I. The Grace of the Holy Spirit



The subjective appropriation of the fellowship of God historically actualized in the salvation wrought by Christ Jesus, is an act of the free Grace of God through the operation of the Holy Spirit who by His prevenient and renewing operations on the internal life of man adapts and determines his will to the acceptance of salvation.

1. The Scripture Doctrine.

  1. Grace, corresponding with the Greek charis, is the free favor of God (the Grace of the Father) towards sinners. It forms the basis of the whole work of redemption,

Eph. 1:6, 7, “To the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved: in whom we have our redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace”;

  1. is made manifest in the sending, and the saving work of Jesus (the Grace of the Son),

John 1:14, 16, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us……full of grace and truth. For of His fullness we all received, and grace for grace”;

Eph. 2:7, “That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: for by grace have ye been saved through faith”;

Tit. 2: 11, “For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all man”;

  1. and is the active principle of the application or appropriation of salvation (the Grace of the Holy Spirit), inasmuch as through grace we become God’s children, are justified and saved. The condition of the redeemed is consequently a condition of grace,

Rom. 5:2, “Through whom also we have had our access by faith into this grace wherein we stand”;

1 Pet. 2:10, “Which in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”

  1. This grace consequently stands in antithesis both to man’s own merit and work,

Rom. 4:4, “Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned as of grace, but as of debt”;

Rom. 4:16, “For this cause it is of faith, that it may be according to grace”;

Rom. 11:6, “But if it is by grace, it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace”; and it stands in antithesis also to man’s sin and corruption,

Rom. 5:15, “For if by the trespass of the one, the many died, much more did the grace of God, and the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound unto the many”;

Rom. 5:20, “But where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly: that, as sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”;

Eph. 2:3-5, “But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, quickened us together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved)”.

  1. The grace of the appropriation, or the application of salvation, is the grace of the Holy Spirit, for He is the applying agent. In the specific New Testament sense as the applier of the salvation of Christ, the Holy Spirit is the distinctive gift of the New Testament era,

John 7:39, “For the spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified”;

John 14:26, “But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you”;

16:7, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you”.

Hence He is spoken of as in the service of Christ,

John 15:26, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall bear witness of me”;

John 16:13-15;

and as the Spirit of Christ imparted and sent by Christ,

John 20:22, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost”;

  1. and is regarded by the apostles themselves as something new, the divine principle of their new life,

Acts 19:2, “Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?”;

Rom. 8:2, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death”;

1 John 3:24, “And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He gave us”.

2. The Church Doctrine.

  1. The history of the doctrine of Grace coheres with that of free will. The Greek Church looked upon grace rather as the aid to human freedom, than as the new creative principle of the inner life. Pelagius represented the same tendency in the Church of the West. Augustine is the great representative of the deeper view, and with the Augustinian theology, excepting his figment of irresistible and particular grace, the Lutheran Church concurs.
  2. In relation to the human will and works the acts of grace are expressed as prevenient grace; preparing, operating, co-operating and preserving grace.
  3. The leading features of the grace of the Holy Spirit are well stated in the exposition of the Third Article of the Creed in Luther’s Small Catechism, “the Holy Ghost has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me by His gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith; in like manner as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the true faith”.
  4. In the Formula of Concord (Sol. Decl. II. 50), the arrangement is this: “God has seen fit through the Word and the right use of the sacraments to call men to eternal salvation, to draw them to Himself, to convert, regenerate, and sanctify them”.
  5. The various grades, vocation, illumination, conversion, regeneration, justification, mystical union, renovation, sanctification, are not so much to be separated as if they were divided in time, as separated in the order of nature and of thought.

Great practical confusion arises from the attempt to separate actually and divide appreciably from one another those great acts which indeed have an order of succession but are simultaneous things.

A) Definition of the Dogmaticians.

(1) Grace.

  1. Hollaz: “The applying grace of the Holy Spirit is the source of those divine acts by which the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God and the Sacraments, dispenses, offers to us, bestows and seals the spiritual and eternal favors designed for man by the great mercy of God the Father, and procured by the fraternal redemption of Jesus Christ.”

