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John Wesley - Entire Sanctification 

Like Gerald, I understand the guilt trips that were placed on us as the appeal went forth to come to the altar, ether for salvation or entire sanctification.  That's why it took me so long, to February 1970, at the age of 18, to finally find freedom from guilt, which by the way, has never returned, not even in the least hint. 


John Wesley believed in Christian sinless perfection, otherwise known as entire sanctification.  There are actually two sides to this state of sanctification.  One; freedom from sin, and two, total devotion to Jesus.   He believed that entire sanctification was a process, although, there is a point where the last sin is taken care of and you cross the line into being entirely sanctified.  From my understanding to date, I don't see that he taught one got entirely sanctified by responding to an altar call.  He did believe, and, this might be a weak point in his argument, that one could lose his sanctification as one could lose his salvation.  He suggested that one might lose his sanctification a number of times before it really stuck.  He also seemed to believe that for the most part, the believer couldn't reach this place of entire sanctification until later in like, maybe even just before death, although, he did concede that it might be possible for a younger person to reach this state of sinless perfection.     


John Wesley continually warned Christians about enthusiasm, which he believed led people astray into weird doctrine, fanciful experiences with visions, dreams, and sensational experiences.  He probably would not have been a fan of Charles Finny, who in the next generation of Christians, invented the highly confrontational and emotional altar call.


As I see it, the Wesleyan Movement, also known as the Holiness Movement, was in response to a cold, dry, purely intellectual approach to Christian faith as seen in the Reformed Church.  If Wesley were alive today, and Gerald might know this better than me since he has been associated with Evangelical Methodism more than me in the last few decades, he might well think that modern day Free an Wesleyan Methodist are not much different than the Reformed Church he was opposed to.


I'm sure that John Wesley had a heart for the Lord.  He probably was God's man for the hour to promote certain aspects of Scripture when it comes to the moral state of both the Christian and non-Christian community in England during the 1700's.  The abolition of slavery in England is partly, if not almost fully, due to what one might call the Wesleyan Revival, the first great awakening. 


From my recollection, and Gerald can confirm or deny this, it seems to me my dad's generation of Free Methodists believed one could be entirely sanctified as a result of one altar call.  If I am also correct, my dad's generation believed that they reached a point that they did not sin.  It's my thinking though, that their definition of sin was very narrow, that is, disobeying the Ten Commandments.  In that light, maybe some were sinless, but according to Jesus' definition of sin and the Ten Commandments (example - lust is adultery in the heart) I doubt if many were sinless.


My definition of sin stems from Romans 14:23 - "anything that does not come from faith is sin.  For me, that suggests that sin is more than breaking the Ten Commandments.  I'd thus say that one can preach a good sermon, teach a Sunday school class, be doctrinally correct, and still sin because these activities can be done apart from faith, apart from trusting Jesus as you do these things.  I'd call these things sin. 


It seems to me that Evangelical Methodists over the years might have taken Wesley's teaching and made it much more legalistic than he would want.  That is to say, not going to a theatre, not drinking wine (by the way, Wesley used real wine in communion) not doing a number of things, constitutes sanctification.  Such thinking would base sanctification on human effort, on works, and not on the power of the Spirit. 


When it comes to sin, Wesley, like many Evangelicals today, believed in voluntary sin and involuntary sin.  Here is the crux of the matter, or so I think.  He believed that if one was entirely sanctified, he would not willfully sin.  That being said, he might well unknowingly sin.  That would define the way he viewed the term "sinless perfection".   


I think the Evangelical church today could use a good dose of Wesley's teaching.  That is to say, we need to view the Christian life in terms of not just believing to get saved, but, being on the road to sanctification, on the road to being more like Jesus.  I think that is sadly missing in today's church.  We're not just saved to go to heaven.  We're saved to represent Jesus to the world and the more we're like Jesus the better we can represent Jesus as we should. 


As a side note, Wesley was a dispensationalist, long before Scofield published his Bible.  Wesley also believed in a literal 1000 year rule of Christ, long before Darby began to popularize modern day Futurism.  


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