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Questions On Doctrine


The Basis and Fruitage of Christian Experience



Can one who holds Seventh-day Adventist views have the assurance in his soul of present salvation, of sins forgiven, and of full acceptance with the Lord? Or does he have to live in uncertainty, pending whatever decision might be rendered in the investigative judgment? And is not this uncertainty reflected in the writings of Ellen G. White?


One who truly understands and accepts the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church can assuredly know that he is born again, and that he is fully accepted by the Lord. He has in his soul the assurance of present salvation, and need be in no uncertainty whatsoever. In fact, he may know this so fully that he can truly "rejoice in the Lord" (Phil. 4:4) and in "the God of his salvation" (Ps. 24:5). As the foregoing questions touch the whole plan of God's salvation for man, we would call attention to the following provisions.

I. God's Plan and Provision of Redemption

1. The Initiative in the Plan of Salvation Is From God, Not From Man.—"All things," we read, are of [Gr. ek, "out of"] God" (2 Cor. 5:18). We


know that He "hath reconciled us" (verse 18); that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself" (verse 19); that it was not we who first loved God, but He loved us (1 John 4:9, 10); that Christ is the "propitiation for our sins" (1 John 2:2); and that, "we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (Rom. 5:10). All this comes to us "according to the gift of the grace of God" (Eph. 3:7). And inasmuch as the writings of Ellen G. White have been mentioned, we shall quote a number of her statements that are clear and consistent on the fundamental principles of personal salvation and Christian experience. For example, on this point:

Grace is an attribute of God exercised toward undeserving human beings. We did not seek for it. but it was sent in search of us. God rejoices to bestow His grace upon us, not because we are worthy, but because we are so utterly unworthy. Our only claim to His mercy is our great need.—The Ministry of Healing, p. 161.

2. Christ Is the Only Saviour of Lost Mankind.—There is, and can be, no other Saviour. This thought was long ago brought home to God's ancient people. Said Jehovah, "I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour" (Isa. 43:11); "There is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour. . . . Look unto me, and be ye saved" (Isa. 45:21, 22). (See also Isa. 60:16; Hosea 13:4.)

Jesus Christ our Lord is the only foundation (1 Cor. 3:11); His name is the only name "whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). This thought—that there is salvation in no other—was highlighted in the statement made to Joseph concerning the work of Jesus, "He shall save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). 


The literal rendering of the Greek text is, "He himself shall save his people." "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15); He alone "is able also to save them to the uttermost" (Heb. 7:25). That understanding is basic. Only in and through Christ can we be saved.

3. Man Cannot Save Himself, in and of Himself He Is Hopelessly Lost.—(a) There is no salvation in man for man. No man can "redeem his brother" (Ps. 49:7). (b) Without the salvation provided in Christ Jesus our Lord, man would be hopelessly lost. "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Rom. 3:10); "There is none that doeth good, no, not one" (verse 12); "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (verse 23). There is therefore no hope outside of Jesus the Saviour. Isaiah graphically describes the natural condition of man: "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores" (Isa. 1:5, 6).

Jeremiah adds, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jer. 17:9). The apostle Paul declares that the man who is "without God" has "no hope" (Eph. 2:12). He is even "dead in trespasses and sins" (verse 1). Consequently, if man is to be saved, help—divine help—must come to his aid.

4. Since Man Is Dead in Sin, Even the Initial Promptings to a Better Life Must Come From God.—Christ is the true light, who "lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9). This light, in some way known only to Divine Providence, penetrates the darkness of human hearts and kindles the first spark


of desire after God. If the soul begins to seek for God, then "the Father which hath sent me [Christ]" will "draw him [the seeker]" (John 6:44). Again, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). So even the desire to repent comes from above, for Jesus our Saviour gives "repentance" and grants "forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31).

