Chapter 10: THE EXPERIENCE
Seventh-day Adventists Believe...
In infinite love and mercy God made Christ, who knew no
sin, to be sin for us, so that in Him we might be made the
righteousness of God. Led by the Holy Spirit we sense our
need, acknowledge our sinfulness, repent of our
transgressions, and exercise faith in Jesus as Lord and
Christ, as Substitute and Example. This faith which receives
salvation comes through the divine power of the Word and is
the gift of God's grace. Through Christ we are justified,
adopted as God's sons and daughters, and delivered from the
lordship of sin. Through the Spirit we are born again and
sanctified; the Spirit renews our minds, writes God's law of
love in our hearts, and we are given the power to live a
holy life. Abiding in Him we become partakers of the divine
nature and have the assurance of salvation now and in the
THE EXPERIENCE OF SALVATION
Centuries ago, the Shepherd of Hermas dreamed of a
wrinkled old lady who had lived long. In his dream, as time
passed, she began to change: while her body was still old
and her hair white, her face looked younger. Eventually, she
was restored to her youth.
T.F. Torrance likened the woman to the church.(*1)
Christians cannot be static. If the Spirit of Christ reigns
within (Rom. 8:9) they are in the process of change.
Paul said, "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up
for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by
the washing of water with the word, that he might present
the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle
or any such thing, that she might be holy and without
blemish" (Eph. 5:25-27, RSV). Such a cleansing is the goal
of the church. Hence, the believers comprising the church
can testify that "though our outer nature is wasting away,
our inner nature is being renewed every day" (2 Cor. 4:16,
RSV). "We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror
the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same
image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the
Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18). This transformation is the ultimate
Throughout Scripture the descriptions of the believer's
experience--salvation, justification, sanctification,
purification, and redemption--are spoken of as (1) already
accomplished, (2) presently being realized, and (3) to be
realized in the future. An understanding of these three
perspectives helps to solve the seeming tensions in emphasis
relative to justification and sanctification. This chapter,
therefore, is divided into three major sections, dealing
with salvation in the believer's past, present, and future.
The Experience of Salvation and the Past
A factual knowledge about God and His love and
benevolence is insufficient. Trying, apart from Christ, to
develop the good in oneself is counterproductive. The
experience of salvation that reaches deep into the soul
comes from God alone. Speaking of this experience, Christ
said, "`Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom
of God....Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, He
cannot enter the kingdom of God'" (John 3:3,5).
Only through Jesus Christ can one experience salvation,
"`for there is no other name under heaven given among men by
which we must be saved'" (Acts 4:12). Jesus said, "`I am the
way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father
except through Me'" (John 14:6).
The experience of salvation involves repentance,
confession, forgiveness, justification, and sanctification.
Not long before His crucifixion, Jesus promised His
disciples the Holy Spirit, who would reveal Him by
convicting "`the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of
judgment'" (John 16:8). When at Pentecost the Holy Spirit
did convict the people of their need of a Saviour, and they
asked how they should respond, Peter replied, "Repent!"
(Acts 2:37,38; cf. 3:19).
1. What is repentance?
The word repentance is a translation of the Hebrew
nacham, "to be sorry," "to repent." The Greek equivalent,
metanoeo, means "to change one's mind," "to feel remorse,"
"to repent." Genuine repentance results in a radical change
in attitude toward God and sin. God's Spirit convicts those
who receive Him of the seriousness of sin by bringing them
to a sense of God's righteousness and of their own lost
condition. They experience sorrow and guilt. Recognizing the
truth that "he who covers his sins will not prosper, but
whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy" (Prov.
28:13), they confess specific sins. Through the decided
exercise of their wills, they surrender totally to the
Saviour and renounce their sinful behavior. Thus repentance
reaches its climax in conversion--a turning of the sinner
toward God (from the Greek epistrophe, "a turning toward,"
cf. Acts 15:3).(*2)
David's repentance of his sins of adultery and murder
vividly exemplifies how this experience prepares the way for
victory over sin. Convicted by the Spirit, he despised and
mourned his sin and pleaded for purity: "I acknowledge my
transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You,
You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight."
