Two young ministers, A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, presented messages to the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1888 on the subject of righteousness by faith. The message was presented at a Minneapolis, Minnesota, camp meeting where all the conference leaders were present, and as the meeting began, a spirit developed that was not welcoming the Jones and Waggoner message. After this camp meeting, Ellen White had opportunity to address the righteousness by faith message: “I have had the question asked, What do you think of this light that these men are presenting? Why, I have been presenting it to you for the last forty-five years—the matchless charms of Christ. This is what I have been trying to present before your minds. When Brother Waggoner brought out these ideas in Minneapolis, it was the first clear teaching on this subject from any human lips I had heard … . I have said to myself, It is because God has presented it to me in vision that I see it so clearly, and they cannot see it because they have never had it presented to them as I have. And when another presented it, every fiber of my heart said, Amen.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, 219.
The message given in 1888 was rejected, maybe because of selfishness, perhaps because some of those church leaders had not developed a converted heart and mind, able to be open enough to evaluate the message on its own merit instead of having a closed mind and rejecting it.
Mrs. White stated that, “The present message—justification by faith—is a message from God; it bears the divine credentials, for its fruit is unto holiness. Some who greatly need the precious truth that was presented before them, we fear did not receive its benefit. They did not open the door of their hearts to welcome Jesus as a heavenly guest, and they have suffered great loss. There is indeed a narrow way in which we must walk; the cross is presented at every step. We must learn to live by faith; then the darkest hours will be brightened by the blessed beams of the Sun of Righteousness.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 359.
“The reactions to the emphasis on this vital truth were mixed. At the 1893 general conference session, A. T. Jones, speaking of the reception of the truths set forth at Minneapolis, reported: ‘I know that some there accepted it; others rejected it entirely. You know the same thing. Others tried to stand half way between, and get it that way.’—General Conference Bulletin, 1893, 185.” “A Statement Presenting the Historical Backgrounds,” Ibid., Book 3, 158, 159.
The Jones/Waggoner message was really a message that will help us understand what it takes to be married with Christ. “Christ met and worked with all classes of human beings, seeking to save that which was lost. Will you who shall connect with men of different organisms and different temperaments, put on Christ, and respect one another as you desire to be respected?
“They must not put on their citizen’s dress, but the wedding garment. They have been married to Christ, and the robe of His righteousness is to clothe them. The church is the bride of Christ, and her members are to yoke up with their Leader.” The Gospel Herald, May 28, 1902.
The righteousness by faith message, Mrs. White said, needs to be repeated again before the Second Coming of Christ. “We are now living in a most perilous time, and not one of us should be tardy in seeking a preparation for the coming of Christ. … It will be too late to seek for the righteousness of Christ when the guests are called in and examined. Now is the time to put on the righteousness of Christ—the wedding garment that will fit you to enter into the marriage supper of the Lamb.” The Youth’s Instructor, January 16, 1896.
We need to understand what love is, and if that love develops and comes alive in our lives, we will together be waiting for the Second Coming of our Lord and Saviour. But we need to find the code that will make us penetrate more deeply for the love of God and for Him to penetrate into our hearts and minds, able to have more control over our emotions, our feelings, our ways. Sometimes we want to do things that we should not do, but we should pray that we will be what Christ wants us to be for Him, not what we want to be.
To forfeit our own will is hard, but God will never allow us to do something that we are not capable of doing. He knows our heart, our mind, our capabilities; He knows what we can do and gives the power to do it.
Romans 7:1–7 gives the foundation of the message of this article. Once the foundation is laid, we can start building our building. Christ is the architect and will be the One to employ the workers who will do God’s will.
“Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed [or free] from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married [or capable, allowed to be married] to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruits unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”
Christians, especially Seventh-day Adventists, read these passages and will not quite allow the Holy Spirit to assist us, to amplify the Scriptures, to be able to understand the very large picture of this passage. That was exactly what the Holy Spirit and angels from heaven inspired the minds and the hearts of Jones and Waggoner to present, a message to the people to bring a picture so wide and so open and so big that they could allow the Scriptures to come alive.
Some of the people, perhaps the ones who were really looking for a way to surrender themselves to God and to have a converted life and a connection with the Lord, found the message refreshing, but others who were not willing to give up their own lifestyle or their habits said, “This is nonsense!” So, they rejected it. They believed that the Lord knows why they do what they do and eat and drink what they do and they don’t need to hear any type of message that tells them what to do.
All they want to know and be told is, “God loves me.” Of course He does love us, because He gave His life for us. Is that not obvious, is that not sufficient; isn’t that enough for us to understand the love of God?
An evil spirit was manifested in 1888. It was the type of spirit that crowds or clouds the minds of those who hear to fail in receiving the message. Sister White rebuked it saying that spirit is not from God but is of Satan. So we are going to look at the views and what that message was.
