Bible Class Curricula - Denominational Doctrines (Part 1) - Lesson #8 - The Methodist Religion

  1. History of the Methodist Religion
    1. When did this movement start? 1739
    2. Where did it start? England
    3. Where is their official headquarters? The United Methodist Church (UMC) does not have a church headquarters. The structure of the denomination is similar to that of the United States government.1
    4. Who founded this movement? The sole founder of this movement is John Wesley. Concerning their founder, the UMC states, "May 24, or the nearest Sunday, is Aldersgate Day or Aldersgate Sunday. This celebrates our founder John Wesley’s life-changing experience at a meeting on Aldersgate Street, London, May 24, 1738."2
    5. What is their authority? The Bible, church conferences, and the sermons and commentaries of John Wesley are authoritative. Concerning the pioneers of the UMC and their belief about authority, the Methodist Book of Discipline says:

      [T]hey were equally confident that there is a “marrow” of Christian truth that can be identified and that must be conserved. This living core, as they believed, stands revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason. They were very much aware, of course, that God’s eternal Word never has been, nor can be, exhaustively expressed in any single form of words. They were also prepared, as a matter of course, to reaffirm the ancient creeds and confessions as valid summaries of Christian truth. But they were careful not to invest them with final authority or to set them apart as absolute standards for doctrinal truth and error.3

  2. Methodist Doctrine vs. Bible Doctrine
    1. Official Authority
      1. Methodists have a Book of Discipline that gives the official rules and regulations of the church, along with the church’s articles of faith. This book is man-made.
      2. The Bible claims that it is our only guide for rules, regulations, and beliefs (2 Timothy 3: 16-17; 2 Peter 1:3; Galatians 1:6-9; Revelation 22:18-19; Acts 2:42).
    2. Faith and Works
      1. Methodists teach, "Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort."4
      2. The Bible says that faith without works is a dead faith (James 2:24; Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21; Hebrews 5:8-9; John 3:36).
    3. Free Will
      1. Methodists teach, "The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and works, to faith, and calling upon God" (Article VIII).5
      2. The Bible teaches that man is a free moral agent and that he can and must call on God out of his own will (Joshua 24:15; Acts 10:34; Galatians 2:6; 1 Timothy 2:4-6).
    4. Church
      1. Concerning the church, Methodists believe that "the Christian Church is the community of all believers under the Lordship of Christ."
      2. The Bible teaches that Jesus built only one church (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 1:22-23; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 12:13; Colossians 2:18).
    5. Name of Christ
      1. Methodists believe that there is nothing in a name. Thus, Christians can wear any name they wish.
      2. The Bible teaches that we must do only that which is authorized (1 Corinthians 4:6; Colossians 3:17; Isaiah 63:19; Micah 4:5).
    6. Essentiality of Baptism
      1. Methodists do not believe that baptism is essential to salvation.
      2. The Bible clearly teaches the essentiality of baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21; Acts 22:16; John 3:5).
    7. Candidates and Modes of Baptism
      1. Methodists believe that babies are candidates for baptism and that pouring, sprinkling, or immersion is acceptable (although sprinkling is preferred).
      2. In the New Testament, baptism (Greek, baptidzo,) is performed only on accountable men and women (Isaiah 7:16; Acts 8:12) only by immersion (John 3:23; Mark 1:9-10; Acts 8:37-42; Romans 6:1-4).
    8. Abortion
      1. The Methodist religion approves of abortion in some cases. Their official statement about abortion says, "In continuity with past Christian teaching, we recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures."6
      2. The Bible does not authorize the taking of an unborn child’s life (Exodus 21:22-25; Jeremiah 1:5; Amos 1:13; Proverbs 6:6-9).
    9. Alcohol
      1. The Methodist religion offers contradictory positions regarding the use of alcohol. In one place it is stated, "We affirm our long-standing support of abstinence from alcohol as a faithful witness to God’s liberating and redeeming love for persons." Yet, just four lines down, it is suggested, "with regard to those who choose to consume alcoholic beverages, judicious use with deliberate and intentional restraint, with Scripture as a guide" should prevail.7
      2. The Bible teaches that a Christian should abstain from every form of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22; Ephesians 5:18; Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 23:29-35).
    10. Women Preaching
      1. The Methodist Manual says that women can preach, teach, and be pastors or bishops:

        On May 4, 1956, in Minneapolis, the General Conference of the Methodist Church approved full clergy rights for women. Half a century later, the fruits of that action are the nearly 12,000 United Methodist clergywomen who serve the church at every level, from bishops to local pastors.8

      2. The Bible teaches that women are to be in a place of submission in the presence of other men, and are not to preach publicly in a mixed audience (1 Timothy 2:8-12; 1 Corinthians 14:34-35; 1 Corinthians 11:3).
    11. Worship Music
      1. The Methodist church uses instrumental music in its assemblies. Interestingly, even John Wesley condemned such an action when he wrote, "I have no objection to instruments of music, in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen."9
      2. The New Testament authorizes only the use of singing for our music (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16-17; Leviticus 10:1-2; Hebrews 8:13).
    12. Communion
      1. Many Methodist congregations partake of the Lord’s Supper only on the first Sunday of each month and on Christmas and Easter.
      2. In the New Testament, early Christians partook of the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week (Acts 20:7 cf. Exodus 20:8; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Acts 2:42).

Study Questions

  1. What does it imply when Methodists say, "there is a ‘marrow’ of Christian truth that can be identified and that must be conserved"?
  2. Why do people often put their faith in men, like John Wesley?
  3. What is wrong with having a Book of Discipline, Creed, or Confession of Faith?
  4. While Faith Only may be a comforting doctrine, is it biblical?
  5. Is there anything in a name? Prove your point from Scripture.
  6. The Methodist religion teaches that all “believers” are part of the greater Christian church. Is this a biblical idea? Explain your answer.
  7. Why are babies not proper candidates for baptism? What parts of the plan of salvation can a baby not fulfill?
  8. Does the Methodist view of abortion condone situation ethics? Discuss what situation ethics is and how to refute it.
  9. Often times, when men create a religion, it isn’t long until they are found contradicting their own teaching. Such is the case with the Methodist view of alcohol consumption. What motives do you think would cause them to be against alcohol in one place and for it in another?
  10. Does the New Testament authorize women to preach? Support your answer from Scripture.
  11. What did John Wesley say about instrumental music? What do the Scriptures say about it?


  1. Online: (, retrieved February 15, 2006.
  2. Online: (, retrieved February 15, 2006.
  3. Patterson, Ronald P., editor, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, (United Methodist Publishing House, Nashville, TN, 1984,) p. 67.
  4. Ibid., p. 57.
  5. Ibid., p. 57.
  6. Online: (, retrieved February 15, 2006.
  7. Online: (, retrieved February 15, 2006.
  8. Online: (, retrieved February 15, 2006.
  9. Clarke, Adam, Commentary on the Bible, Vol. 4, p. 685.
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