Adam’s Sin & The Incarnate Christ
DOES UNCONVERTED MAN HAVE LEGAL PROBLEM?
“Fallen man is Satan’s lawful captive.” T 1. 341. Isa. 49:24.
“Through man’s sin, Satan had gained controlled of the human race.” P.P. 77.
“As a result of Adam’s disobedience, every human being is a transgressor of the law, sold
under sin, serving Satan.” S.T. 23-7-1902.
“By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.” Rom. 5:18.
“The inheritance of children is that of sin.” C.G, 475.
Because of Adam’s sin, every son and daughter of Adam is born a sinner. He is not born to be a sinner. He is a sinner the moment he is born: nay more, this sinful condition is mysteriously transmitted at the moment of conception (“Mysteriously” because science can no more explain the nature of sin than it can the nature of salvation). Thus David confessed, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”(Ps. 51:5). Consequently, children come forth into the world as the natural enemies of God. “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born.” (Ps.58:3) Notice they are not enemies because they go astray. They go astray because they are enemies first. Which is to say, we are not sinners because we have committed sin: rather we have committed sin because we are conceived and born as sinners by nature. So Paul declares: “We were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Eph. 2:3). And God says through Isaiah, “I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and was called a transgressor from the womb.” (lsa. 48:8).
From this it must be concluded that even if we never committed any single act of sin, we could not escape the universal condemnation of the law (Rom. 5:16-18). That holy law requires of us such holiness of inward being (i.e. nature) that it condemns our state.* Every child of Adam is condemned and is a child of wrath even apart from any personal act of sin.
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight.”
“For God hath concluded them all in unbelief….”””….the scripture hath concluded all under sin…” (Rom. 3:19-20; 11:32; Gal.3:22).
Notice, all are in unbelief, all are under sin, all are under the law, and all are guilty. How could it be said that unconverted men and women have no legal problem?
Now let us consider what it means to be justified before God. Justification is a legal word and is inseparably connected to the law of God. “Justification is setting one right before the law.” (Strong, Systematic Theology, p.856). The law requires holiness—not only in actions but in the inmost being and dispositions. It demands not only a record without sin, but a nature without sin. The law demands perfection of our persons as well as our works. This fact underlines our hopeless condemnation under the law except by the gracious interposition of God through Jesus Christ, who, “… sent forth His Son, made a women, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”(Gal. 4:4-5; Rom. 6:14; 8:2). Thus being legally free, the believer is morally free. “The spirit of life in Christ Jesus, ‘the power of His resurrection,’ sets men ‘free from law of sin and death.’” (Phil.3:10; Rom. 8:2). The dominion of evil is broken, and through faith the soul is kept from sin.” (D.A.209-210). “All who, before the universe of heaven, are adjudged to have, in Christ, endured the penalty of the law, and in Him fulfilled its righteousness, will have eternal life. They will be one in character with Christ.” Special Instruction Relation to Relating to Review and Herald Office. p 20.
If Jesus had possessed our sinful nature, He would not have been a true man. He could not have been accepted as man’s Representative, since the law demands a holy nature as well as holy actions. Those who say that the law does not demand a holy, sinless nature have to reduce sin to an act. But what saith the Scriptures:
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by the sin; and so death passed on all men for that all sinned.”
“For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under the sin.” Rom. 5:12; 7:14 (Greek)
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Rom. 3:19).
“For God hath concluded them all in unbelief.” (Rom. 11:32).
“But the scripture hath concluded all under sin.” (Gal. 3:22).
These texts reveal a greater problem than acts of sin. They tell us “all” sinned in Adam’s one sin, and all were sold under that one sin. Therefore all are “under the law,” “guilty,” “in unbelief,” “under sin,” and this before we do any acts of sin.
“The fall of Adam was a terrible thing…by his disobedience the world was thrown into disorder and rebellion. Because of his disobedience man was under the penalty of breaking the law, doomed to death.” Bible Echoes, 7-16-1894.
“Adam disobeyed and entailed sin upon his posterity…” Letter, 143.1900.
