Second work of grace

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According to some Christian traditions, a second work of grace is a transforming interaction with God which may occur in the life of an individual Christian. The defining characteristics of this event are that it is separate from and subsequent to salvation (the first work of grace), and that it brings about significant changes in the life of the believer.

Methodist and Holiness Christianity[edit]

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, taught that there were two distinct phases in the Christian experience.[1] In the first work of grace, the new birth, the believer received forgiveness and became a Christian.[2] During the second work of grace, sanctification, the believer was purified and made holy.[2] Wesley taught both that sanctification could be an instantaneous experience,[3] and that it could be a gradual process.[4][5]

After Wesley's death, mainstream Methodism "emphasized sanctification or holiness as the goal of the Christian life",[6] something that "may be received in this life both gradually and instantaneously, and should be sought earnestly by every child of God."[7]

The Holiness movement emerged in the 1860s in the USA with the desire to re-emphasize Wesley's sanctification doctrine.[8] Holiness preachers taught that sanctification was an instantaneous experience. In the Holiness movement, the second work of grace is considered to be a cleansing from the tendency to commit sin, an experience called entire sanctification which leads to Christian perfection. The Core Values of the Bible Methodist Connection of Churches thus teaches that:[9]

We believe that God calls every believer to holiness that rises out of His character. We understand it to begin in the new birth, include a second work of grace that empowers, purifies and fills each person with the Holy Spirit, and continue in a lifelong pursuit. ―Core Values, Bible Methodist Connection of Churches[9]

Reflecting this, they have emphasized Wesley's doctrine of outward holiness, which includes practices such as the wearing of modest clothing and not using profanity in speech.[10]


Pentecostalism was born out of the Holiness movement.[8] Charles Fox Parham and William Seymour were both Holiness ministers and were seen by their followers as being used by God to restore Pentecost to the Church. Pentecostalism teaches that the believer could, in addition to becoming sanctified, receive power from God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In early Pentecostal thought, and the classic form of Pentecostalism influenced by Wesleyan-Arminian theology, this was considered the third work of grace that followed the new birth (first work of grace) and entire sanctification (second work of grace).[11][12]

Pentecostals who believe in the doctrine of Finished Work, however, reject the second work of grace to mean entire sanctification.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Synan, Vinson (1997). The Holiness-Pentecostal tradition: Charismatic movements in the twentieth century. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 6–7. ISBN 978-0-8028-4103-2. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  2. ^ a b Stokes, Mack B. (1998). Major United Methodist Beliefs. Abingdon Press. p. 95. ISBN 9780687082124.
  3. ^ Alexander, Donald L.; Ferguson, Sinclair B. (1988). Christian spirituality: five views of sanctification. InterVarsity Press. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-8308-1278-3. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  4. ^ Curtis, Harold (2006-09-21). Following the Cloud: A Vision of the Convergence of Science and the Church. Harold Curtis. p. 86. ISBN 978-1-4196-4571-6. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  5. ^ Southey, Robert (1820). The life of Wesley: and the rise and progress of Methodism. Evert Duyckinck and George Long; Clayton & Kingsland, printers. p. 80. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  6. ^ Jones, Scott J.; Ough, Bruce (1 May 2010). The Future of the United Methodist Church. Abingdon Press. p. 50. ISBN 9781426730092. United Methodist doctrine has always emphasized sanctification or holiness as the goal of the Christian life.
  7. ^ Stokes, Mack B. (1989). Major United Methodist beliefs. Abingdon Press. p. 92. ISBN 9780687229246. We are reminded in that same Article that sanctification "may be received in this life both gradually and instantaneously, and should be sought earnestly by every child of God."
  8. ^ a b Archer, Kenneth J. (2004-12-30). A Pentecostal hermeneutic for the twenty-first century: spirit, scripture and community. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-567-08367-8. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Core Values". Bible Methodist Connection of Churches. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  10. ^ Headley, Anthony J. (4 October 2013). "Getting It Right: Christian Perfection and Wesley's Purposeful List". Seedbed. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  11. ^ The West Tennessee Historical Society Papers - Issue 56. West Tennessee Historical Society. 2002. p. 41. Seymour's holiness background suggests that Pentecostalism had roots in the holiness movement of the late nineteenth century. The holiness movement embraced the Wesleyan doctrine of "sanctification" or the second work of grace, subsequent to conversion. Pentecostalism added a third work of grace, called the baptism of the Holy Ghost, which is often accompanied by glossolalia.
  12. ^ The Encyclopedia of Christianity. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. 1999. p. 415. ISBN 9789004116955. While in Houston, Texas, where he had moved his headquarters, Parham came into contact with William Seymour (1870-1922), an African-American Baptist-Holiness preacher. Seymour took from Parham the teaching that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was not the blessing of sanctification but rather a third work of grace that was accompanied by the experience of tongues.
  13. ^ Anderson, Allan Heaton (24 October 2013). An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity. Cambridge University Press. p. 183. ISBN 9781107470699.