Saviour of the World|
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
Sad to say, the Seventh-day Adventist Church today is polarized over the issue of the human nature of Christ. One camp affirms that Jesus came in a “sinless” nature — the spiritual nature Adam possessed before the Fall. Another group, what the present editor of the Adventist Review correctly referred to as a “more insistent group” (22 July 1993), maintains that Jesus came in the “fallen” nature humanity assumed after sin entered Eden.
One thing is clear: whatever consensus the church may reach on this vital issue will affect the gospel it proclaims to the world. William Johnsson, editor of the Adventist Review, has written, “The stakes in this debate are high. This isn’t some abstract theological discussion — it’s about our salvation; it’s about the very gospel God calls us to proclaim.” (Ibid.)
Because the issue of Christ’s human nature is so closely intertwined with implications for our salvation, it is imperative that we study one in the light of the other. That is the only way we will ever come to a correct biblical consensus on the human nature of Christ. When we deal with this subject as a separate topic, we miss the whole point of why He became a man, and we come to all kinds of false conclusions. That is why this book will attempt to analyze carefully what constitutes the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and how that gospel is linked with the nature of our Saviour’s humanity.
I believe that Satan is fully aware that “the humanity of the Son of God is everything to us” (Ellen White, Selected Messages: 1, 244). He knows that a correct understanding of Jesus’ humanity will play a vital part in the proclamation of the everlasting gospel in these last days. That is why he has produced a counterfeit teaching within Adventism on this topic of Christ’s humanity. He has done this in order to blind the eyes of God’s people and turn them against the matchless charms of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, thus preventing the world from being lightened with God’s glory.
What is Satan’s counterfeit teaching on this subject? It is not the “sinless nature” view of Jesus’ humanity — the view that teaches He took on the spiritual human nature of Adam before the Fall. Although I believe this view presents major problems when considered in the light of the full and complete gospel, I do not believe it is Satan’s counterfeit. Rather, I believe, the “sinless nature” view of Jesus’ humanity is a reaction to Satan’s counterfeit. I believe Satan’s counterfeit on this topic is the view of that “more insistent” group mentioned above — the view that Jesus assumed the “fallen” human nature of Adam after sin entered our world.
As taught by some of the major independent ministries in Adventism today, the post-Fall view of Jesus’ human nature is placed in the setting of Christian living, rather than in the context of the good news of the gospel. It is this emphasis, I believe, that makes a satanic counterfeit out of the teaching that Jesus assumed fallen human nature. You see, when the emphasis of Christ’s humanity is focused primarily on Jesus as our Example, rather than as our Saviour, legalism becomes the inevitable result. The reasoning runs this way: “Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, lived a sinless life in our sinful humanity. Therefore, God expects us, especially the last generation of Christians, to do the same in order to make it to heaven.” Such a teaching of perfectionism has led many into despair and robbed them of the joy and peace Christ brought to the human race through His gospel.
Further, the legalism resulting from this wrong emphasis on the post-Fall view of Christ’s humanity has produced wrong motivations for Christian living — fear of punishment or desire for reward. “Such religion,” says Ellen White, “is worth nothing” (Steps to Christ, page 44).
At the same time, this wrong emphasis has also turned many against the post-Fall view of the human nature of Christ. They see the fruits this view can produce when the emphasis is on Jesus as our Example — how it has robbed many sincere Adventists of the joy and peace of salvation — and, consequently, they want nothing to do with it.
The legalism produced by this emphasis has also resulted in Pharisaism: a critical spirit that is unwilling to tolerate or respect anyone who does not see things in the same way I do. The result is fragmentation of the church, the very thing Satan delights in.
Yet, it is true, I believe, that Jesus took on our fallen human nature when He came to be one with us. According to the clear teaching of the New Testament, the primary reason Christ assumed our human nature was so that He could be the Saviour of the world:
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. [KEY PTS.]
Only after we have received Him as our Saviour, only after we have experienced the “peace with God” that comes through justification by faith alone, does Christ present Himself to us as our Example:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ....
1 Peter 2:21
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus....
His role as our Saviour must always precede His role as our Example. That is why this book will present the post-Fall view of the humanity of our Saviour in the light of the gospel, the truth as it is in Christ.
The experience of salvation is based on a foundation that has already been laid: the holy history of Christ our righteousness:
1 Corinthians 3:11-13
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.
