Reading 2 – Sabbath, December 6, 2013
Christ Our Righteousness– Basis of All Reformation
By Alfredo Fisicaro, Chile
This subject is the most precious jewel that God has committed to men. It is a privilege to be able to know it, accept it, and live it. It is the center of the plan of redemption as are the three angels’ messages. Revelation 14:6-12.
What is righteousness?
The Royal Spanish Academy provides several definitions for the Spanish word justicia–translated as “righteousness” in English–including “law, reason, equity”; “that which is done according to right or reason”; attribute of God by which all things are numbered, weighed, or measured. “Ordinarily understood as the divine provision that punishes or rewards as each one deserves.”
The word of God tells us that God is the source of righteousness and that Jehovah reveals Himself as righteous: “O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee,…” Daniel 9:7. “The Lord is righteous in all His ways,…” Psalm 145:17.
But perhaps the most beautiful expression referring to the righteousness embodied in Christ is what is recorded in Hebrews 1:9: “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows.” As Jeremiah presents it: “… And this is His name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Jeremiah 23:6.
“I have a Saviour. In Him I trust, and He will never suffer me to be confounded. In His name I triumph. He is my righteousness, and my crown of rejoicing.” –That I May Know Him, p. 112.
Condition of the church before 1888
In the years before 1888, the condition the church demonstrated by experience can be seen in the messages sent from heaven through the Lord’s messenger. She presented the great danger and the fatal errors into which the church had fallen. Here are a few quotations in chronological order.
1856: “Oh, the pride that was shown me of God’s professed people! It has increased every year, until it is now impossible to designate professed advent Sabbath keepers from all the world around them.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 135.
1860: “I was shown the low state of God’s people; that God had not departed from them, but that they had departed from Him, and had become lukewarm.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 210.
1865: “The people are overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness and the cares of this life. They are entering deeper and deeper into a spirit of worldly enterprise. They are ambitious to get gain. Spirituality and devotion are rare.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 469.
1882: “As Jesus views the state of His professed followers today, He sees base ingratitude, hollow formalism, hypocritical insincerity, pharisaical pride, and apostasy….
“The church has turned back from following Christ her Leader and is steadily retreating toward Egypt.” – Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 72, 217.
1887: “What is our condition in this fearful and solemn time? Alas, what pride is prevailing in the church, what hypocrisy, what deception, what love of dress, frivolity, and amusement, what desire for the supremacy! All these sins have clouded the mind, so that eternal things have not been discerned.” –Selected Messages, book 1, p. 125.
Condition of the church in 1888
The General Conference of the Seventhday Adventist Church held two major events that year in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the north central United States. From October 10 to 16, a Ministerial Institute (Seminar) was held for workers. The General Conference was held from October 17 to November 4 with approximately ninety delegates from around the world.
But before this conference, God sent a very strong message concerning the condition of the sleeping church and its great need of Christ Our Righteousness.
“The facts concerning the real condition of the professed people of God speak more loudly than their profession, and make it evident that some power has cut the cable that anchored them to the Eternal Rock, and that they are drifting away to sea without chart or compass.” –Review and Herald, July 24, 1888.
It is evident that God was saying directly: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.” “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:15, 17.
“It is not enough to be familiar with the arguments of the truth alone. You must meet the people through the life that is in Jesus. Your work will be made wholly successful, if Jesus is abiding with you; for He has said, ‘Without Me, ye can do nothing.’
“Jesus stands knocking–knocking at the door of your hearts–and yet, for all this, some say continually, ‘I cannot find Him.’ Why not? He says, ‘I stand here knocking. Why do you not open the door, and say, Come in, dear Lord’? I am so glad for these simple directions as to the way to find Jesus. If it were not for them, I should not know how to find Him whose presence I desire so much. Open the door now, and empty the soul-temple of the buyers and sellers, and invite the Lord to come in. Say to Him, ‘I will love Thee with all my soul. I will work the works of righteousness. I will obey the law of God.’ Then you will feel the peaceful presence of Jesus.” –Review and Herald, August 28, 1888.
Although the Lord sent messages to the leadership and the church in general through various articles in the Review and Herald for many years, and especially in 1887, this message at the General Conference held in Minneapolis in 1888 was much more direct and forceful.
The message presented by these two servants invited the attendees to recognize:
a) the functions of God’s law, such as to reveal sin: “… I had not known sin, but by the law:…” (Romans 7:7) as well as to lead man to Christ: “… For Christ is the end
b) that they were sinners: “There is none righteous, no, not one:” “For all have … come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23), and “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12);
c) that man cannot obey the divine law by himself;
d) that therefore he needs to seek perfect imputed righteousness in the person of Christ in “sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3, or “as a human being with a nature like our own sinful one,” Contemporary Jewish Bible), who lived a perfect life and perfectly fulfilled God’s law;
e) and that that obedience and righteousness achieved throughout His life and culminating in the words, “It is finished” (John 19:30), is the only basis for man’s acceptance before God. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12.
“The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel’s message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.“ –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92.
“Christ has become our sacrifice and surety. He has become sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Through faith in His name He imputes unto us His righteousness, and it becomes a living principle in our life…. Christ imputes to us His sinless character and presents us to the Father in His own purity.” –That I May Know Him, p. 302.
