Wesleyan Theology II - Lesson 3

Wesley on Repentance

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.

Kenneth J. Collins
Wesleyan Theology II
Lesson 3
Watching Now
Wesley on Repentance


B. Moral law


A. Definition

B. Repentance is a collection of many works

C. Participation in Wesleyan societies

D. Three principal aspects of repentance


A. Ceasing from evil

B. Doing good

C. Using the ordinances of God

1. General means of grace

2. Prudential means of grace


  • 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


Wesley on Repentance

Lesson Transcript


When we think of conviction of sin and repentance, we think, of course, of the work of the Holy Spirit and we think of the work of the Holy Spirit, as we were suggesting earlier, in terms of using the moral law, the express will of God to bring about conviction of sin. And so I want to focus specifically on the moral law right now to show what use can be made of it. Employing the moral law which has been re inscribed in some sense as a result of prevention grace As we talked about earlier, the Holy Spirit continues to work with the awakened conscience. We now know what an awakened conscience is, and the Holy Spirit begins to give that awakened conscience an inward check. Suggesting something once again of the possibility of active resistance on the part of sinners to the overtures made by the Holy Spirit. Now, earlier, we had considered the moral law of using Wesley's language here as a copy of the Divine Mind, as the form of God, as sinners are able to bear it, and is therefore employed in conjunction. In other words, the major conjunction here is Word and Spirit, Word and Spirit to shed increasing light upon the conscience to reveal shafts of the righteousness and justice of God. Quote The moment the Spirit of the Almighty strikes the heart of him. That was till then, without God in the world. Wesley points out It breaks the hardness of his heart and creates all things new. Okay, So we see here a rich and generous use of the moral law in terms of convincing grace. Now, the late Tom Oden helps us to understand this process of conviction on the way to repentance in his own work, classic Christianity, in which he points out, quote, The sequence of this process typically moves from conviction of sin to godly sorrow, to heartfelt contrition to resolution, to forsake all sin, and then to confession.


And confession would be to God and to offended persons and moral reformation, including amendment of life and acts of reparation. End of quote. So Tom Oden writes, And so you can see here that there are actually lots of facets to this understanding of repentance and conviction of sin. Again, Tom Oden points out, but this time in terms of Chrysostom. He writes, quote, Chrysostom noted five milestones on the way to repentance. Openly declaring one says, forgiving the sins of others indebted to us. Diligent prayer, acts of loving kindness and unfeigned humility. End of quote. And so we see here the many facets or stages to change the matter for all involved in this process. And it is a process, the process of repentance, receiving, convincing grace and responding, responding to it. And so in its best sense, convict convincing grace will lead to repentance. Now, what does repentance mean? We have to define our terms. Well, it comes from the Greek word meant a noia, which means a turning around, a change of direction. So when we think of repentance, we're thinking of going a different way. Paul Helm, in his own work, has defined repentance in the following way, quote, Literally a change of mind not about individual plans, intentions or beliefs, but rather a change in the whole personality from a simple course of action to God. And such a change is sometimes referred to as evangelical repentance, since it arises out of the proclamation of God's grace to the sinner and the cold relative work of the Holy Spirit in the new birth. And so I think Paul Helms definition of repentance here is very helpful and is similar to how Wesley defined repentance, especially in an early sermon that he had written, the title of which is called Hypocrisy in Oxford.


We can look at some biblical materials as well to get a sense of what we mean by repentance. And John the Baptist used the word repentance in his preaching, and we see that very clearly in Matthew chapter three, verses one through two. Quote, In those days, John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near. Now the Latin Vulgate translates this verse not to repent, but to do penance, which is a much different thing. And indeed, the Latin Vulgate has been criticized for making this error. So in terms of what repentance means and what is entailed. Because the Greek word, as I just indicated, is Netanya, which means to have a change of heart and mind to go in a different direction. And that is a much different meaning than to do penance, which in the medieval context would entail something far different than what we mean today by repenting of one's sins. Again, the late Methodist theologian Tom Oden writes, quote, Though the English word repentance carries the nuance of sorrow for what one has done, it does not as adequately imply reformation of character as does the Greek. And so here Oden is saying that the Greek word or word here Medina is actually more powerful and implies more suggests more than a simple English word or English word repentance. Okay. Because in Medina, however, is a fundamental behavioral reversal. And that's significant. That's a big thing. That's not a minor thing. It's not a little change. It's a basic change. It's a foundational change, if you will. Well, so important was the proper teaching of repentance for John Wesley that he referred to it as, quote, one of our main doctrines.


