by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: I Thessalonians 5:16-28
I. Pietism took off during the 1600's with Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705)
A. Eventually a denomination form that was referred to as the Moravian church
B. From here we skip ahead to the early 1700's
II. John Wesley (1703-1791)
A. He was raised in the Church of England and eventually became priest in that denomination in 1728
B. While fulfilling his residential requirement in Oxford, he joined his brother and several others in their Holy Club.
1. It was derisively called the Methodists because of their emphasis on methodical study and devotion.
2. The design of these Methodists was, as Wesley put it, to be “downright Bible-Christians; taking the Bible, as interpreted by the primitive church … for their whole and sole rule.”
3. The club collapsed when the Wesley brothers left in 1735.
C. The Wesley brothers were asked to visit the Georgia colony in the Americas
1. On the trip over, the ship floundered in a storm. John was impressed by the calmness of some Moravians. When he asked how they could be so calm in such a storm, the leader asked Wesley if he had faith. While he said he did, the words bothered him.
2. His time in Georgia was unsuccessful. His strict discipline was not popular and a woman he was courting married another man, so he returned to England.
D. In England he talked with Peter Boehler, another Moravian. He concluded that he lacked saving faith
1. He was introduced to Martin Luther’s commentaries which emphasized the idea of justification by grace through faith alone.
2. In 1738, Wesley had a religious experience during a study group reading Luther’s preface to Romans.
E. He began teaching salvation by faith and tried to reform the Church of England
1. It didn’t last long. He was no longer allowed to preach in the Church of England’s pulpits, but he continued to preach.
2. He formed small Bible study groups, called bands, similar to the Moravian Pietists.
a. The groups were organized by same sex and same marital status
b. John Wesley drew up Rules of the Band Societies to keep the groups organized
F. In the following year (1739), Wesley began to reach out to those outside of the Church of England and the bands flourished.
1. In 1743, Wesley wrote a book of rules for Methodist societies as the groups came to be known.
2. Because he could not get many priests from the Church of England to join his societies, Wesley began appointing lay preachers to administer the societies.
3. In 1784, the Bishop of London refused to ordain Wesley’s clergy, Wesley decided to break away from the Church of England and the societies began operating independently of the Church of England as of 1787.
III. Methodist Society beliefs
A. Wesley stated that there were three core beliefs that distinguished them:
1. Wesley taught the classical doctrine of original sin and the absolute inability of human beings to save themselves through virtuous works
a. However, Wesley rejected Calvinism in matters of election, predestination, and irresistible grace.
b. “Wesley insisted that the grace of God is freely available to all who would hear the gospel, repent, and believe; grace precedes faith so that the choice to believe is uncoerced and free.” [Neil D. Anderson, “Wesleyan-Holiness Theology”]
c. The problem is that the Bible does not teach original sin.
(1) God made men righteous - Ecclesiastes 7:29
(2) Sin is not inherited - Ezekiel 18:20
2. Wesley taught that salvation, or justification, comes by faith alone.
a. Three things work together to produce salvation:
(1) God mercy and grace
(2) The substitutionary death of Jesus
(3) A personal faith in the work of Christ
(a) But faith is a “heartfelt trust in Christ for forgiveness of sins and confidence that God saves those who truly believe” [Neil D. Anderson, “Wesleyan-Holiness Theology”]
b. Again, while popularly taught, it contradicts the Bible
(1) Faith alone cannot save or justify - James 2:14,17,24
(2) Obedience is necessary - Philippians 2:12
3. Wesley taught that genuine faith produces inward and outward holiness
a. “Wesleyans teach that the moment one believes, he/she is saved; and by believing they may expect to receive an inward witness of having been delivered from bondage to sin and eternal damnation to freedom from sin and eternal life. This witness is not merely a feeling: it is the work of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the inward regeneration of character described metaphorically in the Gospel of John as the new birth.” [Neil D. Anderson, “Wesleyan-Holiness Theology”]
b. In other words, a person doesn’t instantaneously change, but gradually becomes more holy because of the presence of the Spirit in their lives.
c. This became known as the doctrine of Holiness
d. At some point a person matured to be entirely sanctified (free from sin).
(1) We are freed from the bondage of sin when we are baptized - Romans 6:3-7
(2) But the possibility to sin always remains - I John 1:8-10
(3) Thus, we must always remain on guard - I Peter 5:8
B. Denominations that arose from Wesley’s beliefs are typically similar to the Church of England in governance and how worship services are held, but like the Pietists, there is a strong emphasis on personal faith and personal experience.
IV. The Holiness Movement arose in the 1800s from splits with the Methodist churches
A. “Perfection was to be the goal of all those who desired to be altogether Christian; it implied that the God who is good enough to forgive sin (justify) is obviously great enough to transform the sinners into saints (sanctify), thus enabling them to be free from outward sin as well as from “evil thoughts and tempers”—in short, to attain to a measure of holiness.” [Encyclopedia Britannica, “Holiness Movement”]
1. The command to be holy is from God - I Peter 1:13-16
2. But notice that God commands Christians to be holy through obedience
C. Here are five key beliefs of the Holiness Movement that make them unique among Christians: [NewsMax, “The Holiness Movement Beliefs”]
1. “The most important distinction of the Holiness Movement is the very concept of holiness that led to its name. It is the idea that Christians are empowered by a "second work of grace" that God accomplishes in a believer, "enabling an obedient life of devotion to God," explained Keith Drury at DruryWriting.com. This second blessing takes place after conversion with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. At that time, the sin nature is destroyed so that the believer is free to be perfectly sinless. Thus, Holiness Movement Christians believe holiness is attainable in this life through their sanctification experience.”
a. What we have is a split between the ideas of sanctified, justified, and saved
b. The Holiness Movement claims there are two levels of salvation: saved and sanctified
c. All believers are sanctified - Acts 26:18
d. Being baptized, sanctified, justified comes at one point - I Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:25-26
e. Of course, Cornelius received the baptism of the Holy Spirit before his conversion - Acts 10:44-48
(1) Baptism of the Holy Spirit was when miraculous gifts were given directly to people and is only recorded as having happened twice - Acts 11:15-17
(2) It is not said to change the people receiving the gifts. It is never stated that receiving the Holy Spirit makes a person holy
2. “The Holiness Movement teaches salvation through Jesus by way of a personal conversion experience in which the individual is "born again" or "saved." This experience of regeneration is considered to be the first blessing.”
a. Paul called the regeneration a washing - Titus 3:4-7
b. It is through baptism we become a child of God (born into the family of God) - Galatians 3:26-4:7
3. “Holiness Movement Christians seek to separate themselves from worldly values and influences as part of their goal of holiness, according to Britannica. They intentionally try to be "set apart" as they resist earthly temptations.”
a. This part is reasonable - I Peter 4:1-2
4. “The Bible is seen as the inspired Word of God and authority on truth.”
a. The Bible is the truth - John 17:17
5. “Holiness Movement Christians practice water baptism by immersion and the Lord's Supper as symbols of grace imparted rather than as sacramental means of grace, according to US Church Info.”
a. In other words, they don’t believe baptism or the Lord’s Supper is required for salvation. They are just reminders or commendable practices that the save practice.
b. The Lord’s supper is a reminder and does not give salvation - I Corinthians 11:23-26
c. But baptism is connected by God to salvation - Mark 16:16; I Peter 3:21
V. As time progresses, each succeeding movement moves further from the truth taught in the Bible