John Wesley’s Sermon “The Witness of Our Own Spirit”: A Brief Summary

John Wesley, Justification by Faith


This is the 11th sermon in this series. You can expect to see a new post in this series by 10am EST on Tuesday mornings. Just joining the growing number of people reading these sermons? Feel free to start at the beginning by reading the first sermon linked below, or jump right in with us!


Background:

Did you know that many of John Wesley’s sermons are part of the formal doctrinal teaching of multiple Wesleyan/Methodist denominations? Wesley’s sermons have particular authority because these were the main way he taught Methodist doctrine and belief.

“The Witness of Our Own Spirit” is the eleventh sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons and is related to the previous sermon, “The Witness of the Spirit, I.” In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “The Witness of Our Own Spirit.” I hope it will inspire you to read the sermon in its entirety yourself. Links to the sermon and other resources are included at the end of this post.


Key quote: 

To conclude. Christian joy is joy in obedience – joy in loving God and keeping his commandments. And yet not in keeping them as if we were thereby to fulfil the terms of the covenant of works; as if by any works of righteousness of ours we were to procure pardon and acceptance with God. Not so: we are already pardoned and accepted through the mercy of God in Christ Jesus – not as if we were by our own obedience to procure life, life from the death of sin. This also we have already through the grace of God. ‘Us hath he quickened, who were dead in sin.’ And now we are ‘alive to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord’. But we rejoice in walking according to the covenant of grace, in holy love and happy obedience. We rejoice in knowing that ‘being justified through his grace’, we have ‘not received that grace of God in vain’; that God having freely (not for the sake of our willing or running, but through the blood of the Lamb) reconciled us to himself, we run in the strength which he hath given us the way of his commandments. He hath ‘girded us with strength unto the war’, and we gladly ‘fight the good fight of faith’. We rejoice, through him who liveth in our hearts by faith, to ‘lay hold of eternal life’. This is our rejoicing; that as our ‘Father worketh hitherto’, so (not by our own might or wisdom, but through the power of his Spirit freely given in Christ Jesus) we also work the works of God. And may he work in us whatsoever is well-pleasing in his sight, to whom be the praise for ever and ever! [20]


One sentence summary:  

The Christian’s joy comes from that happy peace, calm satisfaction of spirit, which arises from the testimony of his own conscience that he is a child of God.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“This is our rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world.” – 2 Corinthians 1:12 (KJV)


Concise outline of “The Witness of Our Own Spirit”

1. Such is the voice of every true believer in Christ, so long as they abide in faith and love.
2. What is the nature and ground of a Christian’s joy?
3. What are we to understand by conscience?
4. By ‘man is a conscious being’ is meant people have inward perception of things present and past relating to themselves, their own tempers, and outward behavior.
5. According to St. Paul, conscience is a faculty or power of perceiving right or wrong in individual’s hearts and lives.
6. What is the rule by which people judge right or wrong? The Word of God – this alone.
7. To have a good conscience toward God we must have a right understanding of the Word of God and a true knowledge of ourselves. Then, an argument of our heart and lives with the Word of God. Finally, an inward perception of this agreement with our rule.
8. A good conscience must be built on the right foundation – faith in Jesus Christ. Heart and life produce good fruit – i.e., conformity to the rule of God’s commandments.
9. This includes every notion of our heart, tongue, hands, and bodily members.
10. This world is thoroughly impregnated by the evil spirit it continually breathes.
11. We need simplicity – singly fixed on God, aimed at God alone.
12. And sincerity – simplicity is the intention sincerity is the execution of it.
13. Difference between Godly sincerity and the sincerity of the heathens.
14. This does not come through any power of our own that we naturally possess.
15. It comes through the power of the Holy Ghost which works in us to will and do his good pleasure.
16. This is the ground of the Christian’s joy.
17. This is not a natural joy.
18. The joy of a Christian does not arise from blindness of conscience, from not being able to discern good from evil.
19. The joy of a Christian does not arise from any dullness or callousness of conscience.
20. Christian joy is joy in obedience – in loving God and keeping his commandments.


Resources:

Read “The Witness of Our Own Spirit” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first nine Standard Sermons:

Salvation by Faith

The Almost Christian

Awake, Thou That Sleepest

Scriptural Christianity

Justification by Faith

The Righteousness of Faith

The Way to the Kingdom

The First-Fruits of the Spirit

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption

The Witness of the Spirit, I

I highly recommend the critical edition of Wesley’s sermons, which has excellent references that show his reliance on Scripture throughout his preaching. There are four volumes if you want every known Wesley sermon. They aren’t cheap, but this is the most important publication by Abingdon since its release. Highly recommended!


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.

John Wesley’s Sermon “The Witness of the Spirit, I”: A Brief Summary

John Wesley, Justification by Faith


This is the 10th sermon in this series. You can expect to see a new post in this series by 10am EST on Tuesday mornings. Just joining the growing number of people reading these sermons? Feel free to start at the beginning by reading the first sermon linked below, or jump right in with us!


Background:

Did you know that many of John Wesley’s sermons are part of the formal doctrinal teaching of multiple Wesleyan/Methodist denominations? Wesley’s sermons have particular authority because these were the main way he taught Methodist doctrine and belief.

