Reformation/ Modern Period_Summary on John Wesley’s: Christian Perfection


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Wesley: Christian Perfection[1]

In his Christian Perfection, Wesley distinguishes between how Christians are and are not perfect.

How Are Christians Not Perfect? 

Both from experience and the Scriptures it is clear Christians are not perfect in knowledge e.g., our ignorance in God’s workings in different dispensations.  Christians are not perfect in their mistakes (e.g., “we know in part” 1 Cor. 13:12) at handling the Scriptures.  Christians are not free from infirmities (e.g., physical ailments or moral failures).  Moreover, Christians are not free from temptation, such freedom lies ahead in the next life.  Christian perfection is another term for holiness.  Hence, to be perfect one must be holy and the converse obtains.

How Are Christians Perfect?

First, developmentally babes and mature Christians are in different stages, yet perfection applies to both.  Scripture clearly says that those who are justified (be it babe or mature) “do not continue in sin” (Rom. 6:1, 5-7, 14, 18) i.e., all real Christians are free from external sin (1 Pet. 4:1-2; 1 Jn. 3:8-9; 5:18).  Wesley then argues for misinterpreted counter examples from the lives of David, Abraham, even the Proverbs.  Wesley concludes with those opposing the “plain” reading of NT texts, that they need to buttress their arguments and give proofs form the NT clear teaching, rather than an OT vague passage.

Wesley understands that to use arguments that a Christian must sin is unacceptable, for no necessity of sinning obtains for the Christian.  The same grace that was sufficient for Paul is also at our disposal.  Hence, although temptation comes, one is not required to yield to it (1 Cor. 10:13).  Moreover, Wesley addresses the misuse of passages (2 Cor. 12:7-10) that are often used to buttress the above contention that we must sin and challenges such notions with James understanding of faith and works (Jam. 3:2).               

[1] John Wesley, Sermon Forty, Christian Perfection, Edited by Dave Sparks, (1999 by the Wesley Center for Applied Theology, web site: webadmin@wesley.nnu.edu for permission or to report errors)

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