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SALVATION THROUGH TRUTH, OR DOCTRINAL SUICIDE
Part 1 -- The Nature of Christ
For the next several sermons, we will be examining issues that have generated a lot of heated discussion over the past 1,000 years, especially over the past 40 years. These issues are important and inter-related dealing with the salvation of humanity.
Hundreds have argued back and forth over these issues for years. Many have never taken a firm and unwavering position on either side of these questions, while others believe bits and pieces from both sides. Several, having heard these issues being discussed so often, have become numb and have refused to study for themselves in order to know where the correct position is. Others have chosen to ignore these important issues altogether, or have chosen to take the side of their favorite minister, elder, teacher, spouse or relative.
But is it a safe course to pursue--to base our decision on truth upon the testimony of some other person? Absolutely not.
"If Nathanael had trusted to the rabbis for guidance, he would never have found Jesus. It was by seeing and judging for himself that he became a disciple. So in the case of many today when prejudice withholds from good. How different would be the result if they would `come and see.'
"While they trust to the guidance of human authority, none will come to a saving knowledge of the truth. Like Nathanael, we need to study God's word for ourselves, and pray for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit....Angels from the world of light are near to those who in humility seek for divine guidance." Desire of Ages, p 140-41.
If we base our decision on what is truth by trusting to the guidance of any other human, whether they are leaders of churches, our favorite minister, or even our spouse, we will never find Jesus. But if we study for ourselves, pleading with God to send His Holy Spirit to us that we might know and understand what is truth, then we will have the divine enlightenment from above necessary to understand the truth. If any rely upon the testimony of another person as to what is truth, they will not obtain salvation because that other person is standing between them and Christ, and thus Christ is shut out of the picture. And so it is in the issues that we will be examining.
These particular issues are vital for salvation, and depending upon what doctrinal position we take will determine whether we have eternal life, or whether we find ourselves in the lake of fire. And if we should choose the side of erroneous doctrine instead of the side of truth, then we have chosen death for ourselves--which is suicide.
In these important life or death issues, it is not safe for you to base your decisions merely upon your own thinking without any greater authority than that of your own mind. Many have seen the results of following one's own mind as to what is truth, and the result has been fanaticism and erroneous doctrines which are growing rampant all around us today.
In order to safely discover what is the truth of God we must use the greatest authority available to us. And the greatest authority available is God's inspired word. God has given us His word as the final and absolute authority as to what is truth in any theological issue or any doctrinal discussion.
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness..." 2 Timothy 3:16.
So all scripture is given by inspiration of God to do what? To reprove us if we are believing something wrong, to correct our erroneous understanding of what is truth, and to instruct us in the pathways that lead to salvation through righteousness. God's word is the deciding factor on whether any doctrinal issue is truth or error. And we must do this study for ourselves. We cannot allow anyone else to study for us. We cannot trust to the guidance of anyone else as to what is truth. We must search God's word for ourselves.
"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15.
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Hebrews 4:12.
God has even given all His people a simple test which they can apply to any doctrine to see if it is truth or not!
"To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." Isaiah 8:20.
It is by "the law"--or the word of God, and by "the testimony" of Jesus--or the Spirit of Prophecy (see Revelation 19:10), that we are to test every doctrine to determine if it is truth or not. If either the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy disagrees with the doctrine, then there is no light of truth in it! If we will only follow this simple God-given test, and be willing to do God's will (see John 7:17), then we shall never be led astray in doctrinal error. So in our examination of these salvational, life-dependant issues, we will be able to discover exactly what is truth by testing them all to the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy.
The very first doctrinal issue we are going to examine is the issue of Christ's nature. The main point at stake with this issue is whether Christ took upon Himself man's fallen or unfallen nature when He was alive on this earth.
