Prevenient Grace - Is It Biblical?

Arminians define prevenient grace as grace that gives everyone the ability to turn to God. Learn the Calvinist response to prevenient grace.
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Irresistible Grace
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Table of Contents

  1. What is Prevenient Grace?
  2. Different Arminian view of Prevenient Grace
  3. The Calvinist answer to the Arminian view of Prevenient Grace

^ 1. What is Prevenient Grace?

Prevenient Grace, generally speaking, refers to grace that is given to a sinner prior to conversation and salvation. By this definition, both Calvinists and Arminians believe in prevenient grace.

However, prevenient grace is most commonly referred to within the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism, and within this debate, prevenient grace has a more specific definition that distinguishes Arminianism from Calvinism.

The Arminian definition of prevenient grace is that it is grace given to a sinner that gives the sinner the ability to freely choose to convert and be saved. According to the Arminian view of prevenient grace, God granting this grace to a sinner, or "drawing" a sinner, does not necessarily result in the sinner converting and being saved.

Or, in other words, according to the Arminian view, faith always precedes regeneration, or, the free choice to have faith results in regeneration, or a person being born again.

In contrast, the Calvinist view is that regeneration always precedes faith, or, saving faith is the result of God taking the initiative to regenerate a person.

^ 2. Different Arminian view of Prevenient Grace

Although there are three different views of prevenient grace within Arminianism, the similar theme between all of these views is that faith precedes regeneration, and that salvation is ultimately the result of the sinner's free choice, or the result of the sinner generating his own faith apart from any kind of necessity that God causes.

Iin contrast, the Calvinist would say that faith is not generated by the sinner's free will, but is rather a result of God taking the initiative in regenerating a sinner. In other words, faith is a gift from God.

That being said, here are the three primary views of prevenient grace in Arminianism:

  1. Prevenient grace is given upon a person hearing the Gospel
  2. A "lesser" prevenient grace is given to every human being in that God is always, in a sense, drawing all people to Himself, and a "stronger" prevenient grace is given to people who hear the Gospel
  3. The work of Jesus provided prevenient grace to every human, so that now every human is in a neutral state and able to convert and be saved

^ 3. The Calvinist answer to the Arminian view of Prevenient Grace

Here, we will respond to an Arminian argument for its view of prevenient grace and explain why the Calvinist position is the correct, biblical position.

John 12:32 - God is drawing "all people" to Himself

Arminians argue that John 12:32 teaches that God is drawing "all people," or every human being, to Himself, and has provided prevenient grace to every human being so that all can freely come to Him.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

Response to John 12:32

Calvinists have two primary responses to the Arminian's use of John 12:32.

  1. John 6:44 says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day." This means that everyone whom God "draws" will be saved, since Jesus will definitely raise him up on the last day. However, since the Bible clearly teaches that not everyone will be saved, this means that God is not drawing every human being to Himself, but rather, only His elect.
  2. The phrase "all people" does not necessarily refer to every human being, and in fact, this is not how Scripture generally uses the word "all." Scripture generally uses "all" to mean "not just the Jews, but also the Gentiles," or, people "from every tribe and language and people and nation" (Revelation 5:9).

Arguments for the Calvinist position

Scripture clearly teaches that everyone who is "drawn" or "called" by God definitely will be saved, and that regeneration precedes faith.

John 6:44 - Everyone the Father "draws" will be saved

As mentioned above, John 6:44 clearly teaches that everyone whom the Father draws will definitely be saved, since Jesus conveys certainty in saying that He will raise him up on the last day.

Romans 8:30 - Everyone who is called will be saved

Romans 8:30 says this:

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

This verse is commonly referred to as the "Golden Chain of Salvation," since every step necessarily occurs if the previous one occurs. So, everyone who is predestined will definitely be called, everyone who is called will definitely be justified, and everyone who is justified will definitely be glorified, or saved. There is no possibility of a break in this chain.

John 3:3 - Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God

John 3:3 says this:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

If one cannot see the kingdom of God without being born again, then one cannot convert, have faith, or be saved without being born again.

John 3:8 says, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." This means that humans cannot control if or when they will be born again. Being born again, or regenerated, is initiated solely by God.

1 John 5:1 - Everyone who believes "has been" born of God

1 John 5:1 says this:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.

This verses says that everyone who believes "has been" born of God, not that everyone who believes "will be" born of God. In other words, being born again, or regenerated, precedes saving faith.

Conclusion

The Arminian view of prevenient grace is simply not taught by Scripture. Rather, Scripture is clear that everyone who is "drawn" or "called" by God definitely will be saved, and that faith is not generated by human free will, but is rather the result of regeneration, or being "born again" by God.

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