Wesleyan Theology II - Lesson 5

Definition of Justification

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.

Kenneth J. Collins
Wesleyan Theology II
Lesson 5
Watching Now
Definition of Justification

I. What Justification Is Not

A. It is not being made actually just and righteous

B. It is not the clearing of us from the accusation brought against us by the law

C. God is not deceived by those who are justified

II. What Justification Is

A. It is based on the atoning work of Christ

B. It entails the forgiveness of sins

C. Wesley limits the forgiveness of sins to those that are past

III. Imputation

IV. The Question of Sola Fide

V. Justification and Regeneration are Linked

VI. Temporal Elements as the Key

VII. Questions and Answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wesleyan Theology II
Dr. Ken Collins
Definition of Justification
Lesson Transcript


We're continuing our journey and our conversation about justification. We've talked about justifying faith what it is, and we were very focused in terms of that. And so now we have to raise the question of what is justification itself. And so we need some definitional precision here. Also, as Westley, by his own admission of when we take a look at his writings, where he admitted that he was ignorant of the nature of justifying faith prior to 1738, so too was he ignorant of the nature of justification itself? And his breakthrough concerning the essential nature of justification also came in this very pivotal year of 1738, as evidenced by a comment that Wesley made actually in a writing to John Newton in 1765. And this is what he wrote, quote, I think on justification, just as I have done any time these seven and 20 years, and just as Mr. Calvin does in this respect, I do not differ from him a hair's breadth. And so we see in this excerpt of a letter to John Newton in 1765 that Wesley is showing the similarity between his doctrine of justification and that of John Calvin. Now, before 1738, Wesley often confused justification with sanctification. And that was something that happened actually fairly often in 18th century England among Anglican clergy. And we know that from Wesley's writings themselves. And so Wesley often confused these issues of justification and sanctification. There is a real sense where at one point in Wesley's journey, he thought he had to be holy in order to be forgiven. And we know that's an impossibility that that cannot happen. And so just as Wesley defined the nature of faith as we've seen earlier by using a via negativa. In other words, telling us what it is not.


That's precisely what Wesley is going to do in terms of the nature of justification itself. He's going to start out with a via negativa. Tell us what justification is not in order that we might be able to see later on precisely what justification is. Okay. And so he starts out, first of all, by pointing out that justification is not the being made actually just and righteous. What do we call the being actually made just and righteous? We call that sanctification. And justification is different from that. It's different from that. And so Wesley is very careful here to distinguish justification on the one hand from sanctification on the other. Sanctification is that which makes us actually just and righteous. Okay. And one way that Wesley keeps these doctrines separate, distinct, he writes about justification as being the work that God does for us, for us. Whereas sanctification, the being made holy is the work that God does in us. So it's the distinction between the for us and the in us that helps to illuminate the distinction between justification on the one hand and sanctification on the other. Okay. Now, obviously, justification is a very important doctrine in Wesley's tragical theology. He writes in one place, quote, If any doctrines within the whole compass of Christianity may be properly termed fundamental, they are doubtless these two. The doctrine of justification and that of the new birth, the new birth being initial sanctification or regeneration. Again, Wesley continues, reformer, meaning justification relating to that great work that God does for us in forgiving our sins. The latter. Here He is referring to the new birth, the great work which God does in us in renewing our fallen nature. And so Wesley teaches that justification entails a relative change, a change in relation, but sanctification entails a real change.


This is what he writes, quote, The former changes our outward relation to God. Meaning justification. It changes our outward relation to God so that of enemies we become children by the latter. And here is thinking of the new birth initial sanctification. Our inmost souls are changed so that. Of sinners, we become saints. In other words, we become initially. Initially. Holy. Okay. And so the first way that Wesley's exploring this via Negativa, he's showing us that we must not confuse justification and sanctification. There are two distinct works of graces. Then secondly, justification, Wesley writes, is also not the clearing of us from the accusation brought against us by the law, in the sense that whereas we have transgressed the Law of God and thereby deserves the damnation of hell, God does not inflict on those who are justified the punishment that they had deserved. Now, what Wesley is most probably trying to point out here, and I agree this is a difficult passage to understand, is that justification does not simply deal with this issue of punishment to the exclusion of a consideration of the actual transgression itself and in terms of the disruption of the relationship. If we thought along those lines, that could result in an tenno monism or lawlessness, making the moral law the law void through faith in the sense that God's justifying activity would be viewed as somehow as entailing a license to send because God has all the punishment for covered. And therefore, people may remain comfortable in their sin. And that's not what Wesley wants to teach. And so he rejects that sense of justification, which simply focuses on the punishment of it. Now, thirdly, justification does not imply that God is deceived by those who are justified, that he thinks them to be what in fact they are, not that he encounters them to be otherwise than they are, that he believes them to be righteous when they are unrighteous.


