Wesleyan Theology II - Lesson 4

Wesley on Justification

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”

Kenneth J. Collins
Wesleyan Theology II
Lesson 4
Watching Now
Wesley on Justification

I. Introduction

II. Works Prior to Justification

A. Cooperant Grace

B. Free Grace

III. Definition of Justifying Faith

A. Not just believing that God exists

B. More than the faith of a devil

C. More than the faith of the apostles while Jesus was on earth

D. It is faith in Christ

E. It is a disposition of the heart

F. It acknowledges the necessity and merit of Christ's death and the power of his resurrection

G. The nature of faith is a spiritual sense

IV. Summary

A. Faith requires an intellectual assent to who Christ is and what he did

B. Faith requires a personal trust in Christ

C. Faith is a spiritual sense

V. 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. 


Recommended Reading:

The Theology of John Wesley: Holy Love and the Shape of Grace, Kenneth J. Collins

John Wesley: His Life and Theology, Dr. Robert G. Tuttle, Jr.

Wesleyan Theology II

Dr. Ken Collins


Wesley on Justification

Lesson Transcript


Okay. So today, yes, our broader topic is justification. And we're going to see for Wesley, it'll be justification by faith alone, the God of holy love for us. And I want to make a little sort of editorial comment here at this point of the course. We've been on a fairly long journey so far, and we have entertained many different voices, for example, under the topic of the Doctrine of God or Christology, of the Doctrine, Holy Spirit, many, many different voices, some old, some contemporary. And occasionally, Wesley, I think the astute observer will realize that now we're pretty much focusing on John Wesley himself. And why is that? In a course on systematic theology, you know, why are we focusing on an 18th century figure so much? Well, you know, my reading has been very broad in this area, and I'm offering Wesley principally the principal voice here, although not the exclusive voice, the principal voice, because on the topics of practical Christianity here, his voice is so very important. And he has done this so well, especially in the areas that we will be treating today, the theological doctrines of justification on the one hand. That will be our first set of lectures. And then after that we'll be doing the new birth or regeneration. And once again, Wesley has thought through these areas to such a great degree that his insights are in many respects profound. And so that's why there is this focus whereby we are looking more like historical theology than systematic theology. But it is it is with a purpose and it does represent a judgment call. Okay. When we are thinking about the order of salvation, we're thinking of the auto salutes. And it is a journey, a journey that began and in the goodness of creation that went through the fall and now is on the way of salvation.


The last time we were talking about the importance of repentance, being convicted of sin, seeing the need for Christ. So convincing grace is really pointing in the direction of those graces which are salvific, properly speaking. And so when we speak of justification on the one hand and regeneration on the other, those are grace, those are salvific graces, properly speaking. Okay? And so you can see now we're getting at the heart of what Wesley, John Wesley will call conversion. Now, before we talk about justification itself, we are doing a lead up to justification. And so where we still have in mind those sinners who are under the powers of convincing grace and they are responding to the leading of the Holy Spirit, seeing their need of Christ. And so here, just prior to justification, we're talking about cooperative grace, We're talking about divine human cooperation. And so, for example, if we look at historic Methodism in the 18th century, at the First Methodist Conference in 1744, they raised the question, quote, But must not repentance and works meet for repentance go before this justifying faith to which the conference replied without doubt. If by repentance you mean conviction of sin and by works meet for repentance, obeying God as far as we can, forgiving our brother, leaving off evil, doing good and using his ordinances. And so Wesley develops this theme once again in his little treatise a father appeal to men of reason and religion. And he argues, if there be time and opportunity of the importance of repentance. And so this is what he writes, quote, And yet I allow you this that although both repentance. And the fruits thereof are in some sense notice this language in some sense necessary before justification. Yet neither the one nor the other is necessary in the same sense or in the same degree as faith, not in the same degree.


