Built Upon the Rock
by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira

Chapter 8:  Growing in Christ
Fundamental Belief #11 By His death on the cross, Jesus triumphed over the forces of evil.  He who subjugated the demonic spirits during His earthly ministry has broken their power and made certain their ultimate doom.  Jesus’ victory gives us victory over the evil forces that still seek to control us, as we walk with Him in peace, joy, and assurance of His love.  Now the Holy Spirit dwells within us and empowers us.  Continually committed to Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we are set free from the burden of our past deeds.  No longer do we live in the darkness, fear of evil powers, ignorance, and meaninglessness of our former way of life.  In this new freedom in Jesus, we are called to grow into the likeness of His character, communing with Him daily in prayer, feeding on His Word, meditating on it and on His providence, singing His praises, gathering together for worship, and participating in the mission of the Church.  As we give ourselves in loving service to those around us and in witnessing to His salvation, His constant presence with us through the Spirit transforms every moment and every task into a spiritual experience.
[Psalm 1:1-2; 23:4; 77:11-12; Colossians 1:13-14; 2:6, 14-15; Luke 10:17-20; Ephesians 5:19-20; 6:12-18; 2 Peter 2:9; 3:18; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; Philippians 3:7-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, 23; Matthew 20:25-28; John 20:21; Galatians 5:22-25; Romans 8:38-39; 1 John 4:4; Hebrews 10:25]

This Fundamental Belief, “Growing in Christ,” was adopted at the 2005 General Conference Session as the most recently added (28th) fundamental belief of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  It appears as the 11th entry in the series of beliefs, however, because of its close topical relation to the 9th and 10th fundamental beliefs, “The Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ” and “The Experience of Salvation.”  I concur that the addition of this latest belief strengthens the church’s statement of beliefs.

What does it mean to grow in Christ?  To begin to answer that question, let us first examine the sin problem Jesus Christ faced when He came to this sin-cursed world.

The Biblical Definition of Sin

The Hebrew Old Testament uses some 12 different words to define sin; the Greek New Testament uses about five.  Together they represent eight different categories of sin, from which the objective gospel of Jesus Christ — His birth, life, death, and resurrection — redeems mankind from seven.  The eighth is unforgiveable — the unpardonable sin of unbelief:

John 3:18
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Mark 16:15-16
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Here briefly are eight categories of sins that contribute to mankind’s total sin problem:

  1. Deliberate acts against the law of God (KJV “transgression” or lawlessness, according to the Greek), choosing to live a life of sin:
    1 John 3:4; 5:17
    Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.  ...All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.
  2. Mental consent to a temptation, though the act is not committed; the sin of coveting:
    Romans 7:7-11
    What shall we say, then?  Is the law sinful?  Certainly not!  Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law.  For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”  But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting.  For apart from the law, sin was dead.  Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.  I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.  For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.
    Matthew 5:27-28
    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
    James 1:14
    ...But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.
    Proverbs 24:9
    The schemes of folly are sin, and people detest a mocker.
  3. Neglect of known duties or opportunities:
    James 4:17; 2:14
    If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.  ...What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save them?
    Matthew 23:23
    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cumin.  But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness.  You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
    Matthew 25:43-46
    “I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
    “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
    “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
    “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
  4. Doing the wrong things out of ignorance:
    Leviticus 5:17-19
    “If anyone sins and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, even though they do not know it, they are guilty and will be held responsible.  They are to bring to the priest as a guilt offering a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value.  In this way the priest will make atonement for them for the wrong they have committed unintentionally, and they will be forgiven.  It is a guilt offering; they have been guilty of wrongdoing against the Lord.”
    Luke 12:48
    But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows.  From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
    1 Timothy 1:13
    Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.
  5. Doing the right things — good works or law-keeping — for the wrong reason or motives:
    Matthew 7:22-23
    “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!’”
    Isaiah 64:6
    All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
    Romans 9:30-32
    What then shall we say?  That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal.  Why not?  Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.  They stumbled over the stumbling stone.
    Philippians 3:3-9
    For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh — though I myself have reasons for such confidence.  If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.  But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
  6. The sinful nature inherited from fallen Adam:
    Psalm 51:5; 58:3
    Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.  ...Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies.
    Romans 5:19-20
    For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.  The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase.  But where sin increased, grace increased all the more....
    Ephesians 2:3
    All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
    Philippians 3:20-21
    But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
  7. A law, principle, or constant force dwelling in our sinful nature that enslaves to sin (“indwelling sin,” according to Ellen G. White), making holy living on one’s own impossible:
    Romans 3:19-20
    Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.  Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
    Romans 7:14-24
    We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  So I find this law at work:  Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
    Matthew 23:27-28
    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
    Luke 11:39
    Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.”
    John 8:34
    Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
  8. The sin of unbelief — the deliberate, persistent, and ultimate rejection of the gift of salvation in Christ:
    John 3:16-18, 36; 16:9
    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  ...Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.  ...About sin, because people do not believe in me....
    Mark 16:15-16
    He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

