To know us as Methodist
In order to understand our mission, we need to first understand why the Methodist church? (or vice versa)
In the words of John Wesley (1703-1791), “a Methodist is one who loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his strength.” (The Character of a Methodist; Matthew 22:37-38)
18th Century Spiritual Revival and the Methodist Church
During the eighteenth century, God used John Wesley to initiate a spiritual revival movement. The movement soon spread throughout England. John Wesley saw the Church of England as having little genuine faith. They had many outward religious ceremonies but no genuine spiritual life. Consequently, John and Charles Wesley led a spiritual revival movement.
At the start, they did not have any plans for an organised church, but later the need for such an organisation emerged, and the need spurred the emergence of the Methodist Church. It was a time of spiritual rejuvenation and the establishment of holy and pure spiritual lives. It was a movement that was established in truth.
The Bible says that “this is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)
John Wesley’s History
Wesley was born in England in 1730. His father was a minister of the Church of England, his mother a dedicated Christian. Although the family was poor, John Wesley underwent a rigorous religious education program.
When he was at Oxford University, he pursued spirituality and participated in a group called “Holy Club” organized by his brother. This group of people pursued the goal of living holy lives, they also did their best to help poor people and children.
They were called METHODIST because they followed rules in their daily lives. This name later became the name of the church founded by John Wesley.
When Wesley was twenty years old, he was ordained a minister of the Church of England; went to the United States to preach; but was not successful, so he returned to England.
On May 24, 1738, John Wesley was in a small church in Aldersgate Street in London, listening to someone reading Martin Luther’s preface to the book of Romans when he experienced his personal revival. After this experience, his life was filled with joy, confidence and courage to spread God’s Word everywhere. This was when the revival of the church began.
Describing his spiritual experience, Wesley wrote, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. 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.” (Journals Vol. 1, reprinted 2007, Baker, p. 103)
The World as My Parish
John Wesley preached the gospel to ordinary people. He preached to the poor about God’s love. However, many ministers were against him, branding him as a traitor, as he did not follow the rules that they followed when they preached. They prohibited him to preach in churches. Even in such a situation, Wesley was not discouraged.
Thus, John Wesley began his open air preaching ministry. In the beginning he did not plan to start a new denomination. He wholeheartedly dedicated himself to be a preacher. Until the day he passed away, he held firmly to this role. Later, as the gospel revival swept through the British Isles, it highlighted the need for the establishment of a community of believers. Preaching points were established at places where the gospel was preached. These preaching points later became churches. These churches are today called the Methodist Church.
John Wesley’s life is like how the apostle Paul described his own life to King Agrippa: “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision I had from heaven. (Acts 26:19)he vision I had from heaven.
Wesley’s famous words: “I look upon all the world as my parish,” was to become his life’s mission. He continued to preach until 1791, the year he died, at the age of 88.
John Wesley’s teachings can be summarised by the following:
a) Continuously improve your spiritual life towards a goal
b) Evangelise via missions
c) Show concern for social problems
d) Support the universal Church movement
e) Believe in the grace and forgiveness of God
The 26 Articles of Religion express the beliefs of the worldwide connection of people called Methodists:
Article I. – Of Faith in the Holy Trinity
There is but one living and true God, everlasting without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Article II. – Of the Word, or Son of God, who was made very Man
The Son, who is the Word of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man’s nature in the word of the blessed Virgin, so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided; whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for the actual sins of man.
Article III. – Of the Resurrection of Christ
Christ did truly rise again from the dead, and took again his body, with all things appertaining to the perfection of man’s nature, wherewith he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until he return to judge all men at the last day.
Article IV. – Of the Holy Ghost
The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.
Article V. – Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation
The Holy Scripture contain all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or to be thought requisite necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scriptures we do understand those canonical books of the Old and New Testaments of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church. The names of the canonical books are:
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, The First Book of Samuel, The Second Book of Samuel, The First Book of Kings, The Second Book of Kings, The First Book of Chronicles, The Second Book of Chronicles, The Book of Ezra, The Book of Nehemiah, The Book of Esther, The Book of Job, The Psalms, The Proverbs, Ecclesiastes or the Preacher, Cantica or Song of Solomon, Four Prophets the Greater, Twelve Prophets the Less.
All the books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive and account canonical.
Article VI. – Of the Old Testament
The Old Testament is not contrary to the New, for both in the Old and New Testament, everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard who feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the law given by God to Moses as touching ceremonies and rites doth not bind Christians, nor ought the civil precepts thereof of necessity be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral.
Article VII. – Of Original or Birth Sin
Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.
Article VIII. – Of Free Will
The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and works, to faith, and calling upon God; wherefore we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.
Article IX. – Of the Justification of Man
We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine and very full of comfort.
Article X. – Of Good Works
Although good works, which are the fruits of faith and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and spring out of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree is discerned by its fruit.
Article XI. – Of Works of Supererogation
Voluntary works – besides, over and above God’s commandments – which are called works of supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety. For by them men do declare that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to do, but that they do more for his sake than of bounden duty is required; whereas Christ saith plainly: When ye has done all that is commanded of you, say, “We are unprofitable servants.”
