Means of Grace: the big 3 but what else?

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BGF

Puritan Board Sophomore
A friend and elder in our church has sought my help in searching the scriptures to examine the biblical theology of stewardship in preparation for a class on the subject. While searching, I've also been looking through some other material, and I came across this in RC Sproul's Five Things Every Christian Needs To Grow:

Stewardship is the last of the five means of grace we will consider in this book. Like Bible study, prayer, worship, ship, and service, practicing good stewardship helps us grow in the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

R. C. Sproul. Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow, Revised & Expanded (Kindle Locations 716-717). Kindle Edition.

I guess I've never really thought of stewardship as a means of grace. I'm more likely to categorize stewardship as an integral part of what it means to be human as set forth in the original creation mandate. Perhaps the two aren't mutually exclusive? When I think of the means of grace the WSC comes to mind:

Q. 88. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?
A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption are, his ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.

Word, sacrament, and prayer, the big three, obviously come to mind and are singled out for further explanation by the catechisms and the confession. The full answer, however, alludes to other means not mentioned.

The questions I have are:

1. What are some of the other means of grace?
2. By what criteria are these determined to be so?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
The idea of "means of grace" expands with the inclusion of each new item. Technically the Word and sacraments are the means of grace, in the sense that by these Christ gives and strengthens the faith of the elect. With the inclusion of prayer we are broadening the term to include the means of seeking God's blessing on the Word and sacraments. A further extension of the idea takes place with the inclusion of fellowship. By this the saints teach, exhort, and admonish one another in the things they have learned, but the idea of God saving by this means can only be maintained by a very loose connection. Insofar as stewardship encourages and supports the ministry of Word and sacraments it could be said to be a means of bringing the means of grace, but here the concept is being extended to a point where the original idea has virtually no meaning.
 

BGF

Puritan Board Sophomore
The idea of "means of grace" expands with the inclusion of each new item. Technically the Word and sacraments are the means of grace, in the sense that by these Christ gives and strengthens the faith of the elect. With the inclusion of prayer we are broadening the term to include the means of seeking God's blessing on the Word and sacraments. A further extension of the idea takes place with the inclusion of fellowship. By this the saints teach, exhort, and admonish one another in the things they have learned, but the idea of God saving by this means can only be maintained by a very loose connection. Insofar as stewardship encourages and supports the ministry of Word and sacraments it could be said to be a means of bringing the means of grace, but here the concept is being extended to a point where the original idea has virtually no meaning.

Sproul's use of the term seemed a little loose to me. What then of the implied other means of grace in the WSC? Is there looseness the very reason they are not given the same attention as Word, sacrament, and prayer? And if so, why have the divines alluded to them?
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Interestingly, Thomas Boston breaks the means of Sanctification down into two headings: Ordinances, which include Word and Sacraments, and Providences, both favorable and afflicting.

2. Providences, smiling and favorable dispensations have a tendency that way (Rom 2:4), but especially afflictions are means which the Spirit makes use of for this end (Isa 27:9)... Works, Vol I, pg 661,662

Would the 'Means of Grace' include the 'Means of Sanctification'? Are they interchangeable terms?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Sproul's use of the term seemed a little loose to me. What then of the implied other means of grace in the WSC? Is there looseness the very reason they are not given the same attention as Word, sacrament, and prayer? And if so, why have the divines alluded to them?

It is likely the divines had experience of a wide range of usage and probably would not have insisted on only one meaning of the term. It seems they were seeking to convey a more specific meaning with the use of the word "especially." It might be worth looking at the Catechism answers on Word and sacraments and comparing these with the answers on prayer to note the different ways God works and how that affects the idea of "means." Also, the Confession's chapter on the communion of saints speaks of fellowship in terms of gifts and graces of the Spirit of Christ, and the fact these conduce to mutual good. So the duties connected with this must be a "means" of some sort.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Would the 'Means of Grace' include the 'Means of Sanctification'? Are they interchangeable terms?

Sanctification is one of the benefits communicated by Christ, so the terms would be interchangeable at the point where the grace of sanctification is being discussed.

Technically a "means" is something appointed by God for man to use. Perhaps Boston speaks of "providence" as a "means" in the sense that the saints are to wisely observe providence, as in an earlier lecture.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Would the 'Means of Grace' include the 'Means of Sanctification'? Are they interchangeable terms?

Sanctification is one of the benefits communicated by Christ, so the terms would be interchangeable at the point where the grace of sanctification is being discussed.

Technically a "means" is something appointed by God for man to use. Perhaps Boston speaks of "providence" as a "means" in the sense that the saints are to wisely observe providence, as in an earlier lecture.

Most certainly Boston is referring to Providence as means used by Himself to impart the grace of sanctification. That is a good point. God uses means and the Redeemed use means.
 
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