Wesleyan Theology II - Lesson 16

Worship and the Sacraments (Part 1)

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.

Kenneth J. Collins
Wesleyan Theology II
Lesson 16
Watching Now
Worship and the Sacraments (Part 1)


A. Worship is a response to a God of holy love

B. Major elements of worship

1. Gathering

2. Welcome by the minister

3. The Word of God read and declared

4. The Word of God proclaimed

5. The Word of God received among us and in us


A. Definition of a sacrament

B. Baptism

C. Wesley considered baptism to be associated but distinct from the new birth

  • 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. 


Recommended Reading:

The Theology of John Wesley: Holy Love and the Shape of Grace, Kenneth J. Collins

John Wesley: His Life and Theology, Dr. Robert G. Tuttle, Jr.

Wesleyan Theology II

Dr. Ken Collins


Worship and the Sacraments (Part 1)

Lesson Transcript

Okay. So as was indicated, our topic today this morning is Christian worship and the sacraments. And the first thing I'd like to say in the context of worship is that worship is a response. Worship is a response. Meaning that God has already acted. God has already acted. You might hear from time to time, people say, Oh, I went to that particular church or I went to that church, Oh, and I got nothing out of it, or I got very little out of it. That tells me right away that they don't understand what Christian worship is about, because, as I just indicated, it is a response to the work that God has already done, that we acknowledge the work that God has done in Jesus Christ. And also by sending the Holy Spirit. And so our response, being mindful of all that God has done in our lives is. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. That we sing the praises of God. We celebrate God. We thank God. We glorify God because of what God has already done in our lives. And so that's the first thing I want to say about worship, that God has already acted. So there's a sense of prevention here as well. God has already acted. And when the church assembles together there, you have a wonderful communal response to the gracious work of God. Okay. And so Thanksgiving and praise are very much a part of worship. We think of Eucharist. We think of the Lord's Supper. That very word Eucharist. Eucharist, though, means Thanksgiving means Thanksgiving. And so Thanksgiving and adoration are at the heart of what we mean by worship. Now, I would like to just simply lay out some of the major elements of Christian worship as they play out in churches on Sunday mornings.


First of all, you know, there will be the gathering, the coming together. We come from, you know, diverse corners, but we assemble together. We come as a community of holy love in order to give glory to God, the one who transcends us in being in power, in glory and in love. And by coming together, we enjoy fellowship. We enjoy fellowship among ourselves and in the presence of the Holy Spirit. And so this coming together, this gathering together is very important because with fellowship, this is a preparation for encountering the word for we will encounter the Word of God in every Christian service. And so this will be a time of prayer and reflection. Then there is the welcome by the minister. The Minister, as a servant of Jesus Christ, welcomes the community of faith, the priesthood believers who are exercising different roles within the body of Christ. Okay. And so we have a minister who is leading many ministers because we take the priesthood of believers quite seriously that each one of us is called to a distinct ministry. Every person in the church has a contribution to make to the body of Christ. And so the call is to all the call is to all an invitation to worship, to worship God in spirit and in truth. And so when we think of a call to worship, especially to worship God in spirit and in truth, we think of Acts chapter seven, verses 48 through 50, in which it states. However, the most high does not live in houses made by human hands. As the Prophet says, Heaven is my. Throne and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? Says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things? And so we realize that though we are in a building, the church is an organism.


The church is literally the body of Christ. Wherever two or three are gathered in his name, there he is among them. And so we celebrate and we acknowledge the gracious presence of Christ among the community of faith. And so there is a welcoming of each other, welcoming of each other, after which we now encounter the word of God, the word of God in three forms. And you can see my order of worship that I'm suggesting here is bar ten, because it was called Bart, who talked about the Word of God in a three fold form. And here I'm thinking of the word of God as both read. We read scripture in the context of worship, both from the Old Testament and the New Testament. We might also read something from the Gospels as well as from the Epistles, and then also Old Testament readings. And so the Word of God is the context, the very atmosphere of all Christian worship. It informs everything that the church does when it is gathered together in fellowship under the Lordship of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. And so it's important that there be the public declaration, the public declaration of the Word of God in terms of both an Old Testament and a New Testament lesson. Now, with the reading of the word, with the proclamation of the word, there is a response. And that response would be one of prayer whereby we bless. We praise. We offer a Thanksgiving. Perhaps we will lift up petitions and supplications for those folk who are dear to us, who are on our heart, and we are praying for them. It might be in terms of a physical malady, it might be in terms of a spiritual struggle.


