MY RESPONSE TO THE SABBATH SCHOOL LESSON STATEMENT
This message was repeatedly sent (with no response) to the GC of the SDA Church and the Office of the Adult Bible Study Guide of the General Conference concerning the following quote from our Sabbath School Lesson ‘Growing in Christ’ (October 27-November 2012):
“From the New Testament’s point of view, Christ’s redemptive death is substitutionary. He took our place… Though some reject this idea because they don’t like the notion of someone suffering in place of another (especially in the place of someone who is guilty), that’s the heart and soul of the gospel message“.
Unfortunately, no other explanation of the problem was presented which seemed to me we believe in a gospel concept we are unable to justify!
The great majority of evangelical churches and Christians today (including majority of us) teach that God saved us in the following way: Because we couldn’t save ourselves, they say, Christ came to our sinful world. He took our sinless human nature, and in this holy nature He perfectly obeyed God’s law instead of us. In this way He substituted our sinful life with His sinless life. He also died instead of us on the cross. And if we believe in it, His righteousness is imputed to us, and we are saved. And that is the end of this popular evangelical gospel popularised by the leaders of the SDA Church as well as majority of our pastors and Church members.
The problem, however, is that this way of salvation doesn’t seem to meet the righteous demands of the law toward us as according to Romans 3.31 God had to maintain his justice and integrity to the law while saving us. It means He had to save us in a legal way, not by bypassing the demands of the law concerning us. And the law says that not someone righteous and holy (Jesus) but we – sinners, had to die!
That is the reason why the Muslim scholars accuse protestant Christians (including us) of proclaiming illegal gospel. They maintain that this popular concept of salvation is unethical, and they even call it “legal fiction.” In order to prove their point they quote two Bible texts:
Deuteronomy 24:16: “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall the children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin.”
Ezekiel 18: 20: “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity.”
The Muslim scholars quote these two texts and they say that no law, including God’s law nor even any human righteous law, would allow someone righteous to die in place of a condemned sinner. Therefore, they declare that the Christian gospel is an unethical legal fiction.
Now, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world today, so if we want to proclaim to them our gospel, which they believe is unethical, we need to find the way to defend the gospel. And it is very surprising to me that according to the above quote from our SSL we have no Biblical ground or argument to defend the gospel truth from the legal point of view! God would never save any sinner by bypassing the holy Law or changing its demands toward us. And according to Apostle Paul it is because God introduced the Gospel through which He saved us in accordance with the righteous requirements of the Law toward us that the Law was vindicated, established and honoured:
“Do we, then, abolish the Law by this faith (Gospel)? Of course not! Instead, we uphold the Law!” (Romans 3:31)
Unfortunately, it seems that the saying according to which ‘we learn from history that people do not learn from history’ has turned to be so true again. It is extremely strange that our own representative Bible Study Guide (Sabbath School Lessons) prepared by the Office of the Adult Bible Study Guide of the General Conference doesn’t seem to be aware of the fact that the solution to this problem was already given us by God over one hundred years ago through Adventist leading theologian – Professor William Warren Prescott.
According to the concept of the gospel presented by him, Jesus didn’t take human sinless nature, He didn’t take the holy nature Adam had before he sinned, but He took the same nature we now have. And this act gave Him the right to become us, to be our representative. Then, in our flesh as us and as our representative Jesus perfectly obeyed God’s law, and finally He took this our representative flesh to the cross, where it was condemned by God and destroyed for ever (Romans 8:3). Therefore. According to Professor Prescott, we were in Jesus when He perfectly obeyed the law as us, and we also were in Him when He died experiencing the second death. Thus we actually were obedient in Him and were punished in Him!
In 1896 professor Prescott wrote in The Bible Echo the following words which according to Ellen White were inspired by Holy Spirit:
“Jesus Christ had exactly the same flesh that we bear, — flesh of sin, flesh in which we sin, flesh, however, in which He did not sin… We were all in Jesus Christ… He was our representative; He became flesh; He became we… All humanity was brought together in Jesus Christ. He suffered on the cross, then, it was the whole family in Jesus Christ that was crucified”.
Many Bible texts can be used to prove this truth. For example:
Rom 6:6: Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with.
Col 3:3: For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
2Co 5:14: For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died.
So, when someone accuses us of proclaiming an unethical gospel we can say, ‘you are wrong, because according to our gospel, not only One died instead of all but also all died in One’. It means that we were actually punished in Jesus, and thus the righteous demands of the law concerning us were met in Jesus (Romans 8.4), and the gospel remains ethical!
Knowing this truth it is also easy to understand the true meaning of the baptism and the communion service. If we already died in Christ and with Him two thousand years ago, if “our old man died in Christ” than what should be done next with this dead “old man”?
Whenever in this world someone dies what do people do with the dead body of that person?
They burry it! Likewise, because we also died in Christ, so what needs to be done with our dead old man? Our old condemned man who died in Christ needs to be buried!
Baptism, therefore, is a burial of our old condemned man and life that already died in Christ two thousand years ago!
Now, is it lawful to burry anyone who is still alive, who didn’t die?
No, it is a horrible crime, and we would go to prison for life for doing this!
But, the sad truth is, that unfortunately, millions of Christians all over the world, including me, were and still are buried alive! They were baptized without any knowledge and acceptance of their death in Christ. And this should be considered as a form of spiritual crime too. Let us stop burying people alive!
Being aware of the fact that we already died in Christ two thousand years ago it is much easier to understand the meaning of the Last Supper or the communion service.
“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”
By participating in the communion service we confess two truths:
- We demonstrate that we accept the historic fact according to which we were united with Christ, we participated in His sufferings in the flesh and His death which took place two thousand years ago;
- By placing the symbols of Christ’s death, and His sufferings into us at the communion service, we also confess that our union with Jesus does not only mean that we were in Him two thousand years ago, but that now He is also dwelling in us in order to make possible our death to sin in our daily life, and to enable us to suffer in the flesh.
Thus both the baptism as well as the communion service point to our perfect, corporate and two-way union with the Lord. This union consists of two aspects, WE IN CHRIST (past) and CHRIST IN US (present). This great and glorious truth, which God called the Advent Movement to proclaim as an Everlasting Gospel as the final message before the second coming of Jesus is expressed by Paul in Galatians 2:20:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me”.
Now, my question is, how it is possible that our representative Bible Study Guide doesn’t seem to know all this and is not able to defend the Gospel Truth?
“There is no excuse for anyone in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed. The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people, is not a proof that our ideas are infallible. Age will not make error into truth. No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation… There are those who oppose everything that is not in accordance with their own ideas… We should be teachable, meek and lowly of heart.” (“Counsels to Writers and Editors”, 35)
Kind Christian regards,
Slawomir “Swavak” Gromadzki