“The Witness of the Spirit, I” is the tenth sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons and one of many sermons addressing this topic. In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “The Witness of the Spirit, I.” I hope it will inspire you to read the sermon in its entirety yourself. Links to the sermon and other resources are included at the end of this post.


Key quote: 

The testimony of the Spirit is an inward impression on the soul, whereby the Spirit of God directly ‘witnesses to my spirit that I am a child of God’; that Jesus Christ hath loved me, and given himself for me; that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God. [I.7]

The Spirit of God does give a believer such a testimony of his adoption that while it is present to the soul he can no more doubt the reality of his sonship than he can doubt of the shining of the sun while he stands in the full blaze of his beams. [I.12]


One sentence summary:  

God confirms adoption of Christians as sons and daughters through a direct witness of the Holy Spirit with their spirits that they are sons or daughters of God.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” – Romans 8:16 (KJV)


Concise outline of “The Witness of the Spirit, I”

1. How many people have misunderstood this Scripture? The danger of mistaking the voice of our imagination for the true witness of the Spirit addressed.
2. The opposite error is imagining that the witness of the Spirit is not the privilege of ordinary Christians.
3. Is there not a middle way between these two extremes?
In hopes of finding this middle way, the sermon will:
First, define the witness of the Spirit.
Second, clarify how the witness of the Spirit is different from the presumption of the natural mind and the delusion of the devil.

I. What Is the Witness of the Spirit?

1. “There is in every believer both the testimony of God’s Spirit, and the testimony of his own, that he is a child of God.”
2. We can know that we are children of God based on whether we are led by the Spirit of God in our lives.
3. Wesley gives examples of Scripture passages in 1 John.
4. Those who have the marks identified in Scripture are children of God.
5. This appears to ourselves with direct immediacy.
6. There is a consciousness of having received the tempers mentioned in Scripture by the Spirit.
7. The testimony of the Spirit is an inward impression on the soul, whereby the Spirit of God directly witnesses to my spirit that I am a child of God.
8. The testimony of the Spirit comes before the testimony of our own spirits.
9. Then, and not till then, we love God because he first loved us and for his sake we love our brother also.
10. He does not in any way intend to exclude the operation of the Spirit of God.
11. The testimony of our spirit is beyond all reasonable doubt evidence of the reality of our sonship.
12. Wesley does not claim to explain how the Spirit witnesses to our spirits. But this testimony is so strong he can no more doubt it than he can doubt the shining of the son while he is standing in the full blaze of its beams.

II. How is the Witness of the Spirit Different from the Presumption of the Natural Mind and the Delusion of the Devil?

1. This is a very important question.
2. How is this testimony distinguished from the presumption of the natural mind?
3. The Scriptures abound with marks for distinguishing one from the other.
4. Repentance and conviction of sin always precede this witness.
5. Scripture describes being born again as a vast and mighty change.
6. Is joy in the Lord humble and self-abasing?
7. One who has received the witness of the Spirit will keep God’s commandments.
8. If you lack any of the previous and say you have the witness of the Spirit, you are deceiving yourself.
9. The real thing is distinguished from the false immediately and directly by our spiritual senses, if our spiritual senses are rightly disposed.
10. The direct immediacy of spiritual experience is valid epistemologically.
11. One who has spiritual senses will struggle to express or explain to one who has not.
12. Test the inward and outward fruit.
13. By the same fruit you shall distinguish the voice of God from any delusion of the devil.
14. If you have this, give thanks to God, “cleanse thyself from all filthiness of flesh and Spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God; and let all thy thoughts words, and works be a spiritual sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ!”


Resources:

Read “The Witness of the Spirit, I” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first nine Standard Sermons:

Salvation by Faith

The Almost Christian

Awake, Thou That Sleepest

Scriptural Christianity

Justification by Faith

The Righteousness of Faith

The Way to the Kingdom

The First-Fruits of the Spirit

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption

I highly recommend the critical edition of Wesley’s sermons, which has excellent references that show his reliance on Scripture throughout his preaching. There are four volumes if you want every known Wesley sermon. They aren’t cheap, but this is the most important publication by Abingdon since its release. Highly recommended!


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.

John Wesley’s Sermon “The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption”: A Brief Summary

John Wesley, Justification by Faith


This is the 9th sermon in this series. You can expect to see a new post in this series by 10am EST on Tuesday mornings. Just joining the growing number of people reading these sermons? Feel free to start at the beginning by reading the first sermon linked below.


Background:

Did you know that many of John Wesley’s sermons are part of the formal doctrinal teaching of multiple Wesleyan/Methodist denominations? Wesley’s sermons have particular authority because these were the main way he taught Methodist doctrine and belief.

“The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption” is the ninth sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons. In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption.” I hope it will inspire you to read the sermon in its entirety yourself. Links to the sermon and other resources are included at the end of this post.


