Wesleyan Theology II - Lesson 8

Christian Assurance (Part 1)

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.

Kenneth J. Collins
Wesleyan Theology II
Lesson 8
Watching Now
Christian Assurance (Part 1)

I. Historical Background

II. Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy

III. A Biblical Doctrine

IV. John Wesley's Teaching

A. Direct witness

1. The manner of the witness of the Holy Spirit can't be naturally comprehended

2. The witness of the Spirit is antecedent to the witness of our own spirit

3. It's a common privilege of a child of God

B. Indirect witness

1. Conscience

V. Questions and Answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wesleyan Theology II

Dr. Ken Collins


Christian Assurance (Part 1)

Lesson Transcript


Okay. We are continuing a kind of theological troika that we've started. I don't know if you've picked up on this theological troika that we began a little while ago. We started off talking about salvation, properly speaking, and we discussed we need to get the clock. We discussed the whole topic of justification. And then also after that, we explored the doctrine of the new birth regeneration. And so today, this morning, we are going to pick up the topic of Christian assurance, a Christian assurance to be assured that we're a child of God. And when you think of these three doctrines together, justification, regeneration and a measure of assurance that we're a child of God, that whole complex is what theologians would consider conversion. This is conversion. This is what it is to be called a Christian. This is what it is to be converted from sin to grace, saving grace. And so as I start out here on this topic of assurance, I'll start out with some historical background. The knowledge that one is not only forgiven, but also a child of God. See, we're actually assumed of we're actually assured of two things that our sins are forgiven and that we are the children of God. Those two constitute what the early church, the first century church recognized as Christian assurance. And as you might imagine, there are a number of classic texts. Number of classic texts for this biblically based teaching. The key one, of course, is Romans. Romans Chapter eight, verses 15 through 16. This spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are a child of God. We are the children of God. Then another writing from Paul Galatians Chapter four, verses five through eight, and then the last one that's very important on this topic is first John, two verses 12 through 14.


Now, again, filling out a little background here with the rise of the ancient heresy of mountain ism and that arose in the second century, it this movement, this heretical movement, can be described as a rigorous, a rigorous, charismatic movement that, by the way, afforded women a significant leadership role within their ministries. And two women emerged in these leadership roles, first Priscilla and then also Maximilian. Good examples of early mountaineers. Okay. Now the old Catholic Church not to be confused with the Roman Catholic Church. We're thinking here of early Christianity, which was Catholic, universal, United. This church was moving more in the direction of considering itself an institution in which office and ritual and sacraments and objective authority played a larger role. So in some sense, we have to understand Montaigne is as a reaction to this trend which is taking place in the early church. In other words, a trend towards a more institutional understanding of the church whereby you are focused on office, the office, and on the objective authority of those who hold power, especially in terms of administering the life of the church with respect to rituals and sacraments and that sort of thing. Now, if we consider by way of contrast assurance in terms of Roman Catholicism and Eastern orthodoxy, you know, we can start out by. Raising the fundamental question. Can believers know that they are the children of God justified and born of God as adopted children of God? Can believers have confidence that they are redeemed? See, that's the basic question of of assurance. And though the doctrine of Christian assurance is a biblical doctrine, as we'll see in a few moments, it has, interestingly enough, hardly been stressed by either Roman Catholicism or by Eastern orthodoxy. For example, in terms of Roman Catholicism, Emma Chung has pointed out, quote, The Catholic Church's position.


