The Blotting Out of Sin
At the outset of our study we will take a look at several passages of inspiration which lay a basis for the direction we pursue. These passages are arranged to show a successive line of logical thought and conclusion.
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
This passage points out at least two things. One, that there is a blotting out of sin at some time in the future which is connected with the "Times of refreshing;" and two, that repenting and being converted is an essential part of the preparation needed for this event of the blotting out of sins. The fact that the blotting out of sins is something future from repentance and conversion shows that repentance and conversion does not accomplish the blotting out of sin. It is therefore an experience distinct from initial conversion and forgiveness of sin. Thus the blotting out of sin is a part of the Christian experience which is preceded by the experience of conversion and initial justification.
The Levitical system of sanctuary services had a service carried on day by day in which a repentant sinner could bring a sacrifice and receive atonement, or forgiveness, for his transgression. See Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35; 5:10, 13, 16, 18; 6:7.
But once a year on the Day of Atonement a special service took place, which was not available on any other day of the year. This special atonement was in addition to the daily atonement available the rest of the year. This atonement is described in Leviticus 23:27-32. Every soul of the congregation was required to be present and take part. Leviticus 16 describes this service in more detail. This atonement, unlike the daily atonement, was made for the two apartments of the sanctuary (v. 16), for the altar of incense (v. 18), for all the congregation of Israel to cleanse them from all their sin (v. 30), as well as for the priests (v. 33 and v. 6).
We see then that even though a person was forgiven when atonement was made for his sins in the daily service, it was not until the atonement which took place on the day of atonement had been accomplished that the people could be said to have been cleansed from their sins and be clean (v. 30). This is very significant. We are thus shown that while the repentant sinner was forgiven for his sin by the daily atonement, he was not cleansed until the Day of Atonement. Special benefits of final cleansing were available on this day to the individual who had previously been forgiven in the daily service. (For further discussion of these two services see GC 419-422).
As the sanctuary system is a portrayal of developments of salvation in our experience, we can thus see that there are clearly two divisions of experience presented. There are two developments of experience made available through Christ's priestly ministry, -the first an experience of forgiveness represented by the daily service; and the second a final cleansing or atonement represented by the once-a-year service. The result of this final atonement experience would therefore be a cleansing for eternity, --truly a blotting out of sin.
The experience of the blotting out of sins is the experience brought to view in the third angel's message, which produces a people who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and are distinguished for their patience. They receive the seal of God while the rest of the world receives the mark of the beast. This experience then is the result to be accomplished by the message committed to the Advent Movement, -the third Angel's message. This is to say that the central focus of the truth committed to the Advent Movement is the final cleansing of sin, a complete blotting out, a bringing an end of sin in a final and ultimate sense.
The Lord tells us by the pen of E.G. White:
The enemy of all souls hates the great truths that bring to view and all powerful Mediator and a final atonement and cleansing for sin.
Knowing the vital significance and impact of the understanding and experience of the blotting out of sin for God's people, he has used every possible device and deception to keep them in ignorance of it. He has done this by different means. One of these has been to cause the mediation of Christ to be presented in a dry and lifeless way, divested of its true heart appeal; by making it seem that the blotting out of sins and kindred truths are mostly theoretical and philosophical details to be worked out in the distant courts of heaven, thus making them to be of little importance in our practical day-to-day living; by making these important truths seem so complicated that without theological degrees and training it is impossible for the average or simple person to understand it.
In this study we will not try to cover every detail that has any bearing on the blotting out of sin, but we would like to try to see the relevance and practical meaning of it for the every-day life. It is the purpose of this study to provide a framework of understanding that can be used as a guide for further study.
Why Have a Blotting Out of Sins and What Is It?
Most Protestants today see no difference between forgiveness of sins made possible by Christ's sacrifice at Calvary, and the blotting out of sins. Any message teaching of a future blotting out of sins is viewed as detracting from the all-sufficient merits of Christ's sacrifice.
But as we have already seen, the sanctuary service shows a two-fold process in making atonement. Whether we choose to call it dual atonement or initial atonement and final atonement it is still clearly evident that atonement requires two stages of work, one being preparatory to the other. One provides a temporary reprieve, a hold on the effects of sin. The other finally makes a permanent and unalterable cancellation of sin, and shows one to be eternally secure from sin. One is revocable and temporary. The other is irrevocable and permanent. Notice how this is described:
Important truths concerning the atonement are taught by the typical service. A substitute was accepted in the sinner's stead; but the blood of the victim did not cancel the sin. A means was thus provided by which it was transferred to the sanctuary. By the offering of blood the sinner acknowledged the authority of the law, confessed his guilt in transgression, and expressed his desire for pardon through faith in a Redeemer to come; but he was not yet entirely released from the condemnation of the law. On the Day of Atonement the high priest, having taken an offering from the congregation, went into the most holy place with the blood of this offering, and sprinkled it upon the mercy seat, directly over the law, to make satisfaction for its claims. Then, in his character of mediator, he took the sins upon himself and bore them from the sanctuary. Placing his hands upon the head of the scapegoat, he confessed over him all these sins, thus in figure transferring them from himself to the goat. The goat then bore them away, and they were regarded as forever separated from the people.
