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Wesleyan Theology II - Lesson 6

Wesley on Regeneration (Part 1)

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.

Kenneth J. Collins
Wesleyan Theology II
Lesson 6
Watching Now
Wesley on Regeneration (Part 1)

I. Regenerating Grace as the Favor and Power of God

II. Defining Regeneration

A. The new birth is a necessary change

B. The new birth is a vast change

C. The new birth is a crucial change

1. Leads to a changed life, not just orthodoxy

2. Necessary to enter the kingdom of God

3. Practicing religion or the means of grace not a substitute for the new birth

III. Questions and Answers


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  • 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
th511-06
Wesley on Regeneration (Part 1)
Lesson Transcript

 

Yes, we were talking earlier about important doctrines, foundational doctrines in Wesley's theology. And the last time we were considering justification. And we explored that in a number of ways. And so now we are at the point when we can consider the doctrine of regeneration or what sometimes is referred to as the new birth. Sometimes this is also referred to as initial sanctification, though Wesley himself did not specifically use that last phrase. But all of these terms are interchangeable. The new birth, three generation initial sanctification. Okay. And. We're going to explore regenerating grace as representing, in a real sense, both the favor and the power of God, and especially the power of God. We'll see that very clearly as we explore this topic in greater detail. Now, although Wesley's doctrines of justification regeneration are all informed by grace says favor highlighting divine goodness or beneficence, Wesley always took a great deal of care to avoid the into no mean implications. In other words, we remain sinners, while Christ's righteousness covers us of this teaching by making an important distinction between justifying grace on the one hand and then regenerating grace on the other. In Wesley's understanding, justifying grace must justifying grace is imputed simply because God justifies sinners who can have no forgiveness of sins. The very meaning of justification apart from the atoning work of Christ. However, when Wesley is thinking of regeneration or the new birth, though it too represents a sheer gift and therefore a species of free grace of regeneration is not imputed, but it is in part it. That is, believers actually become holy. They become holy as a result of both divine favor and divine enabling presence. And so we see a little difference here between these doctrines, justification and regeneration, though both are foundational doctrines to the Christian faith.

 

Now, one theme that strongly emerges in Wesley's treatment of regeneration is this whole matter of divine empowerment. Divine empowerment. And so if we take a look at his sermon, the good steward Wesley specifies in that homily what divine empowerment entails. And so he writes, It is nothing less than the, quote, the power of a Holy Spirit, which alone works in us. All that is acceptable in his sight. And so these and other considerations have led the late Swedish scholar Lindström remark. This is what he wrote. Quote, Grace is here, seen primarily as Grotzinger in Forza. Grotzinger infers no. And here we are seeing in this context that there is a real inherent change in the human soul. A transformative change in the human soul as a result of God's regenerating grace in our lives. And so in this context, it is not the idea of soul less, but the idea of power, of invigorating presence that molds Wesley's conception of regenerating grace. So understood grace in the context of regeneration. Another way of putting this is to say it is the salvific strength of God that's made available to all who believe it is nothing less than empowerment by the Holy Spirit for obedience to Christ. And so Wesley cautioned the Methodists to beware of that pessimism and mock humility, which teaches us to say in excuse for our willful disobedience. Quote Oh, I can do nothing. And stops there without once naming the grace of God. And so grace as enablement, grace as divine vigor will not only form the basis of Wesley's relatively high standards with respect to the new birth, but also underscore the human element of receiving the initiating grace of God. Simply put, divine empowerment, not human ill in ability, will be the chord struck here.