However, repentance, as valuable as it is, is neither the door of religion nor religion itself, but simply the porch. It's the porch of religion. So I like this image that Wesley is working with. He talks about the porch of religion, the door of religion, and then religion itself. And repentance is the porch of religion. So what does this suggest? Well, with repentance, you've made a start. You're on the way, so to speak. You're on the porch, but you're not in the house. You should be in the living room sipping tea. And you're not. You're still outside on the porch, so to speak. And so in an early manuscript, hypocrisy in Oxford, which I just mention, and that was. Produced for publication in in 1741, Wesley displays the many elements that constitutes what he is going to call initial or legal repentance on the way to justification. In other words, on the way to justification and the new birth of Christ. And so repentance is not one work alone. Wesley writes in this sermon. But as it were, it's a collection of many things, a collection of many things. And that's what Wesley suggesting here in terms of repentance. What is he list? Well, he actually lists more things than Odin had listed. First sorrow on account of sin. That those who are in a state of repentance are sorry for what sense they have committed. Second, he mentions humiliation under the hand of God. Maybe the word humility might be better, but Wesley uses humiliation under the hand of God. Perhaps the thought of past sins humiliates us. Third, hatred to sin. And I think this would be involved in the process of repentance to reject that which once held us captive on. Fourth confession of sin.


Confession of sin. We, we Protestants, we tend to confess our sins to God. At times we confess to one another, especially if we have harmed each other. Five. Ardent supplication of the divine mercy. To pray to God, to be merciful, to us, being that we have transgressed and fallen short of the glory of God. Wesley lists the six thing here as the love of God, the love of God, perhaps just beginning in John seven, ceasing from sin, leaving off sin as best as we are able, according to the grace of God that we have already received. Eight He lists a firm purpose of new obedience. In other words, that one will walk faithfully in the grace of God in the days ahead. Ninth and you can see how many things are here, restitution of ill gotten goods. And so if we have stolen from our neighbor the importance of making restitution as an act of repentance, ten forgiving our neighbor, his transgressions against us. And that seems to be very important, something that Jesus stressed. It seems to be the only condition of whereby our sins would not be forgiven is if we did not forgive our neighbor. And so Jesus himself had stressed the importance of forgiving our neighbor and indeed offered an important parable in terms of that. And then 11th, the last thing that Wesley lists here in this sermon, hypocrisy in Oxford in terms of repentance, works of beneficence or giving. In other words, to do good to our neighbor as best as we are able through alms, through works of beneficence. Now, I want to point out something to you here to connect the few dots, we can see what's going on here theologically when we think of the United Societies.


In other words, when we think of the Methodist societies and when we think of becoming a part of a class meeting, okay, we're actually going to see the language of repentance very strongly associated with that. For example, you know, Wesley said the only requirement to become a part of to be a methodist, the only requirement to be a methodist was a desire to flee the wrath to come back. That's the only requirement. You just have to have a desire to flee the wrath to come. You don't have to have a profession in Jesus. You don't. Not to be born in God. You just have to have a desire to flee the wrath to come. However, if you responded and expressed your desire to flee the wrath to come, then Wesley would put you in a class meeting and you'd be introduced to the general rules. The general rules of the United Societies, which were three, and the three rules were leave off evil. We've we've mentioned that here do good. We've mentioned that here in terms of giving alms to the neighbor. And then the third thing was to use the means of grace. In other words, read your Bible, pray go to church fast, etc.. Those three things leave off evil, do good, and use the means of grace are what Wesley describes in other contexts as repentance. In other words, the very elements of repentance. And so this says to us right away, at the very beginning, that the Methodist societies, the class meetings were set up for the very purpose of repentance. In other words, a turning around, a change, a going a different direction. Repentance is coded in the DNA of the Methodist societies. That's what they about. They're about change, transformation, going a different direction.


