A missionary driving a truck, came across some nationals carrying heavy baskets of wares on their heads. He stopped to pick them up. After several minutes he looked back to see how they were doing and discovered to his surprise that they still had the baskets balancing on their heads. Halting in the middle of the road, he turned and asked, “Why don’t you put those heavy baskets down and rest while you ride?”
“Oh, no!” they replied. “You’ve done enough. The least we can do is to carry our own burdens.”
Unfortunately, many of us have carried our own burdens as if our salvation depended upon our own personal activity. We have been reluctant to state with conviction that we are saved.
But why can’t we claim to be saved? Seventh-day Adventists usually reply that Ellen White has warned against it. “Those who accept the Savior, however sincere their conversion, should never be taught to say or to feel that they are saved. This is misleading. Everyone should be taught to cherish hope and faith; but even when we give ourselves to Christ and know that He accepts us, we are not beyond the reach of temptation” (COL155). And so we feel that insecurity has some kind of virtue, as if claiming to be saved, accepted by Jesus Christ, would be presumptuous.
We should note that at the time Ellen White wrote the previous statement she was not alluding to any virtue in insecurity but was speaking to individuals who believed that once they were saved, it was forever permanent, and nothing could change it. It was a false security. Thus she wrote, “When we give ourselves to Christ and know that he accepts us, we are not beyond the reach of temptation.” Thus when someone declares, “I am saved,” within that frame of reference, he is wrong.
Yet in one way we can positively say that we are saved, and Ellen White never intended to obviate that security. She stated, “We should not make self the center, and indulge anxiety and fear as to whether we shall be saved” (SC 72). “It is not the will of our heavenly Father that we should ever be under condemnation and darkness” (GC 477). “Even his physical health improves by the realization of his security in Christ” (CH 28,29).
She herself claimed such security; “I have no assurance that my life will last long, but I feel I am accepted of the Lord” (FE 548). The apostle Paul makes the same positive declaration in 2 Timothy 4:6–8; “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.”
We, too, should know that we are saved. John wrote in 1 John 5:13, “these things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life.” The same view appears in the following statement: “We should know that we are enjoying the favor of God, that He smiles upon us, and that we are His children indeed, and in a position where He can commune with us, and we with Him” (RH March 29, 1870).
To some Seven-day Adventists such assurance may sound highly dangerous, but many others will find it a welcome relief. But can we find a basis for such conviction in God’s revelation? If we want to find out what salvation is all about, the logical place to begin is at the cross.
Why did God have to go to such lengths to save man? Couldn’t He have done it some simpler way? Someone has said that the Lord has moved heaven and earth to save us. It is a wonderful thought, but what does that actually mean?
First, God had a moral responsibility for the human race. Sin began in heaven when the beings there misunderstood their creator. Lucifer called into question God’s purpose in Creation and claimed that His motives were not pure. He asserted that God’s desire to secure the angels’ allegiance through love was all a front, that no one would serve God simply because of His character. Satan claimed that God must bribe, must threaten. He argued that God’s character had nothing inherent in it that would lead to successful universal government. Could anyone serve the Lord just because He was a God of love? The universe stood in doubt because Satan challenged, “Everyone would turn against You if they weren’t afraid of You.”
At that crucial time God created our earth. Man, not having witnessed what had gone on in heaven, appeared on the stage of action.. He was not biased. God and Satan would woo him.
Ellen White tells us that “we were brought into existence because we were needed” (ST, April 22, 1903). The universe studied the situation. Could God secure their allegiance? How would Satan react? Who was right? What really were the basic principals of government by which the universe should operate? And so, in the sense that God needed a vehicle for the revelation of His love, man finds his significance. But we discover that humanity, instead of becoming a part of the answer to God’s problem, soon became a part of the dilemma. Now what would God do? He had both a perplexed heaven and an insurrection on earth to contend with. But man had not sinned in the full light of the revelation of God’s love as had Lucifer (DA 761, 762). Man still had a chance. Humanity yet had hope that after they saw a fuller revelation of God’s love, He could help them.
