THE UNCHANGEABLE CONDITION FOR ETERNAL LIFE
Life. Abundant life. Complete life. Life free of evil, suffering and death. Life measured after the life of God. Eternal life. This is the great longing of each human being.
The attempts of medical science with their pharmaceutical discoveries of new formulas to arrest disease and combat epidemic outbreaks, etc.; the struggle of man to preserve environmental and ecological conditions that are destroying life; the search of man for new energy sources that will revitalize his being and increase his longevity, are all evidences of this longing.
Unfortunately, the greatest conquests of the human being show how inefficient he is on this subject, because these conquests are not turned to the only true spring of life--God.
However, did God create man to a limited life? A life marked by pain, suffering and finally death? No. The Scriptures assure us that God created man for a life of complete joy and eternal happiness. But what was the condition established by the Creator to assure His creatures of this eternal gift of life?
I. Before the fall of Adam
"And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Gen. 2:15-17.
According to the sacred words the condition was simple and reasonable: "Of all you may eat freely, but not of that one." Therefore, obedience to the order of God, through constant communion with Him, was the only indispensable condition for eternal life.
Some people have questioned: "Why did God place in the center of the garden the tree with forbidden fruit?" "What purpose did God have in putting a stumbling block to the happiness of the human being?" "Wouldn't it been better if He would have said: 'Eat freely of all the trees'?" "Why didn't God create Adam without any possibility of sin?" "Why didn't God withhold the hands of Adam from touching the forbidden fruit?" To the above questions the Spirit of Prophecy gives convincing answers.
"Our first parents, though created innocent and holy, were not placed beyond the possibility of wrongdoing. God made them free moral agents, capable of appreciating the wisdom and benevolence of His character and the justice of His requirements, and with full liberty to yield or to withhold obedience. They were to enjoy communion with God and with holy angels; but before they could be rendered eternally secure, their loyalty must be tested. At the very beginning of man's existence a check was placed upon the desire for self-indulgence, the fatal passion that lay at the foundation of Satan's fall. The tree of knowledge, which stood near the tree of life in the midst of the garden, was to be a test of the obedience, faith, and love of our first parents. While permitted to eat freely of every other tree, they were forbidden to taste of this, on pain of death. They were also to be exposed to the temptations of Satan; but if they endured the trial, they would finally be placed beyond his power, to enjoy perpetual favor with God.
"God placed man under law, as an indispensable condition of his very existence. He was a subject of the divine government, and there can be no government without law. God might have created man without the power to transgress His law; He might have withheld the hand of Adam from touching the forbidden fruit; but in that case man would have been, not a free moral agent, but a mere automaton. Without freedom of choice, his obedience would not have been voluntary, but forced. There could have been no development of character. Such a course would have been contrary to God's plan in dealing with the inhabitants of other worlds. It would have been unworthy of man as an intelligent being, and would have sustained Satan's charge of God's arbitrary rule." PP 48, 49.
Ellen G. White explains objectively the reasons why God placed the tree with the forbidden fruit right in the center of the garden, why God created man with the possibility of doing evil and the reason why He did not stop him from touching the forbidden fruit:
a) Without two options there would be no choice.
b) Without choice there would be no liberty.
c) Without liberty there would be no growth of character.
d) Without complete development of character, man could not enjoy eternal communion with God and value the wisdom and goodness of His character and the justice of His commands. That is, man could not value the fundamental principles of the government of God: justice and mercy. See Psalm 89:14.
e) Without complete and eternal communion with the source of life, man could not live.
f) If God would have created man as an automaton, without freedom of choice, without any possibility of committing evil, "such a course would have been contrary to God's plan in dealing with the inhabitants of other worlds. It would have been unworthy of man as an intelligent being, and would have sustained Satan's charge of God's arbitrary rule." (PP 49).
In summary: "God placed man under law, as an indispensable condition of his very existence....Obedience, perfect and perpetual, was the condition of eternal happiness. On this condition he was to have access to the tree of life." PP 49.