Now, you might be saying to yourself, you know, what's the issue here? You know, justification does not imply that God is deceived. You might not realize this, but some traditions outside of Protestant Protestantism, they look at our understanding of justification by grace through faith alone, for example, and they look at this justification and they call it fictive, fictive meaning, you know, it's a fiction kind of thing. And probably because those traditions in some sense confuse sanctification and justification, they want to see holiness with justification. And Wesley's very clear here, justification is the work that God does for us. It is not the work that God does in us. If you confuse those two. Here's the problem. Here's the problem. And this is the problem, I think and I'm trying to be ecumenical here, but I think it's a problem that Roman Catholicism faces even today. And I've read the joint declaration between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation that it was articulated in 1999. And I think the understanding of justification and I've looked at this carefully offered by Rome is not what Paul means. Paul means more than what Rome is affirming there. And in the language used there is this conflating at times of sanctification being made holy and justification. And if you confuse them, then what you invariably do. You make holiness in some sense the basis upon which one is forgiven, and that that is a clear impossibility for Paul, because Paul says forthrightly in Romans chapter four, verse five, that God justifies who does God justify? Does God justify the righteous? No, no, no. God justifies sinners. Sinners, sinners do not have to clean themselves up first in order to be forgiven. They don't. And that's something Wesley clearly taught.


Notice the language I cited earlier. You don't have to be or do something else first. Okay. On the way to Free Grace, because it is a sheer, utter gift. So there are some traditions out there that look upon the Protestant, you know, Lutheran, reformed, Wesleyan, understanding of justification. And they say it's fictive. And Wesley's pushing back at this and saying, no, God simply does not judge those who are justified. Contrary to the real nature of things, they are justified. On what basis? What is the basis? Faith in Jesus Christ. And so justification then, is not a matter of sinners remaining in the guilt of their sins while they are covered with the righteousness of Christ. Wesley also rejects that notion as well. They are truly forgiven. They are justified, and they are justified on the condition that God has established and the condition is faith in Jesus Christ. Okay. Now, so the charge that Wesley's theology was problematic along the lines that God was supposedly deceived in terms of the Justified. Well, that justification itself represented a legal fiction, grew and grew out of Wesley's affirmation, along with the Protestant reformers, Luther and Calvin, that God the Almighty justifies, as I just pointed out, not saints, not those who in some measure are holy before they are forgiven because that's an impossibility. But God justifies sinners underscoring the sheer gratuity of justification, the sheer giftedness of it. It's a sheer, utter gift. It's a species of free grace, therefore, to receive by faith. Through grace alone. So God justify it. Not the godly but the ungodly, not those who are holy already, but the unholy God justifies the unholy. On what basis? On the basis of faith in Jesus Christ. Now, for Wesley, then justification, which always occurs by grace through faith alone entails the pardon of sinners.


So we're speaking positively now. That justification entails the pardon of sinners, the forgiveness of all their past sins. And so let's cite Wesley's language here. So we get a sense of what he's saying. Quote, It is that act of God. It is that act of God, the Father, Wesley asserts, whereby for the sake of the appropriation made by the blood of his son, he show with forth his righteousness by the remission of sins that are passed. Okay. So this is Wesley's, you know, formal definition here of justification is that act of God, the father, whereby for the sake of the perpetuation made by the blood of his son, he's showing forth his righteousness by the remission of sins that are passed. Now, we're going to look at this statement. We're going to pick it apart and examine it, to open it up so that we see all that's entailed here. So, first of all, justification we see quite clearly in this language is predicated upon upon what it's predicated upon the atoning work of Jesus Christ, the atoning work of Jesus Christ and the propitious nation made by the blood of his son. Is another expression Wesley uses to flesh this out. And so justification is intimately connected with the work of Christ, with the atoning work of Christ, the perpetuation made by the blood of his son. Then secondly, justification entails the remission or the forgiveness of sins, and it therefore results in a precious freedom. And that freedom is freedom from the guilt of sin, freedom from the guilt of sin, which is nothing less than the first liberty of the gospel. So that one may now richly enjoy the favor and goodness of God in peace. And so what Wesley is suggesting here is that justification entails the forgiveness of sins, and it therefore results in freedom.


