Posts tagged Righteousness by faith
Salvation is not a "Zero Down" Deal


In my last post I went over the four most common versions of salvation in the world and in the church. In the end I concluded all of them were pretty lame. However, I also proposed that the Bible teaches a fifth version, or better put the only version, and that is our topic today. So What is this only version? Look at it here in Ephesians:


For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing.

The  salvation story that dominated most of my experience was the “but” version that I wrote about last week. In fact, that is the version that dominates many conservative Adventists. For some reason, many of us have embraced a Catholic/ Mormon view of salvation that teaches a “faith + works = heaven” theology, but nothing could be further from the truth. According to the Bible, salvation is a free gift that we receive apart from works. But what use would that gift be if once we had it we would have to “work” in order to keep it? A free gift that you have to earn the right to keep is not truly free. It is a product with a price tag that comes after you receive the product. Its like those deals you see on TV: “Take it Home for zero down!” But “Payments begin in 60 days.” No one considers the “zero down” deal a gift. It is still a product for sale because you are not able to keep it unless you begin to pay at the allotted time. And yet, this was the gospel to me. Not a gift, but a “zero down” option. “You don’t have to be perfect, just accept Christ and you are saved! It’s a free gift, apart from works! No one can earn salvation, just believe and its yours!” But once I accepted Christ, the message came, “Payments begin now.” Salvation was free, but only for the moment. I got it for zero down, but now I had to begin the payments. “Keep the Sabbath, change your diet, don’t do this or that or the other. Oh and by the way, here is a list of Ellen White quotes (out of context of course) on how everything you enjoy is evil and will keep you out of heaven. So stop doing it because you have to be perfect, without blemish or spot, or else you wont make it through the judgment.”

Now, let me be clear. No one actually used those words, but this is the picture my mind began to paint as I listened to sermons, read books, and spoke with other Adventists in my faith community. In many ways, I was oblivious to what I actually believed. It wasn’t until I was confronted with the true gospel that I realized that I believed a false gospel. The light shone on the darkness, and how great was the darkness! I saw for the first time, the scales fell from my eyes, and there I was – stunned beyond belief. When truth came, the lie was exposed in its ugliness and this was it: Salvation is free, but only for acceptance. Once you have it, you have to start making some payments or else you will lose it. And just to be clear on how serious God is about his law, even if you make lots of payments, they won’t do you any good unless you attain a spotless character. If you fail to do that then you can’t be saved.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is why anytime someone spoke about the grace of God I felt compelled to say “yes, Gods grace is wonderful but that’s no excuse for sin! You still have to be obedient! That doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want!” And so on and so forth. Was there something wrong with my “but” statements? Theologically, no. But the real problem lay in the fact that grace frightened me and because it frightened me I couldn’t enjoy it for what it was. Somehow, I thought grace would open the floodgates of sin and so I couldn’t simply sit back and say “amazing grace, how sweet the sound” because the moment I did I felt it was too good to be true. There just had to be something for me to add. There just had to be something I had to do in order to enter heaven. A gift was too free, too good, or dare I say, too “gracious.”

Nevertheless, the bible is clear. Salvation “is God’s gift.” It is not a “zero down” deal. It is not a, “take it home now pay later” offer. It is a gift. It is free to receive and free to retain. This is the only salvation story the Bible tells. You are saved as a free gift apart from works and are preserved in Christ as a free gift apart from works. This means that you don’t have to do anything in order to be saved or stay saved. You just have to receive the gift though faith and through the same faith that you receive it you also retain it. This is the foundation of Christianity. We are saved by grace through faith from beginning to middle to end. No if’s, no and’s, and certainly no but’s. It’s all a gift of God.

And the crazy thing is that God gives this gift to evil people, not to good people. Grace is for the sinner not the saint. The more wicked you are the more you qualify! Look at verse five. It says,


[God] infused our lifeless souls with life—even though we were buried under mountains of sin—and saved us by His grace.

It is when we were dead in sin that Jesus offered us salvation. It is when we were lifeless, buried under mountains of pride, lust, and addictions, dead in our selfishness and depravity, that Jesus came to give us life. Works cannot save us and works cannot keep us. It has to be a gift of grace from beginning to end. This is the only way. You can’t be vegetarian enough, or know enough Bible verses, or behave well enough for God to accept you. The gift of salvation is not offered to you when you are good. It’s offered to you when you are evil. You did not receive the gift because you were good. You received it because God loved you despite your sin. And you do not keep the gift because you are good. You keep it because God loves you despite your imperfections. Salvation is a gift. It is given without merit. And the end result of this free gift is that no one can “go around bragging that [they] must have done something amazing.”

So do you qualify for salvation? I suppose that depends on whether you are a sinner. If you are then you qualify. And all you have to do is say yes to the gift that God has brought to you. The moment you do, it is yours without any “but’s”. I want to invite you to say yes to God’s finished work. If you have never experienced the forgiveness he offers or if you have been trying to earn his grace or keep his grace, it’s time to let go. Salvation is a gift for those who are sinners. It is not “What Jesus did + What I do = Salvation.” It is “What Jesus did. Period.” So accept the gift and rejoice.


Each one of you may know for yourself that you have a living Saviour, that he is your helper and your God. You need not stand where you say, “I do not know whether I am saved.” Do you believe in Christ as your personal Saviour? If you do, then rejoice. – Ellen White (GCB April 10, 1901, par. 14).
Faith VS Works
photo credit: Julia Manzerova via photopin cc

Have you ever read the book of James? If so, chances are you might have been a bit confused. After all, James seems to contradict nearly everything Paul says in the book of Romans. He consistently talks about "works" whereas Paul was the "champion of grace." However, how can the Bible contradict itself on such a major theological topic? For example, Paul writes in Romans 3:28 that "a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law." However, James says in James 2:24 that "a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." Since the Bible does not support theological pluralism or relativism one of them has to be wrong. But which one is it? 

The reality is neither one of them is wrong. They are both right. In order to see that James and Paul don't contradict each other its important to understand the historical context that they were writing in and the issues they were addressing in their letters. You see, in Romans Paul was dealing with the dangerous heresy that a person can be saved by keeping the law. Paul repeatedly emphasizes here (as he does in Hebrews, Galatians, Ephesians etc.) that it is impossible to perform your way into heaven. The only way is by Gods gift of salvation. A gift that cannot be earned. James, on the other hand, isn't dealing with this heresy. James is dealing with a totally different heresy - the idea that so long as you accept doctrinal truth in your head then you are saved. Therefore when James uses the word faith he uses it differently than Paul does. Paul uses faith to describe a genuine trust in Jesus. James uses faith to describe an intellectual assent to some abstract theological truth. According to James simply saying "yes I believe that's true" does not save you because it isn't real faith. Real faith doesn't just accept truth intellectually; it embraces the truth and applies it to life. Real faith is seen in the persons life not just his words. Therefore, good works are the evidence that you have been saved by grace through faith. A lack of good works (which results in the presence of sinful works) may be evidence that your faith is not genuine.
John Wesley on Christian Perfection


I recently read John Wesley: A Plain Account of Christian Perfection. As a Seventh-day Adventist the doctrine of Christian perfection (not to be confused with the heresy of sinless perfectionism) is one that is near and dear to my heart. Ellen White spoke much on Christian perfection and, knowing that she was a Methodist, it was pretty cool to read about the doctrine of perfection from the man she learned it from - John Wesley. Not only did this experience help me appreciate the doctrine more but it also helped me gain a greater understanding and appreciation for Ellen Whites approach to perfection. Below are some of my favorite quotes from Wesley's book. I am sharing most them as answers to 3 basic questions: Did Wesley believe in perfection, how did he define it, and were did he stand regarding the concept of absolute, or sinless, perfectionism.