Dogma ties at the Council of Trent is that assurance is available to the individual only by God's special revelation. Such an assurance is not a normative component of God's promise of salvation. In other words, a regular aspect of God's promise of salvation. Rather, the Christian must strive for security of salvation amid the ever present possibilities of apostasy and purgatory. And so here we see this scholar, M Chung, describing the Roman Catholic view, and they really don't have a full or understanding of assurance. Certainly not in accordance with with what Paul is writing in Romans Chapter eight. I think that's that's fairly clear. Now, interestingly enough, Roman Catholics and Methodists have been in ecumenical dialog for some time, and they came together and produced what has become known as the soul. You know, coming from Seoul, South Korea, the Saw report, and this touched upon this important doctrine of Christian assurance. Now, the Seoul report more technically is known as and refers to a specific document. The grace given you in Christ, the grace given you in Christ. But oftentimes it's more simply, simply, you know, just referred to as the Soul Report. And it revealed that the experience of assurance has been a treasured feature of Methodist piety. And that clearly is the case. Methodists have stressed a doctrine of Christian assurance. In fact, John Wesley, as the father of Methodism, underscored both the direct witness of the Holy Spirit, as Paul is describing in Romans 816, but also an indirect witness, an indirect witness as well. However, in terms of Roman Catholicism, the soul the Soul report shows a market shift here away from the biblical language to a more ecclesiastical understanding of things. And so we see, for example, in Rome's view, retooling here a bit, reconfiguring what assurance means in light of their own very large doctrine of ecclesiology.


So, for example, this is what the Roman Catholics who participated in the grace given you in Christ, this is what they wrote. Quote, Catholics have an instinct for the whole and an emphasis upon the confident actions of the church as a church. The report declared. So in light of that statement. You may ask yourself the question, what then makes up the heart of assurance? So understood. First assurance now consists in the confidence that believers have as they embrace certain authoritative acts of teaching of the church. What supposedly provides the faithful with this fund of confidence is none other than the Magisterium. The Magisterium, in other words, the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church with the authority of the papacy in general, and the doctrine of infallibility in particular. And so beyond exploring Christian assurance in terms of, quote, certain authoritative acts of teaching, Rome takes up a second theme and in doing so turns once again to the usual ecclesiastical dogma that pervades practically every one of its doctrinal affirmations in this area. So assurance, so reconfigured here and in a way, by the way, that we do not find in Scripture consists in the surety of knowing that the Roman Catholic Church has a rightly ordained ministry in apostolic succession, which therefore offers valid sacraments. Okay, so. So there it is. There is the assurance. What is assurance consistent? The confidence that we have that the Roman Catholic Church has a rightly ordained ministry in apostolic succession and therefore offering valid sacraments. In other words, this is a particular statement of ecclesiology of the doctrine of the Church. And so the Roman Catholic delegation at Seoul raised the question Can the church not have a corporate assurance in terms of the liturgical actions of its ordained ministers? Again, notice that Rome has changed the very nature of the discussion.


The Methodists had begun by talking about the witness affirmed by the Apostle Paul in Romans 816. That is about what the Holy Spirit does. Rome, on the other hand, responded to this by appealing to the Well-worked teaching of the Magisterium and its preferred doctrine of the Church. However, the appeal to ecclesiology here should not displace, nor should it minimize in any way the precious and gracious role of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the assurance that God brings is far greater than what the Magisterium has to offer. To be rightly focused in this area is surely a part of what assurance is all about. In other words, I'm raising the issue in what are we in? What do we have our assurance, you say? Do we have it in God? In the Holy Spirit? Is the Holy Spirit the one who is bringing the assurance, or is it or confidence in a particular ecclesiology that our church has ministers properly ordained in an apostolic succession that goes back to the early church? Well, some of the theologians from each of these communions of faith suggested that it is a species of pride here. I'm thinking of Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox. It's a species of pride to claim that we can know that we are redeemed. Believers are instead directed to the sacramental life of the church. For each of these churches, for what assurance they may have. I would immediately have to counter that and say it is not an instance of pride to be assured by the Holy Spirit. How can the Holy Spirit create pride in. US to be assured by the Holy Spirit that we are a child of God, that our sins are forgiven and that we have been transformed in nature. Another way of saying that is that we are the beloved.