And so we respond in prayer and we intercede on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ after this declaration of the Word of God. This would be an appropriate place for the creeds and the confessions of the church. And this is, of course, very helpful to every community of faith, because it makes us realize in a very graphic way that the church existed before we all came on the scene. And the church will be here after we are all gone. And so we remember the historic witness of the church of faithful brothers and sisters who have gone on before us and have given their witness to Jesus Christ as it is reflected both in Scripture and in apostolic testimony. And so here we might have the reciting of the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Constantinople and Creed, which would show that this church in the present is in continuity with an historic witness that goes back, you know, centuries upon centuries greater than a millennium. And so this is a way in which the church demonstrates that its witness is one that is going through going through time. Then there this is an appropriate time to gather arms for those who are in need, a collection to further the ministries of the church and to serve the poor after these resources are gathered. We celebrate God in a dark psychology as we offer our gifts to God in Thanksgiving for what the most high has already done for us in Jesus Christ. At this point, we have the second form of the Word of God. We had first the word of God, Red declared. Now we have the word of God proclaimed or preaching. And so the minister will preach upon a suitable text, will offer a sermon to the congregation for its edification and reflection so that they might be deepened in their walk of faith.


Now, after the preaching, there is a response to the proclamation of the Word of God. And this can take various forms. It can be expressed in the form of music and singing. It can be expressed in terms of prayers of confession and forgiveness and reconciliation with a proclamation of assurance, the assurance of the forgiveness of sins. And then, due to God's great reconciling work, we can share the peace of Christ among ourselves. And so then we have, thirdly, the third form of the Word of God in Christian worship. Beyond the reading of the word, beyond the preaching of the word, there would be the Word of God received among us. And in us the Word of God received among us and in us. And here I'm thinking of communion. I'm thinking of the Lord's Supper, which will have an emphasis on the Lord in fellowship. In fellowship. We will celebrate the Lord who transcends the community, who is its head. And so the focus here as we celebrate the Lord's Supper is not on the objects or elements, such as the bread and the wine. Sometimes in various traditions there's mis placed attention on things whereby we know the gospel has to do with persons and with holy love and with relations. Indeed, in this course we said that the very understanding of the Christian God had involves a community of persons in relations. And so here, when we are thinking about encountering Christ in the context of worship as we participate, and that's the right word, as we participate in the Lord's Supper, here we are focused on persons. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit have called forth the community of saints, the church in fellowship and in Holy Love. And so as the Minister shares the elements of bread and wine, we together as a community, participate in the body of Christ.


We take this body into ourselves and are refreshed and nourished. We take the blood of Christ and drink it, and we are reminded of His sacrifice at Calvary. And I think at the Lord's Supper. And I've done some work in this area. I think the direction is always helpful to keep in mind. And we could understand this in two ways. One, I think an improper way. The other a proper way. We'll see if you agree with me here. I think actually the Lord's Supper, though, there are earlier anti types types and anti types in the Old Testament, for example, the Passover meal. So we see the historic Passover meal as a type. And then the Lord's Supper, you know, as you know, the reality here towards which that type pointed to. But when we look at the Old Testament Leviticus system, the direction was from the priests to God, the priest to God, the human priests to God. I mean, that's very clear in the Leviticus little vertical system. However, I think when we get to the Lord's Supper, it's a Passover meal, but a Passover meal with a difference because the father provides the Passover lamb. And so the action is from God offering the gift of his son. And the church responds. In Thanksgiving and Eucharist, though it's not a matter, at least in my understanding. It's not a matter of an earthly priest offering up to the father again, the son that the direction is different. It is from God to us. We receive. That's the right word here. My bread, which has been my body, which has been broken for you, my blood which has been shed for you. It is received. And then in receiving, we worship immediately in Thanksgiving.


Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for giving us the gift of your son. We praise your Holy name that Christ has died on the cross and has made a once and sufficient and perfect sacrifice for our sins. Glory be to your holy name. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And so that person who said they went to church and didn't get anything out of it. Once again, I think that person has a problem of the direction he or she has failed to realize what God has already done in Jesus Christ. And the Lord's Supper is that wonderful place where we celebrate. We celebrate God in Eucharist in Thanksgiving for what He has done for us in giving Jesus Christ, giving his only son. And so we are encouraged and we respond in great joy. So. A response to receiving the Lord's Supper once again can be singing, it can be testimony, it can be a proclamation. Various forms can be used here. After receiving the Lord's Supper, the body of Christ can continue to worship a God of Holy love. After this, there'll be a blessing of those who are now empowered. They are empowered to go into the world and to shine forth to the world, to offer the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And so the sending forth is very important because we are sent forth after having been fed with the body and blood of Christ. We are sent forth for a mission. We are sent forth to be the light of the world, to be the salt of the earth. Let me tell you a little story. I was sitting in Asbury Chapel one day, Asbury Seminary Chapel one day, and I was listening to the preacher that morning, and this was the basic gist of his sermon.


Nothing special about you. Nothing special about you. Nothing special about you. And then he, you know, made a three point sermon out of it, showed us that nothing special about you in three different ways. And then he sat down. Well. I left that service that morning, and I think on some level I was angry. Well, yeah, I, I was angry because the preacher sat down too soon. Don't get me wrong. Don't get me wrong. I get it. I get it. You know, we are all sinners who are saved by the grace of God. You know, we we we confront the problem of original sin, you know, the ongoing carnal nature. I get that, You know, human sin is real, but the grace of God is greater. Okay, But what he forgot to mention and why he sat down too soon. Is he forgot. What Jesus called his disciples. He said, You are the salt of the earth. You are the light, the light of the world. Yes. Yes. Because we have God in us. The Holy Spirit tabernacle ing in us, the hope of glory. We are as the body of Christ, the world's best hope. We are the face of Christ to our hurting world. And so when we go out after having received the body and blood of Christ, we are light and salt. Let us understand that we are light in the midst of so much darkness today, that darkness is almost palpable. And we are salt in a world that has become so unsavory. Okay. So let us be mindful of of these things now as we think about the early development of sacramental theology. It, of course, grew up in a context of of worship, of praise, of dark psychology, of glorifying God.


Along the lines that I've already suggested. In other words, worship is a response to what God has already done for us, both as a creator and as a redeemer. You know, if we sat down and reckoned with all of the gifts that we have as persons and starting even with our bodies, our minds, our faculties there, it would take us too long perhaps, to list everything for which we could rightly be thankful. And then in the whole area of redemption, in terms of the coming of Christ, the giving of grace, the lavish, the lavishness of grace that God showers upon us, out of his mercy, out of his love. These are wonderful things for which we can express gratitude. The father has offered the entire world the gift of his son through this precious gift. Excuse me, though. This precious gift is only received by the church in the power of the Holy Spirit as the recipient of such a blessing. And it is an enormous blessing. Such a gift. The Church, the body of Christ in the world continually responds to the Triune God through worship, through adoration, through praise and Thanksgiving. Here we see a genuine Eucharist. You know, the Greek word Eucharist. So Thanksgiving, we are continually in a state of Thanksgiving when we think of God. And so Christian sacramental liturgy then entails the worship of God, the Father, through the love of Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. The key thing to see here when we are in a context of worship is that and once again, this is in utter harmony with Wesleyan theology. God, not humanity, is the principal actor. The Church. What is the church doing? The church is receiving. The church is receiving wonderful gifts that God is showering upon the church.