It is evident by the texts shown above that obedience is the only immutable condition for eternal life. But what is the nature of this obedience? What are its main characteristics? E. G. White mentions two. That it is: a) perfect, b) perpetual. Let us analyze them:
a) Perfect obedience of Adam
What do we understand by a perfect obedience required of Adam? Perfect obedience means: complete obedience, entire, total, pure, mental as well as in action. This means that God could not accept the minimum, a mere partial obedience, under the danger of immortalizing sin. "If eternal life were granted on any condition short of this, then the happiness of the whole universe would be imperiled. The way would be open for sin, with all its train of woe and misery, to be immortalized." SC 62.
b) Perpetual obedience of Adam
We cannot forget that the obedience of Adam besides being perfect had to be perpetual. Perpetual obedience is understood to be an obedience without time limit, constant, uninterrupted. This means that God would not accept a perfect obedience which would not be constant, uninterrupted and eternal.
A perfect obedience, but not perpetual, would be exemplified as: on certain days Adam would be good, enjoying perfect communion with God, not sinning in actions nor in thoughts; however, on another day, in a moment of distraction or negligence, perhaps because of something that Eve had said or done with which he did not agree, then he might answer or talk in a tone of voice louder than normal, or perhaps even talking normally, but with an ill-humored face.
Therefore, perfect and perpetual obedience, that is, a pure obedience, complete, total, uninterrupted, without the slightest sin cherished in the mind or manifested by actions, was the only immutable condition for the eternal happiness of Adam and his descendants before the fall.
II. After the fall of Adam
The question, then, that may come to mind, and we intend to answer it, is: "And now, after the fall, is the condition still the same or has God made any changes?"
First of all, for us to admit a change in the conditions, we would have to admit a change in the character of God Himself, because the law which He gave to Adam is the expression of His character, and since the character of God is unchangeable, the condition is also unchangeable.
Secondly, a change in the condition would result in immortalizing sin; since God did not allow this to happens, the conclusion then is that the condition remains changeless.
"The condition of eternal life is now just what it always has been --just what it was in Paradise before the fall of our first parents --perfect obedience to the law of God, perfect righteousness." SC 62
"The Lord requires at this time just what He required of Adam in Eden - perfect obedience to the law of God. We must have righteousness without a flaw, without a blemish." FW 89.
The quotations above are evident and convincing. The condition is exactly the same: "Perfect obedience to the law of God, perfect righteousness." Please note that the characteristic of obedience is the same: perfect. The psalmist David recognized this condition when he exclaimed: "My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness." (Psalm 119:172). And the servant of the Lord finishes it: "The law requires righteousness - a righteous life, a perfect character." (DA 762).
So it is for us, descendants of Adam, that James and Paul wrote respectively: "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." James 2:10. And "not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." Rom 2:13. Therefore, under a holy law, the expression of the will of a holy character, cannot justify the one who does it partially, according to the words of James; or for hearers only, according to the words of Paul. It is clear according to the concept of the apostles, that the law requires justice, a perfect character, nothing more than perfect obedience, that is, complete obedience, total, pure, without the slightest sin, be it in thought or action. Besides, we cannot forget, this obedience cannot be temporary, but constant and perpetual.
Christ, who well knew the exalted character of God expressed in His law, never attempted to bypass this immutable condition to eternal life. To the question of the rich young ruler: "What shall I do to inherited eternal life?" His answer was: "If you want to inherit eternal life, keep the commandments." This should be clear that Christ was not dealing with a partial and temporary obedience, but a perfect and perpetual one.
Do not forget, dear reader: God does not accept anything less than perfect obedience, an obedience without spot or wrinkle, but only that obedience which is complete, constant, perpetual. And this obedience is a radical, immutable and non-negotiable condition to be accepted before God. An unchangeable condition for eternal life. Therefore, it is of no use to try to bypass, or bargain around this reality.
THE CONDITION OF THE HUMAN BEING
Understanding the nature of man and his real condition, before and after the fall, is of vital importance to God's plan of salvation. In the previous chapter our objective was to present the sanctity of the character of God, as revealed in the principles of His law. In this chapter, our objective is to analyze the character and condition of the human being. This could not be done earlier, before the previous chapter, because a real analysis of the human condition is possible only when based in the sacred principles of the law of God. This means that the real understanding of the condition and character of man is possible only when studied in the light of the holiness of the character of God.