That being the case, and considering the fact that God had asked man to assist Him in solving His problem, how would it looked if God refused to help man with his? And so to the question, “Why did God go to such lengths to save man?” the first answer we must give is that God must exercise mercy. His character is at stake. What he does with the creatures he brought into existence to reveal His love, and who now turn against Him, will ultimately reflect the nature of His character.
Second, God had a moral responsibility for government. The Lord can’t excuse man, can’t hide his face from sin. Sin contains within itself the seeds of it’s own destruction. It is not just something that we do but something that we are. Sinful beings exist in a state of rebellion against God, a condition of selfishness. For God to blink at it would be to deny reality, to tell a lie. It would be like saying, “You can sin and live happily ever after.” Since God cannot excuse sin, the sinner must bear the consequences of his choice. At the same time, God cannot change His law because that law reflects His character. It runs throughout the fabric of the universe and represents a restatement of reality. God is not arbitrary. No other way exists as long as God is God and the universe is of the order He created.
Therefore, while God must exercise mercy, He must also maintain justice., for “justice and mercy are the foundation of the law and government of God” (GC 53).
How God would reconcile the problem becomes significant when we realize that “the plan of redemption has a yet broader and deeper purpose than the salvation of man. It was not for this alone that Christ came to the earth; it was not merely that the inhabitants of this little world might regard the law of God as it should be regarded; but it was to vindicate the character of God before the universe (PP 68). Thus God must declare His righteousness,… that He might be justified, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:25, 26) God’s character stands or fails on the reconciliation of justice and mercy. How could God do this? How could He maintain government and yet exercise mercy?
In order to uphold justice, Christ must die as a sinner. Why? The sinner must reap the inevitable consequences of his actions. Only in that way will sin stand completely revealed for what it is. The sinner must demonstrate before the universe the consequences of his choice.
But one cannot expect man to face the tragic results of his sin, for in the process it would destroy him, and we’ve just seen that God cannot allow that. He must exercise mercy for man. Man must not exhibit the full consequences of his own rebellion. What is God going to do?
What if one could show that man was not responsible for what he did? Oh, but you say, that is dangerous. Isn’t man free? Didn’t he make the choice? Let us pretend that a five-year-old boy picks up a rock and hurls it through the window of the house next door. Now if anyone gets taken to court, who will it be? It will be the parent. Why? The parent didn’t throw the rock, nor did he make the child do it. However, the parent brought the child into existence and thus to a certain degree he bears responsibility for the chid’s behavior.
Thus, only One Being in all the universe can assume responsibility for humanity. It is not play acting, but absolutely real, and it falls on whoever brought mankind into existence. No, God is not to blame for man’s sins, but He is responsible in that He made man with the capacity for sinning. And so you will recall that as Adam blamed Eve, “the woman that you gave me” and as she accused the creator, “Well, you made the serpent,” ultimately it reflected back on God.
And what did God do? Did He try to excuse Himself? He said, “Yes, it is my responsibility. I brought you into being.” Thus we find that the Creator does assume the burden for man’s sin, and He can do so legitimately because He is Creator. Now we can understand why He must partake of humanity – He must pay the consequences. He becomes the sinner – man’s substitute.
During Jesus' last Thursday evening He suffered in a way that no man ever has. As we read the account we see Him becoming separated from the Father because He feels so guilty for the load that He bears, and we don’t know who agonizes most – the Father, the Son, or the Spirit. They are all there, and the Father and the Spirit must not step in to stop the suffering, which increases their own anguish.