 

Okay, now, just as we defined justification earlier, so to do, we have to define regeneration. And this, of course, this doctrine, Wesley, determined to be an essential doctrine of the Christian faith. And he listed a number of essential doctrines. And regeneration, of course, is one of them. He listed original sin, of course, justify justification by faith, the new birth and holiness of heart in life that these are the essential doctrines of the Christian faith and of these essential doctrines Wesley repeatedly stressed to in particular, to in particular. And this is what he writes, if any, doctrines within the whole compass of Christianity may properly be termed fundamental. They are doubtless these to the doctrine of justification, which we considered in the last lecture, and that of the new birth, which we are considering in this current lecture justification. Again, to refresh your memory, that relates to the great work that God does for us in forgiving our sins. And regeneration refers to that great work which God does in us in renewing our fallen nature. Okay. And so. The following. In terms of the Anglican Reformation, drawing from some of the materials of the Anglican Reformation will present this material very clearly. Wesley affirmed that justification on the one hand is a relative change, whereas regeneration or the new birth is a real change, a real change. And think about a soul, you know, coming to New Birth, being born. In that event, there will be, of course, a quickening of spiritual senses that were dormant prior to the new birth. And Wesley maintains that such a transformation or change is not simply outward, but is inward as well. It is a change from unholy tempers, in other words, being unholy to becoming holy, becoming holy.

 

And that's why it's referred to as initial sanctification that the dispositions and tempers of our heart are transformed by God's grace and presence, such that we become holy, we become holy, having dispositions of holiness being marked by graces of humility and meekness. And Wesley writes, In terms of the new birth, that the seeds is using an agricultural image here. The seeds of every holy temper are then implanted in the soul, and as such, regeneration as Wesley employed. The term is not the entirety of sanctification, but is only its beginning. And that's an important point to realize that the new birth or regeneration, it's the beginning. It's the beginning of sanctification, the beginning of holiness. And so this is going to be what kind of change? A qualitative change. It's not a change in degree. It's not a little more of what already was because something new is here. In other words, this is the transformation from sin to holiness, which is a qualitative change. Okay. And so having received the gift of the new birth, you know, Wesley, though he doesn't specifically use that language of initial sanctification, we can use that language and we can say that the new birth or initial sanctification, that's the first part of the larger entity of sanctification. The second part would be the process of sanctification. As we grow in grace over time and as we do change by degree, you know, becoming more holy, more patient, more kind, the fruit of the spirit increasing in degree until finally and Wesley will write about entire sanctification. So there are actually three movements, if you will, in the larger process of saying a larger entity of sanctification, initial sanctification or the new birth. That's our topic right now, the beginning of holiness, that qualitative change from sin to holiness.

 

Then there is secondly, the process of sanctification, growth and grace over time in serious Christian discipleship. And then finally, entire sanctification, heart purity, qualitative state, a transformation from in purity to purity. Now, just as we understood justification as a species of what kind of grace, free grace. Okay, so too well, the new birth or regeneration be understood as a species of free grace. Now, of course, there is divine and human cooperation leading up to the new birth in terms of repentance and works suitable for repentance along the way. But regeneration itself, the new birth itself is a species of free grace. Okay. And so, in a real sense, the new birth is the work of God alone. Only God can make a soul holy. That's not a human possibility. That's not within our. Powers or prerogative. Only Almighty God can make a soul holy and fill that soul with the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. And so Wesley used this language of God's breathing into the soul and the soul's breathing back what it first receives from God and a continual action of God upon the soul and the reaction of the soul upon God. And so we have the new birth taking place where one comes alive. One is alive in a real sense. One spiritual senses are quickened. And then there is after that, you know, divine human cooperation whereby God is breathing into the soul and the soul is breathing back into God. What at first received from God? Okay. And so there is divine and human cooperation before the new birth and also following the new birth. But the new birth itself is a species not of co-operative grace, but of free grace, because it is a gift. It's a sheer gift to be received by grace.

 

And so the cooperate or the cooperate nature of the process of sanctification, which takes place after the new birth, reveals that in the Christian life we are always going forward. We are never standing still. There's no folding of the hands. There is no we have arrived. There is never that sense in Wesley's theology that no matter what graces we have received, even when we become holy, there is the process of sanctification which begins God is ever calling us forward into deeper and deeper graces. And so someone who has actually written in this area quite well is Dr. Clarence Barnes, who talked about Wesley's theology here in terms of a present attainment of grace, a present actualization or realization of grace, and then the future expectation of where God is leading us in deeper and deeper graces. And yes, that's so very important in Wesley's theology that there is a telos, there's a goal towards which we are being directed at every step along the way in the process of sanctification. And that is, of course, we can use a number of vocabularies to express it, but it is on one level to have the mind which was in Christ Jesus, our Lord, that all the tempers and dispositions of our heart be transformed such that we now have the mind of Christ. And so every actualization of grace here, every growth in sanctifying grace, opens up the possibility for more grace. And though the new birth does indeed mark an important point in the journey, it does marks a very important point in the journey. It's not a resting place. Sometimes I get this impression from people who are converted and they think, okay, it's all over. You know, I've had my conversion and that's it.

