Let History Speak
Let History Speak


Reference: Primacy Committee Report, "Areas With Disagreement"
Paragraph 7, Page 131 Herein
Prepared by Robert J. Wieland


The members of the General Conference appointed Primacy of the Gospel Committee (1994-2000) were given a special responsibility—to study if the Bible supports the righteousness by faith ideas taught by A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner during the years of Ellen White's endorsements (1888-1896). The primary focus of attention was to be the Bible, not with an intention to disparage Ellen White's writings, but because she herself as "the lesser light" directs us to the study of "the greater light." The Seventh-day Adventist Church must proclaim Bible truth to the world.

However, as an introduction to Bible study, several serious statements of Ellen White catch our attention and direct us to a closer investigation into the biblical teaching of the "in Christ" idea (all emphasis supplied):

(1) Her astounding statement in  The Desire of Ages. When the Father put His arms around Jesus at His baptism in the River Jordan, at the same time He put His arms around the entire human race "in Him." "The word that was spoken to Jesus at the Jordan, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,' embraces humanity. God spoke to Jesus as our representative. With all our sins and weaknesses, we are not cast aside as worthless. 'He hath made us accepted in the Beloved'" (Eph. 1:6).1 (The Desire of Ages, p. 13.)

(2) The Emancipation Proclamation statement. Ellen White likened the entire human race to the slaves in the American Confederacy legally set free by President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of January 1,1863: "[The Saviour's] heart of divine love and sympathy is drawn out most of all for the one who is the most hopelessly entangled in the snares of the enemy. With His own blood He has signed the emancipation papers of the race" (Ministry of Healing, pp. 89, 90).2

(3) The "Christ saved the world" statements. Ellen White recognized that Christ has given salvation to every human being: "Christ... redeemed Adam's disgraceful fall, and saved the world" (My Life Today, p. 323; Youth's Instructor, June 2, 1898). "He restored the whole human race to favor with God"3 (Selected Messages, Book One, p. 343). "Christ … acted in God's stead toward humanity, saving the race from immediate death"4 (Signs of the Times, May 29,1901).

(4) The wicked live because of the cross. "Never one, saint or sinner, eats his daily food, but he is nourished by the body and the blood of Christ" (The Desire of Ages, p. 660).5

(5) In order to be lost, you must reject the gift of God "in Christ." "The sinner may resist this love, may refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist, he will be drawn to Jesus … in repentance" (Steps to Christ, p. 27).6

Ellen White's conclusions: In one certain sense, the entire human race is "in Christ"; every soul has been "emancipated" in Christ; He accomplished the salvation of the world; in some special sense, every human soul eats the Lord's Supper; the "gift" that the grace of Christ gives is so effective that one must resist and reject it in order to be lost.


God's love for the world is so strong and effective that the sinner must disbelieve in order to "perish." John 3:16-19.

The Father laid upon Christ the guilt of the sins of every human being. Isaiah 53:6. He "adopted" each one in Christ. As our second "Adam," Christ has taken humanity into Himself. As surely as Adam was redeemed and saved when "the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world," so surely is every descendant of Adam redeemed and "saved" in that same objective sense. He can receive or reject the "gift" given him "in Christ."

Thus Christ has already died the second death of every human being. Hebrews 2:9.

"Not imputing unto them their trespasses," God has credited to every human being the full benefits of the sacrifice of Christ. Our work is to tell people so. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.7

Thus Christ "eats with sinners" (Luke 15:2) because He treats them as though they were not guilty, their sins being "imputed" upon Himself. To treat a guilty sinner as though he were not guilty is due to a legal justification or "judicial … verdict of acquittal" "in Christ" (Romans 5:16, NEB).

The Father has "adopted" the entire human race "in Christ." Ephesians 1:3-6.8

The sixteen pronouns "we," "us," and "our" in Isaiah 53:1-6 include every member of the human race because the "we" is the same "all we [who] like sheep have gone astray." ("All have sinned," Romans 3:23). It follows therefore that the iniquity of "us all" which was laid upon Christ is that of every human individual. Thus, again, it is seen that Christ has adopted the human race "in Himself."