The responsibility that Christ carries quickly becomes so great that His body weakens and exudes drops of blood. We see Him reach the point where He should have died, but an angel sustains Him so that He may live on. Others die, relieving them of further agony, but to really taste the consequences of sin one must experience absolute separation from God – the second death. So we witness Christ strengthened after He should have died from the load of His awful responsibility. Listen to Him crying, “If it be possible, take this cup from me, but not mine will but thine.” He repeats His prayer, and we watch Him groan and suffer and feel the abyss widen between Him and the Father. Then we view Him on the cross, and the gulf becomes so great that He pleads, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Ellen White tells us that He could not see through the portals of the tomb. Even though He died a victor, He succumbed, as far as He was concerned, with a sense of eternal separation.
When I was 11 years old, I visited my cousin on the farm. His family’s dog had a litter of puppies during my stay. As the pups grew old enough to walk around they would get lost, and we would go out to find and play with them. One evening I remember looking for the puppies in some tall weeds. Suddenly I accidentally stepped across the stomach of one of them. It let out the most awful shriek I have ever heard. Instantly I reached down to pick it up – but it was dead. I felt terrible. For days I accused myself of negligence, of carelessness. I made myself sick over the incident.
Yet stepping on a puppy is not the worst thing a person can do. It is insignificant compared to some of the serious things we can do to make others suffer. But when we realize our fault, we feel a terrible responsibility, an overwhelming guilt that weighs us down. Furthermore, if I had a more sensitive nature, I would have hurt even more. And what if it had been more serious? Now look at Christ, who is as sensitive as anyone could be. He bore the total awareness of responsibility and guilt, not just of having stepped on a puppy, but for all of the immorality of the human race. He didn’t cause it, but He carried the responsibility. And the universe looked on aghast as they saw the separation occur and our Master die.
Now let me say reverently, if our Lord had been sitting in an over stuffed easy chair He still would have died. The cross didn’t kill Him. Man didn’t kill Him. Satan didn’t kill Him. The load of sin slew Him. It was the sense of separation that twisted His heart. The watching universe received an unforgettable picture of that separation – of the sense of that guilt. Thus no one will ever say that God excuses sin. Christ fully exposed sin for what it was. No one will ever claim that man got away with anything. Nor will anyone ever argue that God could have changed His law, because all have seen the separation which sin brought to the heart of God Himself. By dying as sinner God established justice.
But that was not enough. In order to exercise mercy, Christ must die sinless. Why? “When Satan was thrust out of heaven, he determined to make the earth his kingdom. When he tempted and overcame Adam and Eve, he thought that he had gained possession of this world, “because,” said he, “they have chosen me as their ruler.” He claimed that it was impossible that forgiveness should be granted to the sinner, and therefore the fallen race were his rightful subjects, and the world was his” (PP 69).
Note Satan’s argument to God: “You made Adam a test ground. He is the head of this new race. As long as he serves you, he is Your property, Your subject. You can do with him as You want. But now that he has chosen me, he does not belong to You anymore. You’ve made Your point about justice, but You can’t apply it to man. He is not Yours.”
Consider Satan’s motives: “If You destroy me, You’ve got to wipe out man. We are both sinners.” But God won’t do that. “All right, if you take man, if You save him, You’ve got to accept me, too. We’re all in the same boat, all part of the same kingdom. To be human is to be a sinner, and every man has testified to that.” His claims were false to the core, but it did not appear that way, and God must answer things not just as they are, but as they seem to be.. Even though Satan had no authority to make such claims, Christ must establish His right to possess the human race – to show that to be human is not to be automatically a sinner, that the human race has not completely abdicated to Satan, and that even humans can serve God with love.
Thus we find Christ taking the role as representative of the human race. The Creator of Adam, the only one who could assume responsibility, now steps in in his behalf. We see the exhibition of a perfect life. “He came as a representative of the human family before heaven and earth. He was to stand as man’s substitute and surety. He was to live the life of humanity in such a way as to contradict the assertion that Satan had made that humanity was his everlasting possession, and that God Himself could not take man out of his adversary’s hands” (ST July 30, 1896). “Christ has come to disprove Satan’s claim. As the Son of man, Christ would stand loyal to God. Thus it would be shown that Satan had not gained complete control of the human race, and that his claim for the world was false. All who desire deliverance from his power would be set free. The dominion that Adam had lost through sin would be recovered” (DA 115).