"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your
lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender
mercies, blot out my transgressions." "Create in me a clean
heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Ps.
51:l,3,10). David's subsequent experience domonstrates that
God's pardon not only provides forgiveness for sin but it
reclaims them from sin.
Although repentance precedes forgiveness, the sinner
cannot, by repentance, fit himself to secure the blessing of
God. In fact, the sinner cannot even produce from within
himself repentance--it is the gift of God (Acts 5:31; cf.
Rom. 2:4). The Holy Spirit draws the sinner to Christ in
order that he may find repentance, this heartfelt sorrow for
2. Motivation for repentance.
Christ said: "`And I, if I am lifted up from the earth,
will draw all peoples to Myself'" (John 12:32). The heart is
melted and subdued when we sense that Christ's death
justifies us and delivers us from the penalty of death.
Imagine the feelings of the prisoner in death row awaiting
execution when suddenly a pardon is handed him.
In Christ the repentant sinner is not only pardoned but
acquitted--declared righteous! He does not deserve and
cannot earn such treatment. As Paul points out, Christ died
for our justification while we were weak, sinful, ungodly,
and enemies of God (Rom. 5:6-10). Nothing so touches the
depths of the soul as a sense of Christ's pardoning love.
When sinners contemplate this unfathomable divine love,
displayed on the cross, they receive the most powerful
motivation possible to repent. This is the goodness of God
that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4).
In His infinite love and mercy God made Christ "who knew
no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the
righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). Through faith in
Jesus, the heart is filled by His Spirit. Through this same
faith, which is a gift of God's grace (Rom. 12:3; Eph. 2:8),
repentant sinners are justified (Rom. 3:28).
The term "justification" is a translation of the Greek
dikaioma, meaning "righteous requirement, deed,"
"regulation," "judicial sentence," "act of righteousness,"
and dikaiosis signifying, "justification," "vindication,"
"acquittal." The related verb dikaioo, meaning "be
pronounced and treated as righteous," "be acquitted," "be
justified," "be set free, made pure," "justify,"
"vindicate," "do justice," gives additional insights into
the term's meaning.(*3)
In general, justification, as used theologically, is "the
divine act by which God declares a penitent sinner
righteous, or regards him as righteous. Justification is the
opposite of condemnation (Rom. 5:16)."(*4) The basis for
this justification is, not our obedience, but Christ's, for
"through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all
men, resulting in justification of life....By one Man's
obedience many will be made righteous" (Rom. 5:18,19). He
gives this obedience to those believers who are "justified
freely by His grace" (Rom. 3:24). "Not by works of
righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy
He saved us" (Titus 3:5).
1. The role of faith and works.
Many wrongly believe that their standing before God
depends on their good or bad deeds. Addressing the question
of how persons are justified before God, Paul unequivocally
stated that he "suffered the loss of all things,...that I
may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own
righteousness,...but that which is through faith in Christ,
the righteousness which is from God by faith" (Phil. 3:8,9).
He pointed to Abraham, who "believed God, and it was
accounted [credited, NIV] to him for righteousness" (Rom.
4:3; Gen. 15:6). He was justified before he underwent
circumcision, not on account of it (Rom. 4:9,10).
What kind of faith did Abraham have? The Scriptures
reveal that "by faith Abraham obeyed" when God called him,
leaving his homeland and traveling "not knowing where he was
going" (Heb. 11:8-10; cf. Gen. 12:4; 13:18). That he had a
genuine, living faith in God was demonstrated by his
obedience. It was on the basis of this dynamic faith that he
The apostle James warned about another incorrect
understanding of justification by faith: that one can be
justified by faith without manifesting corresponding works.
