Wesleyan Theology II - Lesson 9

Christian Assurance (Part 2)

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.

Kenneth J. Collins
Wesleyan Theology II
Lesson 9
Watching Now
Christian Assurance (Part 2)

2. The keeping of the commandments of God

3. Fruits of the Spirit

C. Gifts of the Spirit

D. Wesley's observations on the Gifts of the Spirit

E. Importance of the indirect witness

F. Degrees of assurance

G. Exempt cases

H. Full assurance of faith and hope

I. Assurance and doctrine of election

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 2
Lesson Transcript


We have suggested that there are two major witnesses. First, the direct witness. And then secondly, the indirect witness. The last time we left off, we were exploring the indirect witness. We started out by underscoring the importance of a rightly informed conscience. Now, secondly, another part of the indirect witness will be the keeping of the commandments of God, the keeping of the commandments of God. We can express that in other language, the keeping of the commandments of Christ, the keeping of the commandments of God. We can take a look at first John, Chapter two, verse three, to get a sense of the importance of this. Now, by this, we may be sure that we know him. Who's the hymn here? Well, it's Jesus Christ. If we obey his commandments and so we speak about the obedience of faith. The obedience of faith as a hallmark of genuine discipleship and the love of God and neighbor, as being evidenced in a very clear and practical way by obeying the commandments of Christ, by obeying the commandments of God. And this, of course, is important because, as we indicated earlier, the commandments, the moral law, is the express will of God. And therefore, we live out our faith in some sense by being obedient, by being obedient to God. We saw earlier, when we discussed the moral law that it was a copy of the Divine Mind, the form of God, as we're able to bear it. Indeed, for Wesley, Christians expressed their joy precisely in obedience, in loving God by submitting to the Divine will, not their will, but the will of God. And that is nicely fleshed out in the obedience of obeying God through the commandments. Okay. Now, sometimes Protestants have a little bit of difficulty with this.


If you talk about obeying commandments or commandment keeping, they'll tell you, well, you know, I'm under the spirit and I'm free and all of this, you'll get this language. But they're actually misunderstanding what's what's at stake here? What's at stake here? Because and here, I suppose Wesley is going to be different from Martin Luther, for example, especially in Luther's commentary on the Galatians 1535 edition, because Wesley taught very clearly the law sends me to Christ. But also Wesley taught Christ, sends me back to the law, not for justification, of course, because one is already justified by grace to faith alone. But for illumination. For illumination. And what's being suggested in this context, in terms of the indirect witness, if we're living out our Christian life by the obedience of faith, if we see that we hold the commandments of God precious in our daily walk, that is indirect evidence, indirect evidence that we are a child of God. That is indirect evidence that we are a child of God. And so such obedience is best understood in terms of the broader context of the theological virtues of faith and hope and love which themselves make up the marks or characteristics of the new birth. And so the obedience of faith is played out among the children of God, those who have been born of God. And all of this constitutes indirect evidence, indirect evidence that they are a child of God. And so in this special context, the indirect nature of this witness is most evident in a line of reasoning that says. Since one has the marks of the new birth. Therefore, one is a child of God. And so beyond the issue of conscience, beyond the issue of obeying commandments, there are the marks of the new birth.


Faith, hope and love. If one sees these marks in one's life, one might rightly conclude I must be a child of God. Since these are the marks of the new birth. As we have indicated, as we have indicated earlier, there are indications as we live out our lives, if we see the fruits of faith and hope and love. We can rightly conclude that we must be a child of God well beyond conscience, beyond keeping the commandments of God and the marks of the new birth. Wesley also appealed to the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit. What? What is the fruit of the spirit? Well, this is laid out very carefully by Paul. Love. Joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control. Okay. If we see such fruit in our lives, we may reasonably make the conclusion I must be a child of God. I must be a child of God. And so we see here the indirect nature of this witness is revealed in the logic of the following syllogism that Wesley himself affirmed as many as are led by the Spirit of God into all holy tempers and actions. And Wesley has in parentheses there, the fruit of the Spirit are the children of God. I am thus led by the Spirit of God. Therefore, notice that therefore, therefore I am a child of God. Thus, those who have the fruit of the Spirit in their lives have a measure of assurance through the indirect evidence that they are the sons and daughters of God. And so what is being suggested here by Wesley, whether we are speaking of conscience or obeying commandments or the marks of the new birth or the fruit of the spirit that we see these evidences in our lives, then we make a deduction.