The message rejected
Unfortunately only a few of the assembled delegates accepted the heavenly message, such as E.G. White, W. White, and S.N. Haskell. Others rejected the message, such as Uriah Smith, J. Morrison, L.R. Conradi, etc. One substantial group was undecided. During the conference, the Lord’s messenger supported the proclamation of the message. Afterward she did this not only with great energy in speaking but also in writing (together with her team) Steps to Christ, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, The Desire of Ages, and other works. |
“Today there are few who are heartily serving God. The most of those who compose our congregations are spiritually dead in trespasses and sins…. The sweetest melodies that come from God through human lips–justification by faith, and the righteousness of Christ– do not bring forth from them a response of love and gratitude…. They steel their hearts against Him…. If they continue in this state, God will reject them with abhorrence.” –Review and Herald, April 4, 1893.
Concerning the General Conference session held in 1901, she wrote: “What a wonderful work could have been done for the vast company gathered in Battle Creek at the General Conference of 1901, if the leaders of our work had taken themselves in hand. But the work that all heaven was waiting to do as soon as men prepared the way, was not done; for the leaders closed and bolted the door against the Spirit’s entrance. There was a stopping short of entire surrender to God. And hearts that might have been purified from all error were strengthened in wrong doing. The doors were barred against the heavenly current that would have swept away all evil. Men left their sins unconfessed. They built themselves up in wrong doing, and said to the Spirit of God, ‘Go Thy way for this time; when I have a more convenient season, I will call for Thee.’ “ –(Letter, August 5, 1902) Battle Creek Letters, pp. 55, 56.
“No more tender calls, no better opportunities, could be given them in order that they might do that which they ought to have done at Minneapolis…. “The time will come when many will be willing to do anything and everything possible in order to have a chance of hearing the call which they rejected at Minneapolis…. Better opportunities will never come, deeper feelings they will not have.” –The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 1030, 1031.
“The Spirit of God is departing from many among His people. Many have entered into dark, secret paths, and some will never return. They will continue to stumble to their ruin. They have tempted God, they have rejected light.” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 90.
” ‘And thou, Capernaum [Seventh-day Adventists, who have had great light], which art exalted unto heaven [in point of privilege], shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.” –Review and Herald, August 1, 1893.
Basis of all reformation
“The foundation of all enduring reform is the law of God. We are to present in clear, distinct lines the need of obeying this law.” –The Ministry of Healing, p. 129.
But just as man cannot change himself (Jeremiah 13:23), nor give acceptable obedience to God through his own strength, it is necessary to accept the perfect righteousness of Christ in place of our failure to be accepted before God and considered His children. Romans 8:1, 16.
” ‘Ye cannot serve the Lord,’ said Joshua: ‘for He is a holy God;… He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.’ Before there could be any permanent reformation the people must be led to feel their utter inability in themselves to render obedience to God. They had broken His law, it condemned them as transgressors, and it provided no way of escape. While they trusted in their own strength and righteousness, it was impossible for them to secure the pardon of their sins; they could not meet the claims of God’s perfect law, and it was in vain that they pledged themselves to serve God. It was only by faith in Christ that they could secure pardon of sin and receive strength to obey God’s law. They must cease to rely upon their own efforts for salvation, they must trust wholly in the merits of the promised Saviour, if they would be accepted of God.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 524.
But we cannot go to the other extreme, saying that we cannot keep God’s commandments with Christ. “Since ‘the law of the Lord is perfect,’ every variation from it must be evil. Those who disobey the commandments of God, and teach others to do so, are condemned by Christ. The Saviour’s life of obedience maintained the claims of the law; it proved that the law could be kept in humanity, and showed the excellence of character that obedience would develop. All who obey as He did are likewise declaring that the law is ‘holy, and just, and good.’ Romans 7:12. On the other hand, all who break God’s commandments are sustaining Satan’s claim that the law is unjust, and cannot be obeyed. Thus they second the deceptions of the great adversary, and cast dishonor upon God. They are the children of the wicked one, who was the first rebel against God’s law. To admit them into heaven would again bring in the elements of discord and rebellion, and imperil the well-being of the universe. No man who willfully disregards one principle of the law shall enter the kingdom of heaven.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 308, 309.” ‘ Till heaven and earth pass,’ said Jesus, ‘one jot or one tittle shall in no- wise pass from the law, till all be ful- filled.’ Matthew 5:18. By His own obe- dience to the law, Christ testified to its immutable character and proved that through His grace it could be perfectly obeyed by every son and daughter of Adam.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 49.
The remedy was available to the church: “I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy na- kedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” Revelation 3:18. This robe is the righteousness of Christ. –The Adventist Home, p. 518.
“Our first work is with our own hearts. The true principles of reform should be practiced. The heart must be converted and sanctified else we have no connection with Christ. While our hearts are divided, we shall never, nev- er be fitted for usefulness in this life or for the future life. As intelligent beings, we need to sit down and think whether we are really seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. The very best thing we can do is to think soberly and candidly whether we desire to put forth the effort necessary to obtain the Christian hope and secure the Chris- tian’s heaven. If through the grace of Christ we decide that we do, the next question is: What is there that I must cut away from my life in order that I shall not stumble?” –(Manuscript 14, February 9, 1898) This Day with God, p. 48.
“The essence of all righteousness is loyalty to our Redeemer, doing right be- cause it is right.” –Our Father Cares, pp. 123, 124.
Collectively and individually we need to learn not to fall into the same mistake made by our brethren in the past.
May God help us to open the doors of our hearts to this message, “because the righteousness of Christ is the white robe of His saints, because we have the blessed hope of the soon coming of our Saviour.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 299.