He showed that genuine faith cannot exist without works.
Like Paul, James illustrated his point from Abraham's
experience. Abraham's offering of Isaac his son (James 2:21)
demonstrated his faith. "Do you see," James asked, "that
faith was working together with his works, and by works
faith was made perfect?" (James 2:22). "Faith by itself, if
it does not have works, is dead" (James 2:17).
Abraham's experience revealed that works are the evidence
of a true relationship with God. The faith that leads to
justification is, therefore, a living faith that works
Paul and James agreed on justification by faith. While
Paul addressed the fallacy of obtaining justification
through works, James dealt with the equally dangerous
concept of claiming justification without corresponding
works. Neither works nor a dead faith lead to justification.
It can be realized only by a genuine faith that works by
love (Gal. 5:6) and purifies the soul.
2. The experience of justification.
Through justification by faith in Christ, His
righteousness is imputed to us. We are right with God
because of Christ our Substitute. God, Paul said, "made Him
who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the
righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). As repentant
sinners, we experience full and complete pardon. We are
reconciled to God!
Zechariah's vision about Joshua the high priest
beautifully illustrates justification. Joshua stands before
the angel of the Lord clothed in filthy garments, which
represent sin's defilement. As he stands there, Satan calls
for his condemnation. Satan's accusations are
correct--Joshua does not deserve acquittal. But God, in
divine mercy, rebukes Satan: "`Is this not a brand plucked
from the fire?'" (Zech. 3:2). Is this not my precious one
whom I am preserving in a special way?
The Lord orders the soiled attire to be removed speedily
and declares: "`See, I have removed your iniquity from you,
and I will clothe you with rich robes'" (Zech. 3:4). Our
loving, all-merciful God sweeps Satan's charges aside,
justifying the trembling sinner, covering him with robes of
Christ's righteousness. As Joshua's dirty robes represented
sin, so the new robe represented the believer's new
experience in Christ. In the process of justification,
confessed and forgiven sin is transferred to the pure and
holy Son of God, the sin-bearing Lamb. "The undeserving
repentant believer, however, is dressed with the imputed
righteousness of Christ. This exchange of clothes, this
divine, saving transaction, is the Biblical doctrine of
justification."(*5) The justified believer has experienced
forgiveness and been purified of his sins.
What are the results of repentance and justification?
The word "sanctification" is a translation of the Greek
hagiasmos, meaning "holiness," "consecration,"
"sanctification," from hagiazo, "to make holy," "to
consecrate," "to sanctify," "to set apart." The Hebrew
equivalent is qadash, "to separate from common use."(*6)
True repentance and justification lead to sanctification.
Justification and sanctification are closely related,(*7)
distinct but never separate. They designate two phases of
salvation: Justification is what God does for us, while
sanctification is what God does in us.
Neither justification nor sanctification is the result of
meritorious works. Both are soley due to Christ's grace and
righteousness. "The righteousness by which we are justified
is imputed; the righteousness by which we are sanctified is
imparted. The first is our title to heaven, the second is
our fitness for heaven."(*8)
The three phases of sanctification the Bible presents
are: (1) an accomplished act in the believer's past; (2) a
process in the believer's present experience; (3) and the
final result that the believer experiences at Christ's
As to the believer's past, at the moment of justification
the believer is also sanctified "in the name of the Lord
Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11). He or she
becomes a "saint." At that point the new believer is
redeemed, and belongs fully to God.
As a result of God's call (Rom. 1:7), believers are
called "saints" for they are "in Christ" (Phil. 1:1; see
also John 15:1-7), not because they have achieved a state of
sinlessness. Salvation is a present experience. "His mercy,"
Paul said, has "saved us, through the washing of
regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5),
setting us apart and consecrating us to a holy purpose and
walk with Christ.