Several observations will perhaps reinforce this point. The fact that in the sanctuary service a daily sacrifice took place is evidence of an on going provision for dealing with the commission of sin, a virtual acknowledgment that the provisions of its atonement were not once-for-all, while the yearly atonement service was a one time service. The entire congregation was to be present; all sins were atoned for in its service.
We thus can see the connection of the yearly or final atonement and the blotting out of sins. The fact that all the sins were atoned for in the yearly Day of Atonement shows that all previous atonement did not sufficiently deal with all the problems of sin. This final atonement in the Levitical service was not for additional sins not previously atoned for, but rather only for sins previously atoned for. This shows that the daily atonement was a necessary part of the preparation for the yearly atonement. It also suggests that the yearly atonement didn't have provision to compensate for the lack of what was accomplished by the daily atonement.
One thing is very evident from the discussion in Great Controversy, --that even though a substitute was accepted in the sinner's behalf (in the daily service) the sin (though forgiven) was not canceled (blotted out). The sinner "was not yet entirely released from the condemnation of the law." The narrative shows how this was not possible until the Day of Atonement. Substitution did not cancel sin; but it did buy time for another chance!
It is very difficult to fully grasp the stupendous impact and implications of this fact. Let us consider what it means to not be entirely released from condemnation. This means that the forgiven sinner is not entirely released from his responsibility for sin. He still has a level of accountability. He is not entirely released from the guilt for his sin. To not be entirely relieved of condemnation is synonymous to not being entirely released from guilt. To not be entirely released from guilt means that it must be recognized and dealt with at some future time. With this in mind we can see that the providing of a substitute in the sinners stead put off for the time the facing of accountability. This then means that not until the complete blotting out of sin, or canceling of it, is the sinner fully free from guilt.
Again we would draw attention to the sanctuary service; the Hebrews?sanctuary services illustrate this point very well. See Leviticus 4:22-26, where forgiveness was obtained when a sin was confessed and certain rituals had been performed. This was referred to as "the priest" making "atonement for him." Yet the sin had not been canceled out, the atonement was not complete. There were still further things that were necessary in order for the sin to be fully removed. In the Day of Atonement which took place once a year, a further work was done for the individual, for the purpose of dealing with his sin (See Leviticus 16:29-30). A little thought will show that if the individual's sins still had to be dealt with in some way at this time, then the sins must not have been completely canceled out; and furthermore that they were still a source of undesirable effects of some kind, otherwise it would not be necessary for any atonement to be made for them. The fact that sins are not canceled, or blotted out, for the believer at the time he receives forgiveness can be seen from the following:
Matthew 18:23-35 (The parable of the unmerciful servant).
In this parable the servant who had been forgiven of his debt of 10,000 talents, by his own course of action toward his fellow servant caused the forgiveness that he had received to be revoked. His debt was turned back on his own head just the same as if he had never been forgiven.
Ezekiel 3:18-21; 18:20-24; 33:12-16.
In these verses the principle is brought out that the present course of action determines whether a person's past is held to their account. This is true for either righteousness or wickedness.
'But if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.' Rom 8:9. He is alienated from God, fitted only for eternal separation from Him. It is true he may once have received forgiveness; but his unmerciful spirit shows that he now rejects God's pardoning love. He has separated himself from God, and is in the same condition as before he was forgiven. He has denied his repentance, and his sins are upon him as if he had not repented.
We need to see that there is no defect or weakness in God's forgiveness. What we need to see clearly is that there is more to the saving of man than just forgiving him of his sins. We need to also see that forgiveness is more than a legal act on the records of heaven to make the procedure correct. Notice what these statements say about the real meaning of forgiveness:
God's forgiveness is not merely a judicial act by which He sets us free from condemnation. It is not only forgiveness for sin, but reclaiming from sin. It is the outflowing of redeeming love that transforms the heart.
The religion of Christ means more than the forgiveness of sin; it means taking away our sins, and filling the vacuum with the graces of the Holy Spirit.
To be pardoned in the way that Christ pardons, is not only to be forgiven, but to be renewed in the spirit of our mind. The Lord says, 'A new heart will I give unto thee.' The image of Christ is to be stamped upon the very mind, heart, and soul.
