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

Chapter 14 — Christ, the Believers’ Example

One of the big questions under discussion presently in the Adventist Church is this:  “Is sinless living in sinful flesh possible?”  This same question was raised during the 1888 era, and the 1888 messengers answered, “Yes.”

Both Waggoner and Jones taught that Christ conquered our sinful flesh by His perfect life, not only to justify us but also to set us an example.  They taught that, through the power of the indwelling Spirit, His total victory over our sinful flesh and His life of selfless love may be reproduced in us and that this must be the goal of every born-again Christian.  This was the unique teaching of the 1888 message on righteousness by faith.

Listen to how Ellen White responded to the many letters she received concerning this matter:

Review and Herald, February 18, 1890 [Emphasis Added]
Letters have been coming in to me affirming that Christ could not have the same nature as man, for if He had, He would have fallen under similar temptations.  If He was not a partaker of our nature, He could not be our example.  If He was not a partaker of our nature, He could not have been tempted as man has been.  If it were not possible for Him to yield to temptation, He could not be our helper.  It was a solemn reality that Christ came to fight the battle as man, in man’s behalf.  His temptations and victory must tell us that humanity must copy the Pattern; man must become partaker of the divine nature....

He [Christ] laid hold on the throne of God, and there is not a man or woman who may not have access to the same help through faith in God.  Man may become a partaker of the divine nature; not a soul lives who may not summon the aid of Heaven in temptation and trial.  Christ came to reveal the Source of his power, that man might never rely on his unaided human capabilities.

In chapter 8, we examined Romans 7:14-24 and saw how Paul identifies the stumbling block to sinless living in the experience of all believers.  It is, he says, “the law of sin” dwelling in the flesh of fallen sinful nature:

Romans 7:23
...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.

According to Scripture, Adam’s sin not only brought condemnation to all mankind, it also made us sinners by corrupting human nature:

Romans 5:19
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.

Thus, by the Fall, all humanity was brought under the law of sin:

John 8:32-34
“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.”
Romans 3:9, 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.  ...We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

If Christ did not have to contend with this “law of sin” in His flesh, then we must conclude that He did not totally redeem mankind from sin.  As a result, He cannot be set forth as the Saviour from our state of sin; He cannot be an example to believers.  If this is true, then sinless living in sinful flesh becomes an impossibility this side of eternity.

Yet Scripture clearly declares that we may overcome even as Christ overcame:

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.

It admonishes believers:

Romans 6:12
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal [sinful] body so that you obey its evil desires.

Peter affirms that those who arm themselves with the mind of Christ will cease from sin:

1 Peter 4:1
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.

And Paul told the Galatian Christians that if they walked in the Spirit they would not fulfill the sinful desires of their sinful natures:

Galatians 5:16
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Romans 13:14
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

All these admonitions become meaningful because, in Christ’s holy history, humanity has been set free from “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.

As a result:

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.

Having assumed our sinful humanity with all the force of sin dwelling in its nature, Christ conquered and condemned “the law of sin” through “the law of the Spirit of life”:

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.  [KEY PTS.]

Christ, thus, became forever not only the Redeemer of the world, but also the perfect Example for believers.  This constitutes the full gospel I believe God has commissioned the advent movement to proclaim and demonstrate before the end comes.

We must not, however, confuse Christ as our Example with the “example theory” of the atonement as taught by some theologians.  According to this theory, we realize salvation by imitating the example of Christ’s holy living.  Such teaching makes sanctification meritorious.  Sanctification becomes the means of justification and, therefore, becomes a form of legalism, which we must totally reject.  The truth of the gospel is that human beings are justified by faith alone in the life and death of Jesus Christ.  Nothing else must be added, not even our works of the law:

Galatians 5:4
You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

The New Testament presents both sanctification and glorification as making real in our experience what is already true of us who are justified by faith in Christ.  Our only hope, now and in the judgment, is through justification by faith in the doing and dying of Christ.  But justification, or imputed righteousness, wonderful as it may be, is not the end of God’s saving plan.  Whom God justifies, He also sanctifies as the fruit and evidence of justification by faith.  And those whose faith endures to the end, He will eventually glorify as the ultimate reality of that justification:

Romans 8:28-30
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

When this imparted righteousness is completed and the earth has been made new, everlasting righteousness will be fully ushered in as a tangible fact.  Christ will then have finished His heavenly sanctuary ministry as depicted by the service on the Day of Atonement.  He will have accomplished all that He fulfilled for our humanity — that humanity He assumed and redeemed two thousand years ago.  This is the meaning of the “final atonement” — reproducing the objective facts of the atonement He finished on the cross, when He tasted death for everyone:

Hebrews 2:9
But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Nowhere in Scripture do we find sanctification identified as the believer’s righteousness produced through his own efforts plus the help of the Holy Spirit.  The formula of the gospel, when applied to either imputed or imparted righteousness, is “not I but Christ”:

Galatians 2:20
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.
1 Corinthians 15:9-10
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
2 Corinthians 12:7b-10
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Ephesians 3:7
I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.

