As “The Worthlessness of Creature Merit” continues, the writer will attempt to deal with the problems that arise in the minds of many Seventh-day Adventists, as they arose in the minds of the church pioneers, when the gospel as presented in Parts I and II was the major part of the presentations in 1888. It was the way Ellen White understood the gospel and what she presented.
The gospel does not do away with sanctification. It makes it possible. The problem was, and still is for many people, that, like the common saying, we get the cart before the horse. We cannot get the results before we have the cause, and that is one of the reasons many Seventh-day Adventists are utterly discouraged.
More Questions and Answers
Questions with answers from inspired writings continue.
What will be the result of laying hold of the merits of Christ?
Ellen White wrote: “John, while in vision, saw a company clothed with white robes… They were seen in the temple of God. This will be the result for all who will lay hold of the merits of Christ, and wash their robes in his blood.” Maranatha, 231.
How wonderful! John saw the saved people in the temple of God, clothed in white robes, and she says that this will be the result for all who trust in the merits of Christ, who wash their robes in His blood.
Salvation! Pray that you will be able to understand it and explain it to people. You cannot explain it to somebody else in a simple way unless you understand the simplicity of it yourself.
There are people all around us, even religious people, who do not understand this. It is the core concept of the Protestant Reformation. It is the core of the 1888 message. This is the gospel that Paul preached which turned the world upside down. This is what the Waldenses preached.
The simplicity of the plan of salvation is so wonderful. We are all included! Some of us, perhaps, are tempted to think that we are advanced—we are theologians or ministers or Bible workers. That is a great temptation.
What is the work of a minister?
I was a minister for many years before I knew what the work of a minister is. It can be described in one sentence: “The work for the ministers of Christ is to hang their helpless souls upon His merit.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 247.
What? That is what it is? That is what God’s messenger wrote! That is the minister’s work.
How can you receive invincible power?
What does the word invincible mean? It means that you cannot be overcome.
“Nothing is apparently more helpless, yet really more invincible, than the soul that feels its nothingness and relies wholly on the merits of the Saviour.” Sons and Daughters of God, 35.
What is apparently the most helpless thing around, but actually the most invincible thing around? It is the soul that has two qualifications:
First, it feels its nothingness. This is good news, because many people feel that there is no hope for them, but there is hope for them. If they feel their nothingness, that is actually good. They are starting to recognize their real condition. When they start to realize their real condition, when they know that there is nothing they can do—they are such degraded, wretched sinners that they cannot get out of the pit they are in on their own—then there is hope, if they are willing to put their trust in Somebody who can get them out of the pit. Second, when they recognize their helplessness, but choose to trust in the merits of Jesus, then, “God would send every angel in heaven to the aid of such a one, rather than allow him to be overcome.” Ibid. He will give them the power to overcome.
God is watching every trial that each individual has. He is looking at every internal and external struggle through which you are going, the ones that nobody else understands. He knows how much help you need. He may not send every angel out of heaven to help you, because you may not need that much angel-power, but He is willing to send them all before allowing you to be overcome. God is not going to let you down if you put your trust in the merits of Jesus.
Mrs. White says, “Angels are God’s ministers, radiant with the light ever flowing from His presence, and speeding on rapid wing to execute His will.
“Angels are ever present where they are most needed, with those who have the hardest battle with self to fight, and whose surroundings are the most discouraging.” Ibid.
We should keep in mind that some people have surroundings that are more discouraging than others. That is just reality, but God knows all about that. He knows all about every trouble that you have—not just your spiritual troubles, but your financial, temporal, health, business, and job troubles. He knows all about that. The troubles in your family—your domestic troubles, trouble with your parents; He knows all about it. And, she says, “In all ages, angels have been near to Christ’s faithful followers. The vast confederacy of evil is arrayed against all who would overcome; but Christ would have us look to the things which are not seen, to the armies of heaven encamped about all who love God, to deliver them. From what dangers, seen and unseen, we have been preserved through the interposition of the angels, we shall never know, until in the light of eternity we see the providences of God. Then we shall know that the whole family of heaven was interested in the family here below, and that messengers from the throne of God attended our steps from day to day.” The Desire of Ages, 240.