We conclude indirectly that I must be a child of God. The great value of the indirect witness beyond the public display of gifts and graces that can be acknowledged by the church is that this constellation of evidences is a good indicator that one has not been deluded in affirming, for example, the reality of the direct witness of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Okay, So, you know, we speak of the two witnesses, the direct and the indirect. If we simply focused on the direct witness of the spirit, there is the danger possibly of fanaticism. But if that is conjoined with the indirect witness, such as conscience, obeying the commandments of God, the fruit of the spirit, the marks of the new birth, that shows clearly that we are not deceived in the direct witness. Then, on the other hand, if we simply stress the indirect witness, apart from the direct witness, there would also be a problem with that. The problem would be perhaps one of self-justification. Self-justification? I'm a child of God. Why? Because I'm keeping the commitments of God. Because I have the fruit of the Spirit. I see. This is the danger of self-justification. There's the danger of formalism, a very formal religion, having all the form of religion without the power thereof. The power thereof being, of course, the direct witness of the Holy Spirit. And so, once again, Wesley is going to have a nice balance here in terms of his doctrine of assurance. He is going to stress the direct witness on the one hand. Okay. Which keeps us from the shows of formal religion and self-justification. But he also stresses the indirect witness. On the other hand, that's going to keep us from the shoals of fanaticism and running off into eccentric, very eccentric forms of of religion.


Okay. So it's a balance witness, to be sure. Now, beyond this, and I think under this larger heading of the witness of the spirit, we could speak of the gifts of the spirit, the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And there, of course, is much biblical evidence in terms of the gifts of the spirit, much of it, of course, coming from the writings of the Apostle Paul. Although first, Peter does have a contribution to make as well. But here, in terms of the gifts, I'm thinking of such things as Romans chapter 12, verses six through eight. And let me just recite that I'm using the Navy here. Quote, We have different gifts according to the grace of each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith. If it is serving, then serve. If it is teaching. Then teach. If it is to encourage, then give encouragement. If it is giving, then give generously. If it is to lead, do it diligently. If it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. And so there, in his book of Romans, Paul is laying out a number of gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are given to the church for the edification of the whole. Beyond this, Paul raises the issue of the gifts of the Spirit again. In his letter to the First Corinthians Chapter 12, verses four through six, and this is what he writes. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working. But in all of them and in every one, it is the same God at work. Okay. We have been talking about unity and diversity in different contexts.


We see here in this area of gifts, there is a unity, meaning it is the same spirit who is giving. What a diversity of gifts in the church for the edification of the body. We see also in First Corinthians chapter 12 versus eight through ten. Again, I'm quoting from the. To one. There is given through the spirit a message of wisdom to another, a message of knowledge by means of the same spirit to another faith, by the same spirit to another gifts of healing, by the same spirit to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits to another, speaking in different kinds of tongues and to still another the interpretation of tongues. And so we're seeing here from this material drawn from Romans and drawn from very various parts of the first letter of Corinthians. Paul is laying out that beyond the fruit of this spirit, there are the gifts, the gifts of the spirit, and these gifts are given sovereignly by the Spirit as the spirit wills, as the spirit wills. Paul will say that clearly elsewhere. And then I wanted to lift up one last biblical evidence, piece of evidence here. And that is from first Peter. First Peter, Chapter four, verse 11. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ to Him, be the glory and the power forever and ever. Now, let's take a look at some of Wesley's observations on the gifts of the Spirit, and he makes commentary on Romans chapter 12, verse six. And this is what Wesley writes having then gifts differing according to the grace which is given us gifts are various.


Grace is one. Here again, we see that unity and diversity. The gifts are various and not every one. We all have different gifts. We don't have the same gifts, but grace is one. In other words, we know the spirit. The one spirit who is the same, who is the giver of the gifts. And so Wesley continues here in his commentary, whether it be prophecy, this considered as an extraordinary gift, is that whereby heavenly mysteries are declared to men or things to come foretold. But it seems here to mean the ordinary gift of expounding scripture. And so here Wesley is focusing on this issue of prophecy, and he's saying, well, the gift actually being described here has to do with the ordinary understanding and grappling with scripture. Okay. Let us prophesy according to the analogy of faith. Wesley Right. Saint Peter expresses it as the oracles of God, according to the general tenor of them, according to that grand scheme of doctrine which is delivered therein, touching original sin justification by faith and present inward salvation. Then in terms of First Corinthians chapter 12, verse four. Wesley has a brief comment which is helpful to us. There are diversity of gifts, but the same spirit once again, the unity in diversity. Diverse streams, but all from one fountain. And so a diversity of streams. But all of those streams coming from the one source, the one the one fountain. The one fountain. Okay. And so Wesley writes this verse speaks of the Holy Ghost, the next of Christ and the next of God, the Father. And so he has a sort of Trinitarian understanding here. Okay. Now, the thing to say the thing to say here is that the gifts of the spirit. Do we see the gifts of the spirit in our lives? Do we have the gift of teaching? Do we have the gift of prophecy? Do we have the gift of tongues or the interpretation of tongues? If we see this gift in our lives, we may conclude that we are the children of God.


