Wesleyan Theology II - Lesson 2

Convincing Grace

Repentance before justification. Because of who God is, he wills the salvation of all humanity. Grace is free for all. In his sermon, “Free Grace,” Wesley argues against limited atonement but affirms election and God’s foreknowledge. To Wesley, “Awakening” refers to a person receiving grace so they begin to discern the things of God. This is the transition from the natural state where people where a person is dead to things of God, to being awakened to God and fearing him. Moving from a state of “sleep” to being “awakened” to an awareness of God. Wesley makes a distinction between the, “natural person,” a “person under the law,” and a “person under grace.” Wesley describes conviction the holy spirit and the moral law working together, resulting in convincing grace. Sovereignty is a relational attribute because it’s how he relates to nature. Love is an essential attribute of God. Humans still have freedom as part of the way they are created in the image of God. Wesley teaches that all the elect are born of God but not all who are born of God are elect. Some who are born of God, fall away. If we live a life of Christian discipleship, it will change us.

Kenneth J. Collins
Wesleyan Theology II
Lesson 2
Watching Now
Convincing Grace

I. Universal Call

A. Arguments against predestination

B. Arguments for election and predestination

C. God offers grace to all, but not all are redeemed

II. Awakening

A. Definition

B. Spirit of bondage and adoption

III. Conviction

A. Prevenient grace

IV. Questions and Answers

  • John Wesley did theology in service to the church in mission. Brunner and Tillich are theologians that lived recently that developed a systematic approach. Wesley refers to his study of theology as practical divinity. He views it as participatory so that the truths of Scripture are actualized in practice and in community, not just an individual intellectual exercise. Wesley emphasized the doctrines of sin and salvation in his study and preaching by addressing how you become a Christian and how you remain a Christian. Wesley is described as being a, “conjunctive” theologian, which means he has a, “both-and” approach  as compared to an, “either-or” approach to theological ideas. He is looking for balance. Free grace is the work of God alone. Wesley describes cooperant grace as, “God works, therefore you can work; God works, therefore you must work.” Grace is the normative context of the moral law of God. Wesley teaches that we relate to God by both free grace and cooperant grace.

  • Repentance before justification. Because of who God is, he wills the salvation of all humanity. Grace is free for all. In his sermon, “Free Grace,” Wesley argues against limited atonement but affirms election and God’s foreknowledge. To Wesley, “Awakening” refers to a person receiving grace so they begin to discern the things of God. This is the transition from the natural state where people where a person is dead to things of God, to being awakened to God and fearing him. Moving from a state of “sleep” to being “awakened” to an awareness of God. Wesley makes a distinction between the, “natural person,” a “person under the law,” and a “person under grace.” Wesley describes conviction the holy spirit and the moral law working together, resulting in convincing grace. Sovereignty is a relational attribute because it’s how he relates to nature. Love is an essential attribute of God. Humans still have freedom as part of the way they are created in the image of God. Wesley teaches that all the elect are born of God but not all who are born of God are elect. Some who are born of God, fall away. If we live a life of Christian discipleship, it will change us.

  • The Holy Spirit begins to give the awakened conscience an inward “check” using the moral law. God uses the word and the Spirit to shed increasing light on the conscience to reveal shafts of the righteousness and justice of God. Repentance means a change of mind or change of direction. Wesley described repentance as the “porch” of religion. Wesley said that the only requirement to be part of a Methodist society was a desire to flee the wrath to come. He would then encourage you to leave off evil, do good and use the means of grace, which he equated with repentance. The three principal aspects of repentance are conviction, poverty of spirit and rejection of self-righteousness and self-justification. Repentance occurs prior to justification. Repentance will result in outward expressions of inward contrition and grace. The general means of grace are prayer, searching the Scripture, communicating, the Lord’s Supper and fasting. Prudential means of grace are practices that foster the love of God. They may differ from one person to another. It requires reason, reflection and honesty.

  • Focus on the insights of John Wesley on practical theology. Wesley teaches that people are justified by faith alone and that conviction of sin and repentance comes before justification. Conviction and repentance are important in the salvation process but not in the same sense or the same degree as faith. Wesley refers to the grace from which salvation comes as being, “free in all,” meaning that it does not depend on human power or merit. A person can be redeemed if he will, but not when he will. Wesley views the process of salvation as the conjunction of cooperant and free grace. The faith that justifies goes beyond believing that God exists and the knowledge of God’s character. It is also more than the faith of a devil. It is more than the faith of the apostles while Jesus was on earth. The nature of faith is a spiritual sense by which we understand spiritual things. Faith requires both, “belief that” and “belief in”

  • Justification is the work God does for us, sanctification is the work God does in us. Justification makes us children of God, and sanctification is the process of becoming saints. Justification is based on the atoning work of Christ and entails the forgiveness of sin and freedom from guilt. Wesley teaches that when you are justified, you are forgiven of past sins. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers because of what Jesus did. He applied imputation to justification only, not sanctification because he was concerned about people taking this as a license to sin. Sola Fide is the teaching that faith is not only the necessary condition of justification, but it is also a sufficient condition. Wesley teaches that justification and regeneration occur simultaneously, never one without the other. Wesley held not one but two aspects of his doctrine of salvation in tension: both process and instantaneousness, divine and human cooperation as well as the work of God alone.

  • Wesley teaches that justifying grace is imputed by God and regenerating grace is imparted by God. When Wesley refers to, “divine empowerment,” he means that the Holy Spirit gives believers the power to live in obedience to God. Wesley describes regeneration as the great work which God does in us, in renewing our fallen nature and the beginning of sanctification. Regeneration itself is a result of free grace. Only God can make a soul holy and fill it with the Holy Spirit. He also emphasizes the importance of holy living. “Faith alone, working by love, aimed at holy living.” Wesley linked regeneration with the doctrine of original sin. Since we were born in sin, we must be born again. Wesley describes the new birth as a vast change from darkness to light. Orthodoxy is important, but it’s crucial that regeneration also leads to life transformation.

