TWO CHRISTS IN THE SDA CHURCH–MARSHALL GROSBOLL

TWO CHRISTS WITHIN THE CHURCH
by Marshall Grosboll

Many sincere Seventh-day Adventists believe quite differently about who Jesus was. “Oh, just semantics,” someone says—” Unimportant!” But just because sincere people believe differently about a subject does not make it unimportant. As we will see, it is much more than semantics, for what a person believes about the nature of Christ greatly affects his ability to win souls. For this reason Satan has worked hard through the ages to establish a counterfeit christ. As with the rapture theory, he has laid his groundwork well. If he can introduce a false christ into the

Seventh-day

Adventist

Church and establish him there, the power of the three angels’ messages and the soul- winning effectiveness of the church will be destroyed; some question whether it has already happened.Early in my ministry I met a devout Catholic young man who lived outside my district but who was willing to study the Bible with me. He was Polish and had never known anything but the religion of his childhood. Since he was a Catholic, and as I knew of the false teaching about Jesus that Satan had worked hard to introduce into his church in the earliest days of its existence, I decided to try an experiment. I concluded that if Satan made a false teaching about Jesus one of the earliest objects of his endeavors within the Christian church, he must have had a good reason for doing so— that reason being to destroy souls. I wondered if I were to introduce the true Christ to this man’s thinking, whether it would have the opposite effect to what Satan was trying to accomplish through his teaching of a counterfeit christ. And so on my first visit with Jim Paloskowitz I opened the Bible to the New Testament and began to study with him the good news of who Jesus really was. As the sacred Scriptures began to unfold to his understanding, the tears ran down his cheeks— not too far down, for he was not a teary man— but his heart was won, and that very evening he surrendered himself to his Lord and Saviour. Today, ten years after becoming a Seventh- day Adventist, despite his local church being affected by dissension and desertion, Jim has remained a stalwart and humble leader within his congregation.

Jesus said, “I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” John 12: 32. (All references are from NKJV unless otherwise indicated.)

The Secret of Soul Winning

To uplift Jesus is the secret of soul- winning. It was the secret of Pentecost. It is uplifting Jesus that will make our public evangelism, as well as our private Bible studies, powerful and effective. With that fact almost all will agree. But which Christ must be uplifted?

In Matthew 7: 21- 23 Jesus describes those who claim to be His people at His second coming who have been uplifting a false christ. He warned: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, ‘ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? ‘ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! ‘”

Notice that these are Christians living at the time of Christ’s second coming who claim that Jesus is their Lord. And they claim that they have been uplifting Jesus— for all their works were done inHis name. In His name they went to church. In His name they gave their tithes and offerings. But Jesus said He never knew them. Whomever they were worshipping and uplifting, it was not the true Christ.

Thus it must have been a false christ that they were uplifting. The evidence Jesus presents that it was not He they were uplifting is the fact that the one they were worshipping did not lead them to keep the law of God— they “practiced lawlessness” (the Greek word is anomian). There will be christs many and lords many in the last days (Matthew 24: 24; 1 Corinthians 8: 5), but only one true Christ.

This evidence of a false christ versus the true Christ is further confirmed in 1 John 3: 4- 6, where we are told, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He [the true Christ] was manifested to take away our sins [or lawlessness], and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him [the true Christ] nor known Him.” They may have known someone they called Christ, but if whomever they were worshipping did not lead them to overcome sin, he was a false christ.

“By this we know that we know Him [the true Christ], if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him, ‘ and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” 1 John 2: 3- 4

Certainly these texts apply to Sundaykeeping Christians— but could they have a special import for His own remnant church as well? Are there not even now within the church many who claim that you cannot keep the law? or that you don’t need to keep the law? or that it is even legalistic to try to keep the law? What an abomination to admit teachers of “lawlessness” within the precincts of God’s remnant church! According to the Bible, these teachers are uplifting a false christ. What a disappointment it will be for a Seventh- day Adventist to stand before the bar of justice to plead his case as follows—( just imagine it were you):

Before the Bar of Justice

“Lord, remember me, the one who taught prophecy in Your name, in Your church? I paid my tithe and attended church and believed in Ellen White— all in Your name.”