We are the blood. We can know that God doesn't leave us in the dark. God doesn't leave us in the dark. Am I? Am I not? Am I a Christian? Am I not? Do I love God or no? Am I redeemed or no, We're not left in the dark in terms of that. Because, as Paul said, the spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. That's not an instance of pride. It's not an instance of pride. It actually is an expression of the truth of the matter. The truth of the matter. Yes, indeed. We are the children of God. We are indeed the children of God. Now, of course, this is a biblical doctrine, and we've listed some of those passages. We've listed three passages earlier. Let's take a look at each one of those passages and a little more detail to fill this out. And so we take a look at first Romans 816 And this is our first affirmation that the doctrine of Christian assurance is indeed a biblical doctrine. And to fail to recognize this basic truth results in a significant loss to believers. A significant loss to believers. Indeed, no one less than the Apostle Paul clearly attested to this wonderful, wonderful gift, this precious grace that a God of holy love showers upon believers. And so Paul, in his own writings in the book of Romans, underscores the direct witness of the Holy Spirit in the following words. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Then secondly, secondly, there is Galatians four, Chapter four, verses four through five and here. Paul writes. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his son, born of a woman born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to Sonship.


And then the third passage here from Scripture, which fleshes out this doctrine of assurance that we're talking about is first John, Chapter two, verses 12 through 24. I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I am writing to you fathers because you know him, who is from the beginning. I am writing to you young men because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you know the father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him, who is from the beginning. I write to you young men, because you are strong and the word of God lives in you, you see. And so I think there once more with the first letter of John, we see clear biblical support to the doctrine of assurance that believers know that they are the children of God, that they are redeemed, that they are the beloved. Let's take a look at John Wesley's teaching in this area, I think will find it very helpful. And Wesley maintained in his own practical theology that there are two witnesses, two witnesses that make up what we normally think about in the doctrine of assurance. Okay. First of all, and this is the one we've largely been talking about, there is the direct witness, the direct witness of the Holy Spirit with our spirit. Wesley affirms that as well as you might imagine. But then Wesley also talks about an indirect witness, an indirect witness that also makes up assurance. And we'll be discussing that as well. But first, let's look at Wesley's explication of the direct witness. Wesley considered the direct witness to be an inward impression on the souls of believers. So it's an impression.


It's an impression left upon the soul of believers by the Holy Spirit who directly testifies to their spirit that they are the children of God. And so, by the terminology of inward impression, Wesley, like he likely had in mind the intimate relation of the spirit to the human soul. So here we have a relation of the Holy Spirit to the human soul, such that the Spirit reveals to the believer a divine and human harmony in holiness and love. And so there is a kind of harmony going on here in this direct witness between God and humanity. There is an accord, if you will. And so this testimony again, wrought by no one less than the Holy Spirit of God, is in its earliest degrees, not an assurance of what is to come. Rather, it is a witness to a present reality. So it's describing a present reality that today we are and we know ourselves to be the children of God. It's a present reality of having our sins forgiven. It's a present reality of knowing that we have been transformed by God's grace and have become holy. And so this testimony of adoption in its efficacy can no more be doubted Wesley Tort than the shining of the sun in its full strength. In other words, there's a clarity to this direct witness of the Holy Spirit with our spirit that we're a child of God. As such, the direct witness of the Spirit is best understood not as a species of cooperate, grace of divine and human acting, but a free grace, but a free grace through which the superintending role of the Holy Spirit as the administrator of redemption is clearly evident. In other words. Another way of expressing that the Holy Spirit sovereignly brings the gift of assurance to the believer when the Spirit wills.


It's not our timetable. It's when the spirit wills. So the spirit is sovereign here. This is a gift. This is a gift. It's a sheer, utter gift. It's a species of free grace. And indeed, many in Wesley's own age and some even in the class meetings, were not only personally moral and socially respectable, but they also evidence the fruit of the spirits in their lives. Yet they lacked, for various reasons, the direct witness of the Holy Spirit. And so the direct witness of the Holy Spirit is not under our control. The Spirit sovereignly gives it as the sheer gift that it is. The Spirit will set the timetable. And there's an immediacy to this direct witness which can prove to be baffling to some. But the spirit will witness with our spirit and believing hearts will respond to God. Abba, Father of the Father, As Paul has written now, this witness is direct or immediate in that it does not represent the conclusion of a logical arguments such as I have the fruit of the Spirit, therefore I am a child of God. In other words, that's, you know, thinking it through, making a deduction, looking at evidence, concluding, etc., etc.. No, it's more immediate. It's more direct than that. It doesn't come at the end of a process of reflection. I have the fruit of the spirit. Therefore I must be a child of God. The immediate nature of this witness, however, does not preclude the means of grace as the normal channels through which this supernatural grace is most often communicated. Indeed, as Kaan Williams pointed out in his own work, the spirit often illuminates believing hearts. As they read the Scriptures and hear the Word of God preached to them. Again, the term immediate in this context when we're thinking of the direct witness.


