Saviour of the World|
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
Unfortunately, many conservative Adventists oppose the glorious message of the two Adams and the universal justification of the human race in Christ. Their opposition is primarily based on one or more of three objections:
To ignore these objections would certainly undermine the purpose and object of this book — to bring about unity in the faith and in the message of righteousness by faith that God brought to this church some one hundred years ago. I believe these objections are, for the most part, coming from sincere individuals and deserve a response. The following, therefore, is my answer to these three objections to the message we examined in the last chapter — Paul’s teaching of the two Adams and universal justification of the human race in Christ.
Objection No. 1: This teaching sounds very much like the Roman Catholic doctrine of original sin. Most Adventists have only a vague idea of what the doctrine of original sin really teaches. All most Adventists know about the doctrine is that it is held by the Roman Catholic Church and is, therefore, a heresy to be shunned. As a result, very few Adventists are able to intelligently discuss or evaluate this doctrine.
I believe this is precisely Satan’s plan. One of the devil’s crafty ways to pervert the gospel is to mix truth with error so that sincere Christians reject the truth along with the error. They “throw out the baby with the bath water.” Satan has been most successful in this, and we need to be on guard not to fall into his trap. This is especially true concerning the doctrine of original sin.
The term original sin is not found in the Bible; it is a theological label. The fact that the term isn’t found in the Bible, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that the idea is a heresy. Many doctrines taught by Adventism and within Christianity have been given theological labels that don’t appear in the Bible. Good examples are the doctrine of the “investigative judgment” and the doctrine of “substitution.” These terms are not found in the Bible either, but they are labels for concepts that are biblical.
But what about original sin? What does it teach, and is it biblical?
Augustine, the fourth-century bishop of Hippo in North Africa, was the first to formulate and teach the doctrine of original sin. The Roman Catholic Church adopted the teaching, and the Reformers, especially John Calvin, believed it as well. This is how the Augsburg Confession defines it:
Article 11 of Original Sin, formulated by Philip Melanchthon, A.D. 1530
After Adam’s fall, all men begotten after the common course of nature, are born with sin; that is, without the fear of God, without trust in Him, and with fleshly appetite; and that this decease, or original fault is truly sin, condemning and bringing eternal death now also upon all that are not born again by baptism and the Holy Spirit.
Original sin refers to the effect Adam’s sin had on his posterity. Today, the doctrine of original sin is defined to include four major effects of the Fall on the human race. They are:
Guilt and condemnation are closely connected but, in a legal sense, they do not mean the same thing. Guilt involves personal volition and responsibility, both of which have to do with the deliberate choice of the will. Condemnation, however, is the result of that wrong choice and can affect others who have had no part in that choice.
For example, suppose you are an American serving as a missionary in a foreign country, and it so happens that the leaders of America declare war against the country in which you are living and working. Even though you may have been opposed to that decision, the government of the foreign country in which you are living will condemn you simply because you are an American. You stand condemned even though you are not guilty.
Regarding Adam’s original sin, not a single text anywhere in the Bible teaches his descendants share the guilt of his sin. God does not hold us responsible for Adam’s sin in which we personally had no choice. Therefore, the idea that we inherit the guilt of Adam’s sin is unbiblical and must be rejected. The doctrine of original sin is in error to teach that the guilt of Adam’s sin passes on to his posterity. This is how one of the latest commentaries on the Bible puts it:
The Word Biblical Commentary, 38a:291
Paul could be said to hold a doctrine of original sin in the sense that, from the beginning (birth), everyone has been under the power of sin with death as the consequence, but not a doctrine of original guilt, since individuals are only held responsible for deliberate acts of defiance against God and his law.
The Bible does not teach that humanity inherits the guilt or responsibility of Adam’s sin, but it most definitely teaches that all of Adam’s children were implicated in the Fall and, therefore, suffer the consequences of Adam’s sin. It is in this respect that Paul declares that, as a result of Adam’s one sin, condemnation, judgment, and death came to all human beings:
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. [KEY PTS.]
