Wesleyan Theology: Five Central Concepts

What does it mean that WBS is distinctively “Wesleyan”? The Wesleyan theological perspective has these five central concepts as its basis:



  1. The nature of God as Self-giving Love. The Trinitarian life of God is best described as shared life and love. This reveals His holiness not as mere transcendence or even morality, but a relationship of mutual self-giving that defines morality for us.
  2. Grace as the active and intimate shared life of God. The Holy One shares Himself with His creation. Grace is not just an attitude of unmerited favor toward us but also an action of extended divine life. This is engaged by the Means of Grace.
  3. Salvation as the restoration of the image of God. God’s goal in redemption is not merely escaping hell and going to heaven but bringing us into conformity to His Son through the deep inner workings of the Spirit.
  4. Sanctification as the process of transformation in which God works in the lives of believers. Through an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit believers are enabled to die to sin and self and become Christlike in holy love.
  5. Holiness as the norm for Christian living. God has said, “Be holy as I am holy.” (Lev. 19:2, 1 Pet. 1:16) The sanctified person reflects the holy image of God, manifesting His character of self-giving love, both to God and others.



The Wesleyan Way of Salvation

In light of these five concepts, the Wesleyan way of salvation includes awakening, new birth, justification, assurance, and sanctification.


Sanctification is the process whereby God transforms a believer by a work of grace through the Spirit. It results in a “present deliverance from sin, a restoration of the soul to its primitive health … the renewal of our souls after the image of God in righteousness and true holiness, in justice, mercy, and truth.” (John Wesley, A Farther Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion)


It begins at the new birth when a believer receives the Holy Spirit, continues gradually as the believer is empowered to die to sin and self, and culminates in Entire Sanctification as the full salvation from all our sins—from pride, self-will, anger, unbelief—or, as Wesley expresses it, “Christian perfection.” Now, with the Spirit’s work fully cleansing the whole of the person, there is victory over known and willful sin and power to live out the life of Jesus in love and humility.

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