I. The condition of man before the fall
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Gen. 1:26,27.
"He who set the starry worlds on high and tinted with delicate skill the flowers of the field, who filled the earth and the heavens with the wonders of His power, when He came to crown His glorious work, to place one in the midst to stand as ruler of the fair earth, did not fail to create a being worthy of the hand that gave him life....
"Man was to bear God's image, both in outward resemblance and in character. Christ alone is 'the express image' (Heb 1:3) of the Father; but man was formed in the likeness of God. His nature was in harmony with the will of God. His mind was capable of comprehending divine things. His affections were pure; his appetites and passions were under the control of reason. He was holy and happy in bearing the image of God and in perfect obedience to His will.
"As man came forth from the hand of his Creator, he was of lofty stature and perfect symmetry. His countenance bore the ruddy tint of health and glowed with the light of life and joy. Adam's height was much greater than that of men who now inhabit the earth. Eve was somewhat less in stature; yet her form was noble, and full of beauty. The sinless pair wore no artificial garments; they were clothed with a covering of light and glory, such as the angels wear. So long as they lived in obedience to God, this robe of light continued to enshroud them." PP 45.
"God made man upright; He gave him noble traits of character, with no bias toward evil. He endowed him with high intellectual powers, and presented before him the strongest possible inducements to be true to his allegiance." PP 49.
"Man was originally endowed with noble powers and a well-balanced mind. He was perfect in his being, and in harmony with God. His thoughts were pure, his aims holy." SC 17
"The first Adam was created a pure, sinless being, without a taint of sin upon him; he was in the image of God. He could fall, and he did fall through transgressing." 5BC 1128.
Let us enumerate the characteristics and conditions of Adam before the fall. According to the inspired statements Adam:
a) Had the image of God.
b) Was pure, sinless, no spot of sin in himself.
c) Had no inclination to evil, that is, was without propensities to sin.
d) Had noble faculties, high intellectual abilities, holy aims, and a very
e) Had health, high stature and perfect symmetry.
f) Had a nature in perfect harmony with the will of God as revealed in His law.
g) Could have fallen, and in fact, he did fall in transgression.
Note that there were two great possibilities for Adam. He could fall because he was created as a free moral entity. But he could also obey perfectly the law of God because he was created with a nature which was in harmony with this law.
Although Adam was created perfect, with a very balanced mind, with noble traits of character, he was not however, created with a character completely developed, since this development is the result of acts and habits formed by trials and difficulties. That is why the obedience of Adam needed to be proved. "They were also to be exposed to the temptations of Satan....Without freedom of choice, his obedience would not have been voluntary, but forced. There could have been no development of character." PP 49. "It was possible for Adam, before the fall, to form a righteous character by obedience to God's law." SC 62. If it were possible for him to form a just character, therefore it is understood that he did not possess one already completely developed.
Perfect and perpetual obedience to the law of God as a condition to Adam's eternal life, was not a divine requirement which he was not able to fulfill; God created him with ample and unlimited ability to satisfy the requirement. Therefore, the accusation of Satan that the divine law could not be obeyed (DA 732) was nothing else than a great falsehood.
II. The condition of man after the fall
"God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." Eccl. 7:29
"For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage." 2 Peter 2:19.
"Through disobedience, his powers were perverted, and selfishness took the place of love. His nature became so weakened through transgression that it was impossible for him in his own strength, to resist the power of evil. He was made captive by Satan. SC 17
"But after his sin, he could no longer find joy in holiness, and he sought to hide from presence of God." SC 17.
"After their sin Adam and Eve were no longer to dwell in Eden. They earnestly entreated that they might remain in the home of their innocence and joy. They confessed that they had forfeited all right to that happy abode, but pledged themselves for the future to yield strict obedience to God. But they were told that their nature had become depraved by sin; they had lessened their strength to resist evil and had opened the way for Satan to gain more ready access to them. In their innocence they had yielded to temptation; and now, in a state of conscious guilt, they would have less power to maintain their integrity." PP 61.
"Because of sin his [Adam's] posterity was born with inherent propensities of disobedience." 5BC 1131.
