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My Personal Faith Journey

By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

For some time now individuals and organizations have made verbal and written public statements about me, and my theology.  Many of these statements contain error and falsehood.  True and good journalism always checks for accuracy when writing about someone else.  Since this has not been done, the purpose of this paper is to set the record straight.

Let me start with my historical background.  My parents originated from Goa, a Portuguese enclave on the west coast of India.  They migrated to the British Colony of Kenya, East Africa, in 1913.  My father worked in Nairobi (capital of Kenya) as an accountant for the British Government.  It was here that I was born in 1932.  Four years later my parents moved to Mombasa, the main port of Kenya and the second largest city of the country.

This is where I grew up and, being devout, my parents raised me as a staunch Roman Catholic.  I served as an altar boy in my younger years.  My elementary and high school education was completed in Catholic schools.

In the early 1950s, the Mau Mau uprising by one of the largest tribes, the Kikuyu, took place in Kenya.  Their home area in the highlands of Kenya was taken over by English settlers and the Kikuyu fought for independence under the leadership of Jomo Kenyatta, who later became the first president of Kenya.

At that time, the British Government introduced national service and I moved to Nairobi to do my two years’ service.  Having finished my national service, I remained in Nairobi working as an architect.

Across from the home where I was living was a Seventh-day Adventist missionary, Robert Wieland and his family.  He was the president of the Central Kenya Field.  Since public transportation was not very reliable in those days, one of his burdens was to help the African pastors with reliable means of transportation.  Many pastors were in charge of eight to ten churches.  Elder Wieland would buy wrecked motorcycles from insurance companies and fix them for the workers.

One of my hobbies at that time was racing motorcycles.  It was this that led Elder Wieland to come to me for help in the above project.  We became good friends, but not once did he bring up the subject of religion.  I, however, had learnt some of the beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists from my landlady’s daughter, who was a member of the SDA church.

However, in 1957, the Central Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nairobi planned an evangelistic effort.  My landlady, a Presbyterian, wanted to attend these meetings, at the request of her SDA daughter who had moved to the U.K. for graduate studies.  She went to Elder Wieland, requesting that he take her to the meetings.  Being wise, Elder Wieland came to me with the request that I take her.  He knew that, as a staunch Roman Catholic, I would not attend these meetings on my own.

As a result, I sat at the back of the church and listened to Elder Dale Ringering, the evangelist, for some three weeks.  It was the first time in my life I was exposed to the prophecies and truths of the Bible.  As a Catholic, I had not even seen a Bible, let alone read one.  The Holy Spirit convicted me, and, as a result, I decided to join the Adventist church.  This required that I go through a series of baptismal classes before I could be baptized.

The missionary who gave me these baptismal studies was the late Elder Joe Hunt.  Twice a week I rode two miles to his home on my motorcycle.  I could not understand, at that time, why Elder Wieland was unable to give me these studies, since he lived right across the road from where I lived.  However, on the day Elder Wieland was baptizing his son Bob, Elder Joe Hunt requested him to baptize me at the same time, since my baptism studies were completed and Elder Wieland was already in the baptistry.

Many years later I learned why Elder Wieland was unable to study with me.  His manuscript on “1888 Re-examined,” co-authored by Elder Don Short, was rejected by the GC [General Conference] Committee and, as a result, Wieland was black-listed by the missionaries of the East African Union.  Consequently, Elder Wieland was not allowed to study with me, lest he influenced me with his “strange beliefs on 1888.”  So the accusation often made that my theology was influenced by Wieland on the 1888 message is entirely false, even though we both came to the same conclusion regarding the 1888 message independently.

Not long after I became a Seventh-day Adventist, I discovered that I had moved from one form of legalism (salvation by human effort), the Roman Catholic Church, to another form of legalism, the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.  Both churches had given me no assurance of salvation, unless I met all the requirements of God (which I was failing to accomplish, no matter how hard I tried).  This is a common problem, even today, among our members.

Six months after my conversion to the Seventh-day Adventist church, I was entitled to a three months home leave from work, a rule established by the British Government for non-Africans living in Kenya allowing them to visit their original homeland.  Since I had never lived in India, I decided to ride my motorcycle from Nairobi to London.  This was in 1958.