Certainly, as Wesley employed, it refers largely to the temporal elements of this witness indicating the importance of actualization, realization, instantiation of this grace, this gift in the warp and roof of life. Put another way, if believers if believers are actually assured of their adoption, that is, if it is no longer simply a possibility in an open and unending process, then such a direct witness, by its very nature, must be instantaneous. In other words, it must have a first moment of its realization. Otherwise, it has not been actualized. And so. The instantaneous so typical of free grace is operative here. One either has the direct witness of the Holy Spirit or no one has that has either been actualized or no. Once again, the temporal elements, the instantaneous is a window on the issue of possibility. What graces and gifts may I possibly have, but what grace and gifts do I actually have and enjoy? And so Wesley underscores the temporal element. Now, Wesley believed he saw 12 or 1300 people among the Methodists, among the people he was working with who clearly had this direct witness of the Holy Spirit in their lives. And so due to the direct communication of knowledge that makes up this witness, the usual objections to the instantaneous nature of this divine and not human work appear to be. Now, in light of what we've been saying, unfounded. And on some levels, even even confused, for how could one not be aware of the time when a direct, supernatural testimony was so graciously given? Since this witness necessarily entails what is in Intel knowledge? Knowledge. In short, it is part and parcel of the essence of the direct witness of the Holy Spirit. That Holy Spirit makes believers cognizant of the gracious work that God has done in them, that they are indeed the children of God.


And so, you know, the fact that witness, the witness of the Spirit will entail knowledge shows that the knowledge has either been communicated or now you can't fudge this. You can't fudge it. That's what's entailed in terms of the direct witness. We should also say that the direct witness can indeed arise in a communal setting, in a communal setting, within the context of the church, such as in a church service, a class meeting or a prayer group, a Bible study group. It can emerge in a number of different corporate contexts. But even though that could be the setting, Wesley nevertheless maintained that this is a private and personal, not a public witness. Because where is the witness occurring? Where is it taking place? Remember, we use that image, the sermon on zeal. It's taking place in the depths, the throne room of our heart. The spirit is witnessing to us directly in the throne room of our heart that we are the children of God. So that can happen while we're among the brethren, among the brothers and sisters. But the witness necessarily is a personal witness, and it occurs at the depths of our being whereby we know that we are a child of God, that Christ died for me, even me, and that I am a child of God. Okay. Now, it's rather interesting of in 18th century, 18th century England, many Anglican priest did not have any trouble with Wesley when he when he talked about the fruitless spirit. And no, they had no problem with that. You know, to talk about the fruitless spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness. No problem at all. Go ahead, John Wesley, Knock yourself out. But they had great difficulty when Wesley started preaching the direct witness of the spirit that, as Paul writes, the Spirit witnesses the Holy Spirit witness is with our spirit, that we're a child of God.


Then they had trouble with that, and they began to call Wesley an enthusiast and enthusiast. Now, we would translate that language today. We would call it fanatic, that Wesley is a fanatic for doing so for this sort of teaching. And though lots of people think that John Wesley was perhaps most severely criticized for his teaching of entire sanctification, and I. He was criticized for that, to be sure. But you'd be surprised at how much of the Anglican criticism of John Wesley has to do with this piece of assurance. The fact that Wesley refused to stop preaching about the direct witness of the Holy Spirit that we as the children of God, can know in some sense the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is playing upon the keys of our heart, revealing that we are the children of God, that we are forgiven, that we have been transformed in nature, and that we are the beloved. God loves us. God loves us. We are the objects of God's love. And we have received that love. And we know it. We know it. That's the point. We know it. We know we are the children of God. And so, though Wesley repeatedly affirms the reality of the witness of the Spirit, he recognized that the manner of this assurance given to believers was well beyond his comprehension. In other words, how does the Spirit directly witness to a person? Well, that's going to play out differently in different people. And there may be all sorts of psychological responses to that, which will be various. It's the same spirit, but perhaps different psychological reactions to that work of the spirit in one's life. And so Wesley said the manner of this assurance was beyond his comprehension, and he therefore referred to the agency of the Holy Spirit along these lines as a strong, though inexplicable operation.