For in whatever moment a man believes. Wesley writes, he is justified. His sins are blotted out. His faith is counted to him as righteousness. Faith alone therefore justifies which repentance alone does, not much less any outward work. And consequently none of these are necessary to justification in the same degree with faith, nor in the same sense. So, Wesley, you can see how carefully balanced and nuanced this is. Wesley is leading up to justification and he's indicating, well, if there be time and opportunity and for most people there will. And since the grace of God is present in terms of convincing grace, convincing, cooperate, grace, then in some sense repentance and its fruits are necessary in order to justification. And so the distinctions that Wesley makes and he's working with to tight distinctions here, not in the same sense, not in the same degree. They carry many of the nuances Wesley used to articulate. On the one hand, say, notice the conjunction here. Notice the balance He's going to articulate, on the one hand the necessity of repentance and its fruits prior to justification in some sense. And on the other hand, that repentance and its fruits do not justify. So what Wesley is doing here, then he's got a broad Catholic understanding in terms of co-opting grace, in terms of repentance and the fruits of repentance, if there be time and opportunity. But he's also saying, on the other hand, richly informed by the insights of the Reformation, that faith alone, faith alone justifies not repentance and work suitable for repentance, but faith alone justifies. Okay. And so, you know, just think of it in a pastoral sense. Think of it in a pastoral sense. If someone came to you and they have responded to your preaching or your teaching and they say, I'm not yet a Christian believer, but I would like to be one someday, what shall I do? Well, you wouldn't tell them to fold their hands and simply do nothing.


You wouldn't tell them that. You'd say, Well, read the Bible, pray, serve the poor. Go to church, listen to sermons, you know, engage with with Christians, the Christian community. You would advise them if there's time and opportunity to basically take up what we have laid out earlier in terms of the rounds of repentance, leaving off evil, doing good, using the means of grace. That's what you would advise them as a good pastoral counselor. Now, those things will not be the basis upon which they are justified, to be sure, but they may be the means through which God can communicate justifying grace. And so Wesley here has a very nice balance. He has a very nice balance here, and we have to be careful in order to pick it up. Okay. And so Wesley has a nice balance here of both. Cooperate, Grace. Cooperate, Grace. But he also stresses free grace, especially when he's thinking of justification itself. And though Wesley rarely used the phrase sovereign grace, probably because he felt it would be misunderstood, he nevertheless embraced many of the leading ideas that inform this terminology. And so if we take a look at Wesley's sermon on Free Grace, which he produced in 1739, Wesley agrees on one level with his detractors that the grace from which salvation comes is free in all. In other words, it doesn't depend upon human merit or human. Activity or human works. And his own language here is it does not depend on any power or merit in man. No, not in any degree, neither in whole or in part. Simply put, the grace of the most high is free. It is an utter gift of a God of holy love. And so we see here in this context, as we are beginning to talk about free grace by excluding both human working, as well as the notion that sinners must be something other than they are before they can be justified.


Wesley maintained that justifying grace is not a species of cooperative grace, but a free grace of free grace in the sense that justification is not a human possibility at all. It is not a human work, but it is the work of God alone. Put another way, the language of alone, The Latin Sola is preeminent here and highlights the divine working in the face of human impotence. And this sola language Sola fee day is a rich inheritance from the Protestant reformers. And it's evident also in Wesley's treatise on predestination, calmly considered in which he observes. And this is what Wesley writes. If. Then you say. We ascribe to God alone the whole glory of our salvation. I answer. So do we to if you add nay. But we affirm that God alone does the whole work without man's working alone at all. In one sense, we allow this. Also we allow it is the work of God alone to justify, to sanctify and to glorify, which three comprehend the whole of salvation. And so, end of quote. So here you have a quote of Wesley, and he is underscoring the importance of free grace, indicating that justification very clearly. Here is the work of God alone. So Wesley's theology, you know, moves in the direction of a monotheism. It does, especially in terms of its valuation of free grace. And so, you know, in terms of Wesley's own language, we see this here. Indeed. Wesley stressed the free, sovereign action of God in several places throughout his writings. So to illustrate, in 1760, in a letter to Dorothy Furley, a woman who was somewhat impatient with her own spiritual progress, Wesley counseled her by pointing out, quote, God is sovereign in sanctifying as well as in justifying He will act when as well as how he pleases.


