Wesleyan Theology II - Lesson 17

Worship and the Sacraments (Part 2)

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.

Kenneth J. Collins
Wesleyan Theology II
Lesson 17
Watching Now
Worship and the Sacraments (Part 2)


D. Lord's Supper

1. Sign, signification and promise

2. Transubstantiation

3. Wesley's view of the elements of the Lord's Supper

4. Luther's comments

5. Continuity and discontinuity between the Old Testament and New Testament

E. John Wesley on the sacrament of the Lord's Supper

1. Outward sign of an inward grace

2. The presence of Jesus in the Lord's Supper

3. Celebration with thanksgiving for the gift of the sacrifice of Jesus

4. Localized real presence of Jesus in the Lord's Supper

5. Meaningful to the community of faith

6. Wesley did not believe in transubstantiation

7. Sermon, "The Duty of Constant Communion"


  • 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 2)

Lesson Transcript


Yes. The last time we were talking about the sacrament of baptism, and we specifically focused on John Wesley, his views, which were rather interesting, to be sure. And so I just want to wrap up summarize Wesley's view on baptism, and then we're going to move on and consider the Lord's Supper. And so on the one hand, we see Wesley's sacramental view of regeneration emerged in his Association of the New Birth with infant baptism, and this legacy was mediated to him by his own Anglican church, and it probably was mediated to Anglicanism from the Western Church, the Roman Catholic Church, which preceded it. So we have those meanings in that particular context. But then Wesley has a kind of, for want of better language, we could call it an evangelical view of baptism, which is reformist in many respects. And that view arose in his distinguishing the new birth, on the one hand, from baptism, on the other hand. Okay. So Wesley made that distinction then. His evangelical view is also informed by his failure always to associate these two elements of baptism and regeneration in terms of adults. So, you know, earlier we said that Wesley tightly associated that's the right word, associated baptism and regeneration in terms of infants. Well, he did not do that in terms of adults. And so if an adult were baptized in Wesley's understanding, that person may or may not be born of God at that time. We just don't know. But the Association of Baptism and Regeneration in terms of infants is exact. It is exact. If that infant is baptized, it's been born of God. But if the adult is baptized, we cannot necessarily assume that it is born of God. And so that judgment informs what we're calling Wesley's evangelical, his evangelical view.


And then thirdly, Wesley's evangelical view in this area is informed by the recognition that those born of God must evidence the marks of the new birth, that those who are born of God must give evidence of the marks of the new birth. And we have explored these marks earlier in the context of the new birth and regeneration. You'll recall they are nothing less than the theological virtues of faith and hope and love. Okay. So it was Wesley's evangelical emphasis that blossomed as the great 18th century revival progressed. And this emphasis is perhaps most evident in his mid-career sermon, in which he stresses that the thing signified in baptism should be a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness. Few, therefore can doubt that real actual transformation at its most personal level was one of Wesley's constant themes and interests. Okay, so we see here Wesley's view of baptism. It's actually a bit complex. He's making a distinction in terms of the baptism of infants, the baptism of adults, but especially in terms of adults. He is always looking to see as a consequence of baptism, a transformed life that will be demonstrated in market graces, even the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. Now, when we consider the second sacrament that Christ instituted the Lord's Supper, there are a number of ways that we can think about this. We can consider the Lord's Supper, for example, as Wesley does, as a means of grace, as an important means of grace. In other words, that the Lord's Supper, in a real sense, is food for the journey, food for the journey. It has been a rite that has been instituted by Christ, that it has been instituted by Christ. The question, of course, is should the Lord's Supper be preceded by baptism? Many in the church will say, Yes, it must.


