Jesus Saves to the Uttermost

Our ongoing study of the mystery of godliness as outlined in Hebrews 2:14–18 has introduced us to one of the most profound mysteries of the Christian religion. We have seen that the children described as “partakers of flesh and blood” are those whom Christ is not ashamed to call His brethren, those He has sanctified through His word, which is represented by His flesh and blood (John 6). He has made us His brethren. As our merciful and faithful High Priest, He is making “reconciliation for the sins of the people.” Because He suffered being tempted as we are tempted, He is able to help us.

Sanctification is a key element in these verses. Jesus partook of the same flesh and blood when His mother taught Him the very words that He had spoken to Moses. This sheds light on what Jesus meant when He said, “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” John 17:19. Jesus gained knowledge as every child may gain knowledge. As the children are partakers of His word, they’re adopted into the family of God. Having the same Father as Christ, we are called Christ’s children of one Father, Christ’s brothers and sisters.

You and I are not born sons of God; we are born sons of Adam, and therefore have the fallen nature Adam acquired when he sinned. We must understand that there is only One who is the Son of God. For us to be sons and daughters of God, it must be by adoption. “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” Galatians 4:4–7

“A complete offering has been made; for ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son’—not a son by creation, as were the angels, nor a son by adoption, as is the forgiven sinner, but a Son begotten in the express image of the Father’s person, and in all the brightness of His majesty and glory, one equal with God in authority, dignity, and divine perfection. In Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” The Signs of the Times, May 30, 1895

To summarize our review:

  1. The law is the only correct standard of sanctification.
  2. Christ was the embodiment of the law of God.
  3. He began life with a sanctified will.
  4. Daily He died to His divinity while living the life of humanity on this Earth. In other words, a) In His humanity, Jesus was still God; b) In His humanity, He retained His divine power; but c) He never used His divine power to relieve His own human needs, wants, or sufferings. This was the very point on which the devil tried to tempt Him.
  5. True sanctification is a progressive work that goes on in the heart of an individual who dies daily to self in obedience to God’s law.

Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63. The eating of Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood means to spiritually consume His word, but if we do not spiritually eat His flesh and drink His blood, then we will have no spiritual life. As His children spiritually partake of His flesh and blood, there is also a physical, literal meaning, and that is what we will study now.

Jesus Christ took literal flesh and blood, the same literal flesh and blood as His sanctified brethren, and suffered being tempted. “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.’ ” Hebrews 10:5

“We should consider the fact that to Christ our nature was a robe of humiliation and suffering. He humbled Himself to become a man, so that a body should be found, a Lamb without blemish should be provided as a sinless offering, that God might be just and the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.” The Signs of the Times, June 18, 1896

“He humbled Himself and took mortality upon Him. As a member of the human family He was mortal, but as a God He was the fountain of life to the world.” The Review and Herald, July 5, 1887

So Jesus took upon Himself the mortal body of man so that He could suffer a most cruel and humiliating death for every man.

The apostle John testifies, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14. Look carefully at this verse. The first part of the verse is referring to the physical nature of Christ–His flesh, His body. The second part of the verse is addressing His mental and spiritual nature–His glory, His character.

Ellen White links John 1:14 to the wilderness sanctuary, the same sanctuary that God commanded them to build in Exodus 25:8. She typically quotes from the King James Version when linking these two verses. But in The Desire of Ages, she quotes from the Revised Version. It is a fact that Ellen White quotes from the Revised Version many times.

“God commanded Moses for Israel, ‘Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them’ (Exodus 25:8), and He abode in the sanctuary, in the midst of His people. Through all their weary wandering in the desert, the symbol of His presence was with them. So Christ set up His tabernacle in the midst of our human encampment. He pitched His tent by the side of the tents of men, that He might dwell among us, and make us familiar with His divine character and life. ‘The Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us (and we beheld His glory, glory as of the Only Begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth.’ John 1:14, R. V., margin.” The Desire of Ages, 23, 24

“The doctrine of the incarnation of Christ in human flesh is a mystery, ‘even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations.’ It is the great and profound mystery of godliness. ‘The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.’ Christ took upon Himself human nature, a nature inferior to His heavenly nature.” Lift Him Up, 74

The sanctuary of the Old Testament was a symbol of the humanity, the human nature, of Christ. There was a difference between the tent of the sanctuary and the tents of the children of Israel. Understanding this difference sheds much light on the difference between His humanity—the tabernacle of the only begotten Son of God—and the tents of men. When Jesus tabernacled among us His tent was full of grace and we beheld His glory. How was His grace and glory represented in the sanctuary that God commanded Moses to build? “In the tabernacle and the temple His glory dwelt in the holy shekinah above the mercy seat.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 288. His glory dwelt in the holy shekinah above the mercy seat in the most holy place of the sanctuary.

The glory of God is His character. So what does the holy shekinah represent? “The shekinah, the visible emblem of God’s presence, dwelt between the cherubim, and out of the perfection of beauty God shined.” Christ Triumphant, 154. The holy shekinah, located above the mercy seat, was the visible representation of God’s presence. What does the mercy seat represent? “He longs to see gratitude welling up in our hearts because we have access to the mercy seat, the throne of grace, because our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, because we may cast all our care on Him who cares for us.” Australasian Union Conference Record, June 1, 1900

God’s glory represented by the shekinah rested upon the mercy seat, the representation of His throne of grace.

“In the temple in heaven, the dwelling place of God, His throne is established in righteousness and judgment. In the most holy place is His law, the great rule of right by which all mankind are tested.” The Great Controversy, 415. Here Mrs. White is speaking of the temple in heaven—the pattern followed by Moses in building the earthly sanctuary. Notice two important points regarding the temple in heaven:

  1. The place where God dwells is called His throne.
  2. In this place, His law is kept and is called the most holy place.

There is a connection between the shekinah and the humanity of Christ.

“The shekinah had departed from the sanctuary, but in the Child of Bethlehem was veiled the glory before which angels bow.” The Desire of Ages, 52. The shekinah glory represented the glory of God’s presence that was veiled in Jesus.

“Christ was about to visit our world, and to become incarnate [in the flesh]. He says, ‘A body hast Thou prepared Me.’ Had He appeared with the glory that was His with the Father before the world was, we could not have endured the light of His presence. That we might behold it and not be destroyed, the manifestation of His glory was shrouded. His divinity was veiled with humanity.” Ibid., 23

The veil with which Christ’s glory was veiled was so good that most people did not know who He was. You can see that very clearly in the Bible. “His divinity was veiled with humanity—the invisible glory in the visible human form.” Ibid.

The invisible glory of God was contained and veiled in the human form of Jesus Christ. “… God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” 2 Corinthians 5:19, first part

The glory of God is also spoken of as His divinity. “The glory of God is His character, and it is manifested to us in Christ.” Sabbath-School Worker, July 1, 1894

“The law of God is a transcript of His character; it portrays the nature of God. As in Christ we behold the brightness of His glory, the express image of His person, so also in the law the attributes of the Father are unfolded.” The Signs of the Times, December 30, 1889

“He [Christ] was the embodiment of the law of God, which is the transcript of His character.” Ibid., November 15, 1899Let’s summarize what we’ve just studied:

  1. The glory of God is His character.
  2. The law of God is a transcript of His character.
  3. Christ was the embodiment of the law.
  4. The holy shekinah represented the glory, that is, the divine character of Christ.
  5. His human nature veiled the shekinah glory that was in the most holy place.
  6. All of this represented the throne of His heart. Psalm 40:8, “I delight to do Your will, O my God. And, Your law is within my heart.”

“He had not taken on Him even the nature of the angels.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 16, 182. Why do the apostle Paul and Mrs. White both tell us that Jesus did not take the nature of angels? “Angels are in nature superior to men.” The Great Controversy, 511. The psalmist says that man was made a little lower than the angels. “He had not taken on Him even the nature of the angels, but humanity, perfectly identical with our own nature, except without the taint of sin. A human body, a human mind, with all the peculiar properties, He was bone, brain, and muscle. A man of our flesh.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 16, 182. Notice that in this context Inspiration uses the word flesh in relation to the physical nature of man. It mentions bone, brain, and muscle, but it is not talking about the carnal mind of man. He was a “man of our flesh, He was compassed with the weakness of humanity.” Ibid. The word compassed means “surrounded.” He was surrounded by the weakness of humanity.

What were the weaknesses with which He was surrounded? “The circumstances of His life were of that character that He was exposed to all the inconveniences that belong to men, not in wealth [the foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man does not have where to lay His head Matthew 8:20], not in ease [Jesus traveled everywhere on foot], but in poverty [He at times was hungry with not enough to eat] and want and humiliation. He breathed the very air man must breathe. He trod our earth as man. He had reason, conscience, memory, will, and affections of the human soul which was united with His divine nature.” Ibid. Jesus suffered with the same weaknesses of humanity that we do—the inconveniences of poverty, want, and humiliation.

“Christ did not make-believe take human nature; He did verily [certainly] take it. He did in reality possess human nature. ‘As the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same.’ He was the son of Mary; He was of the seed of David according to human descent. He is declared to be a man, even the Man Christ Jesus. ‘This One,’ writes Paul, ‘was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who hath builded the house hath more honor than the house.’ ” The Review and Herald, April 5, 1906

So Jesus did not pretend to be human. He did, in fact, take upon Himself our human nature. He had a real human body with all its peculiar properties. He was a man of our flesh. The word flesh in this context is referring to the physical nature of man, including a body with the senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste—bone of our bone, muscle, and sinew. But He also possessed a human mind with the attendant ability to reason, a conscience, memory, human affections, and a human will.

“We have reason, conscience, memory, will, affections—all the attributes a human being can possess.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 130. These attributes are all powers of the mind. Concerning Jesus, Mrs. White said, “He employed the human faculties, for only [by] adopting these could He be comprehended by humanity.” The Review and Herald, June 25, 1895

The word faculty has three definitions according to the dictionary:

  1. the power of the mind or intellect which enables a person to receive, revive, or modify perceptions. It includes the faculty of seeing, hearing, imagining, and remembering. The faculties may be called the powers or capacities of the mind.
  2. the power to do anything; in other words, ability.
  3. the power to perform any action—natural, vital, or animal.

So a faculty is the power to do something, be it of the body or the mind, and Jesus employed both the human body and the mind. “Only humanity could reach humanity. He lived out the character of God through the human body which God had prepared for Him. He blessed the world by living out in human flesh the life of God.” Ibid.

God wants to live out the divine character in our flesh. And once we understand that then we will be very close to understanding the plan of salvation and why Jesus came to this world. “He blessed the world by living out in human flesh the life of God, thus showing that He had the power to unite humanity to divinity.” Ibid.

“Christ became one flesh with us, in order that we might become one spirit with Him.” The Desire of Ages, 388. If we want to be part of God’s kingdom, then we must have a personal relationship with Christ, His Spirit must be dwelling in our hearts, and our sinful, selfish nature must be replaced with Christ’s perfect nature—the joining of the divine with the human.

Jesus lived out the thoughts and feelings of God in human flesh. He lived so that man could see the character of God expressed in human flesh. “The body is a most important medium through which the mind and the soul are developed for the upbuilding of character.” Prophets and Kings, 488. Jesus has the power to unite divinity with humanity, and this was the purpose of His life. “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” John 17:19

Jesus stands ready to complete this work in every person who is willing to be sanctified. But a person might say that there is no way that they can overcome or live the Christian life. Again and again, he might say, “I can’t. I just can’t.” And this person would be right, except that Jesus says that He will sanctify anyone who comes to Him. No matter how much trouble you may have in your life or how bad you feel you may be, Jesus is stronger than all of that. He says, “For with God nothing will be impossible.” Not even you. Not even me. He will save us, if we will just let Him.

Remember the story of the rich, young ruler? Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Matthew 19:21. What did the young man do? He turned and walked away. To His disciples, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Verses 23, 24

The disciples were shocked. “Who then can be saved?” they asked. If you are discouraged, in trouble, if you think you cannot be saved, or that you have so many problems in your life that you just don’t know how you will ever get through or over or around them, remember Jesus’ reply to the disciples’ question: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Verse 26

Don’t let the devil tell you that you cannot be saved, that you are too sinful, that you’ve done too many terrible things, or that you are not capable, because it doesn’t matter how bad your past may be, what sins you have committed, or how weak you are; Jesus can change all of that. He came to this world to make a way to offer you forgiveness and take away the guilt from your life, but more than that, He came to unite Himself with you, and then, through His power and grace, nothing will be impossible for you.

Friend, don’t let Satan discourage you. You can be saved. You can be in the kingdom of heaven. You have an all-powerful Mediator who promises, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” John 6:37. United together with Jesus there is no such thing as defeat. Jesus will save you. Surrender today to Him who is able to save to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25). Let the miracle begin in your life right now.

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at 316-788-5559.

The Glory of God Manifested in Man

“The body is a most important medium through which the mind and the soul are developed for the upbuilding of character.”

Prophets and Kings, 488

Hebrews 10:5 tells us that Christ came in a human body, “A body You have prepared for Me.” He came in this way to show that He has the power to unite humanity and divinity in those who are willing to be sanctified.

Christ not only had a real physical body like man, but He also had a real human mind, the mental nature of man that was united with the mind of God. Did Jesus Christ also have a human spiritual nature? To answer this question, we need to look at five items.

  1. What is the grace of God?
  2. What is the spiritual nature?
  3. What is spiritual life?
  4. What is the glory?
  5. What do the crown and the throne represent?

What is the grace of God?

The grace of God is linked to the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit comes to the soul as a Comforter. By the transforming agency of His grace, the image of God is reproduced in the disciple; he becomes a new creature. Love takes the place of hatred, and the heart receives the divine similitude.” The Desire of Ages, 391

“Cherish the grace of the Holy Spirit, else you will stand as hindrances in the way of the work of God. Make straight paths for your feet, lest the lame be turned out of the way.” Evangelism, 404

“Christ in the fullness of His grace is there [in the communion service, the foot washing service] to change the current of the thoughts that have been running in selfish channels. The Holy Spirit quickens the sensibilities of those who follow the example of their Lord.” The Desire of Ages, 650. So, the grace of God is the transforming agency, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to recreate in the heart of man the love of God so that the divine similitude, the image of God, will be manifested in the human character.

What is the spiritual nature?

“ ‘Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy word is truth.’ Every moment of our probationary time is precious; for it is our time for character-building. We should give most diligent heed to the culture of our spiritual nature.” The Review and Herald, February 24, 1891. “The spirit, the character you have manifested has not been at all after the Pattern I have given you in My life and character, when I was upon the earth.” Ibid., October 16, 1894. “Our personal identity is preserved in the resurrection, though not the same particles of matter or material substance as went into the grave. The wondrous works of God are a mystery to man. The spirit, the character of man, is returned to God, there to be preserved. In the resurrection, every man will have his own character.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 6, 1093. Spiritual nature is related to character.

What is spiritual life?

“Our Redeemer thirsts for recognition. He hungers for the sympathy and love of those whom He has purchased with His own blood. He longs with inexpressible desire that they should come to Him and have life. As the mother watches for the smile of recognition from her little child, which tells of the dawning of intelligence, so does Christ watch for the expression of grateful love, which shows that spiritual life is begun in the soul.” The Desire of Ages, 191

However, we find in the parable of the rich man recorded in Luke 12:16–21, there are those who have never had this experience. “In living for self, he has rejected that divine love which would have flowed out in mercy to his fellow men. Thus he has rejected life. For God is love, and love is life. This man has chosen the earthly rather than the spiritual, and with the earthly he must pass away.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 258

“Aside from Christ man cannot in spirit and in truth keep one of the commandments of God, but in Christ Jesus the claims of the law are met, because He transforms the nature of man by His grace, creates in the heart a new spiritual life, implants a holy nature, and men become Christlike in character.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 14, 86. It is impossible for us to keep the law because, “The law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.” Romans 7:14. “To be carnally minded is death.” Romans 8:6. “By nature man has no love for God.” The Review and Herald, March 12, 1901

Spiritual life is divine love, and when the divine love of God has come into and fills the heart, selfishness is eradicated. It is the grace of God that creates in the heart this spiritual life.

What is the significance of the word heart?

“God has bought us, and He claims a throne in each heart.” Special Testimonies to Ministers and Workers, Series A, 39

“God is the owner of the body.” The Youth’s Instructor, September 14, 1893

Does God own your body? He’s bought your body and your soul and your life at a price. “… and when the body, purchased at infinite cost, is made to serve the customs and practices of this world, by following the fashions of this degenerate age, the testimony is borne to the world that pride and sin reign in the heart, that Christ does not abide in the soul temple. The Lord Jesus will not be made to serve with your sins. He claims the undivided throne of the heart, and would banish from the life every worldly, unsanctified action, whose influence would tell against the fact that you are His sons and daughters.” Ibid.

The heart is the throne in the temple of man where his spiritual life is created.

Let’s Review

  • The spiritual nature relates to the character.
  • The character consists of the thoughts and feelings.
  • Spiritual life is the divine love of God implanted in the heart by grace through the power of the Holy Spirit which is necessary if I’m to be like Christ.

What is the glory?

“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same.” Hebrews 2:14, first part. Paul is writing here about Christ. Jesus possessed a real, literal human nature that possessed more glory than Moses. The glory of God is His character. “Our lives may seem a tangle; but as we commit ourselves to the wise Master Worker, He will bring out the pattern of life and character that will be to His own glory. And that character which expresses the glory—character—of Christ will be received into the paradise of God. A renovated race shall walk with Him in white, for they are worthy.” The Desire of Ages, 331

“Before men and angels Satan has been revealed as man’s enemy and destroyer; Christ, as man’s friend and deliverer. His Spirit will develop in man all that will ennoble the character and dignify the nature. It will build man up for the glory of God in body and soul and spirit. ‘For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.’ 2 Timothy 1:7. He has called us ‘to the obtaining of the glory’—character—‘of our Lord Jesus Christ;’ has called us to be ‘conformed to the image of His Son.’ ” Ibid., 341

Jesus was crowned with the brightness of His Father’s glory—His Father’s character: “… being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person.” Hebrews 1:3

What then is our conclusion? The glory and the character conformed to the character of Christ, depending on the context, are synonymous terms.

