Many who believe what the Bible and Ellen White say about overcoming sin, are accused of teaching a Catholic gospel. Pastor Dennis Priebe does an excellent job of disproving this false accusation often made against true historicist Seventh-day Adventists.
The following sermon by Pastor Dennis Priebe will clearly demonstrate the reality of two different gospels being taught in the professing Seventh-day Adventist church. There are many proponents of the New Theology gospel among SDA leaders. Pastor Priebe names a few of them in his sermon, but one merely has to read the many books of a new order by SDA leaders to discern the prevalence of the false gospel being taught by the professing Seventh-day Adventist New Movement church.
Proponents of the true gospel, other than Pastor Priebe, include Dr. Ralph Larson, relieved of his ministerial credentials, Dr. John Grosboll, relieved of his ministerial credentials, Colin and Russell Standish, Ron Spear, and there are others.
The growth trend in the SDA church is toward the New Theology false gospel. The logical conclusion of that false gospel is that it is foolish to try to keep the Sabbath commandment if one cannot overcome sin this side of glorification. The proponents of the New Theology will one day instruct the members of the SDA church to keep Sunday. Ellen White predicted that. The only reason they remain in the church is to convert others to their Satanic belief system. Notice:
"The Lord has a controversy with his professed people in these last days. In this controversy men in responsible positions will take a course directly opposite to that pursued by Nehemiah. They will not only ignore and despise the Sabbath themselves, but they will try to keep it from others by burying it beneath the rubbish of custom and tradition. In churches and in large gatherings in the open air, ministers, will urge upon the people the necessity of keeping the first day of the week." E.G. White, Review and Herald, Vol. 1, p. 405, col. 3.
Ellen White was speaking to professing Seventh-day Adventists. Babylonians have always instructed their people to keep Sunday, but ďÖin these last days,Ē SDA leaders will do the same, and that is only acting on the logical conclusion of the New Theology, that we cannot keep all the commandments this side of glorification, and by the belief that we are saved by forensic justification, without sanctification as a condition and/or the teaching that sanctification, even when empowered by the Holy Spirit, is not meritorious toward our salvation.
The basis of the two different gospels clusters around the human nature of Christ and what was accomplished by His atonement on the cross and what is being accomplished for the true believer now in the heavenly sanctuary. While you are reading Pastor Priebeís article, keep the following E.G. White statement clear in mind:
"The intercession of Christ in man's behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross. By His death He began that work which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in heaven. We must by faith enter within the veil, 'whither the forerunner is for us entered.' Hebrews 6:20:" E.G. White, The Great Controversy, 1911 edition, p. 489.
Dennis Priebe confronts continuing claims that regular Adventism partakes of flawed Roman Catholic theology
Presented 16 March 2002, 3:00PM at the Mentone SDA Church, Mentone California
A little while back I came across an article in the Adventist Review, September 23, 1999. In it was a little quiz, and I'm going to ask you to take this quiz as you hear the statements I'm going to make. I'm not going to ask you to raise your hand, I just want you to think about what you would answer to these various questions, and then I am going to put them on the board as well so we can make very clear what we're talking about. Here's the quiz, and it's always going to be odd number and even number, odd and even, one and two.
Alright, one, is this what you believe? "Our right standing with God is based solely on what Christ has done for us." Alright? So number one, and listen carefully, "Our right standing with God," in other words, salvation, "is based solely on what Christ has done for us." For us.
Number two, now these are going to be either/or, number two, "Our right standing with God is based on what Christ has done for us and in us." And so the second one is "for and in." Alright, I'll read those two again. Think about what you believe. "Our right standing with God is based solely, solely on what Christ has done for us," or, "Our right standing with God is based on what Christ has done for us and in us." For, and in.
Alright, you think about that, you decide what you believe. Now here's the next set of two statements.
One, "We are justified through the merits of Jesus Christ alone." So we are justified through the merits of Jesus alone. Two, "We are justified through the merits of Christ and through the work of the Holy Spirit in our life." So we are justified by Christ and the Holy Spirit. So let me read those again, one, "We are justified through the merits of Jesus Christ alone." Two, "We are justified through the merits of Christ and through the work of the Holy Spirit in our life."
Alright, think about those and what you think is the right answer there. Again, next set, number one, "God gives us right standing with Him by accounting us righteous in His sight." Accounting, so we are accounted righteous, credited, counted, stated to be righteous. Number two, "God gives us right standing with Him by actually making us righteous in His sight." Making us, actually making us righteous. So the two =statements again, number one, "God gives us right standing with Him by accounting us righteous in His sight." Two, "God gives us right standing with Him by actually making us righteous in His sight."