(2) Prevenient Grace.

  1. Baier: “By prevenient grace is understood the divine inspiration of the first holy thought and godly desire. This grace is called prevenient, because it is prior to our deliberate consent or because in this way the will of the person to be converted is anticipated.”

Hollaz: “Prevenient grace is that act, wherein the Holy Spirit offers to man, dead in sin, the benevolence of the Father and the merit of Christ through the Word of God, takes away his natural incapacity, and invites, excites, impels, and urges him to repentance.”

(3) Preparing Grace,

  1. “Preparing grace is that act, wherein the Holy Spirit overcomes the natural and actual resistance, imbues the mind with a knowledge of the letter of the Gospel, and softens the will by the Word of the Law, that it may be more and more disposed to the reception of saving faith.”

(4) Operating Grace,

  1. Hollaz: “Operating grace, as a special term, designates that act of grace by which the Holy Spirit confers the power of believing and justifying faith. To it belong regeneration, justification and mystical union.”

(5) Co-operating Grace,

  1. Hollaz: “Co-operating grace is that act of grace wherein the Holy Spirit acts concurrently with the justified man to sanctification, and the bringing forth of good works. To this belongs renovation.”

(6) Preserving Grace.

  1. grace is that act by which the Holy Spirit, dwelling in justified and renewed men, defends them by supernatural strength against the temptations of the devil, the world, and the flesh, which solicit to sin and apostasy from God, and sustains and increases their faith and holiness, that they may not fall from grace, but persevere in it and be eternally saved.’’

(7) Glorifying Grace.

  1. grace is that act by which God transfers those who are justified, and who remain faithful unto death, from the kingdom of grace to the kingdom of glory, that they may obtain eternal happiness and praise God eternally.”

(8) Assisting and Indwelling Grace.

  1. Quenstedt divided grace into assisting grace, which acts exterior to man, and indwelling grace, which enters the heart of man and changing it spiritually, inhabits it. To the assisting grace belong prevenient grace, exciting grace, operating grace and perfecting grace, of which the first three operate as preparatory acts, but by perfecting grace the act of real conversion is accomplished. Indwelling grace occurs only after conversion, in sanctification.
  2. “The grace of God acts before conversion, in it, and after it.”

Before conversion the acts of grace are called prevenient, preparative, and exciting; in conversion we can speak of operating and completing grace; after conversion the acts of grace are co-operative, assisting, and completing.

(9) Effects of the Working of Grace.

  1. “Grace, effecting and completing conversion by means of the Word, produces (l) The knowledge of sin, which is the first stage of conversion; (2) Compunction of heart, that there may be detestation of sins committed and grief on their account; (3) The act of faith itself and confidence in Christ.”

(10) The four-fold Office of the Grace of the Holy Spirit.

  1. Our later dogmaticians have ascribed to the Holy Ghost a four-fold office.
    1. Officium elenchticum, or convicting office,

John 16:8, “And He when He is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment”;

    1. Officium didascalicum, or teaching office,

John 16:13-15, “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He shall guide you unto all the truth…. and He shall declare unto you the things that are to come…. He shall take of mine, and shall declare it unto you”;

    1. Officium paedeuticum, or correcting office,

2 Tim. 3:16, “Every scripture is inspired of God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction, which is in righteousness”;

Rom. 8:14, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God”;

    1. Officium paracleticum, or comforting office,

Rom. 8: 26, “And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered”.

3. Later Development.

1) Mysticism.

  1. Mysticism sets forth a three-fold way of grace (1) purification, (2) illumination, (3) union. In the true order illumination precedes both the others. The illumination and regeneration of the sinner do not take place by the purgation or abstraction of the soul from created objects, and the Holy Spirit does not immediately, but by means of the divine Word, enlighten us, II Pet. 1: 18, 19.

2) Rationalism.

  1. Rationalism denied the supernatural operations of grace and substitutes for them man’s own moral power which is aroused and strengthened by instructive moral teaching. Supernaturalism rose above rationalism without reaching the true view, that grace is in a strictly specific sense, the divinely creative power of the new spiritual life.