Just before I left, the youth director of the East African Union, Elder Bob Osmunson, handed me a Youth Instructor magazine with the words that he was convinced God had called me to the gospel ministry.  This issue had an article on Newbold College in England and he encouraged me to attend it, that is, if I made it to England on a motorcycle.  Needless to say, being an introvert, I fought against his suggestion.  But all through my journey I could not escape the idea that God called me to the gospel ministry.

So, when I arrived in the U.K., two months later, I finally decided to study for the ministry.  After serving as a literature evangelist for a year, I attended Newbold College for four years (Fall of 1959 to the Spring of 1963) and graduated with a B.A. degree in theology.  During my four years at Newbold College, I made many promises to God, especially at the end of the Weeks of Prayer.  But all these promises were like “ropes of sand.”  Hence, I graduated with a B.A. degree in theology but with no peace or assurance of salvation.

After graduation I married my wife, Jean, and the East African Union recommended we come to the U.S., where I could study for my M.A. degree in theology (in order to qualify for a work permit in East Africa).  I hoped that Andrews University would give me the assurance of salvation for which I was desperately looking.  Unfortunately, this did not happen (I don’t think it was the fault of the professors).  As a result, I graduated in 1965 with an M.A. degree in Systematic Theology but still no peace or assurance of salvation in my heart.

I came to the conclusion that maybe serving God in the mission field would bring that to me.  But five years of mission service in Uganda brought me no consolation.  However, it was at this time, I believe, God stepped in.  Here are the circumstances.

In 1969, the British Parliament cancelled all British Passports issued in the colonies.  Since this is what I had, it meant I became stateless.  As a result, the Uganda Government under Milton Obote cancelled my work permit.  This left me a refugee, without a country or a job, and no country at that time was willing to accept me.  Only the U.S. Embassy in Kampala was willing to give me a green card.  As a result, the Afro-Mideast Division decided to send me back to Andrews University to study for another degree, while at the same time setting the wheels in motion towards obtaining my U.S. citizenship.

During my mission service in Uganda, I heard, for the first time, about the 1888 Message on Righteousness by Faith from some African pastors who had been taught by Elder Robert Wieland.  But no one could tell me the substance of this message, since, they said, it was withdrawn because the church had rejected it.  That was no help to me.  So I decided to research the 1888 message while at Andrews University studying for my M.Div.

As a result, I did an in-depth study of what E.J. Waggoner and A.T. Jones taught, along with what Ellen G. White had to say about the 1888 message.  At last my eyes were opened to the fact that what God was requiring from me for salvation was actually accomplished for me in Christ over two thousand years ago.  That was indeed exceedingly good news.

My only problem, however, was that these two men used the proof text method to prove their points, a common practice among SDAs.  Consequently, I was not absolutely sure their messages were exegetically correct.  But I did return to Uganda with peace and assurance of salvation.

Not long after I returned to Uganda, the country experienced a coup under Idi Amin, the brutal dictator, and he became the new ruler of the country.  Being a Muslim, he was anti-Christian, as well as against the Asian community, who were the business people of the country.  Consequently, in 1972 he deported all the Asians from Uganda, even though many of them were second- and third-generation citizens of Uganda.  My family and I were among the eighty thousand deportees.

As a result, we landed in Beirut, the headquarters of the Afro-Mideast Division.  It was finally decided by the Division to assign me to Ethiopia.  Waiting for a work permit to Ethiopia took about three months, which gave me time to do an exegetical study at the Middle East College Library on the two main books Waggoner and Jones used to proclaim the 1888 message, Paul’s Epistles to the Romans and Galatians.

I discovered that, even though these two men did take a few of the texts they used out of context, they were absolutely correct on the whole in their presentations on Christ our Righteousness and the doctrine of Righteousness by Faith.  This is what sealed my convictions on the 1888 message and completely transformed my ministry.

Ever since then (1973), my total ministry changed and I have been mainly presenting this incredible good news of salvation in Christ to our Seventh-day Adventists members, many of whom have no assurance of salvation.  This has continued even after my official retirement in 2001.  As a result, many have written to thank me for opening their eyes to such good news, and consequently are still members of the Adventist Church today.

However, as those who have heard me know, my presentations are based on the Word of God, especially the writings of the apostle Paul, and not on the teachings of Waggoner and Jones.  Therefore, I would appreciate if those who disagree or oppose my teachings would follow Christ’s instructions in Matthew 18 and take time to discuss their differences exegetically from the Scriptures.  As sincere Christians, before saying or writing negatively about me, or my theology, would it not be more Christlike to take these steps?