Did John Wesley believe in Christian perfection?
"Yes, we do believe that He will in this world so 'cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of His Holy Spirit, the we shall perfectly love Him, and worthily magnify His holy name."
"Why should devout men be afraid of devoting all their soul, body, and substance to God? Why should those who love Christ count it a damnable error to think we may have all the mind that was in Him? We allow, we contend, that we are justified freely though the righteousness and the blood of Christ. And why are you so hot against us, because we expect likewise to be sanctified wholly through His spirit?"
"[T]his we do confess... we do expect to love God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves."
How did Wesley define perfection? 
"[R]ejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks... this is all that I mean by perfection..."
"By perfection I mean the humble, gentle, patient love of God and our neighbour, ruling our tempers, words, and actions."
[Perfection] is purity of intention, dedicating all the life to God. It is the giving to God all our hearts: it is one desire and design ruling all our tempers. It is the devoting, not a part, but all our soil, body, and substance to God... it is all the mind which was in Christ, enabling us to walk as Christ walked. It is the circumcision of the heart from all filthiness, all inward as well as outward pollution it is a renewal of the heart in the whole image of God, the full likeness of him that created it... it is the loving God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves."
Did Wesley believe in absolute perfection? 
"Absolute perfection belongs not to man, nor to angels, but to God alone."
"Sinless perfection is a phrase I never use."
"Is [perfection] sinless? It is not worth while to contend for a term. It is 'salvation from sin.'"
"[Perfection] is perfect love. This is the essence of it..."
"I do not contend for the term sinless, though I do not object against it." 
My thoughts:

While Ellen White was a firm believer in the doctrine of Christian perfection, she parts ways with Wesley in two senses. The first is that Wesley maintained that we could know in this life if we had attained perfection. Ellen White never suggests that we can reach a point in our lives where we can know we are perfect. In fact she consistently taught otherwise as can be seen in the following statement:
So long as Satan reigns, we shall have self to subdue, besetting sins to overcome; so long as life shall last, there will be no stopping place, no point which we can reach and say, I have fully attained. Sanctification is the result of lifelong obedience {AA 560.3}.
The second point of departure is in clarity. Wesley seems to almost beat around the bush when it comes to the concept of sinless perfection. He never explicitly taught it, but as can be seen above, he never explicitly denied it. This is made most evident in his final quote "I do not contend for the term sinless, though I do not object against it." Ellen White did not beat around the bush when it came to sinless perfection. She denied it consistently throughout her ministry as in the following quote:
We cannot say, “I am sinless,” till this vile body is changed and fashioned like unto His glorious body [the second coming]. {ST March 23, 1888, par. 13}.

Some other cool Wesley quotes:
"As a very little dust will disorder a clock, and the least sand will obscure our sight, so the least grain of sin which is upon the heart will hinder its right motion towards God." 
"[T]he devil fills whatever God does not fill."
"Indeed it has been my opinion for many years, that one great cause why men make so little improvement in the divine life is their own coldness, negligence, and unbelief."
"In the greatest temptations, a single look to Christ and the barely pronouncing His name, suffices to overcome the wicked one..." 

Note: I read this book in a Kindle so there were no page numbers. If there is a specific quote you would like to trace feel free to message me and ask for the location number if you'd like. 


Further Reading:

Never Good Enough: The Close of Probation and Sinless Perfectionism
The Urgent Implications of the Pre-Advent Judgment
photo credit: Me2 (Me Too) via photopin cc
The picture above captures what comes to most minds when they think of the Adventist doctrine of an investigative judgment. For many years I had a false understanding of the investigative judgment (pre-advent judgment) that bred this same fear instead of hope. My wife was also taught growing up that her name could come up at any moment in the courtroom of heaven and if she wasn't perfect when it did she would be lost forever. The result of distorting this biblical teaching is a sense of fear and anxiety that has led many to flat out reject the validity of this doctrine. Of those who have not rejected it, many still suffer under this misconception and live in fear of their name coming up in the judgment. However, after studying the topic for myself I realized that the opposite is true and that the investigative judgment is really good news. It is the message that God is at work right now to save as many people as possible - not damn them. This flies in the face of the popular concept that God is out to get us. It is a counter cultural reality - God is on our side. He is not against us.

While the good news of the investigative judgment was an eye opening experience for me I wondered for a time what it was that made the message so urgent. I mean, I was glad to see that it was good news but failed to see what made it so important. Yes, I knew that the investigative judgment is Gods final work on behalf of humanity which means when its over its over, but I still felt that a sense of true urgency was missing. 

In recent days I have come to realize what that missing element was. The Bible teaches that the end-time judgment has two arch-phases.  The first is the investigative judgment (before the second coming) which is a judgment for all who have ever proclaimed the name of Jesus. The second is the Great White Throne judgment (1000 years after the second coming) which is for the wicked. In the investigative judgment it is the disciples of Jesus (and the pseudo-disciples) who are judged not the wicked. In other words, everyone who has ever claimed the name of Jesus is judged. The sincere believers have nothing to fear in this judgment. For them it is a time of vindication not of fear. When it is over, the true disciples (those who are believers in Jesus) are given the kingdom. The next judgment that takes place, the Great White Throne judgment, only considers the cases of the lost not the saved.

Do you realize the implication of this? Anyone not judged in the investigative judgment is automatically lost. This means that you want your name to come up in the investigative judgment because if it doesn't then it will come up in the Great White Throne judgment. Everyone is going to be judged and I don't know about you, but I want my name to come up in the investigative judgment because if it does I know I am saved. So what is the urgency? The Bible is inviting the whole world to choose what judgment they want to fall under. We should be inviting people to the joy of knowing that those who are in Christ will be judged and vindicated in the pre-advent judgment and thus not be judged and condemned before the Great White Throne. The judgment is taking place right now. Its time we started inviting. 





Further Reading: The Investigative Judgment
Link Post: Never Good Enough (The Close of Probation and Sinless Perfectionism)
 photo credit: Toni Blay via photopin cc
The concept of sinless perfectionism is one that many Adventists are, at one time or another, exposed to. The right combination of selected Bible verses and Ellen White quotes can leave many wondering if they will ever be good enough to be saved.

