The True Basis of Salvation--Part III (An On-going Dialogue With Karl Wagner)

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I will not remonstrate further with Karl Wagner, but will present the truth of righteousness by faith. Karl continues to say that works of obedience are results of being saved, rather than a condition for being saved. But at the same time, he has said that he doubts that anyone is justified who does not obey. I think Karl is confusing objective justification with subjective justification. In objective justification, it is all forensic. Christ died for all men. No works are required. One need not do anything. Just come to Christ just as you are. Then genuine faith and love in Christ inspired works accrue later when one enters subjective justification. Subjective justification and sanctification are one and the same thing and cannot be separated as we will see in this document.

Karl has accused me of believing and teaching the legalism of Butler and Smith at the time of the 1888 General Conference. This indictment could not be further from the truth. I am very familiar with everything that Jones and Waggoner taught and I have read all the 1888 materials published by the White Estate.

What Butler and many others rejected in 1888, was the fact that we can overcome by faith in Christ's Righteousness, just as He overcame by faith in His Father's Righteousness. Legalistically, they thought this distracted from man's efforts in overcoming, when in all actuality, only works motivated out of a faith in and love for the Righteousness of Christ, could produce works acceptable to Christ. Ellen White said it like this:

"Genuine faith appropriates the righteousness of Christ, and the sinner is made an overcomer with Christ; for he is made a partaker of the divine nature, and thus divinity and humanity are combined.

He who is trying to reach heaven by his own works in keeping the law is attempting an impossibility. Man cannot be saved (subjectively justified) without obedience (works), but his works should not be of himself; Christ should work in him to will and to do of His good pleasure. If a man could save himself by his own works, he might have something in himself in which to rejoice. The effort that man makes in his own strength to obtain salvation is represented by the offering of Cain. All that man can do without Christ is polluted with selfishness and sin; but that which is wrought through faith is acceptable to God." E.G. White, Faith and Works, p. 94.

All Jones and Waggoner taught was exactly what Ellen White stated above. Butler, Smith and others who were seeped in legalism, rejected the 1888 message, thought it denied the efforts of man, but it did not. Efforts (works) wrought in and through faith are acceptable to God. What Butler and Smith did not seem able to perceive was the fact that only efforts (works) wrought out of faith in Christ's Righteousness, His empowerment, His grace gift of obedience (Rom. 1:5), are efficacious toward justification and true righteousness by Faith. I will not deny that God's government is legalistic, but it is a legalism based on a motive of love and preserving the vital interests of all mankind. Please notice:

"Satan's Sophistry--It is the sophistry of Satan that the death of Christ brought in grace to take the place of the law. The death of Jesus did not change or annul or lessen in the slightest degree the law of Ten Commandments. That precious grace offered to men through a Saviour's blood establishes the law of God. Since the fall of man, God's moral government and His grace are inseparable. They go hand in hand through all dispensations. "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Psalm 85:10)." Faith and Works, p. 30.

What Sin Is--The soul must first be convicted of sin before the sinner will feel a desire to come to Christ. 'Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). "I had not known sin, but by the law" (Romans 7:7). When the commandment came home to Saul's conscience, sin revived, and he died. He saw himself condemned by the law of God. The sinner cannot be convinced of his guilt unless he understands what constitutes sin. It is impossible for an individual to experience Bible sanctification while he hods that if he believes in Christ it is immaterial whether he obeys God's law or disobeys it." E.G. White, Faith and Works, p. 31.

Some, like Karl Wagner, believe that we will keep the law automatically as fruits of being saved and not to receive justification or become saved. Then, the other day he admitted that he doubted that if anyone is truly justified without obedience. He is sending confusing signals and the truth of the matter is not bound in confusion. The great danger of Karl's theology of teaching that we obey as a result of being saved, is that the general implication is that God will obey for us and that we have no part in making efforts to obey. This is termed legalism in a most negative sense. Recall that Karl has said a number of times that Christ did it all for us on the cross! What is the implication? That Christ obeyed for us. The truth is that Paul, James and Ellen White, all say that only doers of the Word are justified. This is like a test of whether we are justified or not. Does the Bible state the same principle? Yes indeed, God says through John:

If ye love me ye will keep my commandments. Let us reason together. Love and faith are requisites to justification and love and faith are proper motivations for works. Neither can be separated from the other as being part and parcel to justification

False legalism is the belief that man by and of himself can perform works that are efficacious toward salvation. True legalism is the truth that man cannot be justified (saved) without obedience and that which is wrought through faith is acceptable to God as man's best effort.

Christ looks at the spirit, and when He sees us carrying our burden with faith, His perfect holiness atones for our shortcomings. When we do our best, He becomes our righteousness." E.G. White, Faith and Works, p. 102.

This is the colaborer part (above and below) we have with Christ:

"We are labourers together with God" (1 Corinthians 3:9)." E.G. White, Faith and Works, p. 71.

Conditions of Justification

"While one class pervert the doctrine of justification by faith and neglect to comply with the conditions laid down in the Word of God--"If ye love Me, keep My commandments"--there is fully as great an error on the part of those who claim to believe and obey the commandments of God but who place themselves in opposition to the precious rays of light--new to them--reflected from the cross of Calvary. The first class do not see the wondrous things in the law of God for all who are doers of His Word. The other cavil over trivialities and neglect he weightier matters, mercy and love of God.

Most have lost very much in that they have not opened the eyes of their understanding to discern the wondrous things in the law of God. On the one hand, religionists generally have divorced the law and the gospel, while we have, on the other hand, almost done the same from another standpoint. We have not held up before the people the righteousness of Christ and the full significance of His great plan of redemption. We have left out Christ and His matchless love, brought in theories and reasonings, and preached argumentative discourses." E.G. White, Faith and Works, p. 16.

Clearly, Ellen White lists commandment--keeping (works) as a condition of justification by faith. Does Scripture do the same thing? Paul specifically mentions that the DOERS OF THE LAW shall be justified.

This could not be any more clear. Paul does not say as Karl Wagner says: The justified will do the law as a result, as a fruit of being justified.

Rom 2:13 (For not the hearers of the law [are] just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

One would reasonably conclude that those who do not do the law out of a motive of faith in, and love for Christ, will not be justified. Of course, when we receive such faith and love as a gift, we also receive grace for obedience, Rom. 1:5.

Jam 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

God bless all,

Ron Beaulieu