Think about what you would answer to that. And the last one, number one, "After accepting Christ's righteousness, a believer experiences the new birth, which results in a transformed life and character." So, after being justified, let's put the first statement here. That leads to, that will produce the new birth. After accepting Christ's righteousness, which is justification, a believer experiences the new birth, which results in a transformed life and character. Two, "After having a new birth experience, in which a person's life and character is transformed, that person is then justified before God." So it just reverses it. After the new birth, that leads to a justified state or standing in God's sight.
Now let me read those two again. The first, after accepting Christ's righteousness, or after justification, a believer experiences the new birth, which results in a transformed life, so after you have been saved, after you have been accepted by God, then you experience the new birth. Or two, after a new birth experience in which a person's life and character are transformed, that persons is then justified before God. Alright. There you have the four questions that I would like you to think carefully about as to how you would answer those various questions.
Now I'm going to read what was in the article by Clifford Goldstein as the conclusion of this little quiz. "If you have placed true after any or all of the even numbered ones, column two, the even numbered ones, to some degree at least you are inclined toward the teaching that Roman Catholicism has embraced since the Council of Trent in the 16th century."
So all of these statements here, are Catholic. Reading onward, "All of the odd-numbered statements reflected the biblical teaching that our right standing before God is based not even on what God can do in us, but solely on what Christ had done in our stead through His life and death." And so the odd-numbered statements are the biblical statements.
He continues, "The even-numbered statements, the number-two statements, reflect the idea that our right standing before God is based not just on Christ's merits imputed or credited to us, but also on what God does in our lives. This latter position has been attractive to Roman Catholics and some Adventists. The holiness that makes anyone right before God, is never the personal holiness that is manifested in good works and obedience to the law. That holiness is never good enough for salvation. The only holiness that saves us is the holiness that existed in Christ Jesus in the flesh."
Well there's our quiz, and the conclusions of the quiz in this review article, as to what is Catholic and what is Protestant. And that is the basis for my subject this afternoon, "Protestant or Catholic?" Now it wasn't just this article alone. Also in the Adventist Review of June 22, 2000, is an article entitled "By Grace Alone" by the same author, Clifford Goldstein, in which he deals with this subject a little more in depth and explains a little more than in just this brief little quiz that he gave, and I want to share just a little but of what he said in this article.
He said, "Since the Reformation, Lutherans along with almost all Protestants have insisted that justification by faith is an act by which God declares us or accounts us righteous. The Reformers taught that justification is something that god does for us, not in us. Nothing that happens in us gives us merit that can in any way justify us in God's sight. We are justified only by what Christ did for us, apart from us, outside of us." Now he continues a little more on this line. He said, "Protestants understand the grace of justification as purely a legal declaration. For Rome, justification is a process of inner renewal, something that happens in us." So Protestants say its just legal, an accounting, a declaring for us; for Rome it is an inward renewal. Any time we're talking about inward change, heart-change, we're into Catholic doctrine on this subject, and we need to recognize that, he is saying.
It is not just this author that is doing that, but also in another Review, article, May 25, 2000, by Woodrow Whidden, a teacher at Andrews University, he also makes some of the same statements in which he deals with this idea of justification and how it happens. "Papal Rome believes that justification makes a sinner righteous through an inner sanctifying or transforming grace. Through this transforming grace, the sinner is declared to be justified." So transforming grace is Papal. "Rome teaches that the sinner is justified because of what grace does in him, or her." However, "The Reformers," he says, "believed that transforming grace was the inevitable result of receiving Christ by faith, a fruit of the justifying root of Christ's imputed righteousness." And then the question, "If I am saved because of what Christ does in me, how can I ever be sure that my obedience and good works will be enough to satisfy the infinite justice of God?"
Well there it is. There's the presentation as made by at least two major individuals within the Seventh-day Adventist church on this subject. And the challenge is thrown out, are you Protestant, or are you Catholic? I think that's a legitimate challenge. We need to know. Brothers and sisters, we need to know, and we need to know why we believe it. A recent campmeeting speaker has been heard to say that the teaching of Christ in you is pantheism. Christ in you is pantheism.
As I read these two articles and others like them, I thought back to when I was teaching at pacific Union College, and two individuals came through and were expressing their views about justification and righteousness by faith. Robert Brinsmead and Jeffrey Paxton came together, and Jeffrey Paxton later wrote a book titled The Shaking of Adventism. Now Jeffrey Paxton is not an Adventist, but he was very interested in the teachings of Adventism. And listen carefully to what Jeffrey Paxton wrote in his book The Shaking of Adventism, page 39:
"Whereas Rome taught that justification means to make the believer just through inner renewal in his heart, the Reformers taught that justification is the declaration by God that the believer is just on the grounds of the righteousness of Christ alone which is outside the believer." He said, "To focus on the indwelling Christ is to abandon the reformation doctrine of justification" (pp. 42). He said on page 40, "The grace of God always refers to God and never to what is in the believer's heart."
