Saviour of the World
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Chapter 2 — That ‘Most Precious Message’

Ever since the birth of the Christian church, and even long before that, Satan has been at work to nullify the gospel in one way or another.  It matters little to him how this is done.  If too much emphasis is given to one aspect of the gospel, or too little to another, the result is the same — the gospel is distorted and made of no effect.

For example, those who teach that the spiritual human nature of Christ was like Adam’s sinless nature before the Fall have a tendency to stress the doctrine of justification by faith, and thus are in danger of undermining sanctification.  They are sincerely attempting to restore the peace and joy of salvation which God’s remnant has lost through an over-emphasis on the law and good works.  But the practical result, in many cases, has been a lowering of the standards.

On the other hand, the “more insistent group” who hold to the view that, in order to be our Example, Christ assumed the fallen, sinful nature with which all of us are born, generally emphasize sanctification by faith.  The danger here is that they will undermine justification.  They are sincerely trying to counteract the “new theology” (although it isn’t really new at all), and return the church to “historic Adventism.”  But, unfortunately, this group is preaching a subtle form of legalism akin to the legalistic errors into which the Judiazers side-tracked the Galatian churches.

It’s my conviction that only through a correct understanding of the humanity of Christ are we able to present the full truth of the gospel that God raised the advent movement to proclaim to the world.  Ellen White described the 1888 message as “justification by faith ... its fruit is unto holiness,” thus keeping both justification and sanctification in the forefront (Review and Herald, Sept. 3, 1889).  To emphasize justification by faith without a balancing emphasis on sanctification, or vice versa, is to misrepresent “that most precious message” (Testimonies to Ministers, 91).

What can correct these unbalanced views of salvation and unite both camps within Adventism?  Again, I believe the answer lies in a correct understanding of Christ’s humanity and its relationship to the gospel.

Both parties agree that the eternal Son of God became man for our salvation.  But they disagree about the kind of human nature He assumed.  Those who take the pre-Fall view do so in order to uphold the sinlessness of Christ.  “If Jesus shared our moral weakness, our bent toward sin,” they argue, “He would be a sinner and need a Saviour Himself.”  Because they believe the very state in which humanity finds itself since the Fall comes under divine condemnation, they cannot agree that Jesus shared that state.  Incidentally, this is the popular view of the Roman Catholic Church and most Protestant churches today.

The proponents of the post-Fall view assert that Christ assumed our fallen, sinful nature as we know it, the very nature that is in need of redeeming.  In spite of this, however, He lived a perfect, sinless life and redeemed that fallen human nature at the cross.  Unfortunately, many who hold this correct view go on to undermine the sin problem by insisting that our sinful nature does not make us sinners, that it is not a condemned nature until it consents to sin.  They insist on this in order to counteract the argument of those taking the pre-Fall view, who believe that our sinful nature is what makes us sinners and that, therefore, it stands under God’s condemnation.

The Bible, however, presents sin as a multiphased problem and Christ as our Saviour from all aspects of the problem.  The Bible uses a variety of words to define sin — some twelve different terms in the Hebrew Old Testament and five in the Greek New Testament.  Each word emphasizes a different aspect of the sin problem.  Jesus came to redeem humanity not just from one or two dimensions of sin, but from every one of them.  And the only way He could do that was to assume our sinful human nature that stood condemned and which needed redeeming.  By His perfect life, sacrificial death, and resurrection, Christ fully rescued humanity from every aspect of sin.  Thus, He rose from the dead with a human nature that was redeemed from sin in every way as well.  It was this glorified human nature that He took to heaven to represent us as our great High Priest.

If we are to fully appreciate this complete redemption in Christ, it is vital that we fully understand what constitutes the sin problem.

According to Scripture, a deliberate transgression against God’s law is sin, as is the choice to live a life of lawlessness:

Romans 4:15
...Because the law brings wrath.  And where there is no law there is no transgression.

Sad to say, many Adventists, especially those with a legalistic leaning, limit sin only to this act or choice.  For them, sin is “the transgression of the law” or “breaking the law”:

1 John 3:4
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.

This limited definition of sin is often based on Ellen White’s statement:

The Great Controversy, Page 493
“Our only definition of sin is that given in the word of God; it is ‘the transgression of the law.’”

Unfortunately, yet typically, those who use this quotation to support a limited definition of sin fail to read her full statement.  The full statement reads:

The Great Controversy, Page 493
“Our only definition of sin is that given in the word of God; it is ‘the transgression of the law’; it is the outworking of a principle at war with the great law of love which is the foundation of the divine government.”

Clearly, Ellen White expands the definition of sin to include not only specific transgressions against God’s law, but everything that contradicts God’s selfless agape love.  And this includes our very natures, which are ruled by the law of sin or self, for they, too, are against the spirit of God’s law and, therefore, are sin:

Romans 8:7
The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  [KEY PTS.]

Obviously, Scripture does not limit sin only to an act.  This was the mistake the Jewish nation made, and we must not repeat it.  For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it clear that a mental consent to a temptation is sin:

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.”

