Wesleyan Theology II - Lesson 7

Wesley on Regeneration (Part 2)

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.

Kenneth J. Collins
Wesleyan Theology II
Lesson 7
Watching Now
Wesley on Regeneration (Part 2)

II. Defining Regeneration [Grayed out because continued from previous lecture]

D. Temporal elements of the new birth

E. New birth as liberating change

1. Three marks of the new birth are faith, hope and love

2. Wesley defines sin as a willful transgression of a known law of God

F. Freedom to love God and neighbor

1. Obedience of faith

2. Freedom to love God and neighbor

3. Love is the greatest mark of a child of God

III. Questions and Answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wesleyan Theology II
Dr. Ken Collins
Wesley on Regeneration (Part 2)
Lesson Transcript


Yes. So we're continuing our conversation, discussion that we've been having in terms of the new birth. And I'd like to continue that conversation by focusing on the temporal elements involved with this reception of Grace. And perhaps Wesley's favorite way of underscoring the crucial nature of the new birth was to actually distinguish it from the larger process of sanctification and then to demonstrate quite clearly the significance of its temporal elements. For example, in his treatise on Original Sin, which was produced in 1756, Wesley notes, quote, But regeneration is not gaining habits of holiness. It is quite a different thing. It is not a natural but a supernatural change and is just as different from the gradual gaining habits as a child. Being born into the world is from his growing up into a man. End of quote. So you see here, Wesley is beginning the discussion of the temporal elements and he continues that the new birth is the beginning. It is the beginning of sanctification. It is not the entirety of it. And so Wesley here is distinguishing regeneration from the process of sanctification. And since he did so, then he must also have considered by way of corollary, that the new birth itself would be a decisive, instantaneous event. And this is precisely what is found throughout his writings. Thus, in a letter to John Downes, which Wesley drafted in 1759, he not only underscores the supernatural flavor of this work, which is a commonplace by now, but he also indicates something of the temporal elements involved. We do believe regeneration or in plain English, the new birth to be as miraculous or supernatural a work now as it was 1700 years ago. We likewise believe that the spiritual life which commences when we are born again, must, in the nature of the thing, have a first moment as well as the natural.


And so the relation that holds between natural birth and maturation is similar to the relation that holds between the new birth and sanctification. That is, Wesley is attentive to the crisis of the new birth, the instantaneous, the miraculous element as well as to the process of sanctification, the gradual element. Take, for example, consider natural birth that the child is in its mother's womb for a period of time. That is process, but it's not all process because there finally comes a point and it is a point when the child is born. In the same way, there can be a process leading up to the new birth. But the new birth itself, according to Wesley, is a is an instantaneous event, meaning that it marks a crucial change, a genuine before and after a qualitative degree of grace of the transition from holiness to holiness. Now, of course, after one is born of God, there is ongoing. There is the ongoing process of sanctification and co-operative grace, to be sure. And so we have to understand these temporal elements properly. And sometimes they are misconstrued, misconstrued. And so the problem with many recent interpretations of Wesley's thought on this score is that when they look at the instantaneous motif, they conceive the language of moment and instant and the like, simply in a chronological way. While Wesley also employs this terminology, more importantly in a so teria logical way. In other words, this language highlights not human response over time, but the graciousness and efficacy of divine initiative, which must be received first before there can be any appropriate response. And so the instantaneous elements of Wesley's order salutes are his principal vehicles for underscoring the crucial truth that it is God, not humanity, who both forgives sins and makes holy and makes holy temporal elements, simply put, indicate so teria logical roles.