I too struggled with this concept for many years and found it impossible to reconcile the gospel of Jesus Christ with the Adventist teaching of sinless perfectionism. Then one day I discovered that it wasn't an Adventist teaching at all. The more I have studied this within the context of Adventism the clearer the gospel and the all suffiency of the righteousness of Christ has become. To this, many sinless perfectionists would respond that I am just looking for an excuse to sin and still go to heaven. However, nothing could be further from the truth. I hate sinning. I long to be perfect in the love of Jesus and love as he loved and continues to love. This is my desire. Not for one moment do I want to, as Peter Gregory once quipped, take a souvenir (of sin) to heaven with me. However, with that said, I still reject the teaching of last generation sinless perfectionism. While I could share my own views on the matter, lack of time prompts me to share two wonderful articles that delineate my exact sentiments (and those of Seventh-day Adventism) on this topic. The articles were written by Seventh-day Adventist scholar and theologian Edward Heppenstall and can be found on adventistbiblicalresearch.org

1. How Perfect Is "Perfect" or Is Christian Perfection Possible?

2. Some Theological Considerations of Perfection
Jesus Only
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/
My son is a horrible eater. He's two so nothing unique there. However, from time to time I find myself having to be very firm with him in order to get him to eat. It's lots of fun. Anyways, just the other day my son and I had one such episode. It was brekky time and he refused to eat his cereal. Frustrated, I took the toy he had and told him if he wanted the toy back he would have to eat. He ate so he got the toy back. I then told him that if he wanted to keep the toy he would have to keep eating as well. In other words, not only did he have to earn his toy by eating but he also had to earn his right to keep the toy by continuing to eat. As soon as I said this the thought hit me like a ton of bricks, What if salvation worked that way? What if God were in heaven saying, "If you want to have eternal life you had better "eat your brekky." Afraid of being lost, I commence in doing that which God said to do. As soon as I do I begin to feel better about myself because I am no longer lost. However, my peace is soon shattered by the words, "And if you want to keep your eternal life you had better keep "eating." In other words, not only do I have to earn my salvation by my obedience but I would also have to earn my right to keep this salvation by continual obedience. Is this how salvation works?[1]

Most Christians would quickly say that we don't have to earn our salvation at all because it is a gift of God. But how many of us are trying to keep our salvation by our own works? In other words, when we accept Jesus we are saved but not really. We still need to live a life of perfect obedience or else God will snatch the gift of salvation from us. The solution? Trust in Jesus for the power to live an obedient life so that you don't end up losing your salvation. The problem? It's legalism in disguise. 

This theory of salvation can be summarized in the following formula:



What Jesus did + What I do = Salvation

Some try to soften the impact of this formula by adding the following:



What Jesus did + What I do (by his grace of course) = Salvation

Either way it makes no difference. The basic idea remains the same: "I must add something to what Jesus did in order to either be or remain saved." However, scripture is unequivocal when it states that the formula for salvation is Jesus Only. No obedience necessary to either be saved or to remain saved.[2] Why not? Because Jesus' perfect obedience is credited to those who believe in him and there is no need to improve on it. After all, it is perfect.


It is at this point that some well meaning Christians object with the following arguments: "There is no such thing as 'Once saved always saved!'" and "Obedience is still required of the believer." To such I would say, yes and yes. The Bible doesn't teach once saved always saved and it is all for obedience. But doesn't that imply a "Jesus + Me" theology? Not necessarily. First of all, obedience is the inevitable result of salvation. It doesn't form the basis for salvation in any way shape or form but it is the natural fruit of being saved. And we are not "once saved always saved" because even though God is not measuring our performance to determine whether or not we are worthy of retaining the gift of salvation we are ever free to walk away if we so choose. In other words, when a person loses their salvation it is not because God gave them the boot, it is because they themselves chose to walk away from Jesus. But when we respond to the invitation of Jesus salvation is ours and there is no need to perform good enough to keep the gift. Its ours period. Our obedience is simply the result, or the aftermath, of coming face to face with the savior. So while obedience is inevitable for the believer it adds nothing to the finished work of Calvary. 


Think of it this way: 

Suppose you have been a faithful Christian for 40 years. You have led countless people to God, have preached over 4,000 sermons, have lived a life of exceptional obedience, and have impacted the world through your humanitarian efforts. You have placed all of your faith in Jesus. Are not a legalist. Have never been hypocritical and have a tender and loving heart like Jesus'. In short - you are a model Christian on your way to heaven. Suddenly, the strangest thing happens. Somehow Jesus ceases to exist and the cross is erased from history. What does that mean for you? Will you be able to go to God and present the last 40 years of your obedience as an argument for him to let you into heaven? The straight up answer is no. None of it will count. That's because none of that obedience played any meritorious role in your salvation. It was simply the result. Never the basis.
With that said, you don't have to stop smoking to be saved. You don't even have to stop stealing to be saved. If we could stop our sinful behavior on our own, what in the world do we need salvation for? And while we may, in fact, be capable of modifying our behavior on the outside we are still rotten on the inside. It is precisely because we are sinners without hope that we need salvation. And once you are saved, you don't have to stay away from cigarettes in order to keep your salvation. You don't even have to refrain from stealing to remain saved. And in the context of Adventism, you don't have to keep the Sabbath to either be or stay saved. But watch out, because when you experience salvation you will change. Or better said, God will change you.[3] Obedience will become your new desire. This does not mean that obedience will always come naturally or easily. There is certainly a fight to be fought especially when we are dealing with addictions, however, so long as we hang on to Jesus by faith we will be brought into harmony with Gods will. You will stay away from the cigarettes, not because you need to earn the right to keep your salvation, but because you already have salvation and it now your joy to obey. Christians don't keep the law to be saved but because they are saved. So yes, the saved still obey, but as Jesus said, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching" (John 14:15) - a teaching that highlighted love for God and one another as the highest aim of spirituality. It is our love for him that will inspire this new life of obedience not fear of hell. Salvation is not a light switch that gets flipped on and off every time you make a mistake. It is the gift of a God whom works "in and through us to do according to his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

As SDA pioneer Ellen White once wrote:
When men learn they cannot earn righteousness by their own merit of works, and they look with firm and entire reliance upon Jesus Christ as their only hope, there will not be so much of self and so little of Jesus. Souls and bodies are defiled and polluted by sin, the heart is estranged from God, yet many are struggling in their own finite strength to win salvation by good works. Jesus, they think, will do some of the saving; they must do the rest. They need to see by faith the righteousness of Christ as their only hope for time and for eternity (Faith and Works, p. 25 emphasis mine).
__________________ 

[1] Some may argue that Ellen White taught that we must earn the right to remain justified by continual obedience. The following quotation seems to support this idea:
in order for man to retain justification, there must be continual obedience, through active, living faith that works by love and purifies the soul. {FW 100.1}
However, such a position presents a serious problem. In the same exact book Ellen White also stated that, "many are struggling in their own finite strength to win salvation by good works. Jesus, they think, will do some of the saving; they must do the rest. They need to see by faith the righteousness of Christ as their only hope for time and for eternity." Therefore, it would be strange to suggest that Ellen White taught the we cannot add to what Jesus has already done and then taught that we must add to what Jesus has done by continual obedience. Such a position is self contradictory.

In order to properly understand Ellen Whites statement we must realize that truth is by nature paradoxical. The paradox of grace and works can be seen in reading the book of Romans and the book of James. As a matter of fact, the "continual obedience" statement above is written with the epistle of James in mind, for the very next paragraph quotes, 
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:21-24).
So what are we to do with such statements that seem to show that salvation is not only by faith in Jesus but by faith plus works? Such a belief would immediately rob one of the assurance of salvation because one would begin to wonder if enough high-quality obedience has been achieved in order to be saved at last. In addition, the joy of obedience would quickly fade because obedience is now no longer the fruit of salvation, but to some degree, its basis.