The first five types of sin require individual initiative (volition) and, therefore, result in guilt.  But the next two are inherited at birth, because of the disobedience of Adam.  Believers bear no responsibility for what Adam did, but they do inherit the consequences — condemnation and death:

Romans 5:15-18
But the gift is not like the trespass.  For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin:  The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!  Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.

These are the two sins that make us all sinners by nature:

Romans 5:19a
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners....
Ephesians 2:3b
Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

The eight sin, however, fits into a different category altogether, for it is a sin not against the law, but against grace.  Jesus defined it as the sin against the Holy Spirit, since it is the Spirit who communicates the good news of the gospel to mankind.

Matthew 12:30-32
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.  And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.  Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
John 16:8-11
When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:  about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

Of these eight categories of sin, the sin of unbelief is the only one that will keep anyone out of heaven — for God does not hold the believers’ fallen nature or behavior against them.  But since the objective gospel fully redeemed the entire human race in Christ’s holy history (His birth, life, death and resurrection), only those who reject that redemption will be lost.  Once an individual learns the objective facts of the gospel and rejects it, the sin of unbelief becomes the unpardonable sin.

Hebrews 2:1-4
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.  For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?  This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.  God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
Hebrews 10:26-29, 35-38
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.  Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?  ...So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For,
“In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.”
And,
“But my righteous one will live by faith.  And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”

Two Uses of the Word ‘Sin’

The New Testament uses the word “sin” in two distinct ways.  On the one hand, it presents it as a verb.  This use of the word has to do with behavior or acts of sins — whether in word, thought, or deed.  The Greek word for sin as a verb is harmatano, which in most cases is translated in the plural, “sins.”

But the New Testament also presents sin as a noun and refers to a condition of sinfulness — that condition inherited from Adam:

Romans 5:12, 19a
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned....  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners....
Ephesians 2:3b
Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

To grow fully in Christ, mankind must be saved from this dual sin problem, sin as a verb as well as sin as a noun.

In praying to His Father, before going to the cross, Jesus confessed:

John 17:4
I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.

This work of saving mankind was fulfilled on the cross, when Jesus cried “It is finished”:

John 19:30
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”  With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

By His perfect life and sacrificial death, Christ met all the demands of God’s law on behalf of mankind:

Romans 10:4
Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

But how can believers experience total salvation from their dual sin problem?  The New Testament describes the process in two ways.  We already know that the first five definitions of sin involve responsibility and guilt:

Romans 6:23a
For the wages of sin is death....

And Scripture clearly states:

Romans 3:23
...For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God....

Christ paid the full price for all sin committed by the human race against God’s law.  On the cross, the justice of the law was fully met, and this is what the apostle Paul proclaimed to the Christians in Galatia:

Galatians 3:13a
Christ redeemed [past tense] us [humanity] from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us....

Because of this:

Ephesians 1:7
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace....

The death of Christ forgives every act of sin, in thought, word, or deed; but growth in Christ also requires deliverance from the power, nature, and law of sin in their members.

In other words, sinful acts can be forgiven because of the blood of Christ.  But innate sinfulness needs more than forgiveness, and Christ has condemned the law of sin in our members, that is, “the law of sin in the flesh”:

Romans 8:2-4
...Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Christ’s Power Over Sin

How did Christ condemn sin in the flesh?  Paul writes:

Romans 8:3
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh....

First, note that the word sin above appears in the singular.  Paul is referring here to sin as a noun, the law (or power) of sin in our members which enslaves us under the principle of self:

Romans 7:22-24
For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

Second, notice that in order to deliver humanity from this law (or power) of sin, God had to send His Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3, just above).

Some insist that the word “likeness” really means that Christ was physically — but not spiritually — like the rest of humanity.  That is, they say that Christ’s human nature looked like sinful flesh but, in fact, was different.  They insist that His human nature was like that of Adam before the fall — with no tendency at all toward sin.