 

And well, no, it's beginning. It's called initial sanctification. Initial for a reason, meaning that there is a life to be lived and there is much further growth in grace which must take place. And so there is not a resting place at the new birth. Actually, it's an invitation to go forward into future growth in grace to the improvement of the tempers and dispositions of our heart in Holy Love. Now, it is precisely at this connection of justification and the new birth and the Christian life that follows that Wesley's major conjunction of free grace. On the one hand, the work of God alone and co-operative grace is most evident because co-operative grace leads up to both justification and the new birth and co-parent Grace. Follows both justification and the new birth. But the new birth itself like justification, is a thing of free grace. It represents the work of God alone. Now, some semi Palladian approaches failed to hold Wesley's important conjunction in place by subsuming the entirety of redemption under an overarching synergistic paradigm. In other words, everything is divine human cooperation. Everything is co-op and grace. Everything is synergism. And they are leaving no place for free. Grace. That is the work of God alone, whereby such gifts are received by grace through faith. However, that is not Wesley's theology, because Wesley has greater balance than that. And so in Wesley's conjunctive view, and here we're going to see a conjunction. Once again, he will draw from the insights of the Catholic tradition in terms of understanding the cooperative grace leading up to the new birth. But then he's also going to draw from the Reformation tradition in order to see regeneration as well as justification as and good examples of free grace gifts that come from God alone.

 

And so this leading conjunction in Wesley's theology can be expressed in terms of of faith and holy love, where pardon is viewed as leading to participation and where faith alone aims at holy living. These are also important conjunctions in Wesley's theology. Yes, like the reformers, Wesley underscored regenerate justification by faith alone. But he continued the Reformation and said Regeneration by grace through faith alone. And so both both of these were received as species of free grace. Okay. And but then, on the other hand, by means of his doctrine of regeneration, of the new birth. Wesley is going to underscore the importance of holy living, the importance of holy living, just as you know, the broader Catholic traditions had done. So Wesley, like a good Protestant, is stressing where born of God by grace through faith alone, but resonating with the broader Catholic traditions, He's arguing the importance of holy living or the ongoing ness of sanctification. And so Wesley is drawing a number of these conjunctions together. Albert outlawed the laid out, but Outlaw summarized all of these elements in a very pithy phrase, representing the diversity of the traditions. And this is what he wrote, quote, Faith alone. Okay, there's your Protestant emphasis, faith alone, working by love, aimed at holy living, aimed at holy living. There's your Catholic tradition. So faith alone, working by love, Faith working by love, aiming at holy living. Aiming at the life of holiness, the life of sanctification. Now the new birth is a necessary change. It's a necessary change. And so, just as John Wesley linked the doctrines of justification and regeneration, so did his link regeneration with the doctrine of. Now, this may come as a little surprise to you. The doctrine of original sin, in other words, as justification and the new birth are the foundation of the Christian life.

 

So too is the doctrine of original sin. The foundation of the new Birth. Wesley is going to see a strong relation between original sin and the new birth. For example, if we take a look at his sermon, The New Birth, which was produced in 1760, this is what Wesley wrote. Listen to this language quote. This, then, is the foundation of the new birth, the entire corruption of our nature. Hence it is that being born in sin. We must be born again. Everyone that is born of a woman must be born of the Spirit of God. So what is Wesley doing here? He's saying, having been steeped in sins, meaning original sin. We must be born again. And that is a very strong connection that Wesley will draw in his theology. It's almost like a problem solution. If the problem is sin, then the solution is the new birth. If the problem is original sin, then its solution is we must be born again. And a few years earlier, Wesley affirmed this same linkage. But this time he here employed the specific language of regeneration, indicating, at least in this context, that he used the words, the phrases, the new birth and regeneration interchangeably. Quote. And as the corruption of our nature evidences the absolute necessity of regeneration. So the necessity of regeneration proves the corruption of our nature. Okay. And so Wesley, once again, is seeing an important linkage here elsewhere. Wesley adds on this theme, Know your disease. Know your disease. Meaning original sin. No, your cure. You were born in sin. Therefore you must be born again. That is, if the problem of original sin were mispriced or even outright repudiated, then the solution of the new birth would be mispriced as well.