We see then that when God forgives us, there occurs a change of heart in us. This is called regeneration, or conversion. To be converted is to be forgiven. To be forgiven is to be converted. There is no difference between the two. Another term, which means the same as forgiveness and conversion, is justification. Justification is just a theological term that simply means forgiveness, which, when we experience it, is called conversion. Thus justification, forgiveness, and conversion are all terms, which mean the same thing in terms of our salvation.
1 SM 389
When God pardons the sinner, remits the punishment he deserves, and treats him as though he had not sinned, He receives him into divine favor, and justifies him through the merits of Christ's righteousness.
If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your Savior, 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. More than this, Christ changes the heart.
So we see that when God forgives a person He changes their heart. This is necessary in order for them to be able to live in harmony with His will. Study carefully the following points:
1. Only a righteous person can keep God's law; only a person who has never offended even in one point can stand before the law without guilt. James 2:10; Romans 8:6,7.
2. One sin committed is sufficient to change one from being righteous to being unrighteous; only one sin causes a person to be unrighteous. I Jn. 3:4; 5:17.
3. In order for us to keep God's law we must be changed from a condition of unrighteousness to a condition of righteousness. This must take place before we can do any righteousness. "You must be good before you can do good." MB 126). It is by Justification (or conversion) that God makes us righteous in order that we might begin to keep His law and develop his attributes in our characters.
It should be apparent at this point that Justification involves a work which takes place outside of us (accounted righteous and punishment remitted), as well as a work that takes place inside of us (relief from guilt and made righteous), both of which are accomplished by the Lord through faith. And this is all done in order that we might develop a righteous character, and righteous character is developed through righteous acts repeated until they form righteous habits. Thus, every time we sin we must be reconverted, or justified again, or made righteous again, before we can do any righteousness again. This is why we read:
3 SM 196
Just as soon as you commit sin, you should flee to the throne of grace, and tell Jesus all about it. You should be filled with sorrow for your sin, because through sin you have weakened your own spirituality, grieved the heavenly angels, and wounded and bruised the loving heart of your Redeemer.
The main point in all of the forgoing discussion is to show that if a person turns his back on his former repentance and conversion then he has rejected the forgiveness which he formerly had; he is now in an unconverted state, just as he was before he was ever forgiven at first. The weakness lies not in God's forgiveness, but rather in the fact that because we have the power of choice we are always free to turn from, and reject our former experience of forgiveness, it would not be safe for God to cancel out (or blot out) our sins, for we might soon sin again and our case would then be hopeless since we are only granted one period of probation in which to develop perfect characters.
The Nature of Sin
The idea that sin is not totally canceled by forgiveness is a new (and often objectionable) idea even to many Seventh-day Adventists. But it is essential that we understand the nature of sin. The introduction of sin into the human experience and nature produced a radical change in man. There are several ingredients of sin's effect in the human experience. Of these the most significant are:
(1) the bondage to commission of sin; and
(2) the guilt of sin.
These two areas are important to keep distinct from each other in our discussion of how sin is dealt with since each of these results of sin requires a specific work. Let us take a look at the special characteristics of each of these areas.
 The Bondage of Sin
This is the ability of a committed sin to so affect the nature that it becomes a tendency of disposition. This is why the commission of just one sin makes it easier to repeat the sin (see SC 34). The tremendous power of even one sin to break down resistance and resolve and lead not only to the repetition of the sin, but also to the commission of other sins is well known. We all have experienced the bondage of sin, and how easy the habits of sin can form and hold us in the clutches of its bondage. We shall refer to this as the bondage of the commission of sin. Many of us have spent lifetime efforts in the struggle to overcome the commission of sin. We know the agonizing struggle involved in gaining victory over the habits of sin, and how multiplied their manifestations in our experience. More recently there have been some philosophies that have gained surprising popularity within Adventism that teach that effort put into resisting temptation and into overcoming sin are legalistic do-it-yourself efforts. Unfortunately, proponents of this philosophy have become some of the most widely sought campmeeting speakers and some of the most widely published authors being translated into many foreign languages. *
Let us note several passages of inspiration that put this matter in its proper perspective:
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood striving against sin.
2 Peter 1:4-11
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
6 BC 1111
When you look to Calvary it is not to quiet your soul in the non-performance of duty, not to compose yourself to sleep, but to create faith in Jesus, faith that will work, purifying the soul from the slime of selfishness. When we lay hold of Christ by faith, our work has just begun. Every man has corrupt and sinful habits that must be overcome by vigorous warfare. Every soul is required to fight the fight of faith. If one is a follower of Christ, he cannot be sharp in deal, he cannot be hardhearted, devoid of sympathy. He cannot be coarse in his speech. He cannot be full of pomposity and self-esteem. He cannot be overbearing, nor can he use harsh words, and censure and condemn.