“I’m sorry,” comes the answer, “but I can’t find your name in the book of life. It is only ‘he who overcomes’ whose name ‘I will not blot out from the Book of Life’ and who ‘shall be clothed in white garments, ‘ and ‘eat from the tree of life. ‘ Depart from my presence and join the company of Satan and Judas. You did not keep the law, and ‘he who sins is of the devil. ‘” Revelation 3: 5; 2: 7; 1 John 3: 8

“But Lord!” you cry out in terror and despair, “I may not have kept the whole law, but I kept some of it and I trusted in Your grace to make up the rest! You were my substitute! No one can keep the whole law— can he? At least the Christ I served did not write the law in my heart. I was

“Lord, listen to me! I trusted that it was Your Word that I was being taught in Your church! It was You who I thought was being uplifted. Lord, ‘we ate and drank’ the Lord’s supper ‘in Your presence, and You taught’ through Your ministers ‘in our streets. ‘ “Luke 13: 26

Then Jesus will sadly respond, “I’m sorry, dear stranger, that you believed what you were taught rather than the plain Word of God. I was manifested to save you from your sins. (See Matthew 1: 21) I knocked on your heart’s door for an entrance, but I was a stranger to you— you were satisfied in your carnal security. Do you expect me to excuse you, just because you called yourself a Seventh- day Adventist, when millions of people during the Dark Ages who did not have half the light you had, were lost for the same reason you are— they were taught by their priests to believe in a false christ and a false experience when they could have known the truth from the humble Waldenses who came to their homes? You had the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy and could read for yourself. You are totally without excuse. In fact, did I not straitly warn you to ‘let no one (no priest, pastor, scholar, charismatic teacher— no one) deceive you’ on this point. It is ‘he who practices righteousness (not he who merely claims to be declared righteous) [who] is righteous, just as He is righteous. ‘ (1 John 3: 7) Did not I tell you that ‘everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He (referring to Myself) is pure’? (1 John 3: 3) Now, stranger, how do you suppose that I, the Son of Man, was pure— just forensically in some book, or in character as well? I was your perfect example. You could have followed that example, for I ‘revealed no qualities, and exercised no powers, ‘ that you could not have had through faith in Me. My ‘perfect humanity’ was that which all My followers could have possessed, if they had been ‘in subjection to God as I was. ‘ The Desire of Ages, 664

“Stranger, you are doubly without excuse. In addition to the plain teaching of the Bible, I sent you special messages through Ellen White. You had The Desire of Ages in your own bookcase to introduce to you the true Christ. There I stated in simple language which you could not possibly misunderstand, that ‘In Christ, God has provided means for subduing every sinful trait, and resisting every temptation, however strong. ‘ 429

“You claim, dear stranger, that you know Me, but ‘I tell you I do not know you where you are from. Depart from me, you worker of iniquity. ‘ “Luke 13: 27

Weeping and Gnashing

The Bible says, “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Luke 13: 28. According to the servant of the Lord, this group will include many Seventh- day Adventists. In fact, the majority of Seventh- day Adventists will be found among that group of whom the Lord will say that He does not know them— they have been following a false christ: “The great proportion of those who now appear to be genuine and true will prove to be base metal.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 136

What a tragedy!  But one of the reasons for this delusion is that Satan has laid a plot, deep within the heart of Adventism, to cause as many of God’s people as he can possibly deceive to believe in a false christ. There are two Christs within the  Adventist

Church today. One Christ had Adam’s unfallen nature while upon earth and came to perfectly justify, but not to perfectly sanctify. The other Christ came in the nature of those He came to save, in our fallen, weakened nature; His mission was to both perfectly justify and to perfectly sanctify.   These are two very different Christs— and when you are dealing with the very essence of Christianity and salvation, you are dealing with far more than semantics. It is no coincidence that in Desmond Ford’s early days he emphasized and re- emphasized a particular view of the nature of Christ. Some said, “So what, it’s just semantics!” But Des Ford knew it was more than just semantics. With his keen insight into systematic theology, he knew precisely that if he could establish his point on the nature of Christ, he could establish his whole philosophy of religion within the church.