Some in the church may differ from that, but most will maintain that baptism should proceed The reception of the Lord's Supper. If we look at the practice of the early church, the early church required Christian baptism in order to be admitted to the Lord's Supper. The usual procedure was for instruction, catechetical instruction for the catacombs. They would be prepared and they would be baptized and they would receive the Lord's Supper at the first time at Easter. That would be the time in the ancient church where new persons would be brought into the church and permitted to receive the Lord's Supper. Prior to that time, the catacombs, while they were being instructed, they were they could participate in the normal worship service, but they were dismissed before the offering of the sacrament. And it's the word, Michele, which is a play on dismiss from which we get the word mass. It goes back to this distinction that the catacombs were dismissed before there was the receiving of the Lord's Supper. So the catacombs, who are in preparation, could be instructed and would hear preaching and would hear the reading of the word, but they would not be admitted to the Lord's table or not until they were properly prepared. And so they were dismissed before the offering of the elements. Now, John Wesley, and this is, I suppose, somewhat controversial. He saw the Lord's Supper as a converting ordinance. A converting ordinance meaning that one did not have to be a child of God. One did not have to be a child of God in order to receive the Lord's Supper. Sometimes that gets misconstrued in the Methodist Church. People begin to teach that Wesley taught. Anyone can simply come forward to the Lord's Supper. And that's not Wesley's teaching.


It's not his teaching at all. He cites from the Anglican materials from the Book of Common Prayer, all those who do heartily repent of their sins, you know, and earnestly seek the grace of God. Those folk can come forward. And so you know what would be required, even in the looser Wesleyan sense, would be one would have to be in a state of repentance, a state of repentance. And therefore, one could be admitted to the Lord's Supper, whereby the supper itself may prove to be a converting ordinance. That is a means by which. One would enter into Salvific graces. Properly speaking, that is justification and regeneration. Now, that's a bit controversial too. There are some Methodists who do not agree with that, but many would. Many would follow Wesley's line here. Now, the sign, of course, in the sacrament is the bread and the wine. That would be the sign. The bread and the wine. The very physical elements here. The signification is the body and blood of Christ on the cross, which has been broken and shed for you. You can take a look at Luke chapter 22, verses seven through 20 to see how that is filled out. And so the bread and the wine point to they point to the body. And Blood of Christ on the cross. That's the reference. Now, this is interesting because in the history of the church, what has happened is that the sign itself has been deemed the referent. And so there's been lots of attention to the bread, you know, and to the wine in some traditions. And they would see the presence of Christ localized in the elements. In other words, they would speak of a real presence of Christ in the sacrament. But where is that presence? It would be localized in the elements, for example, of bread and of wine.


So, for example, in the Roman Catholic tradition, they have a doctrine of transubstantiation whereby the bread is literally the body of Christ and the wine is literally the blood of Christ. And so there you have a localized real presence, a localized, real presence, but you have something more. And this is what lots of people don't realize that transubstantiation teaches more than a localized real presence. One time I was participating in an international theological discussion group, and one of the professors in that group said, Oh, you know, all the early church fathers seem to be affirming transubstantiation. And I scratch my head and said, That's not the case at all. What he had mistaken for transubstantiation and what can be found in the church fathers, the early church fathers would be this understanding of a localization of the body of Christ in the bread and the blood of Christ in the wine. But transubstantiation says more than that, and it takes later subsequent church history in order to fill it out. What does transubstantiation teach? Well, it teaches that the bread is no longer bread. It simply appears to be bread. But it is essentially and substantively, utterly the body of Christ. It looks like bread. Smells like bread, tastes like bread. Those are the appearances of it. But essentially what it is by nature is utterly body of Christ. And that's why they use the language transubstantiation. The substance, the essence has been transformed. It is the body of Christ having the accidents to use the medieval language, the accidents that pertain to bread. And in the same way, in terms of the wine, the wine is nothing other than the blood of Christ. It is essentially, substantively the blood of Christ, but it is expressed and appears under the accidents that are associated with wine.


In other words, it smells like wine, tastes like wine, etc., etc.. So transubstantiation actually says something more. It says something more than localization in the elements. Localization in the elements. Now, Wesley rejected transubstantiation. He did that specifically in his letter to a Roman Catholic. He rejects the doctrine of transubstantiation. Wesley's teaching on the Lord's Supper is rather sophisticated, and he's appealing to some other sources in the history of the church that are feeding into his teaching. But I think that my reading of Wesley and my assessment of these sources is that Wesley is rejecting a localized real presence whereby the body of Christ is associated with stuff. In other words, things, objects. Okay. Now, the reflection I'm going to continue with I'm going beyond Wesley here in this observation. But you can see already in this course how God has been revealed in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Emphasis on persons, emphasis on relations, emphasis on Holy love. All of that. And so if that's the case, one would expect in the Lord's Supper that there would be a focus as well on persons, relations, holy love, etc., and not objects. And I don't think you get to that proper theology. Unless you understand the proper signification for bread and wine, you know, how can Jesus Christ, for example, consider the first Lord's supper? How can Jesus Christ with with bodily integrity? Because his body's right there and he's holding the bread. How can he say, this is my body and mean that literally? Because it would be the one body of Christ holding another body of Christ. I mean, it can't be that Christ did not have two bodies. And so the signification cannot be that the bread is literally the body of Christ because the body of Christ is already present.


