The simplicity and depth of Christian faith

A Methodist is one who has “the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him;” one who “loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his strength. God is the joy of his heart, and the desire of his soul; which is constantly crying out, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee! My God and my all! Thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever!”

— John Wesley, “The Character of a Methodist

When John Wesley wanted to explain what it means to be a Methodist he quoted Scripture. He quoted Romans 5:5. He quoted Matthew 22:37. He quoted Psalm 72:25-26. He might have even paraphrased Psalm 84:2.

Suffice it to say, he used the words of Scripture as much as he could. To understand what it means to be a Methodist, you have to read the Bible and read it well.

Take a moment and read Romans 5:1-11, where the verse Wesley applied to Methodists can be found. Here we have justification by faith, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, sinners saved by the death of Jesus, the hope of glory, and the reconciliation that puts away wrath.

To be a Methodist, Wesley writes, is to lay claim to all the glorious good news in those verses. But it is also, therefore, a plunge into the depths of the Bible. How long, after all, would it take to thoroughly discuss all that Paul touches upon in those 11 verses in Romans 5? You can spend a lifetime trying to come to a full grasp of them. And by “grasp” I am trying to say it is not merely, or even primarily, about intellectual accomplishment. Perhaps the better way to say it is to be grasped by the truth of Christianity. It can seize your heart — and warm it strangely — in a moment, and yet the depths of it will never be exhausted.

Being a Christian — we Methodists have never claimed we were anything other than old-fashioned Christians — is something that can be described in a few sentences. It takes a whole life to live it.

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