Ellen White says, “The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. . . . This is to be our study. . . . We should come to this study with the humility of a learner, with a contrite heart. And the study of the incarnation of Christ is a fruitful field, which will repay the searcher who digs deep for hidden truth.” Selected Messages, book 1,244

Yet there was a certain teaching that preceded even Desmond Ford’s teaching on the nature of Christ, for as central as that is, there is another teaching that must precede even this concept, and that is in the area of sin— what is it? What you believe sin to be will determine whether you believe Jesus to have taken Adam’s fallen nature or his unfallen nature. And what you believe Jesus’ nature to be will determine what you believe about salvation.

The Bible gives a clear definition of sin. It states “Sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3: 4, KJV. That is plain and simple. Ellen White says, “What is sin? The only definition that is given to you in the Word of God, is, ‘Sin is the transgression of the law. ‘ 1 John 3: 4. The apostle says, ‘Where no law is, there is no transgression (Romans 4: 15).” Review and Herald, June 10, 1890. “Our only definition of sin is that given in the Word of God; it is ‘the transgression of the law. ‘ “The Great Controversy, 493

However, many theologians, going as far back as Augustine in the fifth century, have not been satisfied with this simple definition of sin— it is not “theological” enough for them. And so, in conflict with what Ellen White has stated, they have tried to come up with a new definition of sin— and along with that new definition of sin has come a new Christ— a false christ.

The new definition of sin is this: Sin is not something you do in breaking the law, but it is what you are. In other words, sin is not an action of the will but a state of being— the action is only the result of the sin that is within you. Of course, there is a certain amount of truth within this, for we do sin because of the weakened nature and the deep- seated disposition toward selfishness that we inherited from fallen Adam— but the action is still the sin, and not the weakness of nature that led to the action.

If a father told his son not to let his hair grow too long, but he did so anyway, the sin would not reside in the natural tendency of the body to grow hair, but in the son not having it cut. We all have as natural tendencies toward sin and selfishness as the body has to grow hair, but the sin comes when, and only when, we yield to that tendency because we have not united our will to the will of God. This understanding is crucial.

Thus sin is, in its most basic sense, what you do and not what you are. This fact is both common sense and plain biblical teaching. Some theologians, however, have come up with a new definition that is just the opposite. To support this new and false definition of sin, they must find a pretext in the Bible. Of course, the Bible doesn’t say such a thing— it is consistent in its teaching— but by twisting one or two texts out of context, they are able to fool many people. The main text used is Romans 14: 23: “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” KJV

“So you see,” they say, “sin is a state of faithlessness, not an action of the will. Every baby is born without faith, so every baby is a sinner as soon as he is born.” The only problem is that they quote only half the text and half the sentence. The first half of the text explains the last half— and it explains it much differently than the theologians do.

You see, if whatsoever is without faith is sin, then every tree is a sinful tree, every rock is a sinful rock, and even the gates of the New Jerusalem are sinful gates, for all are without faith.

“Oh, no,” they say, “you have to understand that ‘whatsoever’ is referring to people.” But is it? Not according to the text— not at all. The first part of the text makes it plain that it is NOT referring to people. This is the reason that theologians who quote this text never quote the first part.

