Faith Does Not Supersede Holiness
Preparing for the Second Sunday in Lent: Two Days before Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Psalm 121
Old Testament: Micah 7:18-20
Epistle: Romans 3:21-31
God of the covenant, in the glory of the cross your Son embraced the power of death
and broke its hold over your people. In this time of repentance, draw all people to yourself, that we who confess Jesus as Lord may put aside the deeds of death and accept the life of your kingdom. Amen.
Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law (Romans 3:31).
A... way of making void the law through faith is the teaching that faith supersedes the necessity of holiness. This divides itself into a thousand smaller paths, and there are many who walk there. Indeed there are few people who wholly escape it—few who are convinced we are saved by faith, but who are sooner or later, more or less, drawn aside into this byway.
All those are drawn into this byway who, even if it is not their settled judgment that faith in Christ entirely sets aside the necessity of keeping His law, yet suppose either: (1.) That holiness is less necessary now than it was before Christ came; or: (2.) That a less degree of it is necessary; or (3.) That it is less necessary to believers than to others. Yes, and so are all those who, though their judgment is right in the general, yet think they may take more liberty in particular cases than they could have done before they believed. Indeed, the using the term liberty in such a manner—for liberty from obedience or holiness—shows at once that their judgment is perverted, and that they are guilty of what they imagined to be far from them: namely, of making void the law through faith by supposing faith to supersede holiness.
We are doubtless justified by faith. This is the cornerstone of the whole Christian building. We are justified without the works of the law as any previous condition of justification. But they are an immediate fruit of that faith by which we are justified. So that if good works do not follow our faith, even all inward and outward holiness, it is plain our faith is worth nothing; we are yet in our sins. That we are justified by faith, even by our faith without works, is therefore no ground for making void the law through faith, or for imagining that faith is a dispensation from any kind or degree of holiness.—John Wesley, “The Law Established Through Faith,” Discourse 1," II.1, 2, 6.
PRAYER: Artist of souls, you sculpted a people for yourself out of the rocks of wilderness and fasting. Help us as we take up your invitation to prayer and simplicity, that the discipline of these forty days may sharpen our hunger for the feast of your holy friendship, and whet our thirst for the living water you offer through Jesus Christ. Amen.
More on John Wesley and his writings can be found here.