Imagine Charles Wesley attending a Christmas morning service today and hearing that his great hymn, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," would be sung. As the congregation started singing, he would be momentarily confused, because his original began, "Hark how all the welkin rings / Glory to the King of kings," and was not sung to the Felix Mendelssohn tune we use today.
By verse three, Wesley might get his bearings. But when "Born to raise the sons of earth / Born to give them second birth" proved to be the last verse, he would be confused again.
He'd likely exclaim, "But that's not the end. I went on to write this:
Adam's likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp thy image in its place;
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.
Let us thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the life, the inner man;
O, to all thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart."
Then he might ask, "Why don't you sing that verse?"
A Good start
As evangelicals, we know how to answer the question, "Are you saved?": If we have believed in Jesus Christ, we are saved—right there, right then.
Sometimes, though, the way we talk about salvation makes it sound like little more than a get-out-of-hell-free card. With our emphasis on what sinners like ourselves are saved from, do we know what we are saved for? Is salvation solely about us and our need to be forgiven and born again, or is there a deeper, God-ward purpose?
The leaders of the ancient church thought so, speaking regularly of salvation in a way that may sound strange to many evangelicals, but which Wesley alluded to in some of his hymns. In particular, they envisioned salvation as theosis, an ongoing ...1
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