MQ: “From Grace to Grace” comes from a Wesley sermon. Wesley’s scriptural way of salvation is from “faith to faith” and “grace to grace.” I want readers to understand this is God’s work in our lives, not our work. We are participants. We are not initiators but responders. God is the one who initiates it all. God is the one who accomplishes it all. It is God’s Spirit living within us that does the work. Holiness is gift. Justification is gift. Sanctification is gift. This is something God does for us, not something we do. This recognition was my first motivation for writing.
In addition, I wanted to more closely link how salvation is contingent on ecclesiology. We cannot be holy apart from the church. In one chapter, I cite the Latin phrase, “apart from the church there is no salvation.” Most Protestants don’t believe that, but it is true, despite exceptions. I also wanted to create a stronger linkage between our soteriology and our eschatology. Early Nazarenes were eschatologically-minded. They thought they were bringing in the millennia of the kingdom. By the 1930s and 40s, we moved away from a realized eschatology and emphasized pre-millennialism, which caused us to withdraw from a sinful world, rather than engage it. In the book, I quote from biblical theologian N.T. Wright: “It is not we who go to heaven, it is heaven that comes to earth.”
I also wanted to call people to the recognition that God is holy, and God will call us to an accounting of ourselves, not because God is a control freak, but for the sake of salvation. I wanted to remind people that this holy God is one to be feared. Reverential fear is appropriate for the believer; it is an appropriate incentive. God hates sin because of its destructive effects.
It was also important to me to look at what anchors our assurance of holiness. Often, we’ve relied on our ability to “legalistically” live out the holy life. This truncates our ability to see the need for repentance in the sanctified life—that is a strong current in our literature. We need to ground our assurance in God and the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement. The evidence of holiness is not found in our behavior, which inclines us to be legalistic and neurotic, but in our faith and trust in God to make us holy. God justifies us, we don’t justify ourselves. God is doing this work, which then opens up the possibility for continued confession and repentance.
When holiness is viewed this way, humility is the result. The holiest are those who think themselves the least holy. Those who think themselves holy are the farthest from it. Wesley admonished people to testify to God entirely sanctifying them, but he cautioned not to let this lead to pride. He said, "If you are going to testify to this work being completed in your life, be sure to attribute the source correctly. This is God’s work in you." My desire was to liberate people from looking for proof of holiness in their own behavior. True holiness is found in confession and repentance. The one who leaves the temple justified is not the one who thinks himself holy. The one who leaves the temple justified is the one who lives confessionally.