Jesus does not send His Spirit to dwell in believers in order to help us to be good so that we can make it to heaven.  The work of the Holy Spirit in the plan of salvation is to communicate Christ’s righteousness in the life of the believer.

Faith is a battle and always involves effort and self denial:

Luke 9:23
Then he said to them all:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

But genuine sanctification is the work of God’s Spirit demonstrating the saving power of the gospel in the life of justified believers.  Our cooperation in living the Christian life is to deny self so that the Spirit of Christ may take over and reproduce in us the holy life of our Saviour.

Evan H. Hopkins, The Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Life, p. 15
Such is the divine secret of Christian sanctification which distinguishes it profoundly from simple natural morality.  The latter says to man, Become what thou wouldest be.  The former says to the believer, Become what thou art already in Christ.  It puts a positive fact at the foundation of moral effort, to which the believer can return and have recourse anew at every instant.  And this is the reason why his labour is not lost in barren aspiration, and does not end in despair.

When Christian ethics is defined in terms of the believer’s good works, even good works that are motivated by our human love for Christ, this ceases to give evidence of effective justification which is by faith.  Such good works give evidence only of mankind’s ability to produce self-righteousness, which is like “filthy rags” because it is polluted with self.

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.

What the world desperately needs to see is not man’s goodness (the United Nations is already revealing this by its many humanitarian projects); it needs to see Christ manifested in His “body,” the church.  The church is to be “the light of the world”:

Matthew 5:14
“You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”

The word “light” in this text is in the singular and refers to Christ and His righteousness:

John 1:4
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

The world desperately needs to see this light that it may glorify the Father in heaven:

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Then there will be no excuse for sin to continue, and God will bring an end to it.  This is the true meaning of what is included in the cleansing of the sanctuary, as the 1888 message taught it.

Sinless living must not be confused with sinlessness or perfectionism.  This was the heresy of the Holy Flesh movement that once plagued the Adventist Church and which was taught in a modified form by the “Awakening” a few years ago.  Sinlessness of nature will not be a reality until the second coming, when “this corruption shall have put on incorruption”:

1 Corinthians 15:54
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.”  [KEY PTS.]

Sinless living has to do with reproducing Christ’s character of selfless love in sinful flesh.  This process brings no change to the believer’s hereditary nature; that nature remains inherently sinful until death or the coming of Christ.

That is why there will never come a time, this side of eternity, when we can live without the Saviour.  But what about Ellen White’s statement that believers will have to live “without a mediator” after probation closes (The Great Controversy, page 425)?  In the investigative, or pre-advent, judgment, the verdict will have been settled once and for all concerning all believers:

Revelation 22:11-12
“Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.  Look, I am coming soon!  My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”

Therefore, Christ’s role as intercessor and advocate will have ended.  This is what Ellen White means by saying that we shall live without a mediator following the close of probation.  She does not mean that Christ has ceased to be our Saviour.  We must not confuse His priestly ministry with His saving ministry.  The two are related because His role as our Saviour qualified Him to be our High Priest, but these two functions are not identical:

Hebrews 5:1-2, 5-10
Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.  He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.
...In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest.  But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”  And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.  Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Christ is the Saviour of the world, but He is the High Priest only of believers.

Sinless living in the life of the believer is God’s work produced in sinful flesh.  The Scripture refers to this as “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.

In His humanity, Christ lived a sinless life and, through faith in Him, victory over sin becomes the hope and goal of the justified believer — “Christ in you the hope of glory”:

Colossians 1:27
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
1 John 5:4
...For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
1 John 2:15-16
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.

Now if Christ is to be truly our example and surety in holy living, He must have had to contend with and overcome the principle of sin — the love of self — residing in sinful flesh.  And this is precisely what Scripture teaches.  Having demonstrated the believer’s total inability to overcome sin in and of himself, Paul concludes the struggle against indwelling sin with this cry of desperation:

Romans 7:24
What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

This cry is immediately followed by the shout of triumph in verse 25:

Romans 7:25a
Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Then the apostle goes on to show that, in Christ’s humanity, which was like our sinful humanity, He totally conquered and condemned “the law of sin and death”:

Romans 8:2-3
...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....

