JUSTIFICATION AND SANCTIFICATION
Ellen G. White Sermons
THE JUST FOR THE UNJUST
(Signs of Times 1889, August EGW)
The righteousness of God was revealed in the gospel. In it was made known the method by which man was to be reconciled to God. Notwithstanding the justice of God, and the guilt of the transgressor of his holy law, a way was devised whereby satisfaction could be made to the law by the infinite sacrifice of the Son of God. The typical offerings of the old dispensation pointed men forward to the Lamb of God that should die on Calvary’s cross, when type would meet antitype in the death of God’s dear Son. From Adam’s time through successive generations the sacrificial offerings were pointing forward to Christ, and men’s faith was fixed on an offering of infinite value. By faith, patriarchs and prophets depended upon God, who was dealing with them through Christ.
“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) He so loved the world that he consented to give the just for the unjust. The greatness and depth of this love was revealed to Paul to make known to all nations. The plan of salvation was opened to his mind, and he preached, both publicly and from house to house, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. The law condemns, but it cannot pardon the transgressor. The penitent, believing soul does not look to the law for justification, but to Christ, the atoning sacrifice, who is able to impart his righteousness to the sinner, and make his efforts acceptable before God. When we take Christ for our Saviour, we are enabled to become obedient children, keeping all the commandments of God.
It is faith that engrafts us into the parent stalk of the living vine. Faith that depends on Christ, derives virtue from him as the branch draws sap from the root. Says the prophet, “The just shall live by faith,” and this truth, woven into the religious experience of every Christian, should be that by which the righteous shall live. True faith grows to a greater faith, increasing in strength. It is persevering in its operation. The apostle says, “For herein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.”
THIS IS JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH
As the penitent sinner, contrite before God, discerns Christ’s atonement in his behalf, and accepts this atonement as his only hope in this life and the future life, his sins are pardoned. This is justification by faith. Every believing soul is to conform his will entirely to God’s will, and keep in a state of repentance and contrition, exercising faith in the atoning merits of the Redeemer, and advancing from strength to strength, from glory to glory.
Pardon and justification are one and the same thing. Through faith, the believer passes from the position of a rebel, a child of sin and Satan, to the position of a loyal subject of Christ Jesus, not because of an inherent goodness, but because Christ receives him as His child by adoption. The sinner receives the forgiveness of his sins, because these sins are borne by his Substitute and Surety. The Lord speaks to His heavenly Father, saying: “This is My child. I reprieve him from the condemnation of death, giving him My life insurance policy–eternal life–because I have taken his place and have suffered for his sins. He is even My beloved son.” Thus man, pardoned, and clothed with the beautiful garments of Christ’s righteousness, stands faultless before God.
The sinner may err, but he is not cast off without mercy. His only hope, however, is repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the Father’s prerogative to forgive our transgressions and sins, because Christ has taken upon Himself our guilt and reprieved us, imputing to us His own righteousness. His sacrifice satisfies fully the demands of justice.
Justification is the opposite of condemnation. God’s boundless mercy is exercised toward those who are wholly undeserving. He forgives transgressions and sins for the sake of Jesus, who has become the propitiation for our sins. Through faith in Christ, the guilty transgressor is brought into favor with God and into the strong hope of life eternal.
David was pardoned of his transgression because he humbled his heart before God in repentance and contrition of soul, and believed that God’s promise to forgive would be fulfilled. He confessed his sin, repented, and was reconverted. In the rapture of the assurance of forgiveness, he exclaimed, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” The blessing comes because of pardon; pardon comes through faith that the sin, confessed and repented of, is borne by the great Sin-bearer. Thus from Christ cometh all our blessings. His death is an atoning sacrifice for our sins. He is the great Medium through whom we receive the mercy and favor of God. He, then, is indeed the Originator, the Author, as well as the Finisher, of our faith.–Manuscript 21, 1891, pp. 1-11. (“Christ our Righteousness,” February 27, 1891.) White Estate Washington, D. C. November 29, 1979
ACCEPTED IN CHRIST
Signs Times.1892-July, EGW
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This message is for the world, for “whosoever” means that any and all who comply with the condition may share the blessing. All who look unto Jesus, believing in him as their personal Saviour, shall “not perish, but have everlasting life.” Every provision has been made that we may have the everlasting reward.
