Friday, April 25, 2008

Defining Terms

It is quite interesting that as someone who enjoys theology, I have never pondered this question before. It seems like a fairly basic question that should have received my attention before, but just recently it has been brought to my consciousness indirectly.

I have been having a friendly dialogue lately with a few individuals whose theology I subscribe to for the most part. I have more in common with them, theologically speaking, than I do with many others. Where we differ is quite important, though. It essentially has to do with the most central aspect of the Christian faith: how a person is "saved."

The statement that I take exception to is the following: Obedience is both a condition for salvation and an ongoing requirement of salvation.

And, in response, this is my main question: what is the difference between salvation, justification, sanctification, forgiveness, pardon, righteousness, eternal life, and so on? Are they one and the same? Are they different? These are all biblical terms, but does the bible use them synonymously, or separate them into differing "aspects" or "phases" of one experience?

I think that some people would draw a distinction between justification and sanctification, to be sure. But is salvation made up of justification and sanctification? In other words, is justification the first phase of salvation, and sanctification the second? Or are justification and salvation synonymous? Furthermore, is salvation and "eternal life" synonymous?

These are things that I need to figure out. And, of course, I am going to turn to the Bible to do so.

But two quick quotes to ponder that relate to this subject. The first comes from my pal, E. J. Waggoner:
In Christ we are "being justified," in other words, being made righteous. To justify means to make righteous. God supplies just what the sinner lacks. Let no reader forget the simple meaning of justification. Some people have the idea that there is a much higher condition for the Christian to occupy than to be justified. That is to say, that there is a higher condition for one to occupy than to be clothed within and without with the righteousness of God. That cannot be (Waggoner on Romans, p. 71).
The second, from the pen of Ellen White: "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" (Messages to Young People, p. 35).

So how do these ideas mesh, along with the biblical witness?


Marty said...

Very good questions. I know one thing well that has been made plain and that it is Righteousness Is By Faith. By faith we are made, considered, imparted and imputed with righteousness.

I've never heard anyone say that we are righteous by what we do or our works. Yet, our actions often seem to say that Sanctification is by our efforts or works and Glorification is something akin to perfection, and we must play a key role in that perfection.

So another question to add to your list in my view is simple, do we really believe that righteousness(all of it) is by faith and if so, what does that mean for the way we live and follow Christ? To me, this fits in with your questions in a reverse sort of way, but an important one.

I'm glad your asking these questions.

Norman McNulty said...

Shawn, thanks for your comment on my blog. The other comment was made by my cousin JD who has departed the SDA faith but is still a Christian. I ordered your book and look forward to reading it. It's good to see fellow young SDAs who believe in the concept of the delay in the second coming and who still believe in the imminent return of Jesus.

As far as obedience and salvation, it is clear from the Bible that obedience does not merit us any salvation, but without it, we will not be saved. Thus, it is a condition, but not a cause of salvation. Obedience merely shows evidence of our faith and justification. Why else would we be judged by our works? Notice how Ellen White clearly connects justification and obedience in 1SM 366: "God requires the entire surrender of the heart, before justification can take place; and in order for man to retain justification, there must be continual obedience, through active, living faith that works by love and purifies the soul."

If we are surrendered, or crucified to self, then it will Christ living in us producing an obedient life and that is justification by faith as taught by Jones and Waggoner and the Bible and SOP.

Again, it's good to see young SDAs like you serious about our faith.

May God bless you.

Shawn Brace said...


Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, I believe that righteousness is by faith. We cannot do anything in our power to become righteous. Only by faith can we lay hold of Christ's righteousness.

Norman, thanks for your thoughts as well. And I'm grateful you bought my book. I hope that you will be blessed by it.

Thank you also for your thoughts on obedience, salvation, etc. I'm just having a tough time wrapping my mind around something, though: how can obedience be a condition for our salvation, but not a cause of it? Maybe I am just too simple-minded to understand the difference between "condition" and "cause," but I haven't heard a good explanation differentiating the two. One of the definitions of "condition" is "that on which something else is contingent," and if that is the case, then my salvation is contingent upon my obedience, thus making my obedience the basis for it. Maybe I'm missing something, though.

On the other hand, I fully appreciate the idea that obedience shows "evidence" of our faith and justification. This seems to be what James means when he says that we cannot have faith without works. But there are some who like to say it's not faith that works, but faith and works. The former idea, which I subscribe to, is too Morris Venden/Jack Sequeira for some (and Pauline, I would add!!!). I guess that is troublesome for them.

Blessings to you both.

Kyle said...


I really need to read your blog more- especially since I'm going to be leaving the grounds of the seminary soon. I really enjoy your questions and thoughts. You know I think part of the problem with the tension between faith and works is that the bible has such different statements. For example Romans 3:28: "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." Yet in James 2:24 it states "You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone." With such apparent contradictions as these it is no wonder that Martin Luther referred to James as an "epistle of straw." However there really is no contradiction. Paul said himself in Romans 2:13 "It is not the hearers of the law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified." And again he says in Philippians 2:12 "work out your salvation with fear and trembling;" I think the problem here is that we think that if we have to work than we are earning our salvation. Jesus took great lengths to explain that are debt is beyond what we can pay. He also illustrates in the parable of the workers that while each worked for different lengths of time they were all paid the same. However many people misinterpret this parable. Lifelong church members believe that they must be the workers that have worked all day long. Those that have been in the faith for years must be those that came at midday while those that come at the end of their lives must be those that come at the end of the day. This is incorrect. All those that are saved are those that come in at the end of the day. None of us can ever deserve our wages. We could work for all eternity but never deserve our wages. This is the beauty of salvation. However let us not miss the point even though all of us come at the end of the day so to speak we must work for our wages. We our not paid proportionately for our work but we still must do so. This is because as Ellen White says there is a "hell to shun and a heaven to gain." However with all this it is still a very difficult issue.

Shawn Brace said...

Yes, Kyle, you do need to read my blog more!!

Thanks for chipping in, too. Good thoughts. I hope you saw my last post, which talks about this subject again.

Incidentally, I mention you a few times - including the acknowledgments - in my new book.

When do you leave for Texas? When is the baby due?