"What is justification by faith? It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself. When men see their own nothingness, they are prepared to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. "– Series A, No. 9, p. 62.
This experience of being justified, or accounted righteous, is an individual matter between the soul and God. It cannot be received by proxy. There is only one door of entrance into this experience –
The Door of Faith
“Faith is the condition upon which God has seen fit to promise pardon to sinners; not that there is any virtue in faith whereby salvation is merited but because faith can lay hold of the merits of Christ, the remedy provided for sin."-Review and Herald,Nov. 4, 1890.
"When we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, we shall have no relish for sin; for Christ will be working with us. . . . A door has been opened, and no man can close it, neither the highest powers nor the lowest; you alone can close the door of your heart, so that the Lord cannot reach you."-Review and Herald, March 18, 1890.
Close beside this door of faith the enemy of all righteousness has placed another door, a broader and more conspicuous entrance –
The Door of Works
Through this door many pilgrims bound for the heavenly Canaan unconsciously enter upon the path which ends in destruction, and sooner or later find that the beautiful garments of self-righteousness have become "filthy rags," entirely unfit to appear in the presence of the King. Of this class it is said:
"Many are losing the right way, in consequence of thinking that they must climb to heaven, that they must do something to merit the favour of God. They seek to make themselves better by their own unaided efforts. This they can never accomplish. Christ has made the way by dying our sacrifice, by living our example, by becoming our great high priest. He declares, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life.' If by any efforts of our own we could advance one step toward the ladder, the words of Christ would not be true." – Review and Herald, Nov. 4, 1890.
"There are many who seem to feel that they have a great work to do themselves before they can come to Christ for His salvation. They seem to think that Jesus will come in at the very last of their struggle, and give them help by putting the finishing touch to their lifework. It seems difficult for them to understand that Christ is a complete Saviour, and able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him. They lose sight of the fact that Christ Himself is 'the way, the truth, and the life.' "-Review and Herald, March 5, 1889.
May the Lord help us all to enter through the right door and be filled with the righteousness of Christ! For each soul there must be performed “the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself.”
Realization of Hopeless Condition
But first of all, in entering into this experience, man must be brought to a realization of his hopeless condition; and this is accomplished “through the impartation of the grace of Christ.”
"Without the grace of Christ, the sinner is in a hopeless condition; nothing can be done for him; but through divine grace, supernatural power is imparted to the man, and works in mind and heart and character. It is through the impartation of the grace of Christ that sin is discerned in its hateful nature, and finally driven from the soul temple. It is through grace that we are brought into fellowship with Christ, to be associated with Him in the work of salvation."-Review and Herald, Nov. 4, 1890.
"Without the grace of Christ, the sinner is in a hopeless condition; nothing can be done for him." That is, the sinner cannot clear himself. Nor can any other sinner help him. The law which he has transgressed cannot pardon nor pass over his sin; nor can anything in this world be found which will furnish deliverance. But "through divine grace, supernatural power is imparted to the man, and works in mind and heart and character." How illuminating and assuring is this word to the sinner! Through divine grace, through the great mercy and compassion of God, provision has been made for imparting “supernatural power” to the hopeless sinner.
But what is "supernatural power"? It is a power far above and beyond anything that resides in man. It is beyond anything that man can lay hold of in this world. It is that "all power ... in heaven and in earth" that Christ declared was given unto Him – that supernatural power by which all His miracles were wrought during His ministry on earth.
Concerning that "supernatural power," the following statement by Dr. Philip Schaff is worthy of consideration:
"All His [Christ's] miracles are but the natural manifestations of His person, and hence they were performed with the same ease with which we perform our ordinary daily works. . . . The supernatural and miraculous element in Christ, let it be borne in mind, was not a borrowed gift or an occasional manifestation. . . . An inward virtue dwelt in His person, and went forth from Him, so that even the fringe of His garment was healing to the touch through the medium of faith, which is the bond of union between Him and the soul." – "The Person of Christ," pp. 76, 77.
It is this same supernatural power which Christ imparts to man, that works in the mind, the heart, and the character.
Now mark the wonderful results, as stated in the further quotation from the Spirit of prophecy: “It is through the impartation of the grace of Christ that sin is discerned in its hateful nature, and finally driven from the soul temple. It is through grace that we are brought into fellowship with Christ, to be associated with Him in the work of salvation.” Thus we see that the “supernatural power” imparted to man through the grace of Christ, works in his mind and his heart, revealing to him the hateful nature of sin, and leading him to permit that corrupting thing to be driven from the soul temple.