The idea that the guilt of Adam’s sin passes to his posterity, taught in the doctrine of original sin, is the main reason the Roman Catholic, and some Protestant churches, practice infant baptism. But nowhere in Scripture do we find the idea that the guilt and condemnation we inherit from Adam is terminated at baptism; there is, thus, no necessity for infant baptism. It was at the cross that the condemnation we inherit as a result of Adam’s sin, as well as the guilt and condemnation incurred by our many personal sins, was terminated. It is the blood of Christ that cleanses us of all sin as we walk in the light of the gospel:
1 John 1:7, 9
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. ...If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Therefore, while Adam’s sin did bring the judgment of condemnation to all his posterity, we can praise God that, in the original righteousness of Christ — His perfect life and sacrificial death — justification came as a gift to all humanity as well. This is the good news of the gospel which makes possible the experience of justification by faith.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.”
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus....
Ellen White fully supports this concept. Please consider the following statements, keeping in mind that she uses the word “guilt” to mean “condemnation”:
SDA Bible Commentary, 6:1074
As related to the first Adam, men receive from him nothing but guilt and the sentence of death.
Faith and Works, Page 88
We have reason for ceaseless gratitude to God that Christ, by His perfect obedience, has won back the heaven that Adam lost through disobedience. Adam sinned, and the children of Adam share his guilt and its consequences.
Sons and Daughters of God, Page 120
Blessed is the soul who can say ... I am lost in Adam, but restored in Christ.
Thus, the doctrine of original sin is incorrect when it teaches that Adam’s posterity inherits the guilt of his sin. But it is biblical when it teaches that we receive condemnation as a result of Adam’s sin. It is also correct and biblical when it teaches that there is a third effect of Adam’s sin on his posterity — alienation. Ellen White tells us:
Child Guidance, 47 5
The inheritance of children is that of sin. Sin has separated them from God.
The Desire of Ages, Page 161
From eternal ages it was God’s purpose that every created being, from the bright and holy seraph to man, should be a temple for the indwelling of the Creator. Because of sin, humanity ceased to be a temple for God. Darkened and defiled by evil, the heart of man no longer revealed the glory of the Divine One. But by the incarnation of the Son of God, the purpose of Heaven is fulfilled.
This is what the doctrine of original sin means by alienation. Because of the Fall, every one of us were born spiritually dead:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins....
But through the incarnation of Christ, when His divinity was united to our spiritually dead, corporate humanity, we were made spiritually alive in Christ:
[God] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.
It is this fact that makes it possible for us to individually experience the new birth and once again become the temple of God. This is the fulfillment of the New Covenant promise:
2 Corinthians 6:16
What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
This objective fact, that first took place in Christ, makes the subjective experience of the new birth possible. Therefore, born-again Christians are no longer alienated from God; they have become His adopted children and can address Him as “Abba, Father”:
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
1 John 3:1-2
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
This is part and parcel of the good news of the gospel. This is what makes it possible for us to walk in the Spirit as Christ did in our corporate humanity. This is what makes it possible for us to experience the life of God in the process of sanctification, a life that is pleasing to Him.
Finally, the doctrine of original sin teaches that Adam’s sin resulted in the human race becoming slaves to sin. This, too, is an undeniable biblical truth. Paul concludes his discussion on the universal sin problem in Romans 3:9 by informing both the Jews and the Gentiles that all are “under sin”:
What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.
This means we are born slaves to it, and Paul confirms this in Romans. It is because of this fact, as we shall see later, that, even after conversion, we are unable, in and of ourselves, to live the holy life:
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
As a result of Adam’s sin, we are born slaves to sin. David makes this clear:
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Some apply this statement to David’s mother, rather than David himself, i.e., that she committed adultery when she conceived David. But the context, as well as the principle of parallelism in Hebrew poetry will not allow this interpretation. Martin Luther, I believe, was correct when he wrote:
Luther’s Works, 12:347-351
He [David] is not talking about certain actions but simply about the matter, and he says: ’the human seed, this mass from which I was formed, is totally corrupt with faults and sins. The material itself is faulty. The clay, so to speak, out of which this vessel began to be formed is damnable.... This is how I am; this is how all men are.
When it comes to weakness, our slavery to sin, as a result of Adam’s original sin, Ellen White has much to say. Here are a few quotes showing she clearly taught that Adam’s sin affected our nature in such a way that, apart from the saving grace of Christ, human beings are helpless to save themselves:
SDA Bible Commentary, 5:1128
Because of sin his [Adam’s] posterity was born with inherent propensities of disobedience.
