Occasionally one comes across an article revealing unusual prophetic insight. Recently I came across such a column in the Adventist Review of December 4, 1980. The piece was authored by Victor Christensen of Australia. He made several predictions of what would soon be taught in the Seventh-day Adventist Church which have found remarkable fulfillment in recent years. Following are some of these predictions.
In recent years we have watched the growing popularity of modified forms of the doctrine of original sin. We are told that because Adam sinned as the head of the human race, all men automatically became sinners because of his sin. This teaching holds that all men sin because they are already sinners by nature. The only thing we can do from birth to the new birth is to sin, which means that all babies are active sinners. We are told that inherited tendencies to selfishness are sin. Because of Adam's sin we are separated from God at birth. This belief is given support in the Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, p. 265. "His (Adam's) sin resulted in the condition of estrangement from God in which every human being is born."
We are assured that since God is absolutely perfect and His law is absolutely perfect, this law requires absolute sinlessness and infinite righteousness, and anything short of that is sin. If this assertion is really true, then every angel in heaven would be a sinner, because they have fallen short of infinite righteousness. Approximately one-sixth of the angels changed from Lucifer's side to God's side before the war in heaven, and the two-thirds who remained loyal held some sympathy for Satan and his cause until the events of the cross. Currently popular beliefs hold that even though we may choose not to sin, because we have a sinful nature we are sinners by nature. Thus we are under condemnation by nature every moment of our lives, needing a constant forgiving umbrella. We are told that only when we are in heaven, with perfect natures, can we obey God's law perfectly.
Today we are assured that if Christ would have had a sinful nature, He could not have perfectly obeyed the law. The only way He could obey an infinitely perfect law was by His taking a perfectly sinless nature. We are told that no one with a sinful nature can perfectly obey the law or be sinless. Thus Christ did not inherit any tendencies to evil. This would mean that Christ was exempt from the most damaging aspects of fallen human heredity. It would then follow that Christ did not have to die daily to the natural influences of His sinful nature.
It is commonly asserted today that falling into sin after the new birth does not remove our justification, neither does it bring condemnation. The experience described in Romans 7, when we constantly do what we do not want to do, is held before us as the normal Christian experience. We cannot hope for anything better until we have sinless natures. Thus our obedience is always imperfect.
Today we hear that the most subtle form of legalism is that we are righteous because of the Holy Spirit's work in us. We are told that what the Holy Spirit does in us will never bring us salvation. The work that is done by the Holy Spirit in our heart is still evil and defiled because it is done in our fallen nature. Thus, it is said, our hope of salvation can never be centered on what happens within us. The righteousness that saves us always remains external to us, and the righteousness God produces in us has no saving value.
In light of these claims, it might be well to review two inspired statements right here. "Our only ground of hope is in the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and in that wrought out by His Spirit working in and through us" (SC 63). "I call upon every one who claims to be a son of God, never to forget this great truth, that we need the Spirit of God within us in order to reach heaven, and the work of Christ without us in order to give us a title to the immortal inheritance" (TM 442). Is there any hint in these statements that the work of the Holy Spirit is less important in the saving process than the imputed righteousness of Christ?
Today it is widely taught that sanctification, while very important, is only a fruit or result of salvation, never a cause of salvation. The imparted righteousness of Christ does not contribute in the slightest way to our qualification for heaven.
These predictions made over twenty years ago are finding remarkable fulfillments today. What is especially amazing is that these fulfillments are not coming from the fringes or extreme branches of Adventism, but are being taught in Adventism's mainstream. Our best authorities on righteousness by faith are espousing one or more of these errors, and they are becoming quite common in everyday Adventist thinking.
Sometimes we are told that we should not point out errors or criticize the teachings of others, but should only talk about what is true and right. But this is directly contrary to the counsel we have been given. "Plain dealing with errors at the right time will prevent a vast amount of evil, and will be the means of saving souls from destruction." (RH April 24, 1888)
The reality is that Satan's deceptions have become so subtle, and we are hearing error from some of our most trusted friends, that it has become painfully necessary to point out the errors so that truth can be recognized for what it is. Truth and error have been mixed so thoroughly that even the best of us can often be caught saying "Amen" in all the wrong places.
