Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Last month I began a series of articles on the distinctive Wesleyan contributions to understanding the nature and mission of the church. I wrote about the Wesleyan conviction that God’s salvation (saving love) is meant for all people.
The second distinctive aspect is the saving love (salvation) of God is transformative. Wesley gave this description about the scope of God’s saving love:
By salvation I mean, not barely (according to the vulgar notion) deliverance from hell, or going to heaven; but present deliverance from sin, restoration of the soul to its primitive health, its original purity; a recovery of the divine nature; the renewal of our souls after the image of God in righteousness and true holiness, in justice, mercy and truth.
For Wesley, salvation is more than a matter of our elevator ride at the time of our death. In fact, Wesley referred to this as a vulgar notion. Instead, Wesley encouraged us to consider full salvation: present deliverance from sin and the renewal of our souls after the image of God. (Genesis 1:27)
Wesley understood sin as a power greater than humanity. Therefore resisting sin is more than just having enough will power. Like Paul, Wesley understood all of creation to be subjected to sin. Creation is freed from sin by the saving love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. This salvation frees us from the captivity of sin. We sometimes call this Christian freedom.
While in sin’s captivity, our souls become unhealthy and do not fully reveal the image of God. The saving love of God works to the restore our souls to “original righteousness”. Think of a garden and the conditions needed to have a successful one: good soil, space to grow, water, sunlight and proper pruning. When we are freed from the present power of sin, our souls are transformed and we can be the images of God in whom we are created. We refer to this as the New Creation.
To that end, God’s saving love transforms us into a community of witness, a community of worship and a community of discipleship. This leads to the final distinctive aspect of Wesleyan ecclesiology:
God’s salvation creates community.
May we all experience the saving love of God that transforms us.
Rev. Joseph A Johnson