The United Methodist Church teaches that salvation is achieved by faith through grace. While the Church holds true to the Apostles' Creed, a basic statement of Orthodox Christian beliefs, it also has several doctrinal standards that are uniquely Methodist. These doctrinal statements, such as the "Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church and the Confessions of Faith of the Evangelical United Brethren Church," articulate the Methodist theology that salvation occurs during a moment of conversion and continues throughout life through the process of sanctification.
Doctrine of Grace
The United Methodist Church believes that people are saved by grace through faith. The Church interprets the expression that salvation is achieved by "grace through faith" to mean that humans are made whole and reconciled by the love of God as they receive it and trust in it. Methodists believe that salvation cannot be earned; rather, it is the gift of a loving God that humans need only to accept.
Justification, or conversion, is the moment when people stop trying to justify themselves to God and instead accept Jesus' death on the cross as payment for their sins. Justification entails admitting and repenting of sin and embracing God's justifying grace. The United Methodist Church teaches that this moment of conversion is the start of a person's new life in Christ. Methodists believe that as soon as a person experiences justification, he is assured of salvation through the power of the Holy Spirit.
While justification is the moment at which a person's salvation is assured, sanctification is the process by which a Christian is "perfected in love, to experience the pure love of God and others," according to the United Methodist Church website, umc.org. The United Methodist Church holds that conversion is merely the beginning of an individual's new life in Christ. The Methodist doctrine, "The Confessions of Faith of the Evangelical United Brethren Church," explains that "sanctification is the work of God's grace through the Word and the Spirit, by which those who have been born again are cleansed from sin ... to strive for holiness without which no one will see the Lord."
The United Methodist Church holds the Bible in the highest esteem, believing it to be the holy, infallible word of God and containing all the information necessary for salvation. Importantly, Methodists believe that not only does God's word contain everything necessary for salvation, but anything that is not in the Bible is not required for a person to be saved. The Church believes, for example, that good works are a natural effect of justification, but that they lack any biblical power to blot out sin or earn salvation.
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