"God declares, 'There is none righteous, no, not one (Rom 3:10). All have the same sinful nature. All are liable to make mistakes. No one is perfect." In Heavenly Places, 292.
In open contrast with his characteristics and condition before the fall, let us analyze Adam and his descendants after the fall:
a) He did not reflect the image of God any more.
b) In a state of guilt-ridden conscience, he became stained by sin.
c) His faculties became perverted and his mind unbalanced.
d) He became subject to disease, suffering, and finally death.
e) His nature became depraved by sin.
f) He acquired inherent propensities to disobedience.
In this condition, with a depraved nature, sinful, in complete enmity against the law of God, and with inherent propensities to disobedience, can man by himself obey perfectly this law? Obviously not. The texts below confirm our answer:
"Since we are sinful, unholy, we cannot perfectly obey the holy law. We have no righteousness of our own which to meet the claims of the law of God." SC 62.
"The law requires righteousness - a righteous life, a perfect character; and this man has not to give. He cannot meet the claims of God's holy law. DA 762.
"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh' - it could not justify man, because in his sinful nature he could not keep the law." PP 373.
"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Rom. 8:7.
We see in this [which chapter?] second chapter that in light of the justice of the law, only he who obeys perfectly is just, yet we read in the Scriptures that "there is none righteous no not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no not one." Rom. 3:10-12.
"But he who is truly seeking for holiness of heart and life delights in the law of God, and mourns only that he falls so far short of meeting its requirements." SL 81.
Note that this refers to those who are really seeking holiness of heart and life. Therefore, according to the justice of the law, "what is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous? Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?" Job 15:14-18. "How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight. How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm." Job 25:4-6.
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." Is 64:6.
"We cannot provide a robe of righteousness for ourselves, for the prophet says, 'All our righteousness are as filthy rags' (Isa 64:6). There is nothing in us from which we can clothe the soul so that its nakedness shall not appear." TMK (That I May Know Him) 302.
"The prophet Hosea had pointed out what constitutes the very essence of Pharisaism, in the words, 'Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself.' Hosea 10:1. In their professed service to God, the Jews were really working for self. Their righteousness was the fruit of their own efforts to keep the law according to their own ideas and for their own selfish benefit. Hence it could be no better than they were. In their endeavor to make themselves holy, they were trying to bring a clean thing out of an unclean. The law of God is as holy as He is holy, as perfect as He is perfect. It presents to men the righteousness of God. It is impossible for man, of himself, to keep this law; for the nature of man is depraved, deformed, and wholly unlike the character of God. The works of the selfish heart are 'as an unclean thing;" and "all our righteousness are as filthy rags.'" Isa. 64:6.
"We may have flattered ourselves, as did Nicodemus, that our life has been upright, that our moral character is correct, and think that we need not humble the heart before God, like the common sinner: but when the light from Christ shines into our souls, we shall see how impure we are; we shall discern the selfishness of motive, the enmity against God, that has defiled every act of life. Then we shall know that our own righteousness is indeed as filthy rags." CC (Conflict and Courage), 292
Man is not a sinner just because of his sinful actions, but these are the result of his sinfulness. He is not a sinner because he sins, but he sins because he is a sinner. David recognized this fact when he declared:
"I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceived me." Ps 51:5.
Paul confirmed the same truth when he recognized: "Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." Rom. 7:20. "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." Rom 7:22,23.
[I believe the statement found in Education on page 29 paragraph one helps to explain Romans 7 and brings to our attention this important fact: in every person there is only the capacity to do evil but there is also the desire to do good. Unless this desire is present, we would not wish salvation for we would be happy with evil. I believe that the mention of this desire is important in accurately presenting our fallen condition.]
III. An insurmountable abyss
By transgression of the law, man now has an insurmountable abyss. Let us reason: The only unchangeable condition for eternal life is perfect and perpetual obedience to the law of God. With sin, man separated himself from God and placed himself under a situation where he does not have the slightest possibility of obeying the law; yet, God accepts only complete obedience to it.
So, "it is impossible for us, of ourselves, to escape from the pit of sin in which we are sunken. Our hearts are evil, and we cannot change them. 'Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.'...Education, culture, the exercise of the will, human effort, all have their proper sphere, but here they are powerless. They may produce an outward correctness of behavior, but they cannot change the heart; they cannot purify the springs of life." SC 18.
