Three simple words

John Wesley wrote over and over that without holiness no one will see the Lord, quoting Hebrews 12:14. And he was convinced that holiness of heart would be readily spotted by its fruit in the life of a Christian. Those who were holy — or moving toward it — would display an active love of God and neighbor that penetrated every aspect of their life. Those without the fruit, no matter how sincere or right-thinking, were not Christians in the true sense. Those who had some degree of holiness and therefore bore some fruit needed to continue to grow toward full holiness because if they did not, they would lose what they had.

His essay “The Character of  a Methodist” gives a summary of what a fully formed Christian would look like.

After years of striving to attain this character himself, Wesley discovered at Aldersgate that it was not something he could do through effort. It was, rather, something he could only receive as grace.

Holiness. Fruit. Grace. These to me are the hallmarks of Wesley’s preaching. Each one would need to be discussed and elaborated upon to fully explain, but these three words are good touchstones for what it means to stand in the same tradition as he did.

Of course, nothing about these three words is unique to Methodism, which is just as Wesley would like it.


4 thoughts on “Three simple words

  1. I think those words are a fair summation of JW’s thrust in ministry. It’s all for nothing if it’s not about lives transformed, becoming new creations. I wonder if Methodism in American can regain that passion to see holiness in ourselves and others?

  2. Thanks for this post. I really appreciate what it says as well as the nuance. I’ve also been thinking quite a bit about “The Character of a Methodist,” and the way Wesley flips the script at the end and acknowledges that the goal is “the plain, old Christianity … renouncing and detesting all other marks of distinction.”

    It is implied in the “three simple words” you list, so it is probably just nit-picking, but I would probably also add discipline, or some other word that points to Wesley’s commitment to a disciplined practice of the means of grace and small group formation. But “Four Simple Words” doesn’t have the same ring to it as your title does.

  3. Deep into Autumn
    and this old caterpillar
    still not a butterfly.

    Grace, Holiness, Fruit.
    “Those who had some degree of holiness and therefore bore some fruit needed to continue to grow..”.
    Thank God for His patience.

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