Key quote: 

To sum up all. The ‘natural man’ neither fears nor loves God; one ‘under the law’ fears, one ‘under grace’ loves him. The first has no light in the things of God, but walks in utter darkness. The second sees the painful light of hell; the third, the joyous light of heaven. He that sleeps in death has a false peace. He that is awakened has no peace at all. He that believes has true peace, the peace of God, filling and ruling his heart…. To conclude: the natural man neither conquers nor fights; the man under the law fights with sin, but cannot conquer; the man under grace fights and conquers, yea is ‘more than conqueror, through him that loveth him.’ [III.8]


One sentence summary:  

This sermon describes three possible states in relation to God: asleep (false peace or indifference), awake and aware of separation from God, and awake and aware of receiving acceptance and pardon with God.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” – Romans 8:15 (KJV)


Concise outline of “The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption”

1. Paul is writing to children of God by faith.
2. The spirit of bondage and fear is widely distant from the loving spirit of adoption.
3. Most people have neither the fear of God before their eyes nor the love of God in their hearts.
4. You may remember when you were in the same situation.
5. A “natural man” has neither fear of God nor love for God.

I. The State of a “Natural Man”

1. The state of a natural man is a state of sleep, discerning neither spiritual good nor evil.
2. Because they are asleep, they are in some sense at rest.
3. They are secure because they are ignorant of themselves.
4. This ignorance is especially strong in people of learning.
5. From this ignorance there may sometimes be a joy in self-congratulation on their own wisdom and goodness.
6. It is not surprising if such a one thinks they walk in great liberty.
7. All this time the natural man is a servant of sin.
8. How can such a person be convinced of sin?

II. The State of One that is “Under the Law”

1. God touches them in some way and wakes them from their sleep and they see God’s justice.
2. The inward spiritual meaning of the law now begins to glare upon them.
3. Their heart is bare and they see it is all sin.
4. They feel they deserve to be cast into the fire that shall never be quenched.
5. Here ends this pleasing dream, this delusive rest, this vain security.
6. They feel the anguish of a wounded spirit.
7. Now they truly desire to break loose from sin, and begin to struggle with it. But sin is mightier than they are.
8. The more they strive, the more they feel their chains.
9. This struggle is the struggle of people under the law.
10. Who shall deliver me from this bondage? The grace of God through Jesus Christ my Lord.

III. The State of One under Grace

1. Then bondage ends and they are no more under the law, but under grace.
2. They cried unto the Lord in their trouble and God delivered them.
3. God breaks through and they are reconciled to God by the blood of the covenant.
4. Here end both the guilt and the power of sin.
5. The Spirit brings liberty from guilt, fear and sin itself.
6. They are a living witness of the glorious liberty of the sons of God.
7. The Spirit delivers us from anger, pride, and all vile affections.
8. To conclude: the natural man neither conquers nor fights; the one under the law fights but cannot conquer; and the one under grace fights and conquers.

IV. The Insufficiency of Sincerity

1. It is not sufficient to divide people into sincere and insincere. Examine not whether you are sincere, but whether you “be in faith.”
2. These states often mingle together in one person.
3. People don’t consider how far a person may go and yet be in a natural or at best a legal state.
4. Beware, if you call yourself a Christian that you come not short of the mark of thy high calling.


Resources:

Read “The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first eight Standard Sermons:

Salvation by Faith

The Almost Christian

Awake, Thou That Sleepest

Scriptural Christianity

Justification by Faith

The Righteousness of Faith

The Way to the Kingdom

The First-Fruits of the Spirit

I highly recommend the critical edition of Wesley’s sermons, which has excellent references that show his reliance on Scripture throughout his preaching. There are four volumes if you want every known Wesley sermon. They aren’t cheap, but this is the most important publication by Abingdon since its release. Highly recommended!


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.

John Wesley’s Sermon “The First-Fruits of the Spirit”: A Brief Summary

John Wesley, Justification by Faith


I have been so encouraged by the number of readers who have emailed me directly about this series. Some of you have indicated that knowing when these posts will appear would help you read the sermons. Going forward, you can expect to see a new post in this series by 10am EST on Tuesday mornings.


Background:

Did you know that many of John Wesley’s sermons are part of the formal doctrinal teaching of multiple Wesleyan/Methodist denominations? Wesley’s sermons have particular authority because these were the main way he taught Methodist doctrine and belief.

“The First-Fruits of the Spirit” is the eighth sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons. In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “The First-Fruits of the Spirit.” I hope it will inspire you to read the sermon in its entirety yourself. Links to the sermon and other resources are included at the end of this post.


Key quote: 

By “them which are in Christ Jesus” St. Paul evidently means those who truly believe in him; those who “being justified by faith, have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” They who thus believe do no longer “walk after the flesh,” no longer follow the motions of corrupt nature, but “after the Spirit.” Both their thoughts, words, and works are under the direction of the blessed Spirit of God.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to” these. There is no condemnation to them from God, for he hath “justified them freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus.” He hath forgiven all their iniquities, and blotted out all their sins. And there is no condemnation to them from within, for they “have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that they might know the things which are freely given to them of God”: “which Spirit bearers witness with their spirits that they are the children of God.” And to this is added “the testimony of their conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, they have had their conversation in the world.” [1-2]


One sentence summary:  

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ and walk by the Spirit.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” – Romans 8:1 (KJV)


Concise outline of “The First-Fruits of the Spirit”

1. By “them which are in Christ,” Paul means those who truly believe in him.
2. There is therefore now no condemnation to these.
3. I propose to show, 1. who those are that are in Christ and 2. how there is no condemnation to these.