And that's exactly what the general rules indicate. Okay. And so if we compare Wesley's sermon here, this early sermon that fleshes out the many facets of repentance. Compare it with a description found in a another writing of Wesley's The Principles of a methodist Father Explain, which was written five years later. We see that repentance goes far beyond the conviction of sin. First, by repentance you mean only conviction of sin. Wesley writes, But this is a very partial account of it. Every child that has learned his catechism can tell you that the forsaking of sin is also included in it. Living in obedience to God's will as best as we are able, by the grace that we have received when there is opportunity to do so. Wesley writes, And then there is also a sincere desire and purpose to do so, and a faith in God's mercies through Jesus Christ. Now, the Wesley certainly did not repudiate any of the elements of the preceding descriptions that I have lifted up. He tended to focus on the three principal aspects of repentance, and he would do this again and again. First, conviction of sin or self-knowledge. I think it's helpful, certainly in terms of Wesley's understanding, to think of repentance and conviction of sin as entailing deeper and deeper self-knowledge that we come to know ourselves better. And sometimes that's a painful knowledge that we're having because of sin, a humbling knowledge that we're acquiring, because of the awareness of the committing of past sin before God of Holy love. And so the first thing Wesley is mentioning here in terms of repentance, conviction or self-knowledge, greater self-knowledge, greater understanding in light of the conviction of sin in our lives. Then secondly, and I suppose flowing pretty much out of the first is poverty of spirit.


Poverty of spirit. And what Wesley means by this language of poverty and spirit. He means humility. He means being open to the grace of God. Being teachable. Being teachable. Even John Calvin use that language. He talked about his own conversion as being open, teachable, teachable to God and poverty of Spirit. Here would be that humility, a meekness, a loneliness, a teachable ness, an openness to all that God has in store for the person that's very much at the heart of what repentance looks like. And then thirdly, and this is important the rejection of self-righteousness, the rejection of self-righteousness and self-justification. I think Wesley's own life, his own journey, his own biography is very helpful. It has tremendous teaching power because he had many attempts at self-righteousness along the way before he finally came to embrace, understand, and embrace that salvation is by grace, through faith. Through faith alone. But prior to that, Wesley engaging in a number of attempts at self-justification, confusing sanctification on the one hand with justification, and especially when he was in Georgia, he tells us this in his journal that he tried to manage his own spiritual life in many respects through the imposition of rule and resolution, etc. But he realized that those things were powerless to govern the will. They were powerless to govern the will. And so Wesley would break his resolutions that he had made in Georgia until he eventually began to despair. And it's a good despair, despair of all attempts at self-justification to receive the far greater justification that we have by faith. In Jesus Christ. Okay. Now, as I indicated earlier, and this is a difference of the traditions between the Western tradition and the reformed tradition that in Wesley's theology, repentance occurs prior to justification.


There's no fear here, either of work's righteousness or of self-justification, since repentance is flowing out of what kind of grace it's flowing out of convincing grace, which is a form of prevention Grace. Okay. And so repentance flows out of the convincing and pervading grace that is there. And so this is not an issue of self-righteousness or or self-justification. Rather, it is receiving and responding to the grace of God or he received and then engaging in repentance and works suitable for repentance, which we'll be talking about in a moment. And so repentance, if there be time and opportunity, does not detract from justification by grace through faith alone. We're going to have a lot to say about that, especially as we talk about works after justification. And when we talk about works prior to justification. We'll have a lot to say about that. But yes, in Wesley's theology, repentance is something that occurs prior to justification and the new birth, and we call that initial repentance or evangelical repentance. Okay. All right. Now. Here we're going to consider. If there be time and opportunity, and for most people there will be time and opportunity. We're going to consider not simply repentance, but now also works suitable for repentance. Wesley uses 18th century language. He talks about works meat, uses the word meat. I mean, it works meat for repentance. In our language today, that simply means work suitable for repentance. So let's say, for example, you come to John Wesley, you say, Oh, I heard your preaching. I was deeply moved by it. The spirit is convicting me. I would like to respond to the grace of God. What do I do? So Wesley, as a good pastor, will have an answer to that, and he basically will direct that person to the works suitable for repentance.