And none can say unto him, What do as thou? In other words, the timetable, so to speak, is ever in God's hands, not in our own. Wesley has this little pithy statement that's in his writings, which shows, on the one hand, he's an Armenian. But on the other hand, has a rich understanding of free grace. Here's what he writes. A person can be redeemed, if he will. There's the Armenian Wesley. Salvation is offered to all. A person can be redeemed if he will, but not when he will, meaning not when he will. Meaning that that person is not in control. That God is sovereign. That salvation is a gift that God alone justifies, sanctifies and glorifies. So Wesley's got a nice little balance here and nuances that oftentimes people outside the tradition don't pick up. They don't pick up and they may read Wesley, you know, as a Palladian or as dressing works, righteousness, that sort of thing, nothing could be further from the truth. That's not Wesley's theology. That's a misunderstanding of Wesley's theology. Okay. And so there's that statement to say every man can believe to justification or sanctification when he will is contrary to plain matter of fact, that every man may believe, if he will. I earnestly maintain Wesley writes, and yet that he can believe when he will. I totally deny. And then he adds to this and I like this addition, but there will be always something in the matter that we cannot well comprehend or explain, meaning that the grace of God is glorious. You know, we cannot fully comprehend or understand it how it works. You know, these wonderful gifts that we receive in our lives. One of the reasons that the notion of free grace has not been fully appreciated as an important window on Wesley's practical theology, and one that explains the giftedness of both justification and entire sanctification as distinct graces, is that the two distinct senses of working that are evident in Wesley's theology have been conflated and then subsumed under a broad and encompassing synergistic cooperation paradigm.


In other words, what I'm suggesting here, and I'll put it in simpler language, is that lots of times Wesley's entire theology is subsumed under co-option or under responsible grace, divine human action. And if you do that and we're not denying that's a part of Wesley's theology, but if you make it the whole of Wesley's theology, then you're missing out what he has to say about free grace. Free grace. The work of God alone. Okay. And we have to have a balance here. A conjunctive balance? Yes. Cooperate. Grace? Yes. Divine human cooperation leading up to justification. Okay. But justification itself is a sheer gift. And therefore, to be received by grace through faith alone. Okay. And so when Wesley is talking about free grace, he's highlighting the activity of God alone. And therefore there will be a rich receiving a rich receiving on the part of believers and almost in a passive way. And so before there is a response to the reception of is, there is a receiving, that's an important step that that should not be admitted because the receiving of the gifts of God in this case justification, the forgiveness of those things that are passed, that is received almost in a passive way. God is the principal actor here. And then once receive, there is a response to the very good gifts of God. And so Wesley has this very nice balance here, very nice balance here between co-opting grace on the one hand and free grace on the other. And therefore, what we are suggesting is a conjunctive style once more. The conjunctive style of Wesley's theology is not, after all, fully or aptly expressed in the divine and human roles found in an overarching synergistic paradigm, even if distress is on divine initiative and say so you.


Lots of times when people interpret Wesley's theology, they they basically subsume it under cooperative grace. But they think if they just simply highlight the divine prior role, they've got all the bases covered, but they don't, because co-opting grace in its best sense always underscores the priority of divine action. Okay. But it's still in the co-opting grace paradigm. And what Wesley has, however, is not simply divine human cooperation, but also free grace, which would represent the work of God alone, which therefore represents the receiving. That's that's the right word here. The receiving. There's a receiving before there's responding, a receiving of a good gift, a sheer, utter gift that comes at the hands of God. And so not simply co-opting grace, but the conjunction of cooperate and free grace. So in this topic of justification, Wesley has a Catholic side to his theology in terms of the co-opting. Grace that's lead leads up to justification in terms of the repentance and the work suitable for repentance that lead up to justification. But justification itself is a species of free grace. It is a gift. It is a sheer, utter gift to be received therefore by grace, through faith alone. Okay. Now, I've tracked this language in Wesley. As you might imagine, I told you earlier, I have a kind of literary critical approach to Wesley. I focus on language, motifs, themes, word usage, things like that. And there was this teaching out there for a time in Wesley studies arguing that, Oh, yes, Wesley talked about justification by grace through faith alone at Aldersgate in 1738, in other words, the time of his evangelical conversion. But then he dropped that language later on, certainly during the 1770s when he was mixing it up with some of the reformed.


