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.

Cambridge Turquoise Reference Bible (KJV): Exceptional Quality and Craftsmanship

The King James, or Authorized, Version of the Bible is widely regarded as the most influential book in the history of the English language. While it is less popular in some parts of contemporary Christianity, it continues to be the preferred translation for many Christians. The popularity of the KJV by contemporary Christians is seen by the variety of fine editions you can find in the King James Version today. Today’s review is the best KJV Bible I’ve seen to date.


Cover

Cambridge Turquoise Cover

The Cambridge Turquoise Reference Bible is available in a black goatskin edge-lined binding and a black calf split paste-off binding. Edge-lined bindings are more durable and more expensive. I am reviewing the black goatskin in this review.

The goatskin on this Bible has a beautiful grain that has a lovely feel to it. This cover is closer to a matte than a glossy finish, which I love. The first impression of this cover is that it is the highest quality leather binding you can find on a Bible. The front cover has a simple gold-letter stamp of “HOLY BIBLE.”

The spine has gorgeous raised ribs. One of the unique features of a Cambridge KJV is that it has the Royal seal, as Cambridge University Press is the Queen’s printer. This adds a nice elegant touch that you cannot find on any other publisher of the KJV.

The goatskin cover and design are exceptional. Of all of the KJV Bibles I’ve had, this cover is by far my favorite.


Layout

Cambridge Turquoise Layout

The Turquoise Reference Edition is a double column Bible that has verse-by-verse layout. The advantage of this layout is that it is easy to scan the page for particular verses. This is particularly desirable when preaching or teaching, though it is largely a matter of preference. The disadvantage of this layout design is that it makes for a less immersive reading experience than a paragraph layout.

This Bible is a reference edition and has extensive references and notes from the translators in the center column of each page. The references are adequate for studying a passage and its connection to other parts of Scripture, which is essential for studying the Bible.

I found the system to initially be confusing and actually spent some time searching around online for an explanation of how the references are used, which I did not find in the Bible itself. Because the references are in the center column, I was confused about how to match up the keys in the text to the references. Here’s how they do it: The keys go from left to right across both columns. This keeps the center-column references close to where the keys occur in the text. I initially found this confusing because if you are scanning down one column of Scripture, the keys are not necessarily sequential. “A” might be in the left column and “b” and “c” might be in the right column. This ends up not being a real problem because most people would intuitively look for the reference in the center column and they would find the correct one. Nevertheless, I would have appreciated a short explanation of the system of references (which are identified with letters) and translator’s notes (which are identified with numbers) in the front matter of the Bible itself.

Cambridge Turquoise Layout

A pet-peeve of mine for fine Bibles is when new Books of the Bible are not given a fresh page. This a design choice that saves pages and thickness. But from my perspective, the payoff is marginal and does not offset the benefits of a cleaner layout. While this is ultimately a fairly minor concern, it is one of the very few criticisms I have of the Cambridge Turquoise Reference Bible.

At this stage, you may think that my general feeling of the layout of this Bible is strongly negative. That is not at all the case! The quality of the ink and paper, and the size of the font make this Bible easy to read. Physically, the Bible feels a bit taller and narrower than Bibles I would put in the same class. The cover is roughly 9 ¾” by 6 ½”. It may be that it seems taller than most Bibles because it is actually slightly narrower. Either way, I really like it. At 1 ½”, it is the perfect thickness for my taste.


Other Features

The Cambridge Turquoise Reference Edition includes both the original dedication and preface from the translators. Because of the history of the King James Version, I think every edition of the KJV ought to include both of these. Cambridge made a great choice here.

One feature I don’t remember seeing in other Bibles I’ve reviewed is that the chapters are numbered consecutively throughout the Bible. So, for example, next to chapter 1 of Jeremiah is “746]”. I would generally put this in the category of interesting trivia, but not necessarily something I would be likely to refer to much. (The design is subtle enough I didn’t even notice this immediately.)

The Bible also includes a presentation page and family records section. It includes a substantial concordance and maps in the back matter. There are two ribbon markers. And the Bible has Cambridge’s beautiful art gilt page edges.


Price

The goatskin retails for $320 and is available for $195.76 as of this writing. The cheapest it has been available on Amazon that I can find has been $172.15, about 7 months ago.