Freedom from the guilt of sin, freedom from the guilt of sin. And that's a very precious liberty. We're going to be talking about a number of liberties of the gospel. The world, by the way, has it wrong. They look at the Christians and they think somehow, you know, they they need the crutch of the Christian faith. And they're living a kind of restricted, conflicted existence. Nothing could be further from the truth that the gospel is about freedom. It's about freedom. It's about liberty, real liberty, not the phony kind of liberty that the world talks about, whereby a person is twice the slave of self after the reform than before. But real liberty, gospel, liberty and one of those freedoms that we're marking here, it has to do with justification. It is freedom from the guilt of sin, freedom from the guilt of sin, which is a tremendous freedom indeed. How many people today have woke up this morning and they're carrying a load of guilt around and they'll carried around all day. It'll be on their backs, so to speak, a load of guilt, and they'll go to bed with it tonight as well. Well, you know, part of the good news of the gospel is that doesn't have to be that one can be free from the power of guilt and one can be forgiven by God of all one's sins that are passed. Okay. Third, notice in this language, when I expressed Wesley's basic definition of justification that. He limits the forgiveness of sins. Did you notice that little word to those that are passed to those that are passed? And so this tells me that Christ hath redeemed us from the curse or punishment justly due to our past transgressions of God's law.


Wesley writes again, that justification whereof our articles and homily speak Wesley notes means present, pardon and acceptance with God, who therein declares his righteousness or mercy by or for the remission of sins that are passed. What's going on here? Well, here Wesley is perhaps fearful of a libertine interpretation, one that would view justification as entailing the forgiveness of future sins with the miserable result. That justification, so understood, would become insurance for sin rather than freedom from its guilt. Okay, so what's going on here with this language justification is the forgiveness of those sins that are passed. See, Wesley ends that word pass, because if it's not there, if justification is the forgiveness of sins. You know, a person may reason, well, I'm justified and therefore it doesn't matter if I have an ongoing life of sin, because justification would just cover it all. Well, if you reason that way, you've basically ended up in and to no mean a more lawlessness because you have so situated the Christian life that you are living in the ongoing practice of sin and you're not troubled by it. You're not troubled by it at all because your doctrine of justification says that all your sins are forgiven, past, present and future. And that Wesley rejected that notion. He rejected that notion. Justification is the forgiveness of those sins that are passed. If there is a breaking of faith later on, if someone is justified and born of God and there is a breaking of faith, sin of the high hand, as the Old Testament would call it, what must happen? Well, there must be repentance. One would have to repent of such sin and do the first works afresh in order to be restored in relationship with God.


Okay. And so even in the 18th century, and I hear this even in the 21st century, and to know me and understandings of justification almost as if it's a kind of insurance policy, you know, that it's okay now, you know, God doesn't see our sin any longer. But if we can see your sins, certainly God can see your sin. Now, related closely related to justification is Wesley's doctrine of imputation, imputation. And once again, I think, you know, Wesley will have a doctrine of imputation precisely because he's arguing, as Paul does in Romans, that it is sinners that are justified. And so the sinner has no righteousness of his or her own. What righteousness they will have will be imputed to them by grace through faith. And so for Wesley and he wrote an important sermon on this, the righteousness of Christ, where he lays this out very clearly for Wesley, the righteousness of Christ, and by the righteousness of Christ, he means the human righteousness of Christ, both active and passive is imputed to believers in the sense that they are now accepted by God, not for the sake of anything that they have done, whether it be works of charity, mercy or the like, but solely because of what Christ has accomplished through his life and death on their behalf. And so he quotes John Goodwin, his work, important coffee every day, and Wesley declares, quote, God justifies the believer for the sake of Christ's righteousness and not for any righteousness of his own. And so we can see here that Wesley employed the language of imputation in his writings. So long as it was understood that it related only to justification or forgiveness and acceptance and not to sanctification. Okay. So Wesley does have a doctrine of amputation.