The whole verse says this: “But he who doubts is condemned IF he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.” Romans 14: 23. You will notice that people sin when they are without faith only IF they commit an action. It is whatever one does that is without faith that is sin. This verse accords perfectly with 1 John 3: 4, for it is only through faith that the law can be kept. Whatever one does without faith results in the breaking of the law. See 1 John 5: 3- 4

Another text some have used to try to establish this new, non- biblical definition of sin is that found in Isaiah 59: 2, which states: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God.” Thus, they say, sin is a broken relationship with God. But again they misquote the Scriptures. This scripture plainly states that it is sin that causes the broken relationship. The broken relationship is both a cause and a result of sin, not the sin itself.

It is through these false definitions of sin that many false christs have been brought into the world. Ellen White knew the importance of a proper understanding of sin, and she therefore emphasized that 1 John 3: 4 is the ONLY definition of sin that God has given us. Don’t try to make up a new one.

Yet some theologians have made up a new definition of sin and then built a new religious system of human logic upon it, and the following summary has been the result (you may find it easier to read one column at a time and then compare the two):

The new theory on the right was Desmond Ford’s doctrine precisely. He did not originate it, but he championed it within the Seventh- day Adventist Church, and it has swept throughout its precincts. Although the master teacher has been defrocked, his teaching has remained to leaven and bear fruit.

Some would presume to make these differences just matters of semantics—” Let’s have unity,” they say, “and forget these differences of theology.” Although there are sincere Adventists on both sides of the question concerning the nature of Christ, and although we should love our brethren and fellowship in prayer and study in order to solve these differences, it is not a matter of semantics. Many sincere Christians believe quite differently about which day is the day of Christian worship, but that does not make it a matter of mere semantics. True and lasting unity can come only when we are united on the basic, fundamental tenets of Christianity. When we are dealing with the deity, nature, and mission of Christ, we are dealing with the very essence of Christianity. Ellen White said: “The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. . . . This is to be our study.” Selected Messages, book 1, 244

The Historical Adventist
Concept of Christ and Sin

A New Christ Established
Upon a New Concept of Sin

1) Sin is an action of the will in transgressing the law of God, for which we are responsible because Christ has provided us power to keep the law.

1) Sin is a state of being in which we are born, not an action of the will. Sin is what we are not what we do. (Thus sin is Adam’s fault and not ours.)

2) Jesus was born with our fallen, weakened human nature, “born in the likeness of sinful flesh.” Romans 8: 3. “In assuming humanity Christ took the part of every human being. He . . . took our nature in its deteriorated condition.” Selected Messages, book 1, 252– 253. Though taking our “nature in its fallen condition, Christ did not in the least participate in its sin,” for He did not yield to its weaknesses. Ibid., 256. He gained victory by uniting our fallen nature with His divine nature, showing that man, in co- operation with God, can be an overcomer.

2) Since sin is the state of being in which were born, Jesus must have been born in a different state of being from the one we were born in, or He would have been a sinner too. (This is a new teaching in the

Adventist

Church, completely contrary to our historical teachings. But it is the only “logical” conclusion you can arrive at if you accept the above definition of sin.)

3) Through the new birth, Jesus offers us a new, spiritual nature. “Genuine faith appropriates the righteousness of Christ, . . . and the sinner is made an overcomer with Christ; for he is made a partaker of the divine nature, and thus divinity and humanity are combined.” Ibid., 364

3) Therefore, since Jesus was born in a different state of being from us, we can never hope to be like Him. (Satan has always fought against the idea that we can live a holy life.)

4) Therefore, the gospel is the good news that Jesus came down both to justify us and sanctify us. “His perfect humanity is that which alt His followers may possess, if they will be in subjection to God as He was.” The Desire of Ages, 664

4) Therefore, the gospel is the good news that we are judicially saved from sin. This g o s p e l e m b o d i e s j u s t i f i c a t i o n only— sanctification being but an unreachable ideal. (Anyone who teaches victory over all sin through the power of Christ is accused of being “works oriented.”)