And so the instantaneous elements, the fact that Wesley is stressing that the new birth is an instantaneous, so cheery, logical event. This is highlighting the divine sovereign role, meaning that we don't have to be or do something else first in order to be born of God. And so that instantaneous element is understood not in simply a chronological way, but it highlights the divine sovereign role here, that God is the giver of the gift of the new birth, which is received graciously by grace, through faith alone. Now. Having explored these many senses, we have to consider the new birth as a liberating change. It is a liberating change, and indeed it is what I am calling the second liberty of the Gospel. Just as we talked about the first liberty of the gospel in terms of justification, that is freedom from the guilt of sin. We are going to speak of the second liberty of the gospel in terms of regeneration, and it's going to have to do with freedom from the power and dominion of sin. And so when Wesley sought to give greater precision to his understanding of the new birth, he employed three marks or traits that distinguished this measure of grace from others. And so what are the marks of the new birth? And by the way, Wesley has a sermon exactly with that title, The Marks of the New Birth. What are the marks of the new birth? They are three. Faith, hope and love. Does that sound familiar? Yes, it should. They are the theological virtues. The theological virtues of faith, hope and love. Now, concerning that first mark of the new birth, that is faith. Faith here. And you should realize this now. It's not only an assent to divine truth, but it is also what is it also a confidence in the mercy of God through Jesus Christ.


And so once again, it's a both. And it's not only an assent, but it's also a confidence, a trust that we have in God through Christ. And so we see a new emphasis emerging in His comments that a fruit of this faith through which one is born again and which cannot be separated from it, is freedom from the power of sin. Here's what Wesley writes quote, Power over outward sin of every kind and over every evil word and work and over inward sin. End of quote. And so we can see here, Wesley is beginning to fill out just what this liberty entails. And this is the second great liberty of the gospel. And one both taught and preached by John Wesley for much of his career. And indeed, judging from some of the evidence that we find in his journal, we can conclude that this teaching was perhaps first communicated to Wesley by the young Moravian named Peter Burleigh, who maintained that one of the salient fruits of saving faith was dominion over sin. Actually, interestingly enough, Peter Burleigh taught Wesley that there are two fruits that ever are associated with saving faith, and he expressed it in terms of happiness received from a sense of forgiveness and holiness, in terms of the invigorating presence of the Holy Spirit. The first relating to justification, the second relating to the new birth. And so it is this whole issue of holiness that is before us with regeneration, holiness or initial sanctification. Now, in order not to Miss misconstrue Wesley's doctrine on this crucial issue of sin and grace, we must, first of all, understand precisely what Wesley meant by sin. And here is where some Christian traditions can talk past each other. And that's why early on in this course, I defined Wesley's definition of sin.


I'm going to state it right now once again to remind you of it, because I'm going to talk about the liberty that's entailed with respect to the new birth in light of this definition of sin. Okay. So, Wesley, as you recall, he wrote a letter to Mrs. Bennis in 1772, and he basically, in that letter, laid out his working definition of sin. And so we'll get that on the table so that we can understand properly what Wesley is saying in terms of this important mark of the new birth faith. Okay. All right. Here's here's the excerpt from. A letter, quote, Nothing is seen, strictly speaking, but a voluntary transgression of a known law of God. Therefore, every voluntary breach of the law of love is sin and nothing else. If we speak properly to strain the matter, Father Wesley writes, is only to make way for Calvinism. There may be 10,000 wandering thoughts and forgetful intervals without any breach of love, though not without transgressing the Dharmic law. But Calvinists would fain confound them together. So Wesley's being a little polemical here. What? Let me put it in other words, and perhaps more ecumenical words in the 21st century. And I think he's pointing out to genuine difference that a Calvinist understanding of sin would be any violation of a known law of God, whether willful or not, it said. Know, I mean, and that's the sin, the definition of sin that the Old Testament uses. We see that very clearly in Leviticus with respect to the sacrifices, etc.. But that's not that's what Wesley would call sin, improperly speaking. Sin, properly speaking, would be a willful violation of a known law of God. To refresh your memory here, and that's Wesley's understanding of sin.