'If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.' 2 Corinthians 5:17. Through the power of Christ, men and women have broken the chains of sinful habit. They have renounced selfishness. The profane have become reverent, the drunken sober, the profligate pure. Souls that have borne the likeness of Satan have become transformed into the image of God. This change is in itself the miracle of miracles. A change wrought by the Word, it is one of the deepest mysteries of the Word. We cannot understand it; we can only believe, as declared by the Scriptures, it is "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
But because this experience is his, the Christian is not therefore to fold his hands, content with that which has been accomplished for him. He who has determined to enter the spiritual kingdom will find that all the powers and passions of unregenerate nature, backed by the forces of the kingdom of darkness, are arrayed against him. Each day he must renew his consecration, each day do battle with evil. Old habits, hereditary tendencies to wrong, will strive for the mastery, and against these he is to be ever on guard, striving in Christ's strength for victory.
Moses had been learning much that he must unlearn. The influences that had surrounded him in Egypt--the love of his foster mother, his own high position as the king's grandson, the dissipation on every hand, the refinement, the subtlety, and the mysticism of a false religion, the splendor of idolatrous worship, the solemn grandeur of architecture and sculpture--all had left deep impressions upon his developing mind and had molded, to some extent, his habits and character. Time, change of surroundings, and communion with God could remove these impressions. It would require on the part of Moses himself a struggle as for life to renounce error and accept truth, but God would be his helper when the conflict should be too severe for human strength. . . .
In order to receive God's help, man must realize his weakness and deficiency; he must apply his own mind to the great change to be wrought in himself; he must be aroused to earnest and persevering prayer and effort. Wrong habits and customs must be shaken off; and it is only by determined endeavor to correct these errors and to conform to right principles that the victory can be gained. Many never attain to the position that they might occupy, because they wait for God to do for them that which he has given them power to do for themselves. All who are fitted for usefulness must be trained by the severest mental and moral discipline, and God will assist them by uniting divine power with human effort.
The love of God in the soul will have a direct influence upon the life and will call the intellect and the affections into active, healthful exercise. The child of God will not rest satisfied until he is clothed with the righteousness of Christ and sustained by His life-giving power. When he sees a weakness in his character, it is not enough to confess it again and again; he must go to work with determination and energy to overcome his defects by building up opposite traits of character. He will not shun this work because it is difficult. Untiring energy is required of the Christian; but he is not obliged to work in his own strength; divine power awaits his demand. Everyone who is sincerely striving for the victory over self will appropriate the promise, "My grace is sufficient for thee."
Through personal effort joined with the prayer of faith the soul is trained. Day by day the character grows into the likeness of Christ. . . . It may cost a sever conflict to overcome habits which have been long indulged, but we may triumph through the grace of Christ. . .
If we are true to the promptings of the Spirit of God, we shall go on from grace to grace and from glory to glory until we shall receive the finishing touch of immortality.
There is a phrase in this last passage that is worthy of special mention, "grace to grace." There are several different terms used to express this idea of progressive development of experience. The steps of growth in individual Christian experience are referred to these phrases: "faith to faith," "grace to grace."
It is also described as advancing from "one stage of perfection to another." (See MLT 250)
In order to clearly understand the relation of this process of growing to the experience of conversion we shall take a closer look at both of these parts of Christian experience. The importance of clearly seeing the bearing and place of these two areas (conversion and sanctification) can be discerned from the following passages:
IIn the truths of His word, God has given to men a revelation of Himself; and to all who accept them they are a shield against the deceptions of Satan. It is a neglect of these truths that has opened the door to the evils which are now becoming so widespread in the religious world. The nature and the importance of the law of God have been, to a great extent, lost sight of. A wrong conception of the character, the perpetuity, and the obligation of the divine law has led to errors in relation to conversion and sanctification, and has resulted in lowering the standard of piety in the church. Here is to be found the secret of the lack of the Spirit and power of God in the revivals of our time.
It is the work of conversion and sanctification to reconcile men to God by bringing them into accord with the principles of His law.
We have previously given some consideration to the work of forgiveness and conversion, and the application of justification. Let us now give some attention to the growth experience that follows conversion. A correct understanding of this is essential to grasp the nature and purpose of the blotting out of sins. Ponder carefully these significant points regarding growth.
We must see sin as an issue of will--conscious choice.
We can be perfect at every stage of development and yet be growing; in fact if we cease to grow we cease to be perfect at every stage of development.