The Great Controversy, Page 505
When man transgressed the divine law, his nature became evil, and he was in harmony, and not at variance, with Satan.
Education, Page 29
The result of eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is manifested in every man’s experience. There is in his nature a bent to evil, a force which, unaided, he cannot resist.
Signs of the Times, July 23, 1902
As a result of Adam’s disobedience, every human being is a transgressor of the law, sold under sin ... serving Satan.
This brief study of the doctrine of original sin demonstrates that it contains a mixture of truth and error. Thus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church rightfully rejects this doctrine. However, in doing so, we must not make the mistake of also rejecting the truth this doctrine contains. If we do, we undermine not only the sin problem, but also God’s solution to the sin problem — the gospel. The Bible nowhere teaches that humanity inherits Adam’s guilt, the personal responsibility for his sin. But it does definitely teach that we inherit condemnation, alienation, and weakness as a result of his sin.
The good news of the gospel is that, because Christ assumed the self-same human nature we inherit from Adam, that human nature was made spiritually alive at the incarnation, ...
[God] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.
...its weakness was overcome by the power of the Spirit of life in Christ, ...
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.
...and, finally, this condemned nature was executed at the cross:
Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh....
The result of all this is that Christ obtained for all humanity a salvation that is full and complete, one which we can all experience by faith.
Objection No 2: This teaching is federal theology. Federal theology, like the doctrine of original sin, is also a mixture of truth and error. In a nutshell, federal theology teaches that, just as Adam was the first federal head of the human race, and by his sin condemned all humanity, Christ, as the second federal head of the human race, redeemed all humanity by His act of righteousness.
This idea sounds quite biblical. However, almost all those who teach federal theology today go on to draw certain unbiblical implications from this teaching. Almost all are either Calvinists or Universalists.
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” [KEY PTS.]
John 3:18, 36
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. ...Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. [KEY PTS.]
I condemn both Calvinism and Universalism as being unscriptural. Therefore, the “in Christ motif,” as presented in this book, cannot be honestly labeled as federal theology.
But the real problem I find with those who object to the concept of the “in Christ motif” and the two Adams, as presented in this book, and who accuse this teaching of being “federalism,” is that they themselves fail to give an adequate exegesis of Romans 5:12-21 and other related passages to prove their point.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned — To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Rather than simply labeling this view “federal theology” — a term unfamiliar to many pastors and administrators, not to mention church members — why do they not prove from Scripture where they disagree with my interpretation of Romans 5:12-21? When the brethren who opposed the 1888 message were critical of Jones’ and Waggoner’s message of righteousness by faith, Ellen White insisted on more than one occasion that they had no right to accuse their brethren of error until they could prove from Scripture where they were wrong (see, for example, Ellen G. White, 1888 Materials, 2:529; 3:122).
Objection No. 3: This teaching undermines the doctrine of substitution, the idea that Christ died for, or instead of, us. Substitution is no doubt a central pillar of the gospel. The word substitute means one person acting on behalf of another. In our education system, we have substitute teachers, and substitute players are a common practice in sports. The doctrine of substitution teaches that Christ, as the second Adam, saved us as our Substitute, because He lived and died for, or instead of, us.
In no way do I deny this clear teaching of Scripture. But the doctrine of substitution has its dangers — even as does the teaching of salvation by grace alone. Even the fact Christ did it all for us can be misused and turned into cheap grace, as Paul suggests:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?
The doctrine of substitution also faces this same danger: it can be turned into a license to sin. Because Christ lived and died for or instead of us, some believers have decided they have the liberty to live as they please. “Why not,” they reason, “since my salvation is guaranteed as long as I believe in Christ as my Substitute?” It is this misuse of the doctrine of substitution that I oppose — the idea that, because Christ died instead of me, I can therefore live as I please.
As I see it, such a misuse of the doctrine of substitution is the result of a vicarious view of substitution. Evangelical Christianity as well as most present-day Seventh-day Adventism understands the doctrine of substitution as teaching that Christ substituted Himself vicariously (in the place of) fallen humanity during His earthly mission. But this understanding of substitution is not explicitly taught in Scripture or in Ellen White’s writings. What Scripture does clearly teach is the “in Christ” understanding of substitution.