And so as I read these statements in recent Review articles, my mind was called back to the same statements being made by Jeffrey Paxton regarding Catholicism and Protestantism. The challenge was thrown out to us in the late seventies, "Are you Protestant or are you Catholic?" And the very same kinds of questions were asked then, as are being asked now in the pages of our church's flagship paper. And it is clearly stated that to believe in an inward work of grace as necessary and preceding salvation, that is Catholic. And to believe that Christ declares us righteous and it is a legal work, that is Protestant. And so there is the same statement made by Jeffrey Paxton back in those years as is made now today by Clifford Goldstein and Woodrow Whidden.
So. What we need to do is examine the evidence to see what the Bible really teaches. So I'm going to invite you to take your Bibles right now, and we're going to study a little bit about justification from the Bible.
A Bible Study
Turn to Romans chapter five, verse one. "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." So the context here is obviously justification. Paul is talking about justification, especially in Romans three through five; that is a given.
Now look back here just a little bit in chapter four. Look back to verses seven and eight. "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin," that means credit, declare if you will, account. "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not credit sin." That's justification. See, Paul is amplifying here his subject of justification. And notice, "blessed are they who's iniquities are forgiven." That's justification. So, very clearly, justification is forgiveness of sin, covering of sins, imputing no sin to the believer. That's justification by faith as Paul described it.
Now listen to what Ellen White says in Mount of Blessing, p. 114: "God's forgiveness," forgiveness remember, we just read here, 'blessed are they who's iniquities are forgiven, "God's forgiveness is not merely a judicial act by which He sets us free from condemnation." The phrase "not merely" is important. It is a judicial act, but it's not merely that. "It," God's forgiveness, "is the outflow of redeeming love that transforms the heart. David had the true conception of forgiveness," forgiveness, "when he prayed, 'Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me.' (Psalm 51:10)." What is forgiveness? It is transformation, it is the new creature, the creation of a new heart and a right spirit. And that -- according to Romans five and Romans four -- forgiveness, is justification. And her addition tot hat, "It is not merely a judicial act," it's more than a judicial act.
And then, Review and Herald, August 19, 1890, "To be pardoned," that's another word for forgiveness, "To be pardoned in the way that Christ pardons, is not only to be forgiven, but to be renewed in the Spirit of our mind." To be pardoned is more than being forgiven. It is renewal in our inner spirit. "The Lord says, 'a new heart will I give unto thee.'" So pardon is a new heart; they're the same thing. There is no difference. Now let's go to the Bible once again.
Go to Titus, chapter three, where we have I think the clearest statement of how justification really works. Titus, chapter three, verses five to seven.
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us," Notice how, now, He saves us, "by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that being justified," not sanctified, justified, "by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
What precedes justification in Paul's theology? "Washing of regeneration." That's not baptism washing, that's inner washing; inner washing of the heart of which baptism is only a symbol. The washing of regeneration, recreation, a new heart, and renewing of, now notice here, renewing of the Holy Spirit. Renewing and regeneration precede justification, not follow.
In this understanding [pointing to the chart and Goldstein's even-numbered column] of the biblical gospel as he calls it, justification comes first and the new birth comes after. But right here, the new birth is preceding justification; the new birth is the source of justification. It says washing and regeneration precede justification by His grace.
Turn to Romans once again, Romans chapter eight, verse one. Now notice some parallels, we're looking for parallels here in several verses.
Romans eight, verse one: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Look now at verse nine: "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." Now verse ten, "And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness."
OK, now look carefully. Verse one, "Them which are in Christ Jesus," is equal to verse nine, "the Spirit of God is dwelling in you," is equal to verse ten, "if Christ be in you." "In Christ," "Christ in you," "the Spirit in you," are all synonyms. They're all saying the same thing using different words, all of them saying and meaning the same thing. "No condemnation," you're free, you're justified, you're forgiven, you're not condemned any longer -- if you are in Christ Jesus, if the Spirit of God dwells in you, if Christ be in you -- all of those mean the same thing. They are not separate parts, justification here and sanctification over there. They're all equivalent to each other.
Again, listen to the Spirit of Prophecy, in Christ's Object Lessons, page 163: "As the sinner, drawn by the power of Christ approaches the uplifted cross, and prostrates himself before it, there is a new creation. A new heart is given him. He becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus. God Himself is the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. What is justification? Prostrating before the cross, new creation, new heart, new creature.
Well that's what I would think "making" is all about, through the power of the Holy Spirit in us, the new birth preceding justification by faith. Again from the Spirit of Prophecy, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1098. "By receiving His imputed righteousness," now watch this carefully. Imputed is usually the same as accounting; that's how its usually used. "By receiving His imputed righteousness," -- how do we receive His imputed righteousness? -- "through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit." We receive this imputed righteousness through the making, transforming power of the Holy Spirit. That's the new birth preceding justification once again. "Imputed" comes through "transforming by the Holy Spirit."