With this brief account of my faith journey, I would now like to turn to the two main areas of my theology to which many of my opponents object.  They are The In Christ Motif and The Human Nature of Christ.

The In Christ Motif

There is a key phrase that runs throughout Paul’s epistles (some 64 times).  This recurring phrase, the central theme of Paul’s theology, is the expression in Christ or in Christ Jesus.”  This phrase is sometimes expressed by other synonymous phrases, such as:  in Him, by Him, through Him, in the Beloved, together with Him, etc.  If these phrases were removed from Paul’s writings, there would be very little left of Paul’s exposition of the good news of the gospel.

That is why it is most important to understand what Paul means by the phrase “in Christ” or its equivalent.  They are the foundational words of the gospel.  Failure to understand them deprives believers of fully understanding the incredible good news of the everlasting gospel and robs them of the joy, peace, and assurance of salvation.

There is nothing we have as Christians except we have it in Christ.  Everything we enjoy and hope for as believers — the immediate and continuing joys of Justification by faith, the on-going experience of i> Sanctification, and the hope of Glorification — are ours only in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-7).  Outside of Him we have nothing but sin, condemnation, and death (Romans 5:18a; Ephesians 2:1-3).

The phrase in Christ is based on Biblical solidarity, which simply means “the many in one.”  This is what makes this phrase rather hard for the Western mind to understand, since Westerners think in terms of the individual.  However, Scripture clearly teaches that God created all mankind in one man, Adam (the word “Adam” means “mankind” in Hebrew, see Genesis 5:1-2, where the word “man” in verse 2, in most English Bibles, is “Adam” in the original; see also Acts 17:26).  In the same way, Paul refers to Christ as the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45).  Like the first Adam, Christ also represented and substituted the entire human race in His work of redemption.

Consequently, when Adam sinned, it affected the entire human race in four ways:  sin, alienation, condemnation, and death.  But the incredible good news of the everlasting gospel is that, when Christ came to this world, over 2,000 years ago, He came to reverse the damage of the first Adam and redeem the entire human race.  Thus God re-wrote the history of mankind through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, changing its legal status from condemnation unto death to justification unto life.  This is what the truth as it is in Christ is all about (Romans 5:15-18; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

However, in presenting the in Christ motif, the apostle Paul presents it in three phases.  The first is in the planning phase.  This took place in the mind of God before the foundation of the world, even before Adam and Eve were created (see Ephesians 1:4; Revelation 13:8).  This planned phase encompassed all of Adam’s posterity.

The second is the reality phase, which took place over 2,000 years ago in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Ephesians 2:5-6).  Some scholars correctly refer to this phase as the “objective” facts of the gospel.  In this phase, Christ actually obtained salvation, full and complete, for the entire human race.  This is a finished work to which we can add absolutely nothing (Romans 3:21-31).

The third and final phase is the experience phase.  Unlike the condemnation we inherit from Adam at birth, the redemption Christ accomplished on the cross for all of mankind (the reality phase) is God’s supreme gift to the world.  And, like any gift, it has to be received by faith in order for it to become effective (John 3:16; Romans 5:17).  This experience phase will continue in the life of the believers until the Second coming of Christ, when “this corruption puts on incorruption” (1 Corinthians 15:50-57).

It is important to note that, while the first two phases of the in Christ motif apply to the entire human race, this third experiential phase applies only to believers, those who by faith have believed in Jesus Christ and experienced the new birth.  It also applies to those who, through no fault of their own, have never heard the gospel but were faithful to the light they had, whatever that light may have been (Romans 2:14-16; see also DA. 638; PK. 376-378).

Adventists traditionally belong to the Wesleyan Arminian school of theology.  Unlike the Calvinists, who believe that Christ saved only the elect on the cross, hence “limited atonement,” the Arminians believe that Christ only “potentially” or “provisionally” saved all of mankind on the cross.  For this provisional salvation to become a reality, one must repent and believe in Jesus Christ.  Only then will God place that person into Christ and the provision will become a reality.  Thus, traditionally, we Adventists have limited the in Christ motif only to believers.

The main argument that has often been used to prove that the in Christ motif applies only to believers is Romans 16:7.  In this chapter of greetings Paul makes this statement:  “Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison on with me....  They were in Christ before I was” (NIV, emphasis mine).  Clearly, what Paul is implying is that these two men accepted the truth as it is in Christ and were converted before Paul himself.  To build a whole theology on this one text while ignoring all the other in Christ texts Paul uses (some 64 times) is very poor exegesis, to say the least.