Most all the churches and theologians in the world today, including the SDA church and it's theologians, teach that Christ took upon Himself the unfallen nature of man, which is the very same nature that angels, and God, and other unfallen beings possess. Others believe that Christ took upon Himself the fallen nature of man. And still others believe that Christ took a combination of both the fallen and the unfallen nature. How can we find out which of these positions is truth and which are error? By going to the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy to see which position God declares is truth. So what does God state is the truth in this issue about Christ's nature? Did Christ take the fallen or the unfallen nature of man?
"And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Genesis 3:15.
Christ was this seed of the woman who was to bruise Satan's head, meaning that He would be superior to, and a conqueror over, the devil (see Galatians 3:16). While Satan was to bruise Christ's heel, meaning that he would cause Christ severe trials and internal pain--which ultimately would lead to the crucifixion, but he could not be superior to Christ and would not conquer Him.
So Christ was to be born of a woman after the fall, not before the fall. Genesis 3:15 was the message of salvation given to Adam and Eve after sin had already come into the world. So Christ did not take upon Himself the unfallen nature of man, or of the unfallen angels and other sinless beings, but He took upon Himself the nature of man after the fall had occurred.
"For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham." Hebrews 2:16.
"...he (God) raised up upon them (Israel) David to be their king...
"Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:" Acts 13:22-23.
"Remember that Jesus Christ [is] of the seed of David..." 2 Timothy 2:8.
Not only was Christ born from the seed or linage of Abraham, but he was also born from the seed or lineage of David, as well as being born of a virgin woman named Mary. And what nature did Abraham, David, and Mary possess in which they must pass on to all of their offspring? It could only be a fallen human nature. So the only nature which Christ could be born with was the fallen human nature which He inherited from Abraham, David, and Mary.
But the Bible is just half the test to determine what is truth in this issue. What does the Spirit of Prophecy declare about Christ's nature?
"He took on Himself, not the nature of angels, but the nature of man, and in this world lived a life untainted by sin." Testimonies, vol 8, p 207.
"...(Christ) taking man's nature in its fallen condition..." Selected Messages, book 1, p 256.
"Christ, the spotless Son of God, honored humanity by taking upon himself fallen human nature." Review and Herald, September 29, 1896 (vol 3, p 397).
"...the divine Son of God, who had, with unprecedented self-denial, and love for the creatures formed in His image, come from heaven and assumed their fallen nature..." SDA Bible Commentary, vol 5, p 1150.
When Christ came to this earth, He took upon Himself our fallen nature and not the unfallen nature. And He did so out of love for you and me.
"Notwithstanding that the sins of a guilty world were laid upon Christ, notwithstanding the humiliation of taking upon Himself our fallen nature, the voice from heaven declared Him to be the Son of the Eternal." Desire of Ages, p 112.
So when Christ took upon Himself our fallen nature, it was a great humiliation, not an honor.
"Jesus also told them (angels) that they would have a part to act, to be with Him and at different times strengthen Him; that He would take man's fallen nature, and His strength would not be even equal with theirs..." Early Writings, p 150-51.
Christ exhibited unprecedented self-denial and humiliation by taking upon Himself the fallen nature of sinful man! In this condition, His strength was not even equal to the strength of angels! Yet, some will argue that the words "fallen nature" refer only to the form of man after sin, and does not refer to the real inward nature of man which fell after sin. But what does God state about this belief?
"It was in the order of God that Christ should take upon himself the form and nature of fallen man..." Spirit of Prophecy, vol 2, p 39.
Thus Christ did not just take upon Himself the form of man, but He also took the inward nature of man after the fall. Christ did indeed become one with us in this same fallen nature. What a marvel! Yet still others will argue that the fallen human nature which Christ took upon Himself was somehow shielded from being contaminated or defiled with sin; that it was somehow supernaturally protected when He was born of Mary. But did Christ really unify our sinful nature with His sinless nature?
"He (Christ) took upon Him our sinful nature." Review and Herald, December 15, 1896 (vol 3, p 421).
"He took upon Himself fallen suffering human nature, degraded and defiled by sin." SDA Bible Commentary, vol 4, p 1147.
"Christ did in reality unite the offending nature of man with His own sinless nature..." Review and Herald, July 17, 1900 (vol 4, p 201).
