Other fundamentalists disagree with Adventists on some major points of doctrine. This is not surprising, for they also differ among themselves. But, in our stand that the mediatorial work of Christ is a part of the plan of salvation, their reaction is marked. The popular view limits everything of significance to the one work of Christ on the cross. We believe that to accept such a position is to limit oneself to a narrow and unscriptural view of the gospel.
A few New Testament texts will help to clarify this. For instance, Paul says, "And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished" (1 Cor. 15:17, 18). On the surface, this text appears to have no connection with the subject, but there is much that applies, so let us study it further. Let us see what the apostle presents here. He emphasizes both the fact and the necessity of the resurrection of Christ. Fundamentalists would hardly deny either. But there is something else in his statement. Paul injects an alternative state of things, a situation without the resurrection of Jesus. It is this proposition that is so damaging to some of the conclusions of many fundamentalists.
Now, we know that the resurrection did take place and that the plan of salvation is in no danger from the possibility of failure here. But that is not the point. Paul introduces the proposition that without the resurrection of Jesus, certain conditions would as surely hold true. He is definite about this and leaves no room for anyone to misunderstand him. Is the apostle fundamentally sound in his conclusions? It is important to know that he is, especially since he would then be in serious conflict with certain major points of doctrine as they are now widely taught.
How could what Paul says in this text be true if the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary has all the elements of finality? If His death were the terminal point in His work for us, how could any later event, or the lack of it, negate or reverse that conclusive work? This is even more a question if it were true that the saints of the past had gone to their reward. But apart from any such consideration, it is evident that no subsequent condition could nullify the faith of the saints, if Christ's death alone were all that mattered.
His resurrection, ascension, priesthood, and second coming are all a part of Christian doctrine, but not one of these could make the difference of eternal loss, if it were only incidental to the sacrifice of Calvary. We must conclude that if Christ's work for man ended at Calvary, then His resurrection and later work for man are of no real consequence by comparison. In that case they have no definite bearing on the salvation of man. They would be interesting sidelights of the gospel, but of no vital importance. Yet Paul declares otherwise. His language allows only one conclusion. He is emphatic in his position that even the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is entirely nullified without the resurrection of Christ.
The work of salvation does not and can not end with the words "It is finished" (John 19:30). That particular work was finished. His sacrifice was full, adequate, complete. Nothing need be added to that as atonement. There is nothing lacking about His sacrifice or its value. It is all that it need be or could be as such. It is perfect. And it is sufficient for the needs of all mankind of all ages, as an atonement for sin. "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our's only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). Seventh-day Adventists are firm in their stand upon this fundamental position. They do not in the least minimize what Jesus has done for man on Calvary.
There is something else they do not do. They do not tie the hands of Christ in the present, nor deprive Him of a work for us now for which we shall be eternally indebted to Him. His present work is a work of grace, of wonderful, saving, indispensable grace. This work and its importance are described by the eminent expositor Alexander Maclaren. Here is brought to view two important aspects of Christ's work for man. He says, "Pardon is much, purifying is more. The sacrifice on the cross . . . does not exhaust what Christ does for us. He died for our sins, and lives for our sanctifying. He died for us, He lives in us. Because He died, we are forgiven: because He lives, we are made pure." *
One of the reasons for the widespread misconception of the scope of Christ's redemptive work is in the popular teaching that men who are "once saved" are "always saved.- Those who teach this consider that the initial step into God's grace is irrevocable, both on God's part and man's. In this light, sanctification is of no serious importance. It doesn't change anything that really matters. But the Bible does not agree with such a narrow and distorted view. For example, Paul says, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14).
To make forgiveness or justification the only condition of salvation is to unbalance the gospel and to circumscribe the work of Christ for all mankind. Forgiveness is necessary, but it is not all that is necessary. Holiness, or sanctification, is also necessary. Forgiveness is only a beginning, of which sanctification is the end. It is cleansing. Sanctification is a transfusion. Thus the full need of man is met for the whole period of, and for every circumstance of, his life. It is met by a living Christ in a continuing work of grace. This work is revealed in Hebrews 7:25, "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." As our high priest, Jesus carries on this effective work for the salvation of man; there is no lapse, nor is there any want. It is continual, therefore it is essential. It could not be otherwise.
It is unfortunate that there are any who would look upon the mediatorial work of Christ as if it were unnecessary, or superfluous. Paul repeatedly stresses that the work of Christ is twofold, that it continues beyond His death. This is clear from Romans 5:10: "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." Reconciliation is the initial step. It is made possible through Christ's death. Without reconciliation man is completely estranged from God. And without Christ's death there could be no reconciliation. Now that we are reconciled by His death, the way is open for us to be saved through a later work of Christ's. Having been reconciled by His death, we are saved by His life.
This life by which we are said to be saved is not only the life before His death, but after, as the text plainly states. This life is Christ's resurrection life. We cannot be saved without it. (Compare Heb. 7:25; Korn. 4:25; John 14:19.) Our faith would then be vain, worthless, useless. Without it, we are still in sin—lost. And all the dead are perished. So Paul declares, "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished" (1 Cor. 15: 17, 18).
On the cross, Jesus died for all, yet we know that not all are saved, nor will they be. He died for the whole world, but men are not saved en masse. Rather, they are saved individually through their faith in and by the postresurrection life and ministry of Christ, which includes all that He is doing and will do for us until the day of redemption. There is something comforting and gratifying about this thought. In His mediatorial work, He is not dealing in generalities. Jesus comes down to the particular needs of individual cases, like yours and mine. He applies the merit of His perfect atonement on Calvary to each person who responds to His invitation, "Come." The courts of heaven are alert to respond. One sinner repents and "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God" (Luke 15:10). One soul cries out, "Lord, remember me," and he finds that he has a living Advocate at the very throne of God. He is not forgotten. He is not lost in a maze of humanity. He is sought out and ministered to as though he were the only one that mattered. He is saved and prepared for entry into the kingdom of glory at the coming of Jesus through a continuing work of Christ's grace. Justified, sanctified, glorified, he is ushered into the presence of the One who has done nothing less than needed to be done that this might be possible.