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The Remnant Sinless---When? How?

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Archives / 1969 / October

 

 

The Remnant Sinless---When? How?

J. L. Shuler
-Bible Lecturer, California at the time this article was written

 

THIS Advent Movement rose from, a correct understanding of the cleansing of the sanctuary, as called for in the prophecy of Daniel 8:14. This true doctrine of the sanctuary is one of the old-time landmarks that must be maintained as it has come down from our founding fathers, who discovered it in the Scriptures.

This cleansing of the sanctuary refers to the final disposition of sin on the antitypical day of atonement. Different views have been brought forward as to what is included in the cleansing of the sanctuary as called for in Daniel 8:14.

No one need be surprised about this. Look at the situation that prevailed in the pure church of God in the days of the apostles.

Some Jewish Christians insisted that the Gentile Christians could not be saved unless they were circumcised. The apostles declared that this was not the truth.

Some Jewish Christians declared that it was wrong for any Jewish Christian to eat dinner at a Gentile's house. Paul declared that this was contrary to the gospel of Christ.

Some professed Christians advocated that the resurrection was past. Paul declared that they were in error, because the resurrection would not take place until the coming of the Lord. We do not know how long these people continued to advocate these wrong views. It is said, "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still." We do know that in spite of these wrong, divergent views the real truth went forth conquering and to conquer. The church went forward to victory.

The Adventist Church has, through the decades of the past, taken the position that those who overcome their sins will have them blotted out of the books of record in the judgment. The overcomers who are alive at the close of probation will be sealed as "holy" and "righteous." Thus they will be kept from sin when there is no intercessor during the pouring out of the seven last plagues. Then at the coming of the Lord the mortal body with its sinful flesh will be changed into an immortal body with sinless flesh. So it is at the second coming of Christ that inbred sin and the scars of sin, and the danger of falling back into sin will be removed.

Make no mistake about it. This view was fully endorsed as the truth by Ellen G. White while she lived.

During recent years a new theory is being taught concerning the disposition of sin in the cleansing of the sanctuary. It is claimed that when the overcomer's sins are blotted out from the books, inbred sin and the scars of sin are also at the same time erased from his flesh as he is sealed at the close of probation, or shortly before. If this were true, he would have a sinless perfection beyond Paul or John or any Christian in the past.

This new theory is advocated by Robert Brinsmead, a former Adventist. It is also projected in a book, The Sanctuary Restored, by Peter James.

The adherents of this new theory think it is right. Those who hold to the former view think theirs is right. The decisive issue is, which of the two views is according to the Scriptures?

There is only one safe course for you and me. "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:21). "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20).

We cannot have a correct understanding of this issue unless we take into account how the word "sin" is used in the Scriptures. Ask an Adventist, "What is sin?" He promptly quotes 1 John 3:4: "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."

Sin is the transgression of the law of God in thought, word, or deed. It is missing the mark of the standard set forth in the law of God, the Word of God, and the character of His Son. Hence "all unrighteousness is sin" (1 John 5:17). "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23). Knowing what is right and neglecting to do it is sin (James 4:17). Sin is a rejection of light (John 15:22, 24). Sin is disbelief in Christ (chap. 16:2).

The word "sin" is also used to denote the sinful nature that every person inherits at birth as a consequence of Adam's disobedience. "Because of sin his posterity was born with inherent propensities of disobedience."—The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on John 1:1-3, 14, p. 1128. And the psalmist declared: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5).

The word "sin" here does not mean any transgression of the law. There was no act of transgression when David was con ceived by his mother in holy wedlock. Sin in this case means inbred sin. It refers to the sinful nature with which every person is born.

Thus sin is set forth in a twofold aspect. It is a transgression of the law in thought, word, or action. Or it may refer to inbred sin, or the sinful flesh. Paul designates this as "sin that dwelleth in me," or the law or rule of sin in the members of his body (Rom. 7:21, 24).

God's plan for solving our sin problem may be summarized in this manner: When we receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, the imputed righteousness of Christ bestows full forgiveness for all our transgressions in our past life. Then the imparted righteousness of Christ living in our renewed heart, if fully appropriated by faith, will deliver us from the dominion of inbred sin and thus keep us from the acts of sin.

If we obey Christ to the end, then when Christ comes from heaven He will change our mortal, sinful body into an immortal, sinless body (Phil. 3:20, 21; 1 Cor. 15: 50-54). This is how and when inbred sin and the scars of sin are completely eradicated. These are not eradicated until the body is changed at the second coming of Christ.

True sanctification by Christ living His life of righteousness in the believer delivers him from the dominion of sin. This gives him victory over the acts of sin. But there is no experience set forth in the Bible by which inbred sin is eradicated until the body is changed at the coming of the Lord.

The typical sanctuary was cleansed on the Day of Atonement. The Bible shows clearly that this cleansing dealt only with the figurative removal of sins as acts of transgression. We read:

"For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord" (Lev. 16:30). On the Day of Atonement the Israelites were directed to afflict their souls in repentance for all their sins. Thus their soul temple was to be cleansed from sin, while the high priest was cleansing the sanctuary. But there was in no case, and could not be, any erasing of inbred sin from their nature in the cleansing of the sanctuary.