2. Adopting into God's family.
At the same time new believers have received the "Spirit
of adoption." God has adopted them as His children, which
means that believers are sons and daughters of the King! He
has made them His heirs, "joint heirs of Christ"
(Rom. 8:15-17). What a privilege, honor, and joy!
3. Assurance of salvation.
Justification brings also the assurance of the believer's
acceptance. It brings the joy of being reunited with God
now. No matter how sinful one's past life, God pardons all
sins and we are no longer under the condemnation and curse
of the law. Redemption has become a reality: "In Him we have
redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins,
according to the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:7).
4. The beginning of a new and victorious life.
The realization that the Saviour's blood covers our
sinful past brings healing to body, soul, and mind. Feelings
of guilt may be dispensed with, for in Christ all is
forgiven, all is new. By daily bestowing His grace, Christ
begins transforming us into the image of God.
As our faith in Him grows, our healing and transformation
progress, and He gives us increasing victories over the
powers of darkness. His overcoming of the world guarantees
our deliverance from the slavery of sin (John 16:33).
5. The gift of eternal life.
Our new relationship with Christ brings with it the gift
of eternal life. John affirmed, "He who has the Son has
life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have
life" (1 John 5:12). Our sinful past has been cared for;
through the indwelling Spirit we can enjoy the blessings of
The Experience of Salvation and the Present
Through Christ's blood bringing purification,
justification, and sanctification, the believer is "a new
creation; the old things have passed away; behold, all
things have become new" (2 Cor. 5:17).
A Call to a Life of Sanctification
Salvation includes living a sanctified life on the basis
of what Christ accomplished at Calvary. Paul appealed to
believers to live a life consecrated to ethical holiness and
moral conduct (1 Thess. 4:7). To enable them to experience
sanctification, God gives believers the "Spirit of holiness"
(Rom. 1:4). "According to the riches of his glory," Paul
said, God "may grant you to be strengthened with might
through His Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may
dwell in your hearts through faith" (Eph. 3:16,17, RSV).
As a new creation, believers have new responsibilities.
"Just as you presented your members as slaves of
uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more
lawlessness," Paul said, "so now present your members as
slaves of righteousness for holiness" (Rom. 6:19). Now they
are to live "in the Spirit" (Gal. 5:25).
Spirit-filled believers "do not walk according to the
flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 8:1, cf. 8:4).
They are transformed, since "to be carnally minded is death,
but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Rom. 8:6).
Through the indwelling of the Spirit of God they "are not in
the flesh but in the Spirit" (Rom. 8:9).
The highest goal of the Spirit-filled life is to please
God (1 Thess. 4:1). Sanctification is God's will, Paul said.
Therefore "you should abstain from sexual immorality" and
"no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in
this matter....For God did not call us to uncleanness, but
in holiness" (1 Thess. 4:3,6,7).
The Internal Change
At the Second Advent we will be changed physically. This
corruptible mortal body will put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:
51-54). However, our characters must undergo transformation
in preparation for the Second Advent.
Character transformation involves the mental and
spiritual aspects of the image of God, that "inner nature"
that is to be renewed daily (2 Cor. 4:16, RSV; cf. Rom.
12:2). Thus, like the old lady in the Shepherd of Hermas
story, the church is growing younger within--each fully
surrendered Christian is being changed from glory to glory,
until, at the Second Advent, his or her transformation into
the image of God will be completed.
1. The involvement of Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Only the Creator can accomplish the creative work of
transforming our lives (1 Thess. 5:23). However, He does not
do so without our participation. We must place ourselves in
the channel of the Spirit's working, which we can do by
beholding Christ. As we meditate on Christ's life, the Holy
Spirit restores the physical, mental, and spiritual
faculties (cf. Titus 3:5). The Holy Spirit's work involves
revealing Christ and restoring us into Christ's image
(cf. Rom. 8:1-10).
God desires to live within His people. It was because He
had promised "I will dwell in them" (2 Cor. 6:16; cf. 1 John
3:24; 4:12) that Paul could say: "Christ lives in me" (Gal.