What do the crown and the throne represent?

“In the kingdom of God, position is not gained through favoritism. It is not earned, nor is it received through an arbitrary bestowal. It is the result of character. The crown and the throne are the tokens of a condition attained—tokens of self-conquest through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Acts of the Apostles, 543

The crown and the throne are symbols of self-conquest.

When was Jesus crowned with glory? “Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And, behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’ Then said Mary to the angel, ‘How shall this be, since I do not know a man?’ And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Ghost will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One [Thing, KJV] who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’ ” Luke 1:30–35 KJV

“She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and to His throne.” Revelation 12:5. The word of God states that He was called that Holy Thing or Holy One at conception. In Him was life; not the kind of life that you and I have, but a life that has no beginning or end. “In Him was life, and His life was the light of men.” John 1:4. This life is the divine love of God that was in Christ the man from the moment of conception.

“The human nature of Christ was like unto ours. And suffering was really more keenly felt by Him, for His spiritual nature was free from every taint of sin. The aversion to suffering was in proportion to its severity. His desire for the removal of suffering was just as strong as human beings experience.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 11, 345

Jesus’ human nature was not only physical and mental, but also spiritual. However, the question that brings division among Adventists today is whether Jesus took the nature of Adam before his fall or after it.

Before the Fall or After

There is no division regarding the fact that Jesus took the deteriorated condition of man’s physical nature after the Fall. Steps to Life Ministry has received mail from all over the country since we began publishing this Mystery of Godliness series, and I have yet to find anyone who contradicts that. Remember, Hebrews 2 says that Jesus took part of the same flesh and blood as the children. So, the question we must address is Was His human mental or spiritual nature any different from any other man who has been born into this world?

Now when you ask that question among Adventists, some will say Yes, it was, and others will say No, it was not. So, we must be very careful that we search and study the Scriptures and Inspiration to find the truth about Jesus’ spiritual nature.

“Men estimate character by that which they themselves are capable of appreciating. The narrow and worldly-minded judged of Christ by His humble birth, His lowly garb, and daily toil. They could not appreciate the purity of that spirit upon which was no stain of sin.” The Desire of Ages, 196

Those who do not appreciate the purity of His spirit use the following texts as absolute proof that there was no difference between the human nature of Christ and the human nature of Adam and his posterity after the Fall. In every way, Christ’s physical, mental, and spiritual natures were the same as ours.

“…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

“For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same.” Hebrews 2:14

However, in our previous studies of this subject, we found that Romans 8:3 clearly stated that when God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, Jesus took the fallen or ruined physical nature of man which is the result of sin.

Likeness, as found in Romans 8, means “in the form of.” So, Jesus took the physically deteriorated body of man which made it possible for Him to die. But it was also seen in Romans 8 that the term sinful flesh is referring to the carnal mind, the lower, corrupt mental nature of man. “So then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Verse 8

The person who has the carnal mind, who is in the flesh, cannot please God. However, we find that the Bible records two occasions where God the Father testified out loud—verbally and publicly—that He was well pleased with Jesus. Both occasions occurred while Jesus was living in this world as a man.

“When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ ” Matthew 3:16, 17

“And He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. … While he [Peter] was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’ ” Matthew 17:2, 3, 5

Are Matthew and Paul contradicting each other? Paul has written that it is impossible for those who live in the flesh to please God. Yet Matthew writes that Jesus, who came to this world in the flesh, by God’s own words, pleased Him. That which seems to be a contradiction is made plain when the word flesh is appropriately defined according to the context in which it is used.

Let’s look at the context of the expression flesh and blood in Hebrews 2:14. Is it the same sinful flesh that we inherit from Adam? Was the human nature that Jesus took identical to ours?

“Christ’s perfect humanity is the same that man may have through connection with Christ. As God, Christ could not be tempted anymore than He was not tempted from His allegiance in heaven. But as Christ humbled Himself to the nature of man, He could be tempted. He had not taken on Him even the nature of the angels, but humanity, perfectly identical with our own nature, except without the taint of sin.” Manuscript Releases, Vol, 16, 181, 182

Ellen White talks about this repeatedly. She says that Jesus’ nature was identical to ours, then adds a qualifier so you don’t get mixed up. She says His nature was identical with ours except without the taint of sin. The humanity that Jesus took was perfectly identical to our own except for that one thing. And it was this difference, the fact that His humanity was not tainted with sin that made His suffering greater than any man will ever have to experience.

Jesus became a man so that He could suffer being tempted. Do you understand what this meant for Jesus?

“Human nature was to Him a robe of suffering; and when the crisis came, when He yielded Himself a victim to Satan’s rage, when He hung agonizing upon the cross, dying the cruelest, most ignominious of deaths, the hosts of evil exulted, but man was saved.” The Signs of the Times, August 17, 1891

“Would that we could comprehend the significance of the words, ‘Christ suffered, being tempted.’ While He was free from the taint of sin, the refined sensibilities of His holy nature rendered contact with evil unspeakably painful to Him. Yet with human nature upon Him, He met the arch apostate face to face, and single-handed withstood the foe of His throne. Not even by a thought could Christ be brought to yield to the power of temptation. Satan finds in human hearts some point where he can gain a foothold; some sinful desire is cherished, by means of which his temptations assert their power. But Christ declared of Himself, ‘The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.’ The storms of temptation burst upon Him, but they could not cause Him to swerve from His allegiance to God.” The Review and Herald, November 8, 1887

What is the power of temptation?

“Feeling the terrible power of temptation, the drawing of desire that leads to indulgence, many a man cries in despair, ‘I cannot resist evil.’ ” Counsels on Health, 439. Desire is the terrible power of temptation.

“It was a continual pain to Christ to be brought into contact with enmity, depravity, and impurity; but never did He utter one expression to show that His sensibilities were shocked or His refined tastes offended. Whatever the evil habits, the strong prejudices, or the overbearing passions of human beings, He met them all with pitying tenderness.” The Ministry of Healing, 165. This is about as close to an incomprehensible statement as you could read.

“Prophecy had declared that the ‘Mighty One,’ the holy One from Mount Paran, was to tread the winepress alone; ‘of the people there was none’ with Him. His own arm brought salvation; He was ready for the sacrifice. The fearful crisis was past. That agony which none but God could endure, Christ had borne.

“The human nature of Christ was like unto ours, and suffering was more keenly felt by Him; for His spiritual nature was free from every taint of sin. Therefore His desire for the removal of suffering was stronger than human beings can experience. How intense was the desire of the humanity of Christ to escape the displeasure of an offended God, how His soul longed for relief, is revealed in the words, ‘O My Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.’ ” The Signs of the Times, December 9, 1897

Jesus’ desire for the removal of suffering was stronger than anything we will experience, therefore, His temptations were greater than we will ever experience. He could have, at any time, chosen to exercise His divine power and be free from all His pain. But had He done that, the entire human race would have been lost. He suffered being tempted to save us.

“The divine nature combined with the human, made Him capable of yielding to Satan’s temptations. Here the test to Christ was far greater than that of Adam and Eve, for Christ took our nature, fallen but not corrupted, and would not be corrupted unless He received the words of Satan in the place of the words of God.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 16, 182, 183. Jesus took our ruined physical nature so that He could die.

“He is a brother in our infirmities, but not in possessing like passions. As the sinless One, His nature recoiled from evil.” Testimonies, Vol. 2, 202. Not all passions are evil. But the passions referred to in that statement are evil because Christ did not possess evil passions.

The humanity of Christ was identical to ours except that it was untainted with the natural sin of selfishness. His faculties, the powers of His mind, were not perverted because Satan could not touch His mind unless He yielded to Satan rather than following the will of God. This is why Jesus could say, “The prince of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.”

What do we conclude when we read these things? “That He might accomplish His purpose of love for the fallen race, He became bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. ‘As the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same.’ …

“Through the agency of the Holy Spirit, a new principle of mental and spiritual power was to be brought to man, who, through association with divinity, was to become one with God.” The Signs of the Times, September 24, 1902. Jesus became one flesh with us so that we might become one spirit with Him.

“Christ, the Redeemer and Restorer, was to sanctify and purify man’s mind, making it a power that would draw other minds to Himself.” Ibid. When Christ has sanctified and purified our minds, then our mind will be used by Him to draw other minds to Himself. “Jesus Christ is our example in all things. He began life, passed through its experiences, and ended its record, with a sanctified human will. He was tempted in all points like as we are, and yet because he kept His will surrendered and sanctified, He never bent in the slightest degree toward the doing of evil, or toward manifesting rebellion against God.” Ibid., October 29, 1894

One of the most powerful texts explaining the true nature of Christ as a man is found in James 1:13. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” So, if someone says that Christ was tempted with evil, then they deny Jesus’ divinity.

Jesus brought His divinity into humanity giving us an example of what God meant when He said, “ ‘And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed.’ ” Genesis 3:15

When Jesus prayed for those whom He sanctifies, those whom He is not ashamed to call His brethren, He explains the purpose of sanctification. “That they all may be one, as you, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one.” John 17:21, 22. The glory, the character that the Father gave to Jesus, is the glory that Jesus wants to give to you and me.

“To human eyes Christ was only a man, yet He was a perfect man. In His humanity, He was the impersonation of the divine character. God embodied His own attributes in His Son—His power, His wisdom, His goodness, His purity, His truthfulness, His spirituality, and His benevolence. In Him, though human, all perfection of character, all divine excellence, dwelt.” The Youth’s Instructor, September 16, 1897

Though Jesus took upon Himself the form of sinful man, clothing His divinity with humanity, He was holy even as God is holy. If He had not been—having no stain of sin—He could not have been the Saviour of mankind. He was the sin bearer needing no atonement. One with God in purity and holiness of character, He could make propitiation for the sins of the whole world.

“In Christ dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily. This is why, although He was tempted in all points like as we are, He stood before the world, from His first entrance into it, untainted by corruption, though surrounded by it. Are we not also to become partakers of that fullness, and is it not thus, and thus only, that we can overcome as He overcame?” Our High Calling, 364

“Christ came to this earth, taking humanity and standing as man’s representative, to show in the controversy with Satan that he was a liar, and that man, as God created him, connected with the Father and the Son, could obey every requirement of God.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 16, 115

God wants to put the principles of His own character in your mind, to make you a new creature. This is why Jesus came. Will you let Him?

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at 316-788-5559.

Not Ashamed to Call Them Brethren

“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”

Hebrews 2:14–18

We want to learn the answers to three questions found in these scriptures.

  1. Who are the children?
  2. What did Jesus mean when He said we would not have eternal life unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood?
  3. What enabled Jesus to experience suffering while being tempted?

Who are the Children?

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of One, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Verses 9–11

Human beings who have the same father are called brothers. Paul is very specific that those Jesus has sanctified and given His character are the children of His Father, adopted into the family of God. He calls them His brethren because He and they now have the same Father. That is why Paul describes them as being “all of One.”

However, there is a restriction regarding those whom Jesus calls His brothers. Just before He went into the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for those whom His Father had given Him saying, “I pray for them. I pray not for the world but for them whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.” John 17:9. Not for the world, but for those whom God had given to Him—two completely different groups of people. If you miss that point or misunderstand this vital truth, then you will fall prey to Satan’s constant efforts to misrepresent the character of God. (See The Great Controversy, 568.) You also will not understand the true nature of sin nor the real issues of the great controversy. Paul assures us that Jesus tasted death for every man, but only those He has sanctified—reproduced in them His own character—will He call His brethren, and bring to glory.

“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” Verse 14. “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” Verse 17

“The truths of the Bible, received, will uplift the mind from its earthliness and debasement. If the word of God were appreciated as it should be, both young and old would possess an inward rectitude, a strength of principle, that would enable them to resist temptation.” Testimonies, Vol. 8, 319. This is the result of sanctification. But what is this rectitude that Mrs. White speaks of?

“Rectitude of mind is the disposition to act in conformity to any known standard of right, truth, or justice. Rectitude of conduct is the actual conformity to such a standard.” Webster’s Dictionary 1828. Inward rectitude is the disposition or natural tendency to do what is right.

“All true obedience comes from the heart. It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent, He 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 service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us.” The Desire of Ages, 668. This rectitude is a hatred for sin. Thus if I do not understand what sin is, and if it is not hateful to me, then I am not sanctified.

The very essence of the gospel is forgiveness of sin, but it also involves restoration. “By looking constantly to Jesus with the eye of faith we shall be strengthened. God will make the most precious revelations to His hungering, thirsting people. They will find that Christ is a personal Saviour. As they feed upon His word, they find that it is spirit and life. The word destroys the natural, earthly nature, and imparts a new life in Christ Jesus. … By the transforming agency of His grace, the image of God is reproduced in the disciple.” Ibid., 391

“The mind gradually adapts itself to the subjects upon which it is allowed to dwell. It becomes assimilated to that which it is accustomed to love and reverence.” The Great Controversy, 555

By beholding Jesus, studying His life, and relying solely upon Him, “the believer advances from grace to grace, from strength to strength, from character to character. He conforms to the image of Christ, until in spiritual growth he attains unto the measure of the full stature in Christ Jesus. Thus Christ makes an end of the curse of sin, and sets the believing soul free from its action and effect.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 395

“Christ became a man that He might mediate between man and God. He clothed His divinity with humanity, He associated with the human race, that with His human arm He might encircle humanity, and with His divine arm grasp the throne of Divinity. And this humiliation on His part was that He might restore to man the original mind, the image of God … .” The Signs of the Times, October 14, 1897

Let us consider for a moment this love that would condescend to leave glory and come to this world as one of us. “Love is power. Intellectual and moral strength are involved in this principle, and cannot be separated from it. … The excellence and value of pure love consist in its efficiency to do good, and to do nothing else than good. Whatsoever is done out of pure love, be it ever so little or contemptible in the sight of men, is wholly fruitful; for God regards more with how much love one worketh, than the amount he doeth. Love is of God.” Gospel Workers (1892), 311, 312

Christ prayed for those whom His Father had given Him. He gave them His word and promised them His Holy Spirit. Why? Because

  1. it would destroy the natural, carnal nature;
  2. it would impart strength and inward rectitude (the disposition of the mind);
  3. it would reproduce the image, the character of God in His disciples by imparting to the heart the divine similitude;
  4. it would implant divine love in the heart, the principle that empowers the sinner to overcome sin;
  5. it would impart new life, spiritual life in Christ. “God is love, and love is light.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 258

Genuine sanctification is, “nothing less than a daily dying to self, and daily conformity to the will of God.” The Signs of the Times, September 12, 1878

Paul was in constant conflict with self. He said, “I die daily.” His own will and desires conflicted with duty and the will of God every day (Romans 7:18), but instead of following his own inclinations, he strove to do the will of God (2 Timothy 4:7, 8).

“The will is the governing power in the nature of man, bringing all the other faculties under its sway. The will is not the taste or the inclination, but it is the deciding power, which works in the children of men unto obedience to God, or unto disobedience. …

“The will is … the power of decision, or choice.

“Every human being possessed of reason has power to choose the right. … Everyone may place his will on the side of the will of God, may choose to obey Him, and by thus linking himself with divine agencies, he may stand where nothing can force him to do evil.” Child Guidance, 209

“The tempted one needs to understand the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man—the power of decision, of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. …

“Your will is the spring of all your actions. This will, that forms so important a factor in the character of man, was at the Fall given into the control of Satan; and he has ever since been working in man to will and to do of his own pleasure, but to the utter ruin and misery of man.” Mind, Character, and Personality, Vol. 2, 685

We must understand just how hopelessly helpless we are to make any decided change in our hearts, but God has guaranteed us the power of choice. And when we choose to give our wills to Christ, He will then perform an act of restoration.

“Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence …, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose.” Steps to Christ, 47

But we must be cautious for many Christians have been snared in a terrible trap. “Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose.” Ibid., 47, 48

“The warfare against self is the greatest battle that was ever fought. The yielding of self, surrendering all to the will of God, requires a struggle; but the soul must submit to God before it can be renewed in holiness.” The Faith I Live By, 87

We are sanctified through the truth and by the Holy Spirit. “The law of God is ‘holy, and just, and good,’ a transcript of the divine perfection, it follows that a character formed by obedience to that law will be holy. Christ is a perfect example of such a character. … The followers of Christ are to become like Him—by the grace of God to form characters in harmony with the principles of His holy law. This is Bible sanctification.” The Great Controversy, 469

“The only correct standard of sanctification is the law of God.” The Review and Herald, December 1, 1895

Our thoughts and feelings combined make up our moral character (Testimonies, Vol. 5, 310). So we have to ask ourselves, “Are my mind, my thoughts, my feelings, my words, my actions all in harmony with the law of God?” If not, don’t be discouraged. We can be sanctified if we surrender our wills to Him who has promised to sanctify us.

“God sent His Son into the world … to make known in His life and character the attributes of the Father, that men might bear the image of the invisible God. He was the embodiment of the law of God … .” The Signs of the Times, November 15, 1899

“We have only one perfect photograph of God, and this is Jesus Christ.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, 906

God’s law is the standard of sanctification; not just the law of God as it was written in tables of stone, but the law of God as exemplified in the humanity of Christ.