The calf split retails for $210. The price does not tend to change much on Amazon. It is $138.08 as of this writing and looks like it has been that price for 9 months. The cheapest it has been on Amazon that I can find was $137.26.


Conclusion

Cambridge Turquoise Spine

This Bible feels substantial both in the hand and laid open while reading. It possesses the supreme virtue of fine Bibles: It is of such excellent quality and craftmanship you want to hold it and interact with it. This is a great example of the attention to detail and premium materials from start to finish that are consistent hallmarks of Cambridge Bibles.


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. Cambridge provided a review copy of this Bible in exchange for an honest review.

Pandemic Perspectives: A Conversation on Spirit & Truth

Spirit & Truth released a conversation with Scott Kisker, Matt Reynolds, and myself yesterday. This conversation was one of the highlights of my week. I hope you will check it out and that the conversation will bless you too.

The conversation centered around discipleship in a time of social distancing. We talked about the versatility of Wesleyan class meetings, as a way to meet virtually when necessary (though in person is ideal). One aspect of developing small group formation that seems particularly helpful right now is that small groups can fairly easily move from online to in person as required by conditions related to Covid-19. (Need help starting class meetings? Check out: How to Quickly and Easily Launch Online Class Meetings.)

The most interesting part of the conversation for me was when Scott argued that we should refer to this season as a famine and not a time of fasting. Scott argued that fasting is not the right way to think about this season. Rather, we are in the midst of a famine.

Scott’s main point was that we can choose to fast. We do not choose a famine. It is something that happens to us. And, as a result, it is not a spiritual discipline. I had not seen or heard anyone else make this distinction. It has really changed my thinking about this season.

We discussed several other aspects of Church history and whether we think there are historical precedents for Covid-19 and the church’s response.

I particularly enjoyed this conversation because Scott was one of my two most important mentors when I was in seminary. It is always humbling to me to be connected with him and get to work with him.

Matt asked Scott and I to do this together because we co-wrote a book a few years ago on the Wesley band meeting. The book discussed both the theology behind these groups and how to start band meetings today. If you want to know more about Wesleyan small group formation or think you might be ready for a band meeting, pick up a copy of The Band Meeting.

If you haven’t been following Spirit & Truth, I highly encourage you to do so. Matt Reynolds is on the cutting edge of contemporary evangelism that is helping people encounter Jesus and his love for them. And he is passionate about equipping local churches to spread the good news of Jesus in their communities. Matt Reynolds gives me hope for the future of the Wesleyan movement!

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.

Charles Wesley’s Sermon “Awake, Thou That Sleepest”: A Brief Summary


Background:

The previous two posts have offered brief introductions to the first two sermons that are part of the formal doctrinal teaching of many Wesleyan/Methodist denominations. Did you know that one of these sermons was actually written and preached by Charles Wesley, who is best known for writing hymns like “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” and “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”?

Charles Wesley preached the sermon “Awake, Thou That Sleepest” at St. Mary’s, Oxford University as one of the University sermons on April 4, 1742. This is the only sermon Charles preached in St. Mary’s.

This was the third of four sermons the Wesleys preached at St. Mary’s that formed the beginning of Wesley’s Sermons on Several Occasions. “Awake, Thou That Sleepest” is the third in the Standard Sermons that are a key part of the formal doctrine of many Wesleyan/Methodist denominations. And it is the only one that was not written by John Wesley.

In hopes of sparking interest in these sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “Awake, Thou That Sleepest.” 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: 

Awake, thou everlasting spirit, out of thy dream of worldly happiness. Did not God create thee for himself? Then thou canst not rest till thou restest in him. Return, thou wanderer. Fly back to thy ark. ‘This is not thy home.’ Think not of building tabernacles here. Thou art but ‘a stranger, a sojourner upon earth’; a creature of a day, but just launching out into an unchangeable state. Make haste; eternity is at hand. Eternity depends on this moment: an eternity of happiness, or an eternity of misery! [II.6]


One sentence summary:  

People, who by nature are asleep and separated from God, must wake up, put their faith in Jesus Christ, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” Ephesians 5:14 (KJV)


Concise outline of “Awake, Thou That Sleepest”

