The Christian Goal and the Self-View
An enormous amount of
confusion and misunderstanding has resulted from the wide-spread failure to
recognize that in both the Bible and in the Spirit of Prophecy there is a clear
and distinct difference between the Christian goal and the Christian
We may feel a bit surprised
to find this distinction recognized in the oldest book in the Bible, the book of
Job. Notice the clarity of these words: “If I justify myself, mine
own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me
perverse. Though I were perfect [the goal], yet would I not know my
soul:…[the self-view]”. Job 9:20, 21.
Moving to the New Testament,
we read in one of Christ’s parables these words: “So likewise ye, when ye
shall have done all those things which are commanded you [the goal], say, We are
unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do [the
self-view]”. Luke 17:10.
In similar vein, the apostle
Paul writes to us: “I count not myself to have apprehended [the
self-view], but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are
behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward
the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. [the
goal]”. Philippians 3:13, 14.
self-view, but not his goal, is set forth in these words: “This is
a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into
the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” 1 Timothy 1:15.
In this sharply contrasting
Scripture we find his goal: “…Till we all come in the unity of the
faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the
measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians
In a faithful reflection of
these Scriptures, Ellen White presents the same truth in a variety of ways,
constantly and carefully maintaining an unmistakably clear distinction between
the Christian goal of perfect Christ-likeness and the Christian
self-view of total unworthiness. Because of the enormity of the degree
of misunderstanding on this point, we will present a number of her
statements. [All emphasis is supplied.]
“Those who are registered as
holy in the books of heaven are not aware of the fact, and are the last
ones to boast of their own goodness.” The Faith I Live By,
“They scatter seeds of love
and kindness all along their path, and that all unconsciously, because
Christ lives in their heart.” Sons and Daughters of God,
“‘We all, with open face
beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image
from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.’ We are to keep
the Lord ever before us. Those who do this, walk with God as did Enoch,
and imperceptibly to themselves, they become one with the Father and with
the Son.” Ibid., 296.
“The Christian may not be
conscious of the great change, for the more closely he resembles Christ in
character, the more humble will be his opinion of himself; but it will be seen
and felt by all around him.” Mind, Character, and Personality, vol.
“Thus it is with the truly
righteous man. He is unconscious of his goodness and piety.”
Reflecting Christ, 83.
“All who come within the
sphere of his influence perceive the beauty and fragrance of his Christian life,
while he himself is unconscious of it, for it is in harmony with his
habits and inclinations.” My Life Today, 251.
Convinced that They Are
With this abundance of
evidence before us, we are ready to consider some of the most common errors
regarding the goal and the self-view. First, there are those who are
convinced that they have become totally sinless and are in no danger from any
temptation. They consider that their Christian goal of perfect
Christ-likeness has been reached, and it would be impossible for them to be
lost. They are commonly described as the “once saved—always saved”
people. Some of them modify their position slightly by saying that they
may sin, but it will not be counted against them, so the end result is the same
as if they had not sinned.
At the extreme opposite end
of the scale are those commonly called Calvinists, who believe and teach that it
is utterly impossible for anyone to stop sinning, even by the power of
God. They believe that God will stop all the sinning of Christians at the
Second Coming of Christ. Exactly why God should be able to do this at the
Second Coming but not be able to do it before that time has never been
Can Blasphemy be Greater
We must sadly recognize that
this false doctrine of corrupted Calvinism is making great inroads into the
Seventh-day Adventist Church today. One Seventh-day Adventist theologian,
who had drunk deeply from the befouled waters of Calvinism, actually went so far
as to teach that it is not because of God’s weakness but because of His wisdom
that He does not keep Christians from sinning now. Hence, Christians sin
because God wants them to sin now. Can blasphemy be greater than
There are some who
intermingle the concept of the self-view and the concept of the
goal into a hopeless hodge-podge of illogical ideas. Prominent
among them are the persons who pose a question about the goal and purpose
to answer with an Ellen White statement about the self-view. I
would blush with shame to tell you how many times, and in what places, I have
seen the question posed, “Can Christians stop sinning? Ellen White says
No.” This is then supported by one of her many statements (see above) that
the Christian cannot have a self-view of sinlessness.