The complete change thus wrought in the human heart is not by an act of our own wills, certainly not by ethical uplift or social reform endeavor, but wholly by the new birth. We are to be "born again ["from above," margin]" (John 3:3); "born of God" (1 John 3:9); born of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5, 6); born through the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23, R.S.V.). Truly then, this is a work of divine grace. In a very real sense we are "his workmanship" (Eph. 2:10). In the act of "regeneration" God saves us; it is He who sheds on us the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5, 6).

5. Nothing We Can Ever Do Will Meet the Favor of God.—Salvation is of grace. It is grace that "bringeth salvation" (Titus 2:11). It is "through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved" (Acts 15:11). We are not saved by "works" (Rom. 4:6; Eph. 2:9; 2 Tim. 1:9), even though they be good works (Titus 3:5), or even "wonderful works" (Matt. 7:22). Neither can we be saved by "law" (Rom. 8:3), nor by the "deeds" or the "works" of the law (Rom. 3:20, 28; Gal. 3:2, 5, 10). And neither the "law of Moses," nor the Decalogue can save us (Acts 13:39; Rom. 7: 7-10). The law of God was never designed to save men. It is a looking glass, in which, when we gaze, we see our sinfulness. That is as far as the law of God can go with


a sinful man. It can reveal his sin, but is powerless to remove it, or to save him from its guilt and penalty and power.

But, thank God, "what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh" (Rom. 8:3), God did—in the person of His Son. In Him a fountain is open "for sin and for uncleanness" (Zech. 13:1). And into this fount all may plunge and be "washed" from their sins by Christ's own blood (Rev. 1:5). Wonderful as it may seem, the redeemed can rejoice now that they "have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev. 7:14). True it is that by His grace (Eph. 2:5, 8), His mercy (Titus 3:5), His gift (Eph. 2:8), His gospel (Rom. 1:16), and according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28), we are saved.

6. While Salvation Is of God, a Surrender of the Will Is Called For.—After the primary promptings of the Spirit of God, and the magnetic drawings of the love of God, the soul must accept, and must yield to, its great Deliverer. This act of surrender, prompted by divine grace, makes it possible for God to extend to the soul all the wonderful provisions of His bounty. This act, or attitude, of the soul is expressed in various ways in Holy Scripture:

We are to believe—whosoever believeth in him" (John 3:16); to yield—"yield yourselves unto God" (Rom. 6:13); to submit—"submit yourselves therefore to God" (James 4:7); to "mortify the deeds of the body" (Rom. 8:13)—literally this means "put to death"; to present our bodies to God—"present your bodies a living sacrifice" (Rom. 12:1); to reckon ourselves dead to sin—"reckon ye also yourselves to be


dead indeed unto sin" (Rom. 6:11); and to die unto sin—"if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin" (Rom. 8:10).

Whatever is represented by these acts of the will is certainly not in the nature of "works," and does not in the least degree add to the efficacy of salvation. No! It rather denotes the attitude of the soul, responding to the overtures of God's free grace in making possible the application, to our hearts, of the boundless bestowal of the grace of God.

7. Christian Life and Experience Is a Growth in Grace.—The Christian life is more than the initial act of faith, or that act of surrender in accepting Jesus Christ as Lord. By that act we pass "from death unto life" (John 5:24) and are "born again" (John 3:3); but from there on we must grow. It is the same in physical human life. Birth is one thing. It is the beginning of life. But none would find satisfaction in a child that did not grow. It is similarly God's purpose that we should "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). As spiritual babes we are to partake of "the sincere milk of the word" (1 Peter 2:2), but there must be growth so that we may partake of needful "strong meat" (Heb. 5:12, 14).

II. Believing in Jesus

Our Christian life is to be a constant attitude of believing in Jesus. We begin by believing, and by grace we are to keep on believing. We are not only to "yield," but to keep on yielding. We are to "submit," and keep on submitting. We are not only to "die" to sin, but


we are to "reckon" ourselves dead unto sin, and keep on reckoning. We are to "present" our bodies to God, and keep on presenting them to God. All this is a work of grace.