The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, but this relates only to justification, to the forgiveness of sins and not to sanctification. And so there's a kind of fencing of the doctrine of amputation to keep it from flowing into the doctrine of the doctrine of sanctification. And that expressed Wesley's concern and his fear, especially after 1765, that if we don't understand imputation properly, there is the danger that we will take the righteousness of Christ as a cloak for the sinners. Ongoing unrighteousness. Okay. And so if you have imputation understood, not simply in terms of the forensic themes of justification, but also in terms of the participatory themes of sanctification, you can end up with a very problematic theology because then if it is, if imputation relates to the participatory themes of holiness and sanctification, you could take the righteousness of of Christ as a cloak for the sinners, ongoing unrighteousness. And that is a problem. That is a problem. And so in this area, Wesley, exercise a great deal of caution, a great deal of caution. He realized theology, practical theology can quickly go awry, can quickly go wrong here. And so this is what he wrote, quote, In the meantime, what we are afraid of is this lest any should use the phrase the righteousness of Christ or the righteousness of Christ is imputed to me as a cover for His unrighteousness. Warn them against making Christ the Minister of sin, against making void the solemn decree of God, which is, quote, without holiness. No man shall see the Lord. Okay. O warn them that if they remain unrighteous, the righteousness of Christ will profit them nothing. And so what we see here, because of Wesley's fear once again of and to no mean ism.


Wesley at times was unwilling to let the statement, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers to stand alone. But He would immediately add to that statement God implants righteousness in everyone to whom He has imputed it. Okay. And so, Wesley, carefully distinguished, imputed from inherent righteousness, as is evident in his following observation quote, But do not you believe inherent righteousness? Yes, in its proper place, not as the ground of our acceptance with God, but as the fruit of it, not in the place of imputed righteousness, but as consequent upon it. So what is Wesley doing here? He's he does have a doctrine of imputation, but it relates simply to the issue of justification, the work of God for us. And Christ's righteousness is imputed to the sinner, to the believer. However, he does not want to see the doctrine of imputation applied to the participatory themes of sanctification, the new birth becoming initially wholly there. The language Wesley will use is not imputed but imparted, meaning that we actually become holy by the salvific graces of God. And so in these reflections, then inherent righteousness which would relate to sanctification cannot in any sense be the ground of justification. Okay. Revealing once more how merciful and gracious the activity of God is. So, Wesley. Summarizing. Once more. He does have a doctrine of imputation. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to the sinner by grace through faith whereby they become believers. That imputation is is focused simply on justification and forensic themes. The work that God does for us, it does not bleed over in terms of the participatory themes of the new birth regeneration, because then grace, we have the language not of imputation but implantation in parting, that believers actually become wholly of through grace and faith.


Now, this raises for us the question of sola feed, the question of Sola Feed Day. Faith is not only the necessary condition of justification, but it is also a sufficient condition, a truth that the Council of Trent could never accept. This faith alone is sufficient for justification, Wesley points out in 1765. Here's what he writes quote, Everyone that believes is justified. Whatever else he has or has not. And so, once again, Wesley is stressing that faith alone is sufficient for justification. Again, we can take a look at Wesley's notes upon the New Testament, especially in terms of the passage Galatians Chapter six verses 12. And here Wesley explains, quote, Faith in a crucified savior is alone sufficient for justification. And a year later, Wesley reviewed the whole affair in his remarks on a defense of the Spazio vindicated and he exclaimed, quote. I believe, justification by faith alone as much as I believe there is a God. I declared this in a sermon preached before the University of Oxford eight and 20 years ago. I declared it to all the world 18 years ago in a sermon written expressly on that subject. I have never varied from it. No, not a hair's breadth. From 1738 until this day. Okay, so listen once more to Wesley's own words, this time in a key sermon that he writes the righteousness of faith. Listen to Wesley's words here. Quote, Whosoever there for thou art who desires to be forgiven and reconciled to the favor of God, do not say in your heart, I must first do this. I must first conquer every sin, break off every evil word and work and do good to all men. Or I must first go to church, receive the Lord's Supper, hear more sermons and say more prayers.


