What is prevenient grace?

by Matt Slick

Prevenient grace is a kind of grace that God gives to a sinner who is not naturally able to believe in him, and it then enables the person to believe in God of his own free will. The term actually means "grace that comes before." It was a phrase developed by Jacobus Arminius, hence the Arminians, to counter the Calvinistic doctrine of salvation which advocated God's election and choosing people to be saved.

So, prevenient grace is the grace of God that comes before a person decides to believe in God--enabling the person to freely choose God or not--and is a grace that can be successfully resisted by the sinner. Receiving this grace is not based upon anything in the individual or foreseen faith of the individual.

Prevenient grace is necessary only when a person's natural sinful condition will not freely allow him to believe. So, because of this, Arminians do acknowledge the doctrine of total depravity, otherwise prevenient grace would not be necessary. It does not regenerate the person, but it sufficiently frees the sinner from the bondage of his sinful nature for him to freely encounter God.

So, prevenient grace refers to the grace that precedes a person's decision to believe in Jesus. In other words, it is the grace that God provides for a person that enables the person to freely choose God.




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