And that willful violation could be inward or outward. It could be a sin of omission commission. I mean, it can take various forms, as we discussed earlier, when we think about actual sins. Wesley prefers his definition of sin because it makes sense of the first letter of John. It makes sense of Romans 6 to 8, because if you use the other definition of sin, what Wesley calls sin, improperly speaking, you have to ask yourself who could be so free, Who could be so free that they wouldn't commit any violation of a no law of God, whether willful or not. For Wesley, that would be an impossibility. No. One, because you're talking about perfect performance, perfect judgment, perfect performance, imperfect judgment. And who can have that? And so Wesley's definition of sin is more crop down, so to speak. It is only a willful violation of a known law of God from which we could be free. In other words, in which we can reasonably expected to be free by the grace of God. Okay, so we've got that on the table then. So all unwitting mistakes and errors, though they are transgressions against the law of God are not sins. Properly speaking, according to Wesley, if willful intent is lacking. Okay. And so we have to keep that in mind, especially when you're going to hear now the kind of freedom that Wesley is going to describe with respect to the new birth. Okay. Now, when some of Wesley's contemporaries heard of the great liberty of the children of God, as Wesley preached it, especially in terms of freedom from the power of sin, they balked, they balked, and they offered a number of qualifications to Wesley's teaching. One such qualification took the form that a Christian believer.


In other words, someone who is born of God is not one who does not commit sin, but one who does not commit sin habitually. Okay. However, you know, Wesley read that criticism, but then Wesley pushed back. He took exception to the addition of the word habitually, which he judged to be engaging in an evasion. And so in his sermon, the marks of the new birth, Wesley questioned his detractors, no doubt with some measure of exasperation. And so this is what Wesley wrote, quote, But some men will say true whosoever is born of God does not commit sin habitually. Habitually. Whence is that? I read it not. It is not written in the book. God plainly say it. He does not commit sin and thou hast habitually. Okay. Well, Wesley reasoned along the following lines in this area. But if you would hence infer that all Christians do and must commit sin as long as they live, this consequence we utterly deny. It will never follow from these premises. Okay. So what's going on here? Wesley is actually preaching. He's going in different venues in England at the time. He's proclaiming a liberty of the gospel in terms of the new birth. One of the marks of the new birth being faith. Faith, which sets us free from the power and dominion of sin. And he is raising up some critics who are arguing that what Scripture is saying can only refer to habitual sin, not the committing of sin. Wesley then offers another response to his critics. This is a very pungent one, and this happens in 1756 when he responded to one of his critics by exploring the example of a drunkard who maintained that the state of his soul was well, since he was not drunk continually.


And so in a letter to William Dodd here what Wesley writes, quote, I tell my neighbor here, William, you are a child of the devil, for you commit sin. You was drunk yesterday. No, sir, says the man. I do not live or continue in sin, which Mr. Dodd says is the true meaning of the text. I am not drunk continually, but only now and then. Once in a fortnight or once a month. Shall I tell him he is in the highway to heaven or to hell? I think he is in the high road to destruction. And that if I tell him otherwise, his blood will be upon my head. And so here we see Wesley is engaging the criticism forthrightly. And by the way, a fortnight is what is once every 14 days. And so this person is arguing that all is well and that he remains, you know, a proper Christian, a child of God, because he's only drunk every two weeks. And Wesley is indicating to him that his hope is ill founded, his hope is ill founded, and that if Wesley told him otherwise, his blood would be upon his head. In other words, Wesley would bear responsibility for not informing him. And so by excluding this word habitually or continually from this context, Wesley believed he was safeguarding one of the precious promises of the gospel In terms of what I'm calling, it's second great liberty that so long as the children of God abide, as they abide in the love of God and continued to walk in faith so long as the seed remains in them, Wesley writes, They will not commit sin. In other words, regenerating faith, that faith which makes us holy because its initial sanctification and willful sin.