  • Regeneration is an instantaneous supernatural change that begins the process of sanctification. It is God alone who forgives sin and makes a person holy. The first “liberty” of the gospel is freedom from the guilt of sin. The second “liberty” of the gospel is the deliverance from the power and dominion of sin. The marks of the new birth are faith, hope and love. Wesley defines sin as a willful transgression of a known law of God. Wesley is not saying that one who is regenerated will never sin again, but open, willful sin and rejecting God should be the exception rather than the rule. Obedience of faith refers to the power of someone who is regenerated to obey the commandments of God. The greatest freedom of all is the freedom to love God and love our neighbor.

  • Assurance is an essential part of the conversion experience. Our sins are forgiven and we are children of God. Biblical texts that teach assurance are Romans 8:15-16, Galatians 4:5-8 and 1 John 2:12-14. According to Roman Catholic theology articulated at the council of Trent, assurance is not a normative component of God’s promise of salvation. The Roman Catholic church teaches that assurance is corporate and focuses on apostolic succession and the sacraments. Wesley describes the direct witness of assurance as an inward impression on the soul of believers by the Holy Spirit, who testifies to the spirit of the person that they are a child of God. The realization of the direct witness of the spirit will be different for each individual and will be memorable but may not be dramatic. Wesley considers conscience as a supernatural faculty that God has restored.

  • Indirect witnesses to our new birth are the keeping of the commandments of God and fruit of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit are diverse but they are all given by the Holy Spirit. Wesley emphasizes the importance of both direct and indirect witness.

  • Wesley describes salvation and sanctification by writing, “God worketh in you; therefore you can work…God worketh in you, therefore you must work.” In the process of sanctification, we are becoming increasingly holy. The process of sanctification involves changes in degree. The process begins when we are justified. The believer is gradually dying to the carnal nature. The Christian life is a journey of holiness. The goal is holy love. As believers experience the love of God, they will love God and show love to their neighbor. Wesley teaches that when you believe in God, you have a disposition toward God, which is a sure trust and confidence in God which causes changes in your life. Dispositions are more consistent than emotions. Practicing sin makes you less free. Holiness leads to freedom and happiness.

  • Self-denial involves being willing to follow grace, to follow God’s will rather than yours, recognizing that your nature is corrupt and to deny ourselves is to deny our will where it contradicts God’s will. Taking up your cross includes being willing to endure suffering. Wesley teaches that repentance is important in terms of individual sins at salvation and also of the sin nature. Evangelical repentance is repentance of the sin nature. Wesley urged people to minister to both peoples’ bodies and souls.

  • In this lesson, John Wesley's theology on entire sanctification emphasizes the distinction between gradual sanctification as a process and instantaneous entire sanctification, with a focus on the idea that entire sanctification is an utter gift of God received by faith alone, demonstrating a balanced view of cooperative and free grace.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Collins reviews John Wesley's doctrine on entire sanctification. He explains that it is not sinless perfection but a state of love where believers are free from the power and being of sin, emphasizing the need for continual growth in grace.
  • Wesley wanted to reform the church of England, not begin a new denomination. The fundamental nature of the Church is a community of people-centered on Christ. The Greek word in the New Testament that refers to the Church is ekklesia. The Church was born at Pentecost. The relation of the church to Israel and the inclusion of Gentiles in the church were two foundational questions in the early Church. The Church is composed of all believers throughout the world as well as believers meeting in local communities. There is one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all. The importance of unity in the Church is stressed in the Gospel of John and in other writings in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit animates individuals and also the body of Christ corporately.

  • It’s not possible to for people to be holy without the Holy Spirit. The Church should live in an attitude of humility and be open to repentance and reform when there is sin and evil discovered. There institutional church should have disciplinary mechanisms to deal with sin and evil. Ecclesiastical synonyms for catholic are universal, global, ecumenical and extensive. The apostolic testimony is passed down through the centuries. Apostolic succession divides the Church because of the view of the sacraments, especially the Lord’s Supper. The creeds in the reformation era articulated Protestant theology. The church is where the pure Word of God is preached and the sacraments are duly administered. Methodism is a reforming movement with the theme of real Christianity vs. people who lived by displaying the form of Christianity but lacked the power. Methodist bands and select societies were modeled after Moravian small groups. The soul and the body make a man, the spirit and discipline make a Christian. The general rules of the United Societies were agree to avoid evil, do good to your neighbor and employ the means of grace. The goal was to foster a spirit of repentance. They emphasized Scriptural Christianity. Wesley’s purpose was that Methodism become a reforming order within the church, not a separate denomination.

  • Worship is a response to God because God has already acted. Gathering together is important for the faith community to fellowship together. The minister welcomes everyone to invite them to worship God. In worship, we encounter the Word of God as it is read and declared, by response in prayer and in the creeds and confessions. In communion, we are responding to the gift that God has given us. When we go out from a worship service, we are salt and light to the world. Worship is essentially responding in acknowledgment of what God has done. A sacrament is an outward expression of an inward grace that is received by faith. Luther described a sacrament as containing the three elements of a sign, signification, and promise. For baptism, the sign is the water, the signification is dying and rising with Christ and the promise is forgiveness of sin and renewal of your nature. Wesley considered baptism to be associated but distinct from the new birth. Baptism is an outward sign of the inward work of the new birth.

  • Wesley’s view of baptism is both sacramental and “evangelical.” Wesley considers the Lord’s Supper as a means of grace because it is, “food for the journey. In the early church, believers were required to be baptized before they could receive the Lord’s Supper. The sign is the bread and wine, the signification is the body and blood of Jesus and the promise is the forgiveness of sins and renewal of our nature. Luther describe’s the Lord’s Supper as a testament. Wesley says that there is a spiritual presence of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is not a sacrifice, but it does bring the meanings of the death of Jesus into the community of faith in a tangible way. Wesley thought that each person should receive the Lord’s Supper as often as possible.

