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What Is Sanctifying Grace Definition What Is Sanctifying Grace Definition

Theology and Spirituality

What Is Sanctifying Grace Definition

Written by: Kathryn Mcvey

Discover the meaning of sanctifying grace in theology and spirituality. Learn how it impacts the spiritual journey and Christian faith.

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Table of Contents

Understanding the Concept of Grace

Grace, in the context of religion, refers to the free and unmerited favor of God. It is a fundamental concept in Christianity and is often described as the divine influence that operates in humans to regenerate and sanctify, to inspire virtuous impulses, and to impart strength to endure trial and resist temptation. The concept of grace is central to the Christian faith, as it is believed to be the means by which individuals are reconciled to God. It is through grace that believers are granted salvation and the strength to live a life in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ. In essence, grace is the expression of God's love and mercy towards humanity, offering forgiveness and redemption to those who accept it.


The Role of Sanctifying Grace in Christianity

  1. Reconciliation with God: Sanctifying grace plays a crucial role in Christianity by reconciling believers with God. It is through this grace that individuals are cleansed of sin and brought into a right relationship with the divine. This reconciliation is essential for believers to experience spiritual renewal and to live in communion with God.

  2. Transformation of the Soul: Another significant role of sanctifying grace is the transformation of the soul. It is believed to infuse the soul with divine life, enabling believers to grow in holiness and become more like Christ. This transformation is an ongoing process that shapes the character and behavior of individuals, leading them to embody the virtues and values taught by Jesus.

  3. Empowerment for Good Works: Sanctifying grace empowers believers to perform good works and live out their faith in practical ways. It provides the strength and inspiration needed to carry out acts of love, compassion, and service to others. Through this grace, Christians are enabled to make a positive impact on the world around them, reflecting the love of God through their actions.

  4. Preparation for Eternal Life: In Christianity, sanctifying grace is also seen as the preparation for eternal life. It is believed to purify the soul and make it worthy of the heavenly kingdom. By receiving and growing in sanctifying grace, believers are prepared for the ultimate fulfillment of their faith, which is the hope of eternal life in the presence of God.

  5. Sustaining Faith and Perseverance: Sanctifying grace sustains the faith of believers and enables them to persevere in their spiritual journey. It provides the strength to endure trials, resist temptation, and remain steadfast in the face of challenges. This sustaining aspect of sanctifying grace is essential for the ongoing growth and maturity of individuals in their Christian walk.

In summary, sanctifying grace plays a multifaceted role in Christianity, encompassing reconciliation, transformation, empowerment, preparation for eternal life, and sustaining faith. It is a foundational concept that shapes the spiritual lives of believers and empowers them to live out their faith in meaningful ways.


How Sanctifying Grace Differs from Actual and Habitual Grace

  1. Nature of Grace: Sanctifying grace is often distinguished from actual and habitual grace based on its nature. Sanctifying grace is seen as the grace that permanently resides in the soul, sanctifying and transforming it. It is the grace that makes the soul holy and pleasing to God. On the other hand, actual grace refers to the transient divine interventions and support for salutary acts that help lead to a state of grace, while habitual grace is the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God's call.

  2. Purpose and Effect: Sanctifying grace is primarily concerned with the inner transformation of the individual, making them capable of living in communion with God. It is the grace that justifies, sanctifies, and adopts us into the divine life. Actual grace, on the other hand, is more focused on specific actions or decisions, providing the impetus for good deeds or the avoidance of sin. Habitual grace, also known as sanctifying grace, is the permanent disposition to live in a relationship with God and act in a loving manner.

  3. Relationship to Salvation: Sanctifying grace is closely linked to the concept of salvation in Christianity. It is through sanctifying grace that individuals are justified and made righteous in the sight of God. This grace is essential for attaining eternal life and dwelling in the presence of God. Actual grace, on the other hand, assists individuals in making choices that align with God's will, guiding them towards the path of salvation. Habitual grace, as the permanent state of grace, is the foundation for the Christian life and the journey towards salvation.

  4. Continuity and Permanence: Sanctifying grace is characterized by its continuity and permanence in the life of a believer. Once received, it remains in the soul, enabling the individual to grow in holiness and live a life pleasing to God. Actual grace, in contrast, operates in specific moments or circumstances, providing the necessary inspiration or assistance for particular actions. Habitual grace, as the permanent disposition, ensures that the individual is consistently oriented towards God and His will.

In essence, while sanctifying, actual, and habitual grace are interconnected in the Christian understanding of grace, they differ in their nature, purpose, and effects on the spiritual life of believers. Sanctifying grace stands out as the foundational grace that transforms the soul and enables individuals to live in communion with God, while actual and habitual grace provide the necessary support and guidance for specific actions and the ongoing Christian journey.