5) Jesus entered a new ministry in 1844 to cleanse the sanctuary. This work involves both an investigative judgment and a cleansing of His people from sin, so that they can go through the time of trouble without a mediator and be ready for translation. (The date 1844 is thus very significant.)

5) Therefore, Jesus’ work for us is substitutionary and not exemplary, and Jesus’ work in the heavenly sanctuary must therefore be limited to that of justification only, begun in AD. 31, with no real change thereafter. (Thus the significance of 1844 is effectively destroyed.)

Christ and the Plan of Salvation

What one believes about the nature of Christ will often shape his whole concept about the plan of salvation. Upon this point nearly all theologians agree, whatever their view on the nature of Christ. Systematic theologians who believe that Christ had Adam’s unfallen nature generally believe that total victory over sin is an impossibility in this life and that to believe in such a concept is “perfectionistic.” Those who believe in “perfectionism” are derided as “legalists.” These theologians tend to believe that justification is all that is required for salvation, although they usually encourage their followers to try to overcome their major, socially unacceptable sins. Since they conclude that committing sins will not generally affect a person’s salvation, these theologians often believe in the “once- saved- always- saved” theory, or something close to it.

On the other hand, those theologians who believe that Christ took Adam’s fallen nature believe just the opposite about the plan of salvation. They generally believe that God has power to free us from every sin as He points them out in our lives. They believe that justification is our title to heaven, and that overcoming sin in no way earns our way to heaven, but nevertheless, the free gift of salvation is offered on condition of victory over sin. Victory over sin is a day- by- day, moment- by- moment process. These theologians will generally not believe in the “once- savedalways- saved” theory, for salvation is dependent upon an ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ.

These are the two major viewpoints on Christology and salvation. There is one other theory, however, that is gaining prominence in Adventism which should be briefly mentioned, and that is the theory that Jesus took Adam’s unfallen nature, but that we can still overcome every sin. This is a theory that accepts Desmond Ford’s view on the nature of Christ, but comes out with a very different conclusion. The reason we can completely overcome, they say, is that Jesus does the overcoming for us. For us to try to overcome sin would be “works.” When we have a faith relationship with Jesus we no longer have temptations to sin, only temptations to break our relationship of faith. In essence, we also receive Adam’s unfallen nature, or very close to it. This is similar to the belief of the “holy flesh” movement in

Indiana at the turn of the century. The major variation in today’s belief is that receiving this new nature must be a daily process of faith, whereas some in

Indiana believed that they permanently had a changed nature. Let us examine statements from the Bible first, and the Spirit of Prophecy second, as to what nature Christ had. This study will help determine our understanding of the Bible plan of salvation. While none of us can ever in this life or throughout eternity fully understand Christ’s deity or incarnation, we can accept by faith what the Bible says. If we refuse to accept the plain biblical account of who Jesus was, we may refuse to believe the biblical plan of salvation as well. The Gospel of Jesus Christ

The first words of Paul in the New Testament are a startling declaration of the nature of Christ: “The gospel . . . concerning. . . Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit.” Romans 1: 1- 4

Though not a popular Jewish concept, Paul boldly begins with a declaration of the humanity and the divinity of Christ. He was both the Son of man and the Son of God. As to His divine nature, there is no question among conservative Christians. The questions of Christ’s nature concern His humanity. Did He have a humanity such as you and I are born with, or was it a human nature such as Adam was created with? Paul says He was born “of the seed of David.”

The word “seed” means lineage, from which we inherit our nature. In 1 John 3: 9 the apostle John affirms that when God’s “seed,” or His divine nature, inherited through Jesus and given by the Holy Spirit, resides in us, we cannot be made to sin. We have “been born again, not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible.” 1 Peter 1: 23. Thus we have been made “partakers of the divine nature.” 2 Peter 1: 4. When we are born again, we are born of the seed of Christ according to the Spirit. Jesus was born “of the seed of David according to the flesh.”