"If you would gather together everything that is good and holy and noble and lovely in man and then present the subject to the angels of God as acting a part in the salvation of the human soul or in merit, the proposition would be rejected as treason." FW 24.
"Let the subject be made distinct and plain that it is not possible to effect anything in our standing before God or in the gift of God to us through creature merit. Should faith and works purchase the gift of salvation for anyone, then the Creator is under obligation to the creature. Here is an opportunity for falsehood to be accepted as truth. If any man can merit salvation by anything he may do, then he is in the same position as the Catholic to do penance for his sins.... Justification by faith is placed beyond controversy. And all this controversy is ended, as soon as the matter is settled that the merits of fallen man in his good works can never procure eternal life for him." FW 23.
"How is it possible for me to be saved?" Do not forget: Salvation is humanly impossible. The only fact that comforts us is the acknowledgement that "the things which are impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:27).
CHART REPRESENTING THE CONDITION OF ADAM BEFORE AND AFTER THE FALL
1) Condition of Adam at creation: Pure, sinless, spotless, without sinful propensities and with a character not fully developed.
2) Condition that Adam should reach: Perfect obedience and a perfectly developed character.
3) Condition that Adam and his descendants reached: Sinful, evildoers, not able to obey perfectly the holy law by themselves.
THE ONLY WAY OUT
In chapter IV we concluded that salvation was a human impossibility, but certainly a divine possibility. The broken law called for the death of the transgressor, because he could not atone for himself. Only a Being equal to God could atone for fallen man in his condemnation. This man also had to be in the same condition of Adam to be able to redeem him from his transgression. More than this, he should also be in the same condition as fallen man to be able to bring him again into harmony with God. Only a being who could represent God perfectly before man, and who could perfectly represent man before God, could redeem fallen humanity. An angel could not be this perfect representative. His life could not pay the debt of a broken law.
"In all the universe there was but one who could, in behalf of man, satisfy its claims. Since the divine law is as sacred as God Himself, only one equal with God could make atonement for its transgression. None but Christ could redeem fallen man from the curse of the law and bring him again into harmony with heaven. Christ would take upon Himself the guilt and shame of sin - sin so offensive to a holy God that it must separate the Father and His Son. Christ would reach to the depths of misery to rescue the ruined race." - PP 63.
This perfect representative of God and man is the Lord Jesus Christ. In this chapter we will deal with His marvelous work of redemption on our behalf.
1. Perfect obedience of Christ for us
"In the opening of the great controversy, Satan had declared that the law of God could not be obeyed, that justice was inconsistent with mercy, and that, should the law be broken, it would be impossible for the sinner to be pardoned. Every sin must meet its punishment, urged Satan; and if God should remit the punishment of sin, He would not be a God of truth and justice. When men broke the law of God, and defied His will, Satan exulted. It was proved, he declared, that the law could not be obeyed; man could not be forgiven." - DA 761.
When man transgressed the divine law, Satan rejoiced because it constituted a strong argument against the sacred principles of God's character. The basis for his arguments at that time were: 1) "If God forgives man, then it is established that He is not a God of justice, because He made a law that could not be obeyed. 2) If God destroys man, then it is proven that God is not a God of mercy because He made a law that could not be obeyed, and now the transgressor had to be destroyed unjustly." Thus Satan tried to malign the character of God before the angels and the inhabitants of the unfallen worlds.
Heaven, however, had already outlined a plan of salvation by which man could be forgiven and taken out of the abyss in which he found himself, without voiding or invalidating the high principles of the law of God. A plan that would make of none effect the arguments presented by Satan and vindicate the glory and beauty of God's character before all the universe.
"But the plan of redemption had a yet broader and deeper purpose than the salvation of man. It was not for this alone that Christ came to the earth; it was not merely that the inhabitants of this little world might regard the law of God as it should be regarded; but it was to vindicate the character of God before the universe." - PP 68.
Note how widespread was the plan of redemption. Its double purpose, the salvation of man and the vindication of the character of God before the universe, would come to pass only through the life of perfect and continuous obedience of Christ as the "second Adam."