I. Who Those Are That Are in Christ?

1. Those who believe in his name.
2. They do not sin or walk after the flesh.
3. Those in Christ have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts.
4. They walk after the Spirit in their hearts and lives. They are led by the Spirit into every holy desire.
5. They are led by the Spirit into all holiness of conversation.
6. Being filled with the Holy Ghost they show the genuine fruits of the Spirit of God.

II. How There Is No Condemnation for Those in Christ Jesus

1. There is no condemnation for those in Christ on account of past sins.
2. There is no condemnation in their own breast, no guilt of dread of the wrath of God. They have the witness of the Spirit and adoption.
3. Those who are in Christ neither are condemned by God or their own heart.
4. They are not condemned for any present sins, because they are freed from them.
5. They are not condemned for inward sins even though it does now remain.
6. They are not condemned though their heart is wicked as long as they don’t yield to its desires.
7. They are not condemned even though they are aware of sin clinging to them and what they do.
8. They are not condemned for sins of infirmity.
9. They are not condemned for anything it is not in their power to help.
10. A believer may sometimes be grieved because he can’t do what he longs to do.
11. Sins of surprise are a difficult category.
12. Sins of surprise that come from willful neglect of one’s soul are more serious.
13. Things that couldn’t be anticipated but lead to sin are less serious and should not fear condemnation.

III. Practical Inferences

1. Given what has been said, why are you fearful?
2. If you have sinned since coming to faith, do you have faith now? Then you are once again free.
3. Those who commit sin now are not included in this freedom from condemnation.
4. Do not fret because of heart sin if you do not give in to them.
5. Don’t let your weakness shake your trust in God.
6. If you sin through surprise, repent and confess in trust and confidence that God will forgive you.


Resources:

Read “The First-Fruits of the Spirit” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first seven Standard Sermons:

Salvation by Faith

The Almost Christian

Awake, Thou That Sleepest

Scriptural Christianity

Justification by Faith

The Righteousness of Faith

The Way to the Kingdom

I highly recommend the critical edition of Wesley’s sermons, which has excellent references that show his reliance on Scripture throughout his preaching. There are four volumes if you want every known Wesley sermon. They aren’t cheap, but this is the most important publication by Abingdon since its release. Highly recommended!


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.

John Wesley’s Sermon “The Way to the Kingdom”: A Brief Summary

John Wesley, Justification by Faith


I have been so encouraged by the number of readers who have emailed me directly about this series. Some of you have indicated that knowing when these posts will appear would help you read the sermons. Going forward, you can expect to see a new post in this series by 10am EST on Tuesday mornings.

I am delighted to see the interest in engaging the Wesleyan doctrinal heritage! Here is sermon #7 “The Way to the Kingdom.”


Background:

Did you know that many of John Wesley’s sermons are part of the formal doctrinal teaching of multiple Wesleyan/Methodist denominations? Wesley’s sermons have particular authority because these were the main way he taught Methodist doctrine and belief.

“The Way to the Kingdom” is the seventh sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons. The sermon is divided into two parts. The first part defines the kingdom of God. The second part defines the way to the kingdom of God.

I am going to stop saying that each sermon is a foundational sermon for Wesleyan/Methodist doctrine. The inclusion of each of these in the Standard Sermons makes them foundational for Methodist doctrine.

In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “The Way to the Kingdom.” I hope it will inspire you to read the sermon in its entirety yourself. Links to the sermon and other resources are included at the end of this post.


Key quote: 

Believe this [Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners], and the kingdom of God is thine. By faith thou attainest the promise: ‘He pardoneth and absolveth all that truly repent and unfeignedly believe his holy gospel.’ As soon as ever God hath spoken to thy heart, ‘Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee,’ his kingdom comes; thou hast righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. [II.9]


One sentence summary:  

The kingdom of God, which is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, is attained by faith in Jesus Christ.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“The kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” – Mark 1:15 (KJV)


Concise outline of “The Way to the Kingdom”

I. The Nature of True Religion, or The Kingdom of God

1. The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
2. The kingdom of God is not about observance of the law.
3. It isn’t any outward thing, the whole substance is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
4. It isn’t in outward forms or ceremonies.
5. The nature of religion does not properly consist of any outward action.
6. Neither does religion consist in orthodoxy or right opinions.
7. This alone is religion: righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Righteousness is, first, loving the Lord.
8. Righteousness is, second, loving thy neighbor.
9. Righteousness also includes mercy, humility, gentleness, meekness, and long-suffering.
10. True religion implies happiness as well as holiness.
11. Peace with God also brings joy in the Holy Ghost.
12. This holiness and happiness is the kingdom of God.
13. This kingdom of God is at hand.

II. The Way to the Kingdom of God

1. This is the way: walk ye in it. First, repent. Know yourselves.
2. The consequences of inbred corruption of the heart.
3. Only bitter evil fruit comes from a corrupt heart.
4. The wages of sin is death – temporal and eternal.
5. There is nothing we can do to appease the wrath of God.
6. Even if perfect obedience could atone for past sins, we aren’t capable of it.
7. Conviction of inward and outward sin also needs sorrow and despair in self. Repent and believe the gospel.
8. The gospel is that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.
9. Believe this and the kingdom of God is thine.
10. Faith is not mental assent to propositions but sure trust and confidence in God in Christ.
11. When you believe, the peace of God is in your heart and sorrows and sighing flee.
12. If you now believe, then the love of God is shed abroad in your heart.
13. The world regards this as madness, but stand strong in faith.