Also:

Romans 7:7
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.”
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.

And according to the apostle Paul, unbelief or a deliberate rejection of a biblical truth is also sin:

Romans 14:23
But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
John 3:18; 16:8-9
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.  ...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....

Other definitions of sin mentioned in Scripture include 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?
Luke 12:47
“The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows.”
Matthew 23:23; 25:43-46
“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....

“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.”

...and doing the wrong thing or going against God’s will 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 12:48a
But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows.
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.

Even beyond this, our sinful natures, which we inherit from Adam at birth, make us sinners:

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....
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.
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.

Paul explains this in Romans chapter 7 by exposing his readers to the fact that the principle of sin resides in each of us, a force dwelling in our sinful natures which makes holy living, in and of ourselves, impossible.  He actually refers to this as “sin living in me”:

Romans 7:17
As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.

Also:

Romans 7:20-23
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.
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.”

This presence of indwelling sin in each one of us is why Paul declared to the Ephesian believers that all humanity “were by nature the children of wrath”:

Ephesians 2:3 [Emphasis Added]
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.

But if this is true, how could Christ assume our sinful nature that stands condemned — and yet remain sinless?  This is a valid question and I will try to give a satisfactory answer later in this book (see chapters 12 and chapter 15).  At this point, my concern is that we honestly face the sin problem.  We need to see its full extent so that we can appreciate the total solution God has provided.  And that solution is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The view we hold regarding Christ’s humanity will have a definite effect on the gospel we preach as well as on our own Christian experience and witness.  For example, the so-called “evangelical gospel” proclaimed by some Adventist pastors, equates righteousness by faith only with justification.  According to this gospel, Christ, in His sinless human nature, redeemed us only legally by His perfect life and vicarious death.  Thus, the good news of the gospel is limited solely to a forensic righteousness that is imputed to the one who believes in Christ.  In this view, sanctification is important, but it is not part of the good news of the gospel.  It is not part of what Christ accomplished for us in His earthly mission; rather it is the believer’s attempt to live a holy life, aided by the Holy Spirit and motivated by love for God’s gift of justification.

But the precious message of righteousness by faith God brought to Adventism in 1888 went far beyond a merely legal or forensic redemption.  It taught that, in Christ’s doing and dying, humanity was saved totally from sin — not just from its guilt and punishment.  In Christ’s holy history, justification, sanctification, as well as glorification were fully accomplished for fallen humanity:

1 Corinthians 1:30: 6:11
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  ...And that is what some of you were.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  [KEY PTS.]

This is the full gospel God raised the Advent movement to proclaim.  According to this gospel, all Christian experience, including victory over sin, is based on Christ’s finished work, the objective facts of the gospel.  All three aspects of salvation — justification, sanctification, and glorification — constitute the good news of the gospel which we receive by faith alone:

Romans 1:17
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written:  “The righteous will live by faith.”  [KEY PTS.]

The emphasis of the 1888 message was that Christ assumed our sinful human nature, and that, in this nature, He both conquered and condemned the principle of sin (love of self) by His doing and dying.  What He did thus gives to all justified believers everlasting hope to live as He did and to overcome temptation and the flesh as He did:

Romans 13:14
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
Galatians 5:16
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Revelation 3:21
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

This complete gospel not only offers sinful human beings peace with God and full assurance of heaven now and in the judgment, but it also offers us total victory over the tyranny and power of the sinful flesh.  A word of caution, however!  Such victorious living in the life of the believer has no merits and, consequently, makes no contribution to one’s justification.  Instead, it manifests the power of the gospel by revealing the self-sacrificing agape love of God in fallen human nature.  This is the true fulfilling of the law:

Romans 13:8-10
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.  The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  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.”

This is the mystery of godliness, “God was manifested in the flesh”:

1 Timothy 3:16
Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:  He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.

All human attempts to solve the moral degeneracy of our present selfish and wicked world have failed miserably.  Therefore, reproducing Christ’s character of unconditional, selfless love in the lives of Christians becomes the most important evidence of the gospel’s power to save us from sin:

John 13:34-35
“A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  [KEY PTS.]

Our present wicked, skeptical world desperately needs such a demonstration in the lives of Christians before the end comes.  We live in an age dominated by the scientific method; people today demand clear evidence.  Before they will accept the gospel’s claim to be “the power of God to salvation,” they must see the evidence that it is an actual fact, not a mere theory.

Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes:  first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

This is what Jesus was talking about when He said:

Matthew 24:14 [Emphasis Added]
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

This is why Ellen White identified the 1888 message of righteousness by faith with the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14.  The ultimate goal of this gospel message is to ripen the harvest and produce a people who have the faith of Jesus and who demonstrate this fact by their selfless love for their fellow men.

Revelation 14:15
Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”  [KEY PTS.]

Such an experience is the true keeping of God’s commandments:

Revelation 14:12
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.
Romans 13:8-10
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.  The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  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.”