I. Who is the sleeper Ephesians 5:14 speaks of?

1. By sleep is signified the natural state of man.
2. The poor unawakened sinner has no knowledge of himself.
3. Full of all disease, he thinks he is in perfect health.
4. Sleeper: a sinner satisfied in his sin, ignorant of his disease and only cure.
5. If he is not outwardly vicious, his sleep is usually deepest of all.
6. He has a form of godliness but denies the power thereof.
7. However highly esteemed among men such a Christian may be, he is an abomination to God.
8. He abides in death, though he doesn’t know it.
9. Before one can arise they must come to know they are dead to God and the things of God.
10. He does have the spiritual senses necessary to discern spiritual good and evil.
11. Because he has no spiritual senses, he denies that they exist.
12. If you don’t have the witness of the Spirit, you need to be convinced you are unawakened.

II. Exhortation based on Ephesians 5:14

1. Know yourself, your true state. Judge yourself and you won’t be judged by the Lord.
2. Awake and cry out, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ And never rest till thou believest on the Lord Jesus, with a faith which is his gift, by the operation of his Spirit.
3. I am especially speaking to those who are unconcerned with this exhortation.
4. May the angel of the Lord wake you up!
5. Did God not create you for himself? Then you cannot rest until you rest in him.
6. In what state is your soul?
7. Are you a new creature?
8. Have you received the Holy Spirit?
9. If the question offends you, you aren’t a Christian and don’t really want to be one.
10. Have you received the Holy Spirit? A Christian is anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power. Christianity is participation in the divine nature, the life of God in the soul of man.
11. New creation is essential, inward change, spiritual birth, holiness.
12. Doing no harm and doing good will not save you.
13. Awake from spiritual death and come out from among the dead.

III. Explain the promise “and Christ shall give thee light” from Ephesians 5:14

1. If you awake, he has bound himself to give you light.
2. God is light, and will give himself to every awakened sinner who waits for him.
3. We are called to be a dwelling place for God through his Spirit.
4. The Spirit of Christ is that great gift of God which he has promised to us.
5. You may all be living witnesses of these things, of remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
6. Eternal life is: to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. This experimental knowledge, and this alone, is true Christianity.
7. He is antichrist whosoever denies the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, or that the indwelling Spirit of God is the common privilege of all believers.
8. In ‘only’ denying the inspiration of the Holy Spirit you deny the whole Scriptures, the whole truth and promise and testimony of God.
9. Any who deny the inspiration of the Holy Spirit renounce the Church of England.
10. The wisdom of God was always ‘foolishness with men.’
11. Even among those who have kept themselves pure from those grosser abominations, how much love of the world and fear of man is to be found.
12. I wish I could except us from this, but we have not kept ourselves pure.
13. God has withheld judgment for now, but how much longer?
14. God, be glorified in our reformation, not our destruction.
15. It is high time for us to wake up!


Resources:

Read “Awake, Thou That Sleepest” in its entirety.

Want to know more about Charles Wesley? John R. Tyson’s Assist Me to Proclaim is an accessible biography of Charles Wesley.

Check out my short summary of the first two Wesleyan Standard Sermons “Salvation by Faith” and “The Almost Christian.”

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.

 

My Thoughts on the Division of United Methodism

 

In early January, First Things contacted me and asked me to write a piece for them about the impending division of the UMC. This came right after the announcement of the “Protocol.” First Things wanted a piece that would be published just before the UMC General Conference.

It is hard to believe how much has changed since then. The General Conference has been postponed by more than a year. And Covid-19 has disrupted virtually every aspect of our lives.

Print publications work on a timeline that significantly limits their ability to respond to unexpected events. My article for First Things was in the very last stages of editing, for example, as Covid-19 began to cause massive disruption across the United States and it became unclear whether General Conference would meet as originally planned.

My article was published in print in May, 2020 and online a few weeks ago. While the timing made sense in January, it was far from ideal when it was actually published.

In “Methodism Dividing,” I put the United Methodist disagreement about same sex marriage and human sexuality in broader historical context. I particularly press on what I see as a common myth in United Methodism that we lead cultural change through our work for social justice.