Resources:

Read “The Way to the Kingdom” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first six Standard Sermons:

Salvation by Faith

The Almost Christian

Awake, Thou That Sleepest

Scriptural Christianity

Justification by Faith

The Righteousness of Faith

I highly recommend the critical edition of Wesley’s sermons, which has excellent references that show his reliance on Scripture throughout his preaching. There are four volumes if you want every known Wesley sermon. They aren’t cheap, but this is the most important publication by Abingdon since its release. Highly recommended!


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.

Deep Dive Spirituality: A Conversation on Wesleyan Small Groups and Entire Sanctification

Over the past few weeks, I have been invited to be on a handful of podcasts. As it happened, all three of the most recent interviews were released on the same day. I wanted to spread them out a bit here so as not to overwhelm you and in hopes of featuring each of the work these folks are doing. This is the third of the three.


I was invited to be a guest on Brian Russell’s Deep Dive Spirituality Conversations podcast. Dr. Russell is Associate Provost at Asbury Theological Seminary, Dean of the Orlando School of Ministry, and Professor of Biblical Studies.

Our conversation focused on two related topics.

First, we discussed the role of small group formation in the history of Methodism and its relevance for today.

Second, we talked about entire sanctification and its connection to pursuing Christ with others.

Readers of this blog know that I am passionate about both of these topics! I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I enjoyed being part of it.



Check out my conversation with Matt Reynolds of Spirit & Truth and Scott Kisker, which was the first of the three. The second was my conversation with The Weight podcast, hosted by Chris McAlilly and Eddie Rester. It has been a blessing to connect with Wesleyans in Ohio, Mississippi, and Florida over the past few weeks. I hope these conversations are a blessing to you.


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you.

John Wesley’s Sermon “The Righteousness of Faith”: A Brief Summary

John Wesley, Justification by Faith


I have been so encouraged by the number of readers who have emailed me directly about this series. I am delighted to see the interest in engaging the Wesleyan doctrinal heritage! Here is sermon #6 “The Righteousness of Faith.”


Background:

Did you know that many of John Wesley’s sermons are part of the formal doctrinal teaching of multiple Wesleyan/Methodist denominations? Wesley’s sermons have particular authority because these were the main way he taught Methodist doctrine and belief.

“The Righteousness of Faith” is the sixth sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons. The sermon is a rich unpacking of the doctrine of justification by faith and is connected to the previous sermon, “Justification by Faith.”

This sermon is another foundational sermon for Wesleyan/Methodist doctrine.

In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “The Righteousness of Faith.” I hope it will inspire you to read the sermon in its entirety yourself. Links to the sermon and other resources are included at the end of this post.


Key quote: 

What is the difference then between the ‘righteousness which is of the law’ and the ‘righteousness which is of faith’? Between the first covenant, or the covenant of works, and the second, the covenant of grace? The essential, unchangeable difference is this: the one supposes him to whom it is given to be already holy and happy, created in the image and enjoying the favour of God; and prescribes the condition whereon he may continue therein, in love and joy, life and immortality. The other supposes him to whom it is given to be now unholy and unhappy; fallen short of the glorious image of God, having the wrath of God abiding on him, and hastening through sin, whereby his soul is dead, to bodily death and death everlasting. And to man in this state it prescribes the condition whereon he may regain the pearl he has lost; may recover the favour, and the image of God, may retrieve the life of God in his soul, and be restored to the knowledge and the love of God, which is the beginning of life eternal. [I.11]


One sentence summary:  

In contrast to seeking righteousness through perfect obedience to the law, the righteousness of faith (which brings forgiveness and reconciliation with God) comes through faith in Jesus Christ.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach.” – Romans 10: 5-8 (KJV)


Concise outline of “The Righteousness of Faith”

  1. Paul opposes the covenant of grace to the covenant of works, not Moses to Christ.
  2. Paul was speaking affectionately to the Jews earlier in this chapter.
  3. They were ignorant that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes.
  4. And how many are equally ignorant now?

I. Discussion of the Righteousness of the Law

1. The righteousness of the law requires perfect obedience in order to continue in the holiness and happiness wherein people were created.
2. It required that people should fulfill all righteousness, inward and outward; negative and positive.
3. It farther required that this inward and outward holiness be perfect in degree.
4. It also must be perfectly uninterrupted.
5. A summary of the righteousness of the law.
6. The righteousness of faith is the new covenant which God has established with sinful people through Christ.
7. By righteousness of faith is meant the condition of justification which was given by God to fallen people through the merits and mediation of his only begotten Son.
8. The covenant does not say to sinful people, perform unsinning obedience and live.
9. The covenant says: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.
10. This condition of life is plain, easy, always at hand.
11. The difference between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace is that the former supposes people are already holy and happy and the latter supposes people are unholy and unhappy.
12. In order to continue in favor with God, the covenant of works requires people maintain perfect uninterrupted obedience. The covenant of grace requires only faith.
13. In the covenant of grace, we have nothing to pay, God frankly forgives us all.
14. The first covenant required what is now far off from us all, unsinning obedience.