"Though He had no taint of sin upon His character, yet He condescended to connect our fallen human nature with His divinity. By thus taking humanity, He honored humanity. Having taken our fallen nature, he showed what it might become..." Selected Messages, book 3, p 134.
Thus Christ took upon Himself our fallen nature, degraded and defiled by sin. And in doing so, He has honored humanity! So the fallen, sinful, human nature which Christ took upon Himself was just like the fallen, sinful human nature that you and I possess.
"The human nature of Christ was like unto ours..." Signs of the Times, December 9, 1897 (vol 3, p 436).
"Jesus assumed humanity...making all feel that His identification with their nature and interest is complete." 1895 General Conference Bulletin, p 338.
"The majesty of heaven held not Himself aloof from degraded, sinful humanity." Testimonies, vol 5, p 346.
"He humbled Himself that He might meet fallen men where they were..." Review and Herald, July 21, 1891 (vol 2, p 506).
So the nature that Christ voluntarily took upon Himself was completely like unto ours, brothers and sisters. It was no different. Jesus did not hold Himself away from our fallen, sinful nature, but He came and took our sinful nature upon His sinless nature so that He could become one with us. But what an infinite cost to Christ! What humiliation he endured and bore! What a depth of amazing love is here shown for us! But why? Why would the Son of God come down to this dark world, cursed with the stain of sin, and take upon Himself the fallen, sinful, defiled, offending, degraded human nature of man?
"Jesus laid aside his robes of royalty, stepped down from his eternal throne, clothed his divinity with humanity, and for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might become rich. Rich in money? in lands? in bank-stock?--No; that we might secure eternal riches. There is no salvation except that which comes through Christ. He came to earth to lift up the fallen. With his human arm he encircles the race, while with his divine arm he grasps the throne of the infinite, thus connecting finite man to the infinite God, and uniting earth to heaven." Review and Herald, October 27, 1885 (vol 1, p 557).
Christ took upon Himself our fallen, sinful nature so that He could unite divinity with humanity, that He might then bring us into connection with the infinite God, so that we might secure eternal riches instead of eternal loss. But there is another reason why Christ took upon Himself our fallen, sinful nature.
"The Son of God does indeed call men, uniting them with Him as brethren, conferring upon them the honor of divine sonship. What wonderful condescension on the part of Christ. He became our elder brother, that we might become sons and daughters of God. We have been bought with a price--and what a price! Christ volunteered to come to this earth and stand at the head of fallen human beings, who were heirs of guilt, under sentence of eternal death. We must have perished had He not borne our guilt and the wrath of God." Manuscript Releases, vol 12, p 61.
So Christ took upon Himself our sinful nature so that He could become our Elder Brother, and thus we could become the sons and daughters of God in order to escape the sentence of death. Christ volunteered to reach His human hand down to where you and I were in the pit of woe, so that He might lift us up, bear our penalty for sin which we deserved to suffer, and with His divine hand being us into direct connection with His, and our, Father. That is why we are told:
"The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. It is the golden chain that binds our souls to Christ, and through Christ to God." Our High Calling, p 48.
That is why understanding that Christ really took upon Himself our fallen, sinful, defiled human nature is essential to salvation. This is the truth that binds our souls through Christ to God our Father. If Christ took an unfallen nature or a combination of fallen and unfallen, then we have no tie that will bind us through Christ to our Father, because Christ would not be able to reach you and me since we only possess a fallen nature!
If we choose to believe differently that what God declares is the truth as seen above, and believe that Christ did not take upon Himself our fallen, suffering, sinful human nature; if we choose to believe that He did not live through this nature while He was on this earth, then how can our souls be bound to God through Christ? With this belief, we would have no Saviour to look to help us in our time of great temptation because Christ would not know from experience what we were going through because He would be on a scale different from you and me and thus could not help us escape from sin's grasp. Then He could not really be our Elder Brother who would know from experience how to guide us, and thus He could not be a personal Saviour to save us from sin and death. Christ would be robbed and stripped away from us by our choice to believe differently than what God has already declared is the truth, and we would be lost by this choice of ours--which is suicide. If Christ did not really take our fallen, sinful nature upon Himself, then we will all perish in our sins!