In other words, we're understanding the gifts of the Spirit as part of what can be meant by the indirect witness. The indirect witness that we are the children of God. Okay. And so. We continue this conversation on the indirect witness. The pages of church history are filled with accounts of those who have claimed a special unction of the Holy Spirit, but whose actions and whose public fruit belied such an anointing on the pages of church history are filled with ad and even church pastors know of this as well, this kind of dynamic. So that says to us once again that the indirect witness is therefore necessary for the sake of balance and perspective, lest those who claim to have the direct witness of the Holy Spirit be led into error, mistaken judgment. And in the worst cases, into fanaticism. On the other hand, if only the indirect witness were affirmed by those who considered rational evidence is sufficient, in other words, a conclusion at the end of a syllogism, then we run the risk. As I noted earlier, we run the risk of works, righteousness of self-justification and even the form of religion without having the power could quickly arise. And so then to guard against these mistakes from either side. Wesley postulated what a conjoint witness, a direct witness, to be sure, but also an indirect witness. In other words, Wesley's doctrine of assurance illustrates the conjunctive style of his overall practical theology here, as elsewhere. It's a matter of both, and not either or. Now, when we speak of the doctrine of assurance and now we're speaking very largely. Wesley eventually came to realize that there are degrees of assurance. There are degrees of assurance. Now, I think this is actually one area of John Wesley's theology where he made significant changes over time that if we look at John Wesley at his evangelical conversion at Aldersgate in 1738, we see a number of understandings in place at that time.


But we're also going to see later on, especially during the 1740s, that John Wesley further clarified and corrected at points of his teaching his doctrine in terms of assurance. And he eventually came to recognize that not only are there degrees of assurance, but that one could be justified and born of God, and yet lack assurance, lack the direct witness of the spirit. And, you know, we will explore that in a moment. Okay. So the first thing I want to start out with, having described what what assurance means now, both in terms of direct and indirect, that Wesley came to an understanding of degrees of assurance. Wesley affirmed the strong association of the direct witness of the Spirit with being a son or daughter of God, or being a real Christian, as he put it throughout much of his ministry. And yet, on the other hand, as he became more pastorally sensitive and this took time, he acknowledged that the assurance that pertains to a child of God is occasionally marked by doubt and fear, that it is occasionally marked by doubt and fear. And so when we're thinking about the assurance that a child of God has someone who is, let's say, just being converted, they're justified, they're born of God, they have the direct witness of the spirit, they have the indirect witness of the spirit. That assurance is occasionally marked by doubt and fear. In other words, it's not full assurance. Full assurance would be without doubt, without fear. Okay. And so the assurance of a child of God and it'll take Wesley a little time to come to this is occasionally marked by doubt and fear, since the direct witness itself is temporarily interrupted. Not due to sin, although it could be, although it would be interrupted by sin.


But that's not his focus here. It can be ten temporally interrupted due to human existential concerns, as reflected, for example, in Wesley's important sermon heaviness through manifold temptations. What is being suggested here? Okay. What is being suggested here? Here you have a child of God. They're justified. They're born of God. They have assurance, and they're going through a very difficult time. And Wesley lays that out. What that looks like, what that looks like in his sermon, Heaviness through manifold temptations. Let's say, for example, someone you love, someone very close to you, near and dear to you has died. You will be grieving. You may not appreciate the direct witness of the spirit as you are grieving. And so Wesley is you know, he acknowledges this reality. Or let's say someone that you have known for a long time in the church, that this person, a pastor size, is and renounces Christ. I've seen this happen. I've seen this happen even among a seminary student. On fire for the Lord one day, even for the doctrine of Christian perfection, and then later on renouncing Christ and living as a pagan. I've seen it, and it's a grievous thing to bear for those who are left behind, so to speak. It's a burden, indeed. And so the direct witness may be interrupted not due to the committing of sin, but due to simply our own very human existential condition in that we are related to others in loving relationships. And those relationships can be disturbed by others. They can freely be disturbed by others. Okay. And then Wesley had to modify his understanding of assurance beyond Aldersgate because he came to realize that there are some exempt cases, meaning that there are people who are genuinely born of God.