And one more, Selected Messages, vol. 1, page 394, the clearest of them all: "Having made us righteous, through the imputed righteousness of Christ, God pronounces us just." First God makes us righteous, new birth, then He pronounces us righteous, justified, righteous before Him. That's crucial; let me reread that statement. "Having made us righteous, through the imputed righteousness of Christ, God pronounces us just." Making precedes pronouncing.
Turn to the book of John with me. John chapter three, and we're going to look for some more parallels here. John three, verse 14: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." Now how do we get that eternal life? Go back to verse three. These are familiar statements. "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Verse six: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Alright. Parallels: "eternal life," equal to "born again," equal to "Born of the Spirit." All of those say the same thing as best I can tell. How do we have eternal life? By being born again, and that is being born of the Spirit, of the Holy Spirit. And so again we have parallels showing it is an inward transformation, a new birth transformation.
Turn to Ephesians with me. Ephesians, chapter four, beginning with verse 22: "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." So what is the new man? The new man is "renewed in our mind." That is being a new man, renewal, renewal, always renewal, in the spirit of our mind, that we put off the old man and put on the new man. The new man is created and that is our renewal.
Turn to Galatians chapter two, verse 16, and we're looking at the word "justified": "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." Now go down to verse 20: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Parallels again: "justification by faith in Jesus Christ," is the same as "crucified with Christ," crucified, dead with Christ, the old man dead with Christ, and "Christ liveth in me." "Justification," "crucifixion," "Christ living in me," all synonymous terms, all meaning essentially the same thing, stating it in different ways.
And one more text, Galatians chapter three, verse 11: "That no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith." Now how do we receive that state? Look back at verse three: "Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" Where's the beginning point? In the Spirit; we begin in the Spirit. We don't begin with Jesus alone; we begin with Christ through His Holy Spirit and in the Spirit. And if we begin in the Spirit, we are justified by faith.
In my judgment this is pretty solid evidence for an inward transformation in the work of justification. Now, as we have read just in the last few minutes here from these other authors, it is said that the first view, the biblical view, is what the Protestant Reformation taught, while the second view is what the Catholic church taught and is not correct. Therefore, I think we need to take one more step. We need to go back and check what was actually taught in the Reformation.
What Then Was Actually Taught in the Reformation?
So we're going to take just a moment to do that. To support this particular view as expressed by Goldstein and Whidden, Hans LaRondelle, in Ministry magazine of November 2000 said this: "Luther's mature concept of justification is this: it is the forensic or legal imputation of Christ's righteousness to the repentant believer." That's what the mature Luther taught. It is the forensic or legal imputation or accounting or crediting of Christ's righteousness to the repentant believer.
In the same article, in the same Ministry magazine, Hans Heint said, "Forgiveness and making-right contradict one another." Forgiveness is accounting and it can't be making. That's what he's saying. Forgiveness and making-right contradict one another. So that again is in support of this diagram that we have been given.
Now what we really want to know is, did Luther really teach this? Now listen to Luther; all of these statements are from Luther's works, and most of them from 1535 and 1536, and reflecting his mature views:
"This movement of justification is the work of God in us." Wow! The work of God in us.
"He therefore draws us into Himself and transforms us. It is thus in Romans five we are justified by faith." Transforming is justifying by faith.
"Therefore, the Christ who is grasped by faith and who lives in the heart, is the true Christian righteousness on account of which God counts us righteousness and grants us eternal life." Are you catching the thought there? The Christ who lives in the heart is the true Christian righteousness; on account of that God counts us righteous, not on account of the Christ out there, but the Christ in here, in the heart.
"But so far as justification is concerned," so we're talking about justification here, none of these statements are sanctification, "But as far as justification is concerned, Christ and I must be so closely attached, that He lives in me and I in Him. Faith must be taught correctly, namely that by it you are so cemented to Christ that He and you are as one person which cannot be separated. This faith couples Christ and me more intimately than a husband is coupled to his wife." I donít know how martin Luther could be any clearer on the subject. "As far as justification is concerned," he says, " He lives in me and I in Him," and it is closer than, "a husband is coupled to his wife," in union with each other.
Another statement: "Then what does justify? The Holy Spirit who justifies."
"This faith justifies you; it will cause Christ to dwell, live, and reign in you." What justifies? Christ dwelling, living, and reigning in you. All of these are Luther.
At the beginning of his sermons on John three when he wrote about the new birth experience on John three, he said, "this chapter stresses above all else that sublime topic faith in Christ which alone justifies us before God." What is John three all about? Justification. What is John three talking about? New birth. Justification and new birth are one and the same. "This chapter stresses above all else that sublime topic faith in Christ which alone justifies us before God."