In other words, if there be time and opportunity, since the grace of God has already occurred, something can be done. And so we need to see here repentance in a full or a way. And so here I'm going to quote from our textbook The Theology of John Wesley to fill this out a bit here. Quote, Though repentance as a deep work of grace naturally includes the tempers and affections of the heart. It is not simply an interior work. In other words, it's not simply a species of inward religion. That is a change in heart and resolve. For in the same breath that John Wesley spoke of repentance. He also spoke of works meet or suitable for repentance, which are nothing less than outward expressions, outward expressions of inward contrition and grace. And so in his treatise that Wesley wrote, a father appealed to Men of Reason and Religion, which was produced in 1745. Wesley defined these works as follows, quote, By fruits, meat, for repentance. I mean for giving our brother ceasing from evil, doing good, using the ordinances of God. Okay. End of quote. Did you catch it? There are the rules of the United Societies. There are the general rules ceasing from evil, doing good, using the ordinances of God, which is another way of saying using the means of grace. And so what Wesley is suggesting, if there be time and opportunity and for most people there will be time and opportunity, unlike the thief at the cross. And so if there is time and opportunity, since God has already worked, since God has already given grace, there can be the response to Grace in response to God's grace that can be manifested, manifested in fruits, suitable fruit, suitable for repentance. Now, what does Wesley mean by ceasing from evil? What does he mean by that? Well, he had in mind avoiding such things as taking the name of God in vain or profane ing the Sabbath.


And by the way, Wesley kept a Puritan Sabbath that I think was mediated to him by his mother, Suzanne, because his mother was raised in a Puritan household and a strong Sabbath was inculcated in her. And it seems that she passed this along to John Wesley as well. And so Wesley in his journal, he writes about Sabbath breaking and that sort of thing. Here he also, in terms of ceasing from evil lists, such things as ceasing, from drunkenness, from fighting, uncharitable or unprofitable conversation. As a matter of fact, Wesley took that issue so seriously, uncharitable or unprofitable conversation that he wrote a specific sermon directly on it. That is the cure of evil speaking. Okay. And then another very important concern of Wesley to cease from laying of treasures upon the earth. And so Wesley cautioned, as Jesus does, as well, against laying of treasures upon the earth, because where our heart is, there is our treasure. Where our treasure is, there is our heart also. So now, by doing good, Wesley had in mind such things as undertaking works of mercy with respect to the poor as by clothing, the naked, by entertaining the stranger, by visiting the sick. As a matter of fact, Wesley wrote a whole sermon, which is in the sermon collections that I've edited. The sermons of John Wesley, a collection for the Christian Journey. And in that collection is a sermon on visiting the sick and the importance of doing so and how we, as you know, in this case, in a state of repentance, can minister to our brothers and sisters in very important ways. And then beyond this, ceasing from evil and doing good as making up what repentance looks like. Wesley also underscored using the ordinances of God, which is another way of saying employ the means of grace.


