Gospel Issues in Adventism
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

#3 – The In Christ Motif

(Ephesians 1:3-8)

Many years ago, a Swiss scientist invented the quartz watch and offered it to the Association of Swiss Watch Makers.  They were horrified at his offer.  “What, no springs or internal moving parts?!!  Don’t you know that we are the experts in watch making and have mastered the trade!!  How can you insult us by offering us a watch that has no internal moving parts.” They were right at the time.  The Swiss were masters at watch making and 80 percent of the world’s market for watches went to Switzerland.  Discouraged, this scientist showed this new invention at a trade show in Japan.  The Japanese grabbed the idea and as a result today only 10 percent of the world market for watches goes to Switzerland.  The Swiss lost out because they were not willing to make a paradigm shift.

This illustrates one of human’s major problems.  We do not like changes and will often oppose anything new, including new ideas in worship or theology.  That is why traditional Christianity is on the decline today while the nonconformist and the nondenominational churches are flourishing.

Ever since the 3rd Century A.D., the Christian church has assumed that all persons are born eternally lost and only those whom the Bible declares will be saved will make it to heaven.  The Reformation of the 16th Century did not change this assumption.  As a result, both views of salvation that we discussed in our last study, i.e., Calvinism and Armianism, still maintain these assumption, even though they disagree on their views on salvation.

But is this the assumption of the New Testament?  When one carefully reads the epistles of Paul, with an open mind, one begins to realize that this great apostle, whom God especially set aside to expound the gospel of Jesus Christ, presents the very opposite view:  that God has already redeemed, saved, or reconciled to Himself, the entire human race in Christ and only those who deliberately, persistently, and ultimately resist the convictions of the Holy Spirit will be lost.

This paradigm shift of the gospel is the conclusion I have come to, when considering the central theme of Paul’s theology — the In Christ Motif.  But the idea that the in Christ motif includes the entire human race is a stumbling block to many Adventists and, therefore, it has come under fire.  It is one of the main gospel issues in Adventism today.  I would, therefore, like you to put aside your preconceived ideas of salvation that you were raised up with, and consider with me what Paul actually taught about the in Christ motif.

Because of the assumption held by the Christian church, that all persons are born lost, we as a church have applied the in Christ motif only to believers.  Since we hold to the Armenian view of the gospel, that salvation in Christ is only provisional, we have been teaching our people that only after we have taken the initiative, by believing in Jesus Christ and repenting of our sins, that God is able to put us into Christ and save us.

As mentioned in our last study, this is the main reason why so many Adventists have been robbed of the assurance of salvation.  Consequently, many are living subnormal Christian lives or remaining nominal Christians, while others are leaving the church.  After all, why remain in a church that is constantly putting you on a guilt trip and offering no peace with God?

On the other hand, I have observed that, when God’s people begin to understand that they were already saved in Christ 2,000 years ago, a tremendous change takes place in their lives.  Suddenly they come alive and are on fire for Christ.  That is why I believe that it is this truth as it is in Christ that will be the means by which God will turn our church around and use it to lighten this doomed world with the good news of the everlasting gospel.

But some of you may be asking, “What is this in Christ motif you are talking about?” Ever since I came to be the pastor of CMC, I have been harping on this truth.  However, there may be some here today, or who will be listening to this tape [or reading this webpage], who do not know what this truth is all about.  For their benefit, let me give a brief explanation of this glorious truth which constitutes the very heart of the gospel message, the good news of salvation.

According to the apostle Paul, God saved the entire human race in Christ in the same way Satan caused the entire human race to be lost in Adam.  That is why he uses Adam as a type or pattern of Christ in Romans 5 [Romans 5:14b].  Just as sin and death, says Paul, entered the human race through one man, i.e., Adam; so likewise, justification to life came to the entire human race through one man, i.e., Christ, the second Adam [Romans 5:18; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22].

When God created Adam, He did not create just one individual, but the entire human race in that one man.  According to Acts 17:26, the human race is the multiplication of Adam’s life.  That is why God called him Adam.  In Hebrew, the word Adam, used some 510 times in the Bible, means mankind [note Genesis 5:1-2 (in the NKJV, Adam is translated Mankind)].

Therefore, just as God created all humanity in Adam, so likewise, in the incarnation, God united the life of the entire human race to Christ.  This is what made the God-man Christ to be the last or 2nd Adam [read 1 Corinthians 15:45].  This union did not save us but qualified Christ to be our substitute and legally represent the human race in His work of redemption.

Thus, by His perfect life in our corporate humanity, which met the full demands of the law, and His sacrificial death on the cross, which met the justice of the law, God rewrote the history of mankind in Christ and changed our status from condemnation to justification.  This is the good news of the everlasting gospel.  [Read 1 Corinthians 1:30-31.]