Christ is our sacrifice, our substitute, our surety, our divine intercessor; he is made unto us righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” (Hebs:9:24)
The intercession of Christ in our behalf is that of presenting his divine merits in the offering of himself to the Father as our substitute and surety; for he ascended up on high to make an atonement for our transgressions. “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”(1John 2:1,2) “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)”He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them.”(Hebs. 7:25)
From these scriptures it is evident that it is not God’s will that you should be distrustful, and torture your soul with the fear that God will not accept you because you are sinful and unworthy. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” (James 4:8) Present your case before him, pleading the merits of the blood shed for you upon Calvary’s cross. Satan will accuse you of being a great sinner, and you must admit this, but you can say: “I know I am a sinner, and that is the reason I need a Saviour. Jesus came into the world to save sinners. ‘The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.’ ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ (1 John 1:7,9)I have no merit or goodness whereby I may claim salvation, but I present before God the all-atoning blood of the spotless Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is my only plea. The name of Jesus gives me access to the Father. His ear, his heart, is open to my faintest pleading, and he supplies my deepest necessities.”
JUSTIFICATION IS FROM CHRIST
It is the righteousness of Christ that makes the penitent sinner acceptable to God and works his justification. However sinful has been his life, if he believes in Jesus as his personal Saviour, he stands before God in the spotless robes of Christ’s imputed righteousness.
The sinner so recently dead in trespasses and sins is quickened by faith in Christ. He sees by faith that Jesus is his Saviour, and alive forevermore, able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by him.
In the atonement made for him the believer sees such breadth, and length, and height, and depth of efficiency,–sees such completeness of salvation, purchased at such infinite cost, that his soul is filled with praise and thanksgiving. He sees as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and is changed into the same image as by the Spirit of the Lord. He sees the robe of Christ’s righteousness, woven in the loom of heaven, wrought by his obedience, and imputed to the repenting soul through faith in his name. When the sinner has a view of the matchless charms of Jesus, sin no longer looks attractive to him; for he beholds the Chiefest among ten thousand, the One altogether lovely. He realizes by a personal experience the power of the gospel, whose vastness of design is equaled only by its preciousness of purpose.
We have a living Saviour. He is not in Joseph’s new tomb; he is risen from the dead, and has ascended on high as a substitute and surety for every believing soul. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The sinner is justified through the merits of Jesus, and this is God’s acknowledgment of the perfection of the ransom paid for man. That Christ was obedient even unto the death of the cross is a pledge of the repenting sinner’s acceptance with the Father. Then shall we permit ourselves to have a vacillating experience of doubting and believing, believing and doubting? Jesus is the pledge of our acceptance with God. We stand in favor before God, not because of any merit in ourselves, but because of our faith in “the Lord our righteousness.”
Jesus stands in the holy of holies, now to appear in the presence of God for us. There he ceases not to present his people moment by moment, complete in himself. But because we are thus represented before the Father, we are not to imagine that we are to presume upon his mercy, and become careless, indifferent, and self-indulgent. Christ is not the minister of sin. We are complete in him, accepted in the Beloved, only as we abide in him by faith.
Perfection through our own good works we can never attain. The soul who sees Jesus by faith, repudiates his own righteousness. He sees himself as incomplete, his repentance insufficient, his strongest faith but feebleness, his most costly sacrifice as meager, and he sinks in humility at the foot of the cross. But a voice speaks to him from the oracles of God’s word. In amazement he hears the message, “Ye are complete in him”. Now all is at rest in his soul. No longer must he strive to find some worthiness in himself, some meritorious deed by which to gain the favor of God.