 

Okay. And so Wesley is seeing a strong connection, a strong relation between original sin and a new birth. Now, watch this. If we don't understand the problem, a right meaning original sin, then we won't understand the solution that is the new birth properly as well. And you already know, because in this course we've explored the extensiveness, the height, the breadth, the depth of original sin. You know how extensive it is in Wesley's theology, how great a thing he saw it to be. That means then, that the solution to that. In other words, the problem of original sin can be nothing less than the supernatural work of God. In other words, a little more education is not going to solve the problem. A little more moral discipline is not going to solve the problem because the problem is so extensive and thorough and it is the problem of corruption and having been steeped in sins. Therefore, we must be born again. We must be born again. And that is a supernatural work. And so nature cannot solve the problem of original sin. There must be the work of God, the work of God, the supernatural work of God in our lives, the giving of the Holy Spirit tabernacle ing in us. Transforming us in our being. Making us. Making us new. Okay. And so Wesley underscores in several places the necessity of the new birth. And he pointed out that if justification were separated from regeneration, as if the forgiveness of sins could possibly be received apart from a renewal, then even if all your past sins were now forgiven, you would immediately sin again. Wesley writes, Unless your heart were cleansed, unless it were created a new. And so the new birth is necessary. It is necessary for living out the Christian life, for living out the high calling to which God has called us.

 

And so Wesley repeated very similar counsel to John Walton, John Walton, in 1764, and this is what he wrote. The inward change is the one thing needful for you. You must be born again or you will never gain a uniform and lasting liberty. Okay. And so we see here for Wesley, the new birth is a necessary change. There's. There's no living the Christian life with any satisfaction without it. It's impossible to do so because we need the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit to bring the kind of liberty that's necessary in order to live the Christian life. Well, the new birth is also a vast change. It's a vast change not only a necessary change, but a vast change. In his father appeal, written in 1745, Wesley describes the new birth quote as a vast inward change. A vast in would change and as a mighty and vast change, a change from darkness to light, as well as from the power of Satan to the power of God. And so in commenting on the Gospel of John, chapter three, verse three Wesley depicts the new birth in a similar fashion as an entire change of heart as well as of life. However, this emphasis on the magnitude of the change entailed in the new birth, its entirety is perhaps expressed most clearly once again in Wesley's sermon, The New Birth, written in 1760, in which he states. Quote. From. Hence it manifestly appears. What is the nature of the new birth? It is that great change which God works in the soul when He brings it into life, when he raises it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. It is the change wrought in the whole soul by the Almighty Spirit of God.

 

When it is created a new in Christ Jesus. And so we see here in this context the totality of the change of the new birth, that it is a vast change. It is a vast change. And it's a change that is. Thorough and it is has an important beginning. It's the beginning of holiness. And so speaking in a natural way, just as when a child is born, the completeness of this work must not be mistaken for subsequent growth and maturity. So to spiritually speaking, the new birth think about this now is a complete work in the sense of its nature and integrity, a work that nevertheless admits of growth and grace. All right. Let me explain that in in other words, so you understand what's being suggested here by saying the new birth is a complete work with integrity. Let's consider natural birth. Natural birth involves a process. The child is in its mother's womb, gestation nine months. The child eventually comes forth and is thrust into the world. The child is born. Well, the birth of that child is a threshold change. It's a threshold change. It's a qualitative change. You don't say when the child is born, the child is a little bit born. No, the child is born, you know, So the child is either born or no. And the same way with the new birth, it there's a sense of completeness to it in that something new has come in to being has come in place. Now, that doesn't mean that there isn't ongoing and future growth and grace, because there is. But it it is this soul that has initially been made wholly that will grow in holiness, in degrees over time. And so the new birth, we can say, is a complete work, but yet it admits of growth and grace.