Correcting the Claims
When the claim is made that the mature Luther concept of justification is the forensic or legal imputation of Christ's righteousness to the repentant believer, that's just not so. And how tragic that it comes from some of our best scholars to say that. It's just not so.
So we have to change something up here [on this chart], brothers and sisters. This is not quite right. What is thought to be the Catholic position, and according to which we are said to be "Catholic," is not Catholic at all. It turns out that this is biblical. And it turns out that what we had been told was biblical is not biblical at all, but instead it is more correctly titled "Evangelical."
This side, the first side, is the evangelical gospel, with its "for us" emphasis: Jesus alone, accounting righteous, justified first then followed by the new birth. That is, what I said last night was the evangelical gospel, well stated and clearly stated.
On the other hand, the biblical gospel, its work of justification both for and in us, done by Christ and the Holy Spirit, a making righteous, and the new birth then followed by the statement or declaration of justification by faith -- Justification by faith is an inward work of righteousness from beginning to end, and it is no other way, as best I can tell.
In fact, I found something interesting in the same Ministry magazine I quoted from earlier, November of 2000, this by Raul Dederen. Listen carefully, this is important: "In time Lutherans began to draw an increasingly sharp distinction between the event of being declared righteous, justification, and the process of being made righteous, sanctification or regeneration." Who began to draw that? Lutherans, not Luther. Lutherans, followers of Luther, began to make this sharp distinction, and say that justification is only declaration, while anything else is sanctification.
In a book by a well known Luther scholar, Aliester McGrath, "Luther's concept of justification, his concept of the presence of Christ within the believer, all were rejected or radically modified by those who followed him." That's where the trouble spot is, those who followed Luther.
Melanchthon was the first one to follow Luther; he took over where Luther left off. He promoted a legal-only justification. He was the one who began to formulate declaring only. Martin Chemnitz also was a defender of Luther, helping to form the Formula of Concord, which is the basic foundation of Lutheran belief today, and he defended Luther against Catholic arguments, according to McGrath he followed Melanchthon, he said there is no Scriptural evidence for internalized righteousness, Christ in you is figurative, we are counted as righteous even though we are not really righteous. That all comes from Chemnitz, not Luther, in trying to defend Luther against the Catholics.
Do you see where the problem is coming? Those who came later changed what the original Reformer had said. Christ in you is figurative; we are counted righteous even though we are not really righteous. They were always hunting for the middle ground.
"Orthodox Lutherans," this again is from McGrath, "Orthodox Lutheranism followed Chemnitz and rejected Luther's position. In other words, what we are dealing with here is the legal-only justification, all the number-one statements in our quiz. The legal-only justification is post-Reformation scholastic Lutheranism, and that has become the orthodox position of the Christian church today. And now we're having some of our best leaders say to us that that is the biblical position.
It wasn't the biblical position. It wasn't Luther's position. It wasn't Calvin's position. It was the position of those who followed Luther and Calvin and has become transmuted into the evangelical brand of Christianity today that we now find in the conservative Protestant churches of America. And we are being told and urged that it is biblical. Now why is this so serious. Because brothers and sisters, if the biblical position is the inward experience, the Spirit of God making righteous, the new birth, and all of this is part of what the Bible teaches, we are being warned to stay away from it because it is Catholic. And anything catholic, obviously we don't want to be a part of.
We are being warned against the biblical gospel, under the guise that it is Catholic. And we're being told that we should go over to another gospel, which is really the evangelical gospel, under the guise that it is biblical. We are at high-level, subtle deception here, my brothers and sisters. Subtle, subtle deception, because it sounds almost right the first reading. You go through the quiz and you scratch your head, which should I say yes to and which should I disagree with, and you half-wonder which is the right one, and it all comes clear when you get the whole picture together, that what we are being told to do, is to move away from the Bible to evangelicalism. That's a serious, serious problem.
What then is the Catholic View?
Now, if what I have just shared with you is correct, then what really is the Catholic position? If I have just crossed-out Catholic and said that wasn't the Catholic position, then really what is the Catholic position? And I'm going to do something interesting. I'm going to go right back to these articles that I started with, the first one by Clifford Goldstein, and right in these very articles they are very clear as to what the real Catholic position is.
Listen carefully. I'm quoting again from Adventist Review, June 22, 2000, and here is their description of the Catholic position:
"According to the Catechism of the Catholic church," and he's quoting here that "Christ's perfect righteousness is infused into the life of the believer through the sacraments administered by the Roman Catholic Church. Rome teaches that this saving doesn't remain outside of us but actually becomes something that happens inside a person, a change which gives that person merit before God." So let's try to break that down just a little bit.