  • Eschatology comes from a Greek word meaning, “last things.” Aristotle describes physical death is when the body is separated from the soul. Spiritual death is when the soul is separated from the sanctifying presence of God. Eternal death is the eternal separation of the soul from God. Some people teach that the term “sleep” in Scripture to describe death, means cessation of consciousness and is not used metaphorically of the dead body. A belief in the unending existence of the soul raises the question of its habitat and activities in the state between death and the resurrection, generally referred to as the intermediate state. It seems then that there is a particular judgment at death that will be consummated later on in a general judgment. Jesus promised that he would come again to earth and it will be personal, visible, physical and literal.

  • The second coming of Christ will take some people by surprise, but the faithful will be prepared. It will be visible and obvious to everyone. Believers will be raised from the dead to be with Christ. Postmillennialism teaches that things keep getting better and the second coming of Christ will come after the millennium. Premillennialism teaches that things get worse and Christ comes before the millennium. Amillennialism sees the thousand-year reign as a symbol and not a reality. There will be a final judgment that will display the attributes of God, where Jesus will be seen as the king of kings. The final judgment will bring justice and reveal the character of each person. Heaven is where the glory of God is expressed. There will be a new heaven and a new earth.

Holy Love is an overarching theme of John Wesley's preaching and theology. Join Dr. Kenneth Collins as he explores topics ranging from grace, repentance, justification, regeneration, assurance, sanctification, the church and sacraments, and eschatology, by using Scripture, historical context, and the writings and the sermons of John Wesley. 

Wesleyan Theology II
Dr. Ken Collins
Convincing Grace
Lesson Transcript


When we think about convincing grace and repentance, this will be an area where Wesley's theology will be different from, let's say, reform theology, for instance, because reform theology will see repentance largely after justification. Whereas for John Wesley, because he has a rich doctrine of prevention, grace, repentance is something that's going to happen before justification and the new birth. Now. One of the characteristics of Wesley's Armenian theology is that it declares that God's call to salvation is a universal call. In other words, and we're thinking back again in terms of who God is, precisely because God is love or in our idiom, God is holy love. The most high wish is that all will be redeemed by coming to the knowledge and love of God. In other words, precisely because of who God is as Holy love, God wills the redemption of all of humanity. We hear the universal call to salvation clearly in the words of Scripture in a number of places. And so let's begin with second Peter in particular, where it states. Second, Peter, three nine. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. Again, we can take a look at First Timothy, which will reveal the divine intent, and that all should be redeemed. And that's expressed in First Timothy chapter two, verses one through four. I urge then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions and Thanksgiving be made for all people, for kings, and for those in authority that we may live peaceable and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.


Moreover, this universal call to salvation is also expressed in one of the most often quoted passages in the Bible. I'm thinking here, of course, of John 316 for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Now, these differences between the Wesleyan Armenian tradition on the one hand, and let's say the reform tradition on the other were fleshed out, at least to some extent, in conversations that Leslie had with George Whitfield, with George Whitfield. And as a matter of fact, the conversations were tense at times. And Wesley, in the face of these conversations, published his sermon, Free grace. Free grace, which has to be read in terms of its two major points. And lots of times we forget about the other point. Meaning that in that sermon, there is one sense in which Wesley is distinguishing his theology from that of George Whitfield in that he's arguing that salvation is free for all. But we often forget that there's another part of this sermon where Wesley is agreeing with George Whitfield that salvation is free in all meaning it's not dependent upon anything that we do, but rather on what God does in Jesus Christ. And so if we take a look at this sermon, free grace, grounded in the clear teaching of the Bible, Wesley expressed the Divine Gracious Will that all be redeemed in this sermon of free grace. And in this sermon, Wesley. Reasons in. Terms of Whitfield's view. Now, here he's thinking of what Whitfield had argued in terms of these matters. And so now this is Wesley's voice, considering that quote. But is it free for all as well as in all? See, they don't differ that salvation is free in all.


But the question is, is it free? For all other words, it's a universally offered. To this. Some have answered, Wesley continues. No, it is free only for those whom God hath ordained to life. And they are but a little flock. The greater part of mankind. God hath ordained to death, and it is not free for them. Then God hate earth, and therefore, before they were born, decreed they should die eternally. And this he absolutely decreed. Because so was his good pleasure. Because it was his sovereign will, end of quote. And so this is how Wesley is presenting the view that he sees George Whitfield attempting to defend some Calvinists in the 18th century, not liking very much the theological implications of the doctrine of probation. When we think about it, especially if we think about God as being a God of holy love, they simply focus more positively speaking on the doctrine of election. In other words, they didn't focus on probation. But Wesley argues that does not save the day. So in the same sermon, Free Grace in response to this, Wesley writes, This is that decree of predestination. But methinks I hear one say, this is not the predestination which I hold. I only hold the election of grace. What I believe is no more than this, that God, before the foundation of the world, did elect a certain number of men to be justified, sanctified and glorified. Now all these will be saved and none else. And so Wesley lays that out and argues, even if you simply focus on the issue of election. In other words, more positively, that it necessarily implies probation as well. Indeed, Wesley demonstrated in his response to this line of reasoning that to hold the doctrine of election in this way, in the way that Whitfield had done, was also to necessarily hold a decree, a doctrine of reparation.


It's simply unavoidable. The one necessarily implies the other. Here's how Wesley argues, quote, Is this all the predestination which you hold? Consider, perhaps this is not all. Do not you believe God ordained them to this very thing? If so, you believe the whole decree. You hold predestination in the full sense, which has been above described. Again, Wesley drew out the implication of this theological view by arguing, thus, quote, You believe he has absolutely decreed not to save them. And what is this but decreeing to damned them? It is in effect, neither more or less. It comes to the same thing for if you are dead and altogether unable to make yourself alive, then if God has absolutely decreed He will make others only alive and not you, He have absolutely decreed your everlasting death. You are absolutely consigned to damnation. And so, in effect, what Wesley is saying here, although some reformed in the 18th century, wanted to simply focus on the positive work of election, Wesley points out that it necessarily entails reformation as well, because only the elect are offered saving grace, which the reprobate are not. Again, Wesley continues in this sermon, call it therefore, but by whatever name you please election. Pre-Christian predestination or reformation. It comes in the end to the same thing. The sense of all is plainly this by virtue of an eternal, unchangeable, irresistible decree of God, one part of mankind are infallibly saved and the rest infallibly damned. It being impossible that any of the former should be damned or any of the other of any of the latter should be saved. And so you can see there is a difference here between Whitfield's theology on the one hand and then what Wesley was offering on the other.