It's holding the bread. Secondly, we would see this signification. How can Christ therefore justly say, this is my body? If the signification of the bread is Christ's body at Calvary given for us, shed for us, then we have a distinction such that we can talk about body in two contexts. But it's not that there are two bodies. It is a temporal distinction. In other words, Christ is present at the Lord's Supper offering, you know, the bread and the wine, and those signify his body on the cross, which will be there in a short period of time. You know, just like we are in one place at one time, we are in another place at one time. There's a sense where that is a tune is a distinction, but it's also the very same body if we understand the signification this way. In other words, the elements point towards Calvary instead of pointing towards themselves. Then we can focus on relations, persons and holy love and not get stuck on objects, things, stuff, material that do not warrant that kind of attention. Okay. And so we're going to find this kind of theological reflection in Protestant theology, although we won't find this kind of theological reflection in Eastern Orthodox theology or in Roman Catholic theology, which unswervingly focused on elements, matter, things, stuff. And so we we we see this now in terms of the Lord's Supper here, Luther will observe a testament, as everyone knows, is a promise made by one about to die, in which that person would designate his bequest and appoint heirs. And so a testament therefore involves, first of all, the death of the testator, and secondly, the promise of an inheritance and the naming of an heir. And thus, Paul, according to Luther, discusses at length the nature of a testament in Romans Chapter four, in Galatians three and four and in Hebrews nine.


And we see the same thing clearly. Also, in the words of Christ, Christ testifies concerning his death when he says, This is my body, which is given, this is my blood, which is poured out. He names and designates the bequest when he says for the forgiveness of sins. But he appoints heirs. He appoints heirs when he says, For you, my body, which has been broken for you, the blood which has been shed for you, we see that for you emphasis in terms of Luke chapter 22 versus 19 through 20. And this is also given for the many, as we see in Matthew 2628. Okay. And so it is we have the promise here, the promise of the testator. Now, I think something that's also helpful to understand when one is looking at the Lord's Supper is to see on the one hand, continuity between, let's say, Old Testament images and New Testament images, but also perhaps to see some discontinuity as well. I don't know if you are familiar with how mass took place in the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages, for example, in some of the great cathedrals. There were, of course, various parts of the mass, and there would come a point in the mass and think of these churches as very high and very long. And with people sitting in the back not being able to see perhaps very clearly. And there came a point in the mass when the priest would lift up the host, he would lift up the hose, elevated a high great vertical lift, and bells would be wrong and people would direct their attention to the host and it would be offered a sacrifice, offered to God the father. And so you have this this from us to to God, this vertical dimension, if you will.


And what I would like you to see is that if you look at the first Lord's Supper, go to the Gospels, go to Luke and see what is happening around the table. First of all, it is a fellowship meal. It gives every evidence of being a fellowship meal and all the people are reclining, they're reclining, they're not standing, they're reclining. And when Jesus distributes the elements, when he gives the bread among his disciples and gives the wine, he says, My body for you, and all is done in a horizontal direction. In other words, this is a great gift and it is being given for you. God is the principal actor in the Lord's Supper and it's Trinitarian. The Father gives the gift of the son and the son offers his body and blood for you and for the reconciliation of sins that have been committed. And so I think even in terms of considerations like direction, vertical, horizontal, I'm convinced from my readings of the Gospels that the Lord's Supper is horizontal. And if there is a vertical dimension, it's not from us to God, but it's rather from God to us that the Father gives the gift of the Son of the son is given to the church, and the church responds in Eucharist, which is Thanksgiving. Now, Wesley's basic definition of a sacrament drawn from the Church of England, especially from its catechism, takes up the Augustinian distinction of Signum and Rose, and is very similar to how he already defined the means of grace and so conceived, according to Wesley, a sacrament in its best sense is an outward sign of an inward grace and a means whereby we receive the same. And so in the Methodists articles, which were produced in 1784, Wesley also notes that the sacraments, which have been ordained by Christ, are not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, he writes, but rather they are certain signs of grace and God's good will, God's goodwill toward us.