The real Catholic position is, first, infused righteousness. Now what does that mean? That's a little bit like filling your gas tank. You infuse gas into the tank. And when you infuse it and its full-up, you have a full gas tank, and then you can run on that gas tank until the gas runs out. You have a reservoir in your soul which can get filled-up with righteousness, and God will pour-in His righteousness into you, and you get filled-up with righteousness, infused. That's not imputed, and that's not imparted, its infused. Aren't we getting technical now?
Infusing is filling-up into a reservoir. How do you get filled-up? Through the sacraments. This is crucial, this is the bottom-line. Through the sacraments administered by the Catholic Church. You don't get righteousness by getting on your knees and praying. You don't get righteousness by studying the Word of God. You don't get righteousness by walking with Christ day by day. You get righteousness only through the sacraments as the priest administers them. There is no other way of righteousness available for the human being.
Then, you see, this merit which comes inside us, actually gives that person merit before God. So then our works merit eternal life. Because here at this point, you see, we've been infused with righteousness, and now we've got all this good righteousness inside of us, so that means the good works we do come out of this infused righteousness, and that's why it has merit for eternal life.
Here again is the way the Catholic Church states this: "The merit of good works belongs not just to Christ, but also to the faithful, who's good works do then grant them merit before God." Since we have this righteousness, our works give us merit. "We can merit for ourselves," the Catechism says, "and for all others, the graces needed to obtain eternal life." So once we have this righteousness within us, we then merit what we get because our works are being done by this good righteousness that has been placed within us, and we can have this experience in our life.
Here's another way of stating it. Again, these are all quoted by Clifford Goldstein from the Catholic Catechism. "The Church affirms that for believers, the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation." You don't get salvation without the sacraments. Have to have the sacraments: baptism, confirmation, eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, matrimony. That's the only way you receive any righteousness at all is by receiving those sacraments. "The Roman Catholic system is based on the crucial notion that all that Christ has done or does for a person comes mediated through the Church itself. Salvation is dispensed to the faithful only through the Church and its sacraments and its priesthood. Rome sees itself as the sole dispenser of grace."
So the real Catholic position is infused righteousness through the sacraments; that's what Catholicism teaches. It is not about Christ in us. It is not about making righteous. It is not about the new birth preceding justification. It is about grace received only through the sacraments; that's the real Catholic position as expressed in the very same article, so clearly. So you have in the same article the real Catholic position and the false Catholic position, all crammed-together to make you think that they are all one and the same. That's where this becomes extremely hard to sort out.
In fact, Woodrow Whidden in his article in the Adventist Review, May 25, 2000, does the very same thing. He says this: "The Catholic way of salvation is a vast sacramental system that sees grace as being mediated through the sacraments administered by ordained priests. The sacraments and the human priests are the channels of saving grace. In partaking of these, Catholics partake of Jesus and His saving grace. It is the sanctifying grace of God infused into the believer through the sacraments of the Church; this inner, infused righteousness forms the meritorious basis of the penitent believer's justification." So infused righteousness comes through the sacraments. Rome teaches that the sinner is justified because of what grace does in him or her.
And listen to this, this is a nice summary. Again, this is from the same article: "The necessity of other mediators than Christ in the Roman system becomes especially apparent when we look at the sacrament of penance. When a person goes to confession, the penitent receives absolution, the forgiveness of sins from the priest confessor. The guilt of sin and its eternal penalties are absolved or remitted by the priest, the but the temporal, earthly time-based penalties are not. These latter penalties must be satisfied or worked-off through indulgences. These indulgences draw upon the so-called treasury of merit, a vast reservoir of excess merit that Jesus and the saints have gained through their righteous lives. Access to this treasury is the prerogative of the Church, and it obtained by the faithful through various actions, observances, or financial purchases."
Now listen carefully, we can add one more item here. The way righteousness is received is through the confessional, and no other way. And it is received through the system of indulgences. There you have the real Catholic way of salvation; that is what Catholicism is all about.
So, right in the same article in which we are informed that to believe that Christ is in us, that the Holy Spirit is the agent of justification, that making righteous and the new birth are Catholic beliefs, are put these beliefs of infusion, sacraments, works, merit, confessional, and indulgences, to make us run, scared to death of any inward work of justification, to put it all together and say that all of this, is Catholic. That's what we are being told. All of the second two columns are Catholic, and therefore we must avoid anything tainted with this. This is high-level deception, brothers and sisters. We are being told to run with fear from the biblical gospel of righteousness by faith.
In fact, not far away from here, in Riverside Press enterprise quoted, "salvation is like a spiritual bank account," said Ford, who teaches at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. "The Key difference between Catholics and Lutherans is who can make withdrawals." The Catholic Church emphasizes receiving salvation through the mediation of the church, kind of a middle-man. Lutherans believe in a direct connection between the believer and God. That's the difference between the Catholic and the Protestant system. The middle-man, or direct; that's the real difference.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in 1994, "Justification is conferred in baptism the sacrament of faith." That's the only way you'll be justified by the sacrament of baptism. You don't get it by surrendering to the Lord, you don't get it by praying, you get it by the sacrament of Baptism. All things mediated through the priest from birth to death through the sacraments.
