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.”


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.


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.