I want to reflect on chapter 5 from the book “Evangelicalism in Modern Britain” because it resonates with my own Methodist experience. I want to focus primarily on “The Methodist Holiness Tradition.” as I perceive it.
There are two points that I come to mind as I read the chapter;
WE ARE MADE HOLY IN CHRIST
The New Testament tells us that every believer, in principle, is sanctified by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ: “We are Sanctified” (Hebrews 10:10). Christ is our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30), and the living church is sanctified (Ephesians 5: 25-26). The status of the believer before God is holiness in Christ, even though his character is not yet perfect in holiness (1 Corinthians 1: 2). (Cf. 1 Peter 1: 1-2; Hebrews 2:11; 9: 13-14; 10: 14,29; 13:12).
CONFORMITY TO THE IMAGE OF CHRIST
Despite his sanctified state, the true Christian has not yet reached a completely sanctified situation. We must continue to strive for holiness and godliness (Hebrews 12:14). Growth in holiness will come after regeneration (Ephesians 1: 4; Philippians 3:12). Paul prays that the Thessalonians will be completely sanctified, as something that is yet to be accomplished.
Sanctification is something you have in Christ before God, so you must strive with the power of God. Your state of holiness is already granted, but your holiness position has to be achieved. Through Christ, you are sanctified in your relationship before God, and through Christ, you are called to reflect a relationship by being holy in your daily life. By grace, you have been called to be in real life what you already are in principle.
There are three things to look for, specifically.
- Conformity to the character of God the Father. God says: “Be holy as I am holy.” Strive to be like your heavenly father in righteousness, holiness, and integrity. In the Spirit, fight to think as God thinks, following him with the help of His Word, to live and work as God himself wants you to do.
- Conformity to the image of Christ. Of course, you will not be able to be holy with your strength. All our justice is like dirty rags (Isaiah 64: 6). Do not pretend to conform to Christ as a condition for salvation, but as a fruit of salvation received by faith.
Search in Christ for Holiness, as Calvin would say: Put Christ before you as a mirror of sanctification, and ask for the grace to reflect his image. In each situation, ask yourself: What would Christ think, do, or say? And then trust Him for your sanctification. He will not leave you or forsake you (Joshua 1: 2-7).
- Conformity to the mind of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit was sent to conform your mind to the mind of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2). He came to be sinners to saints. Lean fully on him.
“We must exhort all Christians to gain all they can, and save all they can; that is, in effect to grow rich”
At a time when we are wondering about “theological fidelity” to the Wesleyan tradition of holiness, when we are concerned with “identity”, and when there is a need to grow and expand we like to keep in mind our heritage and its principles so that we are not “simply another generic evangelical denomination” paralyzed and immovable because we first need an “impenetrable system.”
The theological quintessence of our Wesleyan heritage functions as a compass for the practical implications of our faith. God wants to renew us in his image the image of a holy and loving God. This renewal encompasses our understanding of God (orthodoxy), the practice of our faith (orthopraxis), as well as the spiritual reality of God’s transforming presence in our lives (orthopathy).
The theological quintessence (essence) and the principles that flow from it can help us to “discern the spirits” and continue straight in what God has called us to do. If we are faithful to who we are, we cannot be afraid of the future or of our heritage. The core of Wesleyanism exhibits an “optimism of grace.” Therefore, let us continue to spread biblical holiness through our land and bravely believe with John Wesley: “The best of all of us is God with us!”
Ray Dunning, Grace, Faith, and Holiness: Wesleyan Systematic Theology. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 1988, p. 47.
Runyan, p. 163. This point, surely, is expressed in Wesley’s well-known formulation: “There is holiness, but there is no social holiness.” (Works 14: 321).
Baker, Frank. “Practical Divinity – John Wesley’s Doctrinal Agenda for Methodism” in Wesleyan Theological Journal, Volume 22, No. 1, Spring 1987. Pages 7-16.
Bebbington, D. W. Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s. New ed. n.p.: Routledge, 1989.
Clark, Jason. Evangelicalism and Capitalism: A Reparative Account and Diagnosis of Pathogeneses in the Relationship. 2018. Pg 83