So what does Roman Catholicism teach? Justification by faith plus the works that are done in the sacramental process especially in the works of penance.
Going back to the Council of Trent, a couple of statements. Here's what the Catholic Church said a long time ago, in the counsel of Trent following the Lutheran Reformation. "If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, let him be anathema." If you believe we are justified by faith alone, you are anathema. "If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are not also the good merits of him justified, or that the one justified does not truly merit an increase of grace, let him be anathema." So if you don't believe that our works merit eternal life, you are anathema. "We can merit for ourselves, and others, all the graces needed to obtain eternal life."
Brothers and sisters, we need to be discerning rightly these days. The winds are blowing. How can the very elect be deceived? We're beginning to see, brothers and sisters. I wondered all my life how the very elect could be deceived on the truths of the Bible. The ones who are searching the Bible. But now some who we might've thought of as the very elect are telling us falsehoods. They are telling us things that are absolutely wrong. They are telling us to move away from the biblical gospel into an evangelical, for us, accounting, legal, forensic, outside of us gospel; the same gospel, exactly, that was taught in the late seventies by Brinsmead, Paxton, and Desmond Ford. And now we're being told that this is the gospel we need to follow. We are at high level issues right here brothers and sisters.
And I'm going to conclude our little discussion and then open it up for questions, but I'm going to conclude by showing you how this confusion really works in practical terms.
I have high regard for the work of the 1888 Message study committee. As I read a couple of their newsletters, I saw some interesting things. And here is where the confusion comes to be seen very strongly. In referring to some who believe not quite the way they think is right, here is what they said.
"Sanctification is understood by them as our obedience to the law." Well my friends, that's not sanctification. Sanctification is never our obedience, it is always God's grace working in us, through us, at all times. Our obedience is legalism, and that was what Paul was fighting against, works of the law. But Christ's works in us are never legalism. Christ in us. That's an unfortunate misrepresentation. "Sanctification is understood by them as our obedience to the law."
Another statement that was made on this point, "To say that Christ does not save completely, but that we add to His saving work, by our own sanctified good works, is the essence of the Council of Trent teaching of Romanism." My brothers and sisters, again, that misrepresents what I and many others teach about sanctification. Sanctification is never our own good works; there is no such animal as our own sanctified good works. If it is sanctified good works it is God's good works, and we can never add to God's grace. We can only agree to God's grace, receive God's grace, and cooperate with God's grace, but we can never add to it. What a tragic misrepresentation.
Another statement, "Never does our obedience add to Christ as the complete Savior or become a means of salvation." No, of course not. Our obedience is never a means of salvation. It is a condition of our salvation, but it is never a means of our salvation, a cause of our salvation. And so right here, well meaning people, having heard so much about the fact that it is for us, credited to us, justified apart from us, seeing sanctification as some Catholic idea, are misrepresenting the truth of God. Sincere, good people, the confusion is real. And it's interesting that the title of this particular article I'm reading from is called, "I'm Confused." And I will scratch my head on that one.
Now, in this very same (and as I said I respect the work of the 1888 Message Study committee), and they said some powerfully strong things that I am going to conclude with right here. Concerning the evangelical view of justification, they said, "Such justification only legally clears them of past sins and is not itself a change of heart. The change of heart they say comes in sanctification, which they believe is never complete in this life. Therefore, justification by faith covers continued sinning." That's right. That's what the evangelical gospel does. Since it only legally clears us, since it is only an accounting, therefore [that view of] justification by faith covers continued sinning.
"In fact, due to not understanding the full message of Christ's righteousness, they the evangelicals, see it as impossible to not continue sinning so long as we are in mortal flesh with a sinful nature." Then the conclusion of this article, "Justification by faith therefore has to be far more than a legal declaration. It actually reconciles the believerís heart to God, and he cannot be reconciled to god and not at the same time be reconciled to His holy law. Therefore genuine justification by faith in this antitypical day of atonement makes the believer obedient to all the commandments of God and prepares him for translation. We are saved by Christ, by grace, through faith, and not of works." Beautiful statement from again, the 1888 Message newsletter. Yes, good material, straight and true. And as I say, this is why it's so perplexing to see both correct and incorrect statements from the same authors.
The last thing now from the 1888 Committee. "Such faith, genuine faith works, and motivates to full obedience to all the commandments of God. Faith and works are like to sides of a single pane of window glass. If there is faith as a response to Calvary, the other side of the pane of glass is a natural outpouring of obedience in a life totally changed by grace." Amen. "Consistently her idea [Ellen White] is that justification is by a faith which works. In every incident where she speaks of obedience, her basic idea is that faith alone produces it, it proves that the faith is genuine, and in that sense she says that salvation is by obedience." Again, well said.