The Christian life calls for constant surrender, constant consecration, constant yielding of the heart and life to God. We, who were dead in sin (Eph. 2:1), are now dead to sin (Rom. 6:11). We have identified ourselves with Jesus in His death, and so have died with Him (Col. 2:20); in fact, our "life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3).

This thought is beautifully expressed through the Greek tenses in the New Testament. In John 3:18, 36, where we read "he that believeth," the Greek form is the participle in the present tense, the idea being that "the one believing on Him who continues to believe" and who "makes it a life habit" will be saved. The present tense with the idea of continuance is also seen in the phrase "mortify the deeds of the body" (Rom. 8:13). The idea is that of a continuous attitude of putting to death the lusts of the flesh.

Ellen G. White stated it this way:

It is not safe to be occasional Christians. We must be Christ-like in our actions all the time. Then, through grace, we are safe for time and for eternity.—Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 487


Divine grace is needed at the beginning, divine grace at every step of advance, and divine grace alone can complete the work. . . . We may have had a measure of the Spirit of God, but by prayer and faith we are continually to seek more of the Spirit.—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 508.


III. Have No Confidence in the Flesh

In the Christian life there is a constant warfare. "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would" (Gal. 5:17). One who lives after the flesh cannot please God (Rom. 8:8), for he who sows to the flesh will reap corruption (Gal. 6:8). Living according to the flesh means death (Rom. 8:13). The fact is, that in our flesh is no good thing (Rom. 7:18) .

So we are to "have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3). While here in this vale of tears our hope lies solely in Christ our Lord. If we "walk in the Spirit" we shall not "fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). And even here and now, victory may be ours if we enter into the experience of the apostle Paul: "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).

IV. Growth in the Christian Life

Growth in the Christian life means intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ our Lord. It means joy and assurance; and it means constant gratitude to God for the wonderful deliverance He has wrought for us. But there is a serious side to this experience. Observe:

It calls for daily self-denial—"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23).

It calls for daily sacrifice—"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your


bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom. 12:1).

It calls for daily surrender—"Yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness" (Rom. 6:19). "Yield yourselves unto God" (verse 13).

And again Mrs. White attests:

It is not only at the beginning of the Christian life that this renunciation of self is to be made. At every advance step heavenward it is to be renewed. All our good works are dependent on a power outside of ourselves. Therefore there needs to be a continual reaching out of the heart after God, a continual, earnest, heartbreaking confession of sin and humbling of the soul before Him. Only by constant renunciation of self and dependence on Christ can we walk safely.—Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 159, 160.

V. Complete Distrust of Self Imperative

There is no place for pride in the Christian life. We have nothing of which to boast (Eph. 2:9). Well might we all learn the lesson of humility seen in the life of Paul: "I am the least of the apostles" (1 Cor. 15:9); "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given" (Eph. 3:8).

After all, we can do nothing of ourselves. Jesus said, "Without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5). We know nothing of ourselves (1 Cor. 4:4; 2 Cor. 3:5). Well might we cry out, "Who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Cor. 2:16). But in the Scripture we are assured that "our sufficiency is of God" (2 Cor. 3:5). And this sufficiency is all-sufficient. Our faith is to "rest . . . in the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:5, R.S.V.). The power in our life and ministry is to be "of God, and not of us" (2 Cor. 4:7). We live "by the power of God" (2 Cor. 13:4), for it is His "power that worketh in us"


(Eph. 3:20). "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13), "working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ" (Heb. 13:21).

Once more Mrs. White attests:

None of the apostles or prophets ever claimed to be without sin. Men who have lived nearest to God, men who would sacrifice life itself rather than knowingly commit a wrong act, men whom God had honored with divine light and power, have confessed the sinfulness of their own nature. They have put no confidence in the flesh, have claimed no righteousness of their own, but have trusted wholly in the righteousness of Christ. So will it be with all who behold Christ.—Ibid., p. 160.

