It is with considerable reluctance that I write this analysis of the theology that is being promoted in Adventist World. It would be so much easier to remain silent and let the errors follow their course, but I am compelled to follow the Lord’s command found in Isaiah 58:1. Also in 2 Selected Messages 153 we read, that when the “course of action is doing positive harm to the cause of truth, and souls are imperiled, God requires that the warning be as broad as the injury done” (White).
FIVE YEAR PLAN
In January 2016 we learned that Adventist World, is beginning a five-year emphasis on Christ our righteousness, as well as faithfulness and total member involvement. This would be very commendable and a great blessing if real truth were presented to the worldwide church. Sadly, there was a toxic mixture of truth and error in the January 2016 issue, which will only confuse readers’ minds. In fact, it was a mixture of truth and error that deceived Adam and Eve at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Mixing error into truth will do the same today. We read in Education that “By the mingling of evil with good, his [Adam’s] mind had become confused, his mental and spiritual powers benumbed. No longer could he appreciate the good that God had so freely bestowed” (White, 25). If the January issue of the Adventist World is typical of what will follow for the next five years, we will have a lot of confused readers who will be vainly trying to reconcile truth with error and light with darkness.
January 2016 also contains a good article by our General Conference president, Elder Ted Wilson, entitled Christ, Our Righteousness, as depicted in the parable of the wedding feast of Matthew 22. It was a truth-filled article.
However, the January issue also included a devotional article by the former editor of the Review, William Johnsson, emphasizing that, “We do not earn God’s righteousness; He gives it to us.” Johnsson also stated that the righteousness that Jesus taught is “beyond human achievement . . . A righteousness that only God can provide as a gift.” In other words, the only righteousness that we can have of any saving value is imputed to us, according to William Johnsson. It seems he forgot about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in latter rain power, and how God’s people will be filled with Christ’s righteousness as indicated in Isaiah 45:8: “Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it.”
Sadly, the article by William Johnsson is filled with typical “buzz” words or phrases used by those who promote false theology. How often do we hear “we are not saved by our works” or “we can’t earn our way to heaven”? Genuine obedience is categorized as “legalism” or “Phariseeism” or “perfectionism.”
THE STRAW MAN ARGUMENT AGAIN
Obviously, anyone who has an elementary knowledge of the Scripture knows that our works do not save us. They know we cannot keep God’s commandments in our own strength and they know that we cannot earn our way to heaven. But false theology builds up its theological straw man and then takes great satisfaction in knocking him down.
SEPARATING FAITH AND WORKS
Another article in the same issue called "Saving My Marriage And Me" spoke about how Christ does it all, from beginning to end. It boldly stated, “Paul declared that without confession, without repentance, without even going to God at all, I was reconciled to God by the death of His Son, and that the life of Jesus would save me.” It also stated that “God has saved and delivered us all from the penalty of sin as a gift before we confess, repent or even believe.” However, these statements are not in Scripture. Proverbs 28:13 tells us, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Also in 1 Selected Messages we read, “There is no salvation without repentance. No impenitent sinner can believe with his heart unto righteousness . . . This repentance has in it nothing of the nature of merit, but it prepares the heart for the acceptance of Christ as the only Saviour, the only hope of the lost sinner” (White, 365).
Friends, this theology does not seem to recognize the difference between the provisions of salvation and the appropriation of these provisions in the experience of the believer. The death of Christ has encircled the whole world with an atmosphere of grace. The human race has been given a period of probation during which the death penalty has been stayed, and mercy and grace are offered freely to those who respond to the drawing of that universal grace. But the reconciliation that has been provided for all does not save anyone until they respond. That is why the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:20 “We pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God”. If salvation was accomplished when the provision was made, everyone would be saved, as taught by the Universalists and the spiritualists, who say “Live as you please; heaven is your home” (Great Controversy, 557).
The author of "Saving My Marriage and Me" also stated, “The obligations and penalties of Scripture fell on Jesus, and the benefits of His acceptance of those obligations are ours, as long as we believe.” In other words, the author is saying that everything we need for salvation is imputed to us, that Christ has done it all and all we have to do is believe. This false gospel has been around so long that it has almost become a fundamental belief. However, James 2:14-26 gives us a much different picture of the relation between faith and works. In verse 24 we read, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
GOD’S WARNING AGAINST FALSE THEOLOGY
And God gave us this warning about this false theology. “But the doctrine is now largely taught that the Gospel of Christ has made the Law of God of no effect; that by "believing" we are released from the necessity of being doers of the word. But this is the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which Christ so unsparingly condemned . . . Those who are teaching this doctrine today have much to say in regard to faith and the righteousness of Christ; but they pervert the truth, and make it serve the cause of error. They declare that we have only to believe on Jesus Christ, and that faith is all-sufficient; that the righteousness of Christ is to be the sinner's credentials; that this imputed righteousness fulfills the law for us, and that we are under no obligation to obey the law of God . . . Virtually they teach, both by precept and example, that Christ, by his death, saves men in their transgressions” (Signs of the Times, Feb 25, 1897, White).
There was another article in the January 2016 Adventist World consisting of excerpts from an article by Ellen White from the Review and Herald, December 20, 1892. Yet even here we see a certain slant given by what the editors left out when publishing this article. The sentences and phrases that speak of our duty to cooperate with Christ to fulfill the prescribed conditions to salvation were excerpted. Here is some of what was left out.
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? It is at the peril of our souls that we neglect the prescribed conditions under which we are called to work out our own salvation. It is only through Christ, who was made sin for us, that we can work out our own salvation; for it is God that worketh in us both to will and to do of his own good pleasure. We are to co-operate heartily with God, by faith laying hold of the righteousness of Christ, which alone can save. The only way by which we may be saved is by becoming workers together with God. It is through the co-operation of man with God that the believer may come off victorious.”
The following is also good counsel for this hour but, sadly, it too did not appear in the paper:
We are living in perilous times, and it does not become us to accept everything claimed to be truth without examining it thoroughly; neither can we afford to reject anything that bears the fruits of the Spirit of God; but we should be teachable, meek and lowly of heart. There are those who oppose everything that is not in accordance with their own ideas, and by so doing they endanger their eternal interest as verily as did the Jewish nation in their rejection of Christ. The Lord designs that our opinions shall be put to the test, that we may see the necessity of closely examining the living oracles to see whether or not we are in the faith.
Finally, included in the January 2016 Adventist World is an article called “A Journey Of Grace” by Gluder Quispe, tracing our church history as it related to the truth of Christ, our righteousness. He wrote that the period before 1888 was characterized by a religion of legalism and preaching the law without making Christ the center of their preaching. The Lord sent Waggoner and Jones to bring His people back to a realization of their dependence on Christ and His righteousness. However, when the author explained the situation in the church between 1931 and 1957, he said Elder Andreasen’s book "The Sanctuary Service" was “divisive” and “strongly perfectionistic.” It would appear the author does not believe that there will be a company of perfected saints called the 144,000 who are without fault before the throne of God. It seems that he also does not believe the church will be without spot or wrinkle after the close of Christ’s ministry in the most holy place. Finally, the author concludes his article by saying that spiritual and theological maturation followed in 1980–2015.
It is sad to see how many of God’s professed people are far more afraid of the works of God than they are of the works of the devil. While sounding the warning against legalism, there is no corresponding warning against the prevailing sins and iniquities in our midst. However, those who are true and faithful can look forward to this promise: “The LORD is exalted; for he dwelleth on high: he hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness . . . And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God” (Isaiah 33:5 & 62:2-3).
Then God’s people will fully understand the meaning of "Christ our righteousness."