The problem is quickly solved when we discover that James is addressing the idea that one can be saved, not by faith alone apart from works, but by faith alone that does not work. James exposes this heresy by stating that true faith always results in works. While those works are not meritorious they are the inevitable fruit of salvation. Likewise, Ellen White states that "there must be continual obedience, through active, living faith that works by love and purifies the soul." Notice that the continual obedience is not by effort, but by living faith. And it is not by living faith and works but by living faith that works. Ellen White presents no problem here to "Jesus only" and is in fact, simply repeating the message of the book of James. Seventh-day Adventist lay evangelist Keavin Hayden put it well when he wrote,
...sanctification contributes no merit toward saving righteousness (that's what justification does). Thus our cooperative works cannot save us. Nevertheless, without cooperation in the sanctification process Christ cannot possibly justify us before the universe. Our unwillingness to cooperate with God by seeking to bring our lives in harmony with the principles of his law demonstrates the fact that we are still in a state of rebellion against Him. Professed faith without a corresponding respect for God's law is only presumption (Surviving the Shaking p. 50).
The apparent contradiction then is that in my article I am addressing something much different than Ellen White. In my article I am addressing the belief that faith in Jesus is not enough and I must constantly strive to obey more in order to remain saved. One of the problems with such a belief is that obedience is no longer a joy but a burden. One no longer obeys out of love but out of self-preservation. This belief also makes assurance of salvation impossible even though John  said, "Whoever has the son has life" (1 John 5:12) not "whoever has the son plus works has life". Thus, I maintain that salvation is Jesus only. No extra ingredients. Just him. However, both James and Ellen White are addressing the heresy that faith in Jesus frees one to live in continued disobedience and lack of spiritual growth and that it is OK because one "believes" in Jesus. To such a belief I too would say that unless you see the fruit of salvation in your life (love, joy, peace, self-control) then you cannot continue to assume that you are eternally secure. We are not saved by faith and works, but we are certainly saved by a faith that works. An absence of works (which in the context of James is works of love) is evidence of one of two things 1) the absence of a true conversion or 2) the absence of abiding in Christ (backsliding, apostasy etc.) which can result in a forfeiture of the righteousness of Christ. It is in this context that Ellen White could say,
But while God can be just, and yet justify the sinner through the merits of Christ, no man can cover his soul with the garments of Christ’s righteousness while practicing known sins or neglecting known duties. God requires the entire surrender of the heart, before justification can take place; and in order for man to retain justification, there must be continual obedience, through active, living faith that works by love and purifies the soul {FW 100.1}.
And yet also say,
When men learn they cannot earn righteousness by their own merit of works, and they look with firm and entire reliance upon Jesus Christ as their only hope, there will not be so much of self and so little of Jesus. Souls and bodies are defiled and polluted by sin, the heart is estranged from God, yet many are struggling in their own finite strength to win salvation by good works. Jesus, they think, will do some of the saving; they must do the rest. They need to see by faith the righteousness of Christ as their only hope for time and for eternity {FW 25}.
and elsewhere,
Perfection through our own good works we can never attain. The soul who sees Jesus by faith, repudiates his own righteousness. He sees himself as incomplete, his repentance insufficient, his strongest faith but feebleness, his most costly sacrifice as meager, and he sinks in humility at the foot of the cross. But a voice speaks to him from the oracles of God's word. In amazement he hears the message, "Ye are complete in him." Now all is at rest in the soul. No longer must he strive to find some worthiness in himself, some meritorious deed by which to gain the favor of God {ST, 2:497; 7/04/92, emphasis mine}.
Billy Graham summed it up well when he said,
It should not be surprising if people believe easily in a God who makes no demands, but this is not the God of the Bible. Satan has cleverly misled people by whispering that they can believe in Jesus Christ without being changed, but this is the Devil's lie. To those who say you can have Christ without giving anything up, Satan is deceiving you. - Christianity Today
[2] The word obedience in this statement does not refer to complying with the conditions for salvation (repentance, confession, faith) but to the idea that once we have received salvation extra obedience (of the 10 commandments, health laws, or any other laws) is necessary to earn the right to remain saved.

[3] Some would argue that this belief can open the flood gates of sin by making it seem that it is OK for a Christian to smoke or break the Sabbath and still go to heaven. However, notice what is being said and what is not being said. I am not saying that it is OK to do these things and still go to heaven. A Christian who continues to live in active, habitual sin is still in rebellion against God and thus has reason to doubt if he has truly been saved. However, what I am saying is that a true Christian does not abstain from sin out of fear of hell but out of love for God. Abstaining from sin is a result of grace and so long as the saved continue to abide in Christ by faith in him (which results in cooperation with Gods will) then they have nothing to fear. The above end-note already clarified these issues.
Troubling Statements of Ellen White



I have had some comments recently about contradictory statements that Ellen White makes concerning salvation. In order to shed more light on the issue I am re-posting an old blog-post that deals with that topic. This blog is really an excerpt from my paper on the Investigative Judgment doctrine taught by the SDA church. I am also adding some other quotes at the very bottom that help shed more light on the issue of salvation as Ellen White and SDA's understand it. Those same quotes along with official SDA statements concerning our understanding of salvation can be found in the post The SDA Gospel is Legalistic - Isn't It? Blessings!



Troubling Statements of Ellen White 

Even though Ellen White is not necessary for an understanding of the investigative judgment, a review of some of her statements is necessary. At first glance, it appears that many of Ellen Whites statements are inherently legalistic.

In her book, Christ Object Lessons, White says, “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.”[1] Again she writes in Our High Calling, “Are we striving with all our power to attain to the stature of men and women in Christ? Are we seeking for His fullness, ever pressing toward the mark set before us—the perfection of His character? When the Lord’s people reach this mark, they will be sealed in their foreheads.”[2] In her highly esteemed book The Great Controversy, White once again deals a “devastating blow” to righteousness by faith when she says, “Satan could find nothing in the Son of God that would enable him to gain the victory. He had kept His Father’s commandments, and there was no sin in Him that Satan could use to his advantage. This is the condition in which those must be found who shall stand in the time of trouble.”[3] A similar thought can be found in Early Writings when White writes, “I also saw that many do not realize what they must be in order to live in the sight of the Lord without a high priest in the sanctuary through the time of trouble. Those who receive the seal of the living God and are protected in the time of trouble must reflect the image of Jesus fully.”[4] These statements appear to be the epitome of legalism, and rightly so. To summarize everything just quoted would be to say that in order to enter heaven we must be perfect. Teresa Beem points out the legalistic language in some of Whites statements with reference to the pre-Advent judgment when she says, “The time of Atonement is especially scary for the believer. It is a time to reach perfection.”[5] And indeed White says, “Though all nations are to pass in judgment before God, yet he will examine the case of each individual with as close and searching scrutiny as if there were not another being upon the earth. Every one must be tested, and found without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.”[6] With this in mind, it appears that Ellen White has completely undone everything said in the above section on righteousness by faith. However, what critics and Adventists who point out these statements fail to see is that any statement taken out of its context can be made to say anything.

Before concluding on Ellen White and the pre-Advent judgment let us turn to the Bible. Matthew records a story in which Jesus was approached by a young man and asked, “What must I do to be saved?” It is interesting to note that Jesus did not tell him, “accept me as your personal savior and you will be saved” but instead told him, “‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’”[7] Jesus also said, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”[8] Later on He said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”[9] The apostle James writes, “Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?”[10] And the apostle John wrote, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”[11] Each of these statements can be taken out of context to say that the Bible teaches righteousness by works. However, when we balance these statements with those on righteousness by faith we discover what these verses truly mean and that none of them advocate a performance based salvation.