First of all, in these seven verses of Romans 7, we are going to look at four subjects—Number 1 is the flesh. Number 2 is the woman. Number 3 is the law. Number 4 is Christ or the second husband.
The law spoken of in these verses is the law of sin. We are bound to the law, which is sin, and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). By nature we are married to the flesh, and we have no trouble at all satisfying all of the cravings and the desires of our flesh.
So as a Christian bound to the husband, the flesh, we go about satisfying the husband, pleasing our flesh. Since we are married to the flesh, and the law says we are bound together, we are one flesh. For that reason many Christians today have so much trouble and struggle to develop their relationship with the Lord, walking along the narrow path, because they are still married to their first husband.
That is the problem. Because we are selfish, pathetic individuals, we are married to the flesh, and we give the flesh whatever it wants. The Scripture says that those who are walking after the flesh, satisfy the flesh, but not the Spirit. But those who walk after the Spirit satisfy the Spirit and the flesh has no more control over the mind.
Many of us allow the body to control the mind, not the mind to control the body, because we are married to the flesh. When we allow the Holy Spirit to control the mind, this flesh has no more control. Paul “charges the Galatians to ‘walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.’ Galatians 5:16, 17. … After mentioning the fruits of the Spirit, … he adds, ‘And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.’ Verse 24.” Counsels on Health, 69.
So we often find ourselves living a miserable life never satisfied, entertaining ourselves and consuming things of the world to fulfill the cravings of the appetite of the flesh while continuing to feel empty.
When Jesus spoke, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15), He was saying, “If you love Me, and we are going to be married together, you will keep the laws of My Father, because of the laws that I am bound to My Father in love. If you love Me, you will keep the commandments.” The law of God is holy (Romans 7:12), and whosoever abides in the law will be holy.
Satan leads us to think that we are no longer under any law, but we are under grace. “It is the sophistry of Satan that the death of Christ brought in grace to take the place of the law. The death of Jesus did not change, or annul, or lessen in the slightest degree, the law of ten commandments. That precious grace offered to men through a Saviour’s blood, establishes the law of God. Since the fall of man, God’s moral government and His grace are inseparable. They go hand in hand through all dispensations. ‘Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.’ Psalm 85:10.” The Faith I Live By, 89.
Satan offers grace without laws, but that is a very misleading doctrine that has been spread. Isaiah 65 and 66, very clearly state that we are going to keep the Sabbath, which is part of the commandments, and the Bible is very clear that God’s law will still be kept in heaven. Who are they who have the “patience of the saints” (Revelation 14:12) and “keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17)? These are those who continue to keep the commandments of God.
In Romans 7, Paul is talking about the law of sin. If we are bound to our first husband, then we are married to the flesh. Many Christians desire the marriage Christ offers but are still married to the flesh. They become frustrated, feel unhappy, sad and depressed that they no longer find pleasure in entertainments. They try to find a way to satisfy the cravings of the flesh and retire to being slaves to that type of lifestyle.
How can we be released from that bondage? The Bible gives the answer in verses 3 and 4. When Jesus comes into our lives with compassion, understanding, love, and a willingness to give to us His life, and we say, “I want You in my life. I want to marry You.” The Lord says, “I can’t marry you because you’re married to the flesh; you have another master. I will not share; you must die to the flesh, then we can be one.”
The bottom line is that a lot of Christians today are walking into the world believing they are married to Christ when, in fact, they are not. They are married to themselves, to what they eat and drink, the movies they watch and those with whom they hang out and find their pleasure. The husband that they claim to have is not Christ but the husband of flesh. While living under this bondage it is impossible to bring fruits of righteousness unto God, but only fruits unto death.
The law condemns us, but the love of God gives us freedom in Christ Jesus. The question is: Do you really want that freedom? Do you hunger and thirst for it, or do you want both husbands in your life?
You cannot have two husbands. Either you are married to Christ or you are married to the flesh; you cannot have both. True freedom only comes through deliverance from the law of sin.
Consecrate yourself to God and the spirit of Christ will take control over your life and you will become a collaborator with Christ. To be totally surrendered to Him we will receive peace and protection and know the love of God, the pure agape love from heaven. Only then can you be complete in Him.
We each need to say unto God, “Lord, help me to make once in my life the right decision, the right move that can be this marriage for eternity, and You will be the last husband in my life. [Spiritually speaking, the last husband.] I make that decision to be faithful unto You and obedient unto You. I will not bring shame unto You; I will respect You, and I will obey Your word when You say what to do, because You know what is best in my life.”
There will be trouble; there will be tribulation, but the Bible is very clear: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1, 2.
Pastor Domingo Nuñez is director of Outreach Ministry for Steps to Life. He is involved in the coordination of world mission projects and he travels extensively, encouraging the many home churches supported by Steps to Life. He may be contacted at: 316-788-5559 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.