And that's simply not true because I've tracked this language of Sola Friday. Once it emerges in Wesley's theology and it emerges very clearly in the year 1738, if it stays, it never goes away. It never goes away. Now, granted, during the 1770s, Wesley, as he was mixing it up with some of the reform, some of the Calvinist at the time, he was stressing the importance of repentance and work suitable for repentance on the way to justification. But his theology clearly distinguish co-opting grace on the one hand, which would relate to repentance and the broader themes, and then free grace on the other, which would relate to justification. Wesley never backed away once he articulated it. Justification by grace through faith alone. Now we need a definition of justification of justifying faith. What kind of faith is justifying faith? And Wesley is going to be very clear here, not just any faith justifies. And so he asked this question in an important sermon. What faith is it through which we are saved? And he at least initially answers this question along the lines of a via negativa. And this is interesting. Whenever Wesley wants to stress something, if something is theologically important, he will tell us what it is not. And that's what I mean by the very negative. He'll say it's not this justifying faith is not that. It's not this. And so he informs his readers precisely what justifying faith is not so that they may gain a greater appreciation of what justifying faith is by way of contrast, by way of contrast. And he starts out, first of all, saying that justifying faith is not the faith of a heathen. A faith of a heathen. Well, what does he mean by that? It's not the faith of a heathen.


The faith that justifies goes beyond the mere belief that God exists and that he, to use Wesley's language, is a reward, or of them that diligently seeking it also surpasses the knowledge of the being and attributes of God and a vigorous practice of moral virtue. In addition, it exceeds glorifying God by giving thanks for all good things. All of this, with what I've just mentioned, as noble as it is, is simply the faith of a heathen. Or, as Wesley will say, the faith of a Greek, the faith of a Roman. It cannot justify. It does not justify. Second, the faith through which one is saved. Wesley Right. Is not the faith of a devil or what does he mean by that? It's not the faith of a devil. Well, Scripture talks about this according to Wesley, the devil's believe that quote, There is a wise and powerful God gracious to reward and just to punish. They also believe that is the devil's quote. All scripture was given by the inspiration of God. And so a mere assent to all that is contained in the Bible likewise does not redeem. But the faith of the devil goes even beyond this. Interestingly enough, to affirm that Jesus is the Son of God even. The Christ. And so you have to ask yourself the question, why then doesn't this faith save? And the answer, of course, is because it is cold and speculative. It never engages the heart, the very depth of one's being. And so the faith of a devil, even though it knows that Jesus Christ is the Son of God the Messiah, it is a cold and speculative faith. It is a dead faith in that. It has not transformed the being, the being of the devil.


And then beyond this. Thirdly, Wesley writes, To take a step higher, justifying faith is not merely that which the apostles had while Christ was upon the earth. And so Wesley maintains that even though the apostles left to all to follow Jesus, and though they healed the sick and cast out devils, they were referred to Christ in Scripture as a faithless generation. Now, how is this to be understood? Well, in a real sense, the apostles were transitional figures whose experience was unique because they believed in Christ both before his death and resurrection and after his death and resurrection. And it's precisely this form of faith. In other words, believing in Christ before his death and resurrection that is inferior to the faith of later Christians who are able to acknowledge the necessity and merit of Christ's death and the power of his resurrection. Okay. And so the disciples, the apostles here are transitional figures. They are transitional figures. They were with Christ in his earthly ministry, and they were with Christ after his death and resurrection. And then, of course, we can also factor in the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which we mark as really the very beginning of the church. And so Wesley is saying that justifying faith goes beyond the faith of the apostles when Christ was on the earth, because it is predicated upon the death and resurrection of Christ. And then I think also we could add the giving of the Spirit at at Pentecost. And so justifying faith is something that goes higher than that. So. Having gone through this via Negativa, then we can proceed more positively and entertain a via Positiva and begin to answer the question what precisely is justifying faith? And first of all, it is faith in Christ.