And you know what sin is in this context? It's a willful violation of a known law of God that those are mutually exclusive in Wesley's thought. When the one appears, the other recedes and so on. You know, we see Wesley emphasizing a liberty here and the importance of holiness that we must really, truly be holy. And we must walk in grace through faith in holy love. And so now we can raise the question. Does Wesley's doctrine of sin mean that those who are born of God can never send again? Moreover, does the evidence of willful sin subsequent to the new birth indicate that one was never truly born of God? And to these questions, Wesley replied, and I'll use his own words here, and then make commentary. Here's what Wesley states quote It is plain, in fact, that those whom we cannot deny to have been truly born of God. Nevertheless, not only could but did commit sin, even gross outward sin, they did transgress. The plain known laws of God speaking or acting what they knew he had forbidden. I answer what has been long observed in this, so long as he that is born of God, keep of himself, which he is able to do by the grace of God. The wicked one touches him not. But if he keep if not himself, Wesley continues, If he abide not in the faith, he may commit sin even as another man. Okay. A second qualification comes in the form of the argument that the sons and daughters of God are only delivered from committing outward sin, but not inward sin. This claim also flies in the face of considerable evidence. For example, in 1738, in his rules of the Banned Societies. One of the questions that was posed to each person who desired membership in this special group was the following quote Has no sin inward or outward dominion over you.


You'd be asked that question every week. You go. If you went to a band meeting. What known sins have you committed this week? Has no sin inward or outward dominion over you. You'd be asked that every week, and if you committed sin, you'd have to share it with the group, the nature of it. What was the offense? Moreover, a few years later, in the conference minutes of 1744, it was affirmed by all those present that quote, Peace, joy, love, power over all outward sin and power to keep down inward sin are the immediate fruits of justifying and regenerating faith. Again, in his sermon, the marks of the new birth. Wesley states quite clearly that an immediate and constant fruit of regenerating faith is power over outward sin of every kind and over inward sin. Okay. And so I think we can see. Then we can see then it is simply contradictory to maintain for Westley that regeneration entails freedom only from the power of outward sin, such that the believer can succumb to indeed be dominated by inward sin and yet remain wholly okay. And so here we talk about sin remains, but it does not reign. And Wesley actually uses that distinction. Those careful words. Sin remains but does not reign. Let me back up a moment so you can see the point that I'm trying to communicate. When we think of actual sins, we think of actual sins both inward and outward sin. We can sin outwardly, which would be a public expression, and people can see that very clearly. But we can also sin inwardly with our minds, for example, without any outward expression at all. And so Wesley is talking about we can be free from both inward sins, the committing of inward sins and outward sins by the grace of God, by the regenerating grace of God.


And so Wesley knows that for the Christian, the carnal nature will remain so that there is sin as a principle remaining, and so that inward corruption, the carnal nature, original sin remains. This is the language, but it does not reign. So, for example, our own corrupted nature may be a temptation to pride, but we do not yield to it. And so there would be an instance where sin would remain. That is the inward corruption of pride in our hearts, but it would not reign. Or again, take the example of lust. One my sense of fear, a propensity towards lust in one's heart, but yet not yield to it and not succumb to it and not be dominated by it. And so here again we see another instance of sin remaining in the form of a carnal nature, but it not raining, in other words, not breaking out into actual sin, the committing of sin, the being dominated and yielding to this unholy temper. Okay. Now, let me also add to this, lest there be misunderstanding, and here I'm going to have to use my own words. I can't use Wesley's here. I'm going to use my own words to summarize sort of many pieces in Wesley's theology in this area, too, to bring this teaching to its proper effect. And that is Wesley is not saying that a child of God will never send again. He's not saying that although they have grace available whereby they could walk in that kind of faith. But I think what he is saying is that. Open. Willful Sin. The Breaking faith with God. The sin of the high hand, so to speak. Knowing the will of God. And yet rejecting the will of God. Doing our own lust and desires.