I'm going to finish now with one last article, this one by Colin Standish, and I think he said something very important for us to hear:
"What we are dealing with here, is that there are only two distinct streams. There is the authentic stream of the everlasting gospel, and there is the stream which is to be found enshrined today in the evangelical gospel. The two are absolutely watertight, logical, and coherent concepts. But as sister White says, men start with a wrong premise, and bring everything to bear upon it, which is exactly what evangelical Protestantism has done."
"These concepts have no plunged into the Baptist church, the church of Christ, and even into other, more conservative groups. Incredibly, they are now making great inroads into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Today we are in no man's land in Seventh-day Adventism if we try to integrate some of these evangelical reformed concepts into Seventh-day Adventism. There is no consistency in having part of one and part of the other."
"Our brethren at Glacier View, were wholly wrong in condemning Desmond Ford's eschatology, his end-time interpretation, while upholding his soteriology, his salvational concepts. Either he was right on both or wrong on both. Somehow who were leading out in Glacier View did not have sufficient understanding of the situation to discern that Ford's eschatology and soteriology were wholly inseparable. There is no way we can safely accept part of the everlasting gospel and part of the evangelical gospel, because error will eventually always win out. For centuries in some places both Sabbath and Sunday were kept as holidays or holy days. Eventually the error of Sunday won that battle. When truth and error are incorporated together, ultimately error is the victor."
"Many Seventh-day Adventist preachers today are presenting a hybrid system of theology, and have a mixture of the everlasting gospel and evangelical Protestantism. For example, take preachers who support the understanding that Christ took upon Himself our fallen nature, adult believer's baptism, and the possibility of victorious Christian living. These beliefs are all inconsistent with evangelical Protestant concepts. Yet many of the same preachers will deliver sermons entirely consistent with the evangelicals. A justification alone salvation. Sins do not separate us from God. The belief that the man of Romans seven is the converted man."
"As these preachers attempt to blend their evangelical teachings with portions of the everlasting gospel, they present an inconsistent gospel. However, most of us are just not sufficiently versed to distinguish such inconsistencies. And so members of widely different understandings receive from the sermons that which they already believe, and so declare it all to be such a beautiful gospel. Such responses are likely to be satisfying to the preacher, for they may lead him to conclude that he has found an approach to the gospel that brings both sides of the schism into a unified understanding."
You know what I found? As I have presented my two trees of the gospel, and this is just another way of talking about the two gospel trees, I am asked over and over, "but isnít there a third tree? Isn't there a mixture of the two trees that will really bring the two trees into harmony?" I've hear that so many times, and I've always asked, "Show me that third tree which is consistent from beginning to end." It is always a mixing of inconsistent teachings.
Colin concludes, "The more we as Seventh-day Adventists neglect the study of God's Word, the greater will be our inability to perceive the lack of consistency in the presentations either in sermons or books." He's right. It's hard to tell the difference when we first hear it. It's hard to pick out the error, but you know what? The more confusion there is in Adventism on salvation, the more confusion there will be in Adventist practice and lifestyle. That may be where you'll be able to tell the difference.
If you can't figure out the theology behind it, look at the fruits of the gospel. Look at the confusion right now about methods of worship in the house of God. Look at that. That didn't just appear out of nowhere. Look at the confusion concerning methods of church growth; how we plant and build churches; how we produce and win souls to Jesus Christ ion new churches.
Look at the confusion on what is appropriate music, that didn't appear out of nowhere. That came out of theological concepts right in the area of justification by faith. Look at the confusion on entertainment, proper and improper in the Seventh-day Adventist church. Look at the confusion on church standards. There you may be able to tell what really is wrong with these basic teachings on justification and sanctification.
Would you turn to one more text with me, Ephesians chapter four, verses 13-15. "Till' we all come in the unity of the faith." We're not there now, brothers and sisters; we're not in unity in the Adventist Church. "Till' we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, that we henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the slight of men and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive, but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things which is the head, even Christ."
That is my prayer for us today. That we grow up into maturity in Jesus Christ; to discern between truth and error. May God help us. The times are very difficult.
Ronís Comment: Further evidence of a
change in the Nature of Christ doctrine in the SDA church:
Ronís Comment: Further evidence of a change in the Nature of Christ doctrine in the SDA church:
Dennis Priebe has served in many capacities, including pastor, Theology professor at Pacific Union College, and Revivalist for Amazing Facts. He is the author of Face to Face with the Real Gospel, as well as other articles, tracts, and booklets. He has given hundreds of seminars, especially on the topic of righteousness by faith. Each year he is joined by his wife Kay and son Matthew as they travel across the United states and elsewhere filling requests for speaking engagements.