Alas, my brother, thou art clean gone out of the way. Thou art still ignorant of the righteousness of God and are seeking to establish thy own righteousness. End of quote. Wow. That's. That's a very important statement of Wesley. What is he in effect, saying? I quoted something similar to this earlier when we were talking about the approach to entire sanctification. But here, in the righteousness of faith, Wesley is thinking of the person on the approach to justification. Okay. And he's saying, you know, in effect, you don't have to be or do something else first in order to be justified, because all that is required is faith by grace, through faith alone. Listen to Wesley's language again. Do not say and by heart, I must first do this. I must first conquer every sin. See, that's just another way of saying you'd have to clean yourselves up first before you could be forgiven. That's just another way of saying that there must be holiness in place before we can be forgiven. And Wesley rejects that, as does Paul. Paul clearly rejects such a notion. And so Wesley is underscoring Sola Friday that faith alone is sufficient. That's a good word here. Faith alone is sufficient for a justification. And again, in this same sermon, the righteousness of faith, Wesley added quote, Neither say in my heart I can't be accepted yet because I am not good enough. Who is good enough? Who ever was to merit acceptance at God's hands? Was ever any child of Adam good enough for this? And so, in light of these basic gospel truths, Wesley's counsel to his followers could only be, quote, Look for it just as you are unfit, unworthy, unholy by simple faith. Every day, every hour. Now, something else that's also important to consider is that although Wesley distinguishes justification from regeneration, the one being the work that God does for us, the other being the work that God does in us.


Okay. We are going to see, however, that these two works, though we can distinguish them logically. They never occur at the same time, never one without the other. So if one is justified, one is justified by grace to faith at that time, one is also born of God, one is also born of God. And so these two gifts and they are gifts, they're gifts of God's grace. They occur simultaneously. Never one without the other. Okay. I mean, think about it for a moment. And I've heard I've actually heard someone, a Wesley Scholar, say that according to Wesley, you could be justified and not born of God. And what would be the problem? Well, I think the problem, when you think it through, would emerge quickly, because if you are justified, meaning your sins have been forgiven, it's the forgiveness of sins that are passed. If you have not at that time been born of God, in other words, have your nature transformed whereby you become holy. If that hasn't taken place, if you're simply justified, then without the transformation of nature you would almost immediately be committing the very same sins for which. You just asked forgiveness for in the first place. Because without a transformation of nature that occurs in the new birth, you know, the life the life isn't set on its proper trajectory. And so, though Wesley distinguishes these two works justification, on the one hand, regeneration on the other. Holiness is never the basis upon which we are forgiven. Where forgiven, you know, the basis is by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. Wesley is very, very clear here. But these two works, though, we can distinguish them. They always occur simultaneously. They always occur simultaneously. If one is justified, one is born of God, the God who is merciful enough to forgive us Our sins is good enough to transform our nature and will transform our nature.


And when we think of these two doctrines together, and if we would add to it also the doctrine of assurance that we have a measure of assurance that we're a child of God. Those three together would make up the complex of what most people would call conversion. They would call that conversion to distinguish it from the language we were using earlier on of awakening. Conversion would be this larger work, which would include the forgiveness of those sins that are past the renewal of nature in terms of regeneration, as well as a measure of assurance that we are a child of God. And so Wesley writes No holiness can exist till being justified by faith. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Okay. And so Christians then must to use less Wesley's language, must not think or speak of justification so as to supersede sanctification. So neither must they think or speak of sanctification so as to supersede justification. In other words, both works are necessary, each in their own place. We distinguish them logically, but they occur simultaneously. Wesley wrote a letter to Thomas Maxfield and actually criticized some of his notions in this area. And this is what he wrote to Max Maxfield. Quote, I dislike your directly or indirectly depreciating justification, saying a justified person is not in Christ, is not born of God, is not a new creature, has not a new heart, is not sanctified, not a temple of the Holy Ghost, or that he cannot please God or cannot grow in grace. Okay. Well, what is Wesley saying there to Thomas Maxfield? He's saying that these two doctrines ever occur together, that if one is justified, has received the forgiveness of sins that are passed, then one is also born of God.