The germination of the seed represents the beginning of spiritual life, and the development of the plant is a beautiful figure of Christian growth. As in nature, so in grace; there can be no life without growth. The plant must either grow or die. As its growth is silent and imperceptible, but continuous, so is the development of the Christian life. At every stage of development our life may be perfect; yet if God's purpose for us is fulfilled, there will be continual advancement. Sanctification is the work of a lifetime.?(Note that the word Sanctification is the term used to refer to the work of growth).
2. Christian growth consists of emptying the heart of every defilement, of constantly receiving more light and putting it into practice. This takes place in steps, or stages; and at each stage our repentance deepens and our conversion deepens also.
TM 506, 507
There is to be "first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." There must be a constant development of Christian virtue, a constant advancement in Christian experience. . . . The work that God has begun in the human heart in giving His light and knowledge must be continually going forward. Every individual must realize his own necessity. The heart must be emptied of every defilement and cleansed for the indwelling of the Spirit. . . . Only those who are living up to the light they have will receive greater light. Unless we are daily advancing in the exemplification of the active Christian virtues, we shall not recognize the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain. It may be falling on hearts all around us but we shall not discern or receive it.
1 T 187-188
God leads His people on, step by step. He brings them up to different points calculated to manifest what is in the heart. Some endure at one point, but fall off at the next. At every advanced point the heart is tested and tried a little closer. . . . Some are willing to receive one point; but when God brings them to another testing point, they shrink from it and stand back, because they find that it strikes directly at some cherished idol. . . . If any will not be purified through obeying the truth, and overcome their selfishness, their pride, and evil passions, the angels of God have the charge, "They are joined to their idols, let them alone," and they pass on to their work, leaving these with their sinful traits unsubdued, to the control of the evil angels. Those who come up to every point, and stand every test, and overcome, be the price what it may, have heeded the counsel of the True Witness, and they will receive the latter rain, and thus be fitted for translation.
Through obedience comes sanctification of body, soul, and spirit. This sanctification is a progressive obedience and an advance from one stage of perfection to another.
2 T 505
None are living Christians unless they have a daily experience in the things of God, and daily practice self-denial, cheerfully bearing the cross and following Christ. Every Christian will advance daily in the divine life. As he advances toward perfection, he experiences a conversion to God every day; and this conversion is not completed until he attains to perfection of Christian character, a full preparation for the finishing touch of immortality.
3. At various stages of growth we are considered perfect because we are living up to all the light we have. This is possible through the intercession of Christ and the merits of His righteousness. Through the mediation of Christ we can stand as though we had never sinned in God's sight (see SC 62 and I SM 389), even though we have not developed perfect characters. It is essential to see the difference between perfection of character, and perfection at different stages of development. Perfection of character means that all the habits and actions are righteous ones; it means to be fully in harmony with God's character. (See statements under point 2 on page 8).
1 SM 366
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.
I also saw that many do not realize what they must be in order to live in the sight of the Lord without a high priest in the sanctuary through the time of trouble. Those who receive the seal of the living God and are protected in the time of trouble must reflect the image of Jesus fully. I saw that many were neglecting the preparation so needful and were looking to the time of "refreshing" and the "latter rain" to fit them to stand in the day of the Lord and to live in His sight. Oh, how many I saw in the time of trouble without a shelter! They had neglected the needful preparation; therefore they could not receive the refreshing that all must have to fit them to live in the sight of a holy God. Those who refuse to be hewed by the prophets and fail to purify their souls in obeying the whole truth, . . . will come up to the time of the falling of the plagues, and see that they needed to be hewed and squared for the building. But there will be not time then to do it and no Mediator to plead their cause before the Father. . . . I saw that none could share the Ĺrefreshing?unless they obtain the victory over every besetment, over pride, selfishness, love of the world, and over every wrong word and action.
It is by being perfect at every stage of development that we are enabled to reach character perfection. We can be perfect at our stage of development only if we are living up to all the light we have; if we are not knowingly doing what we know to be wrong (See James 4:17). Even though there are defects in our character that are unknown to ourselves we can stand perfect in the sight of God because Jesus presents the merits of His perfect character. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to work for our growth by bringing us, step by step, to a deeper knowledge of truth. It is our work to apply the truth that we thus learn in our own lives.
5 T 435-436
When the light shines, making manifest and reproving the errors that were undiscovered, there must be a corresponding change in the life and character. The mistakes that are the natural result of blindness of mind, are, when pointed out, no longer sins of ignorance or errors of judgment; but unless there are decided reforms in accordance with the light given, they then become presumptuous sins.
