Robert H. Pierson is president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

 

IN RECENT months there has been a healthy revival in studying righteousness by faith in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This is good. Every worker and member in the church should not only understand this important topic as the prime doctrine of the church but also as an essential experience in the individual life. Doctrine is not enough—a living experience it must be.

The Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia sets forth the Adventist position on this topic very succinctly. Under the heading "Righteousness by Faith" we read: "

In SDA terminology, the instantaneous experience of conversion through faith in Christ, often spoken of as 'justification by faith,' and the lifelong experience of Christian living, also through faith in Christ.

"SDA's believe that the new birth, important as it is, is only the beginning of a lifelong experience of growing up into Christ, of conforming one's life, point by point, to the perfect example set for the Christian in the life of Christ. The SDA emphasis is on the fact that the same Christ who saves a man through his exercise of faith will also enable him to develop a Christian character, likewise through faith; that righteousness by faith in Christ is a continuing process. SDA teaching clearly recognizes and stresses that the ability to live a Christian life comes from God, not from man's own works or from compliance even with God's moral law." —Page 1085.

From these words it is clear that the Seventh-day Adventist Church accepts the two phases or steps in the experience of righteousness by faith. One is the "instantaneous experience," known as justification, when in a moment the imputed righteousness of Jesus provides the repentant sinner a standing before God as though he had never sinned, and the resultant peace and joy in Christ that provide the greatest possible motive and yearning to be like Him.

The second phase is a "lifelong experience of Christian living," when moment by moment the imparted righteousness of Jesus provides grace and strength through the gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit for the struggling saint to overcome sin and become more and more like his divine Master.

We dare not minimize either justification or sanctification. Both are of the utmost import to the Christian life and experience. As Ellen White declares, "The first is our title to heaven, the second is our fitness for heaven." —Messages to Young People, p. 35.

In both the justification and the sanctification experiences it must be all of Christ and none of self. "We are dependent on Christ, first for justification from our past offenses, and, secondly, for grace whereby to render acceptable obedience to His holy law in time to come."—Signs of the Times, June 4, 1874.

"Although we are justified by the merits of the blood of Christ and through the instrument of faith, it is also true that works of loving obedience are the evidence of saving faith," a group of concerned leaders stated in 1976. "In the last judgment our works of faith and love testify to the reality of justifying faith and our union with Christ; we are still saved by justification through Christ without any works of law, that is, without any meritorious works." "Christ Our Righteousness," —Review and Herald, May 27, 1976, p. 4.

L. E. Froom sums it up nicely in Movement of Destiny: "Righteousness by Faith is not a mere segment or aspect of the Faith. It is the Faith in its entirety—the full faith of Jesus. Ponder its scope. It takes in the entire sweep of salvation. It constitutes the heart of re deeming grace, the essence of the Ever lasting Gospel. ... It is the master key that unlocks heaven. ... It is the spring of all true service, the joy of all Christian life and effective witness." —Page 668.

Thank God for such an all-sufficient Saviour, who cares for our yesterdays, our todays, and our tomorrows!

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Robert H. Pierson is president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

February 1977

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