Wesley is simply being consistent on being consistent in terms of the basic contours of his theology. We've already described them in terms of holiness and grace, and we broke out holiness in terms of holy love. And so when Wesley describes God, Wesley maintained that love or in our idiom, Holy love is God's. And this is Wesley's own language, his darling attribute. He thought the view that God simply out of the divine freedom, predestined from all eternity to damn the reprobate, and thereby refuse to offer them what grace they needed for salvation was nothing short of. And here Wesley uses very, you know, very difficult language, which is nothing short of blasphemy. He writes of such a philosophical intrusion that is brought to the scriptures, fails to understand how God has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. That is precisely because God is love. God is holy love the most, the most high cannot but well, the salvation, the highest good of all people. I'll repeat that again because it's thinking through the nature of God and then what the will of God would be precisely because God is holy love the most high cannot but will the salvation the highest good of all people. And so in his sermon, Free Grace Wesley explores the contrary, which is being offered by Whitfield in the following fashion. Quote, I will mention a few of the horrible blasphemies contained in this horrible doctrine. And so Wesley's language here is very strong, very strong because he believes an important biblical teaching is at stake. This premise, Wesley, continues, let it be observed that this doctrine represents our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, the righteous, the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth, as and this language is controversial, polemical as a hypocrite, a deceiver of the people, a man void of common sincerity, for it cannot be denied that he everywhere speaks as if he was willing that all men should be saved.


Therefore, to say he was not willing, that all men should be saved is to represent him as a mere hypocrite and assembler. And so the language here is very strong. Wesley continues. Such blasphemy. This, as one would think, might make the ears of a Christian tingle. But there is yet more behind for just as it honors the son. So does this doctrine honor the father? It destroys all his after be it's at once. It overturns his justice, his mercy and truth. Yet it represents the most high God as worse than the devil as both. More false, more cruel, more unjust, more false. Because the devil liar as he is, have never said he will with all men to be saved. More unjust, because the devil cannot. If he would be guilty of such injustice as you ascribe to God when you say that God condemned millions of souls to everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and His angels for continuing in sin, which for want of that grace he will not give them. Again, this is the blasphemy clearly contained in the quote, quote, horrible decree of predestination. And here I fix my foot. That to translate in a contemporary idiom, you know, Wesley's taking a stand here again. He thinks there's something important at stake. His language is very strong here. He continues on this, I join issue with every assertion of it. You represent God as worse than the devil. More false, more cruel, more unjust. But you say you will prove it by scripture. Hold. What were you proved by Scripture? That God is worse than the devil? It cannot be. Whatever the Scripture proves, it cannot prove this. Now, having said all this, and you can see Wesley's engaging in a polemic with George Whitfield, Wesley did not reject the doctrine of predestination properly understood.


It is, after all, the doctrine of election and predestination is a biblical doctrine. And he even affirmed the decrees. Again, he writes in his sermon, Free Grace. But what decree? Even this quote I will set before the sons of men. Life and death, blessing and cursing and the soul that chooses the life shall live as the soul that chooses death shall die. This decree whereby whom God death for No, He did predestined. It was indeed from everlasting. This whereby all who suffer Christ to make them alive are elect according to the foreknowledge of God now standard fast, even as the moon and the faithful witness in heaven. And so, Wesley, here in this paragraph which I just cited, he is affirming the doctrine of election and even a predestination. But notice that he is connecting it to the foreknowledge of God that God, for knows and predestination and election are understood in terms of that foreknowledge. Now, although Wesley declares that God has made provision for the salvation of all because God loves all. How could God not love all That's who God is. God is love, and God wishes for them their highest good. But nevertheless, this does not mean that all are redeemed. And so Wesley is no universalist. He he would agree with George Whitfield that the number of people who will be redeemed is small. A few, few in number, just as Jesus says. I mean, lots of times I see in the church we try to forget this knowledge. But Jesus Christ was very clear when he distinguished the Broadway and the narrow way in the Gospel of Matthew. And he talked about the Broadway leading to destruction. And many travel it. But then he talked about the narrow path, the straight path which leads to life, and few find it.


And so Wesley affirms that those who are redeemed are few in number. Its his point, however, is that a genuine offer of salvation is made to all. And as a consequence of that and undergirding that, I should say better put, is that Christ died for all, although all do not receive the benefit which is associated with the death of Christ. Okay. So now you might ask the question then to John Wesley, If God is love and if God wills that all be redeemed, then why then are not all people saved? And Wesley answers that question in this sermon in on Free Grace. And let me just read you what he writes here. Quote, If you ask why, then are not all men saved the whole law and the testimony? Answer first, not because of any decree of God, not because it was his pleasure. They should die. For as I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of Him, that if is quoting there is equal. Chapter 18, verse 32 whatever, be the cause of their perishing, it cannot be his will. If the oracles of God are true, for they declare he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. He will add that all men should be saved and they secondly declare What is the cause? Why all men are not saved, namely that they will not be saved. So our Lord expressly stated they will not come on to me that they may have life. He's quoting. They're John Chapter five, verse 40 The power of the Lord is present to heal them, but they will not be healed. They reject the counsel, the merciful counsel of God against themselves, as did their stiff neck for fathers.


