The need for a true concept of righteousness by faith

The following remarks, delivered by Ellen White to ministers in attendance at the camp meeting held September 13, 1889, in Denver, Colorado, are as timely for ministers today as they were nearly ninety years ago.

Ellen G. White on righteousness by faith.

 

By invitation I made some re marks in the ministers' tent, to the ministers. We talked some in regard to the best plans to be arranged to educate the people here upon this very ground in reference to home religion.

Many people seem to be ignorant of what constitutes faith. Many complain of darkness and discouragements. I asked, "Are your faces turned toward Jesus? Are you be holding Him, the Sun of Righteousness? You need plainly to define to the churches the matter of faith and entire dependence upon the righteousness of Christ. In your talks and prayers there has been so little dwelling upon Christ, His matchless love, His great sacrifice made in our behalf, that Satan has nearly eclipsed the views we should have and must have of Jesus Christ. We must trust less in human beings for spiritual help and more, far more, in approaching Jesus Christ as our Redeemer. We may dwell with a deter mined purpose on the heavenly at tributes of Jesus Christ; we may talk of His love, we may tell and sing of His mercies, we may make Him our own personal Saviour. Then we are one with Christ. We love that which Christ loved, we hate sin, that which Christ hated. These things must be talked of, dwelt upon."

I address the ministers. Lead the people along step by step, dwelling upon Christ's efficiency until, by a living faith, they see Jesus as He is—see Him in His fullness, a sin-pardoning Saviour, One who can pardon all our transgressions. It is by beholding that we become changed into His likeness. This is present truth. We have talked the law. This is right. But we have only casually lifted up Christ as the sin-pardoning Saviour.

We are to keep before the mind the sin-pardoning Saviour. But we are to present Him in His true position—coming to die to magnify the law of God and make it honorable, and yet to justify the sinner who shall depend wholly upon the merits of the blood of a crucified and risen Saviour. This is not made plain.

The soul-saving message, the third angel's message, is the message to be given to the world. The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus are both important, immensely important, and must be given with equal force and power. The first part of the message has been dwelt upon mostly, the last part casually. The faith of Jesus is not comprehended. We must talk it, we must live it, we must pray it, and educate the people to bring this part of the message into their home life. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5).

There have been entire discourses, dry and Christless, in which Jesus has scarcely been named. The speaker's heart is not subdued and melted by the love of Jesus. He dwells upon dry theories. No great impression is made. The speaker has not the divine unction, and how can he move the hearts of the people? We need to repent and be converted yes, the preacher converted. The people must have Jesus lifted up before them, and they must be entreated to "Look and live."

Why are lips so silent upon the subject of Christ's righteousness and His love for the world? Why do we not give to the people that which will revive and quicken them into a new life? The apostle Paul is filled with transport and adoration as he declares, "Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory" (1 Tim. 3:16).

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. . . . That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should con fess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:5- 11).

"In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist" (Col. 1:14-17).

This is the grand and heavenly theme that has in a large degree been left out of the discourses because Christ is not formed within the human mind. And Satan has had his way that it shall be thus, that Christ should not be the theme of contemplation and adoration. This name, so powerful, so essential, should be on every tongue.

"Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily" (verses 25-29).

Here is the work of the ministers of Christ. Because this work has not been done, because Christ and His character, His words, and His work have not been brought before the people, the religious state of the churches testifies against their teachers. The churches are ready to die because little of Christ is presented. They have not spiritual life and spiritual discernment.

The teachers of the people have not themselves become acquainted by living experience with the Source of their dependence and their strength. And when the Lord raises up men and sends them with the very message for this time to give to the people—a message which is not a new truth, but the very same that Paul taught, that Christ Himself taught—it is to them a strange doctrine. They begin to caution the people—who are ready to die be cause they have not been strengthened with the lifting up of Christ before them—"Do not be too hasty. Better wait, and not take up with this matter until you know more about it." And the ministers preach the same dry theories when the people need fresh manna. The character of Christ is an infinitely perfect character, and He must be lifted up, He must be brought prominently into view, for He is the power, the might, the sanctification and righteousness of all who believe in Him. The men who have had a Pharisaical spirit, think if they hold to the good old theories, and have no part in the message sent of God to His people, they will be in a good and safe position. So thought the Pharisees of old, and their example should warn ministers off that self-satisfied ground.

We need a power to come upon us now and stir us up to diligence and earnest faith. Then, baptized with the Holy Spirit, we shall have Christ formed within, the hope of glory. Then we will exhibit Christ as the divine object of our faith and our love. We will talk of Christ, we will pray to Christ and about Christ. We will praise His holy name. We will present before the people His miracles, His self-denial, His self-sacrifice, His sufferings, and His crucifixion, His resurrection and triumphant ascension. These are the inspiring themes of the gospel, to awaken love and intense fervor in every heart. Here are the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, a fountain inexhaustible. The more you seek of this experience, the greater will be the value of your life.