They're justified. They're born of God, but they lack the direct witness of the Holy Spirit with their spirit that they're a child of God. Now, you already know that this is the common, not rare. This is the common privilege of a child of God. So you have to scratch your head and say, okay, what's going on here? Why don't these people, you know, have the direct witness? If it is the common privilege of the children of God? Well, Wesley is going to talk about this issue under the title of exempt cases. And so it is clear that Wesley, even after 1745, still identified, for the most part, the assurance that one sins are forgiven as an intricate part of what he calls the proper Christian faith. Not surprising. Then, in a revealing letter to his brother, Charles, written a month after the 1770 conference, John illustrates his doctrine of assurance by pointing out Point out three things here. First, there is an explicit assurance. Second, that it is the common privilege of real Christians. That's Wesley's own language. It's the common privilege of real Christians. Third, that it is the proper Christian faith which purify the heart and overcome of the world. However, Wesley recognized that in some exceptional cases, what he calls exempt cases, those who are genuinely justified and born of God and hence the children of God may lack assurance. Due to Due to what? Due to two things. The first thing due to ignorance. In other words, they do not realize that this is a promise of God. In other words, that. This has been promised to us by God in Scripture. I mean, think again of Romans chapter eight verses 1516. And so they may be ignorant that there is such a thing as the direct witness of the Holy Spirit that they're a child of God.


That may be one explanation. The second, however, and here I think Wesley was a bit ahead of himself, and that's a good thing. He recognized there is a body soul interface. There is a body soul interface. We're not disembodied souls where embodied souls. That's the best way of understanding human existence, embodied souls. And he realized that due to some sort of bodily disorder, perhaps a medical condition, perhaps due to brain chemistry, perhaps due to some malaise, where our body is out of sorts, we may not realize this direct witness of the Holy Spirit, you know, due to this bodily disorder. So in summarizing what is Wesley saying there, there is a direct witness of the Holy Spirit. It's the common privilege of the children of God. But there are exempt cases because there are the children of God who are genuinely justified in born of God, but they lack the direct witness of the Spirit due to either a ignorance of the gospel promises, especially as seen in the writings of Paul and first Peter, and then secondly, due to some sort of bodily disorder. In other words, the body is out of whack and it's it's dragging down the soul, so to speak. Certainly to a degree. Okay. The next thing to realize. And again, this is something that takes Wesley time. It takes Wesley time for him to carve this out in his practical theology, to think it through more clearly. But there are degrees of assurance. There are degrees of assurance. And you already know that in terms of a child of God. It's an assurance occasionally marked by doubt and fear. And so that is a degree of assurance. Now, there are other ways of talking about assurance in the Christian life as we grow through as we grow in grace, because as we continually receive the presence of God in our lives.


That's a good that's another name for Grace. Grace is the presence of God in our lives that we become transformed in being. We become holy. Are you know, we talked about the process of sanctification whereby we grow by degree, we become more patient, more kind, more holy. Okay. And then that leads to in Wesley's theology and the Wesley and all those salutes to entire sanctification or what he calls heart purity, what he calls hard purity and the assurance that is going to be associated with hard purity. Wesley is going to call the full assurance of faith. The full assurance of faith. Okay. And so that's where we're headed now. Wesley employed this language, this terminology of the full assurance of faith to refer to the Spirit's direct witness to the believer that their heart has been entirely sanctified. And so here what we're going to see is some parallelism. If you're thinking in terms of the Wesley Auto order salutes here, there's parallelism. We already saw the Spirit's role in terms of justification and regeneration. Now, the spirit has a role in terms of assurance, in terms of entire sanctification, and it is a direct witness. But but the witness itself now is different due to the change, the growth in grace that is taking place in the interim between justification of regeneration on the one hand and entire sanctification on the other, because the witness now is of a full assurance of faith, a direct witness of the full assurance of faith, without doubt or fear. As first John says, perfect love casts out all fear. And so this assurance is that pertains to entire sanctification is qualitatively distinct from the assurance of a child of God because it excludes all doubt and fear, since the heart has now been cleansed in Holy love.