It's an inexplicable operation. Such knowledge, Wesley maintained, was to wonderful and excellent for him, and he therefore could not attain it. The inexplicable nature of the manner of this witness. That is precisely how the Spirit bears testimony to the believing heart underscores, once again, the private nature of this work. That is, those who have this witness in themselves cannot explain it to those who lack it. They cannot explain it adequately to those who lack it. Nor is it reasonable to expect that they should ever be able to communicate this adequately in a corporate and public way. In other words, such a witness cannot be naturally comprehended and therefore cannot be readily shared from one to another. The things of the Spirit of God must be spiritually discerned. They must be spiritually discerned and realized in a participatory and personal way, an activity that bespeaks of the in affability, the mystery and the wonder of God and God's activity in our lives. The witness of the Spirit must be antecedent to the witness of our own spirit. We're now moving in the direction of the indirect witness of the Spirit. Because when we're thinking of the witness of our own spirit, that is an indirect witness. We're now no longer talking about the direct witness of the Holy Spirit. And so we see this importance here first. The direct witness, which we've carefully laid out here and now we are slowly making our way to the indirect witness, which is going to be somewhat different here, but once again seen as part of the larger teaching of of assurance. Now, before I talk about the indirect witness, we need to bring out an important teaching of Wesley's with respect to the direct witness, which may have been lost in the 21st century.


We know that this is a supernatural work that's very clear. So then the question arises in terms of the direct witness of the spirit. Is this a rare work? Is this rare? Is this given only to a few of those who are justified and born of God? Or is this witness that we've been talking about? Is it the common. Privilege of a child of God, I think. And Wesley is going to underscore that the direct witness of the Holy Spirit is the common. Not rare privilege of a child of God. And so the realization of the witness of the spirit that is happening in someone's life, it may not be dramatic, though. It will be memorable because obviously knowledge has been communicated. And so there can be all sorts of diversity, what I'm calling psychological diversity, in terms of the realization of the direct witness in one's life. It's the same spirit, but the same spirit may witness to different people in different ways that they are the children of God. Okay. Now, if you know anything about the Wesley household, it's rather interesting that Samuel Wesley, when he was on his deathbed, he's dying. He's on his deathbed and he's conversing with those around him. And John Wesley was one of the people who was around him. And some of the very last words that Samuel Wesley said on his deathbed were, quote, the inward witness son, the inward witness. This is the proof, the strongest proof of Christianity. Okay. So what does that tell us? Well, it tells us that Samuel Wesley is dying in the assurance that he is a child of God because he has the direct witness of the Holy Spirit with his spirit that he is a child of God.


And so at the time Wesley sees all this, although at that particular time and this would be, you know, early on, earlier on in his career, Wesley doesn't understand this. He doesn't understand this very clearly, the direct witness and how it's given. And and but yet his father in dying is giving testimony to the work of God in his life. In his life in in this way, in this fashion. Okay. Let me start the discussion then on the indirect witness of the spirit. The indirect witness, because there are two witnesses, not simply one, the direct witness, which we've spent a good deal of time discussing. But now we're going to raise the topic of the indirect witness. The indirect witness. And Wesley, of course, recognized as a careful pastor that a sole emphasis on the witness of the Holy Spirit, apart from the witness of our own spirit, could could easily result in fanaticism in that one might mistake the voice of God for a sinful and perverted self-will. So, for example, someone could say, you know, I have the witness of the spirit. Meanwhile, the life that they are living is not in accordance with such a witness because they are living in open sense. And so that direct witness is going to have to be seen in for balance. Here's another conjunction for balance in terms of the indirect witness of the spirit. Well, what what makes up the indirect witness of our own spirit? Well, to to prevent this kind of fanaticism, Wesley articulated a number of elements that make up the indirect witness, a kind of composite of checks and balances, if you will, that help to inform believers of the soundness of their of their assurance. And one vital element in this area was and you should know this already by participating in this course, conscience, conscience, conscience, which, according to Wesley, is not a natural faculty, but it is a supernatural faculty because it's a species of grace.


