Spirit Baptism: The Wesleyan View

Having examined the Pentecostal and Charismatic positions on Baptism in the Holy Spirit, is it necessary to further analyze the general Wesleyan tradition for its position as well? With both of these movements acknowledged as children of Wesley, it is often assumed that their views mirror those of the parent but as with human children, this is certainly not the case. The thread of Wesleyan thought runs through numerous ministries so it will be necessary to speak in generalities that may be superceded by doctrinal distinctives within a particular denomination. After all, Wesley’s influence runs through such wide ranging bodies as the United Methodist Church, the Nazarenes, AME, countless Holiness ministries, and the Salvation Army. It is also crucial to note that Wesleyan Christianity has been, and continues to be, inherently practical and its primary concerns have been the preaching of the message of Salvation and in teaching the principles of Holy Living (Buschart, Protestant Traditions). In other words, theology is the servant of ministry and the practice of theological inquiry is driven by the requirements of answering questions related to daily living as a Christian.

A hallmark of Wesleyan tradition is the ideal of Entire Sanctification; the call to live a life of sanctified holiness which manifests through loving deeds. The message of the Wesley’s, in John’s preaching and Charles’ hymns, is holiness. The work of the Holy Spirit in this is to transform imputed righteousness into imparted righteousness, that is, not only can one be set aside as holy through the saving work of Christ but one can become holy in day to day living. Wesley is quick to note that this process of sanctification or perfection, as it is sometimes called, is ongoing through the life of the Christian and does not meet its final conclusion until the moment of glory. It is here that the idea of Spirit Baptism enters the discussion though it is far from a universal topic. Most classical Wesleyans associate perfection/sanctification with a ‘second blessing’ or a distinct work of God separate from conversion. The Church of the Nazarene, for example, teaches that entire sanctification is “wrought instantaneously by faith, preceded by entire consecration.” (Articles of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene) Especially in those traditions that were born in the 19th century Holiness movement, this second blessing is associated with baptism of the Holy Spirit. Verses that we have already examined such as Joel 2:28-32 and Acts 2:1-21 are found again to form the foundation of this belief in a distinct experience that is subsequent to conversion.

Holiness is the charism received by the Christian at the moment of this second blessing say the Wesleyans (contra tongues and prophecy). The Holy Spirit cleanses the believer from their sin, enabling them to live Christlike lives moving consistently toward greater holiness. By His grace and power, people are enabled to restore the image of the God of Love within them and present an image that cries “Be holy as I am holy.” The Spirit-driven process of ongoing sanctification is not only evidence to the Christian of the Lord’s work in them but a proclamation to the world that they too can partake in the restoration offered by the Loving God.   

Find other views on Spirit Baptism here.

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