Wesley writes, okay. And so here we see Wesley and George Whitfield articulating different theologies in some respects, but in other respects, their theology is very similar. They don't differ in terms of the number of people involved in ultimately being redeemed. Both agree those numbers are few. It has to do in terms of the will of God and then in terms of the offer of salvation. And then as a consequence, reflecting upon the death of Christ in terms of salvation as well. Now, in thinking about the larger issue of repentance, we think of grace, of course, we think of preventing grace now in the form of convincing grace. And so we can define awakening and distinguish awakening from conversion, because awakening will be the reception of that grace whereby which one begins to discern the things of God And Wesley, both John and Charles Wesley dealt with this issue very carefully. We could express this theologically as a transition from the natural state to the legal state. Wesley writes an important sermon on the spirit of bondage and of adoption. And in that sermon, he writes about the natural state, the legal state, the evangelical state. This is a typology, if you will, that is basically describing the process of the order of salvation, The order salutes. And right here, since we are focused on convincing grace and repentance, we are interested in that transition, that transition from the natural state whereby a person is dead to the things of God. They don't discern spiritual things. They don't perceive eternity. And so that transition from being asleep, if you will, that's the image that Charles Wesley uses in his sermon Awake of Thou that sleep earth to finally becoming awake and seeing God, but seeing not a God of love, but and not loving God, but fearing God being awakened to God and seeing God and discerning the eternal but of fearing this God.


So the transition from the natural to the legal is one of ignorance, being ignorant of God and the things of God and now being awakened, discerning spiritual things in some sense, but now fearing God, perhaps because the conscience is pained with guilt and the life may be riven with anxiety. And so we speak of awakening as this transition out of sleep and being awake to God and the things of God. And so that's what we mean by awakening here. This doesn't mean that those who are awakened are born of God because they are not, but they are awake. And so this is aptly described as an awakening. John Gerstner in his book The Great Awakening, helps us to understand in greater detail this word awakening. And he indicates it's been variously understood. And so this is what Gerstner writes, quote, Some think of awakening as a revival or the spiritual quickening of previously converted persons. And that's not our meaning here. Gerstner continues Others, as the religious experience is accompanying the beginning of the Christian life. Still others. More correctly, he writes, seeing it rather as the exciting of the religious sensibilities of the unconverted, both within and without the church. And I think that last part of his definition is the one that Wesley would most resonate with in terms of the awakening. It's coming out of a sleep, a deadness to God, and discerning the things of eternity. In light of Gerstner, his observations. The question to be asked then must be is the population to be reached when one is thinking of awakening? Are they churched or unchurched? That makes a world of difference. The term awakening, in my judgment, seems to be well suited for an unchurched population that needs to be roused from its spiritual slumbers, for it is largely unaware of the invisible world.


The term awakening. Most often, though, not always presumes that the prior state is one of either spiritual sleep or in some cases even death. That's how John and Charles Wesley often understood this terminology. And therefore that's the meaning that I'm going to use. That's the meaning that I'm going to employ in this in this lecture. Okay. We get a good window on this, a very helpful window, by looking at Wesley's sermon, The Spirit of Bondage and of adoption. Let's back up here for a moment just to see what's going on. We have a person who knows their sin. They have received a measure of grace because they've received preventive grace. And they've received preventive grace in the form of convincing grace now. So they are under conviction, perhaps through word in spirit. The Holy Spirit using the moral law to convict that person, to show them their need of Christ. Okay. So this is the person we have in view that they are not yet a child of God. They're not yet justified or born of God, but they are awakened and they see, however, not a God of love, but a God of wrath. They fear this God to whom they have been awakened. And so with that in place, let's take a look at this language, the specific language that Wesley has in his sermon, the spirit of bondage of an adoption. And this is what he writes. I will distinguish the natural man. From those under the law. And those on the grass. And so, Wesley, he has the natural man. Those under the law, secondly, those under grace. Thirdly, I should also add that when Wesley is talking about the natural man or the natural person in this context. He is thinking of very many people, real flesh and blood people, and they're there in the billions.


But when we define natural man or natural person in the context of original sin, you remember that that lecture earlier, that person who is apart from all grace, doesn't exist because there is no person who is utterly apart from all the grace of God. So what I'm trying to get you to see here is that Leslie uses natural person, natural state in two different contexts. The one context is in terms of original sin, where there is no such person, you know, in the natural state, utterly apart from all the grace of God, because everyone has a measure of pervading grace. But notice in this context, when Wesley is talking about the natural man, this person does exist, as a matter of fact. There are billions of examples of this person, of a person who is dead to God and the things of God and needs to be awakened needs to be awakened by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. And so all of that to say in a very summary fashion context is important. So when Wesley uses particular phrases like natural person, natural state, understand the context in which this is understood less there be confusion. Okay. All right. With having said that, Wesley is going to distinguish the natural person from the one under the law and then the one under grace. And this is what he writes. The soul of the natural man is in a deep sleep. His spiritual senses are not awake. Because he is blind. He is also secure. He has no fear. He is secure. Why is he secure? Because he is ignorant of himself. Wesley writes. This ignorance glares most in those who are men of learning. So Wesley is thinking of professors, those in the academy, perhaps those at Oxford, who would fall under this label and what the world calls joy he may often possess.


He imagines that he walks in such great liberty. Although he is a servant of sin. He is this servant of sin. Wesley writes, but is not troubled. He sends and is not troubled. How can the natural person be convinced of sin? Because that is the great need of this person. They sin and they are not troubled. They talk of repenting. Wesley writes by and by. They talk of repenting by and by. But they don't repent today of what is needed. Wesley fills that out very clearly. The work of the Holy Spirit. No one less than the Holy Spirit must touched the hearts of those who are asleep in darkness. And once that happens, once the Holy Spirit uses the law, the moral law, to bring about a sense of conviction, then the inward spiritual meaning of the moral law begins to glare upon them. They see very clearly now that they are corrupt and they are abominable. They not only see, but they feel that they deserve to be cast into the fire. And so with this activity of the Holy Spirit in terms of its convicting power, in terms of its convicting power, here ends their false peace, their vain security. Wesley writes, They now feel sorrow of hearts. They try to break free from the chains of sin. But they cannot. They. They rise. They fall. They rise only to fall again. They're on a kind of spiritual roller coaster ride, if you will. They strive to break loose from sin, but cannot. But though they strive with all their might, Sin, Wesley writes, retains the upper hand. It retains the upper hand. This is what it means to be under the law. And so the person has made the transition from being dead to the things of God Now, to be awakened to God, at least in some sense under conviction.