II. The Folly of Trusting the Righteousness of the Law and the Wisdom of Submitting to the Righteousness of Faith

1. The first step of those who trust in the law is a mistake because they are not in the state in which the covenant was made.
2. Neither do they consider that the law requires perfect and entire obedience.
3. Neither do they recognize that obedience to the law must be perfect in degree.
4. The law condemns all who do not perform uninterrupted and perfect obedience.
5. It is the height of foolishness for sinful people to seek acceptance by their own righteousness.
6. Disclaiming our own righteousness is wise because it is acting according to the truth.
7. It is further wise because it is submitting to the way God has made.
8. It is mere grace, free love, undeserved mercy that God has given sinful people any means of reconciliation with himself.
9. It is wisdom to aim at the best end by the best means. The best end is happiness in God. The only means to that end is submitting to the righteousness of faith.

III. How to Be Forgiven and Reconciled to the Favor of God

1. Do not say I must first do this. First believe.
2. Do not say I can’t be accepted because I am not good enough.
3. Do not say I am not contrite enough.
4. Do not say I must do something before I come to Christ.
5. Do not wait for more sincerity.
6. This is it: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”


Resources:

Read “The Righteousness of Faith” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first five Standard Sermons:

Salvation by Faith

The Almost Christian

Awake, Thou That Sleepest

Scriptural Christianity

Justification by Faith

I highly recommend the critical edition of Wesley’s sermons, which has excellent references that show his reliance on Scripture throughout his preaching. There are four volumes if you want every known Wesley sermon. They aren’t cheap, but this is the most important publication by Abingdon since its release. Highly recommended!


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.

John Wesley’s Sermon “Justification by Faith”: A Brief Summary

John Wesley, Justification by Faith


I have been so encouraged by the number of readers who have emailed me directly about this series. I am delighted to see the interest in engaging the Wesleyan doctrinal heritage! Here is sermon #5 “Justification by Faith.”


Background:

Did you know that many of John Wesley’s sermons are part of the formal doctrinal teaching of multiple Wesleyan/Methodist denominations? Wesley’s sermons have particular authority because these were the main way he taught Methodist doctrines and beliefs.

We have already summarized the four Oxford sermons that served as a kind of preface to the Sermons on Several Occasions. “Justification by Faith,” as the titled suggests, is a sermon focused on the doctrine of justification by faith. Wesley is typically concerned with the relevance and experience of these doctrines, and this sermon is no different.

“Justification by Faith” is a foundational sermon for Wesleyan/Methodist doctrine.

In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “Justification by Faith.” I hope it will inspire you to read the sermon in its entirety yourself (check out the resources at the end of this post).


Key quote: 

Faith in general is a divine, supernatural ‘evidence’ or conviction ‘of things not seen,’ not discoverable by our bodily senses as being either past, future, or spiritual. Justifying faith implies, not only a divine evidence or conviction that ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself,’ but a sure trust and confidence that Christ died for my sins, that he loved me, and gave himself for me. And at what time soever a sinner thus believes, be it in early childhood, in the strength of his years, or when he is old and hoary-haired [having gray or white hair], God justifieth that ungodly one; God for the sake of his Son pardoners and absolveth him who had in him till then no good thing. Repentance indeed God had given him before. But that repentance was neither more nor less than a deep sense of the want of all good, and the presence of all evil. And whatever good he hath or doth from that hour when he first believes in God through Christ, faith does not find but bring. This is the fruit of faith. First the tree is good, and then the fruit is good also. [IV.2]


One sentence summary:  

Justification is pardon or forgiveness of all past sins that comes solely through faith, which is “a sure trust and confidence that Christ died for my sins, that he loved me, and gave himself for me.”


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteousness.” – Romans 4:5 (KJV)


Concise outline of “Justification by Faith”

  1. An important question: How can a sinner be justified before God?
  2. And yet, despite this question’s importance, how little has it been understood!
  3. I will show:
    1. The general grounds of the doctrine of justification.
    2. What justification is.
    3. Who they are that are justified.
    4. On what terms they are justified.

I. The general ground of the doctrine of justification

1. Humans were made in the image of God, holy, merciful, perfect.
2. God gave people a perfect law, to which he required full and perfect obedience.
3. God added one positive law: Don’t eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden.
4. In paradise, the first humans were holy and happy. But if they disobeyed they forfeited all.
5. Man did disobey and ate of the tree. And he died, his soul died and was separated from God.
6. Thus ‘by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.’
7. This was our state when God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son so that we might not perish but have everlasting life.
8. The Son has tasted death for everyone. God has reconciled the world to himself.
9. This is the grand doctrine of justification where we are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.

II. What is justification?

1. It is not being made just and righteous, that is sanctification. The one is what God does for us through his Son; the other what he works in us by his Spirit.
2. The conceit that justification is the clearing us from accusation; particularly of Satan, is not provable in Scripture.
3. Justification is also not the clearing of accusation brought against us by the law.
4. Least of all does justification imply that God is deceived.
5. Justification is pardon, forgiveness of sins. It is the act of God the Father whereby, for the sake of the propitiation made by the blood of his Son, he showeth forth his righteousness (or mercy) by the remission of the sins that are past.