Therefore, all truth pertaining to our salvation must be studied within the context of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is an extremely important point to keep in mind if we are to come to a correct understanding of the humanity of our Saviour or, indeed, of any biblical truth. Unless this approach to studying any doctrine of the church is kept in the forefront, the doctrine loses its significance.
When Jesus commissioned His disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, what message did He expect them to carry?
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
What was the gospel they were to preach? The answer can be summed up in one sentence: Christ and Him crucified. This is what constitutes the good news of the gospel and the central message of the New Testament:
1 Corinthians 1:17-18; 2:1-2
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. ...And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of confusion within Adventism today as to what constitutes the gospel. So we must first deal with this problem — what the gospel actually is — before we can discuss why it was necessary for Christ to assume our sinful nature at the incarnation.
As a church, we have given the word gospel a very broad meaning. As a result, many Adventists are confused regarding the relationship between justification, which is the imputed [attributed to us] righteousness of Christ, and sanctification, which is the imparted [given to us] righteousness of Christ. The Bible describes three phases of salvation that are related yet distinct. These three phases of salvation are:
I believe it is the failure to see the relationship and distinction between these three aspects of salvation that has produced the confusion in our midst regarding what the gospel actually is. As a result, for many Adventists, the gospel is not “good news,” but good advice. The following is a brief description of these three phases of salvation, showing the relationships between them, as well as the distinctions.
This is the unconditional good news of the salvation Christ obtained for all humanity by virtue of His holy history — His birth, life, death, and resurrection:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
It is referred to as the objective fact of salvation and is a finished or completed work to which we have made, and can make, no contribution whatsoever:
Romans 3:28, 5:18
For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. ...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.]
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.
It is, therefore, entirely the work of God. That is why the apostle Paul describes it as “the righteousness of God”:
Romans 1:17; 3:21
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” ...But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
It is this holy history of Christ — His birth, life, death, and resurrection — that constitutes the good news of the gospel and saves sinful human beings from sin now and in the judgment. When received by faith, the gospel becomes justification by faith or righteousness by faith.
Each of the above four facts constituting the gospel message — the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ — is vital to our salvation. By Christ’s birth, God united the sinless, divine nature of His Son to our corporate, sinful human nature that needed redeeming. This not only qualified Christ to be mankind’s legal substitute and representative, but it also made our sinful human nature, which was spiritually dead, alive spiritually, in Christ:
[God] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.
By His life, which He lived for thirty-three years in our corporate humanity, Christ fully and perfectly met the positive demands of the law on behalf of the human race He came to redeem. But because the human nature He assumed in the incarnation was our corporate, sinful humanity that stood condemned and needed redeeming, His perfect obedience was not enough to save fallen humanity. Consequently, having satisfied the positive demands of the law by His obedience, Jesus took our corporate humanity to the cross and surrendered it to the wages of sin. In doing this, His death met the justice of the law on behalf of all mankind.
On the cross, the collective, or corporate, life of the fallen human race died forever in Christ. This death was the second death, the death that comes as a result of the just demands of the law. But the incredible good news of the gospel is that God so loved the world that He gave the eternal life of His only begotten Son to the human race. As a result, the human race was resurrected in Christ as a redeemed humanity:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
2 Timothy 1:10
...But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
1 John 5:11-12
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
That is why Paul declared to the Corinthian Christians:
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
This, in a nutshell, is what constitutes the fantastic good news of the gospel.
Every subjective experience in the believer’s life is based on this finished work of Christ. So it is important, at this point, to note what Christ actually accomplished in this gospel. The Bible clearly teaches that the reason God sent His Son into this world was to save mankind from sin (see Matthew 1:21; John 1:29; 3:17).
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
John 1:29; 3:17
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” ...For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
But sin, as we will discuss in more detail in the next chapter, is a multiphased problem. All Adventists are aware that sin is “the transgression [or breaking] of the law” and that transgression of the law results in guilt and punishment.
1 John 3:4
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.
But the Scriptures also define sin as a state of being: a force or law or principle that resides in the flesh, our sinful human nature:
Romans 7:17, 20, 23
As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. ...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. ...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.
Furthermore, the corruption and physical infirmities of our humanity are also part and parcel of our sin problem from which we need to be redeemed as well:
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
1 Corinthians 15:53-57
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
By His birth, life, death, and resurrection, Christ redeemed fallen humanity from every aspect of our sin problem. Thus justification, sanctification, as well as glorification have already been accomplished in Christ for all mankind:
1 Corinthians 6:11
And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
The good news of the gospel is that Christ has obtained salvation full and complete for every human being! Through the incarnation, we who were spiritually dead 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.