In the New Testament, “flesh” is the seat of passion and sin. It specifically refers to our fallen, human natures that are weak and susceptible to temptation. As Paul points out, “the works of the flesh . . . are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.” Galatians 5: 19- 21. There is not one good work of the flesh listed. The works of the flesh are all bad. The works of Adam’s flesh before he fell, of course, would have been all good.

Once Adam fell, the human nature that the Bible calls “flesh” became a carnal slave of sin. There was no other human nature, for there were no unfallen human beings. Adam fell before he had his first offspring. Adam was a fallen being, not an unfallen being. The plan of redemption was for fallen Adam and his children. All the sons of Adam inherited Adam’s fallen nature— in fact, there was no other human nature to inherit. If Jesus had inherited an unfallen nature, it could not have been inherited from Adam. Paul, wanting to make sure we understand that it was Adam’s fallen nature that Jesus inherited, testifies that He was born of the seed of David. David was fallen from his very conception. David confessed, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Psalm 51: 5

Was Jesus really born of such a nature as far as his inherited human nature is concerned? There was no other human nature to inherit. It was within that nature that He overcame sin on our account. Thus Paul says: “What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh [because of our fallen natures], God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh.” Romans 8: 3

So well do all authorities agree that the word “flesh” here refers to our fallen, human nature that the New International Version felt free to translate the word flesh in this verse as such: “What the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature.” Why did Jesus come in the likeness of sinful, human nature? He did it to condemn, or overcome, sin in that nature, so “that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us” who are also born in sinful, fallen natures. “For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one. . . . Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren.. . . For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Romans 8: 4; Hebrews 2: 11, 17- 18.

Romans 8: 3 fully proves that this fallen nature was indeed the very nature that Christ took. Therefore theologians who reject this plain Bible teaching have searched for ways to discredit and distort this verse. They have found it in the word “likeness” from the Greek homoioma. They say that Paul should have used the word “sameness” if he meant the same thing, but he used only the word “likeness.”

Homoioma is the same word Paul uses in Philippians 2: 7 when he says that “[ Christ] made Himself of no reputation.., coming in the likeness of men.” Did Jesus really become a man or did He just come in the image of a man without really becoming a part of the human race? The word “likeness” here does not mean “unlikeness.” It means that Jesus was like us.

Like us (homoioma), Jesus inherited a sinful, fallen nature. Like us, He had to rely on another, spiritual and holy nature in order to overcome. Like us, He had to crucify the deeds of the flesh in order to live a holy life. Did He live a holy life within that weakened nature that He inherited? Most assuredly He did. He was “that Holy One” (Luke 1: 35), something that no human can ever say, for we have all fallen and come short of the glory of God, something Jesus never did. Jesus was holy from His very birth. From birth he had the two natures— spiritual and carnal. From birth His carnal nature was kept in subjection. Throughout His lifetime He continued to crucify the deeds of the “flesh” so that never once, even by a thought, did He yield to its clamorings. So it may be with us once we too receive the new nature, called the new birth.

Without crucifying the deeds of the flesh and receiving the new birth, none can be saved. See Romans 8: 13; John 3: 3. Jesus showed us that it can be done. By coming down in our nature and overcoming, He opened the door for every child of Adam to also overcome and inherit eternal life.

“Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” Hebrews 5: 8- 9. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4: 15- 16. “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Hebrews 2: 18

“Jesus revealed no qualities, and exercised no powers, that men may not have through faith in Him. His perfect humanity is that which all His followers may possess, if they will be in subjection to God as He was.” The Desire of Ages, 664. Because Jesus came down in our nature and overcame, we too can overcome within that same human heredity.

Since it is necessary for us to overcome though encumbered with a fallen nature, the only way Jesus could save us was by coming down in our shoes, so to speak, and overcoming as we must overcome. “The great work of redemption could be carried out only by the Redeemer taking the place of fallen Adam. . . that through His name, man might overcome the foe on his own account.