III. Who are justified?

1. The ungodly. Forgiveness has an immediate reference to sin and nothing else.
2. Justification precedes sanctification. It is not a saint but a sinner that is forgiven.
3. The good Shepherd seeks and saves that which is lost.
4. The sick, guilty, and ungodly need pardon.
5. All works done before justification are not good in the Christian sense, because they do not come from faith in Christ.
6. A summary of the argument: No works are good which are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done; no works before justification are done as God hath willed and commanded. Therefore, no works done before justification are good.

IV. On what terms are the ungodly who have no good works justified?

1. By faith.
2. Faith is a divine, supernatural evidence or conviction of things not seen, not discoverable by our bodily senses as being either past, future, or spiritual. Justifying faith implies, not only a divine evidence or conviction that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, but a sure trust and confidence that Christ died for my sins, that he loved me, and gave himself for me.
3. Faith is a sure trust and confidence that God has and will forgive our sins, that he has accepted us again into his favor for the merits of Christ’s death and passion.
4. There is no justification without this faith.
5. Faith is the only necessary condition of justification.
6. Faith is the only thing without which none is justified, the only thing absolutely required for pardon.
7. It does not become poor, guilty, sinful worms to ask God the reasons for his conduct.
8. One reason we may humbly conceive of God fixing this condition was to protect people from pride.
9. Go straight to God with all your ungodliness. Look unto Jesus! Plead only the blood of the covenant. Believe in the Lord Jesus; and thou, even thou, are reconciled to God.


Resources:

Read “Justification by Faith” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first four Standard Sermons:

Salvation by Faith

The Almost Christian

Awake, Thou That Sleepest

Scriptural Christianity

I highly recommend the critical edition of Wesley’s sermons, which has excellent references that show his reliance on Scripture throughout his preaching. There are four volumes if you want every known Wesley sermon. They aren’t cheap, but this is the most important publication by Abingdon since its release. Highly recommended!


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.

The Weight Podcast: Big Pandemic. Small Groups.

The Weight Podcast: Big Pandemic. Small Groups.

Over the past few weeks, I have been invited to be on a handful of podcasts. As it happened, all three of the most recent interviews were released on the same day. I wanted to spread them out a bit here so as not to overwhelm you and in hopes of featuring each of the work these folks are doing. This is the second of the three.


The Weight is hosted by Chris McAlilly and Eddie Rester, who are both United Methodist pastors at Oxford University UMC, in Oxford, MS. Chris and Eddie are thoughtful and gracious hosts who are passionate about facilitating deeper, more substantive, and nuanced conversation and weighty topics in the church and broader culture. I love the way they introduce their blog:

Let’s be honest. There are some topics that are too heavy for a 20 minute sermon. There are issues that need conversation, not just explanation. That’s why we have created The Weight.

This is a podcast that creates a space for honestly discussing some of the heavy topics we face in our culture today. We believe that the church is called to engage in a way that honors the weightiness and importance that these topics have for how we live faithfully today.


I was invited to be on The Weight before Covid-19 to talk about the upcoming General Conference (now postponed to late summer/early fall 2021). Chris and Eddie suggested that the conversation shift from the original focus, as their podcast in general did, to aspects of ministry in the midst of social distancing and a global pandemic. You can get a sense of their initial focus from their first two episodes which feature Bishop Ken Carter in the first and Carolyn Moore in the second.


The episode I am on was creatively titled: “Big Pandemic. Small Groups.” We talked about the potential contribution of Wesleyan small group formation, especially the class meeting and the band meeting, in the time of a pandemic.

In thinking back on this conversation in comparison to my conversation with Matt Reynolds of Spirit & Truth and Scott Kisker of United Theological Seminary, I am struck by the benefit of multiple conversation partners. The topic of both episodes was roughly the same, but the conversation went in different directions and has certainly helped my own thinking. Both were helpful to me. I hope they are to you too.


Please check out what Chris and Eddie are doing at The Weight. I hope you find the episode I was on helpful. And don’t miss their latest episode with Bishop James Swanson. Here is their description:

A serious dialogue on race and equity is imperative for the life of the church, a truth that we are painfully reminded of in the aftermath of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia. How can the Church do better in its pursuit of justice for all? How can we pursue reconciliation that isn’t shallow or even callous, but rather is honest about the work that still needs to be done to bring about substantive change? How can we posture our hearts, minds, and actions towards the vision of God’s creation where all are truly cared for, valued, and protected?


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you.

John Wesley’s Sermon “Scriptural Christianity”: A Brief Summary

John Wesley


Background:

Did you know that many of John Wesley’s sermons are part of the formal doctrinal teaching of multiple Wesleyan/Methodist denominations? Wesley’s sermons have particular authority because these were the main way he taught Methodist doctrines and beliefs.

John Wesley preached the sermon “Scriptural Christianity” at St. Mary’s, Oxford University as the final sermon he preached before the university on August 24, 1744. In this sermon, Wesley bluntly confronts Oxford University with their failure to live according to the teaching of Scripture. When you read this sermon, you will likely not be surprised to find out that this was the last time Wesley was invited to preach at St. Mary’s.

This was the fourth and final sermon of the sermons the Wesleys preached at St. Mary’s. It was also the final sermon in the sermons included as a kind of preface to Wesley’s Sermons on Several Occasions. “Scriptural Christianity” is the fourth of the sermons in the Standard Sermons that are a key part of the formal doctrine of many Wesleyan/Methodist denominations.

