HE THAT IS LEAST IN THE KINGDOM
Joseph D. McPherson
THE ARMINIAN MAGAZINE. Issue 1. Spring 2012. Volume 30.
Date Posted July, 2012
Jesus once made this most amazing and startling statement. "Verify I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he"(Matt 11:11). In his Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, Mr. Wesley follows with an explanation borrowed from the writings of an "ancient author:"
"One perfect in the law, as John was, is inferior to one who is ‘baptized into the death of Christ.' For this is the kingdom of heaven, even ‘to be buried with Christ,' and to be ‘raised up together with Him.' John was greater than all who had been then born of women; but he was cut off before the kingdom of heaven was given." [He seems to mean, that righteousness, peace and joy which constitutes the present, inward kingdom of heaven.] "He was blameless as to that ‘righteousness which is by the law;' but he fell short of those who are perfected by the Spirit which is in Christ. Whosoever therefore is ‘least in the kingdom of heaven,' by Christian regeneration, is greater than any who has attained only the righteousness of the law, because ‘the law maketh nothing perfect.'"
We see that Mr. Wesley clearly understood that the great work of regeneration in a believer's heart was made possible only after the promised coming of the kingdom of heaven, the inauguration of which was on the day of Pentecost.
The "ancient author" cited by Wesley was St. Isidore of Pelusium, an Egyptian monastic who died no later than 449. This also demonstrates that Wesley's views were in line with historic Christianity. In contrast, the American holiness movement has no historical continuity. This article was first submitted to another publication which claims to be Wesleyan, but was rejected because it implied the doctrine of "Pentecostal regeneration." The editor suggested that Joe "fix" the article to bring it in line with modern Holiness dogma. Joe declined, kindly stated his conviction that the "old paths" of Methodism were closer to New Testament teaching.