“What love! What amazing condescension! The King of glory proposed to humble himself to fallen humanity. He would place His feet in Adam’s steps. He would take man’s fallen nature.” Ellen G. White, Confrontation, 17- 18

This is the truth that Satan hates, for it is the victory of Jesus in fallen nature that frees us from his dominion. It is for this purpose that Satan has sought to undermine this great bulwark of New Testament theology. He knows that if He can make Jesus different from us, then we are still his subjects. In fact, the theologians who believe in Christ’s “pre- Fall” nature almost unilaterally agree that we are still the subjects of Satan. They laugh at the idea of being able to overcome sin. Jesus said that “whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” John 8: 34. These theologians claim that since we can never overcome sin, we must always remain the slaves of Satan. That is Satan’s purpose precisely.

Satan’s Deception

Satan’s claims are false. We can be free from sin through Christ. “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed [not just in theory].” John 8: 36. “You know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one [theologian or otherwise] deceive you. He who practices righteousness [not he who is declared righteous] is righteous, just as He is righteous.” 1 John 3: 5- 7. Evidently John foresaw that there would be a great deception and apostasy on this point, for no warning of the Bible is given without just cause. He warns us to let “no one deceive” us into thinking we are righteous while still practicing known sin. “He who sins is of the devil.” 1 John 3: 8. Not only does John indicate that there would be a great deception on this point, but he identifies the apostate power that Satan would use to champion this deception, and he tells how he would do it. The power he would use was the great antichrist power of prophecy, and the way the antichrist would deceive people into thinking they didn’t’t need to, or could not, overcome sin would be to reject and deny the fallen, human nature of Christ. Here is John’s prophetic warning:

“Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of Antichrist. . . . You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4: 2- 4

Every spirit that confesses that Jesus came in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that denies that Jesus came in the flesh is not of God. That is an absolute and clear- cut identifying mark of the spirits. Humans may be confused, but the spirits are not. Every prophet can be judged by this test. There are many false prophets who admit that Jesus came in human skin and bones, and got tired and had to eat food like other humans, but neither the devil nor any of his angels will ever acknowledge that Jesus came in fallen nature and overcame sin. This would be an admission of defeat and an acknowledgment that we can be saved. He continues to claim that we are his subjects and slaves.

Remember, the word “flesh” is a New Testament term for fallen, human nature. This is the way all New Testament writers use the term, and that is the way John uses it in 1 John: “For all that is in the world— the lust of the flesh [fallen human nature].., is not of the Father, but is of the world.” 1 John 2: 16

Peter says, “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh [fallen human nature], arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh [crucified the clamors of the fallen nature] has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” 1 Peter 4: 1- 2. Peter says we are not to live in the flesh— certainly he is not referring to our literal skin and bones. Neither is he referring to some weakened constitution that requires physical food and rest, for if that were the requirement of salvation, we would all be doomed. But this passage is referring to the same truth as Paul when he says, “in me [that is, in my flesh] nothing good dwells. . . . I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” Romans 7: 18,23. It is only by the power of the “Spirit” that we can “put to death the deeds of the body.” Romans 8: 13. Paul’s “flesh” was his weakened, selfish nature that in and of itself was powerless to overcome the clamorings of sin. This is the very “flesh” that Jesus was born with. This is the same flesh He had to crucify day by day, hour by hour. It became His nature to crucify the flesh. Thus he developed a perfect character. Thus, and thus only, could He be our Saviour.

Like Jesus, we are to crucify our fallen natures and live a new life under the direction of the Holy Spirit. This new life is signified by baptism in Romans 6.