It follows also that every human soul can choose to believe and say with David, "O Lord, truly I am Thy servant, … Thou hast loosed my bonds" (Psalm 116:16).

Every human being can believe and claim there is an Attorney defending him at the judgment bar of God. 1 John 2:1, 2.9

Christ is declared to be "the Saviour of the world," "the Saviour of all men." John 4:42; 1 Timothy 4:10.

Since He has "tasted death for every man," the "death" which Christ has "abolished" must be the second death. 2 Timothy 1:10. Since God wants "all men to be saved and to come unto a knowledge of the truth," He has specifically not prepared "the lake of fire" for any human being, but for the "devil and his angels." Matthew 25:41. The wicked who end up in the lake of fire will do so only because they have chosen eternal death. They "love" it because they "hate" Christ. Proverbs 8:36.

Christ has lifted for "all men" the legal condemnation ("judicial verdict of condemnation") that Adam's transgression brought upon the human race. Romans 5:16 (all versions except The Clear Word).

Reversing the "condemnation" in Adam, Christ has brought to "all men" a legal "justification unto life" in the "gift" of Himself. Romans 5:18.

The same "all" who sinned are "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Romans 3:23, 24. This is not the experience of justification by faith, for "all" do not experience that; this is the foundation on which the experience can rest when the sinner does believe.

The act of justifying took place when Christ's blood was shed. Romans 5:9. In a corporate sense "we were reconciled to God by His death" long before we were even born. Vs. 10. When we believe the gospel, we "receive the reconciliation." Vs. 11.

As every human being is by creation and by nature placed "in Adam," so the same every human being is by redemption placed "in Christ" as His "purchased possession." The first and second resurrections prove the legal identity of all human beings (the saved and the lost) "in Christ." 1 Corinthians 15:22; Ephesians 1:14. But the lost have chosen to repudiate the identity already effected for them.10

An adopted person is legally free to repudiate the adoption. So the sinner can choose by unbelief to repudiate his/her "election" or "adoption" "in Christ." Joshua 24:15.

As an example of how the lost repudiate their being "chosen in Christ," Esau's experience is a warning. He "had" the birthright, it was his by virtue of his birth; no one could wrest it from him; but he chose to "sell" it for a trifling sensual indulgence. Genesis 25:34; Hebrews 12:15-17.

The horror of suffering the second death will be the final realization when the lost see how they have repeated what Esau did. They will see how they "despised" their "election" "in Christ." They will understand how they had the birthright blessing (it wasn't merely "offered" to them!), they were "chosen … in Him," "predestinated … unto the adoption of children by [in] Jesus Christ," "accepted in the beloved," "in whom [they had] redemption through His blood." All this they will see they have despised and rejected as did Esau. The lake of fire will mercifully end the horror of a total self-condemnation they will feel. Ephesians 1:3-7; Revelation 20:12-14; Hebrews 10:29.11

To "believe in Jesus" is a choice to appreciate what Christ has accomplished for us by His sacrifice in the gift of Himself. Faith is a choice for experiential identity of oneself "in Christ," to validate all that has already been accomplished for him/her. Receiving, believing, appropriating, appreciating this objective gospel results in experiencing the subjective gospel, which is a life transformed by justification by faith.12

Believing and appreciating God's love is "easy" while resisting or "kicking against" it is "hard." Matthew 11:29-30; Acts 26:14.13


