No holiness, no glory

From John Wesley’s “A Farther Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion, Part I”:

I not only allow, but vehemently contend, that none shall enter into glory who is not holy on earth, as well as in heart, as “in all manner of conversation.” I cry aloud, “Let all that have believed, be careful to maintain good works;” and “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from all iniquity.” I exhort even those who are conscious they do not believe: “Cease to do evil, learn to do well: The kingdom of heaven is at hand;” therefore, “repent, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance.”

Wesley offered these words as defense against the charge that his preaching of justification by faith alone undermined good works. I think most people who read my blog probably hear his words with a degree of resistance to the first line. We are not comfortable — for the most part — with the assertion that those who are not entirely holy will not enter into glory. It smacks of the most hated thing among us — exclusion.

And so, it is important for Methodists of all stripes to come to terms with Wesley on this point. We like to trot him out to reinforce our messages about love and works of mercy. But we tend to keep him in the basement when he talks about holiness.

Talking about being a Methodist or quoting John Wesley without understanding the central importance of holiness — complete and total holiness — to his theology is a bit like saying you are playing the game of baseball but removing home plate from the field. You can describe a lot of the action that goes on, but the point of the whole enterprise has been removed.

And this is why some of us are so vexed by what appears to be a cavalier attitude about questions regarding the meaning of holiness. People offer proposals to rewrite our understanding of Christian morality but reject all questions about what those proposals mean for closely related questions of Christian holiness. If we believe with Wesley that holiness of heart and life is essential to salvation, then we have to understand what holiness is and does and looks like.

At least, some of us feel that to be true.

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5 thoughts on “No holiness, no glory

  1. Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your strength. That is the mark of holiness in a man….. and seems to encompass all that Wesley was conveying….. “who is holy on earth, as well as in heart, as “in all manner of conversation.” And I doubt anyone who reads those words would be at a loss to know at least enough of what it is….and does….and looks like to move towards repentance.

    “People offer proposals to rewrite our understanding of Christian morality but reject all questions about what those proposals mean for closely related questions of Christian holiness.”

    God’s holiness has always been a problem for a certain group of people…..sinful people. Because sinful people, especially within the church, can’t escape the fact that it is impossible to reflect His Holy character through their lives….with out holiness in their lives. You can’t fake holiness and you can’t compromise holiness even if there is a rewrite of Christian morality…..at least not for long. Many have tried though….many people, many churches, many denominations. You gotta hand it to the human intellect….nobody could say we have not put forth all of our heart and all of our soul and all of our strength in attempting to clothe ourselves in the garments of the world thinking that would hide our nakedness.

  2. Loved your post. Appreciated the emphasis on holy character. Dismayed by a Jim Beam whiskey commercial video at the end of your page. Just didn’t seem to fit…..

    1. Sorry about the commercials. WordPress puts them in. I’m not sure if there is a way to object about particular ads. I don’t see them, so I never know what is where.

      It is probably a reason for me to pay for the ad-free version of the blog, but at the moment that money has other places to go.

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