4. When the last step is reached, when the last defect or unknown sin has been brought to knowledge and dealt with, then the blotting out of sins can take place. "If the Lord has brought up sins to us that we never thought of before, that only shows that He is going down to the depths, and will reach the bottom at last; and when he finds the last thing that is out of harmony with his will, and brings that up, and shows that to us, and we say, 'I would rather have the Lord than that' --then the work is complete, and the seal of the living God can be fixed upon the character." (A.T. Jones, 1893 GCB 404). The Lord is in charge of our growth rate, and if our will is surrendered we can move along as quickly as He points out His will to us. If we are not growing, the problem is not in the Lord's guidance or power, but in our resistance.
After the blotting out of sins takes place "when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord," (Acts 3:19) God's people will be able to stand without a Mediator before God's standard of character and be faultless, as though they had never sinned. Their personal experience in sin will have been obliterated as if it had never occurred in their character development.
Had not Jacob previously repented of his sin in obtaining the birthright by fraud, God would not have heard his prayer and mercifully preserved his life. So, in the time of trouble, if the people of God had unconfessed sins to appear before them while tortured with fear and anguish, they would be overwhelmed; despair would cut off their faith, and they could not have confidence to plead with God for deliverance. But while they have a deep sense of their unworthiness, they have no concealed wrongs to reveal. Their sins have gone beforehand to judgment and have been blotted out, and they cannot bring them to remembrance. (Similar statements are found in 3 SG 135, PP 202, 357-358).
We have developed concepts relating to the experience of the bondage of the commission of sin and to God's provisions through justification and the growth process of sanctification to overcome all the elements of that bondage. We may thus develop perfect characters, free from every act, word, or thought of sin.
Sin and Perfection
It is very likely that our concepts of what sin is are probably very meager and inadequate. We talk about overcoming sin and character perfection and yet no one would venture to claim that he could define specifically what is included in overcoming sin. Herein lies one of the many paradoxes of the plan of redemption. In order to clearly define character perfection in all the minutiae of life one must have perfect perception. The commission of sin blinds our perception, and thus we all have imperfect perception and cannot perceive all the specifics of character perfection. While no one can clearly define all that is included in completely overcoming sin, yet we are to strive with every power of our being to be overcomers. Hundreds of passages of inspiration admonish us to diligent effort and warn of the danger of relaxing our efforts. Clearly, there is a certain realm of accountability to individual conscience as guided and trained by the Holy Spirit, and our perception of what constitutes character perfection becomes more and more clear as we continue striving for it. We are also to encourage and exhort others to strive for it, even though (ironically!) we can't fully define it. All such exhortation must include the understanding that as they strive for it each person individually will gain clearer perceptions of what is involved in character perfection in a way that they could never fully learn from someone else. And it is also true that there are general perimeters, which outwardly are to exist as evidences of the work of grace in the heart in the process of character development. These outward evidences are to be defined and even required in the operation of church capacity.
In the context of overcoming sin we usually limit our considerations to the area of the commission of sin. Almost all of Adventism, no matter how conservative or "historic," defines overcoming sin in terms of overcoming the commission of specific sins. And it is true that overcoming the commission of specific sins is vitally important. I consider it a serious error to hold the belief that people must inevitably sin until their nature is changed at the second advent when ô"this corruptible puts on incorruption.?Yet in the experience of overcoming sin and the Devil, Jesus Christ had much more to contend with than the allurement to commit sin. He had to do battle not only with the power of temptation to its fullest, but He had to match strength with the power of committed sin to bear down upon the human soul with an overpowering weight of despair and hopelessness. And this second element of the power of sin, --its power to torment the soul with guilt and anguish was by far the most supreme of struggles. The weight of guilt with which Christ wrestled was not the guilt of sins He committed but rather the weight of sins, which all humanity committed. Only in the experience of Christ can we see, to the fullest extent to which we are capable of perceiving, the extent of the struggle in which the soul becomes engaged when fighting with the tormenting and grinding power of guilt.
Whatever our views we can all no doubt agree that Christ fought a desperate struggle with the guilt of the sins of the world which far superseded the battle with any temptations appealing to the "lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life" that He dealt with in His experience. And we can probably further agree that if Christ had only overcome in the realm of the commission of sin, but had failed in the realm of battling the power of the guilt of sin, the whole plan of salvation would still have ultimately been a failure and Satan would have gained a universal victory in his battle for the allegiance of created beings. Thus, hopefully, we can see that Christ was the great victor in the battle with sin in every realm in which it can exert any influence or power. If it were not so then He would not be a complete Savior. There would still be unknown realms of the power of sin, which could spring forth and wreak havoc at some future time. However this is not the case for Christ was made to be sin for us and knows not only by foreknowledge, but more significantly by His own personal experience before human eyes, what are the depths of the power of sin from which man must be saved. And even more significantly He demonstrated a power that was greater than the power of sin in all of its realms of attack. He proved the victor in the battle at every level where sin can exert its strength in a visible way.