Does this mean that because Christ actually saved the entire human race at the cross all will go to heaven?  The Bible’s answer is a definite NO!  As I explained in our last study, because we are by nature the children of Adam, all mankind inherit the condemnation he incurred at the Fall.  But what God did to us in Christ is His supreme gift to mankind.  And like any gift, it cannot be enjoyed if it is rejected or not received [read Romans 5:17.]

However, the objection I often face regarding this glorious truth as it is in Christ is that Paul does not apply the in Christ motif to all mankind but only to believers who have experienced the new birth.  But this creates major problems.  If we insist that the in Christ motif applies only to those who believe in Christ, then we have to admit that there is no hope for millions of people who, through no fault of their own, have never heard the gospel message.

Further, if the in Christ motif applies only to believers, then the believer’s faith becomes a subtle from of works, since it is because of our faith that we are placed in Christ.  But nowhere in Scripture do we find that we are saved because of our faith.  Scripture tells us that we are saved through or by faith.  Faith is only and instrument or a channel by which we receive the salvation that God has already obtained for the entire human race in Christ.

Again, others condemn the in Christ motif because they conclude that if we obeyed in Christ than we become our own saviours.  No way! Just as we are not guilty for Adam’s sin, the heresy of Original sin, likewise, we get no credit for Christ’s obedience.  It is Christ alone who obeyed the law in our place, and died for us.  But because we were in Him by God’s act, we can by faith legally claim the benefits of what He did.  When it comes to our salvation, all the honor and glory goes to Christ alone [read 2 Corinthians 5:18; Romans 1:16-17].

In concluding this most important study, I would like to share with you the evidence that Paul’s in Christ statements include the entire human race and that this is what constitutes the real good news of the gospel.

Objective Truth – The In Christ Motif

  1. We know that the apostle Paul was called of God to evangelize the Gentile world; but we must keep in mind that, unfortunately, none of Paul’s evangelistic sermons preached to the non-Christians or unchurched have been recorded or preserved.  All that we have are his epistles to believers.

  2. In spite of this fact, there is enough evidence in these epistles to show that Paul gave the in Christ motif an objective application that included all of mankind.  That is to say, Paul does not limit the in Christ motif only to believers but includes the entire human race that was redeemed in Christ.  To Paul, believers are those who are faithful to the truth as it is in Christ.  Note, for example, Paul’s introduction to the Ephesians [Ephesians 1:1].

  3. Here is my evidence that clearly proves Paul gave the in Christ motif an objective application that included the entire human race:

    1. Paul reminds believers that they were redeemed or chosen in Christ before their conversion [Romans 5:6-10; Ephesians 1:4; 2:5-6].  If we limit these statements only to believers, than we would have to admit that Calvin’s doctrine of predestination is correct.  But we don’t.

    2. Paul points out to the Corinthian believers that just as “in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive,” that is, resurrected to life [1 Corinthians 15:22].  The point Paul is making in this passage is that Christ is the source of the resurrection for the entire human race.  The first resurrection will be experienced by the saints unto eternal life, because they believed in Christ; and the second resurrection will be experienced by the lost unto eternal damnation, because they rejected the truth as it is in Christ.

    3. Paul refers to Christ as the “last Adam” in 1 Corinthians 15:45.  As already pointed out, the word “Adam” in Hebrew means mankind.  In the majority of cases, this word is not used as a proper name but as a truth, i.e., the solidarity of mankind in Adam.  When Christ assumed our corporate humanity at the incarnation He, like the first Adam, became mankind, i.e., the entire human race was placed in HIm.  That is why Paul calls Christ the last Adam, i.e., Mankind.

    4. Paul’s universal texts indicate an accomplished salvation for the entire human race in Christ.  But since this salvation is a gift from God, it is made effective by faith only to the believers in Christ [Romans 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; 1 Timothy 2:6; 4:10; Titus 2:11; Hebrews 2:9].

    5. In most cases, Paul’s subjective application of the in Christ motive to believers, as well as himself, is based on an objective truth already accomplished in Christ [Galatians 2:20; 6:14; 2 Corinthians 5:14.  Ephesians 1:3-6; Colossians 2:20; 2 Timothy 2:11].  Faith does not put us into Christ but rather means abiding in Christ [John 15:4-8].

    6. To Paul, baptism, as a subjective experience, is always “into Christ.” By it, the believer is confessing his or her faith obedience to an objective truth that took place some 2,000 years ago in Christ and Him crucified, buried, and resurrected [Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:3-8].

  4. All these facts point to the in Christ motif as the very heart of the gospel message Paul preached in his evangelistic efforts.  When the good news of salvation is presented in the context of the in Christ motif, men and women will come to the realization that God has already reconciled them to Himself [read John 12:32].  What is left is for them to be reconciled to God through faith in His Son [2 Corinthians 5:18-20].  Incidentally, it is this goodness of God that leads to true repentance and conversion [Romans 2:4.]
Home Study Materials