But they realize the power of sin in their lives, the ongoing power sin in their lives. It's very dominion. And they struggle to be free of its dominion. But they cannot they cannot break its chains. And this, Wesley writes, is what it means to be to be under to be under the law. Okay. So now this, then, of course, leads to conviction. This leads to conviction or convincing Grace. Convincing grace. And so the moral law and the Holy Spirit working together, create a sense of conviction on the part of sinners proving and grace is operative here in the form of convincing grace. And so in our textbook, the Theology of John Wesley, I explore this process of conviction, in particular through the work of the Holy Spirit. And here's what I write quote. Though the faculties of preventing grace are very much in place due to the Spirit's sovereign and restorative agency. Rendering humanity, though full in addressable and free enough to receive the further graces of an evoking calling God. Nevertheless, the overture is made to these same faculties like conscience, for example, may be resisted by the stubborn sinner. In other words, the illuminating revealing work of a Holy Spirit for Westley is purposive, Christological oriented, but unfortunately may be rejected by those who in a mysterious way, prefer darkness to light. Quote. And here's Westley. The natural man is unholy. Wesley observes and loves to be so and therefore resists the Holy Spirit. Well, given such truths, the Holy Spirit must play a leading superintending role in the process of repentance. The Holy Spirit will be engaged in conviction, convicting the center, illuminating the center, showing the sinner the darkness of their sin and teaching, teaching the sinner a more proper way.


And the Holy Spirit even actively woos the sinful soul so that it might receive redemptive graces and come to Christ. Now, when Wesley is thinking of this transition from the natural state where the person is basically dead to God and the things of God, and now through the Agency of the Holy Spirit being awakened, but now fearing this God who has awakened them. Wesley describes that transition. Here's the language he uses. I think it's very helpful, quote, by some awful providence or by his word, applied with the demonstration of his spirit. God touches the heart of him that lay asleep in darkness and in the shadow of death. He is terribly shaken out of his sleep. Again. The Holy Spirit awakens and teaches us all things, opens the eyes of our understanding and enlightens us with all such knowledge as is requisite to our pleasing God. In other words, awakening and the light of Christ go hand in hand. I think this language that Wesley is using here is is also important. Especially that those terms by some awful providence of God. In other words, the sinner is going on living their lives apart from God's sinning and not being too troubled about it. But here, the providence of God, the word is applied to that soul. And God touches the heart whereby they are awakened out of their slumbers, out of their sleep, to discern something of their darkness and the shadow of death in which they have been lying. And so they have been terribly shaken out of their sleep. And whereas earlier, the sinner in the natural state had sinned willingly. Now they sin. They still sin in the legal state, but they sin unwillingly. They do, you know, as Paul talks about in Romans seven, you know, they do the evil that's near at hand rather than the good that they desire.


And so they are awakened, but they are conflicted. They are a house divided. They are house divided in one sense. They want to obey God. But in another sense, they find that they are not able to obey this God they now see. And so they constantly, constantly break faith. They send they are under the power and dominion of sin. They are sinning reluctantly and with the consequences of guilt. Okay. Let me stop there. Actually, in order to entertain some questions or comments that you have in terms of what we listed so far. We had two major sections, one talking about election and predestination, and then the other more focused on the salute is the footpath view. Now talking about a person who is steeped in their sins and being in the natural state, and then that process that's entailed through the work of the Holy Spirit whereby they're awakened out of that through the conviction of sin, through the Agency of the Holy Spirit, using no doubt the moral law, God's holy moral law, which is the express will of God. Yes. So Wesley believes in the in the doctrine of election. Yes. But he says that. Whitfield when he believes in the doctrine of predestination, that that requires him also to believe in the doctrine of retribution. Reparation? Yes. Wesley believes it's logically entailed the way the way Whitfield and others are holding the doctrine in the 18th century. Yeah. So what's the difference between the way that Wesley views the doctrine of election? As opposed to the way he explains the. Belief of. Whitfield and others that believe in predestination and therefore reformation. What's the difference between. Yeah, okay. I'm glad you asked this question. We can we can fill this out a little more.


And, of course, this is how Wesley is reading. WHITFIELD So I'm not suggesting that this is actually Whitfield's thought, but this is how Wesley is reading. WHITFIELD And others in the 18th century, other Calvinist in the 18th century. And let me in answering your question, let me first describes how Wesley views that particular view. WHITFIELD In others and then what his view is. And we'll set up the contrast again and take a look at it in terms of. Whitfield teaching. Wesley believes he's arguing that. This is underscoring the sovereignty of God and he's underscoring the sovereignty of God in a way that overruns freedom, overruns freedom in terms of a human being who is a person. We have to remember that though they're a sinner, they still are in some sense in the image of God. And with that image is going to entail the elements of personhood, which will be a measure of freedom. And so Wesley is criticizing Whitfield because he is arguing that would feel this is championing what is called double predestination, that God simply out of divine freedom, the sovereign will will reprobate a certain number and therefore not give them what grace they need in order to be redeemed and simply reprobate them based upon divine sovereignty and divine freedom, and they therefore shall be lost. Now, Wesley rejects that teaching. Wesley rejects that teaching, that understanding, that outworking of predestination. And he said it makes no difference whether, you know, you simply focus on elections, that God's sovereignly out of divine freedom determines who the elect shall be and just end it at that. Well, if God nevertheless doesn't give the reprobate what grace they need to be redeemed. You've actually argued for double predestination, even though you're focusing on election.


Wesley does have a doctrine of election. He does have a doctrine of predestination. It's biblical and he has to reckon with it. But the election he sees and the predestination sees predestination. He says, you know, it's principally operative and election has to do with God's foreknowledge that God, for knows in God's omniscience, God for knows who, how, who will receive Christ and His benefit. And they have been elected from all eternity, and nothing they do in life will change that. You know, but that's divine knowledge, as I was indicating before. That's not human knowledge. We don't know. We only have degrees of assurance of that, that we are the elect, that sort of thing. So I think the contrast comes in terms of Wesley emphasizing and here he is somewhat similar to arminius the foreknowledge of God. In other words, election is made in not utterly out of divine freedom, but in terms of the foreknowledge of God that God foresees. And four knows who will receive Christ and His benefit. And they are those who are elect from all eternity. I think the key thing to see here, at least the differences I see, are have to do with this issue of freedom. And that's one issue we can take a look at that. And then the other issue is who is God by God's very nature? And given the nature of God, what will God will? Those are the two things that I think have to be looked at. And Wesley is going to affirm because God is holy love. God cannot but will the salvation of all people. Because that's what love will do. Love will will the best for all people. And what is the best that they be known in the knowledge and love of God and be in communion with God from all eternity.


