A Short Listing of Proof Texts for Prevenient Grace

I was discussing prevenient grace with somebody, and she has asked me to defend it, in context, biblically.

I'd begin by asking her if regeneration precedes faith? According to Reformed thought it does. But if this is so, we may then ask if regeneration is by God's grace? Undeniably regeneration is by grace. Therefore we are afforded an illustration from Reformed thought that the grace of God goes preveniently before the justification and sanctification of the individual.

The reason for my pointing out that on one level or another Reformed thought acknowledges that grace goes before salvation is that by doing so we uncover common streams of thought within competing systems of theological thought and establish some common ground. Through the establishment of common ground we may then continue to carry the discussion forward rather than allowing ourselves to become bogged down in combative discourse. Nevertheless, proof-texting does have its place in establishing biblical doctrines and themes and so to establish prevenient grace upon biblical grounds we may appeal to the following Scriptures:

John 12:32 declares that all men are drawn to Christ. 
John 16:8-11 we see that the ongoing ministry of the Spirit is to convict the entire world of its sin of unbelief (the suppression of truth cf. Rom. 1:18-32).
Titus 2:11 clearly states that God's grace has appeared to all men but from this passage we cannot conclude that all men will be saved. Yet the grace spoken of here cannot be explained as simply a common grace. This is because the purpose of the grace spoken of was to bring people to salvation (something that common grace in Reformed thought is never said to do). 

The book of Acts is illustrative of grace going prevenienty before salvation:*

Acts 2 reports that on the day of Pentecost "Jews from every nation under heaven" (Acts 2:5) were gathered together and after hearing the apostle Peter's discourse, they were awakened by the Spirit and asked the apostle, "What shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). They were not saved at this point so why are they asking unless God's grace had preveniently gone before and convicted them of their sins?

In Acts 8 we see the Ethiopian eunuch so moved by the Spirit as to read Isaiah. When Philip was led to join him in the Bible study the Ethiopian was eager to receive greater instruction (Acts 8:31). Why?

In Acts 9 Saul is smitten by the Holy Spirit three days before he was told to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 10 we see the Holy Spirit working with devout Cornelius and causing Peter to go to him. Cornelius was not a New Testament Christian at this time, but was a "God-fearer" because he sought to serve God in spirit and in truth.

In Acts 13:48 we see many "ordained" Gentiles glorifying God. They were under the mercy of God's prevenient grace waiting for the Word of Truth to come unto them.

In Acts 16 Paul finds a young man, Timotheus, already awakened, taught by his mother and grandmother, ready to be led in the way of faith. Then he found Lydia leading a group of awakened women in a riverside prayer meeting, ready to receive the things Paul preached. Next the Philippian jailer had knowledge of God enough to ask, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30).

Also in Acts 17:4 at Thessalonica we find devout Greeks, and chief women who were under prevenient grace waiting to be told of the gift of saving grace. At Berea the Bible searchers were hungry to hear God's Word. At Athens men were ignorantly worshipping the unknown god and certain men clove unto Paul and believed on Jesus.

At Ephesus in Acts 19 the grace of God preceded Paul's preaching of Christ, but they were not saved until Paul came and sensed their lack of the Spirit and exhorted them to be baptized in the name of Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit, thus bringing them up to the New Testament standard.

*My thanks go to E. Norman Brush for the illustrations of prevenient grace in the book of Acts which I've both edited and quoted directly. Visit the original article at: http://www.imarc.cc/pregrace/v7n1enbrush.html


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