But also it strengthens and confirms our faith in Him. Thus the display of divine beneficence or goodwill, similar to Luther's emphasis on the promise of God, is ever a part of the sacrament. According to Wesley, this is a display of divine beneficence. The church is being blessed by the gifts, by the offering of the son. Now, in terms of the explication of the Lord's Supper in particular, and this is where interpreting Wesley on the Lord's Supper is going to get a little more difficult. A little more difficult? Why? Well, because Wesley is going to appeal to an earlier treatise, which he did not write, but someone else wrote. It's the work of Daniel event, and the title is on the Christian Sacrament and Sacrifice on the Christian Sacrament and Sacrifice, a work that in edited form served as the preface to him. On the Lord's Supper, published by John and Charles in 1745. Okay. Now, the the the issue is, of course, you have this work written by another by Daniel Bevins, first of all, and I've read this work myself actually fairly recently. And you know, with works of this age, there is the question. The problem, Van der Garrity, what precisely does Daniel Bravin mean when he uses, for example, the language of sacrifice in terms of the Lord's Supper? And then in what sense did Wesley himself appropriate that language of sacrifice in his own understanding of Lord's supper, of the Lord's Supper? This makes it a difficult, a difficult issue, a difficult issue. Though Prevent was of the high church school that was forced into exile during the interregnum of Cromwell. You know, think of the 17th century. The English religious Wars. The first heading of his liturgical classic, was titled, quote, Concerning the Sacrament as it is a memorial of the sufferings of the death of Christ.


But don't let that title mislead you. Less Wesley's views be read in a zwingli in way because loss and cautions us that the Lord's Supper, even here conceived as a memorial, must be carefully understood. The scriptural term memorial, he points out, has a much richer meaning than that of a memento from the past. It stands for the means by which the effect of God's historic redeeming act in the past is kept alive in the present. And so here we are seeing the transfer of meanings across time from the past into the present. You know, the historic redeeming act being brought into the present, kept alive by means of the sacrament. And so this is much more than a zwingli in memorial, if you will. And so the connection between the past sacrifice of Calvary and its present reception in the Eucharist, in the Eucharistic community, to which Lawson refers, is evident in Wesley's observation, quote, that the design of the sacrament is the continual remembrance of the death of Christ by eating bread and drinking wine, which are the outward signs of an inward grace, the body and blood of Christ. Again, as Wesley comments, this time on First Corinthians 11 chapter, Chapter 11, verse 20, an important passage on this topic. Wesley refers to the Lord's Supper as, quote, the solemn memorial of his death. Simply put, it is a remembrance that entails presence. It is a remembrance that entails presence. Or, as the late scholar Staples put it, the real presence is a spiritual, not a bodily presence. Okay. And see here we're back to this language once more of real presence. And I think, you know, we can say at this point very clearly that that John Wesley would affirm a real presence in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.


It's just that that real presence is not seen as utterly localized in the elements. And we know, of course, that he rejects transubstantiation. Okay. So beyond this, the sacrificial love displayed at Calvary becomes a part of the present community of faith in its celebration, in its overflowing Thanksgiving for such a precious gift received accordingly. If we take a look at the Methodists articles of religion, they state quote that the supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but also is a sign. Sacrament of our redemption by Christ death. So if we were to put this in another way, the love of God, which is so resplendent at Calvary, has consequence in present salvific graces of justification and sanctification receive by means of this sacrament. To illustrate in his sermon the duty of Constant Communion, penned in 1787, Wesley relates quote, that the grace of God given here in confirms to us the pardon of our sins and enables us to leave them again in the Lord's Supper. We not only receive infinite mercy, but also several blessings that we may obtain holiness on Earth. The Lord's Supper. Then that emblem of the Gospel was not only instituted by Christ to be a means of conveying privilege and grace, but also justifying and sanctifying grace as well. Okay. Now I just want to address an issue for the sake of greater clarification. And I noted earlier the problem of appealing to a work like prevents in Wesley's own sacramental theology. I've indicated already that Wesley rejected transubstantiation. I've also indicated that he affirmed a real presence. And I should add, because this becomes a problem of interpretation. You know, did Wesley affirm a localized real presence in the elements? That is a disputed issue, a controversial issue.