A TRUTH WE NEED TO GRASP
Beholding the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, he finds the peace of Christ; for pardon is written against his name, and he accepts the word of God, “Ye are complete in him.” How hard is it for humanity, long accustomed to cherish doubt, to grasp this great truth! But what peace it brings to the soul, what vital life! In looking to ourselves for righteousness, by which to find acceptance with God, we look to the wrong place, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” We are to look to Jesus; “for we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory.” You are to find your completeness by beholding the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
Standing before the broken law of God, the sinner cannot cleanse himself; but, believing in Christ, he is the object of his infinite love and clothed in his spotless righteousness. For those who believe in Christ, Jesus prayed: “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth: . . .that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.” “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee; but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Who can comprehend the nature of that righteousness which makes the believing sinner whole, presenting him to God without spot or wrinkle or any such thing? We have the pledged word of God that Christ is made unto us righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. God grant that we may rely upon his word with implicit trust, and enjoy his richest blessing. “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.”
OBEDIENCE IS SANCTIFICATION.
“And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.” In all the fullness of his divinity, in all the glory of his spotless humanity, Christ gave himself for us as a full and free sacrifice, and each one who comes to him should accept him as if he were the only one for whom the price had been paid. As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive; for the obedient will be raised to immortality, and the transgressor will rise from the dead to suffer death, the penalty of the law which he has broken.
Obedience to the law of God is sanctification. There are many who have erroneous ideas in regard to this work in the soul, but Jesus prayed that his disciples might be sanctified through the truth, and added, “Thy word is truth.” Sanctification is not an instantaneous but a progressive work, as obedience is continuous. Just as long as Satan urges his temptations upon us, the battle for self-conquest will have to be fought over and over again; but by obedience, the truth will sanctify the soul. Those who are loyal to the truth will, through the merits of Christ, overcome all weakness of character which has led them to be moulded by every varying circumstance of life.
SATAN’S COUNTERFEIT DECEPTION
Many have taken the position that they cannot sin because they are sanctified, but this is a delusive snare of the evil one. There is constant danger of falling into sin, for Christ has warned us to watch and pray lest we enter into temptation. If we are conscious of the weakness of self, we shall not be self-confident and reckless of danger; but we shall feel the necessity of seeking to the Source of our strength, Jesus our righteousness. We shall come in repentance and contrition, with a despairing sense of our own finite weakness, and learn that we must daily apply to the merits of the blood of Christ, that we may become vessels fit for the Master’s use. While thus depending upon God, we shall not be found warring against the truth, but we shall always be enabled to take our stand for the right.
We should cling to the teaching of the Bible, and not follow the customs and traditions of the world, the sayings and doings of men. When errors arise and are taught as Bible truth, those who have a connection with Christ will not trust to what the minister says, but, like the noble Bereans, they will search the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so. When they discover what is the word of the Lord, they will take their stand on the side of truth. They will hear the voice of the true Shepherd saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” Thus you will be educated to make the Bible the man of your counsel, and the voice of a stranger you will neither hear nor follow.
TWO LESSONS TO LEARN
If the soul is to be purified and ennobled, and made fit for the heavenly courts, there are two lessons to be learned,–self-sacrifice and self-control. Some learn these important lessons more easily than do others, for they are exercised by the simple discipline the Lord gives them in gentleness and love. Others require the slow discipline of suffering, that the cleansing fire may purify their hearts of pride and self-reliance, of earthly passion and self-love, that the true gold of character may appear, and that they may become victors through the grace of Christ.
The love of God will strengthen the soul, and through the virtue of the merits of the blood of Christ we may stand unscathed amid the fire of temptation and trial; but no other help can avail to save but Christ, our righteousness, who is made unto us wisdom and sanctification and redemption. True sanctification is nothing more or less than to love God with all the heart, to walk in his commandments and ordinances blameless. Sanctification is not an emotion, but a heaven-born principle that brings all the passions and desires under the control of the Spirit of God; and this work is done through our Lord and Saviour.
Spurious sanctification does not glorify God, but leads those who claim it to exalt and glorify themselves. Whatever comes in our experience, whether joy or sorrow, that does not reflect Christ and point to him as its author, bringing glory to him, and sinking self out of sight, is not true Christian experience.
When the grace of Christ is implanted in the soul by the Holy Spirit, its possessor will become humble in spirit and will seek for the society of those whose conversation is upon heavenly things. Then the Spirit will take the things of Christ and show them unto us, and will glorify, not the receiver, but the Giver.