And then having received the church response in its acknowledgment of having already received grace upon grace in and through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Simply put, there is a receiving before there is any responding, and the activity of responding is at the heart of what Christian worship is all about. This basic truth then shows that those who claim that they don't attend church anymore because they don't get anything out of it are so terribly mistaken and misdirected. They are not the center of worship. God is the center of worship. It doesn't all revolve around them. The I, the me, the mind, the self and the like. That's precisely the problem, I think. And so being in that self-absorption, they are oblivious, oblivious to the wonderful things that God has already done. And in the context of worship, let us name them. Let us name them through the reading of Scripture, through its proclamation and through prayer. Okay. Now, Alister McGrath, in his own work, points out the early history of the sacraments. In the following observation, this is what he writes quote, The New Testament does not make use of this specific term sacrament. Instead, we find the Greek word mysterium, which is naturally translated, especially among the Greek Orthodox, as mystery. The holy mysteries they talk about used to refer to the saving work of God in general. This Greek word is never used to refer to what would now be regarded as a sacrament, such as baptism, he writes. However, it is clear, it is clear from what we know of the history of the early church that a connection was made at an early stage between the mystery of God's saving work in Christ, McGrath continues, and the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist.


And so he's showing us the history here and the development. Okay. We use the word today's sacrament quite easily, quite glibly, perhaps not realizing that it does have a history. It does have a history. And that the New Testament does not make specific use of the word sacrament. It's something that grew up later on. But once it grows up in the life of the church, it's passed on from generation to generation. So the McGrath citation there is helpful for us to get some historical perspective. McGrath also points out the very important role that Tertullian played in terms of how the Western Church understood the sacraments and three contributions of Tertullian are significant. Okay. First, the use of the Latin term Sacramento, now familiar to us in its English form sacrament, was used to translate the Greek word mysterium. And then secondly, the use of the word sacrament in the plural. The New Testament spoke of a mystery in the singular. But now we speak of sacraments in the plural. And so, as we've just noted, Tertullian translated this as sacrament, referring to this mystery. But he also began to use the plural of the term. So we see this development with Tertullian. In other words, in the early church, beyond the first century, we began to see this change take place. And then thirdly, McGrath points out in a helpful way the exploitation of the theological significance of the parallel between sacraments and military oaths. This may come as a surprise to you, but Tertullian pointed out that in normal Latin, use the word sacrament, Tom. Meant a sacred oath, referring to the oath of allegiance and loyalty to the state that was required of Roman soldiers. So it's this word which is being brought into the church and is being and obviously being invested with new meanings, because originally it was this sacred military oath, but now it's being used to translate mysterious and singular.


It's now going to be used in the plural as sacraments and invested with new meaning. So you can see there is a transition here. There is a history to our understanding of the sacraments. Okay. Having giving that historical perspective, we should, of course, entertain. What do we mean by a sacrament? What's the definition? Well, I actually like Luther's definition of a sacrament. I think it's very helpful. He says the sacrament entails three elements. It entails three elements. There has to be a sign. There's a sign. So, for example, if we're thinking of baptism, what would be the sign? Well, it would be the water. The water itself. Then secondly, for Luther, there will be signification. Signification? What does that water signify? What does it signify? And we can fill that out theologically in terms of cleansing, renewal, washing, you know, many, many things we could do to fill that out in terms of signification. But Luther mentions a third thing, and I think this is very important that sacraments are having a sign and a signification instituted by Christ that's going to be important for Luther. They must be instituted by Christ. And that's why, you know, ultimately there will only be two, although Luther does look favorably upon penance. Perhaps I'll say more about that later. But two, these two elements of signing signification. Luther says there must be the promise. There must be promise. In other words, the promise of the gospel, the promise of the gospel. And we see that very clearly in baptism, because, you know, the going down in the water being subsumed, coming up, being renewed, a new creation, you know, being washed of one sins forgiven. It's emblematic of the promise of God to forgive our sins and to transform our nature.


