She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (MT 1:21, CEB)
In John Wesley’s sermon “Salvation by Faith,” the first in his standard sermons if you are keeping track, he asks two questions. What is saving faith? What does it mean to say we are saved?
The questions highlight an important distinctive feature of Wesley’s theology. It is primary concerned with salvation. All the systematic theologians can wrestle with questions about the nature of God and the end times. Wesley was consumed by the thought he posed in the introduction to his sermons:
I am a creature of a day passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: Just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing, — the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore.
In the first sermon in his standard sermons, he lays out the meaning of salvation. My summary is as follows.
- Salvation begins in this life and extends into eternity.
- Salvation is being saved from sin, the guilt, fear, and power of it.
- Salvation begins with justification and ends with the perfection of Jesus Christ’s own image formed in us.
- Salvation is by grace but ordinarily is conditioned on faith.
This is Wesley’s definition and description of salvation.
What does the term ‘salvation’ mean to you?