The Worthlessness of Creature Merit, Part II

The subject matter of this article—the answer to the question, What must I do to be saved?—is one upon which Ellen White told ministers they should dwell more than any other subject. Since she said to dwell on this subject more than any other subject, how much do you think it would be profitable for you and me to think about this subject? Ellen White told us something interesting about that: “Habitually dwelling upon Christ and His all-sufficient merits, increases faith, quickens the power of spiritual discernment, strengthens the desire to be like Him, and brings an earnestness into prayer that makes it efficacious.” Gospel Workers, 166.

Efficacious means that it works—“having the power to produce a desired effect.” Your prayers work! Would you like to have that experience? Would you like to become like Christ? Would you like your prayer life to become so earnest that your prayers will actually accomplish something? Well, she says that the way that will happen is if you are “habitually dwelling upon Christ and His all-sufficient merits.”

Do not forget that adjective, “all-sufficient.” It is everything that you need to be saved; it is the only thing you need to be saved. It is the thing that will save you, when you start to dwell on it. People become alarmed when preachers start talking about this. They say, “Oh, you are doing away with sanctification!” No, we are not doing away with sanctification. This is the way it happens.

God’s Blessings

Do we not all desire to have God’s blessings in our lives? How can we have God’s blessings in our lives? Here is the way:

“Looking unto Jesus and trusting in His merits we appropriate the blessings of light, of peace, of joy in the Holy Ghost. And in view of the great things which Christ has done for us, we are ready to exclaim: ‘Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.’ [1 John 3:1.]

“Brethren and sisters, it is by beholding that we become changed. By dwelling upon the love of God and our Saviour, by contemplating the perfection of the divine character and claiming the righteousness of Christ as ours by faith, we are to be transformed into the same image.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 744.

How are you ever going to come into the image of Christ? You will never come into the image of Christ by trying in your own strength, but if you contemplate the Divine character, if you spend your time thinking about the merits of Christ and the love of God, something is going to happen inside that is going to change you. It is something that you cannot do, but something that He will do.

In Part I of this article (October 2007), we began to consider some questions as to how this comes together. In summary:

  1. How can we be received by our heavenly Father and adopted into His family? (See The Acts of the Apostles, 333.)
  2. Whom will God accept? (See Selected Messages, Book 1, 354.)
  3. How much does the righteousness of Christ accomplish in our salvation? (See Faith and Works, 26.)
  4. So, what do we need to do to be saved? (See Evangelism, 185.)
  5. How are our sins going to be blotted out and we be clothed in Christ’s righteousness? (See Ibid., 186.)
  6. What is the only plea we need to make to be saved? (See Faith and Works, 106.)
  7. How should you plead your case to the Father? (See Ibid.)
  8. How often do we need to have the merits of Christ applied to our cases? (See Ibid., 86.)

Our Work

  1. What is our work? There has to be some kind of work. That was asked of Jesus too. The conversation is recorded in John 6:28, 29: “Therefore they said to Him: ‘What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in the One that He sent.’

That is the work! As Ellen White expressed it, “Our work is to hang our helpless souls on His merits.” (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 247.)

The Faith That Benefits

  1. What is the only faith that will benefit us?

Ellen White answers this question: “The only faith that will benefit us is that which embraces Him [Christ] as a personal Saviour; which appropriates His merits to ourselves.” The Desire of Ages, 347.

What an interesting statement! You see, you must choose to believe in Jesus as your personal Saviour and choose to appropriate—that is, claim—His merits, because you do not have any merits of your own. I am not getting after you; I do not have any merits either. None of us have any, and we never will have any of our own.

In Part I we read, “There is salvation for you, but only through the merits of Jesus Christ.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 97. We also learned the worth of human, or creature merit: “Discussions may be entered into by mortals strenuously advocating creature merit, and each man striving for the supremacy, but they simply do not know that all the time, in principle and character, they are misrepresenting the truth as it is in Jesus. They are in a fog of bewilderment. They need the divine love of God which is represented by gold tried in the fire; they need the white raiment of Christ’s pure character; and they need the heavenly eyesalve that they might discern with astonishment the utter worthlessness of creature merit to earn the wages of eternal life.” Faith and Works, 23.