You already know that conscience is one of the faculties of privilege and grace that has been sovereignly restored by God. Okay. And so Wesley is appealing to conscience as an example. All of the indirect witness. In other words, as Paul said, Paul talked about his conscience was without offense. So if we had a conscience like Paul that was without Eve of offense, we might then conclude, Aha, I am probably a child of God. I'm likely a child of God, a son of God, a daughter of God. Now I think we have to be clear. Careful, I should say that's my word. We have to be careful about this issue of conscience, because I see this more and more today, and maybe you see it as well, that some people do not have rightly informed consciences any longer. And that's been something of a surprise for me to recognize that maybe I'm a bit naive. I think I can be naive at times. And I'm seeing now, especially in North American culture, that people talk about morals, they talk about justice, they talk about good, they talk about evil, and it's all confused. It's all very much confused. And so at times they call good evil and then they call evil good. And they're making judgments, moral judgments in terms of those distortions. That's not what we mean by conscience. And so here and I've referred to this author earlier, I'm appealing to the Roman Catholic scholar Buddha Chayefsky, who who makes a distinction between, you know, superficial or surface conscience and deep conscience. And I'm appealing here when I'm appealing to Wesley's teaching on the indirect witness to what we would call today deep conscience. In other words, that conscience that can't be lied to that end invariably is going to break through.


It's going to break through. We may lie to ourselves on the superficial level of conscience because we have a distorted conscience, not a rightly informed conscience by Scripture. But God is so merciful and gracious that deep conscience breaks through. The knowledge of that breaks through from time to time. Now the sinner can reply repressed that the sinner can reject that knowledge, but that's their business. But it's there because God does not leave us without illumination, without light, even though our conscience is maybe distorted. But for many who are sincere and who are looking to become a part of the body of Christ or who already are, their conscience works properly because it's rightly informed, it's been informed by Scripture. It's been informed by the tradition of the church. It's been informed by contemporary Christian fellowship in accountability and responsibility. Okay. So there is the need to have a rightly informed conscience. Okay. And so conscience brings to mind both the past and the present, but it also exercises judgment in accordance with a norm. And what is that norm? Again, this goes back to prevention. Grace We talked about a certain measure of the knowledge of the moral law being restored sovereignly by God in the wake of total depravity. And so God not only restores conscience as a faculty of preventive grace, but also the normative element that operates in conscience. That is a knowledge of the moral law which God gives to all people as a species of prevention. GRACE okay. And so for non-Christians, this would be the law written on their hearts, you know, established by God, given as a gift of prevention. GRACE So a good conscience, then? A good conscience, a faculty that's properly ordered emerges when a number of items are brought into play.


There must, first of all, be a proper understanding of the word of God. So we need to be in the Word of God every day. You know, we need to read Scripture every day. My own habit is to read one chapter in the New Testament every day, two chapters in the Old Testament every day. And to do that as an ongoing discipline. It's a good practice. Secondly, we must have. True knowledge of ourselves and of our hearts and lives. We have to have a realistic understanding of ourselves, of our journey, of our hearts and lives. That is a good conscience, must necessarily exclude self-deception or lying to ourselves. We can lie to ourselves at times, and that will prevent the operation of a good conscience. And so we have to be accurately informed not only in terms of Scripture, but in terms of ourselves, in terms of our true moral and spiritual condition in a very forthright and honest way. Let me give you an example of what I'm driving at. You know, we hear 12 step programs talk about people who are in denial. What does that mean to be in denial? Well, let's take the case, let's say, of an alcoholic. Denial would be to think, oh, you know, we're just like other people, you know, just so no other people can go to dinner and have a glass of wine. Oh, we're like that, too. Well, no, you're not. You're not like that. You're different. And if you don't recognize that, you're lying to yourself, you're in denial. You're denying who you really are. You're pretending to be what you're not. And that's a form of self-deception. And so denial, denying who we are. And each person has to ask this question for themselves.