The Effects of Sanctifying Grace in the Life of a Believer

  1. Transformation of Character: Sanctifying grace has a profound effect on the character of a believer. It works to purify the soul, instilling virtues such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These virtues, often referred to as the fruits of the Spirit, become evident in the believer's attitudes, actions, and interactions with others. The individual undergoes a process of inner renewal, gradually reflecting the image of Christ in their daily life.

  2. Empowerment for Holiness: Sanctifying grace empowers believers to lead lives of holiness and righteousness. It provides the strength and motivation to resist sin and temptation, enabling individuals to make choices that align with God's will. This empowerment is essential for living a life that is pleasing to God and for upholding the moral and ethical standards outlined in the teachings of Jesus Christ.

  3. Union with God: Another effect of sanctifying grace is the deepening of the believer's union with God. It fosters a sense of intimacy and communion with the divine, allowing individuals to experience God's presence in their lives. This union with God brings about a sense of peace, assurance, and spiritual fulfillment, as the believer recognizes their identity as a beloved child of God.

  4. Participation in the Divine Nature: Sanctifying grace enables believers to participate in the divine nature, as described in the New Testament. It allows individuals to share in the life of God, being partakers of His holiness and righteousness. This participation transforms the believer's perspective, priorities, and values, aligning them with the principles of the Kingdom of God.

  5. Capacity for Love and Service: Through sanctifying grace, believers develop an increased capacity for love and service towards others. The grace received from God overflows into acts of compassion, generosity, and selfless giving. It motivates individuals to seek the well-being of others, to advocate for justice, and to engage in acts of mercy and kindness, reflecting the love of God in tangible ways.

  6. Hope and Assurance: Sanctifying grace instills within believers a sense of hope and assurance regarding their ultimate destiny. It provides the confidence that comes from knowing one's identity as a redeemed child of God, destined for eternal life in His presence. This hope serves as an anchor for the soul, sustaining believers through life's challenges and uncertainties.

In summary, sanctifying grace produces a profound and multifaceted impact on the life of a believer, encompassing transformation of character, empowerment for holiness, union with God, participation in the divine nature, capacity for love and service, and the assurance of hope. These effects shape the spiritual journey of individuals and enable them to live out their faith in ways that honor and glorify God.


Receiving and Growing in Sanctifying Grace

Receiving sanctifying grace is a pivotal moment in the life of a believer, marking the beginning of a transformative journey. The process of receiving this grace often involves a combination of faith, repentance, and the sacraments within the Christian tradition. Here are the key steps involved in receiving and growing in sanctifying grace:

  1. Faith and Surrender: The initial step in receiving sanctifying grace is an act of faith and surrender. Believers are called to acknowledge their need for God's grace, recognizing their own limitations and shortcomings. This act of humility opens the door for the reception of grace, as individuals place their trust in God's redemptive work and surrender their lives to His will.

  2. Repentance and Reconciliation: Repentance is an essential aspect of receiving sanctifying grace. It involves a sincere acknowledgment and turning away from sin, accompanied by a desire to be reconciled with God. Through the sacrament of reconciliation or confession, believers seek forgiveness for their transgressions, experiencing the liberating power of God's mercy and the restoration of their relationship with Him.

  3. Sacramental Grace: In many Christian traditions, the sacraments play a central role in the reception of sanctifying grace. Baptism is often regarded as the sacrament through which individuals are initially cleansed of sin and infused with sanctifying grace. Confirmation, Eucharist, and the other sacraments also serve as channels for the ongoing reception and growth in sanctifying grace, strengthening the believer's spiritual life and deepening their union with God.

  4. Prayer and Spiritual Disciplines: Growing in sanctifying grace involves a commitment to prayer and spiritual disciplines. Through regular prayer, meditation on scripture, participation in worship, and engagement in acts of service, believers cultivate an environment for the continued reception and nurturing of sanctifying grace in their lives. These spiritual disciplines foster a deeper awareness of God's presence and a receptivity to His transforming work within the soul.

  5. Lifelong Journey of Transformation: Growing in sanctifying grace is a lifelong journey of transformation. It entails an ongoing process of cooperating with God's grace, allowing His love and power to shape the heart, mind, and actions of the believer. This journey involves moments of spiritual growth, periods of struggle and refinement, and a continual reliance on the sustaining grace of God to persevere in the Christian walk.

  6. Community and Fellowship: The growth in sanctifying grace is also nurtured within the context of Christian community and fellowship. Believers are encouraged to engage in the life of the church, participating in communal worship, receiving spiritual guidance from pastors and mentors, and experiencing the support and accountability of fellow believers. This communal aspect of the Christian journey provides an environment for mutual edification and the sharing of grace-filled experiences.

In essence, receiving and growing in sanctifying grace is a dynamic and transformative process that encompasses faith, repentance, sacramental participation, spiritual disciplines, and communal engagement. It is a journey marked by the continual reception and nurturing of God's grace, leading to the ongoing transformation and sanctification of the believer's life.

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