And I need to state that very clearly. My reading of Wesley, especially in terms of looking at and I've looked at this material fairly recently, looking at the hymns on the Lord's Supper, for example. That would not be my reading of Wesley. However, others scholars look at the same material and read the treatise of Brant and are moving in a direction that Wesley did argue for a localized real presence. So I didn't want to suggest otherwise. I want you to realize that this is a question that goes on in Wesley Studies. The question itself is complicated by the nature of the materials that have to be assessed because some of the materials, such as hymns, are poetic, and then we are appealing to secondary sources that are not the primary writings of Wesley. And so I just have to indicate to you the difficulty in proper interpretation here. I wish that John Wesley actually sat down and wrote a few more sermons that would directly target this area. In other words, how do we properly understand the Lord's Supper in terms of signs, signification, promise? What place for sacrifice? How do we understand that? And how do we understand the real presence? To lay that out more clearly in a way that would be helpful for common people? And so, you know, I did want to raise that. And that means there's going to likely be an ongoing discussion in the church about these matters. And that's a good thing, of course. But I would say this because, you know, we're getting near the end of our journey now, and this journey has been going on for quite some time. And the broader heading, of course, has been Wesley, in theology, we haven't simply been focused on the theology of John Wesley, but I think you can see from the course, from the Doctrine of God and Christology and new mythology and the understanding of humanity, that in Wesley in theology, this is relationally understood in terms of persons and relations.


And that surely has to inform how we will properly interpret such an important means of grace as the Lord's Supper. And I think it would be problematic. I'll go this far. I think it would be problematic articulating a theology. Threw out that is underscoring holy love and persons and relations and transcendence and being properly related to God personally, all of that. And then to come to an understanding of the sacrament that simply focuses on stuff. Elements matter that I think something would be wrong there, that there would be a theological mistake having been made along the way. And so that's why when I read the hands of Wesley, I don't interpret him in that way. I see him instead in line with this rich development of theology that he has in terms of holy love, in terms of holy love. Let me tell you a little story. Here. I am on with my stories again. And, you know, I'm not I'm not trying to pick on any tradition, but it's a true story. It's from my own journey. So I'm free to share it. I'm free to share it. I remember and I of course, I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church and I was a little boy. I was probably about eight, nine years old, had already made my first communion and was going to the altar for communion. And so I'm kneeling at the altar and I'm waiting. And the priest is to my right, coming along with the altar boy, holding the plate under each person's chin so they don't drop the host so it doesn't fall on the floor. And so I'm waiting. And and I had my eyes closed and half open, and I'm waiting for the priest and I'm waiting.


And then I realized the priest had stopped and there was a little girl next to me who was receiving the Lord's Supper. And however it happened, I don't know because I didn't see it, but because I was, you know, so serious and focused straight ahead, waiting for the priest to come. But the host had fallen on the floor, whether it was due to the altar boys fault or the girl's fault or whatever, the host had fallen on the floor. And then what happened really surprised me. And it shook me up, actually. The priest scolded her, scolded this little girl who was about the same age I was, you know, eight, nine years old, scolded her because the host had fallen on the floor. And I didn't think of it at the time, of course. I mean, I was just a kid, but I thought about it later on. You know, there's this this misplaced emphasis on things, on stuff. The priest should have recognized the presence of Christ in that girl. And that communion happens between that priest standing there and this girl and the Christ who transcends that same glory. That's a personal, relational understanding. We're not focused. We're not focused on objects. We're not we're not focused on stuff. We realize. A God of holy love. The Father loves the son. The son loves the Father. The Spirit proceeds from the father and the son. We are caught up in that. It's relational. It's personal. This little girl in the image and likeness of God. You know, the priest should have recognized Christ in her and Christ among us. Yes. Say, rather than to be focused on objects. Now, you've learned an awful lot about my theology. I have unveiled. I have revealed myself.