Our merit, she says, is “utter worthlessness.” But Christ has merits. It is through His merits that our sins are blotted out. It is through His merits that we are adopted into the family of God. It is through His merits, when we put our trust in Him, that changes take place in our minds through the Holy Spirit. That is what sanctification is. In sanctification, your mind is changed through the Holy Spirit.

Some people have a very shallow view of sanctification. They think that sanctification is when you change what you do on the outside. That is rubbish. Sanctification is when the Holy Spirit changes the inside of your mind. If you make all the external changes that you can make, you can only say like Paul could say when he was a Pharisee, “according to the righteousness which is of the Law, I was blameless.” He said, “I found out that was all absolutely worthless, and I considered it less than dung that I might win Christ.” (Philippians 3:6, 8.)

All the external is worthless unless the Holy Spirit changes the mind. This is what we need to work with our children too. Some people think that the way to raise children is that you train them to do the right things. No, friend, the way children need to be trained is so that they are transformed in mind by the Holy Spirit, and when the mind is changed, then they will start saying and doing the right things.

It is the same with adults. A story is related about Ellen White in the Spalding and Magan Collection, 92. Some people wrote to her one time, and they thought that Ellen White ought to do something to get the women in the Adventist church to change their dress. She wrote back to them and said, “Changing the dress will not change the heart.” I wish we could get that figured out—that changing the external will not change the heart. You have to get the heart changed, and then the outside can change.

Living Faith

  1. What is living faith?

“That living faith is essential for our salvation that we should lay hold upon the merits of the blood of the crucified and risen Saviour, on Christ, our righteousness.” Faith and Works, 64.

What is living faith? Living faith is when you lay hold of the merits of Christ. The merits of Christ, friend, are the only thing that can forgive your sins; it is the only thing that can blot out your sin; it is the only thing that can change your life. He wants to minister His merits to you through the Holy Spirit.

One of the great purposes that God through His Son gave to us the Holy Spirit is so the Holy Spirit could work in the human mind and administer the merits of Christ. Please do not say that this is not talking about sanctification or that we do not believe in it. This is it!

  1. Where is your dependence if you have living faith?

“You cannot explain this faith that lays hold upon the merits of the blood of a crucified and risen Saviour to bring Christ’s righteousness into your life. Clothed with the righteousness of Christ and not your own righteousness, you will not depend upon what you can do or what you will do.” Faith and Works, 65, 66.

You will not depend on anything that you can do or anything that you will do in the future. Do you not know that you cannot do anything without Christ?

The Latter Rain

  1. What will be the one subject that will swallow up every other subject during the time of the Latter Rain?

We pray about the Latter Rain; we long for the Latter Rain to come. We know that when the Latter Rain comes the work is going to be finished very, very quickly, and the Lord is going to come. That is why we want the Latter Rain.

Would you like to get out of this world? Would you like to get to a place where you do not have any of the problems, trials, troubles, struggles, and awful things that happen to you and everyone else on a regular basis? We cannot get out of this world until Jesus comes, and Jesus is not going to come until the gospel goes to all the world. The Latter Rain will actually take the gospel to every single person in the world. How is that going to happen, and what is going to happen?

“One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other,—Christ our righteousness.” Review and Herald, December 23, 1890.

Simple as Possible

I am just a sinful human being, and I have no ability to touch your heart or explain the gospel so you can understand it. I have tried to make it as simple as I know how. Do you understand that it is only the merits of Christ that can save your soul and that every sinful person can be saved if he or she is willing to claim those merits and surrender himself or herself to Him?

It is not complicated. Do not let anybody tell you that it is complicated. We make the plan of salvation too complicated until people think that there must be a list a mile long of what they have to do to be saved. That is Phariseeism; that is also Roman Catholicism.

You cannot do it on your own merit, but Jesus can save you. Just put your trust in Him. If you only accept Him, no matter how bad you are, you will be saved. “Jesus came into the world,” Paul says, “to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” 1 Timothy 1:15.

To be continued . . .

[Bible texts quoted are literal translation.]

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