Now we know that that design does not play out in human history, and we know that those who would be redeemed are few. So that's not where the major differences are. But then we have to consider this issue of freedom. And it is important. And some theologians have not raised this issue and it needs to be raised. And it takes us back to what we said in an earlier lecture when we were looking at Wesleyan Theological Anthropology, and we said that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God and the Imago day. And we talked about the natural, we talked about the natural, the political and the moral images of the natural image of God. And we said in the natural that one has understanding will and liberty see that that liberty, peace is actually important. And it's I think it's at the heart of some of the differences between Whitfield and John Wesley, because God cannot determine us. God cannot override us. God cannot coerce us. God cannot force us to love God, which is the very substance of redemption, to love God and our neighbor. And so this issue of freedom is is going to is going to be important when we talk about the differences of the theology, not only conception of God in terms of who God is, but what kinds of beings are going to be redeemed, those beings who have received preventive grace. And you already know in terms of the faculties of and grace that we have a measure of freedom. Indeed, I think it's hard to conceive of a person without freedom. They have to have freedom in some sense in order to be a person. That's what we mean by personhood. And that person cannot be coerced, determined, but they can receive what is graciously offered as a sheer, utter gift.


They can do that. So. You want to follow up? So is that. Partly perspective then, because God being outside of time and space sees the outcome of our choices. Right. And so Wesley would say, well, those people had a choice all along to choose that. And God gives us that based on who he is and the way that he's created us. And Whitfield might say, well, you know, you go to the end and and this is how it turned out. So either way, there's going to be people that choose. God and people that don't. And. Wesley's saying that the choices. So you're saying that the difference is that Wesley makes it a choice. And in the view that Whitfield has in some others, at least as it's characterized, don't have that choice. Yeah. Whether that accurately represents their theology or no. But that's how Wesley is presenting that. In other words, that God sovereignly decides that of divine freedom, you will be redeemed and you will be redeemed, you know, and God sovereignly decides out of divine freedom that you will be reprobate and nothing you do in life will change that. Wesley rejects that. He rejects that because, first of all, it's coercive and it's not respectful of the kinds of beings that God created us to be. When we were talking about C.S. Lewis earlier in the context of theodicy, and we talked about evil in the world and we said not even a great and all mighty and all good and all powerful God. Can eliminate all evil. By eliminating your human freedom because God won't do it. And reason God won't eliminate human freedom is because God is aiming at love, which is the most free thing of all. Cannot be cause, cannot be determined.


And so there's a similar resonance here. That Wesley's rejecting. What he sees. Whitfield is saying where God is acting in a deterministic fashion in a way that's overrunning the personality, if you will. That's an impossibility because of the kinds of beings we've been created, and especially in the restoration of living and grace, where we have measures of freedom. So that you're right to pick up on that. That's at stake here. But I will say also that Wesley caricatures at Times Whitfield's view and those of the Calvinists, because here's his line of reasoning. He said, well, the elect will be elect. Do you know what they made? The reprobate will be, but do what they can. Therefore, and then Wesley draws these conclusions. Therefore, there's no point in preaching. There's no point in evangelism. There's no point. And he goes on and on. Well, of course, that doesn't follow that. You know, Wesley, I think, is setting up a caricature of reform theology when he does that kind of thing, because one can hold a doctrine of election and predestination. But you obviously need the instruments, the means whereby that election is realized in life through sacraments, through means of grace, through prayer, through preaching, etc., etc.. And so Wesley is simply saying, well, the elect, they're going to be elect, do what they will. Therefore, you don't need preaching, etc., etc.. That's that's a caricature. That's to set up a kind of straw man and is unfair. It really is unfair. But I think and I'm trying to be faithful to both traditions, although I know obviously the Wesleyan tradition better. But I think what's at the heart of this difference is the understanding of God in terms of God's essential nature. Because remember now, sovereignty is not an essential attribute of God.


It's not it's a relational attribute. It's how God relates to the created order. And he relates sovereignty. But God is essentially love that that's who God is, that that's the very being and nature of God and God acts out of that and God wills in accordance with it. And the divine freedom is understood in terms of willing, in accordance with that, with that goodness, that love, that God is essentially okay. So I think that's one issue that has to be looked at. And then the second issue, which is coming out of our conversation, is this whole issue of freedom. And human beings. Those sinners still having measures of freedom, unable to utterly wipe out that embargo on which we have been created, that there are still vestiges of that glorious image of God, even in sinners. So much so that the values of their personhood is expressed in terms of the measures of freedom that remain by grace, by prevailing grace. See, those I think, are the the the the key issues of discussion. Now, if we take the Divine's perspective and we think of election that God has elected from all eternity. So and so people. Well, of course, those people can never be lost. You know, regardless of what they do through life. But that is divine knowledge. Our knowledge is human knowledge. You know, working out the footpath views, so to speak, the day in, day out. We don't see the end yet. We're living our life. You know, ongoing glowingly so. We don't see the end until near death, and then perhaps we can see the totality of it all. God has that knowledge. Already. You know, So there are those frameworks that we have to take into account as well.