But what I've just articulated here, I think is utterly wasteland, regardless of whether it agrees with event or not. Because I am thinking deeply out of how Wesley Wesley ends. Understand God, how they understand God who has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. What worship is in terms of the response and the glorification of God who transcends us? You know, and and it draws richly out of those things. So I did feel compelled to fill that out a bit. Now, though, the Lord's Supper brings the meanings of Christ's death into the present. Into the present community of faith in a very real way, in a very real way, in a mediated way where bread and wine become the conduits. I think that's a good word here. The conduits for Saving Graces. Wesley was careful not to consider the Lord's Supper. Utterly as a sacrifice in the sense of a sack widowed priest Kraft officiating, lest that would detract from the one sacrifice at Calvary. And so, for example, Article 20 of the Methodist Articles of Religion states the following The offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption proportion and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual. And there is no none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone wherefore the sacrifice of masses. In in which it is commonly said, the priest doth offer Christ for the quick and the dead to have remission of pain or guilt is a blasphemous fable and dangerous deceit. So that is what is said in the Article 20 of the Methodist Articles of Religion, and its being critical of this notion that the priest is offering Christ. In other words, that the direction is from us to God.


Something new has happened with the coming of Christ and the New Testament. God offers to us a change in direction the gift of His son. And so for Wesley, then, especially as he is quoting Article 20 of the Methodist article of religion, the direction, so to speak, entailed in the older medieval conception of a priest at the sacrament that's being called into question. Indeed, it is not a matter that the priest, on behalf of humanity and with a distinct SACERDOTE or role, offers the Father the sacrifice of Christ repeatedly. Rather, it is the father himself who offers the gift of his son that is remembered and presently received by means of the Holy Spirit. In the celebrating community where Trinitarian themes are unmistakable. Two stanzas from John and Charles hymns will convey this meaning. Listen to this language. Draw near ye blood sprinkled race. And take what? God. Vow. Vow. Safest to give the outward sign of inward grace ordained by Christ himself. Receive the sign transmits the signified. The grace is by the means applied. Come thou witness of his dying come remembrance, Sir Divine, Let us feel thy power applying Christ to every soul and mind. Beyond rejecting this notion that the priest somehow or other is a mediator between God and humanity, Wesley also took issue with the Roman Catholic idea, as we had mentioned earlier, of transubstantiation of the elements into bread and wine. In fact, when Wesley commented on the Gospel of John Chapter six, a key passage often referred to on this topic, he considered the referent of Christ flesh and blood, not to be the bread and wine of the Eucharist, but to be his passion on the cross. In other words, penultimate things must not be mistaken for the ultimate, nor are symbols confused with the realities to which they refer.


The bread and wine never point to Calvary. In other words, that's another way of saying it. The bread and wine ever pointed to the body and blood at Calvary. And so though, Wesley, like the early church fathers, affirmed a real presence in the context of the Lord's Supper, he the question of whether he localized that present in the elements of bread and wine is a debatable one. It depends on how one interprets difficult materials, hidden materials in their symbolic language, and then, of course, a treatise written by another person. And so we we have this. But I think when we look at Wesley's larger view of the Lord's Supper, I think his view and I would I this would be my interpretation here. I think his view of the Lord's Supper, especially when we're thinking of a real presence, is very similar to that of John Calvin, actually, because in a way similar to Calvin, Wesley is going to argue the power, the strength, the efficacy of the sacrament are mediated through the Holy Spirit. However, unlike Calvin, Wesley maintained that it is not so much that believers are lifted up by the Spirit to feed on the body of Christ that is in heaven. That would be very close to Calvin's view. Rather, it is. As the late scholar Theodore Runyan pointed out, that quote, The Spirit brings Christ to us, expressing the grace and love of God towards us through the means of bread and wine. And so this view whereby Christ is received by means of the Holy Spirit is sometimes referred to as reception ism. And this teaching harkens back to the Anglican Reformation, a time when it was taught and developed by Richard Hooker. And so I think there is some similarity between Calvin and Wesley here in terms of the Lord's Supper.