2:20; cf. John 14:23). The Creator's indwelling daily
revives the believers inwardly (2 Cor. 4:16), renewing their
minds (Rom. 12:2; see also Phil. 2:5).
2. Partaking of the divine nature.
Christ's "exceeding great and precious promises" pledge
His divine power to complete the transformation of our
characters (2 Peter 1:4). This access to divine power allows
us diligently to "add to your faith virtue, to virtue
knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control
perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness
brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love" (2 Peter
1:5-7). "If these things be in you, and abound," Peter says,
"they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor
unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he
that lacketh these things is blind" (2 Peter 1:8,9, KJV).
a. Only through Christ.
What transforms humans into the image of their Creator is
the putting on or partaking of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom.
13:14; Heb. 3:14), the "renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus
3:5). It is the perfecting of God's love in us (1 John
4:12). Here is a mystery akin to that of the incarnation of
the Son of God. As the Holy Spirit enabled the divine Christ
to partake of human nature, so that Spirit enables us to
partake of the divine character traits. This appropriation
of the divine nature renews the inner person, making us
Christlike, though on a different level: Whereas Christ
became human, believers do not become divine. Rather, they
become Godlike in character.
b. A dynamic process.
Sanctification is progressive. By prayer and study of the
Word we constantly grow in fellowship with God.
A mere intellectual understanding of the plan of
salvation will not suffice. "`Unless you eat the flesh of
the Son of Man and drink His blood,'" Christ revealed, "`you
have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My
blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last
day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink
indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in
Me, and I in him'" (John 6:53-56).
His imagery vividly conveys that believers are to
assimilate Christ's words. Jesus said, "`The words that I
speak to you are spirit, and they are life'" (John 6:63; see
also Matt. 4:4).
Character is composed of what the mind "eats and drinks."
When we digest the bread of life, we become transformed into
the likeness of Christ.
3. The two transformations.
In 1517, the same year in which Luther nailed his 95
theses to the castle-church door in Wittenberg, Germany,
Rafael began painting his famous Transfiguration picture in
Rome. These two events had something in common. Luther's act
marked the birth of Protestantism, and Rafael's painting,
albeit unintentionally, epitomized the spirit of the
The painting shows Christ standing on the mountain with
the demoniac looking hopefully to Him from the valley (cf.
Mark 9:2-29). The two groups of disciples--one on the
mountain, the other in the valley--depict two types of
The disciples on the mountain wanted to remain with
Christ, seemingly unconcerned about the needs in the valley
below. Through the centuries many have built on "mountains"
far removed from the needs of the world. Their experience is
prayer without works.
On the other hand, the disciples in the valley worked
without prayer--and their efforts to cast out the demon were
unsuccessful. Multitudes have been imprisoned either in the
trap of working for others without power or in that of
praying much without working for others. Both of these kinds
of Christian need to have the image of God restored in them.
a. The true transformation.
God hopes to change fallen beings into His image by
transforming their wills, minds, desires, and characters.
The Holy Spirit brings to believers a decided change of
outlook. His fruits, "Love, joy, peace, longsuffering,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control"
(Gal. 5:22,23), now constitute their lifestyle--even though
they remain corruptible mortals till Christ's return.
If we do not resist Him, Christ "will so identify Himself
with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds
into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall
be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and
sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His
b. The two destinations.
Christ's transfiguration reveals another striking
contrast. Christ was transfigured, but, in a sense, so was
the boy in the valley. The boy was transfigured into a
demonic image (see Mark 9:1-29). Here we see illuminated two
contrasting plans--God's plan to restore us and Satan's to
ruin us. Scripture says God is able to keep us "from
falling" (Jude 24, KJV). Satan, on the other hand, does his
utmost to keep us in a fallen state.
Life involves constant change. There is no neutral
ground. We are either being ennobled or degraded. We are
either "slaves of sin" or "slaves of righteousness" (Rom.