Our Great Lack
What is the result of receiving the virtue of Christ’s merits?
An answer to this question is given by Ellen White: “When we trust God fully, when we rely upon the merits of Jesus as a sin-pardoning Saviour, we shall receive all the help that we can desire.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 351. The answer is also given in Romans 5:1–5: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only [that], but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
The result of putting our trust in the merits of Christ and receiving the virtue of His merits is that we will have love poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. As the love of God is poured out in our hearts, through the Holy Spirit, Ellen White says, “This promised blessing [the Holy Spirit], claimed by faith, brings all other blessings in its train.” The Desire of Ages, 672.
Some people think we are destroying their religion when we say that all we have to do is put our trust in the merits of Christ. No, we are not destroying their religion. We are revealing the true religion. When we trust in His merits, we are going to get everything else we need. The Holy Spirit is going to work in our hearts and put love in our hearts, and when we have love, then all the contention will cease. All the fighting, all the effort toward who can be the greatest, is going to stop. It will change our hearts.
All the strife, fighting, trouble, and contention going on among Seventh-day Adventists today proves that we are not experiencing the righteousness of Christ. We are not experiencing putting our trust in His merits and receiving His merits. If we were receiving His merits, the love of God would be pouring out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. When our hearts are changed, then everything will change.
Before the cross, the apostles had the same problems we have; they were all fighting with each other. The cross cured them. They began to understand the gospel plan of salvation. After that, when men saw the apostles, they said, “These people have been with Jesus. They are like Him.” (Acts 4:13.)
What could happen if, when people came into contact with us, they thought, “These people must be like Jesus; I have never before seen people like this”? It is going to happen to somebody, to some group of people. I would like to have this happen to me, but the only way it is going to happen is if I put my trust in the merits of Jesus. That is the only way.
Condition of Acceptance
Perhaps the following statement written by Ellen White will help you to understand how the gospel results in good works. Good works have no merit, but the gospel results in good works. In fact, the only way to get the good works is to receive the gospel. Sometimes we spend so much time looking at the results, trying to get the results, but we do not know the cause or the source of good works. We can never get the results. It will never happen. Until we understand the gospel, we will never have the results of the gospel.
“We can do nothing, absolutely nothing, to commend ourselves to divine favor. We must not trust at all to ourselves nor to our good works; but when as erring, sinful beings we come to Christ, we may find rest in His love. God will accept every one that comes to Him trusting wholly [that is, completely] in the merits of a crucified Saviour.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 353, 354.
There you have it again. There is a condition if you want to be accepted into God’s family. The condition is very simple. If you are willing to put your trust in the merits of Jesus Christ, then the Father will accept you. That is the only condition by which He has promised to accept you—if you put your trust in the merits of His Son. That is the one condition.
Here is what will happen if you do that: “. . . trusting wholly in the merits of a crucified Saviour. Love springs up in the heart.” Ibid., 354.
You cannot generate love; I cannot generate love. You cannot make yourself love anybody, and I cannot make myself love anybody. Ellen White says that love is a precious gift we receive from Jesus, and when you put your trust in the merits of Christ, love will come into your heart.
What is going to happen then? “There may be no ecstasy of feeling, but there is an abiding, peaceful trust. Every burden is light; for the yoke which Christ imposes is easy. Duty becomes a delight, and sacrifice a pleasure. The path that before seemed shrouded in darkness becomes bright with beams from the Sun of Righteousness. This is walking in the light as Christ is in the light.” Ibid., 354.
Emphasize the Cause
So, works are the result of being in the way of life. The works have no merit, but good works result when we receive the merits of Christ by faith. Never forget what is the cause, and confuse the cause with the result. By emphasizing the result instead of emphasizing the cause of salvation, which is the merits of Christ alone that are applied to the sinner’s account, we actually drive souls from Christ instead of drawing them to Him, because they see that we are teaching them something that is impossible for them to do. This is one of the biggest problems in Adventism, and it is happening all over the world. God sent the message in 1888 to correct this very problem.