And so I like Luther's basic definition of a sacrament in terms of these threefold aspects of sign signification and promise with the proviso that it has been instituted by Christ. And that's why many others in the history of the Church will not agree with Rome when she argues for seven sacraments as opposed to two, because they can't find that some of these other sacraments were instituted by Christ. And so one thinks of the anointing of the sick. For example, there's no clear referent that Christ instituted such a sacrament. Okay, So for the Lutheran tradition, they basically get to to although Luther looked favorably upon penance at one point, perhaps because he found such great comfort from it, confessing his sins to his confessor if on stop it's on, you know, in his Augustinian order. But the Lutheran tradition, by the time we get to the formula of Concord, it's and even the OG's of our confession is simply focusing on baptism and the Lord's Supper. And so a sacrament, then, generally speaking, is an outward and tangible expression of an inward grace that is received by faith. And so faith in partaking of the sacrament and in receiving the sacrament will feed upon the promises of God that are associated with the sacrament. Put another way, a sacrament is a physical expression. Through sign and signification of the gospel itself. Yes. See, we're not disembodied spirits. We are embodied souls. We are flesh and blood people. And so we take the bread and we bring it into ourselves. And it becomes a part of us now becomes a part of our body. We take Christ's blood, we drink Christ's blood. It becomes a part of us now, so intimately identified with our being through eating and through drinking.


And so sacraments are offer the gospel itself for flesh and blood human beings. The sacraments then offer none other than the good news of the gospel that can be proclaimed both verbally through preaching and declared in let turns through teaching. But it is received. The Gospel is received, in a sense, physically, in the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Okay. Now, I don't know where your theologies are in terms of this issue, but watch this. If the sacraments, for instance, baptism and the Lord's Supper, with their sign and signification and promise instituted by Christ, are none other than the Gospel. In other words, this is a way of communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do it through the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper is the Gospel tangibly expressed, if you will. And then if we have that same gospel able to be given to the assembled to the assembly through proclamation, through preaching, in other words, through a different form, is the difference between the proclamation of the Word of God in the pulpit, the proclamation of the gospel and the pulpit. Is that qualitatively different than the Gospel offered by means of bread and wine? Such that a such that one could preach, but one could not administer. See, that's a question to be raised. That's a question to be raised. Now, some traditions would say only a rightly ordained priest. They would even say priests can offer the, you know, the sacrament, the Lord's Supper of bread and wine. The Methodist tradition, of course, has used lay preachers. Lay people could ascend the pulpit and offer the gospel to the congregation. But John and especially Charles Wesley, they prohibited laypeople from administering at the table. And so I'm just raising it as a question.


You know, if the sacrament is the offering of the gospel in physical forms, whereas preaching is the offering of the gospel in verbal form, is there really a qualitative difference that suggests priest craft and perhaps even SACERDOTE holism? That's something various traditions are going to have to answer for themselves. It seems that John Wesley and Charles Wesley said there is a difference. There is a difference between proclaiming the gospel in the pulpit and proclaiming the gospel at the Table of the Lord's Supper such that only priests could officiate at the latter. Okay. And so I just raise this for your consideration. Now, when we think of baptism as the sacrament of baptism, of course, is the right of initiation. It is instituted by Christ. We see Christ's approval over what John the Baptist would was doing. Indeed, Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist. We see that approval of Jesus over that work of baptism. And this sacrament is the means by which we enter into the body of Christ. What is the sign? The sign is water. The signification is dying and rising with Christ going down into the waters and coming up again, experiencing new life. It also symbolizes cleansing the washing away of sin. Wesley's account of his own Aldersgate street conversion and experience begins in this manner. Quote, I believe till I was about ten years old, I had not send away the washing of the Holy Ghost, which was given me in baptism. Now, that's rather interesting here. Wesley's referring to baptism and he's referring it to it in a way that there is a washing. It was a washing, a washing of the Holy Ghost. And I think that's a very helpful way to understand what baptism is. Now, one question that lots of people have is that when John Wesley listed the instituted means of grace, what he listed, you know, reading the Scriptures and Prayer and the Lord's Supper and Fasting and Christian Conference, that he did not less baptism.