  1. A parallel statement is found in The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 124, 125. She sees the "us" and "we" in Ephesians 1 as primarily the human race "in Christ" through adoption by His grace. Some have trouble with this. The answer to the question, "What must I do to be saved?" they feel should be expressed in similar "do and live" terms, rather than "This believe, and be saved." All the "doing" has been done "in Christ." Live now and act as one who is saved!
  2. It must be noted that the "emancipation" was only a legal pronouncement that all Confederacy slaves were now "free." In order to experience the new-found freedom, the slave must (1) hear the good news, (2) believe it, (3) walk out to liberty. The Father legally "adopted" the entire human race "in Christ." The individual sinner must (1) hear the Good News, (2) believe it, (3) walk out into liberty. In no way does Ellen White's Emancipation Proclamation illustration favor the antinomian "sin and live" idea. Neither does Paul's use of the phrase "a judicial … verdict of acquittal" with reference to Christ's sacrifice for "all men" imply that God forces "all men" to be saved eternally. They can resist.
  3. To be "restored to favor with God" while still an enemy of, or alienated from God, is precisely the meaning of the objective justification effected by the sacrifice of Christ. The word "justify" is primarily defined in the illustration of Deuteronomy 25:1: the Hebrew judge must pronounce a person guilty or innocent on the basis of the evidence in the case. For him to "justify" the accused cannot "make" a guilty person righteous. All the judge could do was make a pronouncement. In our case, we are guilty, but Christ has assumed our guilt. Thus "in Him" the entire human race has been pronounced innocent or justified in a legal sense. But many resist or reject the "gift" given them "in Him." Thus they voluntarily take back upon themselves the "condemnation" that was theirs "in Adam." When such a decision becomes final, the sinner has passed the line of no return.
  4. Her use of the word "death" is the same as Paul's in Hebrews 2:9. It's obvious she doesn't mean that Christ saved "the race" from the first death which is a "sleep," for everyone (nearly) has died it. She means that He saved "the race" from the second death. No one need die that second death save for his unbelief.
  5. No sinner (or anyone) could draw even another breath unless he were enjoying the benefits of a legal justification or "judicial... verdict of acquittal" "in Christ" (Rom. 5:16, NEB).
  6. Strangely, this thought was never expressed by Ellen White until after 1888. Parallel statements are in DA 176, 387 and ST Aug. 11, 1890. Is this something she learned to articulate after hearing or reading Jones or Waggoner?
  7. Failure to inform the sinner of this truth will inevitably incline him to regard his salvation as due to his own initiative—the essential bedrock idea in every subtle legalism. The oft repeated resistance of Seventh-day Adventists to this truth is directly responsible for the condition of church "lukewarmness."
  8. So Ellen White applies the first-person pronouns in that chapter (DA 113). This objective sense in no way contradicts her oft expressed warnings that the sinner must "receive Christ" experientially. The latter is not possible except by the foundation of the former.
  9. But Christ cannot force Himself on the sinner as a Defense Attorney if the sinner chooses to "dismiss" His services already provided.
  10. "Historic Adventists" sometimes misunderstand the 1888 view of justification by assuming superficially that it encourages a "sin and live" heresy. What must be understood is the "constraint" of agape as a motivating power. We must not detract from the sinner's mind a full appreciation of that agape love, for only agape is true obedience to the ten commandments (Romans. 13:10). The frequent harsh disparagement of this as being only "love, love, love," is a tragic distortion of "a most precious message" about the cross of Christ and its motivating power to deliver from sin. Motivation is the issue—shall it be coerced by fear of hell and hope of reward, or is it constrained by agape.
  11. Some Adventists reject the idea that Christ died the second death because they assume that Revelation 20:14 depicts the physical "lake of fire" as being the totality of the second death. Since the Pharisees did not throw Jesus into a literal "lake" of burning oil, ergo, Christ could not have suffered the second death! They do not consider the agony that verse 12 describes. Mental and spiritual self-inflicted torture is more painful than any Fahrenheit or Centigrade temperature can inflict. Nor do these brethren and sisters seem to appreciate the nature of Christ's agony on His cross.
  12. Thus there is one justification—that accomplished on the cross when the human race was "justified by His blood." The sinner believes or disbelieves—there is no middle ground. If he believes, he experiences justification by faith "which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God" (TM 92; obviously, Sunday-keeping Babylon's version of justification by faith falls short). If the person disbelieves, he "hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace." God save us from that!
  13. This astounding insight into divine revelation has become a stumblingblock to many Seventh-day Adventists who cherish the view that following Jesus is "hard" and service to the devil is "easy." This widely prevalent confusion would be impossible if the "most precious [1888] message" had been accepted and promulgated by the General Conference during the past century. Ellen White's view clearly stated in MB 139 needs to be accepted: "Do not … conclude that the upward path is the hard and the downward path the easy way. All along the road that leads to death there are pains and penalties, there are sorrows and disappointments, there are warnings not to go on. God's love [agape] has made it hard for the heedless and headstrong to destroy themselves." That would be total death!

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