You know, who am I? You know, self-knowledge is so very important. I mean, if, you know, Calvin and his institute starts out by talking about the two great avenues of knowledge, the knowledge of God, the knowledge of ourselves. Both of those are very important. Here we're talking about the knowledge of ourselves that this is going to be very helpful, especially in terms of the indirect witness, because if we are going to allow conscience to have its play, then we have to be realistic and honest in terms of who we are, in terms of who we are. And so that's that's something that's quite, quite important here. Well, let me stop there and entertain some questions or comments you might have. When we're talking about assurance. Yes. And. From a you mentioned the castle, the Roman Catholic point of view and. How they use language that's outside scripture. It seems like if we. Use scriptural terminology like perseverance and assurance and to. Talk about biblical doctrines in terms of scriptural language. It's a lot more accurate and a lot more profitable than. Using extra biblical language to do that, because when you go outside of scriptural terms, then everybody has their own definitions of those terms and so the waters get muddied. Have you found that to be true? Yeah. I mean, I you can't go wrong, first of all, with a focus on scripture. What does Scripture say about this particular theological doctrine under review? And so, you know, we've shown very carefully that in the area of assurance, there are three clear passages that describe assurance. Therefore, in our own reflections upon what assurance is in the life of the Christian believer. We certainly have to take up the teaching of Scripture there and make it a part of our own teaching as we live our lives in the church.


What I see happening in Roman Catholicism, they don't simply, of course, focus on Scripture, but they also focus on tradition with a capital T, And so in their understanding of the direct witness, they are focusing on tradition, especially as the church grew up. And eventually I think this took time to happen, eventually took on a certain ecclesiology expressed in terms of apostolic succession and apostolic succession of a monarchical bishop that would supposedly go back to the first century. And then if you have that proper ecclesiastical structure, then your sacraments, your sacraments are valid, your sacraments are valid, you know, and so they're bringing in tradition, especially ecclesiology, a particular way of understanding the church to feed into their understanding of assurance. Now, though I didn't mention it in the lecture, I'm going to mention it now, but and I've written this elsewhere because I've written I've looked at Roman Catholicism very seriously in 2017, which was the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I and fellow scholar Jerry Walls produced the book Roman, but not Catholic. What remains at stake 500 years after the Reformation? And in that book I showed, and I argued in detail the problematic nature of Rome's ecclesiology and what it does with it. We've seen already here how it's troubling because it's neglecting the biblical witness. But watch this. Watch how this ecclesiology basically separates. One Christian from another. How so? Watch this. If Rome maintains that only those sacraments are valid, which let's say the Lord's Supper, for example, that are performed by ministers who are rightly ordained by bishops in an apostolic succession that supposedly goes all the way back to Peter, then that means that Protestant ordination is invalid because it's not predicated upon apostolic succession, let's say Presbyterian ordination or Baptist ordination or Methodist ordination, for that matter.


And here's another part the sacraments that they offer. Well, at least in terms of the Lord's Supper, are not valid. And so so okay, so now we have that ecclesiastical teaching. And so what is the consequence of that ecclesiastical teaching? It is the separation of one Christian from another ongoing. So so that you are dividing the body of Christ because Protestants, according to Roman Catholic Canon law, are not welcomed to the communion table. They're not. And Roman Catholics are told not to participate in Protestant communion. So you have that kind of separation, but it comes out of the ecclesiology. And so the point I'm making now is that this larger ecclesiology which grows out of tradition, not only has consequence in terms of this issue of assurance that we've been talking about, but I think it has consequence in terms of the very gospel itself, because my understanding of the gospel and I think I'm biblically informed here, is the universal love of God manifested in Christ. Jesus outlawed neither male or female, as Paul writes, Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free. We are overcoming divisions. We are overcoming divisions because of the universal love of God. How then? How then can you offer a teaching? That divides one tradition from another and call this the gospel. To me, it makes no sense. Logically, it makes no sense. You're actually by your ecclesiology. You are undermining what Christ had come to established. What does Christ say? That the world will know that the Father sent me. How will they know? By the union that we have and our love for one another. I mean, this is speaking at the heart of what the gospel is. And so, yes, I think Rome has clearly made a mistake here in terms of assurance and has directed its counsels to ecclesiology because of its focus on tradition.