Based on this fact, believers can experience the new birth:
[God] saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit....
By His perfect life and sacrificial death, Christ rewrote mankind’s history and changed our status from one of condemnation to one of justification to life:
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
Then, having reconciled the sinful human race to God on the cross...
For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
...Christ took this redeemed and glorified humanity to heaven, in His own self, to intercede for us at God’s right hand as our great High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary:
Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus....
1 John 2:1-2
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
But since this holy history of Christ is God’s supreme gift to mankind, and in view of the fact that God created man with a free will, the objective gospel Christ obtained for each person demands a human response:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 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.
Those who respond and accept the gospel message by faith, stand perfect in Christ — perfect in performance, in justice, as well as in nature. This is what justification by faith is all about — God’s looking at the believer as he or she is in Christ. This is what entitles all believers to eternal life and heaven, both now and in the judgment. So while the gospel itself is unconditional good news to all human beings, experiencing that salvation is conditional and will be enjoyed only by those who believe:
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.”
When we understand what the objective gospel actually is and what it has accomplished, it becomes clear that unless Christ totally assumed our sinful human nature that needed redeeming, none of this could be realized. As the church fathers in the first five centuries of the Christian era often stated: “That which was not assumed by Christ could not be redeemed or healed.”
Those who teach that Christ’s human nature was like the spiritual nature of Adam before the Fall, must present a Saviour who redeemed humanity only from the guilt and punishment of sin, since, in this view, that is what He bore vicariously on the cross. Such a Saviour may satisfy our egocentric desires to be saved and give us assurance, but He gives no hope to Christians who sincerely desire to live the victorious life and who are struggling with the law of sin in their bodies.
If Christ in His earthly mission did not save humanity from every aspect of sin, He ceases to be our complete Saviour. The gospel is robbed of its full power of salvation. Here is where the 1888 message of righteousness by faith, that most precious message God gave this church over a hundred years ago, parts company with the evangelical gospel, the so-called new theology.
Of course, some Adventists who take the pre-Fall view of the human nature of Christ do believe and teach that the flesh and its cravings for sin can be totally overcome through the power of the indwelling Spirit. But if the Holy Spirit does this in the believer, apart from the finished work of Christ — the gospel — then we are making the Spirit a coredeemer with Christ. Scripture nowhere presents such an idea; the Holy Spirit’s part in the plan of salvation is to communicate to us the good news of the gospel, that is, to make real in our experience what Christ has already obtained for us through His birth, life, death, and resurrection:
When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
2 Corinthians 13:14
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
We must also keep in mind that Christ had to fully identify Himself with the human race He came to redeem in order for Him to lawfully be our substitute and representative in His work of redemption, as well as to be our faithful and merciful High Priest. By uniting, in Mary’s womb, His own divine life with our corporate, sinful, human life that needed redeeming — through the operation of the Holy Spirit — Christ became the second Adam (in Hebrew, adam means “mankind”) and earned the right to be the Saviour of the world. Then, by His life, death, and resurrection, He totally and completely redeemed mankind from every aspect of sin. This is the full and glorious gospel that I believe God raised up the Advent movement to proclaim to the whole world before the end can come.
The Fruits of the Gospel
The second phase of salvation is known as “the fruits of the gospel.” This is a subjective experience produced by the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer who has accepted the gospel by faith, experienced the new birth, and who is walking in the Spirit:
Galatians 5:16, 22-23
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. ...But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. [KEY PTS.]
In saving us from sin, Christ not only saved us from death to life, from condemnation to justification, but He also saved us from sinful living to a life of good works:
Titus 2:11-14; 3:8
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. ...This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
The gospel is not only the means of our justification and acceptance into heaven, it is also the basis of holy living and good works here and now:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Scripture refers to this holy living, or fruit bearing, as sanctification. Sanctification, like justification, also comes to us by faith. These fruits do not contribute one iota towards our justification, or entitlement to heaven. Instead, they witness to the salvation we already possess in Christ by faith and, therefore, indicate that we are fit for heaven. Although sanctification is certainly good news, we must never equate it with the gospel. Sanctification is the fruit of the gospel. Failure to distinguish justification from sanctification has produced the spiritual insecurity common among so many Adventists. We need to keep in mind that the believer’s justification is based on a finished work, the gospel, but sanctification, as a subjective experience, is an ongoing process that will continue as long as life will last.
