Gospel Herald

What IS Legal Justification?

Irresistible Grace?

Whether or not redeeming grace is resistible was a watershed subject between Calvin and Arminius. Calvin taught that those who finally obtain salvation do so, not by any action of their own free will, but because the sovereign God declared them “predestined” to salvation from the foundation of the world. Arminians refute this as illogical. Instead they believe that prevenient grace is equally provided to all persons. For the Arminians the only reason that anyone ever finds salvation is because they have appropriated for themselves this gracious provision.

The 1888 message goes much farther than Calvin or Arminius thought to take the idea of legal justification. The true Gospel is revolutionary in its scope and purpose, but it can be resisted through persistent unbelief. God never removes our free will.

“By the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men to justification of life.” There is no exception here. As the condemnation came upon all, so the justification comes upon all. Christ has tasted death for every man. He has given Himself for all. Nay, He has given Himself to every man. The free gift has come upon all. The fact that it is a free gift is evidence that there is no exemption. If it came upon only those who have some special qualification, then it would not be a free gift.

It is a fact, therefore, plainly stated in the Bible, that the gift of righteousness and life in Christ have come to every man on earth. There is not the slightest reason why every man that had ever lived should not be saved unto eternal life, except that they would not have it. So many spurn the gift offered so freely. (Waggoner; Waggoner on Romans; p. 101).

Waggoner declared the same thought in his book The Glad Tidings (all emphases in original). “Many say of Christ, ‘We will not have this Man to reign over us,’ and thrust the blessing of God from them. But redemption is for all. All have been purchased with the precious blood — the life — of Christ, and all may be, if they will, free from sin and death. By that blood we are redeemed from ‘the futile ways inherited from your fathers.’ 1 Peter 1:18.” (p. 61). And on a previous page, “God has wrought out salvation for every man, and has given it to him; but the majority spurn it and throw it away. The judgment will reveal the fact that full salvation was given to every man and that the lost have deliberately thrown away their birthright possession.” (p. 14). To drive this truth home, after quoting Romans 5:18 Waggoner again emphatically writes: “God, who is no respecter of persons, ‘has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.’ Ephesians 1:3. The gift is ours to keep. If anyone has not this blessing, it is because he has not recognized the gift, or has deliberately thrown it away.” (p. 66).

The logic follows as day follows night: if Christ has already died our second death — paid the legal penalty for our sin — the only way we can be lost is to veto through unbelief what He has done for us. The “unforgivable sin” is persistent rebellion against God’s redeeming love. There is no sacrifice for genuine rebellion. When God’s character of love is fully revealed, as it was to the angels in heaven, and sinners persist in their rebellion, no provision has been made for such transgression.13 Persistent unbelief reveals genuine rebellion that resides in the heart. This is the only sin that will banish human beings to hell (John 3:18-21; 5:24-29).


  1. E.G. White; The Story of Redemption, p. 17-18.
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