The Army’s Whole Gospel of Holiness

Acts 26:17-18

by Dr. Bill Ury

Jesus told Paul that the Gospel meant much more than forgiveness—it incorporated the sanctification of the world. The Army’s Wesleyan-Holiness “way” of salvation is wonderfully complete. Any comparison with other traditions will show that after justification most focus on life in Christ as continual repentance.

While we agree on the need for absolute honesty concerning any sin, we believe there is beautiful inheritance possible when a person allows the full purpose of our Savior to be received by faith.

Spirit-recreation should mark our entire ministry, including our proclamations. This comprehensive biblical orientation is the “Gospel” to which Jesus calls us.

This week I was talking with a friend about the no-holds-barred approach that Wesley took on the full meaning of conversion. For him, it meant ceasing to sin, an “entire change from vice to holiness.” (See his NT Notes on Acts 3:19.) I recalled hearing many students who’d read just a couple of Wesley’s sermons ask me, “Why have I never heard the Gospel like this before?”

That same day I spoke with a young lifelong Salvationist from the Central Territory. He shared that holiness was a concept seldom, if ever, heard. He said he’d never heard anyone testify to be entirely sanctified. We must hear Jesus again. Our distinctive biblical commitments offer a winsome, real expression of the fullness of Christ’s redemption for this world.

First, we must place holiness teaching in the whole Wesleyan- Arminian-Holiness order of salvation. Holiness of heart is never a separate experience detached from salvation as a beautiful whole. The Gospel integrates grace with every human need.

The new birth is merely the beginning of the purpose of the Holy One. Regeneration is initial sanctification. Thus, all subsequent growth in grace enables the Holy Spirit to deal with the source of sin, our self-interest.

Entire sanctification needs to be preached as the remedy to that core issue to all sin. Jesus offers victory over a self-centered heart. The original intention of our holiness meetings was to preach the Gospel beyond recurrent repentance. The Holy Spirit offers every believer the fulfillment of what began at justification.

The Gospel of full salvation comes from the heart of the Holy One, and it must reflect His nature and His purposes. Holiness of heart must be matched with holiness of life. Any preaching that divorces these two is neither biblical nor Salvationist.

Second, what has been missed most often in preaching on holiness is the portion of our pastoral theology which undergirds a person seeking a pure heart in an intimate small group setting (e.g. Wesley’s classes or bands). Though present in the earliest Salvation Army contexts, we have lost this focus. But it is inseparable from the preaching of holiness.

It is only in a group fostering openness in truth and love that any person can work through their deepest heart needs. There is no holiness without social holiness.

The Gospel of holiness begins with prevenient grace which woos us and calls us toward the Life of the One who has made us for Himself. The entire way of salvation is from, in and for holiness. We need to be clear on this light-filled dominion of grace in every heart for the sake of the world we serve.

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