Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

November 3, 1890

Justification by Faith

By Mrs. E. G. White

When through repentance and faith we accept Christ as our Saviour, the Lord pardons our sins, and remits the penalty prescribed for the transgression of the law. The sinner then stands before God as a just person; he is taken into favor with Heaven, and through the Spirit has fellowship with the Father and the Son. Then there is yet another work to be accomplished, and this is of a progressive nature. The soul is to be sanctified through the truth. And this also is accomplished through faith. For it is only by the grace of Christ, which we receive through faith, that the character can be transformed.

It is important that we understand clearly the nature of faith. There are many who believe that Christ is the Saviour of the world, that the gospel is true and reveals the plan of salvation, yet they do not possess saving faith. They are intellectually convinced of the truth, but this is not enough; in order to be justified, the sinner must have that faith that appropriates the merits of Christ to his own soul. We read that the devils “believe, and tremble;” but their belief does not bring them justification, neither will the belief of those who give a merely intellectual assent to the truths of the Bible bring them the benefits of salvation. This belief fails of reaching the vital point, for the truth does not engage the heart or transform the character.

In genuine, saving faith, there is trust in God, through the belief in the great atoning sacrifice made by the Son of God on Calvary. In Christ, the justified believer beholds his only hope and deliverer. Belief may exist without trust, but confidence born of trust cannot exist without faith. Every sinner brought to a knowledge of the saving power of Christ, will make manifest this trust in greater degree as he advances in experience.

The words of the apostle shed light upon what constitutes genuine faith. He says, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” To believe with the heart is more than conviction, more than assent to the truth. This faith is sincere, earnest, and engages the affections of the soul; it is the faith that works by love, and purifies the heart.

God reveals Christ to the sinner, and he beholds him dying upon Calvary for the sin of his creature. He then understands how he is condemned by the law of God, for the Spirit works upon his conscience, enforcing the claim of the broken law. He is then given the opportunity of defying the law, of rejecting the Saviour, or of yielding to its claims, and receiving Christ as his Redeemer. God will not compel the service of any man, but he reveals to him his obligation, unfolds to him the requirements of his holy law, and sets before him the result of his choice—to obey and live, or to disobey and perish.

The command from Heaven is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” When the force of this requirement is understood, the conscience is convicted, the sinner is condemned. The carnal mind, which is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be, rises up in rebellion against the holy claims of the law. But as the sinner beholds Christ hanging upon the cross of Calvary, suffering for his transgression, deeper conviction takes hold upon him, and he sees something of the offensive nature of sin. Where there is a true conception of the spirituality and holiness of the divine law, the sinner is under condemnation, and his sins stand arrayed before him in their true character. By the law is the knowledge of sin, and in its light he understands the evil of secret thoughts and deeds of darkness. God's law presents matters in a light in which he has never before viewed his life. He sees that what we speak with our tongue, what we do with our hands, what we exhibit in our outer life, is but a very small part of what goes to make up our character. The law penetrates to the thoughts and intents of the heart. It searches out the dark passions indulged in secret, the jealousies, envyings, theft, murder, malignity, ambition, and evil that lurk hidden from the eyes of men. How often do men exalt those in whose hearts are dark things that for want of opportunity to display themselves are kept from sight. But God's law registers all hidden evil. The wise man declares, “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”

Many who claim to believe that the law has a binding obligation upon human intelligences, think lightly of secret sins, and carry themselves with boldness, as satisfied in their self-righteousness as if they were really doers of the word of God. Their work bears the impress of their defective character, and God cannot stand as their helper. God cannot cooperate with them.

Character is tested and registered by Heaven more by the inward spirit, the hidden motive, than by that which appears to men. Men may have a pleasing exterior, and be outwardly excellent, while they are but whited sepulchers, full of corruption and uncleanness. Their works are registered as unsanctified, unholy. Their prayers and works, devoid of the righteousness of Christ, do not ascend before God as sweet fragrance, but they are abomination in the eyes of the Lord. To those who will open their eyes, the law presents a perfect likeness of the soul, a complete photograph of the inner man; and as this picture is unveiled before the sinner, he is constrained to acknowledge that he is sold under sin, but that the law is holy, and just, and good.

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