Saved to the Uttermost by Maxie Dunnam
In my last article I discussed assurance. Wesley testified about his Aldersgate experience,
I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
Assurance is the privilege of all believers, and there is a connection between assurance and perfection. Continuing his reflection on Aldersgate, Wesley wrote,
After my return home, I was much buffeted with temptations; but I cried out, and they fled away. They returned again and again. I as often lifted up my eyes, and He sent me help from His holy place. And herein I found the difference between this and my former state chiefly consisted. I was striving, yea, fighting with all my might under the law, as well as under grace. But then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror.
The two convictions, all can know they are saved and all can be saved to the uttermost, issued in Wesley’s teaching on perfection. For him, “Christian perfection,” was another term for sanctification.
There must have been confusion among his followers about this issue, because he wrote his brother Charles a lengthy letter, seeking understanding and agreement.
Dear Brother, some thoughts occurred to my mind this morning which I believe may be useful to set down: the rather because it may be a means of our understanding each other clearly; that we may agree as far as ever we can and then let all the world know it.
I was thinking of Christian Perfection, with regard to the thing, the manner, and the time.
- By perfection I mean the humble, gentle, patient love of God ruling all the tempers, words, and actions, the whole heart by the whole life. I do not include an impossibility of falling from it, either in part or in whole … I do not contend for the term sinless, though I do not object to it …
- As to the manner, I believe this perfection is always wrought in the soul by faith, consequently in an instant. But I believe in a gradual work both preceding and following that instant.
For Wesley, the terms Christian perfection, sanctification, and holiness carried the same meaning. Holiness is not optional for Christians. Jesus was forthright: “You shall be perfect, your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 NJKV). The Holy Spirit, through Inspiration given to Peter, confirms the call: “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” (1 Peter 1:15 NKJV).
Since our reflection may be hazy, if not clear, we need to remember that, for Wesley, the whole of salvation and the Christian life was all grace, and the power of the Holy Spirit, accessed through undoubting prayer and surrender.
With that, I will continue my reflection on sanctification in my next article.