“Entail.” A legal term. Means to settle. Restrict by limiting the inheritance to owners lineal descendants. Or to a particular class thereof. To impose, involve, as a necessary accompaniment or result. Consequences.
Why are we transgressors of the law? Is it because of our disobedience? No! Our disobedience is the consequence of our being transgressors of the law by Adam’s disobedience. “For by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.” (Rom. 5:19).
Our involvement in guilt and sin by the sin of another, is indeed a very difficult doctrine for some to accept. But should it be any more difficult than our involvement in guiltlessness and sinlessness through the sinlessness of Another. If we reject the one we must reject the other, for they stand of fall together.
“Adam sinned, and the children of Adam share his guilt and its consequences,” Faith and Works P. 88-89.
“As related to the first Adam, men receive from him nothing but guilt and death.” BC 6 1074.
“Children receive from Adam an inheritance of disobedience, of guilt and death.” Letter 8. 1895.
We need to understand that if God’s law does not condemn a sinful nature, why call it “sinful”? To call anything “sinful” which is not contrary to God’s law is a misnomer.
When sin originated in heaven, Lucifer charged God with injustice. He declare the law could not be kept by sinless beings. As proof, he pointed to himself and to one third of the angels who, he said, had found it impossible to keep the law of God. There was no controversy then as to whether fallen beings could keep the law. It was an issue whether sinless beings could keep it.
When man sinned the great rebel pointed to him as additional proof that the law could not be kept. Satan did not challenge God with the idea that fallen, sinful man could keep the law in a manner consistent with, and to satisfy, Infinite justice. Both God and the devil know that man in his sinfulness “cannot meet the claims of God’s holy law.” DA 762 (see 1 SM 344, 367). Rather, he declared that man as God created him, sinless and holy, could not keep the law.
“When man broke the law of God, and defied His will, Satan exalted. It was proved, he declared, that the law could not be obeyed.” DA 761
When Christ came to this world it was not only to provide a righteousness by which we could be restored to God’s favor, but to vindicate His Father’s law and character, to prove the charges of Satan false.
“Christ came to the earth, taking humanity and standing as man’s representative, to show in the controversy with Satan that man, AS GOD CREATED HIM, CONNECTED WITH THE FATHER AND THE SON, could obey every divine requirement.” 1 SM 253.
“Christ came to give to the world an example of what PERFECT HUMANITY MIGHT BE WHEN UNITED WITH DIVINITY.” 1 SM 260.
“By His life and death, Christ proved… That the law is righteous, and can be perfectly obeyed, Satan’s charges were refuted.” DA 762.
“With what intense interest was the controversy watched by the heavenly angels and the unfallen worlds, as the honor of the law was being vindicated. Not merely for this world, but for the universe of heaven, was the controversy TO BE FOREVER SETTLED, the confederacy of darkness was also watching for the semblance of a chance to triumph over the divine and human Substitute of the human race…
“But Satan reached only the heel; he could not reach the head. At the death of Christ, Satan saw he was defeated…. Christ’s humanity would demonstrate for eternal ages the question which settled the controversy. 1 SM 255. DA 758.
Note the strong expressions regarding Christ’s vindication of the law: The controversy is “forever settled.” “Christ’s humanity would demonstrate for eternal ages the question which settles the controversy.” Jesus came to “magnify the law and make it honorable.” Isa.42:21. He said, “I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.” (John 17:4).
The devil and his angels know that the issue is settled: The inhabitants of other worlds and of heaven know it is settled; and anyone in this world who will take the time to examine the sacred record will be convinced that it is settled. Is it then the work of the final generation to prove something which has already been proven “beyond controversy?”
God is not waiting for a demonstration by the last generation of fallen sinful man which will vindicate His law and prove that it can be obeyed. That controversy has been “forever settled,” demonstrated “for eternal ages” in the humanity of Christ. To say that this demonstration must be repeated is in reality to deny the completeness of the work of Christ. His work is a complete work, and all the holy living of the final generation (and there is no question but that they must and will live holy pure lives) can add nothing to its perfection.