VI. Hungering and Thirsting After God

"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Matt. 5:6). This will be the mark of the true child of God. Having none of his own, he longs for the righteousness of God. Thank God for the assurance, "Ye shall be filled" (Luke 6:21). Christ was here emphasizing the experience of David of old: "My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee" (Ps. 63:1); "My soul thirsteth for God" (Ps. 42:2); "My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God" (Ps. 84:2). This is the true hunger of spirit, the longing of the human heart to be made like unto Christ. It is under such conditions that God "satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness" (Ps. 107:9).

1. There Will Be Genuine Fruitage in the Lives of God's Faithful Children.—There will be genuine progress in the bearing of fruit in the Christian life. And this will develop as we go on from faith to faith. In John's Gospel we read of "fruit" (John 15:2),


"more fruit" (verse 2), then "much fruit" (verse 5), and finally that "your fruit should remain" (verse 16). So we are to go on "from strength to strength" (Ps. 84:7) and from victory to victory, because it is God who "giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:57). "Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ" (2 Cor. 2:14).

Then there are the "fruits of righteousness" (Phil. 1:11; compare James 3:18). "The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth" (Eph. 5:9). The fuller outline appears in the epistle to the Galatians—"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" (Gal. 5:22, 23).

What a wonderful portrayal! The paramount fruit of the Spirit is love. All that follow are but aspects of this divine quality. Just as various colors make up sunlight, so these graces together constitute love. Thus, joy is love exulting; peace is love in repose; long-suffering is love untiring; gentleness is love enduring; goodness is love in action; faith is love in confidence; meekness is love under discipline; while temperance is love in self-control.

This fruitage is to be seen in the life of the Christian. These graces do not grow by any effort of our own, but they are manifested in our lives because Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (Eph. 3:17). These graces are in Christ; and when Christ dwells in us, He lives out in its the wonderful qualities of His own perfect character


Works as a means of salvation have no place in the plan of God. We cannot be justified at all by any kind of works. Justification is wholly an act of God, and we are but the recipients of His unbounded grace.

But works as the fruitage of salvation do have a definite place in the plan of God. This is seen in the spiritual graces to be manifested in the children of God, as already noted. We are to "work the works of God" (John 6:28). There is the "work of faith" (1 Thess. 1:3); and every one that is "born of him" "doeth righteousness" (1 John 2:29). "Good works" are referred to many times in the New Testament (see Eph. 2:10), but it is to be borne in mind that in all our work of faith (2 Thess. 1:11), our faith must be activated by the love of God (Gal. 5:6). So, in all things "the love of Christ" is to constrain us (2 Cor. 5:14).

Ellen G. White writes:

No outward observances can take the place of simple faith and entire renunciation of self. But no man can empty himself of self. We can only consent for Christ to accomplish the work. Then the language of the soul will be, Save me in spite of myself, my weak, unchristlike self. Lord, take my heart; for I cannot give it. It is Thy property. Keep it pure, for I cannot keep it for Thee. Mold me, fashion me, raise me into a pure and holy atmosphere, where the rich current of Thy love can flow through my soul.—Ibid., p. 159

It will be noted that the "fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22, 23) is in full harmony with the law of God, for against the manifestation of these graces in the life "there is no law" (verse 23). In other words, the person in whose life these graces are seen, will fulfill the commandments of God. He cannot do this of himself; he is not expected to. But with Christ dwelling in the life, Christ's own righteous life (John 15:10) is both


imputed and imparted to the child of God. Thus David exclaimed, "Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them" (Ps. 119:165). Hence the beloved apostle could write: "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments." "But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him" (1 John 2:3, 5). And, "by this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments" (1 John 5:2).

We are to keep a balanced view of the plan of God. His purpose is that His people be righteous. They are not naturally righteous. But in the gospel of the grace of God there is provision "that the righteousness of the law might be fullfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:4). So, "circumcision is nothing; and want of it is nothing; but to keep the commandments of God is everything" (1 Cor. 7:19, Twentieth Century).