6:17,18). Whoever occupies our minds occupies us. If,
through the Holy Spirit, Christ occupies our minds, we will
become Christlike people--a Spirit-filled life brings "every
thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor.
10:5). But to be without Christ cuts us off from the source
of life and change and makes our ultimate destruction
The Perfection of Christ
What is Biblical perfection? How can it be received?
1. Biblical perfection.
The words "perfect" and "perfection" are translations of
the Hebrew tam or tamim, which mean "complete," "right,"
"peaceful," "sound," "wholesome," or "blameless." Generally
the Greek teleios means "complete," "perfect," "full-grown,"
"mature," "fully developed," and "having attained its
In the Old Testament, when used of humans, the word has a
relative sense. Noah, Abraham, and Job were each described
as perfect or blameless (Gen. 6:9; 17:1; 22:18: Job 1:1,18),
though each had imperfections (Gen. 9:21; 20; Job 40:2-5).
In the New Testament perfect often describes mature
persons who have lived up to the best available light and
attained the potential of their spiritual, mental, and
physical powers (cf. 1 Cor. 14:20; Phil. 3:15; Heb. 5:14).
Believers are to be perfect in their finite sphere, Christ
said, as God is perfect in His infinite and absolute sphere
(cf. Matt. 5:48). In God's sight, a perfect person is one
whose heart and life are wholly surrendered to the worship
and service of God, who is constantly growing in divine
knowledge, and who is, through God's grace, living up to all
the light he has received while rejoicing in a life of
victory (cf. Col. 4:12; James 3:2).
2. Full perfection in Christ.
How may we become perfect? The Holy Spirit brings to us
the perfection of Christ. By faith Christ's perfect
character becomes ours. People can never claim that
perfection independently, as if it were their innate
possession, or theirs by right. Perfection is a gift of God.
Apart from Christ human beings cannot obtain
righteousness. "`He who abides in Me, and I in him,'" He
said, "`bears much fruit; for without Me you can do
nothing'" (John 15:5). It is Christ "who became for us
wisdom from God--and righteousness and sanctification and
redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30).
In Christ these qualities constitute our perfection. He
completed, once for all, our sanctification and redemption.
No one can add to what He has done. Our wedding garment, or
robe of righteousness, was wrought out by Christ's life,
death, and resurrection. The Holy Spirit now takes the
finished product and works it out in the Christian's life.
In this way we can "be filled with all the fullness of God"
3. Move on to perfection.
What role do we, as believers, play in all of this?
Through the indwelling Christ we grow up to spiritual
maturity. Through God's gifts to His church we can develop
"to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the
fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). We need to grow beyond our
spiritual childhood experience (Eph. 4:14), beyond the basic
truths of Christian experience, moving on to the "solid
food" prepared for mature believers (Heb. 5:14).
"Therefore," Paul said, "leaving the discussion of the
elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection"
(Heb. 6:1). "This is my prayer," he said, "that your love
may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,
so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be
pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the
fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to
the glory and praise of God" (Phil. 1:9-11, NIV).
The sanctified life is not a life without severe
difficulties and obstacles. Paul admonished believers to
"work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." But
he added the encouraging words, "For it is God who works in
you both to will and to do for His good pleasure"
"Exhort one another daily," he said, "lest any of you be
hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have
become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our
confidence steadfast to the end" (Heb. 3:13,14; cf.
But, Scripture warns, "If we deliberately keep on sinning
after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no
sacrifice for sin is left, but only a fearful expectation of
judgment" (Heb. 10:26,27, NIV).
These exhortations make it evident that Christians "need
more than a purely legal justification or sanctification.
