Consider Wesley: The Law and the Gospel

One of the issues that Christians often debate is the relationship between the law and gospel. Often times Christians get caught in what might be considered a false dichotomy that places the two in opposition. John Wesley instead saw the two more as opposite sides of the same coin. He believed that the grace of God is given to us not only to pardon the guilt of our sins but also to enable us to live as faithful disciples who fulfill God’s commands. Wesley also believed that anything that God commanded of us, God would give us the grace to accomplish. The best summary of this can be found in Wesley’s sermon, “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse V”:

There is therefore the closest connection that can be conceived between the law and the gospel. On the one hand the law continually makes way for and points us to the gospel; on the other the gospel continually leads us to a more exact fulfilling of the law … We may yet farther [sic] observe that every command in Holy Writ is only a covered promised. … God hath engaged to give whatsoever he commands. … He will work in us [the] very thing [that is commanded]. It shall be unto us according to his word.

In the same vein. It is easy enough to reason out that because we have been made free to live Christ-like lives, we also have a commitment to live Christ-like lives. I once heard a recorded speech by Albert Outler, the noted Wesleyan scholar, in which he summarized this position by saying (and here I’m paraphrasing from memory) that every command of God is a covered promise and every promise of God is a de facto command.