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John Wesley at age 48

God's Preparing, Accepting, and Sustaining Grace

John Wesley believed that God's grace is a wonderful gift freely offered to humankind. We do not "earn" it. God provides us with three kinds of grace:


  1. prevenient (preparing) grace
  2. accepting (justifying) grace
  3. sustaining (sanctifying) grace

God's prevenient grace is with us from birth, preparing us for new life in Christ. "Prevenient" means "comes before." Wesley believed that God places a little spark of divine grace within us that enables us to recognize and accept God's justifying grace.

Today some call God's justifying grace "conversion" or being "born again." When we experience God's justifying grace, we come into that new life in Christ. Wesley believed that people are free to accept or reject God's justifying grace.

Wesley believed that, after we have accepted God's grace, we are to move on in God's sustaining grace toward perfection. Wesley believed the people could "fall from grace" or "backslide." We cannot claim God's salvation and do nothing. We are to participate in what Wesley called "the means of grace" and to continue to grow in Christian life.

For Further Study

Explore Wesley's ideas of prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace.

  • "Free Grace"
    In this sermon, Wesley says, " The grace or love of God, whence cometh our salvation, is FREE IN ALL, and FREE FOR ALL."
  • "The New Birth"
    Wesley answers these questions: Why must we be born again? What is the foundation of this doctrine of the new birth? How must we be born again? What is the nature of the new birth? and Wherefore must we be born again?
  • "On Justification by Faith"
    This sermon shows: 1. The general ground of this doctrine of justification; 2. What justification is; 3. Who are justified; 4. On what terms they are justified.
  • "On Repentance of Believers"
    John Wesley explores: 1. In what sense are we to repent? 2. Supposing we do repent, then are we called to "believe in the gospel?" 3. Are we wholly sanctified when we are justified, our hearts cleansed from all sin?

Next: Spiritual Disciplines: The Works of Piety

The top left drawing depicts the Reverend John Wesley (1703-1791) at age 48. All of the black and white drawings have been scanned from public domain nineteenth century or early twentieth century Methodist history books. Please acknowledge this web site, John Wesley: Holiness of Heart and Life if you reproduce these. A few graphics are available in high resolution format, suitable for print media.

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