This is both contrary to her
writings (she wrote more than 2,000 times that Christians can stop
sinning by the power of God) and contrary to common sense. The difference
between the two questions, “Can Christians stop sinning?” and “Can Christians
know that they have stopped sinning?” should be apparent to a
child. From a common sense standpoint, consider the difficulty in
estimating one’s own humanity. What if you heard a minister say, “You
know, folks, one thing I like about me, is that I am so humble. I am
probably the most humble minister in this conference. If you want to see a
man who is really humble, just take a look at me.”
What kind of sense would
that make? And all attempts to describe our own virtues would be equally
“The attitude of Paul is the
attitude to be taken by every one of the followers of Christ; for we are ever to
be urging our way, striving lawfully for the crown of immortality. Not
one may claim to be perfect. Let the recording angels write the
history of the holy struggles and conflicts of the people of God, let them
record their prayers and tears; but let not God be dishonored by the
proclamation from human lips, declaring, ‘I am sinless. I am holy.’
Sanctified lips will never give utterance to such presumptuous
words.” Signs of the Times, May 23, 1895.
How utterly nonsensical,
then, is the frequently asked question, “Do you think that you are
perfect?” Please look again at the above statements by Ellen White that
the true Christian is unaware of, and unconscious of, his own goodness.
And consider this:
“The Lord does not design that we shall ever feel that we have reached to the
full measure of the stature of Christ. Through all eternity we are to grow
in the knowledge of Him who is the head of all things in the church.”
Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, May 15, 1892.
This brings to mind a
greatly abused Ellen White statement: “He (Christ) is a perfect and holy
example, given for us to imitate. We cannot equal the pattern; but
we shall not be approved of God if we do not copy it and, according to the
ability which God has given, resemble it.” Testimonies, vol. 2,
Before jumping to the
conclusion that this means we will always be sinning, take a moment to think
about the heavenly angels who have never sinned. Can they ever equal
Christ, the pattern? Of course not! No created being can ever equal
its creator, and the grandeur of the love of Christ and God will never be
equaled by anyone.
And here is another often
abused statement, which Ellen White wrote over and over: “The work of
sanctification is the work of a lifetime.…” Selected
Messages, Book 1, 317.
The “logic” that is applied
to this innocent passage goes like this:
White said that sanctification is the work of a lifetime.
sanctification is the work of a lifetime, that means that it is never
sanctification is never finished, that means that sinning is always present in
the Christian’s life.
Therefore, Ellen White taught that Christians will never stop sinning during
their lifetime. Jesus will have to miraculously change them when He comes,
so that they will not sin any more.
Never mind that Ellen White
wrote more than 2,000 times that Christians can, by the power of God, stop
Never mind that she wrote 48
times that Christ will not make any changes in our characters when He
And never mind that Ellen
White viewed sanctification as a process that will continue throughout
“It should be our lifework
to press forward continually toward the perfection of Christian
character, ever striving for conformity to the will of God, remembering that
the efforts begun upon earth will continue throughout eternity.”
Reflecting Christ, 157.
How then can it be argued
that incomplete sanctification is sin? Will the saints be sinning
throughout eternity? Absolutely not!
It seems rather strange that
in Ellen White’s defense of truth she had to fight a battle on two fronts.
Arrayed against her on one side were those who had a self-view of sinlessness,
and on the other side those who denied any possibility of sinlessness. She
had to disagree with both of them. By carefully distinguishing between the
goal and the self-view, she achieved an admirable degree of
clarity, patiently pointing out that while the Christian’s goal must always be
total Christlikeness, the self-view must always be total
Those who fail to make this
distinction, as she does, and intermingle the two concepts, usually end up with
confused and contradictory conclusions. Let us read the Scriptures and her
writings aright, and thank God for both.
October 2001 Table of Contents