Holy Communion: The Grace of God’s Presence
This is part two in a three part series on Communion. Last week, we discussed how Christ’s body acts as the means of encountering God’s presence. Just as the Most Holy Place in the temple was entered through a curtain, so we enter into the Most Holy Place of heaven through the curtain that is Christ’s body in Communion. By grace, the Holy Spirit lifts us to heaven to be with God in spirit and impart grace to our lives. Now let’s explore that grace.
In the Methodist/Wesleyan tradition we understand grace in three different modes:
Prevenient grace is the redeeming grace of God that has been poured out over all of humanity through the redeeming love of Christ on the cross. It is the grace that is present in all human life, drawing each person to a knowledge of God, convicting us of sin, illuminating our need for a savior, and leading us to repentance.
Justifying grace is the grace of God that makes us righteous in response to faith. We believe that we are justified by faith through grace. Our understanding is that God’s justifying grace is given when a person freely responds with their own human will, as they are so able, with faith and acceptance of Christ. In accepting Christ through faith, we open the gift that was given to us 2,000 years ago and are made righteous before God.
The last mode is sanctifying grace, the grace of God that continues to work in a Christian’s life, shaping us to be more like Christ. This is the grace that God gives to cleanse us through confession, empower us through revelation, sustain us by His strength, provides for us in His providence, and calm us through His peace. It is by sanctifying grace that we grow in the fruits of the spirit. It is by sanctifying grace that we receive spiritual gifts. This grace is what continually brings us back to remembering our own death with Christ in baptism, and looks toward the glorious resurrection to come.
In Communion we generally experience sanctifying grace, but we do believe that justifying grace can be experienced as well. Christ offers us whatever we need. The sacrament of His body and blood is transformative for all who partake of it. This is why our Methodist tradition practices an “open table.” You don’t have to be baptized to come and take Communion because we believe that God can use His presence as a means of conversion and justification. By lifting the spirit of a seeker into His presence, faith, acceptance, and justification can come in that single moment.
All that we need in Christ we can receive at the table: healing, revelation, strength, perseverance, peace, etc. This is where God and man sit down together, possible only through our great mediator: the god-man, Christ Jesus. Faith needs something to touch, something to act upon, and the act of coming to the table, opening our hands with thanksgiving, and receiving the life giving sacrament is an act of faith.
Through Communion, we actually encounter the grace of God given to us through Jesus Christ, the sanctifying grace that continuously cleanses us, empowers us, sustains us, and provides for us.
About the Author
Kevin Cook is a 4th year student at Asbury Theological Seminary and an Aspirant for Ordination in the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). After graduating, Kevin hopes to plant a contemporary three-streams Anglican Church. He and his wife Nicole attend Wilmore Anglican Church in Kentucky.
Kevin holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Master of Business Administration from Florida State University. Kevin enjoys playing music and leading worship, reading fiction and spiritual classics, drinking coffee, and spending time with family and friends.
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