If, therefore, you have the sacred peace of Christ in your heart, your lips will be filled with praise and thanksgiving to God. Your prayers, the discharge of your duty, your benevolence, your self-denial will not be the theme of your thought or conversation, but you will magnify Him who gave Himself for you when you were yet a sinner. You will say: “I give myself to Jesus. I have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write.” As you praise him, you will have a precious blessing, and all the praise and glory for that which is done through your instrumentality will be given back to God.
The peace of Christ is not a boisterous, untamable element made manifest in loud voices and bodily exercises. The peace of Christ is an intelligent peace, and it does not make those who possess it bear the marks of fanaticism and extravagance. It is not a rambling impulse, but an emanation from God. When the Saviour imparts his peace to the soul, the heart will be in perfect harmony with the word of God; for the Spirit and the word agree. The Lord honors his word in all his dealings with men. It is his own will, his own voice, that is revealed to men, and he has no new will, no new truth, aside from his word to unfold to his children. If you have a wonderful experience that is not in harmony with the expressed directions of God’s word, you may well doubt it; for its origin is not from above. The peace of Christ comes through the knowledge of Jesus whom the Bible reveals.
If happiness is drawn from outside sources, and not from the Divine Fount, it will be as changeable as varying circumstances can make it; but the peace of Christ is a constant and abiding peace. It does not depend on any circumstance in life, on the amount of worldly goods, or the number of earthly friends. Christ is the fountain of living waters, and happiness and peace drawn from him will never fail, for he is a well-spring of life. Those who trust in him can say: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High.”
We have reason for ceaseless gratitude to God that Christ, by his perfect obedience, has won back the heaven that Adam lost through disobedience. Adam sinned, and the children of Adam share his guilt and its consequences; but Jesus bore the guilt of Adam, and all the children of Adam that will flee to Christ, the second Adam, may escape the penalty of transgression. Jesus regained heaven for man by bearing the test that Adam failed to endure; for he obeyed the law perfectly, and all who have a right conception of the plan of redemption will see that they cannot be saved while in transgression of God’s holy precepts. They must cease to transgress the law, and lay hold on the promises of God that are available for us through the merits of Christ.
THE TRUE FAITH OF BELIEVING
Our faith is not to stand in the ability of men but in the power of God. There is danger of trusting in men, even though they may have been used as instruments of God to do a great and good work. Christ must be our strength and our refuge. The best of men may fall from their steadfastness, and the best of religion, when corrupted, is ever the most dangerous in its influence upon minds. Pure, living religion is found in obedience to every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Righteousness exalts a nation, and the absence of it degrades and ruins man.
From the pulpits of to-day the words are uttered: “Believe, only believe. Have faith in Christ; you have nothing to do with the old law, only trust in Christ.” How different is this from the words of the apostle, who declares that faith without works is dead. He says, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” We must have that faith that works by love and purifies the soul.
Many seek to substitute a superficial faith for uprightness of life, and think through this to obtain salvation. The Lord requires at this time just what he required of Adam in Eden,–perfect obedience to the law of God. We must have righteousness without a flaw, without a blemish. God gave his son to die for the world, but he did not die to repeal the law which was holy and just and good. The sacrifice of Christ on Calvary is an unanswerable argument showing the immutability of the law. Its penalty was felt by the Son of God in behalf of guilty man, that through his merits the sinner might obtain the virtue of his spotless character by faith in his name. The sinner was provided with a second opportunity to keep the law of God in the strength of his Divine Redeemer.
The cross of Calvary forever condemns the idea that Satan has placed before the Christian world, that the death of Christ abolished not only the typical system of sacrifices and ceremonies but the unchangeable law of God, the foundation of his throne, the transcript of his character.
Through every device possible Satan has sought to make of none effect the sacrifice of the Son of God, to render his expiation useless, and his mission a failure. He has claimed that the death of Christ made obedience to the law unnecessary, and permitted the sinner to come into favor with a holy God without forsaking his sin. He has declared that the Old Testament standard was lowered in the gospel, and that men can come to Christ, not to be saved from their sins but in their sins.
But when John beheld Jesus he told his mission. He said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” To every repentant soul the message is, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”(Is. 1:18)