According to 1 John 4, the great “antichrist” power, along with all the spirits of the devil, would deny the plain biblical teaching that Christ came in our flesh, that is, our nature. This power came up with what is termed the immaculate conception” that teaches that Jesus was born of an unfallen woman. This doctrine was the very Alpha of apostasy in the New Testament church that led to the formation of the beast power of Revelation. At least the beast power is logical enough to know that if Jesus was born with an unfallen nature, He had to be born of a woman with an unfallen nature. Thus it claims that Mary was sinless too. Of course, to be totally logical, Mary would need to have been born of a line of unfallen parents reaching back to Adam. But Paul affirms that Jesus did not come to “give aid to [unfallen] angels, but He does give aid to the seed of [fallen] Abraham.” Hebrews 2: 16

Thus, one of the identifying marks of the antichrist power is that it rejects the human, fleshly nature of Jesus. On the other hand, one of the tests of a true prophet is that he or she teaches that Jesus had such a nature as we have. Does Ellen White pass this test?

Indeed she does. Many Adventist theologians who have espoused this view that John warns against have eventually thrown out the Spirit of Prophecy. We cannot continue to believe the Spirit of Prophecy, if we really know what it says, and continue to hold to a “pre- Fall” theology that makes us still slaves of the devil and sin. Ellen White is too clear.

“Satan represents God’s law of love as. . . impossible for us to obey. . . . Jesus was to unveil this deception. As one of us He was to give an example of obedience. For this He took upon Himself our nature and passed through our experience. ‘In all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren. ‘ Hebrews 2: 17. If we had to bear anything which Jesus did not endure, then upon this point Satan would represent the power of God as insufficient for us.. . . He endured every trial to which we are subject. And He exercised in His own behalf no power that is not freely offered to us. As man, He met temptation, and overcame in the strength given Him from God.

His life testifies that it is possible for us also to obey the law of God. By His humanity, Christ touched humanity; by His divinity, He lays hold upon the throne of God.” The Desire of Ages, 24

Jesus united the human with the divine, and showed that the clamorings of the fallen nature are no match for the strength of the divine nature. He did not allow His character, which, like ours, was determined by thoughts and feelings, to develop any tendencies toward sin. He had a fallen nature, but one which, through much suffering, remained crucified. A rocket, which in and of itself has tendencies to gravity, loses those tendencies when the engines are fired. It then has a tendency to head upwards. Thus it was with Jesus, and thus it can be with us if we will be moment by moment connected with Christ as close as the vine is with the branch. That does not mean we will not have struggles. We will have serious struggles. But because Jesus is in our hearts, we will want to overcome these temptations, and with His power we will.

“Christ is the ladder that Jacob saw. . . . If that ladder had failed by a single step of reaching the earth, we should have been lost. But Christ reaches us where we are. He took our nature and overcame, that we through taking His nature might overcome. Made ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh’ (Romans 8: 3), He lived a sinless life.” Ibid., 311- 312 “[ Christ] took upon Himself fallen, suffering human nature, degraded and defiled by sin.” Ellen G. White, The Seventh- day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, 1147

“The nature of God, whose law had been transgressed, and the nature of Adam, the transgressor, meet in Jesus— the Son of God, and the Son of man.” Ibid., vol. 7,926. Jesus did not come down to prove that Adam, if he had had special divine help, could have kept from sinning. Rather, he came to show that we, when we have special divine help, can overcome sin.

I’ve never had a television, but I once saw a program called “What’s My Line?” where a panel of three people all claimed to be the same person— one of the three was the person he claimed to be and the other two were not. Let’s suppose the guest of the program was Jesus Christ, missionary to earth. In this case, each of the three people on the panel would claim to be the Christ and the contestants would have the task of deciphering the real from the false. At the end of the program the host would first ask the contestants to identify which person they had chosen, after which he would say: “And now, will the real Jesus Christ please stand up.” There was a moment of suspense; the true person stood up, showing who had guessed right and who had guessed wrong. The real program is called the Drama of the Ages. The contestants are you and I. The end of the program, where the real Christ stands up, is the end of the Age. And the prize is eternal life.