By salvation I mean, not barely, according to the vulgar notion, deliverance from hell, or going to heaven; but a present deliverance from sin, a 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.
— From John Wesley’s “A Further Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion”
What does salvation mean to you?
For some it means being rescued from Hell. To say, “I am saved,” is to say something about Hell. But this is not so for John Wesley, at least not entirely.
For Wesley, sin is the prison from which we are sprung. To be saved is to be released from the present and future power of sin. Hell comes into the equation only because sin will drag us down to Hell if it can. If we do not break sin’s bonds, we will go with it all the way to its final destination.
But sin shackles us now. It infects our bodies and souls like a virus. It weakens and destroys even our awareness of God and the things of God.
For Wesleyans, the great celebration of salvation is not freedom from a future fiery fate. The great celebration is the breaking of sin’s power in our lives right now. Today.
But it is not something we can do ourselves. We cannot will ourselves out of our chains. We cannot resolve to be better. Earnest effort will avail us little. Instead, we must rely on grace. We must seek faith that Jesus Christ came for us, each one of us. He went to the cross for me. He went to the cross for you. When we are given faith enough to fill our hearts with that truth, the shackles of sin fall.
My great struggle has been the awareness that I can’t manufacture that faith. Reading so many books, writing so many blog posts, praying so many prayers, did not give me that faith and did not substitute for it. I could not create it. I had to wait for it in prayer and study and works of mercy.
Jesus Christ came that you might be free of sin. He came so everyone might be freed from its power. That is the good news.