Gospel Issues in Adventism
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
This may come to some of you as a surprise, but, believe it or not, there are some Adventists who strongly object to preaching assurance of salvation. Some of them feel that by doing so we pastors are taking away from our members the incentive to keep the law. As one church leader said to me, You may be Biblically correct, but if you give our members the assurance of salvation what incentive do they have for keeping the law? Amazing!!!
Others object or condemn the preaching of assurance of salvation because they equate it with the Calvinist teaching of once saved, always saved.
And again, some others remind me that E. G. White has warned us as a people that we are never to say I am saved. They equate this statement with the assurance of salvation. As a result of all these objections, the teaching of assurance of salvation has become a gospel issue in Adventism and therefore needs to be addressed. This will be our topic.
But before we answer to these objections, let us first look at the Biblical record. Does the Bible teach that Christians should have full assurance of salvation? Or are we to be kept in suspense until Christ comes? Please turn to Hebrews 10:19-22 and note what it says regarding our assurance of salvation. This, incidentally, is not an isolated statement of Scripture. Note how Christ Himself gave full assurance of salvation to believers [read Jn 5:24; Mk. 16:15, 16]. The same truth was also preached by the apostles [read Acts 15:1, 10, 11; 16:28-31.]
Having established the fact from Scripture, that Christians should have full assurance of salvation, let us now consider the threefold objections to this wonderful truth:
Objection #1. Does assurance of salvation take away the incentives to obeying the law? The answer is yes, if you are using the law as a means of salvation. In other words, why should I struggle to keep the law if I am already saved? That may sound like good human logic, but the fact is, by observing the law no one will be saved [read Rom. 3:20].
Therefore, anyone who uses this argument, what does it tell you? Obviously, they have not understood the good news of the gospel. This, by the way, is the fruits of the Armenian gospel: that salvation is only provisional and only when I meet Gods requirements will He save me. Sad to say, many of our people, young and old, have been trapped into this false gospel.
Whenever we use selfish motives like fear of the judgment or desire for reward to get our people to keep Gods law or do good works, we are no different than any pagan or non-Christian religion. The principle of self belongs to Satan and this evil world. That is why all man-made religions are based on salvation by works. Gods ways are the very opposite [read Isa. 55:8, 9].
The principle of self was introduced by Lucifer when he became Satan and which he infected the human race with at the Fall [read Isa. 53:6; Phil. 2:21]. In contrast, Gods kingdom is established on the principle of selfless agape love. This selfless unconditional love is the bases of our salvation as well as Christian living [read Matt. 5:43-48; 1 Cor. 13:1-5.]
Gods love has no self in it: it seeketh not its own. When we appeal to mans selfish nature in trying to get our people to keep the law or do good works, no matter how sincere or good our intentions are, we are actually upholding Satans kingdom and contradicting the true gospel motivation to live the Christians life [read 2 Cor. 5:14, 15; Jn. 13:34, 35.]
Objection #2. Is assurance of salvation the same as once saved, always saved? The answer is a big NO! The doctrine of once saved, always saved is based on the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. While the assurance of salvation is base on the doctrine of justification by faith. Let me explain.
The doctrine of predestination is based on the fact that God is sovereign. This means that whatever God decides will happen. And since the Bible clearly teaches that some will be lost, Calvin concluded that God could not have saved all mankind on the cross but only those whom He predetermined He would save. The rest of humanity, he said, are reprobates and will be lost.
But to those whom God has predetermined to save, He gives them the gift of faith. And when this gift of faith is exercised, the believer is guaranteed eternal security, or what we know as once saved, always saved. Because now, Calvinists say, you have become a child of God and this fact can never change, no matter what (the Prodigal Son is often given as an example).
This doctrine of eternal security, when carefully examined, is based primarily on human logic rather than thus says the Lord. Nowhere in the Bible do I read that Christ came to this earth to only save some. All the universal texts of the New Testament clearly show that in Christ the entire human race was saved. But because God created mankind with a free will, only those who have deliberately, persistently, and ultimately rejected Gods gift of salvation will be eternally lost [read Jn. 3:16-18, 36.]
Therefore, anyone who equates assurance of salvation with once saved, always saved have failed to see the distinction between the two. What the Bible teaches is, that as long as we stand on the platform of justification by faith we can have full assurance of salvation. However, the moment we turn our backs on Christ by unbelief we are at the same time saying good-bye to heaven. That is why the New Testament is full of admonition to believers, under no circumstances give up your faith in Christ [read Matt. 10:17-22; Heb. 10:35-39.]Objection #3. When E.G. White warns believers that they should never say I am saved, was she implying that Christians should not have or be given the assurance of salvation? Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only did E. G. White emphasize assurance of salvation, but her very last letter to a dying lady was to give her the assurance of salvation. This is only one sample from a list of 81 statements I have found.
How then are we to interpret her statement that Christians should never say I am saved? As with Scripture, E. G. White should never be read out of context. But this is unfortunately a common problem among Gods people. There are about four times E. G. White makes this statement and, when read in context, in each case she is condemning one of two heresies:
In concluding this study on the assurance of salvation, how are we to look at this matter of our salvation? According to the clear teaching of the New Testament, Christians must consider their salvation in all three tenses: past, present, and future, i.e.: I am saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved.
When it comes to the subjective experience of salvation, believers are already saved from the guilt and punishment of sin [read Jn. 5:24; Rom. 8:1]. But, since we still possess sinful natures, we are being saved daily from the slavery and power of sin [read 2 Thes. 2:13.] Finally, at His coming we will be saved from the very nature and presence of sin [read Rom. 8:23-25; Phil. 3:20, 21.] But, in Christ, all three are already ours. This is why believers can have full assurance of salvation.