What are the ordinary means of grace, and why do we call them “means of grace?”

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THOMAS: I am with Sinclair Ferguson that I’m not altogether happy with the phrase “means of grace.” It is too likely to become something mechanical or, even worse, legalistic. Generally speaking, what we mean by the “means of grace” are things like worship, the Sabbath, the reading of Scripture, the preaching of Scripture, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. Those are the ordinary means of grace by which we grow and are fed and nourished.

People are always wanting to do something different: “We’ve done this now for so many years. Let’s liven things up and think outside the box as to what we can do to help us grow.” Those questions are not necessarily wrong, but there are things that God has laid down. God has given us the A, B, and C of how we grow as Christians and advance as a Christian community: going to church, singing hymns and Psalms, reading Scripture, listening to sermons, engaging in prayer, and receiving the sacraments. These are the ordinary means of grace.

BINGHAM: Is there an element to where these things are very ordinary? It’s bread and wine. It’s water; it’s reading. These are not necessarily the flashy things some people are seeking.

THOMAS: These are things that any community can do if they have a copy of the Scriptures. For example, churches that gather in a home can do it. Everyone has access then to a Bible. They have access to preaching, prayer, bread, wine, and water. The means of grace are meant to be something that every Christian in the world can do unless they’re in extreme circumstances.

This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Derek Thomas and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email ask@ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.