And so Wesley emphasized the value of what are called the instituted means of grace. What do we mean by the instituted means of grace? Well, such things as prayer, reading, the Bible, receiving the Lord's Supper. And then Wesley also added later fasting and Christian conference. And there once again is Wesley's emphasis on the community. Of course, Christian Conference means the Association of the Community together. And Wesley sees that coming together as a genuine means of grace, whereby we personally may be blessed and edified by seeing the faith of others. Okay. Now, we've mentioned the instituted means of grace here. We've listed them for you. Wesley also talked about means of grace in in two other very helpful ways. And I want to explore those now. He, first of all, talked about the general means of grace. The general means of grace. We see this, for example, in the 1745 conference. Well, what does he mean by the general means of grace? Well, first of all, the question was asked in this conference, quote, How should we wait for the fulfillment of this promise? Now, here he's thinking of the promise of entire sanctification. He's not thinking of justification and the new birth. He's thinking of the promise of entire sanctification. But listen to the response. In universal obedience, in keeping all the commandments, in denying ourselves and taking up our cross daily. These are the general means which God hath ordained for our receiving His sanctifying grace. The particular are prayer, searching, the Scripture, communicating and fasting. But also, I don't know why he hasn't mentioned the Lord's Supper there, but it would be mentioned as well. But the thing I want you to see about the general means of grace, and although he's talking about that on the way to entire sanctification, I think they could also be understood in the context in which we are, and that is in the process of repentance on the way to justification and the new birth, that the general means of grace are like a set point.


In other words, what should we be doing? What is the basic approach of our journey in the days ahead? And you have a set point I'm going to obey. You know, that's the set point. That's the standard you're going to obey. You're going to deny yourself, especially when it is necessary to deny yourself in order to go forward and then also to take up your cross. If taking up your cross is necessary in order for Christian discipleship. And so these are general means of grace. There are kind of, you know, basic assumption that those on the journey, of course, will want to be obedient. They'll want to obey the commands of God. They'll want to deny themselves and take up their cross. In other words, to follow Jesus Christ seriously as a disciple. Okay. Well, having talked about the instituted means of grace in terms of, you know, the Lord's Supper, in terms of prayer and reading, the Bible and fasting and Christian Conference. And although we've also talked about the general means of grace in terms of, you know, first obedience, keeping the commandments, taking up our cross and denying ourselves, Wesley yet considered another area of the means of grace, which has not often been considered, and it's called Prudential, Prudential means of grace. And let's pick at that word Prudential for a few moments. So we get an understanding what's entailed here. If you think of someone who is prudent, who is a person who is prudent, they are a person who would exercise good judgment, that they are prudent. In other words, they choose rightly in terms of the things that they're aiming at. And so prudence would entail a kind of wisdom. And then out of that wisdom, exercising good judgment so that the high goals and ends towards which one is aiming will be realized.


That's what we think about. And so prudence is actually of the virtues, is actually very important. And Wesley has this category of prudential means of grace. And so this is what he writes, quote, born beyond the instituted means of grace there. Wesley valued prudential means that is particular rules posited by reason and experience in light of the guidance of the Holy Spirit with the goal of growing in grace. Again, I'm quoting the theology of John Wesley here. And so what are prudential means? Well, are prudential helps, which are suggested by reason. Suggested by reason. And in order to live the Christian life and in order to engage the Christian life in a way that would be satisfactory, in a way that will lead to the deeper graces. Let me explore this some more so that you understand very clearly what's entailed in terms of proving your grace. Sometimes they're referred to as arts of holy living, arts of holy living. Indeed, I think this council was passed along to John Wesley by his mother, Susanna. And here she expressed the beauty of prudential rules very in a pithy way, she said. If something. Fosters the knowledge and love of God do those things. If something detracts from the knowledge and love of God, forsake those things. Okay, so there you have it. That is prudential rule. That is prudential counsel. Now you need to understand something about prudential rules. And this is a mistake. Sometimes people make that they realize a prudential rule in their own life. Let's say, for example, we'll just use the example. Let's say a person has difficulty with alcohol, with drinking, that they cannot sit down at a table, at a meal and have a glass of wine and simply leave it at that.


