Ordinary Means of Grace Ministry | Tabletalk

TT-March-2023The March 2023 issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine, is focused on the theme of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, with a sub-theme of “A Manual for Kingdom Living.” There are many good articles developing this theme, and I encourage you to browse the contents and read those.

But in this post I wish to draw on an article from the regular rubrics in the back of the magazine. In “For the Church” Dr. Jon D. Payne has a valuable contribution on the “Ordinary Means of Grace Ministry” (see link below). He draws lessons for the modern church from the ministry of the great American pastor, missionary, and theologian, Jonathan Edwards.

I quote from the second part of the article, where Payne makes application to the church’s calling today with regard to God’s means of grace. On this Lord’s day, I believe you and I will profit from this powerful reminder of how God is pleased to work and preserve salvation in His people.

Edwards’ example of fidelity to the means of grace serves as a strong reminder to pastors and churches alike not to exchange God’s means of grace for the world’s strategies of growth. Too often in churches today, even among the Reformed, faithful preaching gets eclipsed by man-centered, sociology-driven, moralistic homilies. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper often receive little attention compared to praise teams and church programs. Prayer gets pushed to the margins of worship and congregational life. The vanishing of Lord’s Day evening worship further accentuates the need to recover God’s strategy for Christ-centered discipleship in our churches. Pastors are called first and foremost to be “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). Those mysteries of God are the Christ-instituted means of grace through which He gives us Himself.

Some might wonder why the means of grace are often referred to as ordinary. They are ordinary in that they do not possess the outward and visible glory of the signs, miracles, and wonders of the exodus, the public ministry of Christ, or Pentecost. The means of grace are simple, unadorned, and common. At the same time, the means of grace are quite extraordinary. Why? Because God has promised to work through them for the salvation of His elect, to bring guilty sinners into union and communion with Christ through faith. Therefore, to neglect the ordinary means of grace in the ministry of the church is not only to question the wisdom of God; it’s to disregard the saving power of Christ. This doesn’t mean, of course, that church ministry outside Lord’s Day public worship is never appropriate or beneficial to God’s people. Midweek church programs and various ministry activities can be a great blessing, but they must never overshadow the ordinary means of grace.

Finally, the ordinary means of grace are the tools through which God will gradually destroy Satan and the kingdom of darkness. In his famous History of the Work of Redemption, Edwards states that the destruction of Satan and his kingdom “will not be accomplished at once.” Instead, he explains that “this work will be accomplished by means, by the preaching of the gospel, and the use of the ordinary means of grace, and so shall gradually be brought to pass.”

Dear believer, sinners are saved and Satan is vanquished not through the visible glory of social activism, political victories, or cultural transformation. As beneficial as these pursuits might be to improve society, the saving power of Christ is not mediated through them. In fact, it’s one of Satan’s tactics to make us believe that it is. Rather, the saving power of Christ is operative, by the Spirit, through God’s chosen instruments of salvation: preaching, prayer, water, bread, and wine. Administered by lawfully ordained ministers of the gospel, the ordinary means of grace form God’s chief strategy for making disciples. God creates and confirms faith through them, and not apart from them. In the tradition of the Reformers, Edwards believed that an ordinary-means-of-grace ministry is a gospel ministry focused on the person and work of Christ and filled with the saving power of Christ. May we believe it as well.

Source: Ordinary Means of Grace Ministry | Tabletalk

Published in: on March 26, 2023 at 7:27 AM  Leave a Comment