Good News for Seventh-Day Adventists
A Review of "The Seventh-day Adventist Message"
|Justification by Faith in the Final Days
Everywhere and on every hand we hear such expressions as: "Righteousness by faith is first and foremost an experience." "Justification is a heart experience." "The main thing is our heart experience with the Lord."
We do not deny the importance of a heart experience as a corollary of justification. But justification is not something which takes place in a man, as the Catholics teach. It takes place in heaven. It is not a making righteous, but an accounting righteous. It is not an infusion of righteousness into the heart, but an imputation of righteousness up in heaven. It is not an ecstatic vision on earth, but a verdict of righteousness upon the fallen sinner on account of Jesus Christ. The sinner is justified by imputed (reckoned) righteousness alone. This righteousness is not seen by the believer, for it is outside of him in the person of Jesus Christ. It is not even sensed by him or felt by him in all kinds of euphoria. It is, as Luther would say, an alien, foreign, extrinsic righteousness. It is, as the Reformers said, a passive righteousness, entirely outside, beyond and above the realm of human experience. It is simply judicially, or forensically, bestowed, and can neither be seen or heard. It is sola fide—solely by faith.
Justification is the biggest thing in the universe. It takes all of God's immeasurable and incomprehensible righteousness to justify a sinner. This cannot be reduced to an intra-human experience. The little human vessel cannot contain all the mighty Amazon of grace. Our fellowship with God is not grounded on our experience with God, but on Christ's experience with God; not on our relationship with Him, but the Son's relationship with Him.
"But," says one, "if we don't experience righteousness, our faith is vain." True, for when faith receives the imputed (outside, passive) righteousness of Christ, the Spirit comes to our hearts as the guarantee, or down payment, of our riches in Jesus (Eph. 1:14). The Spirit imparts righteousness. Righteousness thus becomes a living principle in the life. This is the outgrowth of justification; but this active righteousness is not in any way the righteousness by which we are justified.