In my experience there is a myth of social progress in three areas: slavery and racism, women’s ordination and leadership more broadly, and affirmation of same sex marriage. I argue that United Methodism, and its antecedents, did not lead these changes from a place of principled Christian conviction. Rather, the main branch of Methodism responded to changes in the surrounding dominant culture and followed in their wake. (I.e., the Methodist position on the first two changed after the dominant culture changed, rather than leading change in the dominant culture.)

This is why the worst moment of institutional racism in American Methodism was the formation of the Central Jurisdiction, which segregated all African-American Methodists into one Jurisdiction determined solely based on race, in the 1939 merger that created the Methodist Church. And it is why the Central Jurisdiction was not fully dissolved until the early 1970s, after major changes in the South came through the Civil Rights Movement.

Here’s another way this can be illustrated:  The position of United Methodists in a particular geographic area in the U.S. can generally be determined by the position of the dominant culture in the same area. There are of course exceptions, but this is a fairly sound and generally predictive principle. If the UMC is conservative in places that are generally conservative and liberal in places that are generally liberal, this suggests that United Methodism lacks a clear sense of identity and takes on the values of the dominant culture.

I often describe the UMC as a cultural chameleon. There are aspects of this that can be positive and helpful. There are also a variety of ways that this can be detrimental and damaging to a coherent Christian witness. I yearn for an expression of Methodism with a stronger grounding in its theological heritage and greater clarity of its own identity.

Regardless of where you are on the theological spectrum, all United Methodists need to give careful consideration to the relationship between church and society.

I think it is now inevitable that the UMC will divide. What is to be determined is how much fighting and bitterness there will be as division unfolds, and whether the church divides into a few new branches or fragments and splinters into many. Regardless of where we end up, there is room for all of us to be more firmly rooted in Christ.

You can see how I develop the historical argument in more details by checking out “Methodism Dividing” at First Things. My book Old or New School Methodism? The Fragmentation of a Theological Tradition provides an in-depth look at a particular moment of division in American Methodist theology.

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 Almost Christian” A Brief Summary


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 “The Almost Christian” at St. Mary’s, Oxford University as one of the University sermons on July 25, 1741. In this sermon, Wesley contrasted nominal (or almost) and real (or altogether) Christianity.

This was the second of four sermons Wesley preached at St. Mary’s that formed the beginning of Wesley’s Sermons on Several Occasions. “The Almost Christian” is the second 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 “The Almost Christian.” 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: 

‘The right and true Christian faith is’ (to go on in the words of our own Church) ‘not only to believe that Holy Scripture and the articles of our faith are true, but also to have a sure trust and confidence to be saved from everlasting damnation by Christ’ – it is a ‘sure trust and confidence’ which a man hath in God ‘that by the merits of Christ his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favour of God’ – ‘whereof doth follow a loving heart to obey his commandments.’

Now whosoever has this faith which ‘purifies the heart,’ by the power of God who dwelleth therein, from pride, anger, desire, ‘from all unrighteousness,’ ‘from all filthiness of flesh and spirit’; which fills it with love stronger than death both to God and to all mankind – love that doth the works of God, glorying to spend and to be spent for all men, and that endureth with joy, not only the reproach of Christ, the being mocked, despised, and hated of all men, but whatsoever the wisdom of God permits the malice of men or devils to inflict; whosoever has this faith, thus ‘working by love,’ is not almost only, but altogether a Christian. [II.5-6]


One sentence summary:  

While an almost Christian lives an outwardly Christian life in every way, an altogether Christian adds to this love for God and neighbor, and genuine faith (trust and confidence) in God’s love for them through the merits of Jesus Christ.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” – Acts 26:28 (KJV)


Concise outline of “The Almost Christian”

First, what is implied in being almost a Christian

Secondly, what is implied in being altogether a Christian

I. What is implied in being almost a Christian?

1. Heathen honesty – they are concerned for justice
2. They are concerned for the truth
3. They expected love and assistance from one another
4. An almost Christian has a form of godliness – does nothing which the gospel forbids
5. And almost Christian avoids strife and contention and seeks to live peaceably with all men
6. An almost Christian does as much good to as many people as he possibly can
7. They use all of the means of grace at all opportunities
8. They use family and private prayer and are sincere
9. They are sincere in that all these actions come from more than merely a desire to avoid punishment, the loss of friends, or to gain money or reputation – these motivations make one a hypocrite and not even an almost Christian
10. An almost Christian has a real design to serve God and a hearty desire to do his will
11. What more than this can be implied in being altogether Christian?
12. Wesley testifies that he himself did all of the above and was only almost a Christian