Article XII. – Of Sin after Justification
Not every sin willingly committed after justification is the sin against Holy Spirit, and unpardonable. Wherefore, the grant of repentance in not to be denied to such as fall into sin after justification: after we have received the Holy Spirit, we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin, and, by the grace of God, rise again and amend our lives.
And therefore they are to be condemned who say that they can no more sin as long as they live here; or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.
Article XIII. – Of the Church
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments duly administered according to Christ’s ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.
Article XIV. – Of Purgatory
The Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardon, worshipping, and adoration, as well of images as of relics, and also invocation of saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture, but repugnant to the Word of God.
Article XV. – Of Speaking in the Congregation in such a Tongue as the People Understand
It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the primitive Church, to have public prayer in the Church, or to administer the Sacraments, in a tongue not understood by people.
Article XVI. – Of the Sacraments
Sacraments ordained of Christ are not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they are certain signs of grace, and God’s good will toward us, by which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken but also strengthen and confirm our faith in him.
There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel; that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord. Those five commonly called sacraments, that is to say, confirmation, penance, orders, matrimony, and extreme unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel; being such as having partly grown out of the corrupt following of the apostles and partly are states of life allowed in the Scripture, but yet have not the like nature of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, because they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.
The sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or be carried about; but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same they have a wholesome effect or operation; but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves condemnation, as St. Paul saith, I Cor.11:29.
Article XVII. – Of Baptism
Baptism is not only a sign of profession and mark of difference whereby Christians are distinguished from others that are not baptized; but it is also a sign of regeneration or the new birth. The baptism of young children is to be retained in the church.
Article XVIII. – Of the Lord’s Supper
The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves, one to another, but rather is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ’s death; insomuch that, to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the
same, the bread which we break is the partaking of the body of Christ; and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ. Transubstantiation, or the change of the substance of the bread and wine in the Supper of our Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of the Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.
The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after a heavenly and spiritual manner. And the means whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith.
The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.
Article XIX. – Of Both Kinds
The cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the lay people; for both the parts of the Lord’s Supper, by Christ’s ordinance and commandment, ought to be administered to all Christians alike.
Article XX. – Of the One Oblation of Christ, finished upon the Cross
The offering of Christ, once made, is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifice of masses, in the which it is commonly said that the priest doth offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission for pain or guilt, is a blasphemous fable and dangerous deceit.
Article XXI. – Of the Marriage of Ministers
The ministers of Christ are not commanded by God’s law either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage; therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christians, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness.
Article XXII. – Of the Rites and Ceremonies of Churches
It is not necessary that rites and ceremonies should in all places be the same, or exactly alike, for they have been always different, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word. Whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposefully doth openly break the rites and the ceremonies of the church to which he belongeth, which are not repugnant to the Word of God, and are ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly (that others may fear to do the like) as one that offendeth against the common order of the church and wounded the consciences of weak brethren.
Every particular church may ordain, change, or abolish rites and ceremonies, so that all things may be done to edification.
Article XXIII. – Of the Duty of Christian to the Civil Authority
It is the duty of all Christians, and especially of all Christian ministers, to observe and obey the laws and commands of the governing or supreme authority of the country of which they are citizens or subjects or in which they reside, and to use all laudable means to encourage and enjoin obedience to the powers that be.
Article XXIV. – Of Christian Men’s Goods
The riches and goods of Christians, are not common, as touching the right, title, and possession of the same, as some do falsely boast. Notwithstanding, every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability.
Article XXV. – Of a Christian Man’s Oath
As we confess that vain and rash swearing is forbidden Christian men by our Lord Jesus Christ and James, his apostle, so we judge that the Christian religion doth not prohibit, but that a man may swear when the magistrate requireth, in a cause of faith and charity, so it be done according to the prophet’s teaching, in justice, judgment, and truth.
Article XXVI. – Of Sanctification
Sanctification is the renewal of our fallen nature by the Holy Ghost, received in faith through Jesus Christ, whose blood of atonement cleanseth from all sin; whereby we are not only delivered from the guilt of sin, but are washed from its pollution, saved from its powers, and are enabled, through grace, to love God with all our hearts and to walk in his holy commandments blameless.
The Four Pillars of Methodism
Historically, people have focused on John Wesley’s sermons and revival movements. As a result, his theology has often been overlooked. In reality, his achievements in theology have been equally important.
The four pillars of Methodism
1. Scripture (Bible)
These four pillars, often referred to as ‘The Wesleyan Quadrilateral,’ are the four sources that Wesley consulted and relied upon for his understanding of theology.
Overview of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral
The Authority of Scripture (the Bible)
The Bible has been given the highest authority because the Bible is God’s self-revelation.
John Wesley has argued that all theological ideas or experiences need to be measured against the formal measure, which is the Bible. He said, “I do not allow any other rule, practice, faith as the standard; only the Bible, the Bible alone.”
“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Wesley believed that the greatest purpose of the Bible is to convey the full and complete message to the believer, so that the effect of “justification” and “sanctification” is produced. John Wesley believed that the Bible is inspired by God because the Bible played an important and complete role in his salvation and Christian experience.