Okay. And so now at times and we have to pay attention to Wesley's language, he does this for brevity and style. Sometimes he'll talk about the Justified. But he means basically those who are converted. So he is not simply referring to justification, but he's referring to those who are justified. And since they are justified, they're also born of God, and they also have a measure of assurance. And so, you know, Wesley, you in his writings, he'll talk about those who are justified Christians. Well, those justified Christians, they're also born of God. It would be an impossibility for them to be justified or not born of God. It's a short, a shorthand way of referring to the converted. So he does that occasionally from time to time. But when you push down and when you look at the theological language here and when we think it through, then Wesley will make the distinctions, the careful distinctions, which, of course, are going to be necessary, these careful distinctions to protect. What is it protecting? Is protecting the basic truth that God justifies, not the righteous, but that God justifies sinners. Now, the temporal elements are a key here, and you might have imagined this in terms of justification. And so Wesley held not one but two chronological aspects in tension in his doctrine of salvation. On the one hand, he affirms that there is process, process of cooperating grace leading up to justification. But justification itself is not a process, but it is a sociological event. In other words, we have received the forgiveness of sins. We have received the forgiveness of sins. We are free from the guilt of sin. And so, Wesley, when he emphasizes process leading up to justification and synergism, co-opting grace, that's his Catholic emphasis.


It points to human cooperation with God. However, his Protestant emphasis would be seen in the free activity of God in justifying the sinner by grace through faith. In other words, Wesley, in the Protestant emphasis, will see justification not as a species of cooperative grace, but of free grace, meaning it's a gift, it's an utter gift of God, and therefore is to be received by grace through faith. Okay. So Wesley is going to hold these two intention, both process and instantaneous, this process leading up to justification. But justification itself is not a process. It's a sociological event whereby we receive the forgiveness of sins like Wesley at Aldersgate writing Christ died for me, even me. It's that kind of actualization instantiation that happens in time space. It's either happened or it hasn't. You can't fudge it. And so Wesley is going to pay attention to these temporal elements. Now, if we focus on this first aspect of process and if we were to focus on that exclusively or to the virtual neglect of the instantaneous, then our theology would likely have a very anthropocentric reading of Wesley's theology in which. Human cooperation will eclipse the radiance of divine grace and gifts. And so we have to realize, and this will be picked up in these chronological distinctions between process and instantaneous, that it is the instantaneous elements of Wesley's or those silhouettes in this case here in terms of justification, which highlights, once again, the divine sovereign role that God acts alone and in the face of human impotence. We cannot forgive ourselves of the sins we have committed against God. Only God can forgive us. And so there is a danger of not seeing the proper balance in terms of the temporal relations. Yes, there is process, process and cooperative grace that leads up to justification.


But justification is a species of free grace. It highlights the role of God, the sovereign role of God in forgiving the sinner, his or her sins. Okay. And, you know, these these two have to be held together in tension once again. But speaking of Wesley's very conjunctive theology, not simply process, not simply co-opting grace, but also free grace in a way similar to Luther way similar to Calvin, that we receive such gifts almost in a passive sense by grace, through faith alone. What I want to end on before we open it up for questions is that I think you can see as we've explored Wesley's theology here on the head of justification, the topic of justification that is remarkably balanced. There are Catholic elements to be considered. There are Protestant elements as well. But I think this issue of justified by grace through faith alone and not by works of the law is credible. It's something it's a truth that was present in Wesley's theology in 1738. It continued throughout his theology until his dying days. Only faith justifies not works, not obedience to the moral law. Only faith justifies faith in Jesus Christ. And so Wesley articulated a doctrine of so lofty de justification by grace through faith alone. Okay. What questions or comments do you have in terms of what we've said here? As we remind our selves of who we are in Christ and what He's done for us. And read passages like Ephesians one and two where it articulates our position in Christ and what He's done for us on a regular basis, maybe even a daily basis, maybe even throughout the day, that that helps us not only. To see realistically who we are in Christ, but it helps us to understand better how to live our lives in the context of our sphere of influence as we interact with people around us and are aware of what God's doing in our lives each day.