There is no such thing as instant sanctification. Justification may happen in an instant, but “There is no such thing as instantaneous sanctification. True sanctification is a daily work. … Continuing as long as life shall last.” The Faith I Live By, 116

“True sanctification is progressive. … [improving] every privilege and opportunity to gain more knowledge of the life and character of Christ.” The Youth’s Instructor, September 1, 1886

“But this work cannot go on in the heart while the light on any part of the truth is rejected or neglected.” The Review and Herald, June 17, 1890

“The formation of a noble character is the work of a lifetime and must be the result of diligent and persevering effort.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 223

Sadly, seeking for sanctification is not a popular subject because if religion requires too much, people today, even those who call themselves Christians, want a smooth and easy path to heaven. The formation of a noble character requires surrender, diligent and persevering effort, and is a lifelong struggle against self. We will never be sanctified if Satan is allowed to reign in our lives. “God gives opportunities; success depends upon the use made of them.” Ibid.

“The yielding of self, surrendering all to the will of God and being clothed with humility, possessing that love that is pure, peaceable, and easy to be entreated, full of gentleness and good fruits, is not an easy attainment. And yet it is his privilege and his duty to be a perfect overcomer here. The soul must submit to God before it can be renewed in knowledge and true holiness.” Testimonies, Vol. 3, 106, 107

If I believe in Jesus, deny Satan’s influence in my life, if I daily die to self (1 Corinthians 15:31) and abide in Him, growing in grace, and progressing in sanctification, then Jesus will implant in my heart the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is then that He can and will call me His brother for He sees what the finished product will be.

“Christ is coming to establish His kingdom in the earth. Let our tongues be sanctified, and used to glorify Him. As a people we need to be reconverted, and our lives sanctified to declare the truth as it is in Jesus.” The New York Indicator (1900), June 12, 1907

Christ is coming to establish His kingdom—His robe of righteousness implanted in the hearts of all His children, making them spotless and unblemished. “When the heart is cleansed from sin, Christ is placed on the throne that self-indulgence and love of earthly treasure once occupied. The image of Christ is seen in the expression of the countenance. The work of sanctification is carried forward in the soul. Self-righteousness is banished. There is seen the putting on of the new man, which after Christ is created in righteousness and true holiness.” The Review and Herald, September 11, 1900

Thus the new man becomes the seed of Abraham.

What did Jesus mean when He said that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood?

“In giving us the privilege of studying His word, the Lord has set before us a rich banquet. Many are the benefits derived from feasting on His word, which is represented by Him as His flesh and blood, His spirit and life. By partaking of this word, our spiritual strength is increased; we grow in grace and in a knowledge of the truth.” Child Guidance, 505, 506

When Jesus said a person must eat His flesh and drink His blood or he would lose out on eternal life, He had a specific message in mind. The term flesh and blood, especially in the New Testament, has both a spiritual and a literal physical meaning.

“All believers who pass through a natural death, have, through eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of God, eternal life in them, which is the life of Jesus Christ. In dying, Jesus has made it impossible for those who believe on Him to die eternally. …” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, 926

“For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” John 17:19. Jesus sanctified Himself that we might be sanctified. He partook of the same flesh and blood we have. He learned from His parents just as we do.

“The child Jesus did not receive instruction in the synagogue schools. His mother was His first human teacher. From her lips and from the scrolls of the prophets, He learned of heavenly things. The very words which He Himself had spoken to Moses for Israel He was now taught at His mother’s knee. …

“Since He gained knowledge as we may do, His intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures shows how diligently His early years were given to the study of God’s word. …

“From the first dawning of intelligence He was constantly growing in spiritual grace and knowledge of truth.

“Every child may gain knowledge as Jesus did. As we try to become acquainted with our heavenly Father through His word, angels will draw near, our minds will be strengthened, our characters will be elevated and refined. We shall become more like our Saviour.” The Desire of Ages, 70

Amos 3:3 says, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?”

“Holiness is not rapture: it is an entire surrender of the will to God.” The Acts of the Apostles, 51. The crucifixion of self, of the old man, is the entire surrender of the will to God.

“It is living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God; it is doing the will of our heavenly Father; it is trusting God in trial, in darkness as well as in the light; it is walking by faith and not by sight; it is relying on God with unquestioning confidence, and resting in His love.” Ibid.

“Holiness is wholeness for God; it is the entire surrender of heart and life to the indwelling of the principles of heaven.” The Desire of Ages, 556

“Holiness is constant agreement with God.” In Heavenly Places, 33

If God and I do not agree, who do you think should change their mind? (W. D. Frazee)

How was Jesus able to experience suffering while being tempted?

“He [Jesus] began life, passed through its experiences, and ended its record, with a sanctified human will.” The Signs of the Times, October 29, 1894

You and I are not born with a sanctified human will, and it is necessary for us to daily die to self so that our will can be sanctified. When Jesus became a man, He voluntarily laid aside the outward manifestation of His divinity and condescended to take the humiliating form of deteriorated, mortal humanity. This was just the beginning of a far greater dying to self than you and I will ever be required to undergo.

“The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. It is the golden chain that binds our souls to Christ, and through Christ to God. This is to be our study. Christ was a real man; He gave proof of His humility in becoming a man. Yet He was God in the flesh.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 244

“Yet this was but the beginning of His wonderful condescension. It would have been an almost infinite humiliation for the Son of God to take man’s nature, even when Adam stood in his innocence in Eden. But Jesus accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by four thousand years of sin.” The Desire of Ages, 49

“He was not only made flesh, but He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. His divine attributes were withheld from relieving His soul anguish or His bodily pains.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1124. In this humiliating, external condition, He still possessed the omnipotent powers of His divinity; He was still God.

When Satan said to Jesus, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” (Matthew 4:3), He could have commanded it, and instantly the stones would have become bread. But He had agreed with His Father that He would not use the powers of His divinity for His own benefit; He would come and live in this world only as a man. These statements reveal that Christ was born in the likeness or physical form of sinful flesh, but He was still God. This was Jesus’ greatest temptation, not using His divine power to outwardly prove who He was. You and I will never experience this, and we cannot understand it.

“It was a difficult task for the Prince of Life to carry out the plan which He had undertaken for the salvation of man, in clothing His divinity with humanity. He had received honor in the heavenly courts, and was familiar with absolute power. It was as difficult for Him to keep the level of humanity as it is for men to rise above the low level of their depraved natures, and be partakers of the divine nature.” The Review and Herald, April 1, 1875

Read that again, “It was as difficult for Him to keep the level of humanity as it is for us with our depraved natures to be partakers of the divine nature.” It was as difficult for Him to be like us, as it is for us to be like Him.

Man can only resist temptation when his humanity is united with divinity. That is the example that Christ gave us. His humanity was united with divinity. It is only when, by faith, we unite our humanity with the divine nature of Christ that we are able to resist the efforts of the enemy of man to lead us astray.

“Christ was put to the closest test, requiring the strength of all his faculties to resist the inclination when in danger, to use His power to deliver Himself from peril and triumph over the power of the prince of darkness.” Ibid.

Jesus fought this temptation constantly His whole life; He suffered with temptations to a degree that man cannot comprehend so that you and I could be saved. His greatest tests were in the wilderness of temptation and in Gethsemane.

In Gethsemane, Jesus could have stood up, wiped the blood from His brow and left man to his own devices and ultimate death. Again and again, Satan attempted to cause Him to walk away from the plan of redemption and let man suffer his own fate.

On the cross, they jeered, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” And Jesus could have done that. But had He come down, you and I would have been lost.

He could have used His divine power at any time and instantly triumphed over the devil. But every day of His life He died to that inclination. Jesus is our example in sanctification.

His sanctified will was unperverted by selfishness, unlike the natural, selfish nature that we possess. Every day, partaking of the physical flesh and blood of man, growing in stature and intelligence, He also constantly grew in spiritual grace and the knowledge of the truth. As we surrender our will to Him, consume His spiritual flesh and blood, and receive His righteousness, we become partakers of His righteous and holy nature, and become, by adoption, His brethren, sons and daughters of God.

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at 316-788-5559.

Self Must Die

“Let every word and each desire and all my days be Thine.”
My Maker and My King*

Do you believe that every word you speak and every desire you have should be in harmony with God’s will? Or do you have desires that are not in harmony with God’s will?

While the fundamental principle of God’s law is divine love, and the two great commandments are love to God and love to man—which are the ten commandments in action—we still must cooperate with Him and take up our cross and follow Jesus. When Adam and Eve sinned, the natural selfishness that took the place of God’s principle of righteousness in their hearts was passed on to their subsequent generations, making all of mankind sinful, but not just in action. Sin is a part of the human race, just as much as an arm or an eye; sinful is what we are. Man cannot cut it out; there is no medicine he can concoct that can cure it. Sin can only be removed by the miraculous recreative power of the almighty God. And that miracle began 6,000 years ago.

We find in Genesis 3:15 God promises that the devil would not have control over mankind forever. He said that if a man chose to return his loyalty to God, then He would change that man’s heart and mind, replacing his selfishness with His law of love, and would supernaturally give the man the ability to hate sin, going against his carnal nature. He further promised that He would send His Son to be man’s Saviour, who, though killed by the very people He came to save, would rise again and at the end of the present world, completely destroy sin and Satan. Restoration to the image of God and the absolute destruction of sin—this was the covenant promise of God to His people.

How does God supernaturally put this hatred—this enmity—for sin in the heart? “By looking constantly to Jesus with the eye of faith, we shall be strengthened. God will make the most precious revelations to His hungering, thirsting people. They will find that Christ is a personal Saviour. As they feed upon His word, they find that it is spirit and life. The word destroys the natural, earthly nature, and imparts a new life in Christ Jesus.” The Desire of Ages, 391

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63

“God is love and love is life.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 258

Satan Misrepresents the Character of God and Deceives the World

During our study of the mystery of godliness, we have found that this mystery deals directly with the nature of Jesus Christ.

“Never before had there been a being upon the earth who hated sin with so perfect a hatred as did Christ. He had seen its deceiving, infatuating power upon the holy angels, causing them to revolt, and all His powers were enlisted against Satan. In the purity and holiness of His life, Christ flashed the light of truth amid the moral darkness with which Satan had enshrouded the world. Christ exposed his falsehoods and deceiving character, and spoiled his corrupting influence.

“It was this that stirred Satan with such an intense hatred of Christ.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 16, 118

So, what caused the revolt? “With his [Satan’s] hosts of fallen beings he determined to urge the warfare most vigorously; for there stood One in the world who was a perfect representation of the Father, and in His character and practices was a refutation of Satan’s misrepresentations of the character of God.” Ibid.

And he continues still to misrepresent God’s character in the world today.

“It was the purity and sinlessness of Christ’s humanity that stirred up such satanic hatred. His truth revealed their falsehoods. Satan saw God, whom he had charged with the attributes which he himself possessed, revealed in Christ in His true character—a compassionate, merciful God, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to Him in repentance and have eternal life.” Ibid.

Jesus came to this world and lived a life that was the very essence of God’s true nature. Satan could lie all he wanted, but Jesus came as a man, compassionate, loving, merciful, pleading with all to choose to return to their Maker—He was God’s law personified and thus could not lie.

But Satan still charges God with his own attributes, and people all around the world believe that if there is a God in heaven, He must not be very loving or merciful. Many so-called Christian doctrines are devices of the devil to misrepresent the character of God to deceive people, but these doctrines are totally contradictory to the Bible’s description of God’s true character.

God Offers Transformation

Many people believe, including many Adventists, that God sent His Son in the same sinful flesh as fallen man, and thereby are unwittingly echoing the very same accusations against God that the devil has been making for thousands of years. Satan said that God was unfair and unjust, even cruel because it was impossible for man to keep the law, to offer perfect obedience to God. And God knows that, but demands it anyway. But God sent Jesus to prove that man, with his human nature, could keep the law and could become a partaker of the divine nature, both of which existed in Jesus—the fleshly nature we have, and the holy nature that God offers to sinful, fallen mankind.

“He [Jesus] came not to our world to give the obedience of a lesser God to a greater, but as a man to obey God’s holy law, and in this way He is our example.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 140

“Satan is ever seeking to bring about a state of things in which righteousness may be termed unrighteousness, and unrighteousness righteousness.” The Review and Herald, April 15, 1890

“If this matter were rightly understood and closely guarded, God’s servants would feel a continual burden of responsibility to counterwork the efforts of the men who do not know what they are about, because they are enchanted by the delusive allurements of Satan. When God’s people are fully awake to the danger of the hour, and work fully on Christ’s side, there will be seen a sharp contrast between their course and that of those who are saying, ‘Good Lord, and good devil,’ and we shall see much firmer and more decided work done to counterwork the schemes of satanic agencies.” Testimonies for the Church Containing Letters to Physicians and Ministers Instruction to Seventh-day Adventists, 11

In the humanity of Christ, the covenant promise was fulfilled. God prepared for His Son a human body and inscribed in His human heart His own divine attributes—the principles of righteousness and His law of love. The covenant promise was forever established and ratified when Jesus died on the cross, and the penalty demanded for man’s transgression was paid.

This natural enmity, this hostility that exists in the natural heart of man hates God’s law and the principles of righteousness and the love on which that law is founded. Man cannot love both selfishness and righteousness; the principles are diametrically opposite. If man is willing to return his loyalty to God, then He has promised to supernaturally give to man this enmity against sin through the process of sanctification, which begins with justification by faith. We are told that by studying God’s word, our natural, carnal nature will be destroyed and, in its place a new life in Christ Jesus will be found. This is sanctification.

The Example of Cain

Genesis 4 tells us that in response to God’s request for a burnt sacrifice, Cain brought an offering of fruit from his field. The Bible tells us that there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood, so did Cain’s offering meet that requirement? And what are the implications of his offering?

  1. There was no confession of sin. The apostle John said “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1John 1:9. According to this verse you cannot expect to be forgiven if you do not confess.
  2. There was no acknowledgment that he was in need of a Saviour.

Yes, Cain brought an offering, but his offering did not meet God’s requirements, instead, it showed a reliance on self. Today, there are tens of thousands of people making the same mistake as Cain. Trusting to themselves and to their own wisdom, their self-righteousness prevents them from realizing their own spiritual poverty. The Lord addressed this problem in Revelation 3:17 when He said, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” If we fail to see the spiritual nature of the law and therefore fail to recognize our own spiritual poverty and sinfulness, then we are in the Laodicean condition. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8–10

“Those who have permitted their minds to become beclouded in regard to what constitutes sin are fearfully deceived. Unless they make a decided change, they will be found wanting when God pronounces judgment upon the children of men. They have transgressed the law and broken the everlasting covenant, and they will receive according to their works.” Testimonies, Vol. 9, 267

This fearful, Laodicean deception involves breaking the everlasting covenant. Jesus counsels those in the Laodicean church to come to Him for a change of clothing—putting off their own filthy rags and putting on His white raiment—so that they are properly dressed for the wedding supper of the Lamb. We cannot attend the wedding supper clothed in our man-made, natural, fig-leaf garments. We must have a garment woven in the loom of heaven, and this we cannot make for ourselves.

Cain was not an atheist. He came to worship God, but he came to worship Him in his own way rather than according to God’s instruction. He decided that God should be satisfied with what he offered.

The Example of Paul

Before Paul was a Christian, he was an exemplary Pharisee, stringent in his belief that he followed the law implicitly. And in his outward life, Paul was blameless in terms of his outward actions (Philippians 3; Acts 26:5). It would be difficult to find anything that he had said or done that was contrary to the law of God, but true obedience involves more than just how a person behaves on the outside.

The problem with the religion of the Pharisees was that it did not touch the soul. Paul was not seeking Godlikeness of character, or for a heart filled with love and mercy. He was satisfied with the religion that touched only the outward life. His righteousness was the fruit of his own works.

But, when Paul was convicted of the spiritual nature of the law he said, “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.” Romans 7:9. He was alive as a Pharisee without the law and thought he was perfect, but when he understood the spiritual nature of the law, he could see that his heart was evil. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.” Verse 18. When Paul understood the spirit of the law, he could see himself for the sinner he was, and then self was able to die.

“When the spiritual character of the law was discerned, when he [Paul] looked into the holy mirror, he saw himself a sinner. Judged by a human standard, he had abstained from sin, but when he looked into the depths of God’s law, and saw himself as God saw him, he bowed in humiliation, and confessed his guilt.” The Review and Herald, July 22, 1890

When sin is limited narrowly to a choice of action, rather than regarded as encompassing every aspect of our existence, the spiritual character of the law is not discerned, and a human standard is set up in the place of the great moral standard of righteousness.

Paul was convicted by the tenth commandment. “I had not known sin except by the law. I had not known lust except the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’ ” Romans 7:7. How is the sin of covetousness related to false gods and false worship?

“All covetousness is condemned as idolatry.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 261

“All selfishness is covetousness, and is, therefore, idolatry.” The Review and Herald, May 23, 1907

“No selfishness is of Christ. Selfishness lies at the foundation of all sin.” The Signs of the Times, April 11, 1900

A person who is not selfish will never commit a sin. You see, this is our problem: we believe that sin is just something we do, but really sin is what is on the inside. Our outward actions are simply an expression of our inward condition. If I have a selfish heart, then I am a sinner, and because of that selfish heart, I will covet what my neighbor has; I will be prideful, desiring worldly fame and fortune, power, and recognition; I will resent that my friend has a better job than I do or a bigger house. These are all feelings, part of a person’s sinful nature and character. They don’t require action to be sin.

“Never should we lower the standard of righteousness in order to accommodate inherited or cultivated tendencies to wrongdoing. We need to understand that imperfection of character is sin.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 330

“The time demands greater efficiency and deeper consecration. … ‘Raise up and send forth messengers filled with a sense of their responsibility, messengers in whose hearts self-idolatry, which lies at the foundation of all sin, has been crucified.’ ” Testimonies, Vol. 9, 27

We see, then, that selfishness is not only a natural human trait of character, it is an imperfection of character that must be crucified. Since imperfection of character is sin, our natural selfishness is sin. All selfishness is covetousness and is therefore idolatry. Self was the idol of Cain and his descendants, and also the Pharisees. Laodicea believed they were worshiping God, but in fact were worshiping at the idol of self.