That should be the grave exception in the Christian life rather than the rule. Okay. I think that's the best way to express it. Wesley, not saying that, you know, it's a child who is born of God. If they sent over here and they have to repent that then they were never really born of God. No, they were born of God. They just have backed away from those graces to do their own sinful, selfish well, and therefore they need to be restored. But they have grace sufficient to walk in faith, in trust, whereby they can walk in this freedom from the power and dominion of sin. And that really should mark the Christian life, that kind of liberty, that kind of freedom, that kind of freedom. Okay. You know, in contemporary setting in the 21st century, I hear very pessimistic theologies out there. I hear theologies that say, oh, we sin in thought, word and deed every day. Well, it depends what your definition of sin is there, first of all. But if you're saying we sin in thought, word and deed every day, you may let down your guard because you may not see the optimism of grace, but be more directed towards the pessimism of nature and may be overcome with very serious sin. And so and then sometimes I hear people say, Oh, we're only human. You know, we're only human. And without once ever naming the grace of God. And so you have to understand that the very reason why, you know, the Methodists were raised up, as Wesley indicates, was to spread scriptural holiness across the land. This is at the heart of what holiness is, meaning that the quote unquote, normal Christian life, so to speak, should be a life of holiness.


It should be a life of walking in fellowship with God in our daily existence, whereby we are transformed by the Holy Spirit with the Holy tempers of love, and that if there be sin in our lives, the committing of sin, it would be the grave exception, not the rule. I think that's the best way to summarize this. I would imagine that as people grow deeper in the graces of God, as as Christian discipleship transforms our hearts, our tempers, our dispositions, that the aversion to sin committing of sin grows stronger and stronger and the love of God and neighbor grows greater and greater. And that makes a difference as well. Another way of putting that, I think in the beginning of the Christian life, certainly as one is coming to grace, it may be difficult, it may be a struggle. I think it actually gets better as time goes on, as God's grace is received. Now, we've been talking about the new birth simply in a negative way. We've been saying that it is freedom from it is freedom from it is freedom from the power and dominion of sin. But we have to also speak in a positive way to say that the new birth or regeneration issues in freedom to freedom to love God and neighbor, a freedom to love God and neighbor. And so the utter giftedness of the new birth can be expressed in two key ways. The first, as we have just seen, entails freedom from the power or from the dominion of sin, and that is marked by the obedience of faith. See, those two words belong together. Obedience and faith. Faith. Faith lives out. Expresses itself in obedience. That that's the richness of faith. And so we speak of the obedience of faith.


Keeping the commandments of Christ. Christ said he who loves me, will keep my commandments. And thereby they avoid willful sin. Wesley writes, You can love him, meaning Christ and. Keep his commandments. Show them your love to Christ by keeping his commandments, by walking in all of his ordinances blameless. But the second, more positive expression of the new birth entails not simply this freedom from the power of sin that we have been talking about, but also the freedom to love God and neighbor. And although some Methodist theologians insist on focusing almost exclusively on this second liberty of freedom to love, Nevertheless, for Westley, a strong connection exists between freedom from sin in terms of obeying God by keeping the commandments on the one hand and freedom to love God and neighbor on the other hand. Yet another variation on the theme of Holy Love in a real sense. Such freedoms represent two sides of the same coin, so to speak, a coin forged in the rich grace of God. In other words, if one is free from the power and dominion of sin, one will be free from such things as jealousy, envy, revenge. And one is living in a way conducive to the love of God and neighbor. Having sloughed off these unholy tempers, these miserable tempers of jealousy, revenge and envy, for instance, and although there are many kinds of love, there can be no holy love of God and neighbor. Apart from the renewal of the new birth. And so when we think about what we're called to and we're called to the love of God, a neighbor, that is not a possibility. But with the new birth being in place, because with the reception of the graces of regeneration, we are empowered to love God and our neighbor as we should.