The same is true of Ellen White. While the quoted statements may seem legalistic when viewed in light of other statements and her ministry as a whole it becomes apparent that Ellen White never promoted a works based salvation. In Selected Messages, White says, “We are not to be anxious about what Christ and God think of us, but about what God thinks of Christ, our Substitute. Ye are accepted in the Beloved.”[12] Again White wrote: “The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinner’s account.”[13] With quotes such as these in mind, it is clear that the same tension that exists in the Bible with regards to faith and works exist in Ellen Whites writings as well. The perfection that White says the sinner needs is not a self-fabricated perfection but the perfection of Christ’s sinless life covering our sinful lives. White spoke for herself when she said, “[W]hile we should realize our sinful condition, we are to rely upon Christ as our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption. We cannot answer the charges of Satan against us. Christ alone can make an effectual plea in our behalf. He is able to silence the accuser with arguments founded not upon our merits, but on His own.”[14]
Further Reading: Facing Life's Record: An Analysis of the Great Controversies Scariest Chapter




[1] Ellen G White, Christ Object Lessons, EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 69.
[2] ibid., Our High Calling, EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 150.
[3] ibid., The Great Controversy, EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 623.
[4] ibid., Early Writings, EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 71.
[5] Teresa and Arthur Beem. It’s Okay NOT To Be A Seventh-Day Adventist: The Untold History and the Doctrine that Attempts to Repair the Temple Veil [North Charleston: BookSurge Publishing, 2008], 112.
[6] Ellen G White, The Great Controversy, EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 489.
[7] Matt. 19:16, 21.
[8] Matt. 5:29.
[9] Matt. 5:48.
[10] Jam. 2:21.
[11] Rev. 22:14.
[12] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 2,  EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 32.
[13] ibid., Selected Messages, book 1,  EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 32
[14] Ellen G White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012], 472.



A Few More Quotes

A legal religion can never lead souls to Christ; for it is a loveless, Christless religion. Fasting or prayer that is actuated by a self-justifying spirit is an abomination in the sight of God. The solemn assembly for worship, the round of religious ceremonies, the external humiliation, the imposing sacrifice, proclaim that the doer of these things regards himself as righteous, and as entitled to heaven; but it is all a deception. Our own works can never purchase salvation.  {DA 280.2}


The fountain of the heart must be purified before the streams can become pure. He who is trying to reach heaven by his own works in keeping the law is attempting an impossibility. There is no safety for one who has merely a legal religion, a form of godliness. The Christian's life is not a modification or improvement of the old, but a transformation of nature. There is a death to self and sin, and a new life altogether. This change can be brought about only by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit.  {DA 172.1} 


A legal religion has been thought quite the correct religion for this time. But it is a mistake. The rebuke of Christ to the Pharisees is applicable to those who have lost from the heart their first love. A cold, legal religion can never lead souls to Christ; for it is a loveless, Christless religion… Works will not buy for us an entrance into heaven. The one great Offering that has been made is ample for all who will believe. The love of Christ will animate the believer with new life. {1SM 388.1}


The spirit of bondage is engendered by seeking to live in accordance with legal religion, through striving to fulfill the claims of the law in our own strength. There is hope for us only as we come under the Abrahamic covenant, which is the covenant of grace by faith in Christ Jesus. The gospel preached to Abraham, through which he had hope, was the same gospel that is preached to us today, through which we have hope. Abraham looked unto Jesus, who is also the Author and the Finisher of our faith (YI Sept. 22, 1892).  {6BC 1077.7}


Legal religion will not answer for this age. We may perform all the outward acts of service and yet be as destitute of the quickening influence of the Holy Spirit as the hills of Gilboa were destitute of dew and rain. We all need spiritual moisture, and we need also the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness to soften and subdue our hearts. {6T 417.3} 


If you would gather together everything that is good and holy and noble and lovely in man and then present the subject to the angels of God as acting a part in the salvation of the human soul or in merit, the proposition would be rejected as treason.{FW 24.1}


Christ for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. And any works that man can render to God will be far less than nothingness. My requests are made acceptable only because they are laid upon Christ’s righteousness. The idea of doing anything to merit the grace of pardon is fallacy from beginning to end. “Lord, in my hand no price I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” {FW 24.2}


When men learn they cannot earn righteousness by their own merit of works, and they look with firm and entire reliance upon Jesus Christ as their only hope, there will not be so much of self and so little of Jesus. Souls and bodies are defiled and polluted by sin, the heart is estranged from God, yet many are struggling in their own finite strength to win salvation by good works. Jesus, they think, will do some of the saving; they must do the rest. They need to see by faith the righteousness of Christ as their only hope for time and for eternity. {FW 25.3}


The cross of Calvary is a pledge to us of everlasting life. {EV 186.3}


We stand in favor before God, not because of any merit in ourselves, but because of our faith in "the Lord our righteousness" {ST 2:497} 
Penances, mortifications of the flesh, constant confession of sin, without sincere repentance; fasts, festivals, and outward observances, unaccompanied by true devotion—all these are of no value whatever. The sacrifice of Christ is sufficient; He made a whole, efficacious offering to God; and human effort without the merit of Christ, is worthless.... {EV 192.1}
You will meet with those who will say, “You are too much excited over this matter. You are too much in earnest. You should not be reaching for the righteousness of Christ, and making so much of that. You should preach the law.” As a people, we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain. We must preach Christ in the law, and there will be sap and nourishment in the preaching that will be as food to the famishing flock of God. We must not trust in our own merits at all, but in the merits of Jesus of Nazareth. {1888M 560.5}


Perfection through our own good works we can never attain. The soul who sees Jesus by faith, repudiates his own righteousness. He sees himself as incomplete, his repentance insufficient, his strongest faith but feebleness, his most costly sacrifice as meager, and he sinks in humility at the foot of the cross. But a voice speaks to him from the oracles of God's word. In amazement he hears the message, "Ye are complete in him." Now all is at rest in the soul. No longer must he strive to find some worthiness in himself, some meritorious deed by which to gain the favor of God {ST, 2:497; 7/04/92}. 
Ellen G. White on Legalism
photo credit: Daniel*1977 via photopin cc
Having grown up Christian and walked by the borders of legalism for too long, the issue of salvation, grace, and assurance are among my favorite topics to discuss. For those of you who don't know, legalism is the belief that you can earn salvation by how good you are. The problem is, you never feel you are good enough. This teaching is in direct opposition to what the Bible teaches about salvation  - that it is a free gift given by God and cannot be earned by human performance. Though many Christians would never say they are legalistic many live the lifestyle of a legalist. This lifestyle is characterized by rigid moralism, strict and often nonsensical rules, and a lack of joy and assurance in ones Christian experience. The following are some quotes by Ellen G. White, one of the founders of Adventism, on the topic of legalism. Though many have accused her of being legalistic, these quotes help to see what she really thought about the concept of performance based religion. I hope they bless you as much as they blessed me. 