“Self must be crucified, else sin will remain to defile the whole being. The Cain-spirit must not be allowed to enter the heart; for the hatred it brings is next of kin to murder. …

“They love themselves and their own ways, failing to realize that their ways, their words, and their characters are opposed to God. Such can never reach perfection unless they see themselves as they are.” The Youth’s Instructor, September 21, 1899

Once I understood the spiritual nature of the law, I could see that unless I allow a change in my heart and mind, I am lost, even though I profess to be religious. It was then that I went to the Lord, admitting that I am totally lost unless He saves me. I must put my trust in Him for I cannot save myself.

“Blessed is the soul who can say, ‘I am guilty before God: but Jesus is my Advocate. I have transgressed His law. I cannot save myself; but I make the precious blood that was shed on Calvary all my plea.’ ” Sons and Daughters of God, 120

On the road to Damascus, Paul met Jesus and realized that he was a sinner in need of a Saviour. He also realized that if his natural disposition wasn’t miraculously changed, he would be lost.

While in prison, Paul wrote the book of Philippians and in its chapters we find Paul’s story of transformation—no longer a Pharisee, but now a disciple of Christ.

“For we are the circumcision who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

“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.” Philippians 3:3–14

The Example of Christ

While Jesus possessed the likeness of sinful flesh in the mortal body of man, He did not possess the same sinful flesh, the disposition of the carnal mind (Romans 8:3; Philippians 2:7; 3:21). Suffering was more keenly felt by Him, for His spiritual nature was free from every taint of sin, and it is this nature, the character of Christ, that He wants to give to you and me.

“Christ’s perfect humanity is the same that man may have through connection with Christ.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 16, 181. “It is the privilege of every believer in Christ to possess Christ’s nature, a nature far above that which Adam forfeited by transgression.” The Upward Look, 18

“The law of God is an expression of His very nature; it is an embodiment of the great principle of love, and hence is the foundation of His government in heaven and earth. If our hearts are renewed in the likeness of God, if the divine love is implanted in the soul, will not the law of God be carried out in the life? When the principle of love is implanted in the heart, when man is renewed after the image of Him that created him, the new-covenant promise is fulfilled.” Steps to Christ, 60

In the old covenant, the law was written on tables of stone, but in the new covenant, God says that He will put His law in the hearts of His people, and when the law is written in your heart, you will want to always seek to do what is right. “And if the law is written in the heart, will it not shape the life? Obedience—the service and allegiance of love—is the true sign of discipleship.” Ibid.

It is the love of self that brings unrest. Jesus invites us to accept from Him a new heart and mind. When we are reborn from above, we will have the same mind as Jesus, only then will we find the peace that He offers. “ ‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ ” Matthew 11:28

It is the glory of God to give His virtue to His children. Jesus said to His disciples, “ ‘Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.’ ” John 14:27, first part. The peace that Jesus gives is the result of His love for the law of God and the principles of righteousness written in His human heart, just as they were written in the heart of Adam before his fall.

“From eternal ages it was God’s purpose that every created being, from the bright and holy seraph to man, should be a temple for the indwelling of the Creator.” The Desire of Ages, 161 That was God’s purpose from eternal ages. “Because of sin, humanity ceased to be a temple for God. Darkened and defiled by evil, the heart of man no longer revealed the glory of the Divine One. But by the incarnation of the Son of God, the purpose of heaven is fulfilled.” Ibid.

Friends, we were meant to be a temple for the indwelling of our Creator. It is sin that has made us unfit to be His dwelling place.

It is Christ’s mission to deliver you from sin and to make your heart and mind a temple for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Will you let Him?

* The words to My Maker and My King, were written by Anne Steele as an “expression of praise to her Maker and a heart of thankfulness for all the blessings of life.” Christianmusicandhymns.com/2019/09/my-maker-and-my-king-hymn-story

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at 316-788-5559.

The Original Mind

Our study of Romans 8:3 over the last few months has been divided into four major parts. We have covered three of the four. Let’s do a quick summary.

Part 1

It was clearly seen that sinful flesh is the sinful nature, the fallen nature entailed upon man by Adam’s disobedience, and because of this sinful nature, man is unable to keep God’s law.

“Those who have permitted their minds to become beclouded in regard to what constitutes sin are fearfully deceived.” Testimonies, Vol. 9, 267. Mrs. White is writing to the church and its ministers, making this a truly terrible indictment of the church and its leaders. They have forgotten the spiritual nature of God’s law. Sin is the transgression of the law, but you cannot understand what sin is unless you understand the spiritual nature of the law; and if you don’t understand the spiritual nature of the law, then the relationship of the humanity of Jesus Christ to the law is also obscured. This is a major problem in Adventism. What was the relationship of the humanity of Jesus Christ to the law? “In His [Jesus’] humanity, He was the impersonation of the divine character. God embodied His own attributes in His Son.” The Youth’s Instructor, September 16, 1897

The dictionary gives four definitions for the word embody. They are as follows:

  1. To invest with or in a bodily form.
  2. To represent in a concrete form.
  3. To personify (a quality or concept in physical form).
  4. To make something part of a system or part of a whole.

What were the attributes of God that were embodied in His Son? “His power, His wisdom, His goodness, His purity, His truthfulness, His spirituality, and His benevolence. In Him, though human, all perfection of character, all divine excellence, dwelt.” Ibid.

Jesus was an exact replica of the divine character, born with the law of self-sacrificing love written in His human heart, full of holiness, grace, and the Holy Spirit. The law is a transcript of God’s character. Christ came as a man to be the embodiment of the law. He was the law of God, walking and talking, loving and caring.

In contrast, you and I are born with the law of selfishness written in our hearts and the natural selfishness of our nature is sin. “Selfishness is sin, and it grieves away the Spirit of Christ.” The Signs of the Times, April 13, 1891

Part 2

It was seen that the word likeness means “a form” and is therefore primarily referring to the body, the physical nature that the Father had prepared for Jesus. (See Hebrews 10:5.)

Paul wrote, “What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” Romans 8:3. “The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. It is the golden chain that binds our souls to Christ, and through Christ to God. This is to be our study.” The Youth’s Instructor, October 13, 1898. This is not talking about His divinity. However there are Adventists today who are as confused about Jesus’ divinity as they are about His humanity.

Great is the mystery of godliness. God was manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16). “Christ was a real man; He gave proof of His humility in becoming a man. Yet He was God in the flesh. When we approach this subject, we would do well to heed the words spoken by Christ to Moses at the burning bush, ‘Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’ 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.” Ibid. This mystery is so deep that we will study it throughout eternity, but still will be unable to fully understand it.

Part 3

It was revealed that there are several warnings applicable to those who believe that the word likeness means “the same” and how this belief is a barrier to true justification and ultimately to sanctification, so the result is that a person never enters into the rest spoken of in Hebrews 4.

Confession is a prerequisite to justification. Without a correct understanding of what sin is, how can we make the type of confession that is required. Without justification there is no sanctification. The Sabbath is a sign that God is restoring—sanctifying—His righteousness and character in man by separating him from his natural selfishness.

“Let us therefore fear lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you seem to come short of it.” Verse 1. A spurious justification will lead to a spurious sanctification which will prevent one from entering into His rest, the true sanctification of the Sabbath. Someone might make an outward show of keeping the Sabbath, but if a person’s heart is not touched, they are only keeping the Sabbath out of a sense of legal obligation, and is not impressed with their need of being sanctified in preparation for the second coming of Christ.

Part 4

Our study of the fourth part of Roman 8:3 will show us how the first three parts relate to the offering of Cain and the idol sabbath or Sunday-keeping. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” Hosea 4:6. It may seem harsh when you first read this text, but God is speaking of a specific knowledge that, if lacking, demonstrates the inability to understand the spiritual character of the law of God.

“The law of God has been largely dwelt upon and has been presented to congregations, almost as destitute of the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His relation to the law as was the offering of Cain.” Faith and Works, 18

Mrs. White is saying that Adventist preachers have largely dwelt upon the law of God, but that their preaching is destitute of the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His relation to the law. When this was written, Adventist preachers had been preaching the three angels’ messages and the law of God for over 40 years, so naturally they thought that they understood it. Sadly, Mrs. White says they did not, and you cannot solve a problem if you do not recognize that there is one. Multitudes of Seventh-day Adventists today, like the Jews of old, have forgotten the relationship of Christ’s humanity to the law, and the result is that many are rejecting knowledge regarding this relationship.

Seventh-day Adventists have been entrusted with the oracles of God. They have been called to give the three angels’ messages to the world, to repair the breach that has been made in the law, which involves far more than just what day you go to church. However, because many people fail to see how the humanity of Jesus is related to the spiritual nature of the law, they present this relationship as the offering of Cain. Inspiration links the offering of Cain-type worship to both the Pharisees and to Laodicea. And my hope is that we will see that—just as the Pharisees of old accused Jesus of breaking the letter of the law, of being a Sabbath-breaker—Laodicea, who is spiritually blind (Revelation 3), is unwittingly accusing Jesus of breaking the Sabbath in its spiritual realm, presenting the law apart from Jesus.

What was wrong with Cain’s offering? “The sacrificial offerings were instituted to be a standing pledge to man of God’s pardon through the great offering to be made, typified by the blood of beasts. Through this ceremony man signified repentance, obedience, and faith in a Redeemer to come. That which made Cain’s offering offensive to God was his lack of submission and obedience to the ordinance of His appointment.” The Review and Herald, March 3, 1874

Cain obeyed by offering the sacrifice, but by offering the fruit of the ground, wrought by the toil of his own hands, he disobeyed, denying his dependence upon Jesus for salvation. Cain was not a humble man. He did not like expressing his weaknesses and sinfulness, nor did he accept that he needed someone else to save him. In giving the offering of his choice rather than the offering God required, Cain slighted the blood of the atonement. “Cain brought of the fruit of the ground unto God, instead of bringing the blood of a slain lamb, the type of Christ, slain for the sins of the world.” The Signs of the Times, June 1, 1891

What is the significance of the blood of the Lamb? The great promise—enmity between the devil and God’s church—and the prophecy—He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel—found in Genesis 3:15 is fulfilled by the blood of Jesus Christ. “By virtue of His blood the enmity is abolished.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1109

“With Christ the enmity was in one sense natural; in another sense it was supernatural, as humanity and divinity were combined. And never was the enmity developed to such a marked degree as when Christ became a resident of this earth. Never before had there been a being upon the earth who hated sin with so perfect a hatred as did Christ.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 16, 118

“This enmity is supernaturally put, and not naturally entertained. When man sinned, his nature became evil, and he was in harmony, and not at variance, with Satan.” The Review and Herald, July 18, 1882. Once man sinned, he was no longer in harmony with God, nor at variance with Satan. Satan had deceived angels and caused the downfall of Adam and Eve. He thought that he would have control over all of the human race, becoming the god of this world, and waging a worldwide rebellion against God with the full cooperation of all mankind.

But God said, “I am going to put hatred between you [Satan] and the woman [the church] and between your seed and her Seed [Christ].”

“When man sinned, all heaven was filled with sorrow; for through yielding to temptation, man became the enemy of God, a partaker of the Satanic nature. The image of God in which he had been created was marred and distorted. The character of man was out of harmony with the character of God; for through sin man became carnal, and the carnal heart is enmity against God, is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be [Romans 8:7].” The Signs of the Times, February 13, 1893

“By the transforming agency of His grace, the image of God is reproduced in the disciple; he becomes a new creature. Love takes the place of hatred, and the heart receives the divine similitude.” The Desire of Ages, 391. The definition of to reproduce is “to produce something that has been destroyed.” The reproduction of the character of God in man is the purpose of the plan of redemption.

Man’s nature had been ruined by sin, but God said that He would restore, through the humanity of Christ, His image, His character, in the heart of man.

“Man was originally endowed with noble powers and a well-balanced mind. He was perfect in his being, and in harmony with God. His thoughts were pure, his aims holy. But through disobedience, his powers were perverted, and selfishness took the place of love.” Steps to Christ, 17

When the divine similitude is reproduced, divine love takes the place of hatred in the heart. There is a direct reversal of what happened to man; God undoes what Satan did to man as a result of the Fall.

“When Satan heard that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head, he knew that though he had succeeded in depraving human nature, and assimilating it to his own, yet by some mysterious process, God would restore to man his lost power, and enable him to resist and overcome his conqueror.” The Review and Herald, July 18, 1882

“Christ became a man that He might mediate between man and God. He clothed His divinity with humanity, He associated with the human race, that with His human arm He might encircle humanity, and with His divine arm grasp the throne of Divinity. And this humiliation [becoming a human being] on His part was that He might restore to man the original mind, the image of God, which he lost in Eden through Satan’s alluring temptations, that man might realize that it is for his present and eternal good to obey the requirements of God.” The Signs of the Times, October 14, 1897

“The excellence and value of pure love consists in its efficiency to do good, and to do nothing else but good. Whatsoever is done out of pure love, be it ever so little or contemptible in the sight of men, is wholly fruitful; for God measures more with how much love one worketh, than the amount he doeth. Love is of God. The unconverted heart cannot originate nor produce this plant of heavenly growth.” Testimony for the Church at Battle Creek, 37

The unconverted heart of man cannot originate or produce love. It is a gift that Jesus wants to give to you and it lives and flourishes only where Christ reigns. So divine love is the inherent power in the image of God.

“The law of God from its very nature is unchangeable. It is a revelation of the will and the character of its Author. God is love, and His law is love. Its two great principles are love to God and love to man. ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law.’ ” The Great Controversy, 467. When God embodied His own attributes in the humanity of His Son, His love became a tangible, living form, an exact replica of the Father’s character.

“God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” Hebrews 1:1–4

“When God gave His Son to our world, He endowed human beings with imperishable riches—riches compared with which the treasured wealth of men since the world began is nothingness.” The Ministry of Healing, 37. When God gave His Son, He endowed human beings with the possibility of receiving a wealth of riches that this world cannot even conceive of. It is deeply saddening to see people who choose not to follow Christ because they prefer a business or a piece of real estate or a partner. Jesus said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” Mark 8:36

“Christ came to the earth and stood before the children of men with the hoarded love of eternity, and this is the treasure that, through our connection with Him, we are to receive, to reveal, and to impart.” The Ministry of Healing, 37. Try to imagine it—the hoarded love of eternity! And this Christ offers to every man, woman, and child who will accept it.

The law of God and His divine love are directly opposed to Satan’s law of selfishness. Through the promise to place enmity between the seed of the serpent and the Seed of the woman, God’s covenant to put His law and love in the hearts and minds of His people was fulfilled. It was manifested in the life of Jesus Christ, who is the living example of what God wants to do for His church. However, we have a part in this covenant as well. We must cooperate with Him by taking up our cross (Luke 9:23). It is an unpopular thing, taking up our cross, but when we do, God has promised to supernaturally instill in the hearts of His people the same hatred for sin that was manifested in the life of Jesus.

Jesus came to this world so that God could reproduce His character in the heart of man. The world can make no better offer than the one that Jesus is making to you today. Take up your cross, follow Him, and experience the miracle as God reproduces His character in your life.

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at 316-788-5559.

The Spiritual Nature of the Law

We have studied many things regarding the mystery of godliness. Our eternal destiny is directly affected by this sacred subject.

God gave to Martin Luther, one of the great heroes of faith, the work of reminding the entire Christian world of the doctrine of justification by faith. This important doctrine had been almost forgotten, and Christians needed to be brought back to an understanding of it.

Let’s say this very clearly: Justification by faith is the only way that we can be saved. It doesn’t matter what you do, how religious you are, that you go to church and pay tithe, how much you sing and pray, how much you read your Bible, or the amount of missionary work and good deeds you do, unless you are justified by faith you are lost.

“The danger has been presented to me again and again of entertaining, as a people, false ideas of justification by faith.” Faith and Works, 18. Mrs. White wrote this in 1888, at a time of great crisis in the Adventist church. Even today, we are in danger of accepting false ideas regarding justification by faith. Have we seen that in the Christian world, in Adventism, today? “I have been shown for years that Satan would work in a special manner to confuse the mind on this point.” Ibid. It is the devil’s direct purpose to muddy the spiritual waters as much as he possibly can. He takes special measures, especially on this point, to bring in confusion.

Even though some people will say that Mrs. White wrote more than a hundred years ago, thus these counsels were for her time, they are, in fact, just as true today as when she first wrote them. “The law of God has been largely dwelt upon and has been presented to congregations, almost as destitute of the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His relation to the law as was the offering of Cain.” Ibid. As bad as the offering of Cain? That is a strong rebuke. We must have a knowledge of Jesus Christ and His relationship to the ten commandments.

For over 40 years after the above statement was written, Adventist ministers preached the three angels’ messages, God’s last message of warning and mercy to the world. The Second Advent Movement was to reach out to a fallen world that was, and still is, rapidly heading toward destruction. The three angels’ messages offered to the people of the world a choice—listen and have life; don’t and be destroyed.

Seldom is there anything revealed that is more important than when God says to listen. We have a problem with listening. Adam and Eve didn’t listen. Cain didn’t listen. The people of the Antediluvian world didn’t listen. The people of Sodom didn’t listen. People today are listening, just not to God. Messages are being given by strange voices, but they are not messages from heaven. These voices are so attractive. They say that man will not die. They say that man can know everything that God knows. They say that man can be and do and have whatever he wants. They say that man can be like God. But these voices are lying, and they lead all who listen to them to destruction.