Through the gospel, the believer stands perfect in Christ; this is the basis of his or her assurance. Good works — sanctification — are not the basis of assurance, but they prove that the believer’s faith is genuine and not a sham:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. [BACK ■ KEY PTS.]
A genuine justification by faith must express itself in behavior. Therefore, it will always produce good works, even though these works may not be apparent to the believer himself:
“But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’”
That is why the New Testament teaches that we are justified by faith alone...
For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.
...Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. [KEY PTS.]
...but that we will be judged and rewarded by our works:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out — those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
The works are not the means, but the evidence, of justification by faith:
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
Justification is entirely God’s doing. It is a finished work which we receive by faith alone. Sanctification, on the other hand, involves our human cooperation putting faith into practice; it is an on-going process of “walking in the Spirit” that continues throughout the lifetime.
According to the New Testament, faith is more than a mental assent to truth. It involves a heartfelt obedience to the gospel, that is, the good news of what God did for our corporate humanity in Christ.
Romans 6:17; 1:5
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. ...Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?
2 Thessalonians 1:3-8
We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus
1 Peter 4:17
For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
Such obedience of faith means a total surrender of the will to the truth as it is in Christ. Thus, in justification by faith, we acknowledge and identify with Christ’s holy life as well as with His death to sin. This is the true meaning of baptism:
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Without this faith obedience, justification by faith becomes merely a sham [SEE JAMES 2:14-26, ABOVE].
Christianity, unlike any other religion, involves more than just following a set of do’s and don’t’s; it involves actually participating in Christ:
1 Corinthians 10:16-18
Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?
All Christians must confess, with Paul:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
This is what it means to put faith into practice.
The Hope of the Gospel
This third phase of salvation refers to the ultimate reality of the gospel in our lives — the reality which will be experienced by all believers at the second coming of Christ when:
1 Corinthians 15:53
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
The Bible calls this experience glorification. The experience of conversion and the process of sanctification do bring about a change to the Christian’s character, but not one iota of change to the flesh, the believer’s nature. The nature remains sinful throughout the Christian’s earthly existence or until the second advent, whichever occurs first. That is why Paul can speak about Christians groaning and waiting patiently for the redemption of their bodies:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
We said earlier that the experience of sanctification must not be equated with the gospel, rather it is the fruit of the gospel. Likewise, the glorification believers will experience at the second advent must not be equated with the gospel; rather, it is the hope of the gospel. The gospel is the good news of salvation for all mankind, but the second advent is not good news for everyone. It is the blessed hope only for believers who are rejoicing in the gospel and who will be glorified when Jesus appears:
...While we wait for the blessed hope — the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ....
For unbelievers, it is the great day of God’s wrath:
I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”
That is why we have to make a distinction between the gospel as an objective truth for all humanity and salvation as a subjective experience for those only who respond in faith. The gospel is the unconditional good news of salvation for every person; salvation, as an actual experience, is conditional, limited to those who respond in faith.
In fact, the New Testament makes it clear that all three experiences of salvation — justification, sanctification, and glorification — are conditional. Faith is the condition for experiencing the “justification to life” that Christ obtained for all by His obedience.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. [KEY PTS.]
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.]
And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”
Walking in the Spirit is the condition for experiencing the sanctified life Christ accomplished for sinful humanity in His holy history:
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. [KEY PTS.]
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. [KEY PTS.]
1 Corinthians 1:2; 6:11
To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ — their Lord and ours.... And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. [KEY PTS.]
And finally, our faith must endure to the end:
You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. [KEY PTS.]
And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. [KEY PTS.]
This is the condition for receiving a glorified body like that with which Christ was resurrected and which He took to heaven.
As long as we stand under the umbrella of justification by faith, we have full assurance of salvation. But the experience of salvation is subject to these conditions. That is why the Bible nowhere teaches “once saved means always saved.” This is a heresy resulting from the false doctrine of double predestination — the idea that God has predetermined some to be saved and others to be lost. If so, this false doctrine teaches that those whom He has predestined to be saved cannot be lost because God is sovereign; what He chooses will happen.
When we look at these three phases of salvation that the Holy Spirit communicates, we can rejoice in the fact that God left no stone unturned when He sent His beloved Son to redeem all humanity from sin. Viewing this perfect and complete salvation, Christ could cry on the cross, “It is finished”:
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
This is the context in which we must examine the question of the human nature Christ assumed at the incarnation in order to be the Saviour of the world.