More on today’s sermon

November 6, 2011

Here's a cool picture from last Sunday's Vinebranch service.

I posted this on Facebook this morning: “John Wesley, eat your heart out! I am preaching about as historically a Methodist sermon as I’ve ever preached this morning. Curious about what that means?”

What it meant was that my sermon on the Parable of the Wedding Banquet in Matthew 22:1-14 shared Wesley’s interpretation of the “wedding garment” in verses 11-12. The wedding garment represented not justifying faith, as many of Wesley’s critics maintained, but personal holiness—the only qualification for entry into God’s heavenly banquet. As Wesley wrote in ¶ 18 of Sermon 120, from 1790, one of the last sermons he wrote:

Such has been my judgment for these threescore years, without any material alteration. Only, about fifty years ago I had a clearer view than before of justification by faith: and in this, from that very hour, I never varied, no, not an hair’s breadth. Nevertheless, an ingenious man has publicly accused me of a thousand variations. I pray God, not to lay this to his charge! I am now on the borders of the grave; but, by the grace of God, I still witness the same confession. Indeed, some have supposed, that when I began to declare, “By grace ye are saved through faith,” I retracted what I had before maintained: “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” But it is an entire mistake: These scriptures well consist with each other; the meaning of the former being plainly this, — By faith we are saved from sin, and made holy. The imagination that faith supersedes holiness, is the marrow of Antinomianism.

Faith and holiness go hand in hand. Sanctification, the process by which we become holy (which means our ability and willingness to love with Christlike love), is the necessary part of salvation that follows justification and new birth. We are saved in the first place in order to become holy. As you can tell from the above paragraph, Wesley constantly debated people who overemphasized justifying faith at the expense of sanctification. Wesley would have none of it.

These ideas, while not explicitly stated in my sermon, were very close to the surface. Again, I do kind of think that Pope John would be proud. I don’t like Wesley’s emphasis on personal holiness, but I suspect he’s right!

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