And so we can love God and our neighbor free from the power and dominion of sin so that we now enjoy that kind of freedom. You know, when you think about it, and I think Wesley is right here, when you think about it, the greatest freedom of all. Is the freedom to love God and neighbor. That is the greatest freedom. It's the greatest freedom of all that we could have. And there are so many things that can check that restrict that limit that destroy that, undermine that. And we call that sin. And so sin is an impediment. It gets in the way of the very goal that God has for us in loving God as the end of our being and loving our neighbor as ourselves. And it is through the invigorating power of regeneration, through the new birth that we are not only free from, but we are also free to. We are now free. Free indeed, Free to love God and our neighbor. And so when our neighbor advances, we don't have to feel jealous knowing that we are the beloved, that we are loved by God. And we have received that love of God in Jesus Christ. And so there is a tremendous liberty here. And once again, it has cash value. It has cash value, practical application in living out our lives. Okay. So now, as great as saving faith is and saving faith, of course, is important, it for Wesley is not the end. It's not the end. It's not the goal of religion. That honor in Wesley's practical theology is reserved for another. And to illustrate as a mark of a child of God, Wesley is going to write. Love is the greatest of all. Love is the greatest of all.


Wesley exclaims, quote, Saving faith ever points beyond itself to the love of God and neighbor. That is, Faith is instrumental to love and is ever active in love. Indeed, the expression Faith Working by Love is one of Wesley's favorites and reveals that it is a lively, not a dead or nominal faith that is associated with saving, saving grace. But perhaps the best and most lucid expression of the glory of divine love. Resonant in human hearts Tabernacle among us is found in Wesley's important sermon on Zeal, which was written late in his career in 1781. And before I read from this sermon, this excerpt, I want to set it up for you so you can engage your imagination. Wesley's using an image here. He's using a throne room. So imagine, in your mind, a great throne room. And there's a throne in the center. And what is sitting on the throne? Okay. And then what is rippling out from the throne as we go further and further out? That's the image that Wesley is working with. And here's what he writes in A Christian Believer. Love sits on the throne. Now, you know, I'm going to want to say Holy Love, because that's what Wesley means. Holy Love sits on the throne, which is erected where I raised the boy in the innermost soul. That's where it's erected. It's erected in the innermost soul, namely the love of God and the love of man. Wesley writes, which fills the whole heart and reigns without a rival. In a circle now we're rippling out in a circle near the throne Are all holy tempers, holy tempers long suffering, gentleness, meekness, goodness, fidelity, temperance. And if any other is comprised in the mind which was in Christ Jesus.


So that's the next ring. And then Wesley continues in an exterior circle, are all the works of mercy, whether to the souls or bodies of men. By these we exercise all holy tempers. By these we continually improve upon them so that all these things are a real means of grace. Although this is not commonly averted to Wesley Wright's. Okay. So in the next ring, we have all the works of mercy. In other words, serving our neighbor. And then next to. These are those that are usually termed works of piety. Reading and hearing the word public family. Private prayer. Receiving the Lord's Supper. Fasting or abstinence. Okay, so all the works of piety, we talked about those earlier. And oftentimes under the context of the means of grace. Okay. And I don't know, what does this does for your ecclesiology, your doctrine of the church. But then in a ring, even further out, lastly, there is the church dispersed all over the earth, a little emblem of which of the church universal we have in every particular Christian congregation. Wesley writes, Well, let me make a little commentary on this, because it's actually it's actually quite, quite interesting here. This is an important window on Wesley's practical theology. I remember one time I was lecturing on John Wesley at a college, and someone came up to me after the lecture, and I had cited this material and they pointed out that Works of Mercy were a head of works of piety. And what he wanted to suggest by that, that what was really important was not the change in terms of the personal dimension that we talked about earlier, but the kind of social change and the corporate and public changes that we talked about. Though I didn't say it at the time, perhaps I should have said to him, while that's true, you know, if your neighbor is hungry and you're reading the Bible, drop your Bible and feed your neighbor, you know, that makes perfect sense.