Further, this conclusion is a subtle form of legalism, salvation by works, since repentance and faith contribute towards ones salvation.  Whereas, according to Paul, it is the goodness of God (the reality phase or objective facts of the gospel) that leads one to faith and repentance (Romans 2:4).  Hence, faith is not allowing God or giving Him permission to put us into Christ but accepting with grateful hearts what God has already accomplished for mankind in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30-31; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Ephesians 1:3-4).

It is here where I disagree with the teachings of the Biblical Research Institute (BRI) of the GC, as well as some of the Independent Ministries.  I believe that the true everlasting gospel, which God raised the Advent Movement to proclaim to the world in its global mission, is neither the limited atonement of Calvinism nor the provisional salvation of Arminianism.  Rather, it is the incredible good news that on the cross the entire human race was actually or objectively redeemed, justified, and reconciled to God by the death of His Son (John 3:17; 17:4; 19:30; Romans 5:5-10,18; Ephesians 2:5, 6, 8, 9; 2 Corinthians 5:19).

This is God’s supreme gift to the entire human race, made effective by faith (John 3:16; Romans 3:21-28).  I firmly believe when we Adventists fulfill this global mission we will have truly proclaimed the everlasting gospel of the three angels of Revelation 14 with the power of the fourth angel of Revelation 18.  When this is realized, it will become inexcusable for anyone to be lost.  The end will then come (Matthew 24:4).

But when we limit the in Christ motif only to its third phase, the subjective experience of salvation, we make the experience of salvation the gospel itself, rather than its application or fruits.  But since this experience is an on-going process, until the Second Advent (Romans 5:19b, note future tense; Ephesians 2:7), it turns the gospel into good advice, rather than good news, thus robbing our people of the joy, peace, and assurance of salvation, as demonstrated by the Value-Genesis survey conducted some years ago.

The Human Nature of Christ

Ever since the publishing of the book Questions on Doctrine (1957), this topic on the human nature of Christ has become a hot potato.  For this reason many refuse to even discuss this subject.  Yet Ellen G. White clearly states:  “The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us....  This should be our study” (SM, vol. 1, 244, emphasis mine).  The reason for this is that the humanity of our Savior is vitally linked to the everlasting gospel of Revelation 14 and our salvation from the universal sin problem.

But before I briefly present my position on this important subject and show its connection to the truth of the everlasting gospel, we need to understand what brought about this controversy.  In the late 1950s, the evangelical scholar, Walter Martin, decided to revise his book The Kingdom of the Cults.  According to him, four main cults within Christianity were the Mormons, Jehovah Witness, Christian Science, and Seventh-day Adventists.  However, his friend, Donald Barnhouse, editor of Eternity Magazine, advised him that he needed to get his information directly from the church leaders of these denominations, and not second-hand sources (I wish my critics would follow the same procedure).

Consequently, Martin and Barnhouse met with nine of the leaders of our church (four administrators and five scholars) in the late 1950s.  In their discussion, Walter Martin pointed out that all the reliable New Testament scholars (at that time) took the position that the human nature of Christ was like Adam before the Fall and not the same as our fallen sinful nature (Pre-Fall verses Post-Fall).  Therefore, he stated that, if we insisted in teaching that Christ took the fallen sinful nature of mankind (Post-Fall) he would continue to include us as a cult.

These leaders felt this was a good opportunity to redeem the church of the cult stigma.  Therefore, one of them claimed that only a “lunatic fringe” in our church took that position, even though our Sabbath School Lessons, Bible Readings for the Home, and other publications clearly presented the Post-Fall human nature of Christ.  In fact, the late Adventist scholar, Dr. Jean Zurcher’s book, Touched by our Feelings, a Historical Survey of Adventist Thought on the Human Nature of Christ, published by Review and Herald (1999), clearly demonstrated the fact that while our church did not have an official position on this doctrine the clear teachings of the church, prior to Questions on Doctrine, was Post-Fall.

However, in 1962, a British evangelical scholar, Harry Johnson, published his London University doctoral dissertation on The Humanity of Our Saviour.  This is the conclusion he came to:  “The eternal Son of God became man for our salvation; but what kind of human nature did He assume?  The answer of this book is that He took human nature as it was because of the Fall.  Despite this, He lived a perfect, sinless life, and finally redeemed this ‘fallen nature’ through His cross; in this victory is the basis of Atonement” (fly leaf of the book).