Satan, who well knew this double purpose, did not spare any efforts to induce the Son of God to sin. "When Jesus came into the world, Satan's power was turned against Him. From the time when He appeared as a babe in Bethlehem, the usurper worked to bring about His destruction. In every possible way he sought to prevent Jesus from developing a perfect childhood, a faultless manhood, a holy ministry, and an unblemished sacrifice. But he was defeated. He could not lead Jesus into sin." - DA 759.
"Could one sin have been found in Christ, had He in one particular yielded to Satan to escape the terrible torture, the enemy of God and man would have triumphed." - DA 761.
"Could Satan in the least particular have tempted Christ to sin, he would have bruised the Saviour's head. As it was, he could only touch His heel. Had the head of Christ been touched, the hope of the human race would have perished. Divine wrath would have come upon Christ as it came upon Adam. Christ and the church would have been without hope." 1SM 256.
What great responsibility rested on the Son of God! One can only imagine the strength of the temptations weighing upon Him! Thanks be to God for His victory. His perfect obedience disaffirmed and defeated Satan.
"Through Jesus, God's mercy was manifested to men; but mercy does not set aside justice. The law reveals the attributes of God's character, and not a jot or tittle of it could be changed to meet man in his fallen condition. God did not change His law, but He sacrificed Himself, in Christ, for man's redemption. 'God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.'" - DA 762.
Let us consider the marvelous plan of salvation: 1) The broken law demanded death for the transgressor. 2) The sinner should only be forgiven if there would be a substitute who could bear his guilt and condemnation. 3) This substitute should be in perfect harmony with all the requirements of the law. Thank God for Jesus, our wonderful substitute!
About the perfect vicarious obedience of Christ, the prophet Isaiah, seven centuries before His birth, had prophesied: "The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable." Is. 42:21. And on this same mission, the Lord Jesus declared: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Matt. 5:17, 18.
We recognize that, on one side, the evangelical preachers actually emphasize Christ's death, but on the other hand, they have forgotten the precious value of His life in perfectly obeying the law of God. When we mention the "merits of Christ," "in Christ's righteousness," we are talking about His perfect obedience to the law, as the Bible concept of righteousness in perfect obedience to the commandments of God (Ps. 119:172).
If we recognize that the unchangeable condition of eternal life is perfect obedience to the law of God, and that the only basis of our acceptance before God is the imputed righteousness of Christ, out of necessity we must admit that we are accepted by God only on the basis of the perfect obedience of Christ in our place. There would be no value in His death if He had not obtained complete victory over sin in His life. As He died in our stead, we must recognize that He lived a life of 33 years of perfect obedience in our place. Therefore, we are saved by His life as well as by His death. While His death redeems us of our guilt, His life gives us assurance of the right to eternal life. Let us consider some inspired references that will confirm this precious truth:
"This holy Substitute is able to save to the uttermost; for He presented to the wondering universe perfect and complete humility in His human character, and perfect obedience to all the requirements of God." - 1SM 256.
"By His obedience to all the commandments of God, Christ wrought out a redemption for men. This was not done by going out of Himself to another, but by taking humanity into Himself." - 1SM 250.
"That Christ was obedient even unto the death of the cross is a pledge of the repenting sinner's acceptance with the Father." - FW 107.
"For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so BY THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF ONE THE FREE GIFT CAME UPON ALL MEN UNTO JUSTIFICATION OF LIFE."
Why do many became righteous "by the obedience of one (Christ)?"
Ellen G. White wrote: "Christ had in Him an excellency of character which could not be found in anyone else." 2SP 39. This is the reason why "man's obedience can be made perfect only by the incense of Christ's righteousness which fills with divine fragrance every act of obedience." - AA 532.
"How is it possible for many to be justified 'by the obedience of one' (Christ)?"
This would be possible only if the obedience (Christ's) would be effected vicariously, that is, by substituting the disobedience of many who would be justified by it. This is exactly what Christ did in our stead. He obeyed vicariously and perfectly well the law at the same level as God required of Adam as the condition for eternal life. Thus, we must believe and accept by faith, that this perfect obedience of Christ (imputed righteousness) is ours, because Jesus offers it to us free, under the condition of believing Him.