Ellen White was a prophet. God spoke to her and gave her visions regarding the things He needed for her to share with His people. “I have been shown that many have been kept from the faith because of the mixed, confused ideas of salvation, because the ministers have worked in a wrong manner to reach hearts.” Ibid. She is talking about Seventh-day Adventist ministers in this passage. Sadly, many people have been kept from accepting Jesus as their Saviour because of what these ministers have taught. What a terrible indictment against Adventist ministers!

How much is salvation worth to you? What would it mean if you could have a life with God that would never end—a life with no pain or sorrow, no death or funerals, no troubles or disappointments, no violence—instead there would be songs and praises, everlasting joy and gladness? Then it should be important to us to have a correct understanding of salvation.

At the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus, speaking of the last days, said that there will be many Christians who would think they were saved, but who, in fact, would be lost. They would come right up to the very end, believing that they were doing the work of God, only to find out it wasn’t true.

“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?’ ” Matthew 7:21, 22

They are absolutely sure that they are saved. They have prophesied, cast out demons, performed miracles and wonders, all in the name of Jesus. Their prophesies have come true, and when they admonished demons, they departed. They healed the sick and did many other miraculous things. But here is the problem:

“And then I declared to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ ” Verse 23. In spite of all the things they have done, believing that the power was coming from Jesus, He says He did not know them at all. Why? Because they were still sinning. So where was the power to perform all these things coming from? The devil can give prophesies and then make them come true. He can make people sick and then heal them. A demon can certainly allow himself to be cast out so that it looks like the work of the Holy Spirit. These Christians had a power, but it wasn’t a power from God. They had claimed to have worshipped God for years, but Jesus will say that He doesn’t know them.

The Greek word anti plus the Greek word Christos is anti-Christos. From these two Greek words comes our word antichrist. Friend, there is an antichrist in the world. The Greek word anti in its primitive sense means “someone who stands in the place of someone or something else.”

The apostle John writes that there are many antichrists who have stood and are standing in the place of Christ (1 John 2:22). The chief antichrist is the devil. Revelation predicts that a time is coming when almost the whole world will think they are worshiping Christ, but they will be worshiping the antichrist.

How can you tell whether you are worshiping Christ or the antichrist? Matthew 7:23, last part, tells us. “ ‘Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ ” These people who claim to be Christians are breaking God’s law. The antichrist teaches people to break God’s law. Christ teaches people to keep God’s law. “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” 1 John 3:6. Those who transgress God’s law do not know Jesus and Jesus does not know them.

The Bible is clear that sin is the transgression of the law. “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He [Jesus] 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 deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil.” Verses 4–8, first part. If I am living in sin, I am serving the devil, not Christ. Everyone who is living in sin is a child of the devil. “… the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” Verse 8, last part

Christ came to this world as a man to destroy sin. It was decided thousands of years ago that sin could not be tolerated and would have to be destroyed. He has allowed it to continue for so long so that the entire universe can see just how bad sin really is, how it destroys lives.

God hasn’t destroyed sin yet because there are people all around the world who have sin in them. If He destroyed sin now, then they would be destroyed, too. God doesn’t want to destroy anyone, but anyone who clings to sin will be destroyed when sin is destroyed. There is only one way to avoid the destruction that will come when sin is destroyed: if we allow Jesus to take the sin out of us. Understand, I can never take the sin out of myself. Neither can you take the sin out of yourself.

When I was a child, people didn’t understand this. They thought if they prayed enough and studied their Bibles enough, if they went to church every Sabbath and paid their tithe, if they told people about Jesus, that sin would be booted out of their lives. But there is no amount of praying, studying, church attending, tithe paying, or witnessing that will remove sin from my life. All of these things are needful, and are the outworking of a transformed life, but by themselves, they will not remove sin from my life. Only God can take the sin out of me and replace it with the righteousness of Jesus in my heart. That is why Jesus died on the cross. Without His death, it would have been impossible for God to take the sin out of me.

Romans 6:23 tells us, that ”the wages of sin is death.” Death is the natural consequence of sin, so when a person sins, they are guilty and cannot receive eternal life. Jesus died on the cross to bear my guilt for me and free me from the penalty of sin.

“The point that has been urged upon my mind for years is the imputed righteousness of Christ.” Faith and Works, 18. That is how God takes the sin out. There are several things that have to happen. What should happen when a person sins? They should die. Remember, “The wages of sin is death.” That is the natural consequence of sin—if you are guilty of sin you deserve death and you cannot be given eternal life. So, the first thing that has to happen if you are going to have eternal life is the guilt in your conscience has to be removed. Sin and the guilt we bear is so awful that the only way it could be removed was for Jesus Christ to die on the cross, bearing your guilt for you.

“I have wondered that this matter was not made the subject of discourses in our churches throughout the land, when the matter has been kept so constantly urged upon me, and I have made it the subject of nearly every discourse and talk that I have given to the people.” Ibid.

Let’s look at the following three points to help us better understand Jesus’ relationship to God’s law.

  1. We must understand the spiritual nature of the law. The main thrust of the Sermon on the Mount was the spirituality of the law (Romans 7:14).
  2. We want to understand Jesus Christ and His relationship to the law—the ten commandments (The Signs of the Times, November 15, 1899).
  3. If you don’t understand the first two points, here’s what will happen:
  4. You will have a wrong idea about justification by faith.
  5. If you have a wrong idea about justification by faith, you will have a wrong idea about sanctification.
  6. If you have a wrong idea about sanctification, you will not know what to do to be ready for Jesus to come.

The foundation of truth in all of these doctrines begins with a correct understanding of the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His relationship to the law. Before a sinner is justified, he must be convicted of sin and confess it.

The experience of Paul reveals that it is the moral law that brings conviction of sin. “I was alive once without the law.” Romans 7:9, first part. Paul had been taught by Gamaliel. He was a strict Pharisee. In the Jewish church, he was called a doctor of the law and a teacher of it. He could quote the law perfectly in three languages. He could explain all the tenants of the ten commandments. But in this text, Paul admits, without realizing it, that he did not understand the spiritual nature of the law. He knew the words, but he did not know the part the law played in the spiritual transformation of his heart.

Paul engaged in hunting down, persecuting, and killing Christians, breaking the sixth commandment in the name of God, until one day, as he journeyed along the Damascus Road, on his way to hunt down more Christians, God struck him down. A brilliant light shone all around him, brighter than the sun. He fell to the ground, and he “heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’ ” Acts 9:4–6

Before he truly understood the law, Paul believed that he was doing God’s work. He believed he was a good Jew, a good Pharisee, doing good work in hunting down those who allegedly spread blasphemy—those who, in Paul’s view, were sinners. Although most of the people of this world, because of their sins, are children of the devil, and yet, they still belong to God. The way we treat them, shows how we would treat Jesus. Thus unknowingly, Paul’s treatment of faithful Christians reveals how he might have treated Christ.

“ ‘Then He will also say to those on the left hand, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.” ‘Then they also will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?” Then He will answer them, saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.” And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’ ” Matthew 25:41–46

Paul is saying in Romans 7:9 that, for the first time in his life, the law revealed to his conscience that he was a sinful man. Only then did he begin to understand the spiritual nature of the law. He never understood it before. He lived in the world without the law, but now he was able to see himself as he truly was—a sinner with a character filled with sin. He believed himself to be a righteous person, but the law showed him that he was exactly the opposite. What was his response to this revelation? “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.” Recognizing that he is totally devoid of righteousness, devoid of all spiritual life, he says, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells.” Verse 18, first part

“The law revealed to Paul his defects of character; but he did not seek to abolish the law because he stood condemned before it. He said, ‘I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came [home to his conscience], sin [in his character] revived, and I died. … Wherefore the law [that worked so sharply against the natural propensities] is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.’ To his quickened conscience, sin became exceedingly sinful. This is the work of the law and the Holy Spirit, that convict of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.” The Home Missionary, October 1, 1897

When the moral law comes home to the conscience and the spiritual nature of the law is discerned, the sinner will realize that he is condemned because of his natural, sinful propensities. Notice the law not only convicts of sin, it also convicts of the righteousness found only in Jesus.

“Even the moral law fails of its purpose, unless it is understood in its relation to the Saviour.” The Desire of Ages, 608

If we fail to recognize this relationship, we are in danger of embracing false ideas of justification by faith. Many today fail to recognize the relationship between Christ and the law, and therefore, they are not convicted that man is born a sinner. The definition of sin is limited to simply a choice. They deny that we have sin within—that we are sinners by nature—so they ascribe to the humanity of Christ the same sinful flesh [carnal nature] that we inherited from Adam.

Jude warns us against this danger—ascribing our sinful nature to Christ’s humanity—admonishing us to contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.

My dear friend, the plan of salvation provides for the removal of sin from your life. Jesus, more than anything else in the world wants to take the sin out of your life so that He can replace it with His righteousness, and give you eternal life.

Are you willing to let Him do it? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to allow Jesus to come into your heart and mind and change you? To save you requires a creative act of God. He speaks and our sinfulness is removed and He creates in us a new heart, a new mind, a new spirit, a new character.

“Behold! I stand at the door and knock.”

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.

Likeness to the Satanic Nature Without, Holiness Within

What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk after the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3, 4

“The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. It is the golden chain that binds our souls to Christ, and through Christ to God. This is to be our study. Christ was a real man; He gave proof of His humility in becoming a man. Yet He was God in the flesh. When we approach this subject, we would do well to heed the words spoken by Christ to Moses at the burning bush, ‘Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’ 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.” The Youth’s Instructor, October 13, 1898

Christ was born as a real man, but He was also God in the flesh. Inspiration tells us that this is so important that as we study it, we should do so as though we, like Moses, were standing on holy ground.

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” Romans 8:7

Paul is simply saying that the law cannot justify man because, in his sinful nature, he is unable to keep the law perfectly, no matter how much he might want to. (See also Patriarchs and Prophets, 373.)

Remember, sinful nature, sinful flesh, and human nature are used interchangeably with reference to the carnal mind. The context determines the exact meaning.

We have seen that the word likeness means “a resemblance in form” which refers to the physical nature. Because of Adam’s fall, man has inherited sinful flesh and a carnal mind. These are manifestations of sin and sin is the cause of physical degeneration. When God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, He did not take the same carnal mind, but He took the likeness—the physical form—of sinful flesh. In other words, He inherited the same kind of physical body, ruined by the degenerating effects of 4,000 years of sin, but He did not inherit man’s carnal mind.

“Christ, who knew not the least moral taint or defilement of sin, took our nature in its deteriorated condition. This was humiliation greater than finite man can comprehend. He was the Majesty of heaven, but in the divine plan He descended from His high and holy estate to take humanity, that humanity might touch humanity, and divinity, combined with humanity, could take hold upon divinity.

“God was manifest in the flesh. He humbled Himself. What a subject for thought, for deep, earnest contemplation; so infinitely great that He was the Majesty of heaven, and yet He stooped so low without losing an atom of His dignity or glory! Christ stooped to poverty and to the deepest abasement and humiliation among men.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 16, 115

Unfortunately, many Adventists have interpreted Romans 8:3 to say that the word likeness means the same sinful flesh. Then they say that He had all the propensities for selfishness, lying, stealing, adultery, and murder that you and I have in our fallen human nature. In essence, they are teaching that Christ had our carnal mind, because the Bible says that the things that defile a man come from the heart and mind, and not the body.

“Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man … .” Matthew 15:19, 20

“From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” Mark 7:21–23

Jesus made it very clear that none of these things were found in Him. “For the ruler of this world [Satan] is coming, and he has nothing in Me.” John 14:30

The issue is that most Christians, including Seventh-day Adventists, do not understand the relationship between Jesus’ humanity and the law of God. So, let’s start by discussing justification and sanctification.

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. … Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.” Jude 3, 4, and 8

The word dignitaries could also be translated as glories. The men in verse 8 are speaking evil against the glorious Ones. They are speaking evil against the Godhead.

Inspiration is clear that justification is one of the truths that Paul addresses in Romans 8. She also reveals the danger regarding false ideas of justification by faith, which lead to a spurious sanctification, and in turn prevents true Sabbath worship. We will see, as we continue, how Jesus’ relationship with the law makes it possible to properly worship on the Sabbath.

“The danger has been presented to me again and again [through the Holy Spirit] of entertaining, as a people, false ideas of justification by faith. I have been shown for years that Satan would work in a special manner to confuse the mind on this point. The law of God has been largely dwelt upon, and has been presented to congregations, almost as destitute of the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His relation to the law as was the offering of Cain.” The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, 810

Notice, Mrs. White says that where false ideas of justification by faith are entertained, there is a lack of knowledge regarding the relationship between the humanity of Christ and the law of God. Mrs. White gives us several warnings regarding this lack of knowledge.

Warnings

“The Lord has presented before me the dangers that are threatening His people who have the sacred work of proclaiming the third angel’s message with clearness and distinctness.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 18, 27

“Several have written to me inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel’s message, and I have answered, ‘It is the third angel’s message in verity [reality].’ ” The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890

“The third angel’s message is to be sounded by God’s people. It is to swell to the loud cry.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 9, 212

The third angel’s message is the message of justification by faith, the message that God’s people are to give at this time. We must understand that if we lack knowledge concerning the relationship between the humanity of Christ and the law of God, we are in danger of being ensnared by unsanctified propositions.

“We are in danger of giving the third angel’s message in so indefinite a manner that it does not impress the people. … The Sabbath question has been touched upon but has not been presented as the great test for this time. While the churches profess to believe in Christ, they are violating the law which Christ Himself proclaimed from Sinai. The Lord bids us: ‘Show My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.’ Isaiah 58:1. The trumpet is to give a certain sound.” Testimonies, Vol. 6, 60, 61. This warning links the third angel’s message with the Sabbath.

“Of all professing Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting Christ before the world. The proclamation of the third angel’s message calls for the presentation of the Sabbath truth. This truth, with others included in the message, is to be proclaimed; but the great center of attraction, Christ Jesus, must not be left out. … The sinner must be led to look to Calvary; with the simple faith of a little child he must trust in the merits of the Saviour, accepting His righteousness, believing in His mercy.” Gospel Workers, 156, 157

“In all ages, the Sabbath has been the test of loyalty to God.” Ibid., 148

So while justification by faith is the third angel’s message in verity, the Sabbath—the great test of loyalty for this time—is also a key part of the message, inseparably linked with justification which cannot be separated from loyalty to God. The Sabbath then involves far more than just which day one goes to church. It is the test of loyalty for God’s people. Sadly, many Adventists have forgotten the spiritual nature and far-reaching principles of the law of God and how the humanity of Christ is related to it.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” Hosea 4:6

“Even the moral law fails of its purpose, unless it is understood in its relation to the Saviour.” The Desire of Ages, 608

The purpose of the moral law is to convict mankind of sin. If the law fails in this purpose, then instead of accomplishing the work that God has called His people to do, they will be working with Satan and ascribing his evil attributes to the humanity of Christ. Satan has done this so effectively that people now have a false idea of who Jesus really is.

What is justification by faith? A full, complete pardon of sin. “The moment a sinner accepts Christ by faith, that moment he is pardoned. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to him, and he is no more to doubt God’s forgiving grace. …

“It is only through faith in His blood that Jesus can justify the believer.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 6, 1071

Too many people believe that justification is accomplished right before you are baptized and then you just move on to the process of sanctification. However, justification is not a once-and-done action.

There are two parts to justification by faith. First, an instantaneous, full, and complete pardon for sin through faith in the blood of Christ. Second, the righteousness of Christ is then imputed or put to your account. However, there is a prerequisite to being justified. To be justified you must first make a thorough confession. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

While many believe that we are born into sin, they do not believe we are sinners until we commit an act of sin. Inspiration says that Adam entailed a sinful nature upon his posterity, and thereby, we are alienated from God, and unable to be in harmony with the precepts of His law (Steps to Christ, 43; Romans 8:7).

How does our sinful condition—our carnal mind—measure up to the requirement of the great moral standard? Paul says, “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one.’ ” Romans 3:10

“The law requires righteousness—a righteous life, a perfect character; and this man has not to give. He cannot meet the claims of God’s holy law.” The Desire of Ages, 762

“The law requires us to present to God a holy character. It demands of men today just what it demanded of Adam in Eden—perfect obedience, perfect harmony with all its precepts in all relations of life, under all circumstances and conditions. … The standard of the law cannot be lowered to meet man in his fallen condition. No compromise can be made with the sinner to take less than the full requirement of the law.” The Signs of the Times, May 30, 1895

Human nature is alienated from God because the mind is naturally carnal and not in harmony with the precepts of God’s law. “When man sinned, all heaven was filled with sorrow; for through yielding to temptation, man became the enemy of God, a partaker of the satanic nature … [and] out of harmony with the character of God; for through sin man became carnal, and the carnal heart is enmity against God, is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Ibid., February 13, 1893

“By nature we are alienated from God. The Holy Spirit describes our condition in such words as these: ‘Dead in trespasses and sins;’ ‘the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint;’ ‘no soundness in it.’ We are held fast in the snare of Satan, ‘taken captive by him at his will.’ Ephesians 2:1; Isaiah 1:5, 6; 2 Timothy 2:26. God desires to heal us, to set us free. But since this requires an entire transformation, a renewing of our whole nature, we must yield ourselves wholly to Him.” Steps to Christ, 43

Every human mind is controlled either by the Holy Spirit or by an evil spirit. The carnal mind is controlled by the power of Satan and is the very essence of the satanic nature. Those who do not believe that we are born sinners, partakers of the satanic nature, have changed Paul’s words and attributed to the humanity of Christ the same sinful flesh that man inherited from Adam. This clearly shows that they are lacking knowledge regarding the relationship between Jesus Christ and the spiritual nature of the law.

We must recognize our sinful, fallen condition. It is this condition that constitutes our unrighteousness. Our condition is our state of being. Let’s say I was born blind. This is my condition, my state of being, and I cannot make myself to see. I didn’t do anything to make myself blind. I am simply blind because I was born this way. This describes our sinful condition. Our state of being is sinful because we were born with the sinfulness that Adam entailed upon us, and we cannot make ourselves sinless. We are simply sinful.

