JOHN WESLEY TAUGHT on the “way of salvation”. Can you explain briefly what this is? According to Wesleyan scholar, Ted A. Campbell, Wesley’s “way of salvation” is another “unique” Methodist doctrinal teaching. It refers to the process of spiritual journey in the life of Christians. Broadly speaking, the process covers three dimensions of God’s grace at work in the life of a person: prevenient grace, justifying grace, and sanctifying grace.
Hang on – what’s “prevenient grace”?
Before a person becomes a Christian, we see God’s prevenient grace – sometimes also referred to as “preparing” or “preventing” grace – at work in that person’s life, wooing and prompting that person to respond to God’s outreaching love.
When the person decides to accept God’s gift of salvation through Christ, we say that that person aided by God’s prevenient grace has now responded to God’s love by faith. Prevenient grace convicts a person of the need for repentance of sins, and the realisation that we are not able to save ourselves except through Christ Jesus.
Okay, then what’s “justifying grace”?
When a person’s repentance is followed by acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Saviour, that is the point when a person is said to have experienced God’s justifying grace. This is an important teaching reminding us that salvation is a gift from God and not something we obtain by merit or through good works.
So good works do not count for Christians?
I would not put it like that. To be sure, good works, commendable as they are, do not count for obtaining salvation. This is very clearly stated in Ephesians 2:8 and 9. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Yet good works are critical evidence of someone who says he or she has become a Christian. Good works, post-conversion, are the visible fruit of sanctifying grace at work in forming and transforming a Christian life.
I see. So what’s “sanctifying grace”?
Every Christian has access to God’s spiritual resources to be energised and enabled by God’s sanctifying grace. This is the grace which plants greater desire and deeper conviction in a Christian for that Christian to follow the teachings and moral vision of God’s Kingdom. The evidence of God’s sanctifying grace at work in a person is the transformation of that person’s life over a period of time.
Thanks for helping me to appreciate these three aspects of God’s grace. But I have also heard of “entire sanctification”. What is this?
Entire sanctification is a term used to describe another “unique” teaching of John Wesley called “Christian Perfection”. Echoing Jesus Christ’s counsel, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), Wesley believed that we can be perfect in this world.
That seems unattainable. Can it really be possible?
This Wesleyan teaching of perfection does not refer to a person who has become sinless. The process of sanctification, as I often say, is to remind us that we have been called to sin less and not to be sinless which is impossible in this fallen world.
Nevertheless, Christian perfection or entire sanctification is attainable if we, with the help of God’s sanctifying grace working in our lives, aim for perfection in our love for God and our neighbours.
Thank you, Pastor!
It’s been written about, preached, and discussed many times over.Yet some of us are still a little uncertain about what it means to be a Methodist. Methodist Message decided to pose candid questions to the Rev Dr Daniel Koh to get a clearer idea in simple language. This is the second of a two-part series.
The Rev Dr Daniel Koh Kah Soon is a Methodist pastor with more than 30 years of ministry. He is a full-time lecturer at Trinity Theological College, where he teaches Christian Ethics, Pastoral Theology and Methodism. He is married to the Rev Dianna Khoo, also a Methodist minister.