Christ made the demonstration which vanquished Satan. He did it for us as our Representative, because we are not capable of doing it ourselves. If we were, He would not have done it for us.
This is not to deny the fact that the final generation will live without sinning. They will see every earthly support cut off, and will live totally dependent on God. Totally dependent on heavenly resources. They will stand in the sight of a holy God without a Mediator, without any service for sin. But they will not stand without justification nor without grace. (Rom. 5:9, 21). Their perfection of character under the latter rain, because of the sinfulness of their natures will still fall short of satisfying infinite justice. But they will vindicate God by proving that the blood of Christ is a permanent antidote for sin.
If we place the right estimate upon the greatness, majesty and holiness of the law of God, we will realize that we can demonstrate our loyalty to it most clearly and effectively by a humble acceptance of the finished and infinitely perfect work of Christ. For this demonstration of loyalty God does indeed wait.
To turn the doctrine of “righteousness of faith” into something which takes place on earth in the believer; is to pervert the Scriptures and to “cast the truth to the ground.”
It is “the transgression of desolation.” It is to “pollute the sanctuary of strength…take away the daily, and…(put in its) place the abomination that maketh desolate.” Dan. 11:31. Where such a doctrine is accepted today it will bear the same fruit that it bore in the early church and in the dark ages.
This doctrine makes void the law of God because it brings it down to the level of our weak efforts to fulfill it’s righteous demands. The best works of the saints in any age are polluted and defiled and fall short of the glory of God. For “There is not a just man upon earth, that sinneth not in doing good.” (Eccl. 7:20) If this is all the law requires, then somewhere it has lost its meaning, it has been made void. This doctrine as taught by “Our Firm Foundation,” tramples on the truth that Christ is our righteousness by turning our eyes away from the “righteousness which is of faith,” which we have in Him for our justification, and fastening them on the “righteousness of the law” which is to be manifested in the lives of the saints, by which we are sanctified, thus confusing the two, and creating confidence in an inadequate righteousness, now and for the time of trouble by which we are to stand accepted and protected by God.
It is in the gospel message that the power resides. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth…..For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.” Rom. 1:16-17. When we believe and proclaim that message, we will realize its power to save souls. Likewise, it is in that message, not in the lives of those who preach it, that the infinite beauty and perfection of the character of God is revealed. “God is love.” 1 John 4:16. His glory is His love, and nowhere was that love more fully displayed than on the cross of Calvary. It is from the uplifted cross of Christ that the glory will come which fills the whole earth under the proclamation of the loud cry. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto Me.” John 12:32 (margin.)
As stated, to attribute to Christ our sinfulness of nature not only destroys His Representative, but His Substitutionary capacity.
The Law is an “infinite standard” (COL. 315). No sinless angel or perfect man could possess a righteousness which could measure with the law. When man presumed to be as God and fell beneath the condemnation of the law, only a righteousness equal to the law in every respect could suffice to save him. No angel’s life could do that, and no human righteousness could do that.” BC 7 904.
Whatever the law require of us, Jesus gave to the law as our Substitute. The law being an expression of God’s Holy nature, requires that our natures be holy. To be our Substitute it was necessary for Jesus to possess a holy human nature. If the human nature of Jesus was carnal, sinful and depraved like the rest of men who are conceived, then we have no Substitute to satisfy the divine law on our behalf. To propose, as some have done, that Jesus’ nature was sinful like other men, only His deeds were holy, is to take the position that the law only goes as deep as actions, that sin is only an act rather than a state of being. Then it would have to be argued that children when born are not sinners at all since they have done neither good nor evil.
The Son of the infinite God came into this world to become our Substitute. In a word, He came to fulfill the law on behalf of all men. (Gal. 4:4-5). “The object of this atonement was that the divine law and government might be maintained.” QD. 675. First He presented to the law a life that equalled its broadest claims. Do we realize what this means? The law is infinite. Even the life of an angel is not equal to the law. QD. 677. But in the life of Jesus there was revealed an “infinitely perfect character.” TIMKH.70. In Him was “all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col.2:9)—the fullness of infinite purity, the fullness of infinite love, the fullness of infinite mercy, justice, truth, wisdom, patience, righteousness and every other divine attribute, This, our Substitute life, was far superior to the sinless life of Adam, Far superior to any angel’s life, for it was a life of infinite worth. Nothing less than such a life could meet the broadest demands of the law on behalf of the fallen race.