 

And that completeness has to do with the nature of the work itself. That one is born of God. You see, one is not a little bit born of God, one is born of God, but one will grow in grace and in the deeper graces over time. Again, we can look at the new birth and see it in this time as a crucial change. It's a crucial change. And so, Wesley, define saving faith, as we've seen earlier, by distinguishing it from what it is not. We saw the Via Negativa earlier and so too did Wesley explore the crucial nature of the new birth by contrasting it with a number of elements that were often mistaken for the vital Christian faith. And so, first of all, the new birth does not consist simply in holding the deposit of faith or the apostolic testimony as an opinion. That's not what is meant by the new birth. And so, as Wesley put it, orthodoxy or right opinions is at best but a very slender part of religion, if it can be allowed to be any part of it at all. Now, I grant you here, Wesley is using hyperbole. He's exaggerating, but he's trying to make a point. See, in his 18th century context, people were assuming that they were born of God because they believed the right things. In other words, they were Orthodox. They affirmed the proper teachings of the Christian faith, such as Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus rose from the dead, etc., etc. And they were concluding that they were born of God simply by holding those beliefs to be true. And Wesley is pushing back against that kind of thinking and arguing that orthodoxy or right opinions is at best but a very slender part of religion.

 

If it can be allowed to be any part of it at all. Now, it's not that Wesley is deprecating orthodoxy. He believes that latitude in Arianism or, you know, doctrinal looseness was a great curse. And so it's important to have proper teaching. However, Wesley's point, by way of exaggeration, is he wants us to move from Orthodoxy as a beginning, but to enter into the life that is, as some Wesley Scholar explained it also Khadijah to have a right heart with God, to be transformed in being in terms of the new birth, that the Christian faith is a life. It is a life. It is not simply teaching, it is a life to be lived. And Wesley very much wants to invite all of his hearers who have affirmed the basic doctrines of the Christian faith to hold them not simply in a speculative way, but to believe in Christ by grace, through faith in transformation, whereby one becomes new, one becomes born again, all things become new. And that one now has proper tempers and dispositions of the heart. One is trusting in Christ Salvific lay that which entails the transformation of being and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And so Wesley stresses the inculcation, the inculcation of holy tempers in our soul as the essence of a lively faith. That's that's always going to be his stress, the seeds of which we are, which are planted in the new birth. Wesley will underscore that this alone is the Christian religion. Wesley writes, Not this or that opinion or system of opinions, be they ever so true or ever so scriptural. And even more emphatically, Wesley contended that those who make orthodoxy, the substance, the very heart of religion, are given up to a strong delusion because the Christian faith is an invitation not simply to proper teaching, which is important, but to a life, a distinct kind of life whereby we are now in proper relation to God and the Holy Spirit is in us, empowering us to live the life towards which we are called.

 

Second, keeping in mind the simple truth that Jesus himself taught that on last a person. Is born again, he or she shall not enter the Kingdom of God. Wesley, distinguish this narrow way from the Broadway of respectable virtue and socially accepted morality that was offered from time to time, even in his own ecclesiastical context. And all of that at times trying to displace the necessity of the new birth. And so Wesley observes, Thousands do really believe that they have found a Broadway which lead us not to destruction. What danger say what dangers say they can a woman be in that is so harmless and so virtuous? What fear is there that so honest a man, one of so strict morality should miss heaven. Yet another ill guided path consisted in making the natural abilities gained by a, quote, liberal education, as Wesley put it, mistaking that for the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. And so Wesley writes in terms of that quote, Let them be ever so accomplished. In other respects, let them be ever so learned, ever so well-versed in every branch of polite literature yé ever so courteous, so humane. Yet if their eye is not fixed singly on God, they can know nothing of scriptural religion. They do not even know what Christian holiness means. What is the entrance to it? That is the new birth. And so here this language Wesley's using, it's very strong. And what he is seeing playing out in 18th century England is people are mistaking public and social virtue for the graces of regeneration. They are mistaking being liberally educated and polite for this supernatural change of the new birth. And so Wesley is is pushing back. He's pushing back against that misunderstanding. And in a note that some might suggest smacks of sarcasm, Wesley added, in terms of these well-educated, socially respectable people, they know no more of this change, meaning the new birth.