They need holiness of character even though salvation is
always by faith. The title to heaven rests on the
righteousness of Christ only. In addition to justification,
God's plan of salvation provides through this title a
fitness for heaven by the indwelling Christ. This fitness
must be revealed in man's moral character as evidence that
salvation `has happened.'" (*11)
What does this mean in human terms? Continual prayer is
indispensable for living a sanctified life that is perfect
at every stage of its development. "For this reason we...do
not cease to pray for you,...that you may have a walk worthy
of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every
good work and increasing in the knowledge of God"
All believers who are living the Spirit-filled sanctified
life (Christ-possessed) have a continuing need for daily
justification (Christ-be-stowed). We need this because of
conscious transgressions and because of errors we may commit
unwillingly. Realizing the sinfulness of the human heart,
David requested forgiveness for his "hidden faults" (Ps.
19:12, RSV; cf. Jer. 17:9). Speaking specifically of the
sins of believers, God assures us that "if anyone sins, we
have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the
righteous" (1 John 2:1).
The Experience of Salvation and the Future
Our salvation is finally and fully accomplished when we
are either glorified in the resurrection or translated to
heaven. Through glorification God shares with the redeemed
His own radiant glory. This is the hope that all of us, as
God's children, anticipate. Said Paul, "And we rejoice in
our hope of sharing the glory of God" (Rom. 5:2, RSV).
It is fulfilled at the Second Advent when Christ appears
"to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him"
(Heb. 9:28, NIV).
Glorification and Sanctification
The indwelling of Christ in our hearts is one of the
conditions for future salvation--the glorification of our
mortal bodies. "Christ in you," Paul said, is "the hope of
glory" (Col. 1:27), explaining in another place, "If the
Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to
your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you"
(Rom. 8:11). Paul assures us, God "chose you for salvation
through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the
truth...for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus
Christ" (2 Thess. 2:13,14).
In Him, we are already in the throne room of heaven (Col.
3:1-4). Those who are "partakers of the Holy Spirit" have in
actuality tasted "the powers of the age to come" (Heb.
6:4,5). By contemplating the Lord's glory and fixing our
eyes on the attractive loveliness of Christ's character, we
"are being transformed into his likeness with
ever-increasing glory" (2 Cor. 3:18, NIV)--we are being
prepared for the transformation we will experience at the
Our final redemption and adoption as a child of God takes
place in the future. Paul says, "The creation eagerly waits
for the revealing of the sons of God," adding that "even we
ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the
adoption, the redemption of our body" (Rom. 8:19,23; cf.
This climactic event takes place at "the times of
restoration of all things" (Acts 3:21). Christ calls it
"`the regeneration'" (Matt. 19:28; "renewal of all things,"
NIV). Then "the creation itself also will be delivered from
the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the
children of God" (Rom. 8:21).
The scriptural view that in one sense adoption and
redemption--or salvation--have "already" been accomplished
and that in another sense they have not yet been
accomplished has confused some. A study of the full scope of
Christ's work as Saviour provides the answer. "Paul related
our present salvation to the first coming of Christ. In the
historic cross, resurrection, and heavenly ministry of
Christ our justification and sanctification are secured once
and for all. Our future salvation, the glorification of our
bodies, Paul related, however, to the second coming of
"For this reason Paul can say simultaneously: `We are
saved,' in view of the cross and resurrection of Christ in
the past; and `we are not yet saved,' in view of the future
return of Christ to redeem our bodies."(*12)
To emphasize our present salvation to the exclusion of
our future salvation creates an incorrect, unfortunate
understanding of Christ's complete salvation.
Glorification and Perfection
Some incorrectly believe that the ultimate perfection
that glorification will bring is already available to
humans. But of himself, Paul, that dedicated man of God,
wrote near the end of his life, "Not that I have already
attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I
may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid
hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have
apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things
which are behind and reaching forward to those things which
are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the
upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:12-14).
