While to list types of grace might make it sound like there are different graces, that is not the case.
1 Peter 5:10 declares that God is the God of all grace.
God relates to us through grace and these types simply describe some of the different ways in which God relates to us.
Grace is defined as the unmerited gift from God based on His unconditional love for us.
Grace is God’s gift to us that is continually transforming us into the fullness of us in His image. And we have been given permission through the sacrificial gift of Christ to confidently approach His throne and seek His grace. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
In my humanness, I want to somehow earn the love and grace of God; however, God offers this gift to us freely for His glory. It is most crazy that I continue to strive for the gift that I have been freely given – God’s Grace.
Types of Grace
It may be helpful to offer a brief understanding of who has defined grace and its varying types. The word grace is used and defined within scripture 124 times, 10 in the Old Testament and 114 times in the New Testament.
Eighty of the New Testament uses of the word Grace occur in the letters of Paul. From these scriptures, people have grouped the use of grace into types of grace.
In the Catholic tradition, there are two types of grace,: Actual and Sanctifying.
John Wesley and the Wesleyan Traditions speak of four types of grace: prevenient, justifying, sanctifying, and glorifying. Charismatic traditions add Miraculous Grace or Charismatic Grace.
Here I have included some of the more common labels and provided a definition or description. Some of these labels might be overlapping or actually speaking of the same kind of grace. For example, actual grace, common grace, and prevenient grace all describe the goodness of God. Each of these terms has been included to help give us a framework for understanding their usage.
Actual grace is that special help that the Holy Spirit gives us to enlighten our minds and to inspire and guide our wills to do good and to avoid evil in particular situations. It consists of temporary gifts of divine light for our minds and divine powers for our hearts. It is the nudges that God uses to get our attention so that we might enter more deeply into a relationship with Him. Actual grace compels us to take action in our lives to put God first.
God loves all people. Common Grace is God’s kindness to everyone whether or not they acknowledge Him. While it is true that believers will experience both common grace and saving grace, those who are apart from Christ will only experience common grace in this life.
Scriptural evidence of God’s common grace.
Psalm 104:14 – He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate—bringing forth food from the earth:
Matthew 5:45 – He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Luke 6:35 – He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
Acts 14:17 – Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.
Acts 17:25 – He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.
This old fashion word means to precede. To precede what? When discussing Grace, prevenient grace is the work that prepares our hearts and minds to hear and receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
God works in and around our lives before we even have awareness of Him moving on our behalf.
By God’s grace, the Holy Spirit is present in our lives. He lifts our eyes heavenward and draws us to Christ through, the silent declaration of creation, the loving support of a friend, the modeling of faith by a parent, the prayers lifted on our behalf, or a sermon that sounds like God speaking directly to us.
Romans 3:23 tells us that “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory”. No matter how hard we try or how much effort we exert, we cannot be good enough. Because of God’s great love for us, He made a way through Christ for us to be pardoned or justified.
In this falling world, we are born into the sin of Adam and because of that, the image of God that we were created to be is distorted by sin.
Thankfully, God made a way by His grace, through faith, for us to receive forgiveness and be pardoned. A gift offered through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for everyone to receive. God opens the door.
When we make the choice to accept this gift, we cross over the threshold from unbelief to belief.
Prevenient and justifying grace enables you to become a Christian, but it is sanctifying grace that enables you to be a Christian.
To sanctify means to make holy. Once God’s prevenient grace has convicted us of our sin and our need for Christ and after we receive His forgiveness by faith through God’s justifying grace, His Spirit begins the process of our inner transformation. It is God’s sanctifying graces that transform us into the likeness of Christ.
As Paul writes in Romans 12:2, do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, we participate in the process of sanctifying grace by positioning ourselves to receive this grace.
Through participation in acts of worship, devotion, justice, and compassion we open ourselves to allow God to fill us. This is not working to earn something from God but making room for the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and lives.
Finally, it is glorifying grace that enables you to be fully conformed to the image of Christ in the New Creation.
Romans 8:30-32 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
John Wesley’s view of glorifying grace is this is after this life and in the life eternal. Others view the term glorifying grace as available to us now, this understanding is the same as Wesley’s understanding of sanctifying grace.
Preached grace is the preaching of the gospel, which, when accompanied by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, releases the power to transform sinners into saints by God’s grace.
Colossians 1:5-6 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.
Through His provisional grace, God provides for all our needs. As James 1:17 says, Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.
When you get a better job or an unexpected gift, count it as grace from God. Provisional grace transforms our understanding of material possessions so that we see ourselves as stewards of things God has given us.
Adopting grace results in God becoming our spiritual Father and including us as members of his family, the church. Ephesians 1:4–6 says, In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Adopting grace completely transforms our motive for holy living.
While not one of the more frequently defined types of grace, I have included adopting grace because of its special place within my heart. Four of our five children have become part of our family through adoption.
Being a part of this process in the natural has enlightened my heart to all that God longs to give us when He says that He has adopted us into His family. I see the struggle of transformation playing out in my children and then recognize this struggle within my inner being as I leave behind my former life to fully become a child of God.
Because God is supernatural, there are times that He shows up in extraordinary ways doing things that only He can do.
We call these miracles as we read about them in the Bible and sometimes see them in our lives. Miraculous grace is poured out when God enables signs, wonders, and miracles to accompany his people.
For example, Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people (Acts 6:8). Through His grace, God still does miraculous things every day. And he has generously given each one of us supernatural grace, according to the size of the gift of Christ. Ephesians 4:7 (TPT)
Finally, in those times of trial and suffering, God sustains us. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Sustaining Grace is often hard for us to accept. On July 21, 2019, I suffered a major stroke in the middle of the night. That night I experienced provisional grace; God sent my dog to wake me up. He has provided the means for me to receive medical care and therapy.
I have experienced God’s Supernatural Grace. In a prayer gathering, He restored my eyesight. I had been told that my lost peripheral vision would not return, however, God had a different answer.
In a different prayer gathering, God restored full function to my left hand. This restoration is documented in my medical chart as an unexplained significant improvement. I give God the glory for His healing.
My ‘yet’ is the functionality of my foot and leg. I am unable to walk without braces or a cane. For this, the Lord is providing me with His Sustaining Grace. And while I often fall prey to the lies of the evil one, who tells me that this weakness disqualifies me from the prayer ministry, God’s sustaining grace is perfected in me through this weakness when I lean fully on Him.
When we approach the throne of Grace we receive the Lord’s mercy and grace. And while this gift does not always look as we long for or desire, His grace whichever type we receive is transforming us into the image of Christ.
God is the God of all grace. (1 Peter 5:10)