And so as the author of the first letter of John explains here, I'm simply quoting from the first letter of John quote, There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. Wesley explored the different measures of assurance suggested in this passion. In this passage excuse me in the following manner. This is what Wesley wrote. Quote, A natural man has neither fear nor love. Remember, we talked about a natural man yesterday. We talked about someone who is not yet come to salvation, to believing there is there slumbering there asleep. The natural man has neither fear nor love. There, there asleep are not awakened. One that is awakened. Now we're thinking of one is awakened. Maybe someone in the legal state. They have fear without love. Okay. Natural, legal, evangelical. The one who is awakened. They're not slumbering anymore. But now they are marked by fear. Without love. A babe in Christ. Love and fear. See, the babe in Christ has love in fear. Wesley writes, A father in Christ. Love without fear. And so here, you know, in this typology, we see Wesley making commentary on the transition from the natural man to the one who is awakened to a babe in Christ, to a father in Christ. And we see the different levels of assurance that each has and so such that only the Father in Christ has, in assurance, has a love without fear. And so those such an assurance sometimes referred to as a player foree of faith does indeed exclude doubt and fear. Wesley notes that it is not properly an assurance of what is future, but only of what now is only of what now is. That is, it depicts not a future possibility, but once again a present reality.


And so what Wesley is suggesting here in the doctrine of assurance at the highest reaches, and here we're thinking of one who is entirely sanctified there their heart has been cleansed of inbred sin, that they have the full assurance of faith, what is called the full assurance of faith, without doubt and fear. Without doubt and fear. Now, interestingly enough, the full assurance of faith, though it is associated with Christian perfection or entire sanctification in which holy love now reigns in the heart without a rival. This is not the highest measure of assurance in Wesley's practical theology. Depending on how we understand highest. Because in reflecting on the full testimony of Scripture, Wesley also posited a different kind of witness, namely what is called the full assurance of hope. And we talked about this briefly in passing in another lecture. Here we need to focus on it in in detail that beyond the full assurance of faith. There is what is called the full assurance of hope. What is the full assurance of hope? Well, by way of contrast, the full assurance of faith relates to present pardon, as we just said, but the full assurance of hope relates to future glory. Again, the former that is the full assurance of faith is a full conviction of present pardon, without doubt, without fear. However, the full assurance of hope is an assurance of having no doubt of reigning with Christ in glory. And so here we're at a point where we can actually lay out, give the lay of the land in terms of assurance, the assurance that pertains to a child of God, occasionally marked by doubt and fear. The assurance that pertains to someone whose heart has been purified by grace through faith. The full assurance of faith.


But then we can also talk about the full assurance of hope that that person and they don't have to be entirely sanctified. It could be a person who is a child of God, justified and born of God. They this I would see is and I've looked at this carefully, this I would say as a special gift. It's a special gift that God gives to certain people in the church. I think it's rather rare. God doesn't give this gift often, but God does give this gift to some. And they know that they will be with the Lord. They know. They know that they will not fall away. They have the full assurance of hope. So it's not simply an assurance of a present reality, which would be the case for the assurance. The direct witness that pertains to a child of God or to entire sanctification. But it is an assurance of what is to come, what is to be. It has a future reference. It has a future reference. So you can see now as we lay out Wesley's doctrine of assurance, in a real sense, Wesley's teaching in this area, which is made up of both a direct and indirect witness in one sense is an answer. It is a response to the Calvinist doctrine of election and the perseverance of the Saints. In a sense, it's it's kind of Wesley's response to that. And they're moving in similar directions. That is, as believers grow in grace and as they grow in holy tempers, so too does their measure of assurance, fortified by the presence of the Holy Spirit in an abundance of grace. Mature Christians hold the faith in serene holiness and serene holiness, knowing not only that they are the adopted children of God, but also that if they remain in such salvific graces, they will be with God for all eternity.


And so Wesley's doctrine of assurance then, is a doctrine full of grace and full of comfort. Full of comfort, a comfort befitting the Saints seat. Sometimes Wesley's theology is caricatured by sometimes people outside the tradition, even sometimes by people within the tradition, having this idea that, you know, we're in one day, we're out the next, we're saved one day, we're not saved the next. And that is a distortion. That's not Wesley's understanding of the Christian life. You can see here as we pay attention to the flow of assurance that there's a deepening that's taking place over. Her time. I remember the other day and the preceding lecture, I talk about the grace of God changing us, transforming us. We are now becoming less free to send. Yes, less free to. Less free to send. Why? Because we are being more greatly conformed to the, you know, the knowledge and love of God, the imago day in which we've been created. And so what is being suggested here that as we're living out our Christian life, initially, our assurance is marked by doubt and fear. We're baby Christians. We're not we're not mature Christians. We continue in the process of sanctification. We're growing by degree, We're becoming holy, or until finally we experience perfect love. We experience the full assurance of faith that we have an assurance that we are the beloved in the present, without doubt, without fear. And then to talk about the full assurance of hope that we know in our innermost person, in our innermost person, that throughout the course of life, when we get to the end, we shall be with Christ and we shall be with God for all eternity, which is a special a special a tremendous gift. A tremendous gift indeed, not given to all the saints, to be sure, but given sovereignly by God to those to whom God chooses.