Brothers and sisters, do not allow any person or doctrine to cause you to lose your personal Saviour! It is only by looking to Jesus Christ that we find the way of salvation, a way of escape and freedom from the degradation that sin has brought us, and a way to commune with our Father and escape eternal destruction. But what humiliation Christ had to endure by taking our fallen, sinful nature in order to reach us where we were!
"It was the marvel of all the universe that Christ should humble Himself to save fallen man. That He who had passed from star to star, from world to world, superintending all, by His providence supplying the needs of every order of being in His vast creation--that He should consent to leave His glory and take upon Himself human nature, was a mystery which the sinless intelligences of other worlds desired to understand." Patriarchs and Prophets, p 69.
"Our Saviour purchased the human race by humiliation of the very severest kind. He, the Majesty of heaven, disrobed Himself of His glory, and clothed His divinity with humanity, that He might pass through what humanity must pass through." Review and Herald, October 23, 1900 (vol 4, p 229).
What type of humiliation? A humiliation of the very severest kind. Christ, the majesty of heaven, voluntarily stripped Himself of His glory and clothed His divinity with humanity so that He might pass through what humanity passes through! That is why the humanity of Christ means everything to us. To know and understand that Christ took our fallen, sinful nature upon Himself is the link that binds us to the Father through Jesus. WE HAVE A SAVIOUR THAT CAN INDEED SAVE US FROM SIN AND DEATH--BECAUSE HE KNOWS, FROM EXPERIENCE, WHAT WE ARE GOING THROUGH! If you choose to believe in the other doctrine, then there is no hope of salvation from sin and death for you.
Those who refuse to believe that Christ did in reality take upon Himself our fallen, sinful human nature and lived as one of us through this nature, will not stop at this wrong conclusion alone, but will be led to adopt other wrong conclusions as well in other essential aspects of truth. Thus they will continue to head down the wrong pathway which ends in eternal destruction. This issue of Christ's nature is the great key which allows us to determine what is truth in other salvational doctrines as well.
"In our conclusions, we make many mistakes because of our erroneous views of the human nature of our Lord." Our High Calling, p 48.
But this raises the question: How could Christ save us from sin and death by just taking our fallen, sinful, defiled human nature upon Himself? There must be another reason why He had to endure such humiliation in order to accomplish our salvation.
"Christ assumed our fallen nature, and was subject to every temptation to which man is subject." Manuscript Releases, vol 17, p 29.
"What love! What amazing condescension! The King of glory proposes to humble Himself to fallen humanity! He would place His feet in Adam's steps. He would take man's fallen nature, and engage to cope with the strong foe who triumphed over Adam. He would overcome Satan, and in thus doing He would open the way for the redemption from the disgrace of Adam's failure and fall, of all those who would believe on Him." God's Amazing Grace, p 23.
So Christ voluntarily took upon Himself our fallen, sinful nature that He might be subject to every temptation upon which you and I are subjected to. What love is this, brothers and sisters! Christ, who knew no sin, was willing to come down to the lowest point of humanity so that he could endure Satan's fierce temptations, overcome him, and thus provide you and me with a way of escape from sin and death! What amazing condescension on the part of our Saviour! What stupendous and limitless love and self-sacrifice is shown to us all! And yet many today are not even willing to give up their petty erroneous doctrinal views in order to be in complete harmony with the truth and their loving Saviour.
But praise God that Jesus did indeed take our sinful, fallen nature so that He could be subjected to and experience every temptation to which you and I are subjected to, in order to overcome the devil and provide a way for all mankind to be redeemed from sin and brought back into connection with our loving Father with the chance of eternal life once again! May all God's creation raise their voices and praise Him that sitteth on the throne for ever and ever!