Malachi 3:7.
Are there NOW any means ordained of God, as the usual channels of his grace?
I. Why the disagreement about the means of grace?
1. The whole early Church’s practice “agreed, that Christ had ordained certain outward means, for conveying his grace into the souls of men.” (See Acts 2:42)
2. Over time, many in the church forgot.
A. Some began to mistake the means for the end, and to place religion rather in doing those outward works, than in a heart renewed after the image of God.
B. Others seemed to imagine, that … there was something in [these ceremonies] …that would still make them acceptable in his sight, though they were not [in]…the love of God.
a. Result 1: Some, instead of “growing more heavenly in heart and life… were two-fold more the children of hell than before.”
b. Result 2: Others, seeing “that these means did not convey the grace of God to those children of the devil [drew] a general conclusion” – that they didn’t convey grace.
3. Some rose up who despised the means of grace.
A. They were men of “great understanding, (sometimes joined with considerable learning,)”
B. They “appeared to be men of love… acquainted with true, inward religion.”
C. Some were “persons famous in their generations” and were “holy and venerable men”.
D. They probably had good motives. They “intended… to show that outward religion is nothing worth, without the religion of the heart;”
E. They were sometimes misunderstood.
a. They did not “always [express] themselves with sufficient caution; so that unwary hearers might believe they condemned all outward means,
b. Some of them did “fall into this opinion; [Who] were cut off from all these ordinances; …having no certain abiding-place.” They experienced grace outside these means.
F. This false opinion spread to those who
a. “feel the weight of their sins”
b. Are “always ready to catch at any new thing, any new proposal of ease or happiness…”
c. And have “tried most outward means.”
II. Let us examine “whether there are any means of grace.”
1. DEFINTION: By "means of grace" I [mean] outward signs, words, or actions, ordained of God, and appointed for this end, to be the ordinary channels whereby he might convey to men, preventing, justifying, or sanctifying grace.
2. There are these primary means of grace:
A. Prayer, whether in secret or with the great congregation;
B. Searching the Scriptures; (which implies reading, hearing, and meditating thereon;)
C. Receiving the Lord's Supper, eating bread and drinking wine in remembrance of Him:
D. These are “ordained of God, as the ordinary channels of conveying his grace to the souls of men.”
3. We affirm that
A. The only reason they have value is because they lead “to the [goal] of religion.”
B. If separate from the Spirit of God, they “cannot profit at all, cannot produce, in any degree, either the knowledge or love of God.”
C. Whoever imagines that there is any “intrinsic power in any means… does greatly err.”
D. It is by God alone …the Author of all grace… [that] there is any blessing conveyed to our soul.
E. [God] is able to give the same grace, though there were no means on the face of the earth.
F. That the use of all means whatever will never atone for one sin…
G. “That a large proportion of those who are called Christians, do to this day abuse the means of grace to the destruction of their souls…” They assume “that there is a sort of merit in using them, which will surely move God to give them holiness, or accept them without it.”
H. "But am I to wait for the grace of God which bringeth salvation, by using these means, or by laying them aside?"
III. All who desire the grace of God are to wait for it in [using] the means which he hath ordained.
A. Wait for it in the way of prayer. (Matt. 7:7-11, Luke 11:13, Matthew 6:6, James 1:5)
B. Wait for it in searching the Scriptures. (See John 5:39, Acts 17:11-12, 2 Timothy 3:15-17)
C. Wait for it in partaking of the Lord's Supper. (1 Cor. 11:23ff)
IV. Objections to the use of the means of grace.
1. Objection 1: "You cannot use these means …without trusting in them."
Answer: “Where is this written? Show me plain Scripture for your assertion… I am not convinced that you are wiser than God.” If Jesus had known this, “he would surely have warned us.”
2. Objection 2: "This is seeking salvation by works."
Answer: “Seeking salvation by works …[means] expecting salvation for the sake of our own works, by the merit of our own righteousness. But how is either of these implied in my waiting in the way God has ordained, and expecting that he will meet me there, because he has promised so to do?”
3. Objection 3: “Christ is the only means of grace."
Answer: “This is mere playing upon words… "Christ is the means of grace," [means that He is] the sole price and purchaser of it… And who denies it?
4. Objection 4: [The Scripture “directs us to wait for salvation?”
Answer: “We are undoubtedly to wait on him for salvation. But how shall we wait If God himself has appointed a way, can you find a better way of waiting for him?... "In the way of thy judgments," or ordinances, "O Lord, have we waited for thee." (Isaiah 26:8.)
5. Objection 5: "Does not St. Paul say, `If ye be dead with Christ, why are ye subject to ordinances' (Col. 2:20.)?”
Answer: “…the ordinances here mentioned cannot be the ordinances of Christ: That they must needs be the Jewish ordinances, to which it is certain a Christian is no longer subject.”
V. How should the means of grace be used?
1. There tends to be a particular order God frequently uses. You may use these to lead others:
A. “If any of these will reach a…sinner, it is probably hearing, or conversation” about the Bible.
B. Also, have them read the Word of God and “perhaps other serious books”
C. Meditate on what he reads, that it may have its full force upon his heart
D. Have him “Speak [about it to others], and not be ashamed,”
E. Encourage him to “Pour out his soul before God; "always to pray and not to faint;"
F. …Going up into the house of the Lord, and praying with all that fear him
G. This will lead him toward faith, when “the dying word of his Lord will soon be [remembered];
H. At this point, we should “second the motions of the blessed Spirit.”
I. And thus may we lead him, step by step, through all the means which God has ordained; not according to our own will, but just as the Providence and the Spirit of God go before and open the way.
2. The manner of using the Means of Grace:
A. Always [remember clearly], that God is above all means.
a. He can convey his grace, either in or out of any of the means which he hath appointed.
b. Look then every moment for his appearing!
c. Be it at the hour you are …hindered [from the Means]…?: He is not hindered.
B. Let it be deeply impressed on your soul; -- there is no power in this.
a. It is, in itself, a poor, dead, empty thing:
b. Neither is there any merit in my using this;
c. But, because God bids, therefore I do; because he directs me to wait in this way, therefore here I wait …
C. In using all means, seek God alone.
a. Look [only] to the power of his Spirit; and the merits of his Son.
D. After you have used any of [the Means], take care how you [congratulate] yourself.