What then can we do to avoid Satan's deadly traps? Let us look for help to the only One who can offer us the eyesalve from heaven to correct our impaired vision. "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;...If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;...To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." (Colossians 1:9-10, 23, 27-28)
If we want to be grounded and settled in the faith, and not be moved away by sounds-like-truth theories, we must always come back to the cornerstone of a saving relationship--Christ in you, the hope of glory. If we would always keep this focus when thinking about the gospel or listening to presentations of the gospel, we would never stray far from essential truth.
In addition, we are given specific counsel on how to preserve the truth and avoid error in Review and Herald, June 4, 1889.
There is much divine counsel in these words, that if heeded would make error very easy to detect, even when hidden in beautiful truths. Every one of us has the capability to follow this counsel, and if we are deceived by error attractively presented, it will only be because we are unwilling or too lazy to follow God's advice. If we would remember that our eternal salvation is at stake here, we might be more motivated to follow this counsel.
There is something else that we should consider here. It is much more subjective, appealing more to emotions than to logic. I wonder if this will do more to protect us from error than all the reasoned evidences we can present. This is very intimate and personal, something that we can only do one by one, in the quietness of our own hearts.
If one could unravel all presuppositions and prejudices...to have a clear, unadulterated and undistorted view of the cross--what would they see? They would see the Creator of the universe...shrunk into human flesh and nailed to two pieces of wood, His life crushed out by all the pain, suffering, and anguish of a world that He with His creative syllables had crafted into existence....At the Cross, everything noisome and evil that ever rippled through our nerves rippled through His--at once. However much blood, sweat, and tears have spilled, dripped, and flowed,...no one ever ached more than he or she, individually, could withstand; the moment the threshold was crossed, death cracked it off. In contrast, at the Cross, the evils of the world, and all their doleful results, honed in on Him at once....All the planet's finite evils fell on Christ....
But more importantly, if Jesus "tasted death for everyone,"...if He died "for the sins of the whole world,"...if upon Him was placed the iniquity "of us all"...--then all of us are implicated in the Cross because all of our evil was there....It means that our lies, our greed, our envy, our lust, our pride, our cheating, our selfishness, our injustice, and all the nasty and dirty little things we have thought and done; all of them were there, at the Cross, borne by Christ, killing Christ so that when all the evil moments of our life are tallied and weighed, they don't have to ultimately, and forever, kill us....
If all the evil we have ever committed or will ever commit fell on Jesus to spare us from the punishment that justice demands, then the Cross has an absolute moral claim on us....If at the Cross Christ paid the penalty for every wrong thingwe have ever done, if He bore the brunt of our evil, if in His flesh He felt at once the painful consequences of our foul deeds, and if He did it in order to spare us from having to face divine judgment for all these things we have done and yet we reject the provision, what's left?...No matter what we have suffered, we have suffered only as individuals. No more. In contrast, God took on the form of humanity and died a death not only worse than the worst of the best of humanity but suffered a death worse than all of humanity (even the worst of it)--combined. And though that amazing death does not answer all the questions about evil and pain, it does put them in a perspective that could help us past our own anguish and that of others. (Clifford Goldstein, Ministry, May, 2002, pp. 8-11)
Could it be that a good, long look at the cross will be our best protection against believing error? There our best rationalizations and pretences are exposed as hollow, and our conscience comes fully awake, making sharply clear what sin and salvation are all about. Ellen White pointed us to the same remedy for spiritual blindness.
If we are serious about not being contaminated by the errors surrounding us, and if we are willing to spend the time in the Word of God that is necessary, and if we will meditate much on the death of Christ in our place, then we will also quickly understand that there is no place for ongoing sin in the lives of those preparing to receive the seal of God. In 1915, E. K. Slade wrote these words.
"And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last....And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." (Revelation 22:12-13, 17) Today, as we are surrounded by error, we want pure water, not sugary sweet platitudes which have no nutritional value for the soul. We want living water, which will nourish us now and for all eternity. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.