As a result of his dissertation, many reliable New Testament scholars — such as Anders Nygren, Thomas Torrance, James Dunn, and even the International Critical Commentary, edited by C.E.B Cranfield — have now moved to the Post-Fall position of the human nature of Christ.  All these prominent Bible scholars base their arguments on the gospel message, the doctrine of the Atonement.  If only our brethren had waited a few more years, this whole controversy over the humanity of our Savior could have been abated.

To appreciate the Post-Fall position regarding the human nature of Christ, we must consider it in the light of the everlasting gospel, the foundation of all beliefs (see 1 Corinthians 3:11-13).  To do so, we must start with the sin problem, since Christ assumed our humanity in order to save mankind from the universal sin problem (Matthew 1:21; 1 Timothy 1:15).

According to the New Testament, sin is a dual problem.  Most Christians look at sin only in terms of behavior.  As the apostle John put it, “Sin is the transgression of the law” (KJV), or more accurately, “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).  But more than that, sin is also a state that has to do with our nature, which we inherited from Adam (Romans 5:12, 19a).  It is this sinful nature that makes us sinners and slaves to sin (Romans 3:9-20; 5:19a).

Contrary to what many think, our sinful behavior does not make us sinners but only proves what we are by nature.  Therefore, our very nature condemns us to death from birth (Romans 5:12-18; Ephesians 2:1-3).  In other words, the New Testament presents sin as both a verb (action), as well as a noun (condition or state).

For Christ to redeem mankind from both the sin problems, He had to assume the self-same nature we are born with, in order for Him to be our complete Savior.  That is why Hebrews 2:17 declares:  “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest” (NIV, emphasis mine; see also Romans 8:2-3).

Does this make Christ a sinner in need of a Savior, as some who teach the Pre-Fall position accuse the Post-Fall proponents?  The answer is a definite NO.  We must never teach that Christ had a sinful nature, but rather He assumed our sinful nature that needed redeeming.  I was once asked by a couple in Chicago to deliver some money to their struggling daughter who lived in Salem, Oregon, my home town.  The fact that I carried the money in my possession all the way from Chicago to Salem did not make me a thief, for the money did not belong to me but I had assumed it in order to deliver it to their daughter.  Had I kept the money for myself, I would have become a thief.

In the same way, when the Bible speaks of the human nature of Christ it uses a qualifying word, often translated in our English Bibles by the word “made.”  For example, Christ wasmade flesh (John 1:14); He was made to be sin (2 Corinthians 5:21); He was made under the law (Galatians 4:4,5), He was made in all points as His brethren (Hebrews 2:17) etc.  Ellen G. White puts it this way:  “He took upon His sinless (divine) nature our sinful (human) nature, that He might know how to succor those who are tempted” (Medical Ministry, 181).  Had Christ consented to that sinful nature He assumed He would have become a sinner in need of a Savior Himself.

But not even by a thought did He allow the sinful desires of the flesh to control Him, so that Satan could not accuse Him of a single sin (John 14:30).  Clearly, our sinful human nature was in His possession when He assumed it at the incarnation, but that nature was not his and, therefore, did not make Him a sinner.  Instead, He conquered it during His thirty-three years on this earth and finally executed it on the cross (Romans 8:2-3).  Thus He took to heaven a glorified humanity, which He is reserving for all believers at His Second Advent (Romans 8:22-25; Philippians 3:20, 21).  This is the incredible good news of the everlasting gospel.

Incidentally, the recent addition of the new SDA fundamental belief, Growing in Christ becomes meaningless unless we realize that Christ had to meet head-on the law (constant force) of sin in our members which, according to Paul, makes us slaves to sin and holy living, in and of ourselves, impossible (Romans 7:14-25).

Space will not allow me to deal with this important topic in detail.  Therefore, for those who would like to have a deeper understanding of this important truth, as it is in Christ, I recommend you read my book, Saviour of the World (218 pages), published by Pacific Press Publishing Association (1996), the first chapter of which is available on this web site.  This book presents in detail this important doctrine and will clarify my teachings on this subject.

Surely, God is patiently waiting for the day when as a united church the world will hear from Adventists the loud cry and “One truth will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other, Christ our righteousness” (Sons and Daughters, 259).

— Jack Sequeira