He did not list baptism. He he did list the Lord's Supper, but he did not list baptism under his categories of the means of grace, what we call the instituted means of grace. My sense is the reason he did not list it was because baptism is only offered once. It's only offered once. And that would be Wesley's view, clearly in his mind. Now, I know in some other traditions people are baptized again. That would be the Anabaptist view. In other words, they would not recognize the infant baptism, let's say, of the Anglican Church or, you know, the Roman Catholic Church or the Methodist Church or the Orthodox Church, but would affirm believers baptism. And so we do see that some folk get baptized again, we speak of and of baptism, baptizing again. And there is that view out there in the Christian tradition. But for. Wesley. As for many in the church, baptism is a one time event. It happens only once, and I think that's why he didn't. Listed in his reckoning of the instituted means of grace now. Westley also associated baptism with the new birth. And so if the phrase if the phrase the washing of the Holy Ghost is associated with the graces of regeneration, which is a likely inference, then it reveals that even after his evangelical conversion, Westley still retained a sacramental view of the new birth strongly associated with baptism itself. But elsewhere, Westley specifically wrote that baptism is not the new birth. It is not the new birth. So how are we to reconcile these two apparently contradictory statements? Well, it should be pointed out, first of all, that Wesley considered baptism and the new birth to be quite different from each other. In other words, baptism is one thing.


It's sign signification and promise. But the new birth is something else. The new birth is another reality. Now, those two may be associated. Yes, that that is clearly a possibility. A baptism may be associated with the new birth, but the works themselves are distinct. The works themselves are distinct. And so these works. Baptism, on the one hand, and new birth on the other are to be neither equated nor are they to be viewed as interchangeable. That is the sacrament of baptism, on the one hand is a sign. It's an external work, and the new birth, on the other hand, is the thing signified and internal work. And so baptism. The sign is spoken of as distinct from regeneration. Listen to Wesley. He writes. Baptism. Excuse me. And nothing therefore, is plainer than that. According to the Church of England, baptism is not the new birth. Therefore, to confuse these two works, to speak of baptism as an inward work or the new birth as an outward work is clearly rejected by Wesley. So he's distinguishing them. He's saying, okay, here's baptism. This is what baptism means. Here's the new birth. Here's what the new birth means. Now, we need a second point here to get the nuances of Wesley's view, though, Wesley, for the sake of clarity, distinguish baptism from regeneration. He never will. I strongly associated the two. Thus, the new birth is often associated with the baptism of adults. But this association is actually strongest, if not exact, in terms of infant baptism, which Wesley affirmed. Wesley, of course, being the good Anglican that he was apparently never repudiated the teaching of his church, which moved along these lines. And so when he asserted that the new birth does not always accompany baptism, he immediately added, quote, I do not now speak with regard to infants.


It is certain our church, of course, meaning the Church of England, supposes that all who are baptized in their infancy are at the same time born again. End of quote. In other words, though, infant baptism is not to be equated with the new birth. It is always apparent apparently associated with it. And this is precisely in the area in which Wesley Sacramento view of regeneration is strongest. And so what is being suggested here? Well, Wesley's distinguishing these two words, baptism on the one hand. Regeneration on the other. But when he's thinking about. Infants. These two works are always together. So what does that mean? We can express that theologically. It means then and this may come as a surprise to some that Wesley taught and affirmed baptismal infant regeneration, that when the infant is baptized, it is also born of God. It is also born of God. And so Wesley's relatively high estimation of infant baptism needs to be interpreted. However, not only against the backdrop of his sacramental views, but also in terms of his larger sociological themes. And when this is done, an even more complicated picture begins to emerge. First of all, it was Wesley himself who first raised the crucial issue of the lack of repentance and faith in infant baptism. And in a way that indicates perhaps some hesitancy in this area. For instance, in his treatise, the father appealed to men of reason and religion. Wesley writes, quote, Infants, indeed, our church supposes to be justified in baptism, although they can not then either believe or repent. But she expressly requires both repentance and faith in those who come to be baptized when they are of riper years. Moreover, it should also be borne in mind that even though Wesley upheld the appropriateness and the value of infant baptism, its so teria logical significance was diminished somewhat by his understanding of prevailing grace.