Okay, let's take some questions or comments here on anything we've said. The concept of conjunctive thinking to both end with direct witness of the Spirit in the indirect Witness of the Spirit. Yes. When you're talking about the gifts of the spirit, that would seem to be really important because in order to properly. To properly live out the gifts of the spirit that you have. It's important to rely on the inner witness of the spirit to know how to do that, because if we just do it based on our own logic and reasoning, sometimes we can misuse those gifts in a way that's almost more harmful than good. So it's important to rely on the direct witness of the spirit and the perspective of what God's showing us, to know how to exercise those in a way that's going to be helpful to people. Okay, So I hear you saying that there should be a connection, a relation between the direct witness of the spirit and then also the gifts of the spirit, lest those gifts be not properly held to the edification of the church. Okay. I think that's that's helpful. I think that that's a good observation. I think also that once again, I think we need that communal context so that where do the gifts play out? The gifts play out in the context of the church and the gifts are for and scripture is clear about this. The gifts are for the edification of the church. Okay. So it's not a matter of self investment, but it's other directed that we are given gifts like, say, for example, the gift of teaching. That gift of teaching is for the edification of the church in service to the church. And in the same way, you know, if one has another gift, the gift of prophecy, for example, that gift is for the church, the community.


So in that communal context, I mean, I would imagine that the gifts, if we genuinely have them, if this is what the spirit has given us, that will be confirmed. It will be confirmed by by others. And so there is a balance here. And, you know, we don't decide what gifts we get. The spirit sovereignly gives the gifts and we enjoy those gifts. We enjoy those presents. And when you encounter a person in the church who has been given a gift, an unction by the Holy Spirit in a particular area, for example, the gift of helps. Scripture talks about that. You know, I've seen an example of that one time in terms of a person who had this gift, and it's wonderful to see it play out. It's just, you know, that this is not natural, this is supernatural. This is a an anointing of this person, a giftedness of this person in service to edify the whole and to, you know, to to see that gift play out, you know, is just a wonderful thing. And it confirms our faith, you know, as we see the gifts of others played out in the church and and to the edification of the body of Christ. So in answer to your observation, yes, the direct witness, I think, illuminates the reception of the gifts that we have. But then also what I'm adding to that is the community itself, the community of the church, that there should be the confirmation from our brothers and sisters in the exercise of our gifts and the acknowledgment of those gifts and the confirming of them. Yeah. I have a question on the assurance topic that we ended in. You said that Wesley is saying that not every believer has full assurance of hope.


Right. Just having this feeling of assurance affect their eternity. Or lack of what? What measure of assurance are you referring to right now? Whether it's assurance of hope in living in glory. Like, say, you do have someone that really struggles with mental illness and they're constantly struggling with anxiety and doubt. Does their I know that's an exception in his case, but if I don't feel full of the assurance of hope at the moment of death, does that affect my. Eternal state. Am I still saved? Yeah. I mean, I think in terms of this would have been easier to answer if you referred to something other than the full assurance of hope. Because the full assurance of hope as a gift that that's given a special gift by God will be in place. Regardless of the circumstances of life, it'll just be in place. One knows that one will be with God in eternity. One one has that knowledge. The now, interestingly enough, and this is not a contradiction, but Wesley does right this even here at this high level of assurance, the full assurance of hope. Wesley argues that it can be lost. But here's how. He argues it can be lost through through committing a sin. So if one commit send, you know, then it is obscured. So there is no. Area of grace, of assurance that. Cannot be lost. Now, I know that sounds contradictory, and I struggle with this, too, in terms of the full assurance of hope. But I think what Wesley's trying to say here, this is truly an important assurance. That is a gift. But like any grace, it can. And this is where it's starting to sound contradictory. It can be lost. It can be lost through sin.