This cleansing involved repentance for sin, and a final disposition of the acts of sin that had been confessed over the heads of the animal sacrifices during the year. In keeping with this, the following instruction was given:

"And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness" (Lev. 16:21, 22).

It is established that the cleansing of the sanctuary dealt only with the acts of sin. It did not include any eradication of inbred sin from the sinful flesh of the worshipers. Antitype meets the type. So it is contrary to the Word to include the eradication of inbred sin in the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary as called for in Daniel 8:14.

How can this inborn sin in the flesh be erased until the flesh is changed from mortal to immortal? It takes the raising of the dead incorruptible and the changing of the living saints to immortality for the erasing of sin from their sinful flesh.

The Word says, "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). Sin in this case denotes acts of transgression. In what way does the blood of Christ make the believer sinless? Through the righteousness of Christ all the sins he has committed in thought, word, or deed are forgiven and covered. Then God does not charge any of them against him.

This places him in Romans 4:8: "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." When "God imputeth righteousness without works," it carries with it the nonimputing of sin. He is accepted before God, as if he had not sinned.

He is sinless in being clothed in the righteousness of Christ. But does this mean that he will not sin, or cannot sin? No. Does it mean there is no sin in him in respect to inborn sin in his fallen nature? No.

Let us look at the next verse after the blood cleanseth from all sin. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).

When we take verses 7 and 8 together we can see how plain it is. When we are cleansed from all sin by the blood, we are not to say that there is no sin in us. Why not? Because we still have inbred sin in our flesh. The indwelling Christ does make us free from the rule of this indwelling sin in our flesh.

All this is confirmed by this meaningful sentence from the Spirit of Prophecy: "We cannot say, 'I am sinless,' till this vile body is changed and fashioned like unto His glorious body."—ELLEN G. WHITE, in Signs of the Times, March 23, 1888.

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves." This "we" refers to born-again Christians to whom John was writing. If a Christian does not commit any acts of sin, he is still not without inbred sin in his flesh. The apostle taught that if the born-again Christian asserts that he has no sin, he deceives himself.

Do not misunderstand. This is not to imply in the least that any Adventist must continue to commit sin in thought, word, or deed. On the contrary, it means that an Adventist should have complete victory over every wrong word and action. It means living above sin, as Paul held up to the believers.

"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Rom. 6:1, 2).

A real Christian is dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. When he is dead to sin, he does not practice sin. When he yields the members of his body as instruments of righteousness to God, then sin shall not have dominion over him (Rom. 6:13-15).

A born-again believer does not practice acts of sin (1 John 3:9). But after he has been born again, he still must fight a daily battle against inbred sin, of the indwelling sin in the flesh.

"A constant battle must be kept up with the selfishness and corruption of the human heart."—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 397. Sin in the form of the corruption of the nature remains in the regenerated Christian.

"There is wrestling with inbred sin; there is warfare against outward wrong."— ELLEN G. WHITE, in Review and Herald, Nov. 29, 1887.

"We must strive daily against outward evil and inward sin."—Ibid., May 30, 1882.

Thus Scripture says: "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof" (Rom. 6:12). In the case of the fully consecrated Christian, sin does not reign, but it remains.

John Wesley said: "That believers are delivered from the guilt and power of sin, we allow; that they are delivered from the being of it we deny."—Wesley Sermons, p. 21.

The remnant, who receive the latter rain, and are thereby prepared to stand in the time of trouble, and to be translated at the coming of the Lord, will have complete victory over every wrong word and action. Thus we read:

"I saw that none could share the 'refreshing' [this refreshing is the same as the latter rain] unless they obtain the victory over every besetment, over pride, selfishness, love of the world, and over every wrong word and action."—Early Writings, p. 71.

This spells out complete victory over every wrong word and action. But it does not mean, or include, that inbred sin is erased from their mortal bodies in the cleansing of the sanctuary.

In view of all these instances where this new theory is contrary to these plain teachings of the Bible, we cannot accept it. How much better it would be if people would turn away from these divergent, unscriptural teachings, and all unite in preaching the plain truths of the third angel's message! These truths of Revelation 14:6-12 are needed now more than ever as time is running out. How much better if the money that is being spent to print books, tracts, and periodicals to promote these off-center teachings among Adventists was dedicated to carrying the truths of the threefold message to the millions who know not the last-day Bible prophecies, or the true Sabbath, and the other salient truths for these times.

Each of us need to accept fully the Laodicean message. We must enter into a repentance that will bring a real revival and thorough reformation. Then the refreshing will come to prepare the way for the return of Christ. Victory over the acts of sin, and deliverance from the power of sin is needed now to prepare us to have inbred sin and the scars of sin erased from us at the coming of the Lord when the body is fashioned like unto His glorious body.

This cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary synchronizes with the pre-Advent phase of the judgment. This judgment brings one or the other of two outcomes in the case of every professed follower of the Lord— name retained in the book of life and sins blotted out of the book of record, or name blotted out of the book of life and sins retained on record against this person. Which will it be in your case? What a personal challenge for an entire, unreserved consecration!

(To be continued)

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