But the Bible gives us good news. If we confess our sins, God is not only faithful to forgive and justify us, but He will also cleanse us from all unrighteousness—not only our sinful condition, but also the deeds that are the fruit of it. Justification by faith begins by confessing the sinfulness of our nature and believing in the spotless, unblemished righteousness of the Lamb.

“By virtue of His blood the enmity is abolished.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1109. Faith in the blood of Christ will abolish the enmity of man’s sinful condition.

Relationship of Jesus’ Humanity to the Law

  1. “All Your commandments are righteousness.” Psalm 119:172, last part
  2. “Your law is truth.” Verse 142, last part
  3. “All Your commandments are truth.” Verse 151, last part
  4. “The law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” Romans 7:12

The word just in Romans 7:12 means “equitable in character or act” and it implies innocence or holiness. The combination of thoughts and feelings develop character, “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” Therefore, character relates to the mind.

“Such a law [the ten commandments], being an expression of the mind and will of God, must be as enduring as its Author.” The Great Controversy, 467

Luke 1:35 (KJV) calls Jesus “that Holy Thing.” Mrs. White tells us that those words refer only to Jesus Christ. “The humanity of Christ is called ‘that Holy Thing.’ The inspired record says of Christ, ‘He did no sin,’ He ‘knew no sin,’ and ‘in Him was no sin.’ He was ‘holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.’ He tabernacled among men. This testimony concerning Christ plainly shows that He condemned sin in the flesh.” The Signs of the Times, January 16, 1896

“As speech is to thought, so is Christ to the invisible God. He is the manifestation of the Father and is called the Word of God. God sent His Son into the world, His divinity clothed with humanity, to make known in His life and character the attributes of the Father, that men might bear the image of the invisible God. He [Christ] was the embodiment of the law of God, which is the transcript of His character.” The Signs of the Times, November 15, 1899

“To human eyes, Christ was only a man, yet he was a perfect man. In his humanity He was the impersonation of the divine character. God embodied His own attributes in His Son—His power, His wisdom, His goodness, His purity, His truthfulness, His spirituality, and His benevolence. In Him, though human, all perfection of character, all divine excellence, dwelt.” The Youth’s Instructor, September 16, 1897

To summarize:

  • God’s law is holy and righteous.
  • Jesus was that Holy Thing, who did no sin, knew no sin, was no sin.
  • Jesus was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.
  • Jesus was and is the embodiment of God’s law.
  • All perfection of character, all divine excellence dwelt in Him even though He was human.
  • Jesus inherited the attributes of His Father. He was the personification of the law of God, the very righteousness and holiness of God.

For His life on this earth, Jesus put on, if you will, a cloak of sinfulness—our physical human form ruined by 4,000 years of sin—that He might know and understand what sin had done to man. It enabled Him to sympathize with man’s struggles against his sinful nature and the outside enticements brought to him by the devil, but inside, His nature was holy.

Satan is still trying to clothe the Father with his own attributes. Through those who say that God sent His own Son into this world in the same sinful flesh that we have, he is attempting to make people believe that Jesus had the same selfish nature controlled by Satan that we inherited from Adam. This is so wrong, and those who believe and teach it are unwittingly fostering the work of Satan, attributing to the Godhead the attributes of Satan.

“Satan has worked against God and His government, leading men to attribute to God the traits which belong to the power of evil. Christ came to this world to reveal the Father.” The Review and Herald, March 12, 1901

“Satan had clothed the Father in his own attributes, but Christ represented Him in His true character of benevolence and love.” The Signs of the Times, June 27, 1892

“God is love, and His law is love. Its two great principles are love to God and love to man. ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law.’ The character of God is righteousness and truth; such is the nature of His law.” The Great Controversy, 467

“Jesus volunteered to meet the highest claims of the law, that He might be the Justifier of all who believe on Him. We look to the cross, and see in Jesus a fully satisfied and reconciled God. Jesus is righteousness. What fullness is expressed in these words!” The Review and Herald, September 2, 1890

To meet the highest claims of the law, Jesus had to begin with righteousness, a perfect character in harmony with all the precepts of the law because the law requires these things.

“Christ is called the second Adam. In purity and holiness, connected with God and beloved by God, He began where the first Adam began.” The Youth’s Instructor, June 2, 1898

“He began life, passed through its experiences, and ended its record, with a sanctified human will.” The Signs of the Times, October 29, 1894

“Christ exalted the law, holding it forth in its original purity as a perfect system of morality. His life was a living illustration of the law of God.” The Signs of the Times, June 5, 1901

“He [Christ] made this law honorable by His perfect conformity to its requirements.” Ibid.

The law is just and righteous and it demands a righteous and holy life, a perfect character, and in meeting the highest claims of the law, Jesus became our Substitute. His righteousness substituted for our unrighteousness, and if we confess our sins and accept by faith the fullness of His righteousness, our sins will be forgiven, and we will be cleansed from all unrighteousness. Jesus is our substitute in justification and our example in sanctification. His human nature is the example of what sanctified human nature is to be, and and His divine nature is the example of what we can become by His power and grace.

“He [Jesus] came to our world on a mission from the Father. He came to bridge the gulf that sin had made between God and man. There was to be made a provision for a reconciliation, for a union of the human with the divine nature. Christ would sanctify all who believe in Him. In the gift of Christ to our world, God has provided for everyone a power to overcome evil.” The Upward Look, 149

“He [God] could save the human race only through His Son, who combined humanity with divinity. In His divine plan of salvation, God gave His only begotten Son that every voice may be silent upon the point that it is not possible for humanity to keep the law of God. In Christ, divinity and humanity bore every test of temptation … . In Christ, man is privileged to become a partaker of the divine nature.” The Review and Herald, November 29, 1898

If God’s people believe that sin is limited simply to a choice that a person makes, then they are rejecting the knowledge regarding the far-reaching principles of the spirituality of God’s law.

How does the Sabbath fit with justification by faith, the third angel’s message, the law of God, and the humanity of Christ?

What is the purpose of the law of God? “The law was our school master to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” Galatians 3:24. The law brings us to Christ that we might be justified, but unless we understand how the law is related to the humanity of Christ, it cannot bring us to the point of justification by faith.

The law also has a role in the judgment. “He who becomes a partaker of the divine nature will be in harmony with God’s great standard of righteousness, His holy law. This is the rule by which God measures the actions of men. This will be the test of character in the judgment.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 314

The gospel does not nullify the law nor does it detract one jot or tittle from its claims. It still demands holiness, and it is by this just and holy law that all will be judged in the last day.

“The law is the great standard of righteousness. It represents the character of God.” The Youth’s Instructor, February 19, 1903

Jesus had the character of God in both His divine and human natures. Studying Christ’s life shows us God’s character—what He is like. The law is a reflection of God’s character, an expression of His perfect holiness. It is the test of our loyalty to His government. The law brings us to Christ, showing us that it was exemplified in His humanity, written in His human heart.

Under the new covenant, God has promised that He will write the law in our hearts. Thus, as we surrender our lives to Him, repent of our sins, and allow the Holy Spirit to effect a complete transformation in our lives, we can be a living example of His character, just as Christ was.

It is by understanding this intimate relationship that Jesus had, in His humanity, with the law of God, that we will have an accurate understanding of justification by faith.

Justification by faith leads to sanctification. Jesus is the embodiment of God’s law, and it is He who is both the Justifier, according to the law of righteousness, and Sanctifier of His people, enabling them to live as He lived, and the Sabbath was given as a sign, a promise, that He will sanctify them.

The Sabbath, God says, is “a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.” Exodus 31:13

“Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them.” Ezekiel 20:12

“The Sabbath given to the world as the sign of God as the Creator is also the sign of Him as the Sanctifier. The power that created all things is the power that recreates the soul in His own likeness.” Testimonies, Vol. 6, 350

“True sanctification is harmony with God, oneness with Him in character.” Ibid.

“ ‘I gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them,’—make them holy. Then the Sabbath is a sign of Christ’s power to make us holy.” The Desire of Ages, 288

Do you see the connection between the Sabbath, justification, and sanctification in the third angel’s message? “The Sabbath is a sign of Christ’s power to make us holy. … It is given to all whom Christ makes holy. As a sign of His sanctifying power, the Sabbath is given to all who through Christ become a part of the Israel of God.” Ibid.

“No other institution which was committed to the Jews tended so fully to distinguish them from surrounding nations as did the Sabbath. God designed that its observance should designate them as His worshipers. It was to be a token of their separation from idolatry, and their connection with the true God.” Ibid., 283

“The human heart is naturally inclined to idolatry and self-exaltation.” The Signs of the Times, April 21, 1881.

Where love to God is, natural self-idolatry will not exist. Practicing self-idolatry makes us unable to keep the Sabbath. “It is the love of self that brings unrest.” The Desire of Ages, 330

True sanctification is a daily dying to sin and our natural selfishness, crucifying our natural self-idolatry, and becoming one with Him in character. Christ is our perfect example of sanctification, and keeping the Sabbath is a sign of true sanctification.

“To all who receive the Sabbath as a sign of Christ’s creative and redeeming power, it will be a delight. Seeing Christ in it, they delight themselves in Him. The Sabbath points them to the works of Creation as an evidence of His mighty power in redemption. While it calls to mind the lost peace of Eden, it tells of peace restored through the Saviour. And every object in nature repeats His invitation, ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ ” The Faith I Live By, 33

“Great peace have those who love Your law.” Psalm 119:165. This peace was completely His own; no one could give it, no one could take it away.

Concerning Jesus, the Bible says, “I delight to do Your will, O My God, and Your law is within My heart.” Psalm 40:8

“The practical lessons of Christ are to be often repeated. Christ and His righteousness are to be so blended with the third angel’s message that the whole world may be lightened with His glory.” The Review and Herald, July 14, 1891

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.

Fallen, but Not Corrupted

Though the Bible enjoins us to gather together to worship God (Matthew 18:20), just going to church will not provide all you spiritually need to know. Bible study and prayer, outside of the church setting, is essential every day in order to develop your relationship with Jesus and strengthen your faith. Successful study of the many topics of the Bible is dependent upon being willing to allow the Holy Spirit to show you what truth is.

“An understanding of Bible truth depends not so much on the power of intellect brought to the search as on the singleness of purpose, the earnest longing after righteousness.

“The Bible should never be studied without prayer. The Holy Spirit alone can cause us to feel the importance of those things easy to be understood or prevent us from wresting truths difficult of comprehension. …

“We are living in the most solemn period of this world’s history. The destiny of earth’s teeming multitudes is about to be decided. Our own future well-being and also the salvation of other souls depend upon the course which we now pursue. We need to be guided by the Spirit of truth. … We should now seek a deep and living experience in the things of God. We have not a moment to lose.” Reflecting Christ, 116

Too many, including Adventist ministers and laymen, while studying a particular subject, conclude and then doggedly dig in on what they believe to be true rather than on what the Holy Spirit might be trying to show them. It is essential that, before opening the Bible or Spirit of Prophecy to study a subject, that we ask the Holy Spirit to give us open minds and hearts to what He will show us.

Mrs. White addresses this determined refusal to accept evidence of something other than what a person, after their own study of a subject, has decided is truth. Let’s look at this in the context of our ongoing study of the nature of Christ.

The following is a well-known quotation, a favorite of revivalist Adventist preachers when speaking on Christ’s human nature.

“It would have been an almost infinite humiliation for the Son of God to take man’s nature, even when Adam stood in his innocence in Eden. But Jesus accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by four thousand years of sin. Like every child of Adam, He accepted the results of the working of the great law of heredity. What these results were is shown in the history of His earthly ancestors. He came with such a heredity to share our sorrows and temptations, and to give us the example of a sinless life.” The Desire of Ages, 49

All will agree that, based on evidence found in the Bible and Inspiration, the Son of God took man’s nature. We have already studied that in relation to humanity, there are two different meanings to the word nature. Nature can be used to mean humanity in general, or it can be used to mean a single individual. When speaking of humanity, nature is referring to the physical aspects of man’s being. But if you are speaking of an individual, nature refers to the disposition or condition of his mind, therefore, his character.

When Mrs. White says that the Son of God took man’s nature, that He accepted humanity, she is speaking of humanity in general, therefore, the aspects of Christ’s nature under discussion in the above paragraph is His physical nature and not the disposition of His mind or His character. Jesus’ physical nature was “weakened by four thousand years of sin,” just as is the physical nature of all humans.

The word weakened means to “lessen the strength of or to deprive of strength or debilitate or to enfeeble.” This would be a common aspect of both man’s and Jesus’ physical nature.

“Sin is the cause of physical degeneration; sin has blighted the race, and introduced disease, misery, and death.” Pacific Health Journal, February 1, 1902

The word degeneration means “growing worse or losing good qualities from the virtue or worth of ancestors, a decay of the natural good qualities of the species, a falling from a more excellent state to one of less worth either in the natural or the moral world.” In the natural world, plants and animals degenerate when something grows to less its normal size or loses some of the valuable qualities that belongs to its species. In the moral world, man degenerates when he declines in virtue or other good qualities.

“Earthly treasures must pass away; but nobility of character, moral worth, will endure forever.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 69

Returning to the article found in the Pacific Health Journal, February 1, 1902, we find a detailed explanation of the effects of sin.

“Since the fall, the tendency of the race has been continually downward, the effects of sin becoming more marked with every successive generation. But so great was the vitality with which man was endowed that the patriarchs from Adam to Noah, with a few exceptions, lived nearly a thousand years. …

“Since the flood, the average length of life has been decreasing. Had Adam possessed no greater physical force than men now have, the race would before this have become extinct.”

Each generation of man has physically degenerated more and more as a consequence of sin. When Jesus took on humanity and accepted the results of the working of the great law of heredity, He accepted the physical degeneration, but He did not take on the condition of our moral (spiritual) nature, one that was defiled with sin.

“Christ who knew not the least moral taint or defilement of sin, took our nature in its deteriorated condition.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 16, 115

Remember, when man sinned in the garden of Eden, his character was no longer governed by the principles of righteousness on which God’s laws are based. His character, instead, became subject to the principles of selfishness, which is the basis for everything the devil does. Jesus’ body and all the other physical aspects of humanity were subject to the degeneration caused by sin. Unlike man’s moral nature which is selfish, Christ’s moral nature is pure.

As a practical example, a person might have dark brown hair, but with a little help from their hairdresser, they can change the color to red. Now, is that person no longer a brown-haired person? What happens as the hair begins to grow out? While the part of the hair that was colored is still red, the new-growth hair is still dark brown. That’s the way it is with our nature and sin. We are selfish by nature, and we can do as many good things as we can, we can even repent and ask the Holy Spirit to transform us, however, being selfish is still what the natural man is inside. Except Jesus wasn’t. His moral nature, His character, was completely free from sin.

“By taking upon Himself man’s nature in its fallen condition, Christ did not in the least participate in its sin.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 17, 25.

He took man’s ruined physical condition, his fallen nature (referring to man in general), but He did not in the least participate in the sin, nor was His moral nature (referring to an individual) selfish.

Remember, what we have studied previously regarding Christ’s nature. The foundation of Satan’s government is selfishness. “All sin is selfishness.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 3, 331. But Jesus came to this world as the embodiment, the physical representation, of God’s law. His every word, action, and thought were an outworking of God’s law. Jesus’ moral nature was righteous. God was with man in the person of His Son. Sin cannot exist where God is, so Jesus could not have had our selfish nature. And anyone who digs in and insists that Christ had our moral nature (referring to an individual), is saying He was selfish and sinful like us. Neither the Bible nor the Spirit of Prophecy supports this.

“He voluntarily assumed human nature. It was His own act, and by His own consent. He clothed His divinity with humanity. He was all the while as God, but He did not appear as God. … He was God while upon earth, but He divested Himself of the form of God … . He walked the earth as a man.

“He humbled Himself, and took mortality upon Him. As a member of the human family He was mortal, but as a God He was the Fountain of life to the world.” The Review and Herald, July 5, 1887

“He might have helped His human nature to withstand the inroads of disease by pouring from His divine nature vitality and undecaying vigor to the human. But He humbled Himself to man’s nature.” Ibid.

“The divine nature, combined with the human, made Him capable of yielding to Satan’s temptations. Here the test to Christ was far greater than that of Adam and Eve, for Christ took our nature, fallen but not corrupted, and would not be corrupted unless He received the words of Satan in the place of the words of God.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 16, 182, 183

He came to share our sorrows and temptations. Isaiah described Him as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. What is the cause of our sorrow? Sin is the source of our sorrow. Inspiration says that Jesus came with such a heredity, and, according to the 1828 dictionary, the word such means “the same as what has been mentioned.” He came as a member of the human race to show them how, though ruined by sin, to live a sinless life.

“The human nature of Christ was like unto ours, and suffering was more keenly felt by Him; for His spiritual nature was free from every taint of sin. Therefore His desire for the removal of suffering was stronger than human beings can experience. How intense was the desire of the humanity of Christ to escape the displeasure of an offended God, how His soul longed for relief, is revealed in the words, ‘O My Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.’ ” The Signs of the Times, December 9, 1897

Take just a moment to consider this: Jesus came to this world in a body ruined by the effects of sin, all the while His moral nature was holy and righteous. Imagine how Jesus suffered! A holy gift, wrapped in a degraded package.

Jesus, for our sake, became a real man; one who could suffer our kinds of temptation, who sought relief from the suffering that was imposed upon Him because of our sins.