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Eph 2:8-9)
Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, (2Ti 1:9)
Our Own Works Can Never Purchase Salvation: A legal religion can never lead souls to Christ; for it is a loveless, Christless religion. Fasting or prayer that is actuated by a self-justifying spirit is an abomination in the sight of God. The solemn assembly for worship, the round of religious ceremonies, the external humiliation, the imposing sacrifice, proclaim that the doer of these things regards himself as righteous, and as entitled to heaven; but it is all a deception. Our own works can never purchase salvation.  {DA 280.2}

There Is No Safety For One Who Has Merely A Legal Religion: The fountain of the heart must be purified before the streams can become pure. He who is trying to reach heaven by his own works in keeping the law is attempting an impossibility. There is no safety for one who has merely a legal religion, a form of godliness. The Christian's life is not a modification or improvement of the old, but a transformation of nature. There is a death to self and sin, and a new life altogether. This change can be brought about only by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit.  {DA 172.1} 

The One Great Offering… Has Been Made: A legal religion has been thought quite the correct religion for this time. But it is a mistake. The rebuke of Christ to the Pharisees is applicable to those who have lost from the heart their first love. A cold, legal religion can never lead souls to Christ; for it is a loveless, Christless religion… Works will not buy for us an entrance into heaven. The one great Offering that has been made is ample for all who will believe. The love of Christ will animate the believer with new life. {1SM 388.1}

Christ, Our Only Hope: The spirit of bondage is engendered by seeking to live in accordance with legal religion, through striving to fulfill the claims of the law in our own strength. There is hope for us only as we come under the Abrahamic covenant, which is the covenant of grace by faith in Christ Jesus. The gospel preached to Abraham, through which he had hope, was the same gospel that is preached to us today, through which we have hope. Abraham looked unto Jesus, who is also the Author and the Finisher of our faith (YI Sept. 22, 1892).  {6BC 1077.7} 

Firm as a Rock: Legal religion will not answer for this age. We may perform all the outward acts of service and yet be as destitute of the quickening influence of the Holy Spirit as the hills of Gilboa were destitute of dew and rain. We all need spiritual moisture, and we need also the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness to soften and subdue our hearts. We are always to be as firm as a rock to principle. Bible principles are to be taught and then backed up by holy practice.  {6T 417.3} 

Dear Brother M: Brother M, you have not taken a judicious course with your family. Your children do not love you. They have more hatred than love. Your wife does not love you. You do not take a course to be loved. You are an extremist. You are severe, exacting, arbitrary, to your children. You talk the truth to them, but do not carry its principles into your everyday life. You are not patient, forbearing, and forgiving. You have so long indulged your own spirit, you are so ready to fly into a passion if provoked, that it looks exceedingly doubtful whether you will make efforts sufficient to meet the mind of Christ. You do not possess the power of endurance, forbearance, gentleness, and love. These Christian graces must be possessed by you before you can be truly a Christian. You cannot in your own strength put away your errors and wrongs; they have been increasing upon you for years, because you have not seen them in their hideousness and in the strength of God resolutely put them away. By living faith you must lay hold on an arm that is mighty to save. Humble your poor, proud, self-righteous heart before God; get low, very low, all broken in your sinfulness at His feet. Devote yourself to the work of preparation. Rest not until you can truly say: My Redeemer liveth, and, because He lives, I shall live also. {2T 88.1}

If you would gather together everything that is good: If you would gather together everything that is good and holy and noble and lovely in man and then present the subject to the angels of God as acting a part in the salvation of the human soul or in merit, the proposition would be rejected as treason.{FW 24.1}

Christ for our sakes became poor: Christ for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. And any works that man can render to God will be far less than nothingness. My requests are made acceptable only because they are laid upon Christ’s righteousness. The idea of doing anything to merit the grace of pardon is fallacy from beginning to end. “Lord, in my hand no price I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” {FW 24.2}

When men learn they cannot earn righteousness:  When men learn they cannot earn righteousness by their own merit of works, and they look with firm and entire reliance upon Jesus Christ as their only hope, there will not be so much of self and so little of Jesus. Souls and bodies are defiled and polluted by sin, the heart is estranged from God, yet many are struggling in their own finite strength to win salvation by good works. Jesus, they think, will do some of the saving; they must do the rest. They need to see by faith the righteousness of Christ as their only hope for time and for eternity. {FW 25.3}





Sources

Ellen White (CD Rom)

egwdatabase.whiteestate.org
The Pre-Advent Judgment 12: Benefit for Man


The benefit of the pre-Advent judgment is not just for the angels but for man also. “The primary purpose of the investigative pre-Advent judgment is the final confirmation of salvation and vindication of God’s people.”[1] During the judgment, God shows the angels that those of us who have truly accepted Christ are “worthy” of salvation, not because of anything we have done, but because of what Christ has done in our place. The judgment then, calls each of us to “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”[2] What exactly does this mean? Does it mean that we should spend all of our days anxiously worrying about whether or not we truly have accepted Christ?

No, for that goes contrary to righteousness by faith. What this does is it simply invites us to honestly access whether or not we are hypocrites claiming Christ as savior. I once met a young man who did drugs and slept with different women all the time, yet according to him he was “saved” and therefore he didn’t worry about his eternal destiny. The judgment is a benefit for those with such a mindset because it shows us that only those who have accepted Christ as savior and Lord will be counted worthy. This young man was under a delusion of hope but the judgment breaks that delusion because it calls us to ask the question, Have I truly accepted Christ? Even today I still meet Adventists who are legalists and live as though their many good deeds can save them. Some think they are “worthy” because they are vegans, or because of their dress reform, or some other work, however, the investigative judgment destroys that delusion of false security by showing us that all of our righteousness is as filthy rags.[3] The pre-advent judgment then reminds us that we are to come to the cross with the deepest and most complete dependence upon the merits of Christ and Christ alone. One benefit of the judgment then is that it presents the cross before us in such power that it protects us from licentiousness and legalism at the same time.



Further Reading: The Urgent Implications of the Pre-Advent Judgment


[1] ibid.
[2] 2 Cor. 13:5.
[3] Isa. 64:6.
The Pre-Advent Judgment 10: What Difference Does it Make?


As noted earlier, the pre-advent judgment teaches that the final judgment will take place before the second coming of Christ. During this judgment the lives of every person, both believers and unbelievers alike, will be investigated. However, why does God need to investigate if He already knows everything? Martin Weber faced this same question while studying the topic of the pre-Advent judgment. He writes:
One evening we met in my living room to debate the judgment of 1844 in heaven's sanctuary. Perhaps we had our Bibles open but our minds closed, because we didn't seem to be getting anywhere. Finally one of my friends turned to me in exasperation. “Tell me honestly, what difference does it make? I know I'm accepted in Christ, so what difference does it make whether or not there's a judgment going on in heaven now?”[1] 
The first point we need to make in all of this is that “…the judgment is not for God’s information…. God knows each of our hearts already.”[2] So then, what is the judgment for? Before that question is answered, a few more questions need to be asked. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden by eating the forbidden fruit, God’s first reaction was to enter the garden and ask Adam where he was.[3] Why would God do this? Did God not know where Adam was? After Cain killed Abel, God’s first reaction once again was to ask Cain where Abel was.[4] Did not the all-knowing God know where Abel was? This scenario of “investigation” repeats itself over and over again in scripture and quite soon it becomes clear that the investigation is not for Gods benefit. Therefore, if the judgment is not for God’s benefit then logically it must be for the benefit of His creation as we will now see.

Further Reading: Why The Critics of the Investigative Judgment Have Failed

____________________
[1] Martin Weber, More Adventist Hot Potatoes [Boise: Pacific Press, 1992], 77.
[2] George R. Knight, The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism: Are We Erasing Our Relevancy? [Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 2008], 70.
[3] Gen. 3:9.
[4] Gen. 4:9.
The Pre-Advent Judgment 9: What Does it Mean to be Judged?