In other words, because of the atonement brought about by Jesus Christ God, the Father removes the penalty of original sin, which is eternal death from all of humanity, both Christian and non-Christian. Both infant and adult alike. No one then, is punished eternally, simply on the account of Adam's sin. As we had noted earlier. In other words, simply due to the guilt of Adam's sin. And so, in a letter to John Mason in 1776. Wesley reasons as follows quote. Therefore, no infant ever was or ever will be sent to hell for the guilt of Adam's sin. Seeing it is canceled by the righteousness of Christ as soon as they are sent into the world. But what of adult baptism? Well, does the thing signified that is the new birth always accompany the sign of baptism in each instance? Well, in his sermon, The New Birth Wesley reasons along the following lines quote A man may possibly be born of water and yet not be born of the spirit. There may sometimes be an outward sign where there is not an inward grace. Interestingly enough, in his principles of a method, as Father explained, produced in 1746, Wesley Associates baptism not with being a present son or daughter of God, but with nominal Christianity so typical of large national churches like his own. He writes, quote, It must be allowed that the people of England, generally speaking, have been christened or baptized. But neither can we infer these were once baptized. Therefore, they are Christians now. Beyond this, Wesley indicates in his writings that he was familiar with numerous instances of those who had been baptized in either infancy or in their later years, who had none of the marks of the new birth and were instead steeped in sin.


Listen to Wesley quote How many are the baptized gluttons, the baptized drunkards, the baptized Liars and Common swears, the baptized rattlers and evil speakers, the baptize whore mongers and thieves and extortions. What? Thank you. Are these now the children of God? Such questions, of course, indicate that Wesley simply refused to comfort these open, flagrant sinners with the notion that they were still the sons and daughters of God, heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven, because they had been baptized in their youth. Again, listen to Wesley's caution. Quote, say not then in your heart I was once baptized. Therefore, I am now a child of God. Alas, that consequence will by no means hold. And again, lean no more on the staff of that broken reed that you were born again in baptism. Indeed, to the mistaken claim that there is no new birth beyond baptism I claim, which is problematic in so many ways. Wesley energetically responds in his father, appeal in the following manner. I tell a sinner, You must be born again. No, say you. He was born again in baptism. Therefore, he cannot be born again now. Alas, what trifling is this? What if he was then a child of God? He is now manifestly a child of the devil for the works of his father. He do it. Therefore, do not play upon words. He must go through an entire change of heart. Therefore, to counsel these centers that there is no new birth, but in baptism, that they can no longer be renewed and cleansed after they have succumbed to sin is cruel, counsel. Indeed it is, says Wesley. To seal them under damnation, to consign them to hell without any help, without any hope. Okay. All right. Maybe I'll stop there and entertain some questions that you might have on anything we've said.


When you're talking about the value of a worship service. Yes. And comments that people sometimes make. Do you think that part of that is the expectations that people have? For instance, if you go assuming that you're going to be a passive observer to with the goal of getting a feeling or something like that. That instead of being an active participant where you're looking for something to encourage you in the week to take away to actually use in your life during that time and actually to be an encouragement to others in the process, that that would make a difference. I think it would. And I like how you're lifting up this passive inactive because that person, you know, who's going to church can be a blessing to others who are around them. I mean, there's ministry, there's service there to be done as one is in church, you know, itself. And so I think what is therefore necessary even more deeply, a more foundational change then than simply the passive and active is there has to be a change in attitude, just a change in approach, how one approaches church and how the mindset that one has when one enters a church, you know, and the emphasis is other directed, not self-directed. See, that's the great fault that this person made, because this person is basically speaking out of a kind of egoism. Everything revolves around them. I didn't get anything out of it. I didn't get anything out of it. Well, what did you do where while you were at church, There are loads of people there. Did you talk to someone? Did you pray with someone? Did you did you talk about the hurt that people are experiencing in their lives because relatives are sick, loved ones are dying? I mean, what did you do? And so I think even more foundationally, you have to get at the attitude.


And I think this therefore belongs to the pastor and teachers in that church. They need to preach and teach, you know, a theology that from the pulpit and the classroom that's going to be conducive to worship. In other words, to teach very clearly in the church and proclaim that God has already acted. And we need to be mindful of that, that when we enter a church, we are going to be mindful how God has already acted and what God has done in the many, many, many things God has done for us. And so and this can be taught and people can change their attitudes that they bring to church such that they can participate and become a body, you know, become a part of the body of Christ in a rich and engaged way. Yes. Yes.