But, you know, I would imagine if someone had this gift, that they would indeed remain faithful, that they would remain faithful. But in terms of the vicissitudes of life, in terms of, you know, bodily disorders, I would imagine that this full assurance of hope will still be in place, that despite the fact that the body is wreaking havoc on the soul, they know that they will be with God, that that God is their ultimate end of their journey. That's that's the nature of this kind of assurance, the full assurance of hope. But did I understand correctly that you said that not every believer has that or is given that right? Right. No, This is a special gift. Not everyone knows that they will be with God for eternity. In other words, in Wesley's theology. There's not a grace from which one cannot fall. And so even those even those who are perfected in love, let's say someone who is entirely sanctified, so they're free from the guilt of sin in terms of justification. They're free from the power and dominion of sin in terms of the new birth. But they're also free from the being of sin, in terms of the carnal nature, in terms of original sin, that that impurity within has been cleansed. Even those folk as high as grace and assurance that this is because they have assurance without doubt and fear. You can fall from that grace. You can fall from that grace. Wesley thought at one time you couldn't, but then he realized you could. And not only could you fall from that high grace, but you could fall everlastingly so in other words, fall and reject God's gracious offer in Jesus Christ and be lost. You know, so in Wesleyan theology, there is this possibility of rejecting God and rejecting God's gift at a later point in time.


There is that possibility. What does he do then with the scripture about nothing can separate us from the love of God. Yeah, and that's an important scripture, of course. What can separate us from the love of God is sin. That's precisely what sin is. Sin is a separation and an alienation from God. And so if, for example, we have a believer who is justified, born of God and they're walking in the obedience of faith and walking in grace through faith, they can disrupt that relationship, sever that relationship through sin of the high hand, through through adultery, through some other sin, and break break faith with God and become unholy once more. You know, that that Leslie acknowledged that possibility, and it could be that they will remain in that unholy state. In other words, let me tell you a story. This this, this actually will illustrate this. And you can check this for yourself because it's in the book by Philip Yancey. You ever hear that name? Philip Yancey. He wrote a book entitled What's So Amazing About Grace? And in that book, he he has a story that he tells and I'm sort of paraphrasing here, but I can give you the the basic the basic thrust of the story. And it's a true story. It's a true story. He had a friend who comes up to him and says, Hey, Phil, you know, I'm thinking about divorcing, marry and marrying Jane. And then after I do that, then I'm going to repent. And, you know, yeah, this is what he said. This is what he said to me. I'm going to divorce my wife, Mary. I'm going to marry Jane. And then after I marry Jane, at that point, I'm going to repent and then I'll get back.


And so this is what he presented to Philip Yancey. And I don't know, I thought I'd have to go back and read it again. I thought Philip Nancy's response was not as strong as I would have give it, because if I had a friend who came up to me and they posed that to me, my first response to them would have been, Are you crazy? Are you crazy? Are you crazy to presume upon the grace of God? And not only that, but you are assuming that when you go through this, the committal of a grievous sin, that you're going to be the same person afterwards that you are right now. And that's a false assumption, because here is what this person forgot. Sin doesn't leave us where we are. Sin changes us. It transforms us. It's stupefied. It makes us less aware and even to desire the knowledge and love of God. Okay, let me continue the story. What happens? So this guy, we'll call him Pete. Pete goes ahead. He divorces Mary marries Jane. Okay. He's living his life. And then Yancy runs up to him again, you know, several months later, many, many, many months later. And so he goes, you know. Hey, Pete. How you doing? Oh, yeah. And you doing fine. And how are you and your wife, Jane? Do it all. Yeah. Yeah, we're doing fine. Oh, how's church? Oh. Oh, we don't get to church much any more. We're so busy now. Do you hear it? Do you hear it? He's fallen away. He really has fallen away. This person. He thought he was going to be the same person after committing this grievous sin that it was before committing it. Not realizing that sin changes us, transform us.


And so this is very troubling. I'm not worried about the students who come into my office and their consciences are on fire. I can help those people. I can help them. I genuinely can with good spiritual counseling, I can direct them to the grace of God. The people I'm worried about never make it to my office. They never come. Because they don't see the need to come because now they have been hardened in their sin and they are lukewarm now in terms of God and the things of God. And you know what Jesus said about the lukewarm. And so, you know, this is very serious business that we're talking about. And because we're talking about sin and we need to recognize in the church that, you know, sin changes us and transforms us. I think here here's here's my pastoral counsel, my best pastoral counseling, if if someone has broken faith with God. Okay, in the course of the day, you know, they're going along. They've been living faithful, but all of a sudden, boom. They've broken faith with God and they know it. They're alienated from God. Now they have guilt in their conscience. Get that right before your head hits the pillow. Get it right before your head hits the pillow. Yes, absolutely. Because if not, what are we talking about? We're talking about the ongoing committal of sin, the committing of sin, ongoing thee so in the life. And that is a terribly dangerous thing. And someone needs to shout that out. That's a terribly dangerous way to live because you may become so dim down, dumbed down in your sin. You won't even care about salvation anymore. You won't even care about it. You care about your friends. You care about being popular.