So we view Christ dying not only as a sinner, but Himself sinless, and through His sacrifice we find the destruction of Satan’s claim. “The death of Christ was an argument in man’s behalf that could not be overthrown” (GC 502). It vindicated God’s claims. “The world does not acknowledge that, at infinite cost, Christ has purchased the human race. They do not acknowledge that by creation and redemption He holds a just claim to every human being. But as the Redeemer of the fallen human race, He has been given the deed of possession, which entitles Him to claim them as His property” (Letter 136, 1902). “Jesus paid an infinite price to redeem the world, and the race was given into His hands; they become His property” (3T 372).
By dying as sinner, Christ established justice. And by dying sinless He secured the right to exercise mercy. “The death of Christ was expedient in order that mercy might reach us with it’s full pardoning power, and at the same time that justice might be satisfied in the righteous substitute” (ST, May 30,1895). “Justice and Mercy stood apart, in opposition to each other, separated by a wide gulf. The Lord our Redeemer clothed His divinity with humanity, and wrought out in behalf of man a character that was without spot or blemish. He planted His cross midway between heaven and earth, and made it the object of attraction which reached both ways, drawing both Justice and Mercy crossed the gulf. Justice moved from it’s exalted thrown, and with all the armies of heaven approached the cross. There it saw One equal with God bearing the penalty for all injustice and sin. With perfect satisfaction Justice bowed with reverence at the cross, saying, “It is enough”(General Conference Bulletin, 4th quarter, 1899, Vol.3, p.102). This we read in the words of the psalmist, “Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10).
The life and death of Christ represent the supreme revelation of God’s character. We witness God vindicated in the reconciliation of justice and mercy, because at the base of the whole controversy rests the problem. “What is the universe going to think of God?” Life will never be secure until the universe thoroughly understands God’s character.
“Oh,” but you say, “certainly it is a beautiful picture of the love of God, but how does it relate to our security?” Here is the point; Salvation was an issue with God that He secured completely apart from any human activity. It was guaranteed by God for God’s sake before we ever came on the scene of action. While it involves us, it is much deeper than that. It was part of God’s self-revelation and vindication before the universe. Thus salvation stands independent of anything we do in response to it – it is established in the nature of God.
But you insist, “What is so significant about that?” Namely that our deeds – good deeds, misdeeds – are not directly related to salvation. Let me say it more strongly. We are not given salvation because of our good deeds, nor are we deprived of it because of our misdeeds. Here is the root of the problem of security. Most will agree that we do not gain salvation by our good deeds, but few of us will affirm that our misdeeds will not deprive us of it. But one is just as true ass the other.
Several years ago the following article appeared in a Southern California newspaper. “A young man who lived in the western states has never done anything (criminally) wrong. But one day while playing a game of cards he lost his temper. Picking up a revolver, he shot and killed his opponent. He was arrested, tried, and sentenced to hang.
”Because of the wonderful life he had previously lived, his relatives and friends got up a petition for him. It seemed as though everyone wanted to sign it. Before long other towns and villages had heard about it, and people all over the state eagerly signed.
“At last it was taken to the governor, who happened to be a Christian, and tears came to his eyes as he looked at the large baskets filled with petitions. He decided to pardon the young man; so, writing out a pardon, he put it in his pocket, then, dressed in the garb of a clergyman, he made his way to the prison.”
As the governor approached the death cell the young man sprang to the bars; “Get out of here,” he cried. “I don’t want to see you. I have had enough religion at home. Seven of your kind have visited me already.”
“But,” interrupted the governor, “wait a moment, young man; I have something for you. Let me talk to you.”
“Listen,” exclaimed the young man in anger. “If you don’t get out of here at once I’ll call the guard and have you put out.”
“But young man,” continued the governor, “I have good news for you – the very best. Won’t you let me tell you about it?”