Others can do that, but they can't. Okay. A prudential rule for them would be to forsake the drinking of wine. Okay. If you have the goal of being a disciple of Jesus Christ and see notice reason is involved here, reason is reflecting. This will interfere. This activity, this practice will interfere with the goal of the high calling that we have in Jesus Christ. Therefore, as Susanna said, it must go. What some people do, however they become they become convicted by a particular thing and then they say, Oh, the whole church has to be convicted about this. I'm convicted about this. And now you have to be convicted and you have to be. Well, that doesn't follow. And Wesley realized that it does not follow because there are people in the church who can drink wine and not sin. And it's a blessing and they enjoy it. And that's fine. Some men tell me I've heard this in seminary, a seminary student told me he cannot go to the beach. He cannot do it. It is too much of a temptation for him to do so. But other men can go to the beach and it's not a temptation to them. Well, you have to know yourself. You have to be honest and realistic with yourself to understand what will be an occasion of temptation for you. And then, if so, then what prudential counsels must you follow in order to walk along the path towards which you're called? And so you can see here that prudential rules require reasoned reflection in an honesty and honesty in terms of our own lives, in terms of what detracts from the knowledge of love of God, and then what is conducive to the knowledge and love of God.


This is a very important area, and actually, I want to do some more work in this area and sort of write it up in a special lecture because, you know, I'm listening to people in the Christian community and I'm listening to people who are very well intentioned, but they haven't really thought through what it's going to take, you know, as Jesus counseled us, what it's going to take to live the Christian life, to think it through and what the cost is going to be and what you need to do in a very practical sense. And so I'm not going to go into this in great detail now, but I'll simply say this. On that what I'm going to call a trigger. Well, a trigger is something that a person encounters in the process of temptation. And if they encounter the trigger, the trigger is going to pose the temptation for them severely. And and and for many people, the way the possibility of falling is very great. If that is the case, then councils of reason would suggest to forsake the triggers. And each person has to answer that question for themselves, you know, in a very honest and forthright way. Some people, for example, may fall into evil speaking when they're amongst certain people. They're going to have to, you know, be careful about that. Think that through so that they don't engage in that sinful activity of speaking evil of their brother and sister. You know, others may fall or be tempted in other areas and they're going to have to respond accordingly. And so when we think of prudential rules, it's helpful to take this basic precept, whatever weakens our reason or impairs the tenderness of our conscience or obscures our sense of God or takes off our relish for spiritual things.


In short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, Wesley writes That thing is sinful for you, however innocent it may be in and of itself. Okay. And so I think actually, I think actually, I have to check the quote. I think that quote actually comes from Suzanna. I have to double check on that quote there. But she ultimately is the source of this for Wesley's later explication of prudential rules. Suzanna is the source. And Wesley also realized that prudential rules may change from time to time due to significant growth in grace, that what used to be a temptation for us may no longer be a temptation for us due to growth and grace. And so the prudential rules may change over time. They're not these chiseled in stone kind of precepts or counsels. They are suggested by reason in accordance of who we are as persons. They entail significant self-knowledge, and they may change over time because we change as a result of the grace of God. Okay. And so listen to what Wesley writes on that head. Quote, Therefore, with regard to these little prudential helps, Wesley observes, We are continually changing one thing after another. It is not a weakness or fault, as you imagine, but a peculiar advantage. And so I think Wesley is trying to be a good pastoral counselor there. He's trying to keep those two observations of his mother in mind. What is conducive to the knowledge and love of God continue to do those things. What we find in our life detracts from the knowledge and love of God. We have to forsake those things. We have to forsake those things. And so summarizing here, when we're getting just a basic sense at this point of what works suitable for repentance look like, we can talk about, you know, the instituted means of grace.


We can talk about works of piety and works of mercy towards the poor as a genuine means of grace. And, you know, these major things, works of piety, instituted, means of grace, works of mercy, almsgiving, all of these things. And certainly prudential rules are going to be an important part of this mix. And there is much that is happening then on the way to justification and the new birth because the prevention grace of God ever precedes us. And so that is why repentance and works suitable for repentance occur prior to justification and the new birth and not after. It's. All right. Let me stop there and entertain any questions or comments you might have in terms of anything we've said. Seems like when you talk about the prudential means of Greece, that there's some advantages to cultivating, listening to the spirit in your life and also being in relationship with people that know you. Yes. On a regular basis, to know what it is that are things that God wants you to do at any particular time or things that are detracting from what God wants you at any particular time. Because as we read the Scripture and cultivate the knowledge of what the Bible says, listen to what the Spirit is telling us through that, and then having a conversation with people that are involved in our lives, that seems like it would be really important. Yes. No, I think you're exactly right that the prudential counsels that we have suggested are best understood in a context of community once again. And I know I mentioned that in the previous lecture, part of the challenge of living out the Christian life in a serious way. And here we're talking about the approach to the Christian life in terms of repentance.