There are two positions, which can be taken in regard to Christ's experience of conquering both aspects of the power of sin. The first and by far the most popular is that Christ accepted the results of sin as our substitute, thereby enabling us to go free and escape having to face the consequence of our sins. Most all of Protestantism embraces this view and applies it to both levels of the power of sin. They say that Christ was our substitute in overcoming acts and thoughts of sin as well as in battling with the weight of guilt. They believe that in fallen human nature it is impossible to overcome the commission of sin and therefore Christ's life is accepted in place of man's to fulfill the requirement of justice and that by a miraculous act of divine power at the second coming God will transform human nature making His followers perfect in character after which they will not commit sin anymore. They also believe that Christ bore the weight of guilt for sin and provided a way for man to never have to face being accountable for his own sins.
The second position is that Christ is both a substitute and an example for fallen humanity. He is a substitute in that He lived a perfect life for us, and He died for us, providing merit that could be applied in our behalf who are totally unworthy. By virtue of His life we are enabled to have life, probationary existence, and the proffering of salvation no matter how wicked we are. This is the "justification of life" which has passed upon all men (Rom. 5). When we accept Christ as our Savior the substitution of Christ's life for our life enables us to stand before God as perfect as Christ was. It entitles us to receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that is a witness that we belong to Christ, and provides the enabling power of grace to subdue every sinful passion and bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. He is an example in that He showed us how to live and how to overcome. His life is an example of how to gain the victory over the commission of sin, and is an encouragement to us to strive with diligent effort to be overcomers. He made promises to those who overcome "even as I overcame."
Seventh-day Adventism has traditionally taken the second position on the area of overcoming the commission of sin although in recent years many are abandoning that position in favor of the first position, even going so far as to affirm that the obedience of Christ is substituted in the place of our life history in the judgment. In the area of dealing with guilt, most Adventists have assumed that Christ bearing the guilt of our sins frees us from the possibility of having to face the battle with sin at that level. They have believed that because Jesus bore the guilt of men's sins we will never have to deal with that level of accountability for sin. They have generally overlooked the possibility that in this level too, as in the level of commission of sin, Jesus?overcoming is not only as a substitute but also as an example.
Jesus as an example in overcoming the power of guilt to weigh upon the human soul would mean that He was demonstrating a way in which guilt can be met and battled, and conquered. Jesus made a very clear allusion to the possibility that He was establishing an example for our overcoming in a struggle similar to His Gethsemane and crucifixion experience when He spoke of the necessity of bearing our cross after Him, and when he spoke of His followers drinking the cup and being baptized with the baptism. Was not Christ preparing His followers to see that He was setting an example in answering issues of the great controversy by His ô"drinking the cup and being baptized with the baptism? Were they not to see that they too would some day have an involvement in a similar experience of settling issues by drinking the cup and being baptized with the baptism?
We can thus see that in the experience of Jesus there took place a demonstration of victory in the struggle to overcome sin in two different realms, --that of bondage to commission of sin, and that of the torment of guilt.
While in the bondage of the commission of sin in any degree, whether known or unknown, we would be subjects of destruction if we were allowed to bear the weight of guilt for our own sins, even just one of them! Jesus?work as a Mediator has been in part to shield us from the powerful weight of guilt for our sins, and in part to provide power for overcoming sin, thus preparing us for the time when His mediation ends. Jesus?work as our sinbearer thus cannot cease until our sins can be blotted out. This blotting out requires that we finally face a day of accountability,--a day of reckoning, a day of judgment. It is when this is accomplished that the guilt of sin can finally be transferred fully to Satan before all the eyes of the universe. He is the one represented by the scapegoat of Leviticus 16:20-23. It is then that Christ can lay down His priestly garments (EW 280 See also GC 416, 425, 485, 648) showing that His work of mediation is finished. We will list some of the main points regarding Christian experience and the blotting out of sins, which we have established.
Our message, unlike any message previous to 1844, is to prepare a people to be translated at Jesus' coming.
Those who are translated must first go through the Time of trouble without a Mediator.
Those who live without a Mediator must stand before God's holy law without one sin in their lives; they must have perfect characters without blemish.
4. Because of the mediation of Christ repentant sinners can be placed where they can develop perfect character, by being made righteous through Justification. In Justification they are enabled to stand before God as if they never had sinned through the intercession of Christ.
5. In order to have perfect characters without blemish, it is necessary that all sin has been overcome (That is to say that there is no more commission of sin of any kind), and that all sins committed in the past have been repented of and blotted out.