But notice, however, in this image that ahead of the works of mercy are what all those holy tempers of inward religion, long suffering, gentleness, meekness, goodness, fidelity, temperance, they have to be in place. Indeed, they will be the source out of which comes the many good works. Jesus talked about a good person doing good works just as a good tree will or good plant will bear good fruit. Okay. In the same way here. Wesley has the image and notice also that what is sitting on the throne. It is Holy love. Holy love. And where is that holy love erected? It's erected in the inmost soul. In the inmost soul. Once again, Wesley showing the importance of what personal religion. And interestingly enough, we don't get to the church, the very corporate body, until we're several rings out. As a matter of fact, that's the last thing that Wesley mentions. And some people don't like this imagery of Wesley precisely for that reason. But I think this image is fabulous. I think it's wonderful. I think Wesley got it right because we have to be transformed at the very depth of our being, the depth of our personhood. That's where God wants to touch us. It's an intimate touch. It's a circumcision, even of the heart. I mean, that's the language Scripture uses. God must touch us deeply at the throne room of our personhood, at the depth of our heart. And as Wesley says in the inmost soul, and that's precisely where God, Grace wants to transform us. And once we are transformed there. Once we are transformed there, that will ripple out. It will have consequence in what we think, in what we say, in what we do, in how we react to people, in what we desire and what we love, and what gets our attention in what we give ourselves to.


It will have consequence for all of those things. And so in this sermon, then this sermon on zeal, it is if Wesley has allowed us to peek into the throne room of his entire theological and moral enterprise and on the throne sets not doctrine, not works of mercy, however noble or valuable they may be. No love itself sits on the throne, and next to it are all those holy tempers described earlier. And it is precisely only when these elements are in place as motivating factors at the very heart of things that Wesley is then willing to consider works of mercy, piety and the like. No outward works are acceptable to him unless they spring from holy tempers. Again, though, that all those who are zealous of good works would put them in their proper place, would not imagine they can supply the want of holy tempers. Wesley writes. Therefore, all these dispositions of mind that Wesley is talking about in his sermon, in this sermon, like meekness and gentleness and long suffering, these are not beside the point. They are not a pious extravagance as how they have sometimes been referred to. No, they are absolutely necessary. They are absolutely necessary for the enjoyment of present and future happiness. To be sure, they are nothing less than the load stars of the moral and spiritual life. The key to Wesley's practical theology. And so we see then in this sermon, something quite important. We see a relation between faith and love. And the relation between faith and love is basically one of instrument and goal. The one ever points toward the other. That is, faith is in order to love. That's the point of faith. It's in order to love. It is the servant of love, the chosen instrument that not only receives the love of God in array, in an array of holy tempers, but also works by love and is energetic and efficacious in service to both God and neighbor.


And so the holy love of God so richly displayed in Jesus Christ is not only the point of it all. I mean, it's the goal of religion. It's the end or goal of religion, of a holy love of God. But it's also the very substance of the Christian faith. Okay, let's take some questions or comments you might have in terms of anything we've said here. In second Corinthians 517. It says that therefore, if any was in Christ is a new creation, the oldest come, the new one is here. The old has passed away. The new. That's right. And what's interesting is that it's in the context of a whole chapter dealing with reconciliation and how God has reconciled us to him. And our purpose is to help reconcile others to him. Yes. To be a people of reconciliation. That's correct. And and it starts out in the verses previous to that talking about how love compels us, how God's holy love compels us to not only respond to God, but also be in a place where we're calling other people to reconciliation. So that verse, which talks about being a new creation of God, is right in the middle of that passage. That's interesting. Talking about how love compels us and how God's called us to be ministers of reconciliation. Yes. No, that's that's good. I like that. And that's precisely what we need today in lots of narratives that I hear both in and outside the church. I see so few people aiming at reconciliation. They're aiming at social justice at times. But the way they define social justice does not result in reconciliation. It doesn't. It results in setting one group against another group and slinging it out in the name of justice and giving more to one than the other, whatever, and calling that justice.