Nonetheless, doesn’t the very concept of being judged imply that God is looking for something wrong by which to accuse us? The Bible’s answer is no, for the title of “accuser” is one that is reserved for Satan “the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night.”[1] God on the other hand, is shown throughout the Bible to be the savior, not the accuser.[2] In his book More Adventist Hot Potatoes Martin Weber notes that:

…the ancient Hebrew meaning of judgment… was quite different from our Western legal system. Our society requires judges and juries to be strictly neutral. If they harbor a bias either in favor or against the accused, our law demands that they disqualify themselves. Not so in Bible times. Back then, the legal code required judges to abandon neutrality and take the side of the defendant. The defense of the accused was a duty so sacred that the judge refused to delegate it to a defense attorney. Instead, he himself served as the defender of the accused.[3]
This understanding paints a completely different picture of the pre-Advent judgment. Though many have twisted this doctrine and turned it into the icon for legalism, a biblical approach does just the opposite, for it teaches that right now, God is in heaven doing everything He can to save as many as possible. Thus, George Knight can say, “It is crucial to understand that God as our Judge is on our side. He is not against us or even neutral. He sent His son because He loves us and wants to save as many people as possible. And He will save all of those who will be happy in His kingdom. Thus judgment is not a fearful thing to a Christian.”[4]


Further Reading: 

Facing Life's Record (An Analysis of the Great Controversy's Scariest Chapter)

The Pre-Advent Judgment 6: The IJ and Assurance of Salvation


[1] Rev. 12:10.
[2] John 3:16-17.
[3] Martin Weber, More Adventist Hot Potatoes [Boise: Pacific Press, 1992], 81.
[4] George R. Knight, I Used To Be Perfect: A Study of Sin and Salvation [Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 2001], 54.
The Pre-Advent Judgment 8: Troubling Ellen G. White Statements


Even though Ellen White is not necessary for an understanding of the investigative judgment, a review of some of her statements is necessary. At first glance, it appears that many of Ellen Whites statements are inherently legalistic.


In her book, Christ Object Lessons, White says, “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.”[1] Again she writes in Our High Calling, “Are we striving with all our power to attain to the stature of men and women in Christ? Are we seeking for His fullness, ever pressing toward the mark set before us—the perfection of His character? When the Lord’s people reach this mark, they will be sealed in their foreheads.”[2] In her highly esteemed book The Great Controversy, White once again deals a “devastating blow” to righteousness by faith when she says, “Satan could find nothing in the Son of God that would enable him to gain the victory. He had kept His Father’s commandments, and there was no sin in Him that Satan could use to his advantage. This is the condition in which those must be found who shall stand in the time of trouble.”[3] A similar thought can be found in Early Writings when White writes, “I also saw that many do not realize what they must be in order to live in the sight of the Lord without a high priest in the sanctuary through the time of trouble. Those who receive the seal of the living God and are protected in the time of trouble must reflect the image of Jesus fully.”[4] These statements appear to be the epitome of legalism, and rightly so. To summarize everything just quoted would be to say that in order to enter heaven we must be perfect. Teresa Beem points out the legalistic language in some of Whites statements with reference to the pre-Advent judgment when she says, “The time of Atonement is especially scary for the believer. It is a time to reach perfection.”[5] And indeed White says, “Though all nations are to pass in judgment before God, yet he will examine the case of each individual with as close and searching scrutiny as if there were not another being upon the earth. Every one must be tested, and found without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.”[6] With this in mind, it appears that Ellen White has completely undone everything said in the above section on righteousness by faith. However, what critics and Adventists who point out these statements fail to see is that any statement taken out of its context can be made to say anything.

Before concluding on Ellen White and the pre-Advent judgment let us turn to the Bible. Matthew records a story in which Jesus was approached by a young man and asked, “What must I do to be saved?” It is interesting to note that Jesus did not tell him, “accept me as your personal savior and you will be saved” but instead told him, “‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’”[7] Jesus also said, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”[8] Later on He said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”[9] The apostle James writes, “Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?”[10] And the apostle John wrote, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”[11] Each of these statements can be taken out of context to say that the Bible teaches righteousness by works. However, when we balance these statements with those on righteousness by faith we discover what these verses truly mean and that none of them advocate a performance based salvation.

The same is true of Ellen White. While the quoted statements may seem legalistic when viewed in light of other statements and her ministry as a whole it becomes apparent that Ellen White never promoted a works based salvation. In Selected Messages, White says, “We are not to be anxious about what Christ and God think of us, but about what God thinks of Christ, our Substitute. Ye are accepted in the Beloved.”[12] Again White wrote: “The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinner’s account.”[13] With quotes such as these in mind, it is clear that the same tension that exists in the Bible with regards to faith and works exist in Ellen Whites writings as well. The perfection that White says the sinner needs is not a self-fabricated perfection but the perfection of Christ’s sinless life covering our sinful lives. White spoke for herself when she said, “[W]hile we should realize our sinful condition, we are to rely upon Christ as our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption. We cannot answer the charges of Satan against us. Christ alone can make an effectual plea in our behalf. He is able to silence the accuser with arguments founded not upon our merits, but on His own.”[14]






[1] Ellen G White, Christ Object Lessons, EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 69.
[2] ibid., Our High Calling, EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 150.
[3] ibid., The Great Controversy, EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 623.
[4] ibid., Early Writings, EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 71.
[5] Teresa and Arthur Beem. It’s Okay NOT To Be A Seventh-Day Adventist: The Untold History and the Doctrine that Attempts to Repair the Temple Veil [North Charleston: BookSurge Publishing, 2008], 112.
[6] Ellen G White, The Great Controversy, EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 489.
[7] Matt. 19:16, 21.
[8] Matt. 5:29.
[9] Matt. 5:48.
[10] Jam. 2:21.
[11] Rev. 22:14.
[12] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 2,  EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 32.
[13] ibid., Selected Messages, book 1,  EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012]. 32
[14] Ellen G White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, EGW Writings, https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012], 472.
The Pre-Advent Judgment 7: Ellen G. White and the Investigative Judgment

Up to this point I have avoided all reference to Ellen G. White. The reason why is because many challengers have accused Seventh-day Adventists on basing their pre-Advent judgment doctrine on Ellen White and not on the Bible. However, Jud Lake, an Adventist minister who ardently defends the ministry of Ellen White boldly asserts that “[n]o doctrine of the SDA church is based on [Ellen G. White].”[1] However, although sola scriptura is the official Adventist position, not all Adventist’s think this way.