We are hopeless and helpless, but if we put our trust in Jesus Christ, in His merits, He has promised that not one of us will be lost. Here is the remedy:
“Without the grace of Christ, the sinner is in a hopeless condition; nothing can be done for him; but through divine grace, supernatural power is imparted to the man and works in mind and heart and character. . . .
“The only way in which he [the sinner] can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinner’s account. Christ’s righteousness is accepted in place of man’s failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though he were righteous, and loves him as He loves His Son. This is how faith is accounted righteousness; and the pardoned soul goes on from grace to grace, from light to greater light. He can say with rejoicing, ‘Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.’ (Titus 3:5–7.)” Faith and Works, 100, 101.
“If by any effort of our own we could advance one step toward the ladder, the words of Christ would not be true. But when we accept Christ, good works will appear as fruitful evidence that we are in the way of life.” Ibid., 102.
Think as a Child
We seek to make ourselves better by our own efforts, but it is impossible; it can never be done. Somehow this is something that little children can understand, but when we become intelligent and educated adults, it is difficult for us to get a hold of something this simple. We think that we have to do something!
Ellen White worked with many highly educated people, writing them testimony after testimony to try to help them to get a hold of this; it is so simple. One of the persons she wrote letters to about this was a man by the name of John Harvey Kellogg. Following is part of a letter that she wrote to him:
“Dr. Kellogg, will you consider the spotless, pure, holy Son of the Infinite God—He passed through it all and was tempted in all points like as we are but without a single trace of tarnish, not the faintest blur was discernable upon His character. Through His virtue and through His righteousness imputed to us we have as His purchased possession to stand in His merits pure and undefiled before the Father.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 6, 223, 224.
Give special notice to the next sentence: “Bear in mind that the undeserving are made perfect through the merits of Christ.” Ibid., 224. How are the undeserving made perfect? By the merits of Christ. Unfortunately, this physician, evidently, did not take her counsel. He later lost his way.
“Bear in mind that the undeserving are made perfect through the merits of Christ, while the Saviour, the Son of God, undeserving, is made sin for us. He bore our sins in His own body on the accursed tree, and you, my brother [Dr. Kellogg], relying wholly upon Jesus, not trusting to what you have done or may do, through faith in the atoning sacrifice, have life, pardon, and the peace of Jesus Christ.” Ibid.
This is hard to learn when you are smart, educated, and able. A child does not yet have all those qualifications, so a child can understand. But when you are educated and talented, and you know it, then it is difficult for you to realize that really you are helpless. When it comes to salvation, you cannot help yourself; you cannot save yourself.
Continuing in her letter to this physician, Mrs. White wrote: “You, my brother, relying wholly upon Jesus, not trusting to what you have done or may do, through faith in the atoning sacrifice, have life, pardon, and the peace of Jesus Christ. You may claim all this rich endowment because Christ has borne the punishment of your own sins, all undeserving, that you undeserving may go free and receive the rich treasures of his grace. I bid you in the name of Jesus Christ …” This is a solemn appeal. “I bid you in the name of Jesus Christ to lay hold of the assurances of the word of God. But do not waver, do not look to yourself and doubt; trust the keeping of your soul to God as unto a faithful creator and He has promised that He will keep that which you have committed to His trust against that day.” Ibid. She is quoting from 11 Timothy 1:12 where the apostle Paul says, “I am confident that he is able to keep that which I have committed to his trust, until that day.”
Jesus is the Cause
I hope this series has been a help to you. Do not make the mistake that Seventh-day Adventists have made so many times—showing the results and never showing what the cause is. The cause of all character development, all sanctification, is when we begin to put our trust in Jesus Christ and His merits. Then the Holy Spirit can come into our hearts and minds and start to work. For this to happen, we must realize that we are helpless, that we cannot do anything, and that He must do everything. We just have to put our trust in His merits and then cooperate with the Holy Spirit. We can be saved, if we will do it. “We must trust in the merits of the crucified and risen Saviour. None will ever perish while they do this.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 202.
[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: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.