You'll care about looking good. You'll care about all these other little idols that at the end of the day, don't count. Yeah. Yeah. So this is a serious topic. Very serious indeed. You got something? If I may. Yes. 40 years in a culture of works based religion and based on fear and fulfilling duties that are never enough. It's extremely hard for people coming into faith who don't have a lot of tools to put things together. It takes a long time, if ever, very often. But as for discipling, it's a big revelation to come to a place where the possibility of assurance even exists. Right. And part of this, as I'm listening, I'm referencing past experience with people in that situation, too, where this could sound pretty subjective. Things being based on my feelings and my response has often been with passages like in Romans 829 to 30, where I go back there myself, sometimes there aren't any loopholes in God's promises. He keeps us. He embraces us. How do you answer? I mean, you've not you're not hearing anything new from me, but Romans 829 and 30 from in everything own glorification with those who love him called according to his purpose. Yes. Mm hmm. But just don't think of any loopholes in that chain of events. Meaning? Are you suggesting that. Meaning that if that a believer cannot fall away. If I could, I would. Is that know? Is that what you're suggesting? That a believer could not fall away? Yeah. So when obviously you know where I'm coming, right? Yeah. So we obviously are coming out of different theological traditions. And John Wesley, he, as in our many will. Teach that. And he believes he's being faithful to Scripture when he does so.


And he'll quote other scriptures beyond that. That one who is genuinely born of God are genuine. They've been offered salvation. They've received that, that they can fall away. They can fall away and fall away to their loss. And it gets back to what I was saying earlier. Wesley does not assume that you're born of God, that you're the elect. Okay. That to be the elect is to be born of God, to be sure. No one doubts that that's what election means. If you're elect, you're born of God. But Wesley doesn't assume if you're born of God, you are the elect. Because those are different things. You can be born of God and not be the elect. And that will be revealed over the course of your life that you are not actually the elect, though you were generally born of God. And the strength of Wesley's view is that it causes us all in the church to take the committing of sin very seriously because there is the possibility of falling away, becoming hardened by what is called what Scripture calls the deceitfulness of sin, the deceitfulness of sin. And so all those counsels and cautions, I think, have to play out in the church. We need to be talking about this. I think the danger on the other side, as Wesley's looking at it, is one of presumption that you are presuming that you are a child of God because you've had an experience over here. But the question Wesley is going to ask you continually, what are you today? What are you today, by God's grace? Now, granted, you know, wonderful things can happen over here. Point X, let's say, in our conversion, that sort of thing. And those are wonderful. But what counts is what are you today and how are you receiving the grace of God? You know, say that, that sort of thing.


So, you know, Wesley doesn't deny that there are and elect Wesley doesn't deny that they cannot be lost. That's by definition what we mean by the elect. It's just that we who are working at our salvation in fear and trembling, we don't know who the elect are. We may know we're justified in Born of God, but we have. So what's Wesley's answer? It's exactly what we've been talking about. We have degrees of assurance. Degrees of assurance. Now, that full assurance of hope is starting to look like Calvinist election. It's starting to look like God, as is giving a special gift to some to let them know that, Hey, you are the elect and you will be with me from all he for all eternity. But that is that's rare. That's a special gift given to some. For whatever reason, God is sovereign. But for most Christians it will be the assurance that starts the Christian life occasionally marked by doubt and fear the growth in degrees of assurance over time, until one has the full assurance of faith which comes in terms of entire sanctification. And that person knows that they are a child of God, without doubt, without fear. But it's a present understanding what they will be in the future. Well, you know, we hope that they will continue to walk by grace through faith. And I would argue that precisely those people, because they have experience, let's say, decades upon decades of Christian discipleship, their likelihood of falling away is approaching zero. It is. I can say that as a good amen. Yes. Because Christian discipleship makes a difference. The tempers and dispositions of their heart have been transformed by grace. They hate sin, they love God. They don't want to offend this God who has been so gracious to them in their lives.


And I think if there ever worsened repentance would almost be immediate because they realize they have grieved this one they so loved. Okay, So yes, we have different theological traditions here represented, but I think there is still some commonality here because. With the Wesleyan view of an increasing assurance and certainly with the full assurance of hope. Some of that is looking like Calvinist selection and the kind of strength and confidence that believers can have, you know, that that they're not going to fall away. Yeah.