In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “Scriptural Christianity.” I hope it will inspire you to read the sermon in its entirety yourself (check out the resources at the end of this post).


Key quote: 

May it not be one of the consequences of this that so many of you are a generation of triflers; triflers with God, with one another, and with your own souls? For how few of you spend, from one week to another, a single hour in private prayer? How few have any thought of God in the general tenor of your conversation? Who of you is in any degree acquainted with the work of his Spirit? His supernatural work in the souls of men? Can you bear, unless now and then in a church, any talk of the Holy Ghost? Would you not take it for granted if one began such a conversation that it was either ‘hypocrisy’ or ‘enthusiasm’? In the name of the Lord God Almighty I ask, What religion are you of? Even the talk of Christianity ye cannot, will not, bear! O my brethren! What a Christian city is this? ‘It is time for thee, Lord, to lay to thine hand!’….

Lord, save, or we perish! Take us out of the mire, that we sink not! O help us against these enemies! For vain is the help of man. Unto thee all things are possible. According to the greatness of thy power, preserve thou those that are appointed to die. And preserve us in the manner that seemest thee good; not as we will, but as thou wilt! [IV. 10-11]


One sentence summary:  

John Wesley confronts Oxford with the disconnect between scriptural Christianity and the nominally Christian lives of most people in Oxford.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” – Acts 4:31 (KJV)


Concise outline of “Scriptural Christianity”

  1. Wesley makes a comparison of Acts 4:13 to similar verses in Acts 2.
  2. In Acts 4:31, the place was shaken and they were filled with the Holy Ghost.
  3. They were filled with the Holy Ghost for a ‘more excellent purpose’ than the gifts of the Spirit.
  4. They were filled with the Holy Ghost to give them the mind which was in Christ, those holy fruits of the spirit which whosoever hath not ‘is none of his’; to fill them with ‘love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness’; to endue them with faith, meekness and temperance; to enable them to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts, its passions and desires; and, in consequence of that inward change to fulfill all outward righteousness.
  5. Without losing focus by arguing about the extraordinary gifts, let us focus on the ordinary fruits:
    1. As beginning to exist in individuals.
    2. As spreading from one to another.
    3. As covering the earth.
    4. Wesley will close with a plain practical application.

I. Let us consider Christianity in its rise, as beginning with individuals.

1. Suppose one heard Peter preach, repented, received faith and the witness of the Spirit.
2. He could not be afraid of any evil tidings.
3. His soul magnified the Lord and his spirit rejoiced in God his Savior.
4. The love of God was shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost.
5. He loves his brother also.
6. Love is not puffed up, he is lowly of heart.
7. It was impossible for him knowlingly and designedly to do harm to any man.
8. He continued daily in all the ordinances of God and daily grew in grace.
9. It wasn’t enough to abstain from evil, his soul was athirst to do good.
10. Such was Christianity in its rise.

II.Let us take a view of Christianity spreading from one to another and growing.

1. It was the will of God that Christianity should spread from his first followers to others.
2. Lovers of mankind would be concerned for ‘the whole world lying in wickedness.’
3. Christians of old warned people to escape the damnation of hell.
4. They spoke to every person what was suited to their circumstance.
5. Their labors grew the church, but also grew the number of people who were offended.
6. The more Christianity spread, the more hurt was done to those who didn’t receive it.
7. Persecution arose in all of its forms.
8. Then the pillars of hell were shaken and the kingdom of God spread more and more.
9. As Christianity spread, how soon did the tares appear with the wheat! How soon did Satan find a seat, even in the temple of God!

III. Shall we not see greater things than these?

1. Can Satan cause the truth of God to fail? If not, Christianity will cover all the earth.
2. God has not cast away his people but is working so salvation can come to the Gentiles.
3. Suppose now the fullness of time to be come and the prophecies accomplished.
4. With righteousness or justice, mercy is also found.
5. No unkind or deceptive word would be heard.
6. When God reigns he will cause every heart to overflow with love and every mouth with praise.

IV. A plain practical application.

1. Where does this Christianity now exist? Where do the Christians live?
2. If you think I’m a fool, bear with me, do not prevent yourself from being blessed only because it comes through me.
3. Is this city a Christian city?
4. I am not talking about contested ideas, only the fundamental branches of our common Christianity.
5. Are you filled with the Holy Ghost?
6. To the teachers at Oxford: Are you filled with the Holy Ghost? Do you continually remind your students that the end of their studies is to know, love, and serve God?
7. I’m only speaking as if all under your care were intended to be Christians (not clergy).
8. Are those of us called to ministry patterns to the rest?
9. Do the youth have either the form or the power of Christian godliness?
10. Are not many of you a generation of triflers?
11. What is the chance that scriptural Christianity should again be the religion of this place? Lord, save, or we perish!


Resources:

Read “Scriptural Christianity” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first three Standard Sermons:

Salvation by Faith

The Almost Christian

Awake, Thou That Sleepest

I highly recommend the critical edition of Wesley’s sermons, which has excellent references that show his reliance on Scripture throughout his preaching. There are four volumes if you want every known Wesley sermon. They aren’t cheap, but this is the most important publication by Abingdon since its release. Highly recommended!


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.