Human beings are creatures of instrumentality; many different kinds of instruments are a part of our daily experience. Thanks to our experience and our nature as beings with physical limitations, it makes perfect sense for us to think about doing things and receiving information through instruments. Be it by means of a TV, radio, or telephone, an ATM or a computer, we usually conceive of receiving items or information by way of a device. In Christian theology, the means of grace function as the methods, the ways, the instruments through which God makes divine grace available to us and for us.
There are many means of grace. Throughout the history of the church Christians have identified and institutionalized several of them as either sacraments or sacramental acts, and each has played an important role in the lives of believers. Other means of grace have been recognized as having sacramental qualities but only infrequently have they been recognized among the sacraments. While there are far too many for us to examine within the confines of this book, we will look at a few of the more important means of grace, study how they function, and consider how their sacramental qualities play a role in the life and witness of Christians.