6. Through Sanctification those who are Justified become prepared for the Blotting Out of Sins.
7. Through the Blotting Out of Sins they are able to stand before God without a Mediator, and with any sin past or present.
These points are all brought out clearly in a passage in 5 T 467-476 entitled "Joshua and the Angel." This section could be divided into three basic parts:
1. The application of the vision (found in Zechariah 3:1-10) to the experience of ancient Israel (pp 467-470)
2. Its application to the experience of the individual when Justification takes place. (pp 470-472)
3. Its application to the experience of the children of God in the last generation of earth, who are preparing for translation, in the "Blotting Out of Sins." (pp 472-476)
After reading this passage, carefully compare with the following statements:
Letter 51, 1886 (Quoted in Robert Haddock Thesis, p. 264-265; also found in 21MR 384)
Joshua here represents the people of God; and Satan pointing to their filthy garments claims them as his property over which he has a right to exercise his cruel power. But those very ones have improved the hours of probation to confess their sins with contrition of soul and put them away, and Jesus has written pardon against their names.
Those who have not ceased to sin and who have not repented and sought pardon for their transgressions are not represented in the company; for this company vex their souls over the corruption's and iniquity abounding around them, and God will recognize those who are sighing and crying because of the abominations done in the land. They were not mixed up in these abominations. They had not corrupted their ways before God, but had washed their robes of character and had made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Satan pointed to their sins which had not yet been blotted out, and which he had tempted them to commit, and then reviled them as being sinners clad with filthy garments. But Jesus changes their appearance. He says, "Take away his filthy garments from him." "Behold I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with a change of raiment, and I said, let him set a fair mitre upon his head, So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments."
Satan had represented the chosen and loyal people of God as being full of defilement and sin. He could depict the particular sins of which they had been guilty. Had he not set the whole confederacy of evil at work to lead them, through his seductive arts, into these very sins? But they had repented, they had accepted the righteousness of Christ. They were therefore standing before God clothed with the garments of Christ's righteousness, and "He answered and spake unto those that stood before Him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him He said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment." Every sin of which they had been guilty was forgiven, and they stood before God as chosen and true, as innocent, as perfect, as though they had never sinned.
In the scene representing the work of Christ for us, and the determined accusation of Satan against us, Joshua stands as the high priest, and makes request in behalf of God's commandment-keeping people. At the same time Satan represents the people of God as great sinners, and presents before God the list of sins he has tempted them to commit through their lifetime, and urges that because of their transgressions, they should be given into his hands to destroy.
1 SM 344
The typical shadows of the Jewish tabernacle no longer possess any virtue. A daily and yearly typical atonement is no longer to be made, but the atoning sacrifice through a mediator is essential because of the constant commission of sin. Jesus is officiating in the presence of God, offering up His shed blood, as it had been a lamb slain. Jesus presents the oblation offered for every offense and every shortcoming of the sinner.
Christ, our Mediator, and the Holy Spirit are constantly interceding in man's behalf, but the Spirit pleads not for us as does Christ, who presents His blood, shed from the foundation of the world; the Spirit works upon our hearts, drawing out prayers and penitence, praise and thanksgiving. The gratitude which flows from our lips is the result of the Spirits striking the cords of the soul in holy memories, awakening the music of the heart.
The religious services, the prayers, the praise, the penitent confession of sin ascend from true believers as incense to the heavenly sanctuary, but passing through the corrupt channels of humanity, they are so defiled that unless purified by blood, they can never be of value with God. They ascend not in spotless purity, and unless the Intercessor, who is at God's right hand, presents and purifies all by His righteousness, it is not acceptable to God. All incense from earthly tabernacles must be moist with the cleansing drops of the blood of Christ.
Notice also in:
GC 485, [after mentioning the vision of Joshua and the Angel, it says,]
Thus will be realized the complete fulfillment of the new covenant promise: "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." "In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found." Jer 31:34; 50:20. . . . The work of the investigative judgment and the blotting out of sins is to be accomplished before the second advent of the Lord.
This blotting out of sins constitutes one of the main things referred to as benefits on pages 422, 430, 480, 488. This is why:
"The subject of the sanctuary and the investigative judgment should be clearly understood by the people of God. . . . Otherwise it will be impossible for them to exercise the faith which is essential at this time or to occupy the position which God designs them to fill. . . . The intercession of Christ in man's behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross.?
Satan invents unnumbered schemes to occupy our minds, that they may not dwell upon the very work with which we ought to be best acquainted. The archdeceiver hates the great truths that bring to view an atoning sacrifice and an all-powerful mediator. He knows that with him everything depends on his diverting minds from Jesus and His truth." (Ibid. 488)
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