You know, part of the challenge for us all will be to avoid self-deception, kidding ourselves, or calling sin, not what it is, but calling it a fault or a mistake or something else. Exactly what what it's not. And those are very real dangers. And the community, perhaps even a small group of accountable, face to face relationships is going to be enormously helpful there because it's going to keep us honest and keep us in the light, so to speak. Keep us in the light of of our lives in the context of community. And that's a very, very helpful thing. So, yes, I think even prudential rules, though, they are different from person to person they can be. Nevertheless, I think a commonality here is that they are best assessed in the context of community of our face to face relationships, especially among our brothers and sisters. Yeah, well, not only are they different from person to person, but they're different. And each of us from time to time. Yes. Because we recognize that that's the nature of relationship. Right. Is that if you really do have a relationship, then it is growing. Yes. And the Lord calls us to different things at different times. And so we want to be really sensitive to that. That's right. And see. What we're really suggesting here is that over time, the grace of God is transforming us. It's constantly transforming us such that we are becoming different people at different stages along the journey. And that different ness really is a function of how we have received the grace of God, which is another way of saying how we have received the presence and favor of God in our lives. And so when we had that question earlier and we and I was responding to you in terms of a saint and the possibilities of sinning later on and breaking faith.


And I was suggesting that as they grow in grace and as they are increasingly transformed in grace, that they would be less likely to do so because they are very desires are changing. What they value is changing. What they love is changing. And that, of course, is due to the grace of God in their lives. So, yes, this is dynamically understood. A good example would be for Wesley. The Christian life is like airplane flight. You're constantly going forward. To stay still is not to stay where you are, but to fall and drop its ever forward, constantly going forward, receiving the grace of God and being transformed by God's grace. So, yes, once again, a very good question that that gets us at a lot of Wesley's insights here. So thank you. Yes. It seems in listening to this, it's actually a. Almost a cautionary tale. It's avoiding legalism because if we're constantly changing in Christ. The desire to impose rules on other people should be diminishing because it's going to be different for every person. Is that. I mean, obviously, aside from any core biblical beliefs. That's right. There'll be some core things and maybe we should mention that. I mean, they'll be some core basic things that would not be considered prudential rules, like, for example, the Ten Commandments, you know, adultery, things like that, etc., theft and all of that. But then beyond that, when we get into this other area of prudential rules, yes, then that's going to be different. But but I'm glad you raised this issue to bring out the point that there will be commonality, lots of commonality between brothers and sisters in Christ in terms of the express will of God as manifested in the moral law, for example.


But there will be room for difference as we get into practical Christian living and the prudential areas of life that Wesley was addressing. So do you want to continue with that? Continue with that. Do you have another? I heard you sort of asking something else as well. No, I think you answered my question. The clarification on that was going to be core values, right? Because people could very easily go, oh, so we're constantly changing, evolving. So there's no one absolute true. Right. And that, that. So yeah, we're not saying adultery is not right one day, it's right the next. No, it's always wrong. It's always wrong. So and so I'm glad this issue has come up because we assume that there are people who want to be disciples of Jesus Christ will be obedient to God through the moral law, the express will of God as manifested in the Ten Commandments Sermon on the Mount. So there's going to be lots of commonality. There'll be lots of commonality, but there will be difference. And so I appreciate your comment because it helps us to show once again the balance here. There is going to be a common so we don't run off into answer no mechanism or lawlessness because we wouldn't want to do that. But there are going to be some differences. And, you know, I'll speak very frankly on this. I know of some groups out there within the broader Wesleyan household of Faith. And, you know, they have filled out the prudential rules in great detail. I mean, they've laid them out. And I guess, you know. Well, I don't guess I have trouble with that. Here's why. Because if you are taking something that is not essential to the Christian faith, it's not like the core issues we were just talking about, but something that is not essential to the Christian faith, but that is a prudential counsel.


