24 May 2010

Romans 5:1-11

"Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God." (v.1-2)


At a quarter before nine, on 24 May 1738, John Wesley - one of the founders of Methodism - felt his heart strangely warmed by the sudden awareness that it was through his faith alone that he was to be saved. Some people call this John Wesley's 'conversion'. The reality was, of course, that whilst this was an event of great significance, it was not a moment at which a non-believer became a believer. John Wesley was already a clergyman of the Church of England; he had engaged in missionary work in Georgia and he was a great Oxford scholar.

After this, the formal religion of the establishment was forced to give way to the life and light of the evangelist. And today's passage from Paul's letter to the Romans is one of those expressions of faith that is crucial to Methodist identity. The passage shows us something of Paul's theology as he was expressing it to the Christians in Rome. He tells of the consequences of the divine offer of righteousness and of our acceptance of it by faith. Although he is demonstrating something of God, he is doing so with a very firm eye on God as understood in the light of Christ. Christ is the means through which we have peace with God, access to grace, justification, reconciliation, and salvation from wrath.

Paul is not suggesting that as soon as a person finds faith they become morally perfect. To suggest so would be nonsense. It is, according to Paul, through Christ that God acts redemptively. For Paul, Christ is not a symbol of the power of self-giving, but is the very personification of the God-involving event. In Christ, God is with us, and we can, together with John Wesley, know ourselves to be loved and saved.

To Ponder

As we remember the 'conversion' of John Wesley and consider this distinctively Methodist aspect of theology, how important is this element to you?

How does the Methodist Church relate to Christians of other traditions? How do we bring the particular expressions of our traditions alongside the expressions of those of other experiences and traditions?

In thinking about the descending Spirit of Pentecost, consider the mission of the Church, both locally and globally. How do we, as individuals and as churches, demonstrate that gracious and welcoming aspect of God's character in our engagement with the world around us?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Adrian Burdon

The Revd Dr Adrian Burdon is superintendent minister at Oxford Place Centre (part of the Leeds Methodist Mission), former mission partner to Tonga and founding member of the Leeds 'Street Chaplains' scheme..