The living water may be drawn from the fountain and yet there is no diminution of the supply. Ministers of the gospel would be powerful men if they set the Lord always before them and devoted their time to the study of His adorable character. If they did this, there would be no apostasies, there would be none separated from the conference be cause they have, by their licentious practices, disgraced the cause of God and put Jesus to an open shame. The powers of every minister of the gospel should be employed to educate the believing churches to receive Christ by faith as their personal Saviour, to take Him into their very lives and make Him their Pat tern, to learn of Jesus, believe in Jesus, and exalt Jesus. The minister should himself dwell on the character of Christ. He should ponder the truth, and meditate upon the mysteries of redemption, especially the mediatorial work of Christ for this time.

If Christ is all and in all to every one of us, why are not His incarnation and His atoning sacrifice dwelt upon more in the churches? Why are not hearts and tongues employed in the Redeemer's praise? This will be the employment of the powers of the redeemed through the ceaseless ages of eternity.

We need to have a living connection with God ourselves in order to teach Jesus. Then we can give the living personal experience of what Christ is to us by experience and faith. We have received Christ and with divine earnestness we can tell that which is an abiding power with us. The people must be drawn to Christ. Prominence must be given to His saving efficacy.

The true learners, sitting at Christ's feet, discover the precious gems of truth uttered by our Saviour, and will discern their significance and appreciate their value. And more and more, as they become humble and teachable, will their understanding be opened to discover wondrous things out of His law, for Christ has presented them in clear, sharp lines.

The doctrine of grace and salvation through Jesus Christ is a mystery to a large share of those whose names are upon the church books. If Christ were upon the earth speaking to His people, He would reproach them for their slowness of comprehension. He would say to the slow and uncomprehending, "I have left in your possession truths which concern your salvation, of which you do not suspect the value."

Oh that it might be said of ministers who are preaching to the people and to the churches, "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures" (Luke 24:25)! I tell you in the fear of God that up to this time, the Bible truths connected with the great plan of redemption are but feebly understood. The truth will be continually unfolding, expanding, and developing, for it is divine, like its Author.

Jesus did not give full comments or continued discourses upon doctrines, but He oft spoke in short sentences, as one sowing the heavenly grains of doctrines like pearls which need to be gathered up by a discerning laborer. The doctrines of faith and grace are brought to view everywhere He taught. Oh, why do not ministers give to the churches the very food which will give them spiritual health and vigor? The result will be a rich experience in practical obedience to the Word of God. Why do the ministers not strengthen the things that remain that are ready to die?

When about to leave His disciples, Christ was in search of the greatest comfort He could give them. He promised them the Holy Spirit—the Comforter—to combine with man's human effort. What promise is less experienced, less fulfilled to the church, than the promise of the Holy Spirit? When this blessing, which would bring all blessings in its train, is dropped out, the sure result is spiritual drought. This is the reproach that meets the sermonizer. The church must arise and no longer be content with the meager dew.

Oh, why do our church members stop short of their privileges? They are not personally alive to the necessity of the influence of the Spirit of God. The church may, like Mary, say, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him" (John 20:13).

Ministers preaching present truth will assent to the necessity of the influence of the Spirit of God in the conviction of sin and the conversion of souls, and this influence must at tend the preaching of the Word, but they do not feel its importance sufficiently to have a deep and practical knowledge of the same. The scantiness of the grace and power of the divine influence of the truth upon their own hearts prevents them from discerning spiritual things and from presenting its positive necessity upon the church. So they go crippling along, dwarfed in religious growth, because they have in their ministry a legal religion. The power of the grace of God is not felt to be a living, effectual necessity, an abiding principle.

Oh, that all could see this and embrace the message given them of God! He has raised up His servants to present truth that, because it involves lifting the cross, has been lost sight of, and is buried beneath the rubbish of formality. It must be rescued and be reset in the frame work of present truth. Its claims must be asserted, and its position given it in the third angel's message. Let the many ministers of Christ sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly, and seek God while He is to be found. Call upon Him while you are now lying at the foot of the cross of Calvary. Divest yourselves of all pride and as representative guardians of the churches, weep between the porch and the altar, and cry, "Spare Thy people, Lord, and give not Thine heritage to reproach. Take from us what Thou wilt, but with hold not Thy Holy Spirit from us, Thy people." Pray, oh, pray for the outpouring of the Spirit of God! Manuscript 27, 1889. (Italics sup plied.)


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Ellen G. White on righteousness by faith.

April 1978

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