Yet that is not all. It required more than the active obedience of Christ to Bring us justification before God. It required also His passive obedience, even His death on the cross, to wipe away our debt to the law and carry away all covenantal curses. It was the Prince of glory who hung on the cross for our justification. His sufferings were nothing less than infinite. If it were only human nature which suffered, the sufferings would have been only finite, But the sins of the world were rolled on Christ’s divine soul. QD, 670,650. All the sufferings of all the holy martyrs combined would not begin to compare with the sufferings of Jesus. His humiliation was infinite, His was not just the humiliation of a man, but the humiliation of a God. (Phil. 2:5-8; QD.677). It was the blood of God that was shed on Calvary. (Acts 20:28). He went lower and lower until there was no lower place for Him to go. See here a life of infinite worth bearing infinite pain and humiliation. This is what it took to satisfy the law in order that we might be justified.
In view of the cross, how could we even dream that anything else but the doing and dying of Jesus could meet the claims of God’s law? Justification is sola Christus—by Christ alone.
Let a man scale the alpine heights of holy living, and he will see that his life alone could never fulfill the law of God. Mortal man might just as will scale the highest mountain and then try to reach out to touch the nearest star, as to equal the righteousness of the law. But the Son of God descended to the deepest hell; yet even from there His holiness mounted up to reach beyond the highest star to the throne of the eternal. “It is finished!” He cried, and the justice of God’s law was satisfied. And it is by His obedience alone, His fulfilling the law for us, that we not only become justified. but stay justified in the sight of God, until time shall be no more.
If we think that by imparted <infused> righteousness we will fulfill the law as Jesus did, we are blinded by ignorance and horrible blasphemy. (see DA 467-468). Let us look to Calvary and see what it required to fulfill all righteousness. Do we think we are equal to that? We should realize that we are called to vindicate and fulfill the law of God on a horizontal level—that is, before our fellow men; but no one less that God Himself could fulfill the law on a vertical level.
It is terrible darkness to think Paul’s doctrine of justification pertains only to Christian initiation. This was the mistake of the Galatians. They thought Paul’s message was only about becoming justified instead of being justified. As we are justified by His blood alone, so we remain justified by His blood alone. Even during the falling of the plagues. (Rom. 5:9). The Father looks at our Substitute and Surety, who ever bears the marks of His cruel sufferings. He accepts our Substitute, and we are accepted only because He is accepted.
“Faith is counted for righteousness.” (Rom. 4:5) Obedience, love and holy living are never counted for righteousness, but faith alone. In this life God’s people are righteous before God (justified) by faith alone—not by regeneration, love, sanctification or perfection. The Christian life begins in faith and ends in faith, and, in between, the “Just shall live by faith.” (Rom. 1:17). They are righteous in God’s sight just as long as they have faith that Christ Himself is their righteousness, and maintain a vital connection with Him. TM 494. In Him and in Him alone is a righteousness that the law is well pleased with. Faith brings to God the obedience of Jesus Christ, and by that alone can we stand in God’s favor. 1 SM 389.
In this life we can stand righteous in God’s sight only by grace (the merciful reckoning of God), only by blood (the doing and dying of Christ), and only by faith in a righteousness which is completely outside, above and beyond us.
What is the righteousness of Jesus which justifies believers unto eternal life? Is it the righteousness of His own eternal pre-existence (divine nature) or the righteousness of His human nature? We answer it is the righteousness of the divine-human PERSON. True, Christ’s life was a righteousness lived out in human nature, but because it was the righteousness of a PERSON who was divine, it was an infinite righteousness.
“…the life of Christ reveals an infinitely perfect character.” (T6 60).
