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Welcome to my blog, MB's Theological Thoughts. If you have a question you'd like me to answer, feel free to ask, either in a comment or an email. If it's a legitimate question, I'll do my best to answer it. Might take some thinking and some time, but again, I'll do my best.

07 May, 2010

Sanctified, Justified, or...Both?

When I mention 1888, Jones, and Waggoner, what comes to mind? For some of you, nothing comes to mind. For others, it means debate. The debate was whether or not we are to keep the Law for salvation, or whether it is the Blood of Christ that gives us salvation. Most of us today would agree that the Blood is what sets us free, but also that the Law is important. Some would say that it is just the Blood, and that nothing else matters. Others will go the other extreme and say that if you don't keep the Law--all 10 Commandments--perfectly, you will be damned. So which is it: Sanctification, Justification, or both? Before we find a definitive answer to the question, we have to note that no definitive answer can really be found in this situation. It's a matter of interpretation, exegetical or otherwise, mixed with cultural, political, and other biases. That is one thing that compels me to believe that the correct answer is both to trust that you have salvation by faith, but also that it is important to keep laws such as the Sabbath. The origin of this conflict had its roots in the young SDA Church.

The passage so many Protestant denominations used to denounce the Sabbath as dated and no longer applicable was Galatians 3:23-25. As it reads in the King James Version, "But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." They cited this "schoolmaster" to mean the Mosaic Law in its entirety, including the Ten Commandments. Early Seventh-day Adventists pushed a different interpretation, that the "schoolmaster" was actually the sacrificial system. Their emphasis was in keeping the Sabbath, which was what separated them from the "animals"--the liturgical and other organized churches, or as they called organized religion, Babylon.
Allow me to explain the likening of organized, Sunday-keeping denominations to Babylon. In the time of the Millerite movement, the Roman Catholic Church was seen as the Beast in Revelation; it was the only entity of power to fulfill the 1260-day prophecy. This was preached across the entire movement, and those that followed the message of the Millerite Movement, most notably the Seventh-day Adventists, followed this belief. This was one of the reasons that the SDA Church was not an organized denomination until they started giving out credentials in 1853: they didn't want this hierarchical structure that got in the way of the individual's relationship with God. Similarly, Babylon, the Roman Catholic Church and other organized churches, kept Sunday as Sabbath instead of the Seventh Day, Saturday. The emphasis on Sunday-worship as the Mark of the Beast caused the more legalistic interpretation of the controversial passage in Galatians. Then, around 1888, the fledgling Church received a hand with two wild cards: E. G. Waggoner and A. J. Jones. They began to preach a different interpretation of the Galatians passage, that it did in fact mean what it said. The Law was no longer something necessary to point us to Christ because Christ already came and died. He Himself said that he "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (Matthew 5:17-18, NKJV). This means that we are still under that which is not fulfilled, which means essentially the set-in-stone Commandments, at least in my interpretation. But the early Adventists didn't see it that way. They saw this interpretation of the Galatians passage as a threat to the Sabbath. The Church leaders tried to silence the message because of it, but Ellen White spoke out in favor of letting them preach.

Today, though, I often see the message Waggoner and Jones preached taken to the extreme. The "Justification Party" is the road to the Once Saved, Always Saved doctrine. This doctrine, one that Adventists reject, essentially states that works are worth nothing and that through faith and grace alone are we saved. The doctrine is wholly unbiblical, for James clearly states in his epistle, "What good is it to say that you have faith, when you don't really do anything to show that you really do have faith? Can that kind of faith save you?" (Contemporary English Version). It is true that we should show that we have faith in God. We should follow Christ's example, and doesn't that include following the Law, particularly the Ten Commandments? Many people use Galatians 3:24, 25 to throw out the Fourth Commandment, but I think that it just reinforces our need to keep the Law. Jesus kept it, so why shouldn't we? I don't believe we're sealed forever once we accept God. It's something that the Once Saved, Always Saved doctrine hasn't ever explained: what if you decide that you don't want to be a part of God's kingdom after all? And also, if Salvation is by grace alone, why are some saved and others lost? It gets very dicey, and blooms into skunk cabbage like Predestination, which undermines the very nature of God.

Wrapping everything up, I can see that it's plain that salvation is primarily by faith and grace, stemming from Christ's sacrifice on the cross. But along with that, we need to keep the Law. The analogy I've used for years is that salvation is a gift. Jesus, in His death, gave it to everybody. Some of us choose to accept it, but some of us toss it on a dresser and forget about it. There is always an opportunity to open it, but for one to really want to open it, one must first know the Man who gave it to them. In order to do that, one has to align oneself with His teachings, ideals, and Law. For us to understand Him, and understand His gift, we have to understand His position. It's as simple as that. The Law is there for our benefit, not our detriment. And while we cannot as humans keep it perfectly, we do know that the love and blood of Christ blots out "a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8). And that, my friends, is the reason we can rejoice.

Your Brother in Christ,

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