"Every soul may say: 'By His perfect obedience He has satisfied the claims of the law, and my only hope is found in looking to Him as my substitute and surety, WHO OBEYED THE LAW PERFECTLY FOR ME. By faith in His merits I am free from the condemnation of the law. He clothes me with His righteousness, which answers all the demands of the law. I am complete in Him who brings in everlasting righteousness. He presents me to God in the spotless garment of which no thread was woven by any human agent. All is of Christ, and all the glory, honor, and majesty are to be given to the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world." - 1SM 396.
If we only accept the precious truth of the Word of God that we are just "by the obedience of one" (Christ's), as well as that we became sinners, "by the disobedience of one" (Adam's), we shall be immune forever to the fatal error of trusting in our obedience as a merit toward our salvation.
II. The perfect sacrifice of Christ for us
If on one the hand, a perfect and perpetual obedience of Christ disproved Satan and vindicated God's character before the universe, proving that His law could be obeyed; on the other hand, the mere obedience in itself was not sufficient to atone for the guilt and condemnation weighing upon fallen man. It simply confirmed Christ's qualifications as the only One who could perform such an atonement.
"[Christ's whole life was a preface to His death on the cross. His character was a life of obedience to all God's commandments, and was to be a sample for all men upon the earth. His life was the living of the law in humanity. That law Adam transgressed. But Christ, by His perfect obedience to the law redeemed Adam's disgraceful failure and fall." - FE 382.
In the typical ceremonies, the spotless lamb did not atone for the guilt of the transgressor. It was necessary for the transgressor to confess his guilt upon the lamb, and then sacrifice it. Through this system God desired to teach His people an object lesson that "without shedding of blood there is no remission" of sin (Heb. 9:22). Similarly, the perfect obedience of Christ was not sufficient to atone for the guilt of the sinner. It was necessary that upon Him rest the guilt and condemnation of all humanity and that with His own blood He would pay the high price demanded by the law.
Comparing the old system of worship and Christ's work of atonement, Paul wrote: "Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." Heb. 9:9-12.
The Messianic prophet wrote concerning this sublime sacrifice: "Surely he hath born our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong: because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." Isa. 53:4-12.
"As soon as there was sin, there was a Savior. Christ knew that He would have to suffer, yet He became man's substitute. As soon as Adam sinned, the Son of God presented Himself as surety for the human race, with just as much power to avert the doom pronounced upon the guilty as when He died upon the cross of Calvary." - RH March 12, 1901.
"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God comendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Rom. 5:6-8.
"For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead." 2 Cor. 5:14.
"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Rom. 6:6,7,11.
'God's love has been expressed in His justice no less than in His mercy. Justice is the foundation of His throne, and the fruit of His love. It had been Satan's purpose to divorce mercy from truth and justice. He sought to prove that the righteousness of God's law is an enemy to peace. But Christ shows that in God's plan they are indissolubly joined together; the one cannot exist without the other. 'Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.' Ps. 85:10.
"By His life and His death, Christ proved that God's justice did not destroy His mercy, but that sin could be forgiven, and that the law is righteous, and can be perfectly obeyed. Satan's charges were refuted. God had given man unmistakable evidence of His love." - DA 762.
"For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." Col. 3:3,4.
"Christ felt much as sinners will feel when the vials of God's wrath shall be poured out upon them. Black despair, like the pall of death, will gather about their guilty souls, and then will realize to the fullest extent the sinfulness of sin. Salvation has been purchased for them by the suffering and death of the Son of God. It might be theirs, if they would accept of it willingly, gladly; but none are compelled to yield obedience to the law of God. If they refuse the heavenly benefit and choose the pleasure and deceitfulness of sin, they have their choice, and at the end receive their wages, which is the wrath of God and eternal death." 1TT 229.
WHAT GREAT AND UNSPEAKABLE LOVE OF GOD!
III. A wonderful and amazing exchange
"The law requires righteousness - a righteous life, a perfect character; and this man has not to give. He cannot meet the claims of God's law. But Christ, coming to the earth as man, lived a holy life, and developed a perfect character. These He offers as a free gift to all who will receive them. His life stands for the life of men." DA 762.