It is important to note that, in Romans 8:2, our being set free from the “law of sin and death” is expressed in the aorist tense, the past historical tense.  In other words, this “law of sin and death,” which Paul identifies in Romans 7 as the stumbling block to holy living, has in reality already been dealt with in Christ’s humanity by “the law of the Spirit of life.”  That is why Paul says that there is “now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus” and that the righteous requirements of the law can be fulfilled in us who walk in the Spirit as Christ did:

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

When the New Testament speaks of holy living, it does so on two levels:  mental and practical.  In His humanity, Christ lived a sinless life on both levels, demonstrating that when fallen men and women totally surrender their wills to God as He did, they are able to overcome sin through God’s power:

John 6:57; 8:28; 14:10
“Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.”  ...So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.”  “...Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?  The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority.  Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”

Jesus said:

Matthew 11:29-30
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart [mind], and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Many have thought that Jesus is saying that He will do most of the pulling while we do just a little.  But anyone who has seen a farmer working with a plow pulled by oxen knows that the moment a strong ox and a weak one are yoked together, it becomes almost impossible to plow a straight line.  When Christ said we should take His yoke and learn of Him, he did not mean to let Him do most of the pulling.  He simply meant that we should be totally God-dependent, as He was on this earth:

John 6:57
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.

This is the principle of the cross.

Luke 9:23
Then he said to them all:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Christ’s yoke is in complete contradiction to legalism which the apostle Paul describes as a “yoke of bondage”:

Galatians 5:1
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Acts 15:10-11
“Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?  No!  We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

Sinless living in sinful flesh is possible only when we have “the mind of Christ”:

1 Corinthians 2:16
...For, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”  But we have the mind of Christ.
Philippians 2:5
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus....

As humans, our primary concern with reference to holy living has to do with our actions or performance, but God sees things differently.  His primary concern is our minds or hearts.:

1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

This is why the apostle Paul says twice in Romans 7 that, when he sinned and did those things he really didn’t want to do “it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me”:

Romans 7:17, 20
As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  ...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.

By the pronoun “I” Paul meant his converted mind.  His mind was already serving the law of God, but, without the power of the Holy Spirit, the flesh was taking the converted mind into captivity so that when it came to his actions, he was serving sin:

Romans 7:22-25
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.

This, of course, is the experience of every born-again Christian who has not yet lost confidence in the flesh and who is, therefore, sincerely trying to live the Christian life in his or her own strength.

So the first step in holy living is for the mind, the will, to surrender the sinful flesh to the cross of Christ where it belongs:

Galatians 5:24
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  [KEY PTS.]

This means we have chosen by faith to depend entirely on the Spirit of Christ to reproduce His holy life in us.  This is what the Bible calls the fruit of the Spirit, and it is possible only when we have put away sin in the mind through repentance — a turning around of the mind.

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.

This is putting into practice our baptismal vows:

Romans 6:11
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

According to Scripture, every born-again Christian who has truly understood and obeyed the gospel from the heart has said “good-bye” to sin in his or her converted mind from the moment of conversion.  This is because New Testament faith is more than merely a mental assent to the gospel; it also includes a heart obedience to the truth as it is in Christ:

Romans 1:5; 6:17; 10:16
Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.  ...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.  ...But not all the Israelites accepted the good news.  For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?”
Galatians 5:7
You were running a good race.  Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?
2 Thessalonians 1:7-8
...And give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well.  This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.  He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
Hebrews 5:9
...And, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him....

This is Paul’s whole argument in Romans 6, where he counteracts cheap grace.  In verses 3-14, He endeavors to show that every believer “baptized into Christ” must consider himself or herself (in the mind), “dead unto sin,” and “alive unto God.”:

Romans 6:3-14
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.  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.  The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.  In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.  Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.  For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Ellen White has this to say, commenting on these verses:

Seventh-day Adventist Commentary, 6:1075
The new birth is a rare experience in this age of the world.  This is the reason why there are so many perplexities in the churches.  Many, so many, who assume the name of Christ are unsanctified and unholy.  They have been baptized, but they were buried alive.  Self did not die, and therefore they did not rise to newness of life in Christ.

When it comes to living sinless lives in the mind, as Paul expounds it in Romans 6, this is how one scholar accurately explains it:

Even H. Hopkins, The Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Life, Page 15 [Emphasis Added]
The believer does not get disentangled from sin gradually; he breaks with it in Christ once for all.  He is placed by a decisive act of the will in the sphere of perfect holiness, and it is within it that the gradual renewing of the personal life goes forward.

In the second half of Romans 6, Paul continues the argument that sinning must be unthinkable in the mind of the converted believer, but he approaches it from another standpoint:  The believer, he says, has been set free from sin in Christ and, by his own heart choice, he has become a slave of God, the author of righteousness:

Romans 6:17-18
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.

On the basis of this dual reality — “dead to sin” and “slaves of God” — the truly converted person does not cherish or cling to even a single sin in his or her mind.  Freedom from sin’s ruling power and dominion is the immediate privilege of every one who takes hold of it by faith.  This does not mean that Christians have necessarily begun to live a sinless life in performance from the moment of conversion.  On the contrary, Ellen White tells us in Steps to Christ, that we will have to come many times to the foot of the cross because of our shortcomings.  But this does not mean Jesus has forsaken us or that we become unjustified every time we fall (see page 64).

