My Wednesday morning men’s groups (2 of them) have been reading Paul Wesley Chilcote’s Recapturing the Wesleys’ Vision: An Introduction to the Faith of John and Charles Wesley. One of the groups is almost done, which means that I’m almost done writing down some of my reflections to help lead the interaction each week. Here’s some thoughts on chapter one.
“Faith in Jesus Christ is not real until it is connected to how you live day to day.” (p. 25) Notice that while the reverse may be true–that how we are living day to day is not “real” until it is animated by faith in Jesus Christ–it’s not the proper direction for the statement to go. Faith in Christ animates living for Christ. The two go hand in hand and we hold faith and works together rigorously, but faith takes the lead. “The central proclamation of the gospel…from the Wesleyan point of view, is God’s free grace received by faith and worked out in love.” (pp. 25-26)
“The effort to hold ‘faith alone’ and ‘holy living’ together was a delicate balancing act.” (p. 26) “Faith is a means to love’s end.” (p. 27) Wesley asserted that salvation by faith was “the only proper foundation for the whole of the Christian life” and that “the purpose of a life reclaimed by faith alone is the restoration of God’s image, namely love, in the life of the believer. In other words, holiness of heart and life is the goal toward which the Christian life moves.”
“The Wesleys were able to hold together a ‘Protestant’ understanding of salvation (justification by grace through faith) and a ‘Roman Catholic’ vision of the Christian life that is oriented more towards holy living or perfection in love (sanctification).” (p. 28) The relationship they drew out from the bible between these two concepts, justification and sanctification, was that the two were both God’s grace, thus “justifying grace” and “sanctifying grace” are distinctive applications of God’s grace, the same grace for us. Chilcote writes that “faith is the means to loves end” and that “love is the end toward which you move from faith’s foundation.” Wesley also managed to bring in Eastern Orthodoxy’s view about salvation as “the restoration of God’s image in our lives and communities.” (p. 29) Another way to talk about this is to talk about “Christ-crucified-for-us and Christ-victorious-in-us” (p. 29) Justification is the beginning point of our faith-walk; Sanctification is the ongoing transforming growth in grace.
“The linchpin by which he secured the linkage between Paul and James, is Galatians 5:6: ‘The only thing that counts is faith working [or made effective] though love.'” (p. 31) Chilcote insists that Wesley holds together Paul and James: “One could say that faith is worked by love (Paul) and works by love (James).” (p. 30) He continues: “This is not a chicken-and-egg cylce with no beginning and no ending, because in the Wesleyan view God always comes first [before our effort and works]. We love because God first loved us.” So, God deals with sin on the cross and makes us part of the new creation and a part of his people for holiness through the resurrection and Easter.