Clifford Goldstein confesses that at one point in his early Christian walk he, “had seen charts, had read about 1844, and believed it because Ellen White believed it, and [he] believed in what she believed.”[2] Although Goldstein eventually came to base all of his beliefs (including the pre-Advent judgment) on the Bible and the Bible alone, (along with countless others) many still accuse the Seventh-day Adventist church of basing their pre-Advent judgment doctrine on Ellen G. White. Nonetheless, such a claim need not be taken seriously. As we have seen, a Biblical basis can be established for the belief in a pre-Advent judgment apart from the ministry of Ellen White. In other words, Ellen White is not needed in order to come to a knowledge of the investigative judgment. If she were, then how is it that Lutheran Joseph A. Seiss, Catholic F. Dusterwald, and Protestant T. Robinson all arrived at the same conclusion when none of them used Ellen White? Marvin Moore summarizes it well when he states, “Seventh-day Adventists believe that Ellen White received the gift of prophecy in the same sense that the Bible writers did, that the Holy Spirit inspired her in the same way He inspired them. However, we also affirm that the Bible is the foundation of our faith and that our major teachings are based on Scripture, not on what Ellen White said.”[3]




[1] Jud Lake, e-mail to author, January 31, 2012.
[2] Clifford Goldstein, 1844 Made Simple [Boise: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1988], 7.
[3] Marvin Moore, The Case For The Investigative Judgment: Its Biblical Foundation [Nampa: Pacific Press, 2010], 317.
The Pre-Advent Judgment 6: The IJ and Assurance of Salvation


The pre-Advent judgment is biblical. That much is clearly seen. However, one of the greatest attacks against the pre-Advent judgment doctrine is that anyone who believes it cannot have assurance of salvation. Marvin Moore once met a man who told him that, “…with a doctrine like that, no one can ever have assurance of salvation.”[1] The reason for this is that the pre-Advent judgment teaches that in 1844 Jesus began the work of investigating and judging both the saved and the lost. Therefore, many have come to teach and believe that unless you are living a perfect life by the time your name comes up in the judgment you will be eternally lost. Thus, former Adventist’s Teresa and Arthur Beem can say, “In the investigative judgment you will not be judged by your belief in Christ but by how well you kept the Ten Commandments.”[2]

Such a teaching is damaging to the Christian faith because it completely undermines the doctrine of righteousness by faith in Christ alone. Growing up, my wife was taught that she did not know when her name would come up in the judgment. If it did and she was found not “worthy” of eternal life because she was sinning at the moment (or some other reason), then she would be lost forever and not know it. She could continue to strive to follow Jesus for the rest of her life, but this would be in vain since she was already lost. Clifford Goldstein’s wife was taught a similar version of the pre-Advent judgment. Goldstein writes:
My wife [was taught]… ‘that the judgment is going on in heaven right now, and that our names may come up at any time. We can’t know when that happens, but when it does, our names are blotted out of the book of life if we are not absolutely perfect. We are lost. We won’t know it, and we may keep on struggling to be perfect, even though probation has closed for us and we have no hope.’ Cliff went on to say, ‘Such a teaching is not good news…[3]
Not only is such a teaching “not good news” it is also a vile distortion of what the investigative judgment is all about. Jud Lake, professor of theology at Southern Adventist University reminds us that according to Daniel 7, “The judgment was rendered ‘in favor’ of the saints. Jesus is our advocate and in the judgment [sic] we are acquitted [sic] because of His merits, not our own.”[4] Unfortunately, as George Knight pointed out in his book, The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism, “The tragedy of Adventism is that we made the pre-Advent judgment a fearful thing…. Spiritual insecurity and lack of biblical assurance was the result. ‘God is out to get you’ was the message…”[5] However, Knight goes on to establish that, “[t]he purpose of the judgment in the Bible is not to keep people out of heaven, but to get as many in as possible.”[6] Therefore, the accusation that the pre-Advent judgment is inherently legalistic and that it is impossible to have assurance of salvation and believe in the investigative judgment simultaneously is true but only part way. The accusation is true if one believes the distortions of the investigative judgment. But if one bases the investigative judgment on the Bible then the accusation no longer stands. Scripture is clear that, “by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”[7] Paul warns “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”[8] Therefore, to interpret the pre-Advent judgment to mean that believers must be absolutely “perfect” at every moment or else they are at risk of losing their salvation goes contrary to the truth that “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”[9] Once again, Moore offers a helpful insight when he writes, “…the judgment depends on whether we’re asleep in Jesus (if we’ve died before the judgment) or abiding in Christ (if we’re still living). It depends on whether we believe in Jesus, not on how well we’ve lived – that is, on our good behavior.”[10]



Adventist authors have emphasized over the years again and again that our standing in the judgment is not based on our works but Christ’s perfect work. Unfortunately many Seventh-day Adventist’s have had their faith damaged by the errors of their parents, teachers, and spiritual leaders who have taken a legalistic stance on the judgment. Leslie Hardinge, author of With Jesus In His Sanctuary tells us that “[i]n preparing for the judgment the important thing is not to think of what we have done wrong, or anything we might contribute, but on Whom we know.”[11] And in his little book The Great Judgment Day Adventist author John L. Shuler writes: “Our only hope in the judgment is to be hid in Christ (Col. 3: 3), clothed with His righteousness. His life alone will meet the requirements of the law by which we shall be judged…. Thus through the work of Christ in our hearts… we shall be accounted worthy in the judgment….”[12] Shuler goes on to say that “[i]f we are abiding in Jesus Christ, it is our privilege to face the judgment with perfect confidence.”[13] This is good news for many Adventists who have misunderstood the pre-Advent judgment, however, what a shame that God’s people would for one moment forget such a beautiful truth that “God’s justice was satisfied in Christ, who endured the death penalty instead of the sinner.”[14] Without it, our faith is no different than all of the other world religions that claim to know the path to salvation – a path that is always marked by works. Christ’s perfect atonement must forever be our theme and song, for it is the “power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…”[15] Clifford Goldstein put it well when he wrote, “This is the essence of the gospel, the good news. No matter who we are or what we’ve done, Jesus Christ can forgive everything and allow us to stand in the sight of God as perfect and as accepted by the Father as He was, because He will freely credit to us, as undeserving as we are, His perfect righteousness.”[16]





Just As I Am Without One Plea 
(The Truth About the Investigative Judgment)



Note: While the IJ does not contradict the gospel there are certain teachings that have been embraced by some Adventists that certainly do inspire a legalistic interpretation and application of the IJ. However, such teachings are not orthodox Adventism as the following article demonstrates:
REclaiming Adventism (A Response to the Testimony of former Adventist Eliana Matthews)



[1] Marvin Moore, The Case For The Investigative Judgment: Its Biblical Foundation [Nampa: Pacific Press, 2010], 19.
[2] Teresa and Arthur Beem, It’s Okay NOT To Be A Seventh-Day Adventist: The Untold History and the Doctrine that Attempts to Repair the Temple Veil [North Charleston: BookSurge Publishing, 2008], 114.
[3] Marvin Moore, The Case For The Investigative Judgment: Its Biblical Foundation [Nampa: Pacific Press, 2010], 20.
[4] Jud Lake, e-mail message to author, January 31, 2012.
[5] George R. Knight, The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism: Are We Erasing Our Relevancy? [Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 2008], 70.
[6] ibid.
[7] Eph. 2:8.
[8] Gal. 5:4.
[9] Rom. 3:24.
[10] Marvin Moore, The Case For The Investigative Judgment: Its Biblical Foundation [Nampa: Pacific Press, 2010], 32.
[11] Leslie Hardinge, With Jesus in His Sanctuary: A Walk Through the Tabernacle Along His Way [Harrisburg: American Cassette Ministries, 1991], 543.
[12] John L Shuler, The Great Judgment Day: In the Light of the Sanctuary Service, [Washington: Review and Herald, 1923], 117. Italics mine.
[13] Ibid., Italics mine.
[14] Alberto R Treiyer, The Day of Atonement and the Heavenly Judgment: From the Pentateuch to Revelation, [Siloam Springs: Creation Enterprises International, 1992], 221.
[15] Rom. 1:16.
[16] Clifford Goldstein, False Balances [Boise: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1992], 147.