“…The gospel set forth the character of Christ as infinitely perfect. (UL 260).
“…The infinite value of the sacrifice…” (T9.44).
“… Christ unites in His Person, the fullness and perfection of the Godhead, and the fullness of sinless humanity.” (FILB. p. 219).
“…Through the infinite sacrifice of Christ…” (T4.563).
“In His nobility of character, in His mercy and tender pity, in His love and goodness, He stands before us as the embodiment of divine perfection, the image of the invisible God.” (TS.739).
“…the excellence of character found in Him, which never had been found, neither could be, in another.” (BC7.904).
The glorious New Testament doctrine of justification unto eternal life by the imputed righteousness of faith (Rom 3 and 4), rests on the infinite and unrepeatable greatness of Christ’s righteousness. “The righteousness of God.” (Rom. 3:21-22). If that righteousness is thought to be anything less than infinite, and if it is thought to be something which can be duplicated in us as many are teaching, then it is inevitable that we begin to damn the doctrine of imputation, representation and substitution with soft praise.
He brought “in eternal righteousness.” (Dan. 9:24). “The provision made is complete, and the eternal righteousness of Christ is placed to the account of every believing soul.” (1SM394).
In the history of the church there have been two great heresies about the Person of Christ. One has compromised His divinity in the incarnation, the other has compromised His humanity in the incarnation. Many carry the theme of example so far that it compromises Christ’s divinity. He appears as a man only, a sinless man, true: a man to be admired and copied; but alas, only a man. They seem to teach that Jesus was a partaker of the divine nature by the Holy Spirit just as we may be. But that would not constitute Him God and more than it makes us God. The Person of Christ was not only a partaker of the divine nature by the Holy Spirit, because the Person of Christ was essentially divine. The Godhead was essentially His own, He could not cease to be God.
We need to understand that Christ’s greatest and most severe temptations sprang from the fact that He was the possessor of almighty power and wisdom. It was o temptation to the thieves to come down from the cross, because they did not have the power in themselves to do it. Christ did! It would be no temptation to us to command stones to be made bread, because we do not possess almighty power. Christ did! Notice:
“It was as difficult for Him to keep the level of humanity as for men to rise above the low level of their depraved natures, and be made partakers of the divine nature.” (7 BC 930).
We could never be as severely tempted as was Christ, because we cannot use the powers of Deity in our own behalf. When we realize that Jesus was fully God and possess all power and yet constantly and consciously did not use it on His own behalf, it makes His humility appear to be the more wonderful. Here was a constant display of infinite humiliation. We are called to copy the Pattern, but never, never can we equal it. (T2 549; T2 628).
If Jesus had been altogether human such as we are, He would not have experienced such intensity of temptation. Some want to see Christ as One having their own sinful nature. They imagine that if He had their sinful inclinations and propensities, He would feel the full strength of temptation. But they fail to understand the psychology of temptation. A being with a sinful nature could never feel the full strength of temptation, because his sinful nature would not have the capacity of hatred and resistance that a sinless nature has. It was the sinlessness of Jesus’ nature which qualified Him to know a strength of temptation such as we could never know. Notice:
“Would that we could comprehend the significance of the words, Christ ‘Suffered being tempted.’ While He was free from the taint of sin, the refined sensibilities of His holy nature rendered contact with evil unspeakably painful to Him.” (7 BC 927).
‘The suffering of Christ was in correspondence with His spotless purity; His depth of agony, proportionate to the dignity and grandeur of His character.” (RH Dec.1872).
“…suffering was more keenly felt by Him; for His spiritual nature was free from every taint of sin.” (5 BC 1104).
“He suffered being tempted, suffered in proportion to the perfection of His holiness.” (T5 422).
“Christ was not insensible to ignominy and disgrace. He felt it all most bitterly. He felt it much more deeply and acutely than we can feel suffering, as His nature was more exalted and pure and holy than that of the sinful race for whom He suffered.” (TIMKH 339).