The problem with this interpretation is that Paul uses the identical word, “likeness,” in the same dative case, in Philippians 2:7, where we read:

Philippians 2:7
...Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  [Emphasis mine.]

Surely we all agree that Christ was a real man — He did not just look like one.

As the International Critical Commentary explains, “Paul uses the word likeness in Romans 8:3 (above) to point out that Christ’s humanity was not the sum total of His being, and that He never ceased to be the divine Son of God.”  His divinity with the internal zoe-life was truly His, but He assumed our corporate human bios-life, with the law of sin, in order to be legally qualified to be the second, or last, Adam and save the world:

1 Corinthians 15:45
So it is written:  “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.

Besides, it would have been impossible for Christ to conquer and condemn the law of sin in our members vicariously — that is, without assuming the selfsame human nature that has the law of sin in its members.  The law of sin is a constant force, like the law of gravity.  And the only way Christ could condemn it is by meeting that force head-on.  He did it in our corporate humanity in the power of the Spirit:

Luke 4:14
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.
Romans 8:2
...Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

The stumbling block to holy living and growing in Christ is the law of sin that enslaves the human personality:

Romans 3:9-20
What shall we conclude then?  Do we have any advantage?  Not at all!  For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.  As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
“Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.  Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
Romans 7:14
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

In Romans, Paul identifies himself with every born-again Christian who hates evil and delights in the law of God, yet fails miserably to do good on their own:

Romans 7:14-25
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  So I find this law at work:  Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Twice, in verses 17 and 20, Paul blames the noun sin (the law of sin in his members) for this failure and concludes that the only hope of deliverance from this wretched condition is in and through Jesus Christ (verses 24-25).

The good news of the objective gospel is that Christ has saved humanity both from its sins (plural), and from (past historic tense) the “law of sin and death”:

Romans 8:2
...Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  [Emphasis mine.]

Christ accomplished this by assuming the human nature that was dominated by the law of sin:

Hebrews 2:16-18; 4:15
For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.  ...For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin.

But note that His victory was not gained in His own strength (an impossibility for the fallen human nature), but by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit:

John 5:19-20
Jesus gave them this answer:  “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.  For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.  Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.”
Luke 4:14
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.

Not only did Christ conquer this law of sin that enslaves humanity to the principle of self, He also executed it on the cross.

Romans 8:3
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh....

That is why:

Romans 8:1
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus....

This victory over sinful flesh is what makes it possible for believers to fully grow in Christ, as they learn to walk in the Spirit:

Romans 8:4
...In order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Unless Christians clearly understand the objective facts of the gospel, they have no hope in their subjective experience of growth in Christ.

Growing in Christ

One of the most encouraging statements on growth in Christ is penned by Paul:

Romans 8:11
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give [spiritual] life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

This is very good news, so let’s study what he’s saying.

Paul taught that the wages of sin is death (the second death) — that is, eternal death; but that, on the cross, Christ bore the wages of the accumulated sins of the whole world:

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Isaiah 53:4-11
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.  By oppression and judgment he was taken away.  Yet who of his generation protested?  For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.  He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.  Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.  After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
1 John 2:2
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

We can be assured that crucifixion itself did not kill Christ, for Roman historians (Celsus and Cicero) record that it took between three to seven days for a crucified one to die.  Yet Christ died within six hours.  The accumulated sins of the whole world apparently broke Christ’s heart.

Desire of Ages, Pg. 753
“Upon Christ as our substitute and surety was laid the iniquity of us all.  He was counted a transgressor, that He might redeem us from the condemnation of the law.  The guilt of every descendant of Adam was pressing upon His heart.  The wrath of God against sin, the terrible manifestation of His displeasure because of iniquity, filled the soul of His Son with consternation.  All His life Christ had been publishing to a fallen world the good news of the Father’s mercy and pardoning love.  Salvation for the chief of sinners was His theme.  But now with the terrible weight of guilt He bears, He cannot see the Father’s reconciling face.  The withdrawal of the divine countenance from the Saviour in this hour of supreme anguish pierced His heart with a sorrow that can never be fully understood by man.  So great was this agony that His physical pain was hardly felt.
“Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of Jesus.  The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb.  Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice.  He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal.  Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race.  It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father’s wrath upon Him as man’s substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God.
“With amazement angels witnessed the Saviour’s despairing agony.  The hosts of heaven veiled their faces from the fearful sight.  Inanimate nature expressed sympathy with its insulted and dying Author.  The sun refused to look upon the awful scene.  Its full, bright rays were illuminating the earth at midday, when suddenly it seemed to be blotted out.  Complete darkness, like a funeral pall, enveloped the cross.  ‘There was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.’  There was no eclipse or other natural cause for this darkness, which was as deep as midnight without moon or stars.  It was a miraculous testimony given by God that the faith of after generations might be confirmed.
“In that thick darkness God’s presence was hidden.  He makes darkness His pavilion, and conceals His glory from human eyes.  God and His holy angels were beside the cross.  The Father was with His Son.  Yet His presence was not revealed.  Had His glory flashed forth from the cloud, every human beholder would have been destroyed.  And in that dreadful hour Christ was not to be comforted with the Father’s presence.  He trod the wine press alone, and of the people there was none with Him.”