Yes, there is a real feeding upon the body of Christ, but it is a spiritual feeding for Calvin. The Spirit lifts us up to feed upon the one body of Christ, which is in heaven. For Wesley. The Spirit brings Christ to us whereby we can feed upon the body and blood of Christ by grace through faith. Because the Lord's Supper is a means of grace and a comfort that communicates nothing less than the presence of Christ by means of the Spirit. It is imperative that those who, quote, do truly and earnestly repent of your sins, partake of this sacrament constantly. And Wesley encouraged that. He even wrote a sermon on that topic, the duty of constant communion. And so, in a real sense, the Lord's Supper, as a means of grace, is food for the journey, strength for the tasks and challenges that lay ahead. Indeed, in his sermon, The Duty of Constant Communion, Wesley developed two key themes that point to this constant obligation. First of all, this is a command of Christ who specifically declared, quote, Do this in remembrance of me. And second, this supper represents a mercy from God to humanity, for it is the gracious means through which we may be assisted to attain those blessings which he have prepared for us, that we may obtain holiness on Earth and everlasting glory in heaven. Now, in his sermon, The Duty of Constant Communion, Wesley lists a number, a few reasons why this should be done. And the first reason is because it is a plain command of Christ. The second reason is because of the benefits of doing it are so very great. And then the grace of God in the sacrament will confirm to us the pardon of our sins.


That is the forgiveness of sins. And so Wesley certainly encouraged the Methodist repeatedly to partake of the Lord's Supper when it was available. Wesley's own practice was something to the effect that he partook of the Lord's Supper around once every five days. That would be how frequent. And so you can see that Wesley partook of the Lord's Supper more than once a month or once a quarter, which it is for some people in the churches today. No, this is an important means of grace. It's an important means of grace. It's fuel for the journey. It's a means of grace whereby the spirit can strengthen us, empower us, apply to us Christ and his benefit. And therefore, it is a means of grace not to be neglected. Okay. What questions or comments do you have? So when we think overall about worship and participating in the sacraments, especially the Lord's Supper. That having a perspective of worshiping each day, being sensitive to the spirit, being salt and light in our lives each day and seeing the sacraments is a continuation of that, not a one time event where we attend a service, partake of the sacraments, and then turn and go and just, you know, live another direction. It seems like that makes it more meaningful if it's a continuation of of what we're already doing by worshiping in our daily lives rather than seeing it as something that's separate from how we live. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Yes. But I also see something different here from the living out of our workaday world and our daily lives. Because when we are receiving communion, when we receive the Lord's Supper, all of those various people who are spread out in communities are coming together as the body of Christ, and they are around the table.


And so that's a special place, that's a special event, if you will. And there's genuine fellowship there where united in our love for Christ, we are around the Lord's table in order to receive Christ and His benefit. Eat the bread, drink the wine, receive Christ deeply in our hearts so that we might become a blessing to others. That is such a special place. Such a special place because we are with our brothers and sisters as a community. We are all participating in someone greater than ourselves, even Christ, who is the head of the church. So that. So although I. I understand what you're saying, I see a kind of difference because, yes, we're out in the world as light and salt in the world, spreading the fragrance of Christ to a hurting world. But then we're coming together on the Lord's Day as the church, as a community. And this is a special time, a special time when we are worshiping God and we're doing so corporate lay in the context of receiving Christ and his benefit. Yeah. Yeah. Mention previously about Wesley's view of infant baptism that there was regeneration that took place at the time. So if regeneration takes place at infant baptism, why is it necessary again later? And how does that fit in to what he would say about the new birth and regeneration? And the second part of that is, well, let's start with the first part, okay? So because there's a lot there in the first part. And after I answer the first part, you can come at me again with the second part. Yeah. Sometimes this question emerges among my students. They. They put it in this form. So is Wesley then teaching that you have to be born again? Again? Because if.