 

Then do the beasts of the field. And so you can see he could be quite pungent and quite pointed in his affirmations. Why? Because something great was at stake. We don't want to miss understand the importance, the crucial reality of the new birth. And this is the work of God in us, transforming us by grace. Third, many in the Church of England looked upon 18th century Methodism, especially with its open air preaching and its call for scriptural Christianity. They looked upon it as fanatical. And they therefore took comfort in the regular path of attendance upon the means of grace and the Lord's Supper in particular. But Westley, surprisingly enough, responded to this approach if it neglected the very heart of religion, which is holiness, by noting that, quote, Using every means of grace at every opportunity and doing all possible good to all men. Yet a man may go this far, may do all of this and be but a heathen still. What some Anglican clergy simply could not comprehend at the time was how members of the church could employ all the means of grace for years and yet lack regenerating grace. And that could be a possibility. But this presumption is precisely what method called into question. And it did so in the name of reform. It did so in the name of spreading scriptural holiness across the lands. Listen to Wesley. He again, is turning up the heat here. He's very emphatic because something important is at stake. Listen to Wesley, quote, Go to church twice a day. Go to the Lord's table every week, say ever so many prayers in private here, ever so many sermons, good sermons, excellent sermons, the best that were ever preached, read, ever so many good books.

 

Still, you must be born again. None of these things will stand in the place of the new birth. No, nor anything under heaven. Let this. Therefore, if you have not already experienced the inward work of God. Wesley writes Let this be your continual prayer. Lord, add this to all thy blessings. Let may be born again. So you can see how strong Wesley here, how strong Wesley is here, how emphatic he is on the necessity of this kind of change. On what authority is he making this claim? Not on his own authority, but on the authority of Jesus Christ, because it is Jesus Christ himself who talked about the necessity of the new birth. A new birth which must not be confused with, nor mistaken for natural elements, very natural human elements which are part of our part of our culture. And so in displaying the crucial nature of the new birth, that is in distinguishing it from holding correct correct opinions and distinguishing it from orthodoxy in practicing common, acceptable virtue and even distinguishing it from employing all the means of grace. Wesley underscored the basic gospel truth gladly received by those who knew their need that the new birth is not a natural change, one that could be brought about by human effort or design. But it is a supernatural change, a truth that was not always welcomed by a settled clergy who had grown accustomed to the habits, indeed the familiarity of the grounds of religion. Still, you must be born again. Okay, let's stop there and take some questions or comments that you might have in terms of anything we've said here in terms of this. When Wesley talks about regeneration, in terms of the fall. Yes. The conversations I think you could have with people about looking in the world around us and seeing how difficult it is to assume that people are naturally good would be an interesting place to start.

 

And then talking about the different solutions that people have proposed or tried and seeing that unless people are changed somehow, that it's pretty difficult to see how there could be ultimate change for that situation. Right. Right. You've got a number of things there. And actually, I'm going to pick up on the first thing that you've actually said. And you talked about people assuming that people are naturally good. And it's interesting that you make that observation, because just in the news this morning, I was thinking about the doctrine of original sin in light of the news and what's going on actually with public policy in terms of the state of California. I forget what city it is, but this is what they did. They're operating with a basic anthropology that we're all basically good. And therefore, they're they're loosening the laws. They're loosening the laws, especially in terms of theft. And so what they've done is that if you steal something less than it's like $987, let's just say that for the figure, it's just simply considered a misdemeanor, a slap on the hand. No really big consequences. So what do you think is going to happen when they change that law? Well, shoplifting is taking off like a rocket. And I heard this morning and this is what made me think about original said people are bringing calculators to the stores to figure out how much they can steal and still have it be considered a misdemeanor. Yes. And so what you're doing is you're operating out of a deficient anthropology. And so what are you now doing with your policy? You're increasing crime, you're increasing crime, increasing greater chaos and this sort of thing. And so this is just a small example of a deficient anthropology.