Day by day, we are to grow in Him and gain victories by the renewing of our minds:

Ephesians 4:17-24
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.  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.
Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.  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.

But because of our sinful natures, the closer we come to Christ the more sinful we will actually feel.  And because these sinful natures of ours will not change until the second advent, we are never to feel that we have attained perfection:

Philippians 3:12-15
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.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  [KEY PTS.]

The other side of the coin is that, even though we are in a constant battle with indwelling sin, we must never condone sinning:

Romans 6:2,15
By no means!  We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  ...What then?  Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?  By no means!

To excuse sin is a denial of our faith obedience to the gospel.

Is sinless living in sinful flesh really possible, at least on the actual, or performance, level?  The answer of Scripture is a definite Yes!  But sinless living in performance is a possibility only when it is preceded by sinless living — or obeying the law — in the mind, only when the believer has first put on the yoke of Christ and lives in total dependence upon God.

Romans 7:25
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.

As Paul expressed it:

Philippians 2:5
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus....

Genuine righteousness by faith means that we have fully identified ourselves with the holy history of Christ — His perfect life and His death to sin.  When we realize and believe this, then the way is open for God’s Spirit to take over and demonstrate to the world the power of the gospel in us.  This is when the church will experience a second Pentecost.  At the heart of every failure to live up to God’s ideal is unbelief.

True New Testament faith is taking God at His word, even though it disagrees with our human reason, the scientific method, or even human experience.  Abraham believed God against all hope and, therefore, became the father, or prototype, of all true believers:

Romans 4:16-18
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring — not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham.  He is the father of us all.  As it is written:  “I have made you a father of many nations.”  He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed — the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.  Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

What the Christian fails to accomplish through his or her own strength in Romans 7 is made possible by faith through the power of the indwelling Spirit in Romans 8.  Paul says:

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.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

In these last days, the Holy Spirit is preparing a faithful and willing people who by the grace of Christ will mature to the point that they will fully overcome even as Christ overcame.  This is the practical result of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, a unique message of Adventism.

Paul makes a clear gospel statement that we are saved by grace alone through faith and not by our works:

Ephesians 2:8-9
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.

But in verse 10 he adds:

Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Also:

Colossians 2:6
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him....

Again, in Titus, Paul reminds us that:

Titus 2:14
[Jesus Christ], who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

In view of this gospel truth, let us, therefore, remove all unbelief and have “the mind of Christ” — a mind, or attitude, that is fully emptied of self and surrendered to the cross of Christ so that God may take over and enlighten the earth with the glory of His Son:

Philippians 2:5
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus....
Luke 9:23
Then he said to them all:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

But as long as we deny the true humanity of Christ, as long as we do not believe that God was manifested in our corporate, sinful flesh, we will never be able to truly enter by faith into the present work of our High Priest in heaven — a work which includes the cleansing of the soul temple (see The Great Controversy, Page 488).

It is impossible for us to appreciate forgiveness of sins unless we see Christ bearing the wages of our sins on the cross.  Likewise, we cannot experience victory over sin’s power unless we see Christ conquering and condemning the law of sin in our sinful flesh which He assumed at the Incarnation and overcame by His life and executed on the cross.

We are told that Christ is waiting with longing desire to reproduce His character in His church (see Christ’s Object Lessons, Page 69).  How long are we going to keep Him waiting?

Psalm 102:16
For the Lord will rebuild Zion [the church] and appear in his glory.
Ephesians 2:19-22; 5:25-27
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.  ...Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Key Points in Chapter 14
• Christ, the Believers’ Example •
  1. Having assumed our sinful humanity with all the force of sin dwelling in its nature, Christ conquered and condemned “the law of sin” through “the law of the Spirit of life” (Romans 8:2), and thus became forever not only the Redeemer of the world, but also the perfect Example for believers.

  2. Sinless living must not be confused with sinlessness or perfectionism.  Sinlessness of nature will not be a reality until the second coming, when “this corruptible has put on incorruption” (1 Corinthians 15:54).

  3. There will never be a time, this side of eternity, when we can live without a Saviour.

  4. The first step in holy living is for the mind, the will, to surrender the sinful flesh to the cross of Christ where it belongs (see Galatians 5:24).  This means we have chosen by faith to depend entirely on the Spirit of Christ to reproduce His holy life in us.

  5. Because of our sinful natures, the closer we come to Christ the more sinful we will actually feel.  And because these sinful natures of ours will not change until the second coming, we are never to feel that we have attained perfection (see Philippians 3:12-15).

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