“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22, NKJV).1
NEW LIFE IN CHRIST
Salvation in Christ expands to more than just redemption from the curse of sin; it also includes the start of a new life in Christ. This life begins when the old life is surrendered, a result of repentance.2 Ellen G. White describes repentance the following way: “Repentance includes sorrow for sin and a turning away from it. We shall not renounce sin unless we see its sinfulness; until we turn away from it in heart, there will be no real change in the life.”3 Through Christ’s sacrifice, we no longer have to stay slaves to our sinful ways. Instead, we are given the opportunity to turn away from our sinful choices and seek forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This is the promise God has given us: a life surrendered to Him is a life cleansed of sinfulness.
Through Christ’s sacrifice, we no longer have to stay slaves to our sinful ways.
Because of our natural tendencies to sway towards evil, God has also gifted us with the experience of sanctification offered through the Holy Spirit. Sanctification refers to the process by which the Spirit forms believers to be more and more like His Son. Ellen White writes that “the atonement . . . is a divine remedy for the cure of transgression and the restoration of spiritual health. It is the Heaven-ordained means by which the righteousness of Christ may be not only upon us but in our hearts and characters.”4 God desires that His righteousness would be reflected in our thoughts and deeds. The Scriptures give us several ideas of how this can be accomplished.
Imitate Christ: “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph 5:1–2).
Renewing by the Holy Spirit: “He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5b–6).
Beholding Christ: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).5
The technical word for this spiritual growth is “sanctification.” “By sanctification is meant the continued transformation of moral and spiritual character so that the life of the believer actually comes to mirror the standing which he or she already has in God’s sight.”6 Sanctification comes through a cooperation between us and God: God demonstrates His character to us, we position ourselves towards Him, and the Holy Spirit moves us closer to Him to be shaped in His image. We are told to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12) and to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5:16), meaning that God gives us the gift of being actively involved in the process. At the same time, it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit in us that real change begins to take place—a change in which we are meant to continually grow. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18).7 This is God’s desire for us, to let His sacrifice for us continue to make an ongoing difference in our lives.
Sanctification comes through a cooperation between us and God: God demonstrates His character to us, we position ourselves towards Him, and the Holy Spirit moves us closer to Him to be shaped in His image.
By God’s grace, we are gifted with the experience of salvation. But that experience does not end with Christ paying our debts; it continues on to even more. We are given a new birth, a new creation, and a new life8 in which we may live in union with Christ according to God’s plan for us. This concept can be seen within the Seventhday Adventist worldview and is expressed in the 28 Fundamental Beliefs. Chapter 10, entitled “The Experience of Salvation,” states, “Through Christ we are justified, adopted as God’s sons and daughters, and delivered from the lordship of sin. Through the Spirit we are born again and sanctified; the Spirit renews our minds, writes God’s law of love in our hearts, and we are given the power to live a holy life. Abiding in Him, we become partakers of the divine nature and have the assurance of salvation now and in the judgment.”9
This is such a beautiful element of the great controversy. Because of what Christ has done for us, we are now empowered by His Spirit to live life the way He intended. Thus, He begins to enact His transformational work within us. Ellen White says, “The Christian’s life is not a modification or improvement of the old, but a transformation of nature. There is death to self and sin, and a new life altogether. This change can be brought about only by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit.”10
The basis of both justification and sanctification is the love of God. It was out of God’s love for us that He sent His Son to die upon the cross in our place. It is out of God’s love for us that He empowers us with the Holy Spirit to live a new and better life. Given this knowledge, how should we respond? By loving Him as He loved us.
The basis of both justification and sanctification is the love of God. It was out of God’s love for us that He sent His Son to die upon the cross in our place. It is out of God’s love for us that He empowers us with the Holy Spirit to live a new and better life.
Some common questions that worldviews seek to answer are: What is the basis for morality? What should be the motivation for my actions?, and How should I behave? First John 4:19 answers all of these questions simply by saying that “We love . . . because . . . [God] first loved us.” What is the basis for morality and our motivation for behavior? The very love of God. How should we act and live our lives? Because He loved us, we are to live in a loving way towards Him and towards others.
Christ is our Redeemer and Rescuer, our Purpose and Motivation, our Example and Sculptor. Although once separated from God by sin, we are now reconciled to Him by the love and blood of Christ. It is through Him that we are saved from our own sin and brought before God as blameless. Because of the grace extended to us, we are able to be the people we were intended to be. Ellen White very beautifully combines this sentiment of Christ’s work for us and in us, saying, “The righteousness by which we are justified is imputed; the righteousness by which we are sanctified is imparted. The first is our title to heaven, the second is our fitness for heaven.”11
At the very center of a biblical worldview is the concept of a loving God who is both transcendent and imminent.12 Jesus’ work of redemption exemplifies this picture of who God is—one who is compassionate and full of both justice and mercy (see Exod 34:6–7; 1 John 4:16). All of this can be seen in Christ’s sacrifice. Ellen White writes, “It is the glory of God to be merciful, full of forbearance, kindness, goodness, and truth. But the justice shown in punishing the sinner is as verily the glory of the Lord as is the manifestation of His mercy.”13
While through the fall we were separated from God by the curse of sin, now through the grace of God we are reconciled to Him. In Christ sin and its barrier are destroyed. Through the work of Christ, our wickedness is cleansed, and we can stand before God faultless. No longer will sin keep us from Him. Instead, we will be reunited. This is the beautiful news of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice. Our personal realities and destinies are caught up with this grace-filled act.
Through Jesus we are justified of our sins. Through Jesus we are gifted a heavenly mediator. Through Jesus we can receive sanctification. Through Jesus we see the true heart of God. “What kindness! What great compassion! The Lord, who is ‘righteousness in all His ways,’ offers His own perfect righteousness to any and every poor, weak, helpless, hopeless sinner who will believe what He says.”14 We have been given the perfect gift of righteousness, and in Jesus we may experience a recreation. In the next article we will see what this re-creation will look like, how it continues to answer questions of worldview, and what kind of impact it has on our lives today.
1 All biblical quotations are from the New King James Version.
2 “‘To turn from evil, and to turn to the good.’ Most critical theologically is the idea of returning to God, or turning away from evil.” “Repentance,” in Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996), quoted in Bible Study Tools, accessed March 10, 2022, https://www. biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakersevangelical-dictionary/.
3 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press), 23.
4 Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1900), 419–420.
5 See also 1 Cor 11:1; 2 Tim 2:7, 14.
6 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1991), 875.
7 See also Rom 5:2–6, 20–21; 1 Cor 3:2–8; 13:10–12; 2 Cor 9:6–10; Eph 4:11–16, 20–24; Col 1:9–10; 2:6–7; Heb 5:12–14; 1 Pet 2:2–3; 2 Pet 1:5–8.
8 See 2 Cor 4:16–17; 5:17; Col 3:9–10.
9 Seventh-day Adventists Believe: A Biblical Exposition of Fundamental Doctrine, 3rd ed. (Silver Spring, MD: Review and Herald, 2018), 135.
10 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1898), 172.
11 Ellen G. White, Messages to Young People (Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing, 1930), 35.
12 James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalogue (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press Academic, 1998), 23–26.
13 Ellen G. White, “Laborers Together With God,” The Review and Herald, March 10, 1904.
14 Arthur Grosvenor Daniells, Christ Our Righteousness (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 2009), 16.
Joseph Kidder, DMin, is professor of Christian ministry and discipleship at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, MI, USA.
Katelyn Campbell is an MDiv and MSW student at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, MI, USA.