Christ and God through Christ are the proper object of it. Now notice here a justifying faith is not just faith in God. Generally it is more specific, it is more particular than that. It is focused on Jesus Christ. It is faith in Christ. Okay. In Wesley's own journey, while he was in Georgia, he was being quizzed by August Spang and Burg, who was a Moravian leader. And Spang Enberg asked Wesley quite pointedly, Do you know Christ? Do you know Christ? And Wesley's reply was, I know he is the savior of the world. And so he was asked a specific question Do you know Christ? And Wesley's response at the time was a very general answer. I know that Christ is the savior of the world. But then Spang and Byrd came back at him and said, in effect, But do you know? And then Wesley said, I do. But then he later wrote in his journal, I feared they were vain words. So you can see here in terms of this first affirmation, it's not simply faith in God in general. That's not justifying faith. It's faith specifically in Christ, faith in Christ and God through Christ or the proper object of it. Wesley writes. And so, indeed, Wesley confesses in his brief spiritual autobiography that he writes on May 24th, 1738. That is as a description of his Aldersgate experience. And he writes at that time that earlier he had not fixed this faith on its proper object, that he meant only faith in God, not faith in and through Christ. Again, I knew not that I was wholly void of this faith. Wesley continued, but only thought I had not enough of it. Okay. And so this is the first positive affirmation. Second, justifying faith is different from that of a devil in that it is not barely a speculative, rational thing, a cold, lifeless ascent, a train of ideas in the head.


But it is also a disposition of the heart. It's a disposition of the heart. And here, once again, is the nice balance that Wesley has both heart and mind. You know, saving faith will engage both the heart and the mind. Okay. And so Wesley certainly is not excluding as as sometimes can happen, an intellectual component to faith. He simply points out that this element by itself is insufficient. It must also entail a disposition of the heart that is, the mind must inform the heart, and the heart must engage the mind. It once again, it's both. And it's not either or. Okay. And then lastly, a third point here justifying faith goes beyond the faith of the Apostles. While Christ was on Earth, in that it acknowledges the necessity and merit of Christ death and the power of His resurrection. This faith, then, which is properly redeeming, looks to the death of Christ as the only sufficient means of redeeming humanity from eternal death and to His resurrection as the remedy for restoring humanity to life and immortality. And so, in Wesley's own words, Christian faith, redeeming faith, saving faith is composed of the following. This is what he writes. Quote. Not only an assent to the whole Gospel of Christ, but also a full reliance on the blood of Christ, a trust in the merits of His life, death and resurrection, a recumbent si upon him as our atonement and our life as given for us and living in us again. Wesley writes. Saving faith is a sure confidence which a man has been God, that through the merits of Christ, his sins are forgiven and he is reconciled to the favor of God. Okay. And so we see here, Wesley is carefully laying out what he means by justifying faith.


He, first of all, proceeded with a v negativa. Then he comes in with a v a positive. And in Wes's later writings, he takes great pains to portray the nature of faith as a spiritual sense, as a spiritual sense. And so we think of saving faith as having an intellectual component, as having a heart component. But faith and saving faith can also be understood as a sense. Faith is a spiritual sense. It's the seeing eye, it's the hearing ear. And so Wesley argues that faith and he writes this in a letter to Mary Bishop in 1770, he defines faith as spiritual light. It is light. Wesley stated, and not darkness. Moreover, in his principles of a methodist father, explained, which Wesley produced in 1746, he writes as follows quote, Faith in general is a divine supernatural a line, cos that is an evidence or conviction of things not seen. He's quoting Hebrews here an evidence or conviction of things not seen, not discoverable by our body bodily senses as being either past, future or spiritual. So what's Wesley saying in that pithy little phrase? Well, you have five senses. We have five senses, do we not? You know, sight and hearing, etc.. Wesley is suggesting that faith is a spiritual sense. It is the sense or the means by which we discern the things of God, by which we see the invisible world, by which we understand spiritual things. And this is something that Wesley developed very carefully in his theology faith. First of all, as an ascent to the truths of the Christian faith. Faith in the second sense says trust. Trust in Christ. But then thirdly, faith as a spiritual sense. Faith as a spiritual sense. And so in summarizing this section here, in summarizing this section, we can say that justifying faith embraces several vital factors on a notional level and entails an ascent to the truth revealed in Scripture that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.