Yes. And I think there's the issue of justification is important here in light of what you're saying, because and this sort of bleeds into the doctrine of assurance as well, which is connected in some sense with justification. But when we think of justification and the receiving of the forgiveness of sins, you know, like Wesley received that aldersgate when he said, you know, Christ died for me, even me, that that has consequence, that has consequence and cash value, if you will, in living out the Christian life, because no one knows at the heart of one's being that one is the beloved, that one is the beloved that Christ died for me, even me. And I am the object of God's love. And I have received that forgiveness and love. It's an expression of love, the forgiveness of God, and that has practical cash value in living and our lives, that we have a confidence. And I think the word confidence is oftentimes expressed when Wesley's writing about justification, that those who are justified, you know, by grace through faith, have a confidence in terms of their relation to God. And there is a real sense they know they are the beloved and they can live that out in their daily existence. And very practically, for example, they would not have to be defensive in knowing that this basic issue is right. They are right with God. Okay? And it leads to freedom on a number of levels, not only freedom from the guilt of past sins, but a freedom to to be who they are and God's love in the present, and to do so not in a defensive way, but in a way that receives the ongoing grace of God, knowing you know that one is a child of God and forgiven.


Yeah. Yeah. A question on justification. Yes. You say, Wesley, only believe that justification was only for past sins. Justifications of the forgiveness of those sins that are passed right from the point of view of becoming a believer. Right. So that differs drastically from what I know to be that Christ's work on the cross was once and for all since past, present and future. So I guess my question is, if you only forgiven the past sins of that be believer at that point of conversion, then how are their sins after conversion? Because we're not perfect. How are those covered? Yeah. Okay. Two things. Two things. And I hear them in your your question and we would distinguish them. There's the work of Christ and Christ died for the sins of the whole world. And, you know, we can put we're talking about the sufficiency of Christ's atoning work, and that would be past, present, future. You know, no one no one is denying that that the work of Christ is sufficient and is sufficient for the sins of the whole world. But what we're talking about here now, let me back up, because I think this will help us even more. There are different senses of there are different senses of justification. And that's what I hear in your question. The first sense is what you're appealing to in terms of the death of Christ. Watch this. Now, this is Armenian theology. It may work out differently in your theology, but there's a sense where the entire world is already forgiven. God has already reconciled because Christ has died. In other words, Christ has died for the sins of the whole world, past, present and future. So that's one sense of justification. And we haven't talked about that.


We've been talking about what Wesley will call the Christian Sense. We're talking about the Christian sense. And what is the Christian sense? That atoning work of Jesus Christ must be received. It must be received into the life. And that's what we've been talking about in terms of justification. We've been talking about, in other words, justification in its Christian sense. The second sense. Okay. And once we make that shift, in other words, the first sense of justification and reform theologians, by the way, I've talked about a number of senses of justification as well, talking about justification in the first sense. Justification in the second sense. Wesley's teaching makes eminent sense because if one becomes a child of God and then one breaks faith, one breaks faith with God. What is the way forward? You know, the way forward is repentance. I mean, we have to be honest with God. We have to call send sin. And if we have committed sin, we have to recognize that that it is sin and we confess our sins and we are forgiven our sins and we are restored. Okay. But I think what you'll see and we're going there, we're not there yet. You'll see that in the Christian life there is tremendous power that comes in, the power to live the Christian life and that we speak of in terms of the graces of regeneration, where the power of the Holy Spirit comes in our lives and we're able to walk in the kind of freedom that we've described earlier whereby we can be free from the power and dominion of sin such that, you know, the committing of sin, you know, with a high hand, that should be the grave exception rather than the rule. Okay. But if it does occur, you know what must happen? Repentance.


And that's all Wesley saying. There were some theologies out there in the 18th century that were just heedless. They just saw justification as a blanket coverage for all sin that if the sinners send out here and continually so not to be concerned because Christ died for those sins. Yes, there's a sense Christ did die for those sins, but you have to receive that forgiveness. And if you are living in the ongoing practice of sin, you obviously have not received that forgiveness. So I think there are two different things going on here. You see what's being suggested. Wesley's not detracting from the is from the sufficiency of Christ's atoning work. Christ died for the sins of the whole world, past, present and future. But we're talking about receiving Christ and his benefit in the human life. And that's another sense of justification, which Wesley is calling the Christian sense. And we've we've simply been. Talking about the Christian sense of justification. Yeah. Okay.