But by definition, the elect cannot be lost. You know, Wesley would agree with that. The elect can't be lost. That's what we mean by the elect. But the issue is who are the elect? Who are the elect? And not everyone who is born of God would be the elect. Yeah. I guess I'm not understanding. How could not everyone being born of God, having received his free gift, be elect? I mean. How is that possible? How is that possible? How is it possible that someone who has received the free gift of salvation, who has been born a God, who has been born of God, would not be elected the end. Right. Okay. Just scripturally. What do I say and say? And Wesley is going to argue that Wesley will argue that someone can be genuinely justified and born of God. In other words, have received God's grace. His redemptive been received, the forgiveness of sins, transformation of nature, and yet at a later time, fall away. And here, Wesley's response to your question would be that you're identifying regeneration and election. And there are two different things that that you can be born of God and not be the elect. Although all the elect are born of God, you know, you understand a difference because there are some who fall away. Now the Calvinists will respond. Well, then they were never really born of God if they fell away. But that's once again to confuse the issue of election with regeneration. Okay. Wesley has a doctrine of regeneration, but it is distinct in some sense from election. There is overlap in this sense. Watch this. All the elect are born of God, but not all who are born of God or elect in Wesley's theology. Yeah.


Whereas in Calvinist theology, those two are the same. All who are born of God or elect, all who are elected are born of God. Wesley makes a difference. All the elector born of God, but not all who are born of God are elect. Because some who are genuinely born of God fall away. They passed the size some. Some are dominated once again by the power and dominion of sin. They're in slavery, bondage. They don't know this liberty, this freedom of the spirit that they once knew. Yeah, I guess it just feels very unsettling. Unsettling to think that I could go through my life. Yes. Thinking I'm on in the process of sanctification. Yes. Desiring to serve God? Yes. How do I know if at the last moment I do or say something that will change that? I mean, it just seems like it would be a constant state of fear. Okay. Okay. And I'm glad you asked this question because. What we need to take into account, and this will be both for the sinner and the saints. Watch this. That if we live a life of Christian discipleship, if we live a life of Christian discipleship, that is going to change us, it's going to transform us. In other words, we're going to embark upon the process of sanctification having initially been sanctified it regeneration. So we're growing in grace, we're growing in holiness, we're growing in the fruit of the spirit more, you know, loving, joyful, patient kind. And so the tempers and dispositions of our heart. In other words, the the construction of our will is changing. And so as that process continues, it makes a difference. It makes a difference. And I think that person in the process of sanctification is less likely to fall off because they now know this God who they believe and they have fellowship with God and they've been transformed in being.


And so you have to take that into account that as one grows in grace, there's a deepening and sin becomes hated and that which detracts from a God of holy love becomes despised. And if there were sin, let's say the sin of the high hand, at some point over here X, I would think repentance would be almost immediate due to the transformation of being and the discipleship and the growth of grace that has taken place. And the same thing in terms of sin. We can look at this in a negative way if someone is continuing on going only so in the power and dominion of sin. That sin doesn't leave us where we are. It transforms us and we we become deepened in sin, you know. And the danger, of course, the great danger would be that we would be hardened in sin. And it's a possibility. We hope it doesn't happen, but we hope that the person would repent. So the piece that I think you're missing is who we are in terms of the tempers and dispositions of our heart, which make up our will, that that is being transformed in the process of salvation so that by the end of our life, I really don't think it's going to be a matter of, you know, a saint who's walked for decades in fellowship with God as all of a sudden going to reject it and just, you know, I don't think so. I just don't think that's that's going to happen. I think discipleship, the process of discipleship and salvation, the process of sanctification makes a difference. It does. It changes us. It changes what we love, what we desire, what we well, what we like, what we give ourselves to. It changes all of that and we are less likely to sin.


Whereas the person who continues apart from grace, they are more likely as time goes on to send because of how their own heart and will and tempers and dispositions have been configured in sin, they have become less free, whereas the Saint has become more free. So would you say that the longer we live and in a relationship with God, that that gives us assurance of who we are and of our continued relationship with him? You certainly do ask the right questions because this is the area where Wesley's theology begins to look like Calvinist theology. And in a sense, some people, some theologians have said this is Wesley's response to Calvinist selection. And the way Wesley is going to respond is in terms of his doctrine of assurance. Now, watch this. Okay. We have we're going to treat the area of assurance later on in a subsequent lecture in great detail. But let me say at this point, because it fits in this context quite well, that I think Wesley's doctrine of assurance was a response to Calvin is in that when we get to the highest reaches of assurance in Wesley's theology, it begins to look like election and predestination. Okay, here's here's how it plays out. If someone becomes a child of God, they're justified in born of God. You know, Paul in Romans eight talks about the Holy Spirit witnessing with our spirit that we're a child of God. So we have a measure of assurance. We have the assurance that we're a child of God. Okay. But that assurance, because we're a child of God, is occasionally marked by doubt and fear. It's occasionally marked by doubt and fear. Okay. One is growing in the Christian life. One is growing in discipleship.


One is seeing the fruits of the spirit in one's life. So there is indirect evidence also that one is a child of God, obedience to God obeying the commandments of Christ. You know that the fruit of the Spirit, those are indirect evidence, is that we're a child of God. And then for Wesley, if one receives hard purity, there is an assurance associated with that. And that is an assurance without fear, because as First John says, perfect love casts out all fear. So that is the assurance that one is a child of God without doubt or fear. Without doubt or fear. And, you know, that's starting to, you know, be looking like election here without doubt or fear. But then Wesley takes it even further and he talks about not simply the full assurance of faith, which is what I just described, but the full assurance of hope and the full assurance of hope. And by the way, the full assurance of hope. Interestingly enough, and I checked on this very carefully, can mark those who are justified and born of God. In other words, they're not entirely sanctified. And Wesley sees the full assurance of hope, I think, in a real sense as a gift, a gift that God gives to certain people for whatever reason, I don't know. But these folk, they not only know that they are a child of God and have that assurance, but they know that they shall remain so. In other words, they're not going to fall away. They're not going to fall away at the end. It's called the full assurance of Hope. And Wesley has that in his theology. And so I think Wesley gets to very similar places in his theology, but it's through the doctrine of assurance and the lived out Christian life, you know, such that at the end of the days when one sees one's whole life encompass, one begins to know that one is not simply born of God, but that one is the elect, if you will.


You see what I'm saying? But that knowledge, it's handled differently in Wesley's theology. But it's there. It's there. Yeah.