So on a notional or intellectual level, we can make that affirmation. On a personal level, it includes a hearty trust fiducia fiducia in the person and work of Christ. Maybe I can put this on the board. This might be helpful. See, we're talking about saving faith. And what is being suggested here? That Wesley's understanding this in a three fold way. We could use the Latin three day for this first understanding of faith. In other words, affirming the truths of the Christian faith. That certainly is a part of saving faith. In other words, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. This sort of thing to affirm the basic truths of the Christian faith. Intellectual assent even to the propositions, the major propositions of the Christian faith that would be included in belief. That belief that. But then there's a second kind of faith. And this I'm going to use the Latin fiducia. And this is different than the first time, because Fiducia has to do with trust. It is belief in Jesus Christ. And so this is to be relationally understood, relationally understood that one is in a proper relation with Jesus Christ. A trusting in a faith relation. So here fiducia means trust, and it entails the relation of persons, the person of Christ, and the person of the child of God. Okay. And then what I've been suggesting here in terms of Wesley's theology, he also understands faith. And here, from reflecting upon the content of the Book of Hebrews as a spiritual sense. Okay, so as a. Spiritual sense. It is the seeing eye, the hearing ear by which we can discern the things of God, see the invisible world discern eternity. We live by faith. We do. We live by faith, not by sight.


And, you know, so. Faith as a spiritual sense is going to be important, certainly in the Christian journey, in discipleship, in discipleship. And so. Wesley summarizes it. He has this little pithy statement to sort of summarize some of these different understandings of grace. Quote, To believe the being and attributes of God. You know, sort of belief that is the faith of a heathen to believe the Old Testament and trusted him. That was to come is the faith of a Jew. To believe Christ gave himself for me is the faith of a Christian. So here Wesley's working with a slightly different typology, and he's talking about different grades of faith here. And we notice that believing the being and attributes of God, which, by the way, you should realize by now, all people have received as a faculty of privilege and grace. In other words, they have this basic knowledge or understanding of God that would be the faith of a heathen to believe the Old Testament and to trust in him. That was to come is the faith of a Jew. And so Wesley's distinguishing the faith of a Jew from believing in Christ directly, specifically. And that is the faith of a Christian. The faith of a Christian. Okay. All right. What questions or comments do you have in terms of anything we've said here? It seems like in our churches, our relationships with other believers, that it's valuable to have conversations about these foundational. Issues on a regular basis because like you were mentioning Wesley before Aldersgate, I had that gentleman ask him about his faith and it really made him reevaluate where he was. And I think. It seems like a lot of people may. Be in a place where they're not.


As much of a believer as they thought they were. And so by taking the time to to look at these foundational issues on a regular basis, it helps us to evaluate where we are and it helps us to identify and other people's lives where they are and really help them to. To go forward in their faith journey, in the process. Yes. Yes, that's very helpful. That's very helpful question, because it allows us to get at an important issue in terms of faith. And that is and this will come with Wesley over time, certainly after 1738 and Aldersgate, he'll begin to recognize more carefully and more clearly that there are degrees of faith. There are degrees of faith. Now, that doesn't mean all faith is saving faith, because we've seen very clearly in this morning's lecture that not all faith is saving faith, but there are degrees of faith that that people have. Now, the question would be as good pastoral counselors. What would we do if we were you know, as we see the various degrees of faith, you want to encourage, not discourage, you want to encourage that person, he or she, to go forward into the deeper graces. You certainly wouldn't want to discourage, but to encourage. And then, of course, that encouragement grows out of the concern that all will enjoy redemptive graces properly, properly speaking. And so, yes, you're right. I mean, there may be, you know, people sitting in pews on Sunday morning that really have the faith of the apostles when Christ is on the earth, meaning they're not living in the power of Christ's death and resurrection or living in the graces of the Holy Spirit showered upon us at Pentecost. And so they need to be called forward, you know, into into these deeper graces.


