Holiness: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Theology, By Matt Ayars and Christopher T. Bounds and Caleb T. Friedeman alt


A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Theology

by Matt Ayars, Christopher T. Bounds, and Caleb T. Friedeman

  • Length: 400 pages
  • Published: October 17, 2023
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: A0231
  • ISBN: 9781514002315

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Be holy because I am holy. Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The Christian life includes many demands, but perhaps none are as challenging or as misunderstood as the biblical command to "be holy" (Leviticus 11:44 and 1 Peter 1:16) or to "be perfect" (Matthew 5:48). How should we understand these charges?

In this volume, three scholars from the Wesleyan tradition offer a collective treatment of the theme of holiness that includes:

  • exegesis of key biblical passages
  • a survey across church history
  • theological reflections on the relationship between entire sanctification and other doctrines

In addition, the coauthors constructively argue for a "neo-holiness" model that encourages the pursuit of Christian perfection but avoids the pitfalls of Pelagianism by incorporating historic understandings of grace and the work of the Holy Spirit with the best of the Wesleyan tradition.

Here, the commands to "be holy" and to "be perfect" take on new meaning. What may have been a burden becomes a blessing.

"Doesn't holiness mean that God stands in judgment over us because of our sin? Ayars, Bounds, and Friedeman answer that God's holiness and graciousness are inextricably linked. By providing a careful survey of how holiness is understood both in the Old and New Testaments and by orthodox theologians from different eras and denominational backgrounds, the authors point us to a holy God who invites us to come as we are so that we can become like him. This book both uplifts and challenges us to accept this invitation by leaving a life of mediocrity and compromise to embrace a life of holiness."

Mark R. Teasdale, E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

"John Wesley was convinced that God had raised up the Methodists to 'spread scriptural holiness throughout the land.' In many modern expressions of Christianity, a concern for holiness has been neglected—not only within evangelicalism generally but also within much of the Methodist tradition. This book seeks to recapture the vision of the Wesleys, showing that the doctrine is grounded in Scripture as well as the deep and broad Christian tradition. It will be a blessing to both fellow Wesleyans and Reformed Christians who will find much with which they can heartily agree."

Thomas H. McCall, Tennent Professor of Theology at Asbury Theological Seminary

"With careful attention to the biblical, historical, and doctrinal material, Ayars, Bounds, and Friedeman make a powerful case for recovering the importance of holiness as a real possibility in the Christian life. Although the authors are confessionally Wesleyan, this book reaches across traditions, inviting all to reflect on this crucial matter."

David Firth, tutor in Old Testament at Trinity College Bristol

"This readable, concise, and scholarly book on Christian sanctification is a 'three-in-one' approach, including contributions from biblical, historical, and systematic theology. The earlier chapters present a strong case that the Wesleyan approach to this doctrine has solid foundations in Scripture and the historic teachings of the church. The systematic chapters present an informative account of variations within the Wesleyan tradition. This is necessary reading for all within the tradition and a helpful primer for all pastors, teachers, and laity across the church."

Thomas A. Noble, professor of theology at Nazarene Theological Seminary

"This is a most welcome book. Its great strength is in its comprehensiveness. It shows how the Bible lays the foundation, how the church has built on that foundation over its history, and then how we can think about the concept in ways that are philosophically and theologically sound. The final section on the theology of holiness is especially to be commended; Bounds has done a great service in making the subject both comprehensible and compelling. Both those who do believe in holiness and those who don't should read this book. Both will be helped."

John Oswalt, visiting distinguished professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary

"The heart and soul of all good Wesleyan theology, the doctrine of holiness, has been neglected for too long. This new work by a team of established Wesleyan scholars is a monumental first step toward a recovery of holiness not only as a doctrine but also as a way of life. A must-read for all who hunger and thirst for God."

Jason E. Vickers, William J. Abraham Professor of Theology and Wesleyan Studies at Baylor University

"The quest for Christian perfection in the twenty-first century is as fresh as it was in biblical history. These distinguished Wesleyan scholars have given a detailed biblical, historical, and systematic theological witness to the doctrine of entire sanctification. The authors provide a serious case for the 'middle way,' or a new appeal for the message that so distinguishes biblical Christianity. Their ability to trace the witness to holiness in every segment of the Bible and in divergent historic Christian traditions endears this book to a wide readership. This is an extremely important resource for those seeking deeper Christian experience and for those seeking deeper theological appreciation of entire sanctification as a biblical truth."

Robert K. Lang'at, bishop of Africa Gospel Church, Kenya

This long overdue and thoroughly accessible volume describes with perfect clarity both the scriptural basis for and the practical manifestations of holiness doctrine. It will encourage individual believers to claim the privilege of a growing relationship with Christ, and it is just what the church needs to minister more effectively in a hurting world. I recommend it without reservation.

Kenneth Hodder, national commander of The Salvation Army

Read an Excerpt



Part One: "Be Holy Because I Am Holy": Holiness in the Old Testament

1. Holiness in the Pentateuch
2. Holiness in the Historical Books and the Prophets
3. Holiness in the Wisdom Literature

Part Two: "Be Perfect as Your Heavenly Father Is Perfect": Holiness in the New Testament

4. Holiness in the Gospels and Acts
5. Holiness in the Letters of Paul
6. Holiness in the General Epistles and Revelation

Part Three: "Let Those of Us Who Are Perfect Think This Way": Holiness in Christian History

7. Early Foundations for Holiness
8. Holiness in the Middle Ages
9. Holiness in the Premodern and Modern Era

Part Four: "May the God of Peace Sanctify You Entirely": A Theology of Holiness

10. Holiness and Human Sin
11. Holiness and Redemption
12. The When and How of Holiness

Appendix: Recommended Reading on Holiness
Name Index
Scripture Index


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