When the law of God executes sin, it executes it permanently; so the fact that Christ rose from the grave proves that the power of the Holy Spirit is greater than the accumulated sins of the world.  And, since that same Spirit dwells in every born-again Christian:

Romans 8:11
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

This is what Paul is saying, and why he could write to believers in Philippi:

Philippians 3:10
I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death....

Unlike the law of God, which cannot sympathize or help us to obey, Jesus Christ can do both.  He understands human weakness and can help us to obey His commandments:

Hebrews 4:15
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin.
Hebrews 2:18
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Since human nature does not change until the Second Advent, when “this corruption will put on incorruption,” the believers remain sinners by nature, saved by grace alone, even after probation closes.

1 Corinthians 15:51-53
Listen, I tell you a mystery:  We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed — in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

This does not mean the believers will keep on sinning, but that their natures will still contain a bias toward sin, though in performance and character they may be fully reflecting the love of Christ — the true fulfillment of the law:

Romans 13:10
Love does no harm to a neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Galatians 5:13-14
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The goal of every true Christian should be to be able to say, with the apostle Paul:

Philippians 3:12
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Relating Justification and Sanctification

Through the objective facts of the gospel — the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ — He took to heaven the absolute guarantee of a glorified humanity, fully and completely redeemed from every aspect of the sin problem.  This is why, the moment an individual receives Christ by faith, that person stands complete in Him:

Colossians 2:10
...And in Christ you have been brought to fullness.  He is the head over every power and authority.

This is justification by faith — the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to the believer.  As Christ Himself pointed out, such a believer has passed from death to life:

John 5:24
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”

That means he or she stands perfect in performance, in justice, and nature in Christ:

Romans 8:1-2
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

But holy living (sanctification) is the work of a lifetime, as the Holy Spirit makes real in experience what is already true in Christ through justification by faith.  Growing in Christ means to see reproduced in one’s life the character of Christ.  This is the imparted righteousness of Christ, the fruits of imputed righteousness.

The following texts show the relationship between justification by faith (imputed righteousness), and sanctification by faith (imparted righteousness) — the fruits of the gospel.  This fruit-bearing growth process will not be fully realized until the Second Advent, when this corruption puts on incorruption:

1 Corinthians 15:50-54
I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Listen, I tell you a mystery:  We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed — in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.  When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:  “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
  1. Through justification by faith believers are dead to sin in Christ:

    Romans 6:1-7
    What shall we say, then?  Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!  We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
    Colossians 3:3
    For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

    Therefore, in Christ they must give no place to sin, at least in attitude:

    Romans 6:11; 13:14
    In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  ...Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
    Colossians 3:6
    Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
    1 Peter 2:24
    “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
  2. Through justification by faith, believers are made alive to God through the new birth experience:

    John 20:31
    But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
    Romans 6:11; 8:10
    In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  ...But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.
    1 John 5:11
    And this is the testimony:  God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

    Therefore, as Christians, they must live unto God, reflecting daily the life of Christ:

    Romans 14:8
    If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord.  So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
    Galatians 2:19-20
    For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
  3. In Christ, believers are adopted as children of God:

    Galatians 3:26
    So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith....
    Ephesians 1:5
    ...He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will....
    1 John 3:1
    See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

    Therefore, as adopted children, they are to behave as God’s children:

    Ephesians 5:1, 8
    Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children....  For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light....
    1 Peter 1:13-14
    Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.
  4. As adopted children of God they are spiritually no longer of this world, but citizens of heaven:

    John 15:19; 17:14-16
    If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you.  ...I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.
    1 John 5:19
    We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

    Therefore, growing in Christ means they should not love the world or the things of the world:

    1 John 2:15-16; 5:4-5
    Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.  ...For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
    James 1:27
    Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
  5. Through baptism into Christ believers have surrendered their sinful bios-life to the cross and are, therefore, crucified to the world:

    Galatians 6:14-15
    May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.
    Colossians 2:20
    Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules....