But reconciliation is something different. It's something different because it is a difficult process. It's difficult because that which is dividing the two has to be rightfully addressed. And. That will be difficult work. And then on the other side of that, and there has to be the openness here. And so forgiveness is going to be entailed. There has to be the openness to sit down at the table with the one who has been your oppressor, to sit at the table with that person, to be reconciled with the sense of forgiveness and to forgive as you have been forgiven. All of that is very hard work, and I see many are not interested in doing that work today. They would rather just shout at each other name, call, feel self-righteous in terms of their name calling, but that that's not reconciliation. Reconciliation is very hard work. It's painful work. It entails the embrace of suffering. But on the other side of it, the vision is you're sitting at a table of communion. You're sitting at a table whereby you are together in communion. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I had a question about near the beginning of the lecture when you were talking about the definition of sin. Yes. And you said Westley defines it as the voluntary breach of the law, a willful violation of a known law of God. Okay. Um, how does that how do you account, then, David, in the songs, asking God to search his heart for undone sins. I mean. Yeah, we responsible for even the things that we don't know we're doing. And that's the purpose of calling to God to show us, show us those things. So yeah, I think with Wesley's definition of sin and, you know, being a willful violation of a known law of God, in light of what you said in terms of David, that.


Once we become aware, once we have knowledge of of what we have done, we become responsible and accountable. Okay. So for example, someone may have done something in the past, interacted with a person in a certain way and really thought nothing of it at the time. But then subsequently they look back upon it and perhaps they give a more serious examination to their motives and things like that. And now they feel that they've done wrong. Okay. And so at that point, you know, they need to ask God for forgiveness and to go forward. And so for Wesley, it is going to be willful. Because if it's if it's not if you say any violation of a known law of God is sin, then I don't understand the language of the first letter of John. I don't understand how we could be free where first John is talking about the liberty of a child of God, you know, expressing a kind of freedom from the power of sin there. I don't know how one could be so free because you'd have to have perfect judgment and perfect performance. I mean, just take a loose example, a very simple example of, you know, going to a grocery store and being short changed by the cashier. Now, if they did that unintentionally, Wesley would say, no sin has occurred, they're okay now. But we can look at it and say, But you've been harmed. Yes, you have been harmed. There's no doubt about that. But because the will was not engaged and they did not intend to do that, they have not committed sin. And so this issue of a willful violation of a known law of God is going to keep Wesley's understanding of sin so that it's not confused with perfect performance, because we can't have perfect performance because we're going to make mistakes out of ignorance.


We're going to make mistakes in judgment. We're going to judge some people to be better or worse than they are. And in a sense, you know, we violated that person in some degree when we think them less to be than they are. They've been diminished in our eyes in terms of our judgment. And our judgment can be wrong, you know, And when we have the light, when we realize our judgment as long is wrong, we're responsible at that time for it. So, yeah. So then would you say that we are responsible the moment we feel guilty about something? I wasn't so much focusing on the issue of guilt as illumination knowledge. You know, maybe the guilt will come later of knowledge, I think, comes first. You have the knowledge that you've done something wrong and that you've fallen short. And maybe the guilt comes right then after. But. So the key is, as we're walking with Christ is the constant examination. Well, I think I think yeah, well, I mean, there have been many both Puritans, for example, and others who have kept a daily examination of conscience in their in like a journal, a diary. They've examined the day, you know, what did I do? You know what? So there is that I think it's helpful to be mindful of what one is doing, because the whole goal is to, you know, be aware of the presence of God in our lives. And so when in our lives, we are getting a sense that we are departing from the presence of God, then I think that becomes an opportunity for caution and for proceeding carefully. So it's not a perfection of performance that's an impossibility. We can't do that because we're going to make mistakes in and we're going to have bad judgment at times.


And so Wesley's definition of sin actually makes sense of. The kind of liberties I see in the New Testament in Romans in first light of a John in the Gospel of John, talking about the kind of freedom that we have in Christ, which is precious, it really is precious. And that kind of freedom is not enjoyed outside of Christ, the kind of freedom that we enjoy in Christ. Yeah.