“You heard what I said,” replied the young man, “and if you don’t leave immediately, I’ll call the warden.”
“Very well,” replied the governor, and with a sad heart he turned and left.
In a few moments the warden approached. “Well, young man,” he said, “I see you had a visit from the governor.”
“What!” cried the young man. “Was that man dressed in the garb of a clergyman the governor?”
“He was,” replied the warden, “and he had a pardon in his pocket for you, but you would not listen to him.”
“Get me pen, ink, and paper,” urged the young man. And sitting down he wrote, “Dear Governor: I owe you an apology. I am sorry for the way I treated you…”
The governor received the letter, turned it over, and wrote on the back, “No longer interested in this case.”
The day came for the young man to die. “Is there anything you want to say before you die?” he was asked.
“Yes,” he answered, “tell the young men of America that I am not dying for my crime – I am not dying because I am a murderer. The governor pardoned me. I could have lived. Tell them,” he continued, “that I am dying because I did not accept the governor’s pardon” (The Arlington Times, August 26, 1954).
No one will be lost because of his sins. Christ paid for them on the cross. If anyone does perish, it will be because he has refused pardon. It is no longer the sin-issue, but the Son-issue. “Are my deeds important?” you ask. “Does it make any difference what I do?” It makes a lot of difference, because my deeds change me. My behavior will effect my thoughts and my attitude toward life and toward God. And if I am careless in the things I do, I will get to the place where I no longer care about Him, and I will no longer want that pardon. And when I turn my back on Jesus Christ, I am lost. But it is not my deeds – my good deeds or my misdeeds – that determine that. It is my relationship with Jesus Christ that counts.
“Since we can be lost either way, what difference does it make whether we regard our deeds as directly involved in salvation?” you inquire. It effects whether salvation is a free gift secured by God or whether it is a work earned by man. And it involves whether I will be secure or uncertain. Even as a Christian, I am sorry to say, I have made many mistakes. But I can affirm through Christ that they will not determine my salvation. As long as I am “in Christ,” I am accepted and fully belong. M concern is that I do not do something to change my attitude toward Christ so that I will leave Him.
How can we realize such security? First, we must understand the significance of Christ’s sacrifice. “The Lord would have his people sound in the faith – not ignorant of the great salvation so abundantly provided for them. They are not to look forward, thinking that at some future time a great work is to be done for them; for the work is now complete” (1 SM 394,395). “No sin can be committed by man for which satisfaction has not been met on Calvary” (ibid., 343). We talk about attaining salvation, but it is not within our power to achieve. God, independent of out activity, has taken care of it.
Second, we must accept. “The perishing sinner may say: ‘…I need not remain a moment longer unsaved. He died and rose again for my justification, and He will save me now’” (ibid., 392). “What must I do to accept?” you ask. “Coming to Christ does not require a severe mental effort and agony. It is simply accepting the terms of salvation that God has made plain in his word” (RH, February 14, 1888). Say, “Lord, I want You.” That’s all. “I want You.” No striving, no painful agony. Is the Christian life one of struggle? To say that life is not would be to mislead you. But a battle for what? Salvation? Never! Need a Christian struggle? In the conflict we fight with self, yes. But need we be insecure Christians? No! We will struggle, we will strive, but never with uncertainty. It is with complete confidence that we belong. If we have accepted Jesus Christ, we are saved, and we can say that now.
Third, we can trust. “If we will but keep our eyes fixed on the Savior and trust in His power, we shall be filled with a sense of security; for the righteousness of Christ will become our righteousness… We dishonor Him by talking of our inefficiency. Instead of looking at ourselves, let us constantly behold Jesus” (MYO 107).
One of the great temptations we face today is insecurity. If Satan can get us to turn our attention from Jesus Christ and start weighing our own good deeds and misdeeds in determining whether or not we are saved, we get discouraged, and when we get discouraged, we will give up. If we are to have victory in Christ, we must rest secure in His salvation.
Can I know that I am saved? Without a doubt!