    As Christians, growing in Christ, they should avoid worldly practices:

    Romans 12:2
    Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.
    James 4:4
    You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?  Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
    1 John 2:16-17
    For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
  6. As Christians who have chosen to be slaves of God, growing in Christ means serving the Lord and Master joyfully, as God’s slave:

    Romans 6:20-22
    When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.  What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?  Those things result in death!  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
    1 Corinthians 7:22
    For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave.
    Romans 6:17-19
    But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.  You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.  I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations.  Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.
    Hebrews 12:28
    Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe....
  7. In Christ, believers possess the zoe-life of Christ:

    2 Corinthians 5:17
    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!
    Galatians 6:15
    Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.

    Therefore, growing in Christ means learning to walk in newness of life:

    Romans 6:4; 7:6
    We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  ...But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
    Ephesians 4:20-24
    That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
  8. As Christians who are a light to the world, they should walk as children of light, as they grow in Christ:

    Matthew 5:14
    “You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”
    1 Thessalonians 5:5
    You are all children of the light and children of the day.  We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
    Matthew 5:15-16
    Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
    Ephesians 5:18
    Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit....
  9. As believers abiding in Christ, they have been made secure through justification by faith:

    John 10:27-28
    My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
    Romans 8:1
    Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus....
    1 Peter 1:5
    [You] who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

    Therefore, as Christians they should enjoy security in Him:

    1 Thessalonians 1:5
    ...Because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.  You know how we lived among you for your sake.
    Hebrews 10:19-22
    Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
    2 Peter 1:10
    Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election.  For if you do these things, you will never stumble....
  10. Being justified by faith and led by the Holy Spirit...

    Romans 8:9-10
    You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.  But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.
    1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20
    Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?  ...Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your bodies.
    2 Corinthians 6:16
    What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God.  As God has said:  “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

    ...as they grow in Christ they must learn to yield to the Spirit’s control:

    Galatians 5:16-17, 25
    So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.  ...Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
    Ephesians 4:30; 5:18
    And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  ...Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit....
    1 Thessalonians 5:19
    Do not quench the Spirit.
  11. All who are justified in Christ have received one or more gifts of the Holy Spirit:

    Romans 12:5-6
    ...So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith....
    1 Corinthians 12:4, 12
    There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  ...Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.
    Ephesians 4:7-13
    But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  This is why it says:  “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”  (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?  He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)  So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

    If believers are to grow in Christ and serve His church, they must use their God-given gifts:

    Romans 12:3-8
    For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
    1 Peter 4:11
    If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.  If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen.
  12. Every believer justified by faith in Christ has been empowered for witnessing:

    Acts 1:8
    “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
    2 Corinthians 4:7
    But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
    Ephesians 3:20
    Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us....
    2 Timothy 1:7
    For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

    As Christians growing in Christ, they should witness to the truth as it is in Christ:

    1 Corinthians 2:4
    My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power....
    Ephesians 6:10
    Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
    Philippians 3:10; 4:13
    I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death....  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

The life God expects of every believer is the life of His Son.  Every provision has already been made in Christ; therefore, there is no excuse for crediting faith, plus works, for salvation.  True justification by faith, however, always produces works:

John 14:12
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
Ephesians 2:8-10
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Titus 3:5, 8
[God our Savior] saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit....  This is a trustworthy saying.  And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.  These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

These works do not save, but provide evidence of salvation in Christ.  As the apostle John notes, whoever is born of God overcomes “the world” (the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life):

1 John 2:16
For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.

And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith:

1 John 5:4
...For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

Significance of the 11th Fundamental Belief

This fundamental belief, added to the list in 2005, states:  “By His death on the cross, Jesus triumphed over the forces of evil.  He who subjugated the demonic spirits during His earthly ministry has broken their power and made certain their ultimate doom.  Jesus’ victory gives us victory over the evil forces that still seek to control us, as we walk with Him in peace, joy, and assurance of His love (manifested through the objective gospel, the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ).  Now the Holy Spirit dwells within us and empowers us.”

It goes on to declare that, “in this new freedom in Jesus, we are called to grow into His likeness of His character, communing with Him daily in prayer, feeding on His Word, meditating on it and on His providence, singing His praises, gathering together in worship, and participating in the mission of the church.”

May this be the experience of all as they learn to walk in the Spirit.  Amen.


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