In the 1888 message, the Lord actually gave His people the beginning of the latter rain and the loud cry.  If they had fully received it, this message would have lightened the earth with God’s glory, culminating in the second advent.  Such a gospel is far different from the popular evangelical gospel which satisfies only our egocentric concern to qualify for heaven.

At the Fall, not only did all humanity come under the condemnation of death in Adam, but our very nature was corrupted, sold into slavery to sin:

Romans 5:12, 18
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....  Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
2 Peter 2:19
They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity — for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”
John 8:34
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
Romans 3:9-12; 7:14
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.”
...We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

Consequently, since the Fall, it has become impossible, apart from God’s grace, for human beings to live holy sinless lives.

John 8:36
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
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.

And, therefore:

Romans 3:20
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.
Galatians 2:16
...Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

But what the law could not accomplish because of weakened human nature, God accomplished in Christ.  Christ took upon His sinless, divine nature our fallen, sinful human nature, and legally saved all humanity by His holy history, His perfect life, and sacrificial death:

Romans 5:18
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.   [KEY PTS.]

But even more, He also liberated fallen humanity from its slavery to sin by condemning 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.  [KEY PTS.]
John 8:32-36
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone.  How can you say that we shall be set free?”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
  [KEY PTS.]

Not only justification, but also sanctification is an integral part of the good news of salvation:

1 Corinthians 6:11
And that is what some of you were.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

The good news of the true and complete gospel not only offers sinful humans a legal or forensic justification in Christ, but also total sanctification and glorification.  Justification by faith not only makes effective in the life of the believer the legal justification Christ obtained for all humanity, but it also makes it possible for the believer to experience Christ’s sanctified life and manifest His selfless love in this present evil world.  And if that faith continues to the end, it will culminate in glorification at the second advent:

Romans 6:22
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 John 3:8-11
The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.  No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.  This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are:  Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.  For this is the message you heard from the beginning:  We should love one another.

This was the essence of the 1888 message.  This is the gospel, that “most precious message,” that I believe God raised up the advent movement to proclaim to all nations as a witness before Christ returns to execute judgment.  It is vital that we understand it and experience it.  As long as we argue and attack each other over the issue of the human nature of Christ, God’s purpose for this church will remain unfulfilled, and many will continue to go down into Christless graves.


Key Points in Chapter 2
• That ‘Most Precious Moment’ •
  1. Sin is a multiphased problem.  Jesus came to redeem humanity not just from one or two dimensions of sin, but from every aspect of it.  And the only way He could do that was to assume our sinful human nature that stood condemned and which needed redeeming.

  2. Sin includes not only specific transgressions against God’s law, but everything that contradicts God’s selfless agape love.  This includes our very natures which are ruled by the law of sin or self (see Romans 8:7).

  3. The view we hold regarding Christ’s humanity will have a definite effect on the gospel we preach.
    1. Those who teach that the spiritual human nature of Christ was like Adam’s sinless nature before the Fall have a tendency to stress the doctrine of justification by faith and, thus, are in danger of undermining sanctification.  The practical result, in many cases, has been a lowering of the standards.
    2. Those who hold to the view that in order to be our Example, Christ assumed the fallen, sinful nature with which all of us are born, generally emphasize sanctification by faith.  The danger here is that they will undermine justification and fall into a subtle form of legalism.
    3. A correct understanding of Christ’s humanity and its relationship to the gospel will correct these unbalanced views of the gospel and unite both camps within Adventism.

  4. The full truth of the gospel that God raised the Advent movement to proclaim to the world keeps both justification and sanctification in the forefront.

  5. The precious message of righteousness by faith God brought to Adventism in 1888 went beyond a mere legal redemption.  It taught that in Christ’s doing and dying, humanity was saved totally from sin — not just from its guilt and punishment, but from its power as well.
    1. In Christ’s holy history, justification, sanctification, and glorification were fully accomplished for fallen humanity (see 1 Corinthians 1:30; 6:11).
    2. All Christian experience, including victory over sin, is based on Christ’s finished work — the objective facts of the gospel.  All three aspects of salvation — justification, sanctification, and glorification — constitute the good news of the gospel which we receive by faith alone (see Romans 1:17).

  6. The complete gospel not only offers sinful human beings peace with God and full assurance of heaven now and in the judgment, but it also offers us total victory over the tyranny and power of the sinful flesh.
    1. Such victorious living in the life of the believer has no merits and consequently makes no contribution to one’s justification.
    2. Reproducing Christ’s character of unconditional, selfless love in the lives of Christians becomes the most important evidence of the gospel’s power to save us from sin (see John 13:34-35).
    3. The ultimate goal of the everlasting gospel message is to ripen the harvest (see Revelation 14:15) and produce a people who have the faith of Jesus and who demonstrate that fact by their selfless love for their fellow men.

  7. Christ took upon His sinless, divine nature our fallen, sinful human nature, and legally saved all humanity by His holy history — his perfect life and sacrificial death (see Romans 5:18).  Even more, He liberated fallen humanity from its slavery to sin by condemning the law of sin in the flesh (see Romans 8:2-4; John 8:32-36).

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