God’s prophet links the sorrows and temptations of Jesus to the expression “the likeness of sinful flesh,” thereby explaining more fully what Paul meant when he wrote Romans 8:3. “Christ, the second Adam came in the likeness of sinful flesh. In man’s behalf, he became subject to sorrow, to weariness, to hunger, and to thirst. He was subject to temptation, but he yielded not to sin. No taint of sin was upon Him.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 141, 142

The taint of sin is the natural selfishness of sin that the first Adam, the father of the race, entailed upon all his posterity. Yielding to temptation is committing sin. Jesus did not, by any word, action, or thought, commit sin nor was His spiritual nature tainted with sin.

“In His earthly life, Jesus of Nazareth differed from all other men. His entire life was characterized by disinterested benevolence and the beauty of holiness. In His bosom existed the purest love, free from every taint of selfishness and sin. From the beginning of His ministry, men began more clearly to comprehend the character of God.” The Signs of the Times, September 23, 1908

After four thousand years of sin, Jesus took upon Himself the physical degeneration of the race that He might know what it is like to experience the sorrow that I experience, the weariness that I experience, the hunger that I experience, the thirst that I experience, and even the death that I will experience. And while suffering all these miserable things, He was tempted, in every way, like we are, yet He did not sin.

Paul discusses these things in detail in Hebrews. “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.’ ” Hebrews 10:5

When God sent His Son into the world, He came in a body especially prepared in the likeness of sinful flesh—both physically and mentally. “So Christ was to come in ‘the body of our humiliation’ (Philippians 3:21, R. V.), ‘in the likeness of men.’ In the eyes of the world He possessed no beauty that they should desire Him; yet He was the incarnate God, the light of heaven and earth. His glory was veiled, His greatness and majesty were hidden, that He might draw near to sorrowful, tempted men.” The Desire of Ages, 23

This inspired reference “the likeness of men” is found in Philippians 2:7. The word likeness is the same word used in Romans 8:3. His moral nature is also described in this short paragraph. Mrs. White also writes that Jesus was the incarnate God. The word incarnate means “in the flesh.” Jesus was God in the flesh. This is what Paul is talking about when he wrote, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh.” 1 Timothy 3:16, first part. Mrs. White is saying here that Jesus was still God even though He was a man. She describes the incarnate God as the light of heaven and earth. “I am the light of the world.” John 8:12

Jesus was first the light of heaven, but when He took man’s nature, His light, the outward manifestation of His glory, was veiled, completely hidden from man’s sight. Mrs. White wrote that it would have been an almost infinite humiliation for Christ to take man’s nature when Adam stood in innocence in Eden. (See The Desire of Ages, 49.) This has a special significance. “The white robe of innocence was worn by our first parents when they were placed by God in holy Eden. They lived in perfect conformity to the will of God. All the strength of their affections was given to their heavenly Father. A beautiful soft light, the light of God, enshrouded the holy pair.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 310, 311. Adam and Eve did not need physical clothing. The robe of light that surrounded them was a symbol of their spiritual nature: pure, holy, and righteous innocence.

“Had they remained true to God it would ever have continued to enshroud them.” Ibid., 311. This robe of light that enshrouded the holy pair was a symbol of their inward spiritual condition of innocence. Jesus also wore this white robe, this garment of innocence, but it was veiled. He lived in perfect conformity to the will of His Father, just as Adam and Eve first did in the garden of Eden. All the strength of His affection was given to His heavenly Father.

What happened to the beautiful, soft light that enshrouded the holy pair when they sinned? “But when sin entered, they severed their connection with God, and the light that had encircled them departed. Naked and ashamed, they tried to supply the place of the heavenly garments … .” Ibid. Interestingly, though they were able to fashion for themselves fig-leaf garments, they were still ashamed to appear before God. No longer enshrouded by their heavenly garments, they were naked, deprived of the godly dignity they had worn both inwardly and outwardly, they were humiliated, degraded, and ashamed.

The light that surrounded the holy pair prior to their fall was only a reflection of the far greater light that surrounded God. For Jesus to have taken even this garment of light would have been an infinite humiliation for He is the light of heaven, the source of all light, far surpassing every other light.

“With His divinity clothed with humanity, He stood before the people, presenting to them their true condition.” The Review and Herald, July 17, 1900

It is important that we read carefully what the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy say about Jesus’ nature. He came in the likeness of sinful flesh, not in sinful flesh. Sinful flesh represents the carnal mind. Likeness means “in the form of.” Likeness is not sameness. Jesus did not come with a carnal mind. He came in the likeness of the physical nature of man so that He would be able to suffer, as we do, misery and death while being tempted. However, it should be noted that the physical aspect of His human nature does not deny the reality of the part that His human mental and spiritual nature also played in His suffering.

“He had not taken on Him even the nature of the angels, but humanity, perfectly identical with our own nature, except without the taint of sin. A human body, a human mind, with all the peculiar properties, He was bone, brain, and muscle.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 16, 182. The taint of sin is the naturally carnal mind that we inherit from Adam. The human spiritual nature of Christ was free from every taint of sin, however, every single son and daughter of Adam inherits the carnal mind from him and the condition of the spiritual nature of the natural man is described as “By nature we are alienated from God.” Steps to Christ, 43. This is our natural nature.

Was Jesus by nature alienated from God? It would be blasphemy to say that.

“The Holy Spirit describes our condition in such words as these: ‘Dead in trespasses and sins;’ ‘the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint;’ ‘no soundness in it.’ We are held fast in the snare of Satan, ‘taken captive by him at his will.’ God desires to heal us, to set us free. But since this requires an entire transformation, a renewing of our whole nature, we must yield ourselves wholly to Him.” Ibid. That may sound harsh, but friends, there is no other way to be saved except to be completely transformed. Transformation comes only by an utterly complete surrender to God because He doesn’t use force.

Putting together everything we have studied to this point, we find that when God sent His own Son in the likeness, the form of sinful flesh, He came in the body of our humiliation. He accepted the results of the working of the great law of heredity after four thousand years of sin. Sin is the cause of physical degeneration, misery, and death. He was found in the external condition of our nature in its deteriorated condition, able to share our sorrows and temptations.

There are many Adventist people who changed the words of scripture and substituted the word same for the word likeness in Romans 8:3. As a result, many Adventist ministers have said that Jesus came in sinful flesh. For more than 40 years, I have researched the Spirit of Prophecy to find even a single quotation by Mrs. White that says that Jesus came in sinful flesh. I have found not one scripture, not one statement of Inspiration that says He came in sinful flesh. Those who change the words of the Scriptures and say that Jesus took the same sinful flesh that we have, are unwittingly saying that Jesus took a carnal mind. This is blasphemy. Christ’s nature was “fallen, but not corrupted” mentally or spiritually. (See Manuscript Releases, Vol. 16, 182.)

“Jesus Christ is our example in all things. He began life, passed through its experiences, and ended its record, with a sanctified human will. He was tempted in all points like as we are, and yet because He kept His will surrendered and sanctified, He never bent in the slightest degree toward the doing of evil, or toward manifesting rebellion against God.” The Signs of the Times, October 29, 1894

Jesus began life with a sanctified human will and kept it sanctified. He never had our natural bent to evil, no tendencies or propensities, inherent or cultivated, toward sin as some people have taught.

Friends, the plan of salvation is not just about forgiveness. Jesus Christ came to this world and became one flesh with us in order that we, by being united to Him, might become one spirit with Him. That is the experience that everyone must have if they are going to be in the kingdom of heaven.

The apostle John wrote, “We know that when He appears we will be like Him.” 1 John 3:2

Peter wrote, “Unto us are given exceedingly great and precious promises, that you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2 Peter 1:4

Everyone who is taken to heaven will be a partaker of the divine nature. Everyone will reflect the light of Jesus’ character. Everyone will be wearing His robe of righteousness.

“The salvation of the human soul requires the will power to be subject to the divine will power, which will can’t be forced, but there must be cooperation of the human and divine agencies.

“Man cannot possibly work out his own salvation without the ordained divine power, and God will not do for man that which He requires man shall do for himself, through his own earnest willing cooperation. …

“The Lord has in His heavenly counsels set forth methods and agencies whereby His grace shall be at work through various influences for the saving of the soul of the sinner. But all these facilities will be ineffectual and powerless without the sinner’s consent … . It is a united work, a union of the divine and human, dependent upon grace, and concurring with grace in willing obedience.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 10, 332

“But 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 Corinthians 3:18

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.

Likeness is not Sameness

The book of Romans, written by Paul—the greatest theologian of the apostles—is the most systematic and complete explanation of how a person is saved. In it, Paul begins building a case for the salvation of man in the very first chapter, point by point, each chapter tightly connected to the chapter before it.

Romans 6 is about the beginning of the Christian life, when a person is baptized, laying the foundation for Romans 7, which lays the foundation for Romans 8. It is essential, when studying Romans, to study chapters 6, 7, and 8 together as they are very tightly connected. Do not let chapter or verse divisions rob you of the flow of the text as the author meant for it to be studied.

Romans 8:3 is a pivotal text, connecting everything before and after it. “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh.” If a person takes a surface reading of this verse, it is actually possible to use the text to commit a fatal error regarding the righteousness of Christ that robs Him of His glory and His divinity and, I believe, unintentionally, ascribing to His humanity a carnal nature. Friends, Jesus did not have a carnal nature.

As we have studied previously in Scripture, the term sinful flesh refers to the sinful or carnal nature. You will recall that Paul says in verse 7 that this sinful flesh, the one that Adam entailed upon all of his posterity when he sinned in the garden of Eden, cannot keep God’s law.

“Because the carnal mind [flesh] is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.”

The word likeness can mean more than one thing. For example, you can be referring to a physical, mental, or spiritual likeness, or a likeness of disposition. Those are very different things. There are many Adventists who think that the word likeness in this verse means sameness because of the root word Homos. They say that Jesus came in sinful flesh, but the scripture does not say that; it says that He came in the likeness of sinful flesh. They teach that likeness means sameness quoting all kinds of statements. Searching for over 40 years, I have not found a single Spirit of Prophecy reference in which Mrs. White says that Jesus came in sinful flesh.

We must understand the root word. The Greek Lexicon gives us the meaning of the Greek words that are a takeoff or modification of the root word Homos. They are: homou, homoios, homoioo, and homoioma.

Homou means “in the same place, or together,” as in people living in the same house. “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” 2 Corinthians 5:1. The following statement will help to explain when Paul writes about this earthly house, this tent. “There is not one in a thousand, married or unmarried, who realizes the importance of purity of habits, in preserving cleanliness of the body and purity of thought. Sickness and disease is the sure consequence of disobedience to nature’s laws, and neglect of the laws of life and health. It is the house in which we live that we need to preserve, that it may do honor to God, who has redeemed us. We need to know how to preserve the living machinery, that our soul, body, and spirit may be consecrated to His service.” The Kress Collection, 45. Notice, Mrs. White is talking about maintaining cleanliness of body and then about the house in which we live, our physical body.

“Every mother should see that her children understand their own bodies, and how to care for them. … We are God’s workmanship, and His word declares that we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ He has prepared this living habitation for the mind; it is ‘curiously wrought,’ a temple which the Lord Himself has fitted up for the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 425, 426. Inspiration uses several different phrases—tabernacle, temple, house, living machinery, and living habitation—to represent the body.

If the body represents the house in which we live, then the mind represents the man, the person, the character, the mind that lives in the house. The root word for likeness means the same in the sense of the same place, living together in one house; the man and his mind living together in his body.

Homoios is the first modification of the root word Homos. It means “similar in appearance, resembling, having a like form or appearance.” The word similar in English means “two things that resemble each other but are not exactly alike or identical.” Things perfectly similar in their nature must be of the same essence, or homogeneous, but generally we understand the word similar to denote a likeness that is not perfect. The word similar does not generally mean exactly the same. For example, we say a person looks like his brother or his father. They have a similar physical nature, such as in features or form, but they are not perfectly identical.

“Had Christ come in His divine form, humanity could not have endured the sight. The contrast would have been too painful, the glory too overwhelming. Humanity could not have endured the presence of one of the pure, bright angels from glory; therefore Christ took not on Him the nature of angels; He came in the likeness of men.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1131

Likeness can also refer to a similarity in character. For example, “Your imagination was not given you to be allowed to run riot and have its own way without any effort at restraint or discipline. If the thoughts are wrong the feelings will be wrong, and the thoughts and feelings combined make up the moral character.” Testimonies, Vol. 5, 310

Moral character is the combination of thoughts and feelings, but notice, Mrs. White links the word imagination with the thoughts as playing a key role in the moral character. When the Scriptures talk about character, very often they use the word imagination. “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5. This describes man’s character. The imagination produces thoughts and thoughts combined with feelings produce character. “And the Lord said, ‘Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice, nor walked according to it, but they have walked according to the dictates [imagination] of their own hearts and after the Baals, which their fathers taught them,’ therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will feed them, this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink.’ ” Jeremiah 9:13–15

“The natural, selfish mind, as it exists in its carnal state, acts without reference to God, and is evil, and only evil, continually.” The Signs of the Times, June 22, 1888. The natural, selfish mind is evil, and only evil. The imagination of the heart is only evil because when man sinned, he forsook God’s law of love, and became carnal, embracing Satan’s law of selfishness.

A dictionary definition of the English word character, not the Greek word kharaktēr which is very similar in meaning, is “the peculiar qualities impressed by nature or habit on a person which distinguish him from others.” These constitute real character, and the qualities which he is supposed to possess constitute his estimated character or reputation. Hence, we say, a character is not formed when the person has not acquired stable and distinctive qualities. There is probably not a single Adventist who would knowingly say that Jesus possessed the same character as fallen humanity possesses. But there are many who are deceived regarding the qualities impressed on His human nature, and unwittingly or unknowingly say that He did have the same character. If that were true, then He would have a carnal mind.

The Greek word homoioo is a second modification of the root word Homos which means “to assimilate or compare” or “to set or bring things together in fact or in contemplation and to examine the relations they bear to each other with a view to ascertain their agreement or disagreement.” For example, to compare two pieces of cloth or two tables or two coins, to compare reasons and arguments, to compare pleasure with pain. In the definition of the word used as a verb to compare there are two parts. In the first part, things are brought together in fact or in mind. In the second part, the purpose is to determine their agreement or their disagreement. To assimilate means to “bring to a likeness, that is, to cause to resemble or to convert into a like substance.”

Something that is assimilated is made to resemble something else. To resemble means “to have the likeness, to bear the similitude of something, either in form, figure, or qualities.” One man may resemble another in features and he may resemble a third person in temperament or deportment. Can you see that these are two completely different things? If you resemble someone else in features, the resemblance is of a physical nature, the definition of nature when it refers to the human race in general, a physical manifestation of God’s creation. But if you resemble someone in temper, you resemble that person in disposition of mind, especially regarding passions or affections, which means to resemble that person in character.

The third modification of Homos is the Greek word homoioma meaning “likeness.” The word likeness can mean the following:

  1. Resemblance in form or similitude. These two look alike. Or the reproduction of a painting that looks like the original.
  2. Resemblance in form or external appearance such as the expression “guard against an enemy in the likeness of a friend,” or “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
  3. Resemblance of another as a copy or a counterpart.
  4. Resemblance in an image, picture, or statue, a person or a thing.

Paul uses the word homoioma in Romans 8:3 and in Philippians 2:5–8, which is one of the most sublime and profound scriptures in all the New Testament. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Paul uses several words that help us to clarify and pinpoint exactly what he is meaning when he uses the word likeness—for example, the word form.

Figuratively using the word form, Paul is speaking in relation to human nature. Paul said that Jesus took the form, the shape, the physical nature of a servant and was made in the likeness, or in the form, of men. Then he says that He took the fashion of a man. The Greek word translated fashion can mean to “make into a particular or the required form.” Mrs. White, referencing Philippians 2:6, 7, last part, and most of verse 8, explains what they mean. “He clothed His divinity with humanity. He was all the while as God.” The Review and Herald, September 4, 1900

When Jesus appeared in human flesh, He was God. The gospels record in several places that people fell down and worshiped Him and He accepted that worship. It would be blasphemy for any human being to accept worship, but though He was a human being, Jesus was also God. Therefore it was right that He accepted their worship. “He was all the while as God, but He did not appear as God. He veiled the demonstrations of Deity, which had commanded the homage, and called forth the admiration of the universe of God. He was God while upon earth, but he divested Himself of the form of God, and in its stead took the form and fashion of a man.” Ibid. He divested Himself of the form of God and took the physical form and external condition of man.

“Jesus was the commander of heaven, one equal with God, and yet He condescended to lay aside His kingly crown, his royal robe, and clothed His divinity with humanity. The incarnation of Christ in human flesh is a mystery. He could have come to earth as One with a remarkable appearance, unlike the sons of men. His countenance could have shone with glory, and His form could have been of remarkable grace. He could have presented such an appearance as to charm the beholder; but this was not according to the plan devised in the courts of God.” The Signs of the Times, July 30, 1896

“He was to bear the characteristics of the human family, and the Jewish race.” Ibid. The woman at the well recognized Him immediately as a Jew. “In all respects the Son of God was to wear the same features as did other human beings. He was not to have such beauty of person as would make Him singular among men.” Ibid.

People were not going to be attracted to Christ because of some physical superiority or beauty that He had more than other people. “He was to manifest no wonderful charms by which to attract attention to Himself.” Ibid. So Inspiration clearly teaches that the word likeness in relation to the humanity of Christ is referring to His physical nature.

“It would have been an almost infinite humiliation for the Son of God to take man’s nature, even when Adam stood in his innocence in Eden. But Jesus accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by four thousand years of sin.” The Desire of Ages, 49. This statement is, of all in the Spirit of Prophecy, used by Adventist ministers to prove that the likeness of sinful flesh means the same sinful flesh.