The Consent and Choice of the Sinner
But this marvellous work wrought in the heart by the supernatural power of Christ is not done without the consent and choice of the sinner. Note the following:
“Faith is the condition upon which God has seen fit to promise pardon to sinners; not that there is any virtue in faith whereby salvation is merited, but because faith can lay hold of the merits of Christ, the remedy provided for sin. Faith can present Christ's perfect obedience instead of the sinner's transgression and defection. When the sinner believes that Christ is his personal Saviour, then, according to His unfailing promises, God pardons His sin, and justifies him freely. The repentant soul realizes that his justification comes because Christ, as his substitute and surety, has died for him, is his atonement and righteousness.” – Review and Herald, Nov. 4, 1890.
The exercise of faith is our part in the great transaction by which sinners are changed to saints. But we must remember there is no virtue in the faith we exercise "whereby salvation is merited." That is to say, there is no virtue in faith itself, nor in the act of exercising it. The virtue is all in Christ. He is the remedy provided for sin. Faith is the act by which the ruined, helpless, doomed sinner lays hold of the remedy. “Faith can present Christ's perfect obedience instead of the sinner's transgression and defection.” This is truly a sublime thought! It is that marvellous science of redemption in which the saints will rejoice through eternity, yet it is so simple in its operation that the weakest and most unworthy can enter into it in all its meaning and fullness.
Living Faith Accompanied by Action
Entering through the door of faith into the fullness of imputed and imparted righteousness, involves more than a mere mental assent to the provisions laid down. It is the archway of “living faith, that works by love and purifies the soul.” In order to pass this portal, there must be compliance with certain requirements:
1. There must cease to be practice of all known sin, and no longer neglect of known duty.
“But while God can be just, and yet justify the sinner through the merits of Christ, no man can cover his soul with the garments of Christ's righteousness while practicing known sins or neglecting known duties. 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."– Review and Herald, Nov. 4, 1890.
2. Willingness to pay the price – give up all.
"The righteousness of Christ, as a pure white pearl, has no defect, no stain, no guilt. This righteousness may be ours. Salvation, with its blood-bought, inestimable treasures, is the pearl of great price. It may be searched for and found.... In the parable the merchantman is represented as selling all that he had to gain possession of one pearl of great price. This is a beautiful representation of those who appreciate the truth so highly that they give up all they have to come into possession of it." – Review and Herald, Aug. 8, 1899.
3. Entire surrender of wrong habits.
"There are some who are seeking, always seeking, for the goodly pearl. But they do not make an entire surrender of their wrong habits. They do not die to self that Christ may live in them. Therefore they do not find the precious pearl." – Review and Herald, Aug. 8, 1899.
4. The will power placed in co-operation with God.
“The Lord does not design that human power should be paralyzed; but by co-operating with God, the power of man may be efficient for good. God does not design that our will should be destroyed; for it is through this very attribute that we are to accomplish the work He would have us to do both at home and abroad. “ – Review and Herald,Nov. 1, 1892.
How sincerely and earnestly we should follow this clear distinction, and enter fully into the experience of being accounted and made righteous, justified, and sanctified through faith in Christ! How deeply and keenly we should realize our hopeless condition, so far as we can do anything of ourselves! It is only through the grace of God that we can be delivered. How we should cherish the great truth that through divine grace, supernatural power may be imparted to us! We should accept at full value the assurance that sin in all its hatefulness can be driven from the soul temple. We should realize that our part in this great transaction is to choose and accept it by faith, when we have fully complied with the conditions. And every day that comes and goes we should humbly plead before the throne of grace the merits, the perfect obedience, of Christ in the place of our transgressions and sins. And in doing this, we should believe and realize that our justification comes through Christ as our substitute and surety, that He has died for us, and that He is our atonement and righteousness.
If, on our part, this instruction is followed sincerely and wholeheartedly, God will make the results real in our lives; and “therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” Rom. 5:1. We shall experience the joy of salvation, and day by day we shall know the reality of victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.
Let us not rest until we have fully entered through the door of faith into that blessed experience of pardon, justification, righteousness, and peace in Christ.