|Gospel Issues in Adventism
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
After the apostles passed from the scene, the leadership of the early church fell into the hands of the Church Fathers, most of whom were of Greek origin. Being great philosophers one of the first major theological controversy that took place in the history of the Christian church was the Christological Controversy.
This controversy was over the divine/human nature of Christ. How can one person be both God and Man at the same time, they argued? Consequently, some defended only His divinity while others only His humanity. It took two major councils, Nicea (320?), and Chalcedon (450?), for the church to finally agree on the unipersonality of Christ’s dual nature: that He was fully God and fully man at the same time. This, they said, is a mystery, i.e., unexplainable, but a Biblical truth.
While this decision was generally accepted a new argument developed. It was over Christ’s human nature. Was it like Adam’s before the Fall, (i.e., Pre-Fall), or sinful like ours (i.e., Post-Fall)? For the first five centuries, the Church Fathers concluded that Christ could not redeem what He did not assume, therefore, His humanity had to be like ours that needed redeeming. This view, unfortunately, is not held today.
Why does the Christian church today uphold the pre-Fall view? History tells us that this view became dominant because of the church of Rome’s doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. While the Reformation rejected this doctrine, they nevertheless accepted the results of this heresy and taught that Christ Himself was born immaculate, i.e., with a sinless spiritual nature, like that of Adam before the Fall.
This became the established view of the Protestant churches to this day. But this was not the view that our pioneers held. While we as a church have never had an official position, most of our literature books, Sabbath School lessons, etc. presented the post-Fall position. That is, until the 1960s when, to gain acceptance by the Evangelicals, we changed our position to the pre-Fall.
This created the great controversy that is raging today over the human nature of Christ. Unfortunately, most of the arguments are not being discussed in the context of the gospel but Christian living. The majority of those who teach the post-Fall view, and these are the independent ministries, do so to defend sinless living: that Christ took on our sinful nature in order to be our EXAMPLE. The result is legalism or perfectionism. No wonder, those who uphold justification by faith rightly defend the pre-Fall view.
But if we are to come to a correct understanding of Christ’s human nature, we must study it in the context of the gospel, because all through the New Testament, this is the emphasis of the Bible writers. In other words, Scripture teaches that Christ became a man for the sole purpose of being the Savior of the World. (Hence the title of my book.) It is only to those who first accept Christ as their Savior does the Bible present Him as our example.
According to the New Testament, the human nature of Christ is presented in the context of three fundamental truths. They are:
Any discussion concerning the human nature of Christ outside of these three fundamental facts of Scripture becomes futile and meaningless.
1. The Gospel Constitutes the Birth, Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ.
The birth of Christ plays an important part in our salvation since it qualified Him to be our Substitute and Representative. We saw this in our last study, the doctrine of Substitution. At His birth, God united the divinity of Christ with our corporate humanity that needed redeeming. This made Christ one with us so that He could rewrite our history and change our status and destiny from that of condemnation to death, which we inherited from Adam, to justification to life [read Rom. 5:18; 1 Cor. 15:21, 22.]
The life of Christ is important to our salvation since He lived a perfect life on our behalf and thus met the positive demands of the law. The law says we have to obey it perfectly in order to live. In this we have all failed. But what we have failed to do Christ did our corporate humanity, which He assumed at birth [read Jn. 3:17; Gal. 4:4, 5; Heb. 10:5-9].
The death of Christ is important because it redeemed fallen humanity from the curse of the law. The same law which says “obey and live” also says “disobey and die.” Since we have all sinned and come short of the laws demands, Christ could not save us only by His perfect life. To redeem us fully He had also to meet the just demands of the law. This He did by His death on the cross [read 1 Pet. 1:18, 19; 2:24; 3:18].
The resurrection of Christ plays a vital part in our salvation because it is in the resurrection that God gave us the eternal life of His Son, in exchange for our condemned life which came to an end at the cross. This made it possible for Christ’s humanity to rise from the dead. This new life is what makes it possible for all who believe in Christ to pass from death to life. This is the good news of the gospel [read Jn. 5:24; 2 Cor. 5:14, 17; 1 Pet, 1:3].
2. The Gospel Redeemed Us from Every Aspect of the Sin Problem
Scripture presents sin as a three-fold problem. In the first place, sin is the transgression of the law which results in the curse. Since all have sinned, we all face the guilt and punishment of sin. But, thank God, Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us [read Gal. 3:10, 13].
But sin is more than the transgression of the law. Secondly, sin is also a force, a principle, or a law which has us in its grips. Because of Adam’s sin, we have all been sold under sin and are slaves to it. This is something we fully discover only after we become Christians and try to live the holy life in our own strength. Christ also came to redeem us from this predicament — the power and slavery to sin. That is why He had to assume our sinful nature in order to be our complete Savior [read Rom. 3:9; 7:14, 24, 25; 8:2-4].
Finally, sin is part or our very nature. In order for Christ to save us from the very nature and presence of sin, He had to deliver us from this evil world and make us sit in heavenly places in Christ. This He did in the resurrection and His ascension into heaven [read Eph. 2:3b, 5,6; Phil. 3:20, 21].
3. All Christian Experience Must be Based on the Finished Work of Christ
Every subjective experience of the believer must be based on what Christ has already accomplished for the fallen human race 2,000 years ago. The peace and assurance of salvation we experience through Justification by Faith, the victory over the flesh and holy living we are experiencing through Sanctification by Faith, and the redemption of our bodes we will experience through glorification at the second coming are all based in the fact that all three experiences have already been obtained for us in Christ. The Holy Spirit does not add anything to this but simply makes it real in our experience [read 1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:10].
The only way Christ could have accomplished these three facts is by assuming the self-same human nature we are born with and which needs redeeming. This is the message of the New Testament. Christ was made what we are so that we might be made in Him what He is [read 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 2:14-18].