This post is from Matt L he can be found on twitter @mattlipan and he blogs at http://mattlipan.blogspot.com/
Read this before reading on, just to see what is going on here. Note: these posts are guest posts and may or may not reflect my views. -Jay
Special thanks to Jay for inviting me to guest post here on “the tenth letter…” about the idea of justification from a Wesleyan perspective. You’ll note my meager attempt to do so below. Don’t hesitate to continue the dialogue or connect with me @mattlipan.
It starts with the problem of sin, one we all have thanks to the parents of humankind, Adam and Eve (Rom. 5:12). What sin does is put you and me at odds with God. Our inability to perfectly follow God’s law has made us, as John Wesley noted in his sermon Justification by Faith, “dead to God, dead in sin…and under the sentence of death eternal” (
I. 6.). And see, the thing is, there is nothing you or I can do on our own to escape the sentence of death we have earned because of our sin (Rom. 6:23). If it ended here we would all be in sad shape but fortunately for all humankind, there is more to the story.
Seeing the predicament humankind was in, God sent all the fullness of Himself and man to dwell among us in the person of Jesus. Wesley describes Him as, “a second general Parent and Representative of the whole human race” (Justification by Faith. I. 7.) and as such, it is only through Christ that you and I can be forgiven, or justified, before God. Through Christ’s willingness to bear our sins on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24-25) as the perfect and complete sacrifice for the entire world (1 Jn. 2:1-2), justification has been made possible.
Paul tells us in that we are “justified freely” by the grace of God through Jesus (Rom. 3:24) and not through anything we’ve ever done or will ever do (Eph. 2:8-9). It is a gift received through faith and by faith. Speaking on faith, Wesley says it is the “only necessary condition” of justification (Justification by Faith. IV. 5.) and that without it, one cannot be justified. He goes on to write
[We] must come as “mere sinner[s],” inwardly and outwardly, self-destroyed and self-condemned, bringing nothing to God but ungodliness only, pleading nothing of [our] own but sin and misery. Thus it is, and thus alone, when [our] "mouth is stopped," and [we] stand utterly "guilty before" God, that [we] can "look unto Jesus," as the whole and sole "Propitiation for [our] sins." Thus only can [we] be "found in him," and receive the "righteousness which is of God by faith."
(Justification by Faith. IV. 8.)
Wesley describes justification as “the forgiveness of sins” but says that this in no way implies that God “esteems us better than we really are, or believes us to be righteous when we are unrighteous” (Justification by Faith. II. 4 &5.). Here Wesley makes a distinction between justification and sanctification. The former implies what God does for us through Christ while the latter speaks to what He works in us by His Spirit (Justification by Faith. II. 1.). In this way, justification is the first step in the process of sanctification and a necessary one for anyone who would call themselves a disciple of Christ.