II. What more than this is implied in being altogether Christian?

1. Love of God that engrosses the whole heart and fills the entire capacity of the soul. He is crucified to the desire of the flesh, desire of the eye, and the pride of life.
2. Love of neighbor
3. One more thing is needed to be an altogether Christian: faith
4. True faith brings forth repentance and love and all good works
5. Definition of faith: “The right and true Christian faith is not only to believe that Holy Scripture and the articles of our faith are true, but also to have a sure trust and confidence to be saved from everlasting damnation by Christ – it is a sure trust and confidence which a man hath in God that by the merits of Christ his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favor of God – whereof doth follow a loving heart to obey his commandments.”
6. Whosoever has this faith is an altogether Christian
7. Who are the living witnesses of these things?
8. Are not many of you not even almost Christians?
9. Good designs and good desires do not make a Christian.
10. God knows that if anyone dies without this faith and love, it would be better for them if they had never been born.
11. May we all then experience what it is to be not almost only, but altogether Christian!


Resources:

Read “The Almost Christian” in its entirety.

Check out my short summary of Wesley’s sermon “Salvation 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.

 

It Is Hard to Say I’m Sorry: An Appreciation of Bishop Mike Lowry

Admitting that you made a mistake, especially publicly, is extremely difficult. I suspect it becomes more difficult the more visible your position of leadership is.

It is not hard to find examples of people making mistakes. But it is rare to see someone own a mistake and apologize for it. And this is exactly what Bishop Mike Lowry, the resident bishop of the Central Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church has done.


His apology is direct and unequivocal:

As your Bishop, I erred in my theological judgment by endorsing “online” communion. The fault is mine and mine alone. I apologize for so doing to the clergy and laity of the Central Texas Conference, and am writing about this because I believe both that confession is important and that my error needs to be corrected and perhaps debated. More importantly, we have a teaching moment and a significant opportunity to theologically learn together by wrestling with the deeper implications of “online” communion.


This is one of the most encouraging acts of both humility and courage that I have seen in quite some time. I want to publicly thank Bishop Lowry.


Lowry’s essay should be required reading for two reasons.

First, it is an excellent example of intellectual virtue. Bishop Lowry stayed with a difficult and complex topic, even after taking an initial position on it. He continued to pursue the truth and sought to understand what was at stake in permitting “online” communion as best as he could.

And once he became convinced that he was incorrect, he acknowledged this and did what was in his power to do to make it right. He explained the reason for his change of mind. He encouraged clergy who had celebrated communion virtually to consider ceasing the practice. But he also acknowledged that some might feel that a drastic change within the local church might do more harm than good and honored his initial statement.

This is an exceptional example of leadership.


Lowry’s essay is required reading, secondly, because it is a deeply thoughtful consideration of communion itself. Here is just one glimpse of what you will find in this essay:

The classic definition of the sacraments is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” The actual elements used in Holy Communion are to be consecrated by an ordained elder (or appointed licensed local pastor) who is physically present with the elements (bread and wine/juice). Such action ties together the three-part discipline of Word, Sacrament and Order for which elders are ordained.


This line in particular haunts me:

The way we have handled this issue, both individually and collectively as bishops, highlights the theological poverty of the UMC.

Bishop Lowry succinctly describes why the way permission for online communion has troubled me so much. The disagreement about whether the church can offer communion when it can’t be together in person shows just how fractured the UMC is.

The disagreement over whether communion can rightly be officiated online cuts across an entirely different fault line than the painfully visible disagreement about same sex marriage. The pushback I received to my writing about online communion on social media and elsewhere was fairly evenly split between those who agree with me about human sexuality and those who disagree with me.

This disagreement is visible within the Council of Bishops itself.


One final thing that makes Bishop Lowry’s mea culpa so remarkable: Lowry initially took a step away from the historic understanding of communion and on more careful consideration returned to it. For me, this is a reminder of the continued riches of the living faith of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Thank you Bishop Lowry! May your tribe increase. And may we all learn from your example.


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.