2. The Child of God May Have Confidence and Assurance.—It is our privilege, and really our heritage as the blood-bought children of God, to have "full assurance" (Col. 2:2), to enjoy "full assurance of faith" (Heb. 10:22), and to know the "full assurance of hope unto the end" (Heb. 6:11). We have confidence in Him (1 John 5:14), "confidence toward God" (1 John 3:21).

To the true children of God, this experience is not hearsay; it is not veneer or make-believe; it is a real, genuine experience. They can say with all confidence, yet with humility, "We know that we have passed from death unto life" (1 John 3:14); We know "that we are in him" (1 John 2:5); We know that he abideth in us (1 John 3:24).


VII. Three Tenses in Salvation

Salvation from sin is set forth in three "tenses"—past, present, and future. It is a progressive work. The child of God may properly say, "I have been saved from the penalty of sin"; also, "I am being saved from the power of sin." And he can also say, with truth, "I shall be saved from the very presence and possibility of sin."

Concerning the first expression, "I am saved," Paul wrote to Titus, "According to his mercy he saved us" (Titus 3:5); likewise, "We are saved by hope" (Rom. 8:24). In both instances the Greek verb is in the aorist form. For example, this last text could more accurately read, "We were saved" (R.S.V.), or "We have been saved" (Weymouth). This stresses an aspect of salvation that is an accomplished fact.

But it is also true that as sincere believers in Christ we are being saved. This is something in process of being accomplished day by day. We read, "Unto us which are saved" (1 Cor. 1:18). But again the better rendering of the Greek is "to us who are being saved" (R.S.V.). This same thought is seen in Acts 2:47 where the correct translation is "those who were being saved" (R.S.V.).

Then there is the expression, "I shall be saved." We also read, "We shall be saved" (Acts 15:11; Rom. 5:9).

This is the threefold way in which the work of salvation touches human hearts. Thus we have been saved—justification; we are being saved—sanctification; and we shall be saved—glorification.


VIII. God's People Delight to Rejoice in the Lord

When God forgives our sins and gives us the assurance in His Word that they are forgiven (Eph. 4:32), we have no need to worry and concern ourselves about the future. It is true that there will be a judgment where the sins of men will be dealt with. But that need cause no concern to the child of God, for as a Christian he now abides in God, and God abides in him (John 14:20). "Your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake" (1 John 2:12). Faith lays hold of His word and rejoices in the knowledge of sins forgiven.

The one who has truly passed from death unto life, and maintains an attitude of constant surrender, does not live his life in uncertainty. Having placed his case in the hands of his mighty Advocate, he has no fear for the future. Christ is his surety, and he lives his life in an atmosphere of complete trust in God, rejoicing that "perfect love casteth out fear."

In the light of such great salvation, ought not the lives of God's people to be lives of rejoicing? Even the Israelites long ago in Old Testament times knew what this meant. Note their expressions of joy and gladness: "Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous" (Ps. 33:1); "Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God" (Joel 2:23). And the psalmist said, "Let thy saints shout for joy" (Ps. 132:9); "Let them ever shout for joy" (Ps. 5:11).

Over and over again came the refrain, "Praise ye the Lord," and the people took this to heart, for we


read, "I will be glad and rejoice in thee" (Ps. 9:2); "My soul shall be joyful in the Lord" (Ps. 35:9); "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God" (Isa. 61:10); "I will declare what he hath done for my soul" (Ps. 66:16).

In the New Testament there is the same note of rejoicing. "Joy" is one of the great words of the New Testament. Indeed, the gospel itself is declared to be "tidings of great joy" (Luke 2:10). And Jesus, the author of eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9), wished His disciples to partake of His joy, that in and through Him their joy might be full (John 15:11; 16:24). The great apostle to the Gentiles expressed the same thought, when he exhorted the saints to "rejoice in the Lord" (Phil. 3:1); to "rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice" (Phil. 4:4). Thus we may unite our voices with the celestial choirs, "saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing" (Rev. 5:12).

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