 

Okay. I think the Christian faith, one of the geniuses of the Christian faith, is that it is. Accurate. Realistic in describing human beings as we find them, not as we would want them to be. I think each one of us, if we examined our own hearts, would realize that we have a self curvature. We have what is called the carnal nature. A turning in on ourselves. That is our set point, if you will. That's the inheritance we have received from Adam, if you will, in terms of the fallen original sin. And I think if each one examined our lives, we would see that we prefer our own interests over those of others. That's the basic inclination that we have to overcome by grace. So I like the first part of your observation, and I think we need to have more helpful understandings of human beings in terms of what they actually are, what they do, in terms of what we would like them to be. Yeah, and it's helpful to think of macro solutions, but ultimately the solution is individual because as individuals change, then the large picture will change too. And that's something that we can have conversations with people about as far as regeneration, because that changes who you are, not just. Putting a different set of expectations on or anything like that, but it actually changes you. Yes, I like your emphasis here on that. It has there has to be personal change. There has to be personal change. And we've talked a lot about corporate communal change as well. And so I want to set things up this way, especially in terms of the new birth. So, I mean, we have the new birth before us, and the proper way to set this up would be personal.

 

And then we can talk about the social. Okay. Of. The way this is often set up. It's set up this way individual. And then. The social. Okay. There's actually a number of things I want to bring out here. The new birth. Where does the new birth happen? What's the location of the new birth? You know. Yes. Yes. And so it has to do with the soul. It has to do with the person. Okay. And there's a lot of theology out there today. You never get to this. You never get to this because they set it up like this. They talk about individual and social. And then they say, well, individualism, that's that's self-absorption. That's self reference. That's narcissistic. Oh, we have to reject that. So they cross that out and then they move everything over to here and they move the theology over to the corporate communal cult, you know, larger dimension. Well, if you do that, you've said bye bye to the new birth, because the new birth doesn't happen here. The new birth happens here. The new birth happens in the personal depths of our being where our soul is 50,000 fathoms deep. That's where the new birth takes place in terms of the tempers and dispositions of our heart that are now being directed rightly to a God of holy love. Okay, so the New Birth actually fleshes out the importance of personal religion, which has been deprecated in our 20th century 21st century age in the name of a social good. Okay. And once again, I'd want to respond that the way forward is both. And we want to celebrate both personal religion, not individual religion, but personal religion. And we want to underscore the importance of social religion and especially the church as the body of Christ, as the community of the saints.

 

We want to stress both. Okay. But I think the new birth as a topic, especially as we think about the nature of the kind of change that takes place, it highlights the importance of personal religion, that it's impossible to be a Christian without embracing this element of personal religion, because if Christ does not transform us at the depths dimensions of our soul in terms of our will and its various affections, how then can we say, you know, that we've been redeemed? You say, So I like where you're going with this with this question here. Yeah. And we have to look at. Part of the problem is me, too, as as as us to first. And so as we become different, yes, then we have the ability to encourage other people to do the same thing. Yes. We and being in the context of the community, that God will use us to edify others, that we will have various gifts and prisms as a result of the new birth, which whose source is the Holy Spirit. And those gifts and Christians can be a blessing to others in the church whereby we can edify each other. Yeah. Well, I think also there's on another on another part of the topic where he talks about orthodoxy, that there's also always a pendulum swing with that. And he was reacting to people who thought orthodoxy equaled relationship. You know, orthodoxy was the entirety of the Christian faith. Correct. Yeah. And I think there's other people that look at that as experience being the entirety of Christian faith, in other words, their own personal, idiosyncratic experience. Yeah. And so it needs to be both and it needs to be biblically grounded, understanding what Scripture teaches and going from that point of view, but also including the personal relationship dynamic in living that out.

 

So it needs to, in Wesley's terminology, would be both and correct. Yes. Yes. Yeah. He's going to have a balance here once again. He's going to have the balance of the personal and the social. It's going to, you know, not only personal holiness, but also social holiness. Yes, very much so. Yeah. Okay. You're good. All right, let's take a break.