If you're born again, when you're baptized as an infant and you've already heard Wesley's counsels here, that if you have fallen away from the graces of your baptism, you know, you know, in open will for the committing of sin. And if you say this is Wesley's own language, you know, I'm paraphrasing, but Wesley's line was nevertheless, there's no new birth brought in, in baptism. Then you can sign these people to loss because they so obviously need to be born again. And so in answer to that question from my students, I would have to reply that those who. War born of God at one point and who fall away and who are now conquered by their sins once more. And who have now become unholy. And that the Holy Spirit is not real to them in their lives anymore. They feel alienated from God. He has. Yes. You must repent and do the first works afresh and be renewed in your nature. You know, a renewal which we call regeneration. And so if one is yet if one is again encased in sin and dominated by the power and dominion of sin, such that they they are alienated from God, their consciences are on fire. They are living in a disorderly way. Yes. They must be born again. Yes. Early on in the lecture you were talking about Wesley, the Lord's Supper in the Lord's Supper. And you just now mentioned Order of Salvation. Yes. And this wasn't just my confusion. Yes. Does a new birth have to be in place before you take the Lord's Supper, then? No. And this is what's a little controversial between Methodist and other traditions, because I'm aware that in other traditions, like for example, in the reform tradition, elders would fence the table, so to speak, and and for disciplinary purposes and to make sure only certain people came forward and among some reformed.


They would require that that one have a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, you know, to be admitted to the Lord's Supper that would not be required for but for Wesley, because he saw the Lord's Supper. We used the language earlier as a converting ordinance. And so one does not have to be born of God in order to be admitted to the Lord's table. But that doesn't mean that just anybody can come forward. That sometimes the misunderstanding that emerges here. Wesley never taught that. What he did teach is that all those who are heartily sorry and do earnestly repent of their sins, in other words, and not a child of yet not a child of God yet, but they're in a state of repentance. Now, there was their repenting. They're convicted of their sins. They. They sense their need of Christ. Those folk can come forward to the table. Now, other traditions would say no, but Wesley will say yes, they can come forward because the Lord's Supper itself can function as a means of grace whereby they can enter in. A few years ago, I'd say maybe about five years ago, 5 to 7 years ago, so maybe not a few years ago, maybe a little longer. I read I read an article on I should have wrote down the article by a woman who was studying American evangelicalism and she was traveling around the country. She was traveling around the United States, going to different evangelical churches. And then she was writing this up in her book. And there was one point where she relates that she went to a church and she said, Oh, I thought the service was wonderful, that, you know, in the middle of the service, we had a snack.


And then I you know, I read that and I was immediately saddened. I was immediately sad. And now I forget the tradition. I don't even think she mentioned the tradition that she's referring to. But to me, that is painful because I think the Lord's Supper, even if one views it as a converting audience, should always be treated with dignity and respect. And there should be a reverence surrounding the Lord's table and to treat it in such a flippant way. It hurt me. It hurt me as a Christian believer to read that. And so, you know, now some traditions would argue you have to be baptized. You have to be born of God before you can be admitted to the Lord's table. They handle issues like that very carefully in the Western tradition, since Wesley viewed it as a converting ordinance. We, you know, our tradition has been open to allowing those who are not born of God to come forward, but they should come forward in a state of repentance and hopefully humbly and with the dignity and respect that should correspond to the Lord's table. Yeah, The Lord's table. Yes. Yes. Yes. When you say converting ordinance. So if someone comes to this and they're not not yet born about born of God. Yes. Could they be born of God through this ordinance? Yes. That's precisely what could happen. And Wesley believe that that could happen. In other words, that someone who is heartily sorry for their sins, they hear the proclamation of the gospel in the service. They are convinced by the Holy Spirit of their need of Christ. The table is now open to all who do earnestly and repent of their sins and are heartily sorry. That person. She comes forward.


She comes forward to receive the body and blood of Christ. And by means of such she enters in. She believes. She believes in Jesus Christ. And she may believe in tears as she receives the elements and she may be a new person. Get up from that table and be transformed. Know that she is the beloved that Christ died for her, even her, and saved her from the law of sin and death. So, yes, in answer to your question, yes, the Lord's Supper may be the occasion where whereby one is born of God, one is born of God, because through that sacrament God communicates justifying and regenerating graces through it. Yes. Yes.