It would have been much better if Rome had focused on the biblical texts which I had named. And to realize that, you know, men and women can know and they can know today that they are the sons and daughters of the living God. And that is a precious, precious gift, because that that's a kind of gift that, again, has cast value in your life. If you know you are the beloved, you will live differently. You will live differently. Yes. When Wesley talks about the. How the direct witness of the spirit. It's the same spirit, but it's different for each person. It seems like that celebrates not only our individual. Our individuality, but also the mystery of God and how he relates to each one of us within the context of his nature. But does that in an individual way with each one of us, which is pretty amazing to think that God does that for us. Yeah, I think. Right. You rightly state that in terms of the spirit, it's the same spirit that we are all knowing. So there's the commonality right there. We are one Lord, one spirit, We all know the same spirit. So when the Spirit witness to your spirit, you're a child of God or to your spirit, it's the same spirit that is known. But how that spirit is received in our lives and how the direct witness plays out. Oh, yes, there's lots of difference there because we're different people and God has created us, you know, think of us as distinct personalities, as different. And you know what? No one can love God the way you love God. You're going to love God in a distinct way, and you're going to love God in a distinct way.


And you're going to love God in a distinct way, in a way that only you can love God. And that's a wonderful thing. That is a beautiful thing. You know, we are like, you know, the facets of a diamond or the meaning is to use an image from Teresa of, let's say, a Roman Catholic saint 19th century, talking about, you know, the many different kinds of flowers in a flower bed. Those flowers are distinct, but they each bring glory to the beholder. Who sees the beauty of them, You know, in the same way, we are distinct personalities. We worship and glorify God in a distinct way. No one can love God the way we love God, our personhood, our personality loves God. So there'll be difference there. And that's wonderful. But we know and participate in the very same spirit. It is one spirit of which we drink, so to speak. Yeah, yeah. Yes, I as you were mentioning about your book, Roman, but not Catholic. Yes, I thought of our friend of my grandmother would have been How? What offended my grandmother? Your grandmother? Was she Roman Catholic? And she. She may have thought, but maybe not. Maybe. Maybe she was biblically oriented. I do her. I'm back on its first point. And if it's not putting you on the spot and if it's not appropriate right now, just say so. But as you're talking about present day, appealing to the Magisterium indicates to me that it's that same core intransigence regarding their fundamental teachings. And to me, it sounds a bit like oil and water flow and grace. They're not systems that really mix of they don't mix just that's more of a statement. I'm curious, um, the purpose for dialog at that level.


Methodist with Catholics. Yes. Would you mind talking about that? Yeah. I mean there has been ongoing dialog. This goes back to the 20th century when the dialog in the wake of Vatican two and the dialog began in earnest between Methodists and Roman Catholics. The Saw report is one conversation in conversations that have been going on. I think it's always helpful for because I do have an ecumenical heart. I think it's always helpful when different Christian traditions sit down with one another and talk about their differences in a context that is respectful. I favor that sort of thing. And so you know that that's what's happening. There are some and you may be surprised by this, but there are some Wesleyan who are arguing, though I differ from them. They are arguing that how John Wesley understood the Lord's Supper is very, very similar to how Roman Catholics would understand the mass. And yeah, I know that's what some people are saying today. I differ from that view. I do I differ from that view that gets into some technical issues and some sources that you'd have to look in to Daniel Brant and others, and we can't do that here. But just to let you know that in the larger dialog between Roman Catholics and Methodists, there are some Methodists who think we're actually very close to Roman, Roman Catholic, Roman Catholicism, and I would think actually less than they believe, less than they believe, although there are areas of commonality, there are areas of commonality. And the chief one, I think would be stressing the importance. Of being holy, the life of sanctification, the life of holiness, and that life increasing in holiness as we mature, as we engage in Christian maturity. I mean, Roman Catholics and Methodists are going to share that same emphasis on the holy life.


And so there's there's a good basis for dialog. Yes, a very good basis for dialog.