"The condition of eternal life is now just what it always has been - just what it was in Paradise before the fall of our first parents - perfect obedience to the law of God, perfect righteousness....
"It was possible for Adam, before the fall, to form a righteous character by obedience to God's law. But he failed to do this, and because of his sin our natures are fallen and we cannot make ourselves righteous. Since we are sinful, unholy, we cannot perfectly obey the holy law. We have no righteousness of our own with which to meet the claims of the law of God. But Christ has made a way of escape for us. He lived a sinless life. He died for us, and now He offers to take our sins and give us His righteousness. If you give yourself to Him and accept Him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ's character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned." SC 62.
Observe that in the two inspired quotations above is summarized the whole subject we have presented up to now, the wonderful provision made by Heaven for man's escape to take man out of the insurmountable abyss he found himself. Let us analyze carefully these precious gems of truth:
1. The condition for eternal life is the same today as it was for our first parents before the fall--perfect obedience to the law of God, perfect righteousness.
2. Adam could, before the fall, obey the law of God perfectly well, but he voluntarily stopped obeying it.
3. Because of Adam's sin we have inherited a polluted and sinful nature, preventing man, which is separated from God, to perfectly obey His holy law.
4. Christ has granted us a marvelous way of escape. How?
5. He lived 33 years of perfect obedience, completely satisfying the condition for eternal life.
6. Besides His sinless life, He died as the greatest sinner only because He assumed our sins.
7. He has freely offered us His perfect obedience, His perfect character and the only condition is for us to accept Him as Redeemer.
8. This is the only way to our justification. Only thus can God justify us, that is, consider us as though we had never sinned.
"Righteousness is obedience to the law. The law demand righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinner's account. Christ's righteousness is accepted in place of man's failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though he were righteous, and loves him as He loves His Son. This is how faith is accounted righteousness; and the pardoned soul goes on from grace to grace, from light to a greater light. He can say with rejoicing, 'Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved 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 by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life' (Titus 3:5-7)." 1SM 367.
It is not difficult to understand the great divine method to justify the sinner. What is needed is only to have faith (which is also a gift of God) to accept and be benefited by the marvelous exchange made by Christ.
"Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. 'With His stripes we are healed.'" - DA 25.
What a marvelous transformation! What a precious message! What a wonderful exchange! From our part Christ takes: a) our human nature; b) our sins; c) our anxieties and sufferings; d) our guilt and condemnation, and e) our eternal death. In exchange He freely offers: a) a share of His divine nature; b) His immaculate character which is His righteousness; c) freedom of guilt and condemnation; d) peace and happiness in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17); e) holy life; and finally f) eternal life.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.... He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of god abideth on him." John 3:16, 36.
When we analyze this great plan of salvation from the divine perspective, we can only exclaim: "What an amazing exchange!..." But when we realize the great benefits bestowed upon us, with grateful hearts and overflowing joy we exclaim: "What a wonderful exchange!"
Before such a marvelous way of escape, shall we rebel against the Son of God?
GRAPH REPRESENTING THE CONDITION REACHED BY THE "SECOND ADAM (CHRIST)
1) State of innocence of Christ at incarnation.
2) Perfect obedience: the unchangeable condition for eternal life.
3) Condition imputed to Christ at His death.
1) Condition of Christ at incarnation: Pure, sinless, spotless, without sinful propensities and without a completed developed character.
2) Condition that Christ attained: Perfect obedience and character completely developed.
3) Condition imputed to Christ at the time of His death: All defects of character and transgressions of humanity.
GRAPH REPRESENTING OF THE MARVELOUS EXCHANGE OF CHRIST
1) Condition in which man, in Christ, is placed when justified. God considers him as though he had never sinned.
2) Condition reached through sanctification and glorification at the time of Christ's second return.
3) Condition in which Christ was put as our substitute and pledge for our justification.
THE MARVELOUS GIFT OF GOD
"But God, who is rich in mercy, for this great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved); and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Eph. 2:4-10.
"When at the foot of the cross the sinner looks up to the One who died to save him, he may rejoice with fullness of joy, for his sins are pardoned. Kneeling in faith at the cross, he has reached the highest place which man can attain." - AA 209, 210.