Now, it's interesting when Wesley's at his aldersgate experience and he's describing what he's experiencing as someone is reading the preface of Luther's preface to Epistle to the Romans, he said at one place he came to believe that Christ died for me, even me, you know, which is very interesting language because I mentioned earlier Wesley had that conversation with Spang and in Georgia, and he said very generally, Oh, I know Christ is the savior of the world. Well, what about you, John Wesley? Did Christ die for you? But here in the Aldersgate narrative, and we'll be talking about this later on, Wesley Wesley's using this line was that Christ died for me, even me, and saved me from the lore of sin and death. And so, yes, I mean, I think it's a good conversation to have. I also heard in your question, and this I think, is an ongoing problem that we have to face in the church today, that some people balk at theological language. You know, they just don't want to use it. They say, oh, you know, he's using that big word justification or he's using that big word sanctity or she's using that big word sanctification of no, we need. But I think we can learn theological language in the church. It's not hard. It's not that difficult because if you learn the language, you're able to understand the Bible better. Because the Bible uses this language, Paul uses this language. And my fear is, if we don't use theological language in the church to reflect upon our own journey in faith, then something else is going to fill in that vacuum. It's either going to be the language of therapy or it may be the language of politics, social justice, whatever it may be, some other narrative that will fill in the vacuum and replace it.


And I think it is best to use theological language as we live out our lives in the church in the context of corporate worship, and to reflect upon that, to reflect upon our lives in the community of faith using theological language. Yeah. And it's one of the values of Bible study, is that as you go through Scripture that you encounter these ideas in this language. Yes. And that gives you an opportunity in the context of whatever scripture or whatever passage you're in to see the perspective of that teaching from that particular passage. And as you go through more passages, you get even more of an understanding from from a gospel perspective, from a Paul's perspective, from James, his perspective. And so you see these things more clearly as you are able to do that as you study scripture. Right. And I would hope it would be my hope, of course, that all of us in the church, as we're living out our lives, we are reflecting upon our lives using the language of the church, using the language of scripture, this theological vocabulary, in other words, thinking of our lives in relation to God, a God of holy love and using the theological language to do that. I think that's enormously helpful. Enormously helpful. Yeah. Yeah. Know, your question got us at some very good issues. Was also interested in the comment about spiritual sense developing an awareness, yes. Of God in our daily lives, because I think in some ways we tend to want to say we have faith. And then. Live our lives based on whatever our ideas are about moralism or about what the Bible teaches. And. And forget or kind of ignore the faith element of that and the relational element of that to be sensitive to what God's teaching us in the process.


Yes, Westley read richly and deeply in medieval spiritual literature, and I believe he also read the work Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. I believe I'd have to double check on that, but I think so. I think so. But he certainly read other other great spiritual classics. And there's a sense where Wesley is a contemplative. Now, what do I mean by that contemplative? I simply mean someone who is in their daily life, is trying to become increasingly aware of the presence of God in their daily life. So in other words, the presence of God in the mundane existence, the workaday world, if you will. And I think that's a that's a good thing. I think that's a very good thing. And I know it's one thing I pray for every morning that before I get out of bed, that's one of the things I pray for that I might increasingly be aware of the presence of God in my daily activities. So and what that does is that that means we're living in the presence of God, the sight of God, and we're aware of that in all our doing. And I think that's a very helpful, you know, helpful sort of approach. And Wesley clearly has that the opposite of this. And and we're certainly there today in terms of the opposite of this, the opposite of this would be what Wesley calls, oh, what's the word he uses? But it's a synonym for distraction. I'll probably come up with it later on, but a synonym for distraction in the sense that in the living out of our lives, where scattered, we're scattered where where, you know, we've got all these things going on and we don't we lose sight of God, you know, in all of our doing that, that's really off the table, so to speak, of our vision, because we're so caught up in the the many ness and the different values of of living our daily existence that we become scattered.


And therefore, spiritual growth there would represent living in a more. Focused way, focused on God in all our doings, in our thoughts, words, our speech, our actions. Yeah. So that's good.