According to the vicarious view of substitution, Christ’s sinless human
nature was substituted in the place of mankind’s sinful nature. His
perfect obedience and His sacrificial death were substituted in the place of
the sins of the human race. Such a view presents Christ as a Substitute who does
not truly identify Himself with the sinful human race He came to redeem. He does
not become one with us; instead, He substitutes His sinless nature in the place of our
sinful natures. The following diagram illustrates how the vicarious view of
substitution redeems us from the twofold problem of sin — sin as a state and
sin as transgression of the law:
As the illustration above demonstrates, the vicarious view of substitution is in complete contrast to the “in-Christ” view of substitution by which Christ actually redeemed humanity from the twofold problem of sin (see diagram in chapter four). Therefore, one of the major issues that the Adventist Church needs to settle before it can unitedly fulfill its global mission to present the everlasting gospel to the whole world is this: Which view of Christ as our Substitute is the true, biblical view of substitution? What constitutes the everlasting gospel that God has called us to proclaim?
The vicarious view of substitution denies that the humanity of Christ was fully identified with the sinful human nature of those He came to redeem; therefore, it leaves a big gulf between Christ and us. Such a gulf creates major problems concerning the gospel’s power to save sinful humanity from the power and slavery of sin.
In the minds of many, the vicarious understanding of substitution also raises a valid question regarding the legality of salvation. Legally, how could Christ qualify to be our Substitute, to take our place?
No law allows an innocent man to die instead of the guilty. This is one of the main objections against the doctrine of substitution that the Christian church faces from the non-Christian world, especially Moslem scholars. They accuse Christianity of being the most unethical religion in the world. This ethical problem needs to be solved if we Christians are to make any headway with the Muslim world, one of the fastest growing religions of the world.
Had the Christian church been proclaiming the doctrine of substitution in the context of the “in Christ” motif and the two Adams, both of which are solidly grounded in the concept of solidarity or corporate oneness, this ethical stumbling block to the non-Christian world would never have arisen. The “in Christ” motif and the truth of the two Adams, as presented in this book, do not undermine the doctrine of substitution, rather, they actually strengthen it.
The real question that needs to be answered is not: Did Jesus die instead of us? The Bible clearly teaches that He did. The real questions we need to answer are: What qualified Jesus to live and die instead of us? How could He lawfully be our Substitute? If Christ took our place simply as a sinless Man, there would still be a deep and impassable gulf between Him and us. Yet it was this gulf, created by the sin problem, that had to be bridged before we could be united with Christ. To be an effective substitute on our behalf, Christ must bridge the chasm that exists between man and God, the chasm created by sin:
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
He could not do this simply by coming as a sinless Man to vicariously substitute Himself for us. He could bridge the chasm caused by sin only by assuming our fallen sinful nature in order to be the Saviour of the World. By His divinity, He laid hold of the throne of God, while by His identification with our sinful humanity, He laid hold of the human race He came to redeem.
God’s messenger fully supported the “in-Christ” understanding of the doctrine of substitution, rather than the vicarious view. In fact, Ellen White does not use the term “vicarious” when she presents Christ as our substitute and surety. Here are some quotations from her pen that are typical of the statements she makes supporting the “in-Christ” view of substitution:
Review and Herald, August 22, 1907 [Emphasis Added]
Clad in the vestments of humanity, the Son of God came down to the level of those He wished to save. In Him was no guile of sinfulness; He was ever pure and undefiled; yet He took upon Him our sinful nature. Clothing His divinity with our humanity, that He might associate with fallen humanity, He sought to redeem for man that which by disobedience Adam had lost.
Lift Him Up, Page 345 [Emphasis Added]
In Christ were united the divine and the human — the Creator and the creature. The nature of God, whose law had been transgressed, and the nature of Adam, the transgressor, meet in Jesus — the Son of God and the Son of man.
Letter K-303, 1903 [Emphasis Added]
Coming as He did, as a man, to meet and be subjected with all the evil tendencies to which man is heir, working in every conceivable manner to destroy His faith, He made it possible for Himself to be buffeted by human agencies inspired by Satan, the rebel who had been expelled from heaven.