Sanctification is a lifelong process. Perfection now is
ours only in Christ, but the ultimate, all-comprehensive
transformation of our lives into the image of God will take
place at the Second Advent. Paul cautions: "Let him who
thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12). The
history of Israel and the lives of David, Solomon, and Peter
are serious warnings for all. "As long as life shall last,
there is need of guarding the affections and the passions
with a firm purpose. There is inward corruption, there are
outward temptations, and wherever the work of God shall be
advanced, Satan plans so to arrange circumstances that
temptation shall come with overpowering force upon the soul.
Not one moment can we be secure only as we are relying upon
God, the life hid with Christ in God."(*13)
Our final creative transformation is accomplished when
incorruptibility and immortality become ours, when the Holy
Spirit completely restores the original creation.
The Ground of Our Acceptance With God
Neither Christlike character traits nor faultless
behavior is the ground of our acceptance with God. Saving
righteousness comes from the one righteous Man, Jesus, and
is conveyed to us by the Holy Spirit. We can contribute
nothing to Christ's gift of righteousness; we can only
receive it. No one other than Christ is righteous (Rom.
3:10); independent human righteousness is only filthy rags
(Isa. 64:6; see also Dan. 9:7,11,20; 1 Cor. 1:30).(*14)
Even what we do in response to Christ's saving love
cannot form the basis of our acceptance with God. That
acceptance is identified with the work of Christ. In
bringing Christ to us, the Holy Spirit brings that
Is our acceptance based on Christ's justifying
righteousness or His sanctifying righteousness or both? John
Calvin pointed out that as "Christ cannot be divided into
parts, so the two things, justification and sanctification,
which we perceive to be united together in him, are
inseparable."(*15) Christ's ministry has to be seen in its
totality. This makes it paramount to avoid speculation about
these two terms by "trying to define minutely the fine
points of distinction between justification and
sanctification....Why try to be more minute than is
Inspiration on the vital questions of righteousness by
Just as the sun has light and heat--inseparable, yet with
unique functions--so Christ has become to us righteousness
as well as sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30). Not only are we
fully justified but also fully sanctified in Him.
The Holy Spirit brings the "It is finished" of Calvary
within, applying the only experience of God's acceptance of
humanity to us. This "It is finished" of the cross calls in
question all other human attempts to gain acceptance. In
bringing the Crucified within, the Spirit brings the only
ground of our acceptance with God, providing the only
genuine title to and fitness for salvation available to us.
1. T.F. Torrance, Royal Priesthood, Scottish Journal of
Theology Occasional Papers, No. 3 (Edinburgh: Oliver and
Boyd, l963), p. 48.
2. See "Conversion" and "Repent, Repentance," SDA Bible
Dictionary, rev. ed., pp. 235, 933.
3. W.E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of the New Testament
Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, l966), pp. 284-86;
William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek English
Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian
Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, l973),
4. "Justification," SDA Bible Dictionary, rev. ed., p. 635.
5. LaRondelle, p. 47.
6. "Sanctification," SDA Bible Dictionary, rev. ed., p.
8. White, Messages to Young People (Nashville, TN: Southern
Publishing Assn., 1930), p. 35.
9. White, Desire of Ages, p. 668.
10."Perfect, Perfection," SDA Bible Dictionary, rev. ed.,
ll.LaRondelle, p. 77.
12.Ibid., p. 89.
13.White in SDA Bible Commentary, rev. ed., vol. 2, p.
14.Commenting on Christ, our High Priest, White said, "The
religious services, the prayers, the praise, the penitent
confession of sin ascend from true believers as incense to
the heavenly sanctuary, but passing through the corrupt
channels of humanity, they are so defiled that unless
purified by blood, they can never be of value with God. They
ascend not in spotless purity, and unless the Intercessor,
who is at God's right hand, presents and purifies all by His
righteousness, it is not acceptable of God. All incense from
earthly tabernacles must be moist with the cleansing drops
of the blood of Christ" (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 344).
15.J. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Grand
Rapids: Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc. n.d.),
III, 11, 6.
16.White in SDA Bible Commentary, rev. ed., vol. 6, p.