And if you make that now the status of a foundational sort of thing, then my concern is, and I'll give some examples in a few moment, people may not come to Christ because they see what in effect are prudential rules being treated as the moral law itself. And for example, I you may have this in your own traditions, but in the Western tradition we have confronted legalism from time to time. We certainly have, especially in North American Wesleyan ism, where people would essentially list a number of social taboos like, well, they would list, you know, not drinking or even such things as women have to grow their hair long. Men have to have short hair, No dancing at all. No dancing. Women must wear dresses. They cannot wear pants. And you're smiling because you've heard this before. So I'm not telling you anything you already know. Here's my problem. And and it is a problem because I'm torn. Because when I'm around these folk, I love them and they love me. And there is that that common bond of the Lord. But yet I feel I sense I think what they're doing is wrong because someone who is outside that community is saying, well, if I want to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, I have to do X, Y, Z, B, C, D, F, etc. or else I can't be a Christian. And that in a sense what is being communicated and I don't want to put any sort of impediment that's not necessary in the way of someone coming to Jesus Christ, because coming to Jesus Christ is that important. John Stone I'm saying so. So I'm glad you raised this issue because it helps us get at a number of important things.


We have to be very sure in the church when we list what things are foundational, non-negotiable, essential, and then what are not. Luther had an expression for that. He talked about diaspora, that which is absolutely required. You know, it's got to be common. And then that which is our diaspora, which, you know, we can have different views here. And some are going to do this and others are going to do that, you know, this sort of thing. And I think that applies here as well. We have to be very careful in terms of how our communities are grounded and how they are set up and how they appear to those outside the church such that we are not putting anything in the way that's not necessary and thereby prevent people from coming to Jesus Christ. So that's my concern that that's my concern in terms. Of this area. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yes, absolutely. So is. Grace, is that based on. Somewhat on what Paul said in first Corinthians regarding the food to the idols that some it was not proper for them to eat because it was a stumbling block, but for others it was okay. I mean, is that kind of is it based on that scripture or. Well, I think what Paul is doing there in Corinthians when he's talking about food offered to idols and that sort of thing, and then talking about Christian liberty, Christian freedom, and then also being mindful of of our brother and sister. What I see there, what Paul doing, on the one hand, he's affirming Christian freedom, but then on the other hand he's saying we have to be mindful of how our actions are going to be received by our neighbor. And and even though we are free to do certain things, that our actions may cause harm to our neighbor and therefore we will be compelled out of love, you know, not to do those things.


And so I, I see Paul talking about a basic kind of freedom that we have by being a Christian, but in a sense, taking on a self limitation when the exercise of my own freedom may harm a brother or sister because they're weak in the faith, because they're weak in the faith. And I think that's that's a sound principle. I don't want to become an offense, an offense or a stumbling block to my brother or sister. And I think that's what Paul is aiming at there. So in answer to your question, I think yes. I think in a sense, Paul is dealing with this broader dimension of what we're calling prudential rules. And he's thinking about in this particular situation with these people involved, what would be prudent to do so that we can together grow in the knowledge and love of God, in other words, live together, be among each other, we see each other's lives. And all of that is conducive to the knowledge and love of God. And sometimes that means laying aside some of the freedom we have for the sake of our brother, because we don't want to become a stumbling block to them, our brother or sister, so that they may grow in the knowledge and love of God. So, yes, I an edge to your question. I think Paul is dealing and is actually operationalizing prudential rules there. He's thinking through what is prudent to do in this particular context, given the nature of the people and their understanding of liberty and freedom and grace that's present in that context. So, yes, that's that's very good. Very helpful. Thank you. Thank you.