Mrs. White describes Adam as being twice as tall as men now living upon the earth and Eve as coming up to just above Adam’s shoulder in height. Looking at a man proportionate to his height, in this case 12 feet, scientists have estimated that Adam likely weighed about 2,500 pounds, and Eve weighed about 1,700 pounds. The fastest man alive today can only run approximately 28 miles per hour over 100 meters. But given the volume of his lungs and the capacity of his heart, it is believed that Adam could run 70 miles per hour. Adam was innocent and his complexion was “ruddy, glowing with the rich tint of health. Eve was … very beautiful.” Last Day Events, 292

It would have been an almost infinite humiliation if Christ had taken Adam’s human nature when fresh from His creative hand. But no, He took instead man’s nature after 4,000 years of degradation and sin. As a man, Jesus couldn’t run 70 miles per hour and as a Jew, He was not even six feet tall. Instead, “Like every child of Adam He accepted the results of the working of the great law of heredity. What these results were is shown in the history of His earthly ancestors. He came with such a heredity to share our sorrows and temptations, and to give us the example of a sinless life.” The Desire of Ages, 49

I cannot comprehend or imagine why the King of glory, the One who not only created the universe and upheld it by the word of His power, who determines the eternal destiny of every creature of the universe, chose to come to this world and accept human nature, and chose to become a human being weakened by 4,000 years of sin. It is the second most incomprehensible mystery, after the cross. He came with such a heredity to share our sorrows and temptations. Don’t ever feel that Jesus cannot understand exactly what your sorrow or temptation is.

Friends, Mrs. White is clear that the Son of God took man’s nature. In relation to humanity, there are two different meanings of the word nature—one referring to the race in general and the other to an individual of the race. Nature in reference to the race in general is referring to the physical aspect of man’s being. Nature in reference to an individual is referring to the disposition or condition of his mind and therefore his character.

When God’s prophet said Jesus took man’s nature, his humanity, she is speaking of the race in general. Therefore, we have been discussing His physical nature and not the disposition of His mind or His character.

There is, however, much more evidence that we need to examine from the Spirit of Prophecy, comparing each inspired statement with another to be sure that we do not twist the scriptures or Inspiration regarding Christ’s coming to be in the likeness of sinful flesh.

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.

The Greatest Battle Ever Fought

“Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh.”

1 Timothy 3:16

That mystery is so great that even when you get to heaven you will not understand all about it. Mrs. White says that it will ever be a mystery and the subject of study throughout eternity, and yet we need to understand as much as we can about it in this world.

The apostle Paul speaks about the great mystery of godliness in Colossians 1:26, 27: “The mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” What is the glory of Christ? In 1892, Ellen White wrote this sentence: “The glory of God is His character, and to us it is manifest in Christ.” The Present Truth, December 29, 1892. The riches of His glory are the riches of His character manifested in the life of Christ.

“It was through Satan’s misrepresentation of God’s character that man was led to doubt the reality of His love, and came to look upon God as his enemy. As Satan had done in heaven, so he did on earth—declared God’s government unjust, the restrictions of His law unnecessary, and bade man, as he had angels, to throw aside the yoke and let the dictates of their own nature be their only guide and law. He promised liberty; but as he himself is the servant of corruption, he brought the race into bondage, to sin, misery, and death. He represented God as claiming all and giving nothing, as requiring men’s service for His own glory, but denying Himself nothing for man’s good.” The Signs of the Times, February 13, 1893. Satan presented lies and deceptive reasoning to the mind of man to entice him to disobedience. He lied about God’s character, and he reasoned that God’s government was unjust and restricting. He uses the same deceit and lies still today.

What is the relationship between God’s character and His government? “God’s ideal for His children is higher than the highest human thought can reach. The living God has given in His holy law a transcript of His character. The greatest Teacher the world has ever known is Jesus Christ; and what is the standard He has given for all who believe in Him? ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ Matthew 5:48. As God is perfect in His high sphere of action, so man may be perfect in his human sphere.

“The ideal of Christian character is Christlikeness.” Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 365

“The law of God [the transcript of His character] is the foundation of His government in heaven and in earth, and as long as the follower of Jesus imitates his Lord by exalting the divine precepts in word and life, Satan has no power to deceive or mislead his soul.” The Signs of the Times, March 30, 1888

Satan entices men by lying to them regarding God’s law, His character and love, and if he is successful in persuading the very elect to believe his lies, then they will be indifferent to their high calling in Christ Jesus and fail to be filled with all the fullness of God’s love.

What is our high calling really? Paul said, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Our high calling is in Christ. “Let it never be forgotten that the teacher must be what he desires his pupils to become.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 58. Was Christ what He desired His pupils to become? Yes, He was. His divine nature combined with His human flesh were a perfect representation of what we are and what we, by striving to develop a character like His, can become.

“He was the embodiment of the law of God.” The Signs of the Times, November 15, 1899. The embodiment of the law of God is “the transcript of His character.” Ibid. It is God’s purpose that your life will become an embodiment of the law of God. That is our high calling.

But we have an enemy. Peter said, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8. Satan does not want you to become an embodiment of the law of God, and he uses enticements and deceptive promises to lure men and women into sin.

What is the purpose of temptation? Many people who are tempted ask, “If God is all powerful, wise, and loving, why does He allow this?” “Our heavenly Father sees the hearts of men, and He knows their characters better than they themselves know them. He sees that some have susceptibilities and powers, which, directed in the right channel, might be used to His glory to aid in the advancement of His work. He puts these persons on trial and in His wise providence brings them into different positions.” Testimonies, Vol. 4, 84, 85

People think they are in charge of their own lives. But it is by way of temptation that we can know who is truly in control of our lives. God places His children “… under a variety of circumstances, testing them that they may reveal what is in their hearts and the weak points in their characters which have been concealed from their own knowledge.” Ibid., 85

Notice two points. God allows these temptations to reveal what is in a person’s heart, and to reveal the weak points in their character. We often do not know what is truly in our own hearts, nor what our weaknesses are. Temptations come and reveal to us what we did not know about ourselves.

“He [God] gives them opportunities to correct these weaknesses.” Ibid. As long as we have breath, God gives us opportunity to see and correct our weaknesses. Upon recognizing that there is something in my heart that is out of harmony with God’s law, I must surrender myself to the sovereignty of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Surrendering myself and asking that a miracle be performed to change my heart requires that I cooperate and do my part.

“He gives them opportunities to correct these weaknesses, to polish off the rough corners of their natures, and to fit themselves for His service … . He in mercy reveals their hidden defects, that they may look within and examine critically the complicated emotions and exercises of their own hearts, and detect that which is wrong; thus they may modify their dispositions and refine their manners. The Lord in His providence brings men where He can test their moral powers and reveal their motives of action, that they may improve what is right in themselves and put away that which is wrong.” Ibid.

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” Matthew 12:34, last part, 35

“The heart must be diligently searched as with a lighted candle, that all defects may be seen in the light of the law of God, His standard of character.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 7, 179

“All defects of character originate in the heart.” The Review and Herald, September 1, 1885. Pride, vanity, evil temper, covetousness, they all proceed from the carnal heart of flesh, unrenewed by the grace of Christ. “Never should we lower the standard of righteousness in order to accommodate inherited or cultivated tendencies to wrong-doing.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 330. We have both inherited and cultivated tendencies to sin, but we are not to lower God’s standard to accommodate what we are. “We need to understand that imperfection of character is sin.” Ibid.

God allows temptations in our lives that we might see the defects and imperfections in our characters, that we might repent of and confess these sins—not only to be forgiven, but also to be cleansed from all unrighteousness.

“The purification of the people of God cannot be accomplished without their suffering.” Testimonies, Vol. 4, 85. It is impossible to be purified without going through this process. “God permits the fires of affliction to consume the dross, to separate the worthless from the valuable, that the pure metal may shine forth. He passes us from one fire to another.” Ibid. Has this been your experience—rejoicing as you walk out of one fire, only to walk into another one?

“God’s work of refining and purifying must go on until His servants are so humbled, so dead to self, that, when called into active service, their eye will be single to His glory. He will then accept their efforts; they will not move rashly, from impulse; they will not rush on and imperil the Lord’s cause, being slaves to temptations and passions and followers of their own carnal minds set on fire by Satan. Oh, how fearfully is the cause of God marred by man’s perverse will and unsubdued temper! How much suffering he brings upon himself by following his own headstrong passions! God brings men over the ground again and again.” Ibid., 86

When you are in trouble, God does not give up on you. He brings another test. It may be harder, the circumstances a bit different, but it is necessary that you successfully pass each test until your character has been purified and is ready for heaven. “God brings men over the ground again and again, increasing the pressure until perfect humility and a transformation of character bring them into harmony with Christ and the spirit of heaven, and they are victors over themselves.” Ibid.

Let’s review the purposes of temptation:

  1. to reveal the hidden things in my own heart that I did not see before;
  2. to reveal the weak points in my character;
  3. so that the dross of selfishness can be separated from the true gold and silver of Christian character;
  4. that I might be purified;
  5. that I might reflect the radiance of divine love and be filled with all the fullness of God.

When these purposes are accomplished, then we are ready for the marriage supper. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints.” Revelation 19:7, 8

The second coming of Christ is drawing nearer every day. God’s church must be pure and perfect so that she can make a full and final display of God’s grace, mercy, and love. But can I make a full and final display of these things if they are not a part of my character? It is impossible.

God’s last day church, every member, must have a character that displays His grace, mercy, and love in order that she might be pure and perfect in these last days.

The Role of Desire in Temptation

“Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts and enticed. He is turned away from the course of virtue and real good by following his own inclinations.” Testimonies, Vol. 4, 623. The dictionary definition of inclinations is “a propensity or a disposition more favorable to one thing than to another.” Inclination has to do with desire, love, affection, regard for, and disposition of mind. By following our own inclinations, we find ourselves, too often, in trouble.

James says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” James 1:13–15. “Feeling the terrible power of temptation, the drawing of desire that leads to indulgence, many a man cries in despair, ‘I cannot resist evil.’ ” The Ministry of Healing, 174. She calls it the terrible power of temptation, the drawing of desire. “Tell him that he can, that he must resist.” Ibid.

Friend, if you want to go to heaven, whatever the temptation is, no matter how terrible it is, you can and you must resist, calling upon the Lord to help you. Desire is not only the power of temptation, it is the terrible power of temptation.

There is a particular desire that dwells within the heart of every man, woman, and child, and it plays a vital role in temptation. “It is because selfishness exists in our hearts that temptation has power over us.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 118. Temptation has power over me because there is selfishness in my heart.

“Selfishness is the root of all evil.” Evangelism, 633

“Selfishness is sin.” The Signs of the Times, April 13, 1891

“Selfishness is the strongest and most general of human impulses, the struggle of the soul between sympathy and covetousness is an unequal contest; for while selfishness is the strongest passion, love and benevolence are too often the weakest, and as a rule the evil gains the victory.” The Review and Herald, December 7, 1886. Notice, Inspiration links selfishness with covetousness.

“The whole heart must be yielded to God, or the change can never be wrought in us by which we are to be restored to His likeness. By nature we are alienated from God. The Holy Spirit describes our condition in such words as these: ‘Dead in trespasses and sins;’ ‘the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint;’ ‘no soundness in it.’ We are held fast in the snare of Satan, ‘taken captive by him at his will.’ … God desires to heal us, to set us free. But since this requires an entire transformation, a renewing of our whole nature, we must yield ourselves wholly to Him.

“The warfare against self is the greatest battle that was ever fought. The yielding of self, surrendering all to the will of God, requires a struggle; but the soul must submit to God before it can be renewed in holiness.” Steps to Christ, 43. The terrible power of temptation is the drawing of our natural desires which come from the law of selfishness, the governing principle of Satan’s kingdom. Each and every one of us inherited that selfishness from Adam.

“We have hereditary tendencies to wrong. This is a part of self that no one need carry about. It is a weakness of humanity to pet selfishness, because it is a natural trait of character. But unless all selfishness is put away, unless self is crucified, we can never be holy as God is holy.” The Faith I Live By, 140

“All selfishness is covetousness, and is, therefore, idolatry.” The Review and Herald, May 23, 1907

If there is selfishness in my heart, I am breaking the second commandment in my heart. I’m living with sin within. The Spirit of Prophecy calls these selfish, sinful desires, hereditary tendencies to wrong, defects in my character. Selfishness causes defects in my character, and imperfection of character is sin. All selfishness is condemned by the law of God, and not one of Adam’s posterity has escaped this inheritance. Every single one of us is, by nature, selfish and it is here that Satan has his greatest success.

“Satan finds in human hearts some point where he can gain a foothold; some sinful desire is cherished, by means of which his temptations assert their power. But Christ declared of Himself, ‘The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.’ ” Ibid., November 8, 1887

Jesus said to the religious rulers of His day, “You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do.” All the evil desires that Satan puts in our heart are sin. “Every tree in Satan’s garden hangs laden with the fruits of vanity, pride, self-importance, evil desire, extravagance—all poisoned fruit, but very gratifying to the carnal heart.” Ibid., December 9, 1884

“In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ presented before His disciples the far-reaching principles of the law of God. He taught His hearers that the law was transgressed by the thoughts before the evil desire was carried out.” Ibid., June 12, 1888

“Until the requirements of the holy law were applied as the rule of life, fallen man could not understand his own guilt, nor realize his condemned, lost condition. Jesus made application of the law directly to the soul, and laid under its jurisdiction the will and desires and works of man.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 9, 235. Our desires are under the jurisdiction of the law of God. Any desire that is out of harmony with the law of God is sin.

The Bible describes sin this way: “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5. Figuratively, an imagination is a conception, a purpose that is formed in the mind. Lust is the desire for something that is forbidden. When evil desires or lusts are conceived in the mind, sin is being cherished. When sinful desires are cherished, temptation asserts its power. The word cherish according to the dictionary means “to treat in a manner to encourage growth.” To cherish means to indulge and encourage in the mind. Growth in the Christian life has as much to do with what goes on in the mind as it does with the actions that are a result of our thoughts and desires.

So if the natural desires of man are continually evil, is man destined to commit sin until Jesus comes? Many theologians, including some Adventist theologians, believe that we will.

“We should preserve the strictest chastity in thought, and word, and deportment. Let us remember that God sets our secret sins in the light of His countenance. There are thoughts and feelings suggested and aroused by Satan that annoy even the best of men, but if they are not cherished, if they are repulsed as hateful, the soul is not contaminated with guilt, and no other is defiled by their influence. Oh, that we each might become a savor of life unto life to those around us!” The Review and Herald, March 27, 1888

This quotation makes it clear that while even the best Christian can be tempted, he or she can also resist temptation. Man does not have to sin. Temptation is not sin and therefore, when refusing to yield to temptation, a person, by the power and grace of God, does not sin.

The gospel tells how Jesus wants to deliver me from this evil world, but before He can deliver me from the devil on the outside, He must first deliver me from the devil on the inside. Jesus said, “ ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.’ ” Matthew 23:27. What we need is to be cleaned up on the inside and then the outside will be clean.

“Christ desires nothing so much as to redeem His heritage from the dominion of Satan. But before we are delivered from Satan’s power without, we must be delivered from his power within.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 174, 175

If there is any kind of sin in your life, the devil has power to overcome you on the inside. “The Lord permits trials in order that we may be cleansed from earthliness, from selfishness, from harsh, unchristlike traits of character. He suffers the deep waters of affliction to go over our souls in order that we may know Him and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, in order that we may have deep heart longings to be cleansed from defilement, and may come forth from the trial purer, holier, happier. Often we enter the furnace of trial with our souls darkened with selfishness; but if patient under the crucial test, we shall come forth reflecting the divine character. When His purpose in the affliction is accomplished, ‘He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.’ ” Ibid., 175

To summarize the role of desire in temptation:
Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts and enticed.

  • Naturally-selfish desires are the defects in our characters that readily respond to Satan’s lying promises and deceitful arguments.
  • God does not tempt any man, but He permits us to be tempted so that we may know what is in our heart so that we might have a deep heart-longing to be cleansed from the defilement of sin.

“No one can be omnipotent, but all can cleanse themselves from filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord. God requires every soul to be pure and holy.” The Faith I Live By, 140. No exceptions.

“By looking constantly to Jesus with the eye of faith, we shall be strengthened. God will make the most precious revelations to His hungering, thirsting people. They will find that Christ is a personal Saviour. As they feed upon His word, they find that it is spirit and life. The word destroys the natural, earthly nature, and imparts a new life in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit comes to the soul as a Comforter. By the transforming agency of His grace, the image of God is reproduced in the disciple; he becomes a new creature. Love takes the place of hatred, and the heart receives the divine similitude. This is what it means to live ‘by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’ This is eating the Bread that comes down from heaven.” The Desire of Ages, 391

“As we partake of the divine nature, hereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong are cut away from the character, and we are made a living power for good.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, 943

When we yield our will fully to God, our hereditary tendencies to wrong, our sinful desires are cut away and they are replaced by holy desires. “Some seek to control their surroundings, thinking that if they are placed in favorable positions, the bad traits in their character will not be developed. But God orders our surroundings, and He will place us where we shall have test after test, to prove us and to reveal what is in our hearts. Again and again we shall be brought into strait places, that it may be known whether we are indeed crucified with Christ or full of self-love. How will this proving, testing process end with each of us?” The Review and Herald, June 3, 1884

“Let no one say, I cannot remedy my defects of character. If you come to this decision, you will certainly fail of obtaining everlasting life. The impossibility lies in your own will. If you will not, then you cannot overcome.” Messages to Young People, 99

“Your only safety is to live like a watchman. Watch and pray always. Oh, what a preventive against yielding to temptation and falling into the snares of the world! …

“Watch, lest evil passions should overcome you, instead of your subduing them.

“Pray. Jesus would not have enjoined this upon you, unless there was actual necessity for it. It is well known to Him that of yourself you cannot overcome the many temptations of the enemy … . He has not left you alone to do this; but has provided a way that you can obtain help.” The Faith I Live By, 224

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.