Notice that Christ’s suffering was not in proportion to His identification with our depravity but the very reverse. Because His nature was sinless, He felt temptation more keenly because He resisted more keenly. He who resists little suffers little. If Christ’s holiness was infinite, it must mean that His suffering was infinite. The thought is appalling, but it is the devastating truth.
Human nature is only finite. It’s righteousness can only be finite, and it can only endure finite suffering.
“No sorrow can bear any comparison with the sorrow of Him upon whom the wrath of God fell with overwhelming force. Human nature can only endure but a limited amount of test and trial. The finite can only endure but a finite measure, and human nature succumbs; But the nature of Christ had a greater capacity for suffering; for the human existed in the divine nature, and created a capacity for suffering to endure that which resulted from the sins of a lost world.” (5 BC 1103).
“The infinite sufficiency of Christ is demonstrated by His bearing the sins of the whole world.” (7 BC 993).
We have noticed that the law presents an infinite standard. (COL 315). The satisfaction given to that law on our behalf had to be infinite. The price, the sacrifice, the righteousness and the suffering had to be infinite.
What a terrible thing it is to compromise or lose sight of the divinity of the incarnate Christ! And oh, the value, the infinite value of the blood of Jesus! It has value with God! When He sees it, He passes over us without destroying us. The Apostles preached about the blood of Christ. The book of Revelation celebrates its saving properties.
As a church we should always confess two things about Christ’s human nature:
1. He was conceived of the Holy Ghost;
2. He was born of the virgin Mary.
Both these truths and their consequences must be taught. Otherwise we fall into a serious distortion of the truth. That Christ’s humanity was conceived of the Holy Ghost means that His human nature was holy and without any taint of sin. That His human nature was born of a woman means that in reality He did possess the substance and all the essential properties of human nature as it was after the fall, with the effects of sin upon it.
Two classes of people are being developed, two species of religion are being practiced. One points to the lives of the people of God on earth as being the fulfillment of “the righteousness of God.” The other points to the life of Jesus Christ our Substitute, as being that fulfillment. It is between the adherents of these two view points that the final conflict will rage. Would to God that we may all unite on the solid platform of the true gospel. (Rev. 14:6-12).
Justification is objective—that which is true of us in Christ. Believers are said to be justified in Him by His blood. (Isa.45:24-25; Rom. 5:9). Justification is appropriated by faith alone.
Sanctification is firstly objective—that which is true of us in Christ. Sanctification by His blood. (1 Cor. 1:30; Heb. 13:12).
Sanctification is also subjective by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit in us. (2 Thess. 2:13). But must be offered up through the sprinkling of His blood. (1 Pet. 1:2).
Perfection is firstly objective—that which is true of us in Christ. Perfection by His blood. (Heb. 10:14).
Perfection is also subjective by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit in us. (Phil.3:15). But must be offered up through His blood. (Heb. 13:20-21).
The Editor and Writers of “Our Firm Foundation” have made the fatal mistake of interpreting God’s word ontologically instead of Christologically. Therefore the great truths of Substitution, Representation and imputation are given very little space or time in their magazine. (Modern prognosticators do the same with Biblical prophecy, and their interpretations are man centered and Middle East centered).
The great truth of “justification by faith” must call all that we do and all that we teach into question. If “Our Firm Foundation” should allow this central article of the Christian faith to determine their view of the “nature of man,” the “nature of Christ,” “righteousness by faith” and “soteriology,” they would not be found teaching man centered religion, the fundamental principle of the “mystery of iniquity.”
The issue facing “Our Firm Foundation” is: What is the gospel? And what does it mean to be justified by faith? And will they allow this gospel to determine their view of all truth? Are they going to interpret the Scriptures Christologically, or some other way? This is the issue!
But the real issue behind the issue is the law of God.
Is the law an infinite standard that once broken can be fulfilled and satisfied for justification before God only by an infinite righteousness of a Being whose personage is infinite.
Or is the law to be seen as a finite standard that once broken can be fulfilled and satisfied for justification before God by the Holyy Spirit working through finite sinful fallen beings?
This is the Real Issue!