Signs of the Times, October 17, 1900
Adam was tempted by the enemy, and he fell. It was not indwelling sin which caused him to yield, for God made him pure and upright, in His own image. He was faultless as the angels before the throne. There were in him no corrupt principles, no tendencies to evil. But when Christ came to meet the temptations of Satan, He bore “the likeness of sinful flesh.”
Signs of the Times, November 21, 1892 [Emphasis Added]
He left the glories of heaven, and clothed His divinity with humanity, and subjected Himself to sorrow, and shame, and reproach, abuse, denial, and crucifixion. Though He had all the strength of the passions of humanity, never did He yield to temptation to do that which was not pure and elevating and ennobling.
Manuscript Releases, 17:26 [Emphasis Added]
It is a mystery too deep for the human mind to fathom. Christ did in reality unite the offending nature of man with His own sinless nature, because by this act of condescension, He would be enabled to pour out His blood in behalf of the fallen race.
Signs of the Times, May 23, 1895
The union of divinity with humanity brings to the fallen race a value which we scarcely comprehend. The human and divine were united in Christ, in order that he might represent those who should believe in him. He took our nature, and passed through our experiences, and as our representative he assumed our responsibilities. The sins of men were charged to Christ, and innocent though he was, he engaged to suffer for the guilty, that through faith in him the world might be saved.... O, what compassion and love are here revealed! How is humanity exalted through the merits of Christ! His sacrifice was ample and complete. The Holy One died instead of the unholy. He clothed himself in our filthy garments, that we might wear the spotless robe of his righteousness, which was woven in the loom of heaven
Selected Messages, 1:252
In assuming humanity, Christ took the part of every human being. He was the Head of humanity. A Being divine and human, with His long arm He could encircle humanity, while with His divine arm, He could lay hold of the throne of the Infinite.
Signs of the Times, December 3, 1885
The sin of our first parents had cut off this world from Heaven. But Christ took upon himself our weaknesses and sins. He was tempted; he was ridiculed; he was beset on every hand. He suffered all the woes, all the griefs and sorrows of humanity, without a murmur, that he might leave us an example. He descended step by step in the path of humiliation, until he hung as a criminal upon the cross, that with his right arm of infinite love he might encircle the race, while he grasped the throne of Infinite Power, connecting earth with Heaven.
Here is His real identification with the human race He came to redeem. Yet, because of His total victory over sin, He is able to be our perfect substitute and representative before God in the heavenly sanctuary. It would appear, therefore, for the substitution theory of the cross to be fully adequate to meet the sinful human situation, there needs to be incorporated within its structure a Christological position similar to the one presented in this book — that Christ assumed our sinful nature with all its liabilities at the incarnation, but, in His case, He totally overcame and redeemed that rebellious nature from every aspect of sin, and took to heaven a glorified humanity, there to represent us as our great High Priest.
In concluding this important subject of the two Adams, may I share a real burden on my heart? Those who oppose the “in Christ” motif and the truth of the two Adams are robbing God’s people of their joy and assurance of salvation, the prerequisite for genuine sanctification. As a result, they have subconsciously turned the unconditional good news of the gospel into good advice. They believe they have to take the initiative for their own salvation by repenting (which many understand as turning away from sin) and believing in Christ before God will put them in Christ and justify them.
The problem with this teaching is that repeated failures to live the sanctified life destroys one’s confidence in one’s repentance. If I have truly turned away from sin, why am I still falling? The result is that whatever joy and hope the believer had when he or she first came to Christ disappears. Many decide, “I might as well leave the church and enjoy sin, since I cannot make it to heaven.” Sad to say, I have met far too many Adventists who are experiencing exactly these results from this so-called gospel teaching and, consequently, either leave the church or become nominal Christians.
The truth of the matter is that it is the “goodness of God” revealed through the gospel that leads us to repentance:
Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
When one experiences such repentance, he or she is motivated by a heartfelt appreciation for Christ and Him crucified so that Christian living is no longer motivated by fear of punishment or desire for reward. This is true sanctification.
My plea, therefore, is that before you oppose these wonderful truths that have brought so much peace, joy, and victory to many who were once trapped in a subtle form of legalism, please put aside your preconceived views and your pride and study with an honest heart what the Scriptures say about this matter. And may the truth, as it is in Christ Jesus, set you free.