After establishing the authority of the Bible, he protects the traditions of the church. Adhering to traditions helps clarify Biblical truths and establish the essence of the Christian faith. John is very protective of church traditions. He never intended to leave the Church of England; he was proud of being a preacher and a member of the church.
The character, Timothy from the Bible; he grew up in a fine family tradition. He had a good spiritual inheritance passed on to him which helped him develop into a spiritually mature young man. He worked closely with Apostle Paul and was considered by Paul has his spiritual son.
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:5-7)
Church tradition can help guide us back to the highest authority in our spiritual lives – the Bible. Church tradition reflects the meaning of our faith and demonstrates the vitality of our spirituality. Under the light of tradition, the people of God affirm their identity; find their place; and move forward courageously; from generation to generation.
John Wesley lived in the eighteenth century during the age of enlightenment. During this time, knowledge and reasoning were highly prized. His education was therefore heavily influenced by philosophy and reasoning. Reasoning was particularly important to him. He once said, “For us, an important principle is this, the rejection of reasoning is equivalent to the rejection of faith; faith and reasoning go hand in hand, any unreasonable religion must be a false religion.”
What he means is that reasoning, under the guidance of the Spirit, helps us lay the foundations of true faith; reasoning is the authority of faith and practice.
In other words, reasoning requires the mix of Biblical knowledge and personal experience in order to establish authority. John Wesley thus said, “Let reasoning do its job, and use it as much as you can. Remember however reasoning itself cannot produce faith, hope and love; thus it cannot result in true virtue, satisfaction and joy.”
The Bible says, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:16)
For John Wesley, faith itself is a process where a person rationally understands and accepts salvation. We need to work hard on developing the whole person, balancing the development between spirituality and rationality.
The last pillar of Wesley’s four pillars is Experience. He listed the 4th pillar as Religious Experience. This innovation is unique and it is his contribution.
Experience can confirm the authenticity of faith. God in his grace has given us spiritual sense in order to see, hear, and feel the work of God. From repentance, rebirth, salvation, sanctification, they are all part of personal experience. This experience provides the assurance of salvation and the grace of the Holy Spirit. The most important purpose of experience is to affirm Biblical truth, so that the believer can, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, live an abundant life.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)
The process of identifying with a faith is formed through experience. Experience, over the ages, has helped believers experience the authenticity of faith, the correct interpretation of biblical truth, and clarify the power of church traditions.
John Wesley was not only a preacher, he was also an accomplished theologian. He was a true “pragmatic theologian”, because he actually links his theology with his ministry and he feels that this is both complementary and important. Throughout his life’s service, he has been able to translate a good ministry into a more mature theology.
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7)
This is the uniqueness of the Methodist Church: to continue passing on this belief to the next generation; to obey God’s words in our daily lives; live our lives as a testimony of biblical holiness. To present to the Lord as a glorious church in biblical teachings, tradition, reasoning and experience.
We need to uphold this rich tradition, and to be a witness of Biblical truth and to be the voice of faith to this generation.
The Methodist Social Creed
The Methodist Church must view the perplexing times and problems that we face today in the light of the life and teachings of Jesus. Jesus taught us to love our neighbours and seek justice for them as well as for ourselves. To be silent in the face of need, injustice, and exploitation is to deny him.
We believe that God is Father of all peoples and races, that Jesus Christ is his Son, that all men are brothers, and that each person is of infinite worth as a child of God.
We believe that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” Our own capacities and all we possess are gifts of the Creator, and should be held and used in stewardship to him.
We believe that God in Christ is seeking to redeem all men and also society. This redemption is a continuing necessity.
We believe that the grace of God in Christ is available for redemption from individual and social sin as we seek in penitence and obedience to do his holy will.
We believe that all persons have supreme value in the sight of God, and ought to be so regarded by us. We test all institutions and practices by their effect upon persons. Since Jesus died for the redemption of all men, we believe we should live to help save man from sin and from every influence which would harm or destroy him.
那时候，英国教会的灵性极为腐败，当时宗教徒有许多外表之形式，而没有真正的灵性生活。因此当时有约翰卫斯理（John Wesley）及查理卫斯理（Charles Wesley）两位大宗教复兴家，开始复兴运动。
1. 圣经的权威 Bible
2. 教会的传统 Tradition
3. 理性 Reason
4. 经验 Experience
神学四大支柱在学术上被称为「The Wesleyan Quadrilateral」。它们不是先后使用，乃是互补，并扮演不同的功能和角色。卫斯理神学四大支柱概述:
卫理公会对于我们今日所面临的各种复杂问题，主张以耶稣基督的生活和教训作为我们 的见解。耶稣基督教训我们爱邻居，要我们为他们及为自己谋求公平的待遇。我们认为 处在这个贫乏， 不公平和被剥削的社会中，如果闭口不言，便是否认基督。
我们相信，人在上帝面前的确具有无上的价值, 我们也应当如此看待别人. 一切制定和 实施的价值, 都应以其如何影响个人的程度是考验. 耶稣既为救人而死, 我们 就应当协助救人离开罪恶和脱离足以加害或推毁他们的一切权势.