1. A DANGEROUS IDEA EXPOSED
a. What imbalanced view in the presentation of faith and works did the Servant of the Lord seek to correct?
“I was attending a meeting, and a large congregation were present. In my dream you were presenting the subject of faith and the imputed righteousness of Christ by faith. You repeated several times that works amounted to nothing, that there were no conditions. The matter was presented in that light that I knew minds would be confused, and would not receive the correct impression in reference to faith and works, and I decided to write to you. You state this matter too strongly. There are conditions to our receiving justification and sanctification, and the righteousness of Christ. I know your meaning, but you leave a wrong impression upon many minds. While good works will not save even one soul, yet it is impossible for even one soul to be saved without good works.”—Selected Messages, book 1, p. 377.
b. What light may we receive from the Scripture regarding the conditions for eternal life? Matthew 19:16, 17, 20, 21.
2. THE INEFFICACY OF A CASUAL FAITH
a. How does Paul explain that the casual faith of God’s professed followers is not enough? Romans 10:2, 3. What kind of faith do they need? Romans 10:10.
“The faith that is unto salvation is not a casual faith, it is not the mere consent of the intellect, it is belief rooted in the heart, that embraces Christ as a personal Saviour, assured that He can save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by Him. To believe that He will save others, but will not save you is not genuine faith.”—Selected Messages, bk 1, p. 391.
“Imputation of the righteousness of Christ comes through justifying faith, and this is the justification for which Paul so earnestly contends.”—Ibid., p. 397.
b. What shows whether we have only casual faith or a justifying faith? James 2:18.
“While [the believer] is justified because of the merit of Christ, he is not free to work unrighteousness. Faith works by love and purifies the soul. Faith buds and blossoms and bears a harvest of precious fruit. Where faith is, good works appear. The sick are visited, the poor are cared for, the fatherless and the widows are not neglected, the naked are clothed, the destitute are fed. Christ went about doing good, and when men are united with Him, they love the children of God, and meekness and truth guide their footsteps. The expression of the countenance reveals their experience, and men take knowledge of them that they have been with Jesus and learned of Him. Christ and the believer become one, and His beauty of character is revealed in those who are vitally connected with the Source of power and love. Christ is the great depositary of justifying righteousness and sanctifying grace.”—Selected Messages, bk 1, p. 398.
“There are many who have a legal, casual faith. They have nominally accepted Christ as the Saviour of the world, but they have no evidence in their hearts that he is their personal Saviour, that he has forgiven their sins, that they have a living connection with God, the source of all light. You cannot teach others of Jesus and his righteousness, you cannot portray his matchless love, and the fullness of his grace, you cannot picture him as the Christian’s all in all, as the comforter and guide of man, unless your own heart is filled with his love. You will not be able to present God as a God of compassion and love unless you can say, ‘I have tasted and know that the Lord is good.’”—The Signs of the Times, September 2, 1889.
3. THE FAITH THAT JUSTIFIES
a. When is a sinner justified by faith? In what condition should the soul be kept? Acts 16:30,31.
“You have confessed your sins, and in heart put them away. You have resolved to give yourself to God. Now go to Him, and ask that He will wash away your sins and give you a new heart.” —Steps to Christ, p. 49.
“As the penitent sinner, contrite before God, discerns Christ’s atonement in his behalf, and accepts this atonement as his only hope in this life and the future life, his sins are pardoned. This is justification by faith. Every believing soul is to conform his will entirely to God’s will, and keep in a state of repentance and contrition, exercising faith in the atoning merits of the Redeemer and advancing from strength to strength, from glory to glory.”—SDA Bible Commentary, [E.G. White Comments] vol. 6, p. 1070.
b. How does the apostle Paul describe the faith that makes justification possible? Galatians 5:6.
“Saving faith is a transaction by which those who receive Christ join themselves in covenant relation with God. Genuine faith is life. A living faith means an increase of vigor, a confiding trust, by which the soul becomes a conquering power.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 347.
c. What will this faith do for the one who possesses it? Matthew 21:21.
“When the soul lays hold upon Christ as the only hope of salvation, then genuine faith is manifested. This faith leads its possessor to place all the affections of the soul upon Christ; his understanding is under the control of the Holy Spirit, and his character is molded after the divine likeness. His faith is not a dead faith, but a faith that works by love, and leads him to behold the beauty of Christ, and to become assimilated to the divine character.”—Selected Messages, bk 1, pp. 391, 392.
4. AN EXAMPLE OF FAITH THAT JUSTIFIES
a. What proves that Abraham possessed not only a casual faith but a justifying faith? James 2:21–23.
“The apostle James saw that dangers would arise in presenting the subject of justification by faith, and he labored to show that genuine faith cannot exist without corresponding works. The experience of Abraham is presented. ‘Seest thou,’ he says, ‘how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?’ Thus genuine faith does a genuine work in the believer. Faith and obedience bring a solid, valuable experience.
“There is a belief that is not a saving faith. The Word declares that the devils believe and tremble. The so-called faith that does not work by love and purify the soul will not justify any man.... Abraham believed God. How do we know that he believed? His works testified to the character of his faith, and his faith was accounted to him for righteousness.”—SDA Bible Commentary, [E.G. White Comments] vol. 7, p. 936.
b. What clear instruction did Jesus often repeat, even to those that had revealed that they have been justified by faith? John 5:14.
“The faith which avails to bring us in vital contact with Christ expresses on our part supreme preference, perfect reliance, entire consecration. This faith works by love and purifies the soul. It works in the life of the follower of Christ true obedience to God’s commandments; for love to God and love to man will be the result of vital connection with Christ.”—Selected Messages, bk1, p. 334.
“As God works in the heart, and man surrenders his will to God, and cooperates with God, he works out in the life what God works in by the Holy Spirit, and there is harmony between the purpose of the heart and the practice of the life. Every sin must be renounced as the hateful thing that crucified the Lord of life and glory, and the believer must have a progressive experience by continually doing the works of Christ. It is by continual surrender of the will, by continual obedience, that the blessing of justification is retained.”—Ibid., p. 397.
5. ILLUSTRATIONS OF TRUE FAITH
a. What was the merchantman ready to sacrifice in order to obtain the true pearl? What is represented by the true pearl? Matthew 13:45, 46.
“The righteousness of Christ, as a pure, white pearl, has no defect, no stain. No work of man can improve the great and precious gift of God. It is without a flaw. In Christ are ‘hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’ Colossians 2:3.” —Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 115.
b. Why do many not find this great pearl, the righteousness of Christ? Revelation 3:17.
“There are some who seem to be always seeking for the heavenly 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. They have not overcome unholy ambition and their love for worldly attractions. They do not take up the cross and follow Christ in the path of self-denial and sacrifice. Almost Christians, yet not fully Christians, they seem near the kingdom of heaven, but they cannot enter there. Almost but not wholly saved, means to be not almost but wholly lost.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 118.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. While we are not saved by our works, what will be seen in the life of one who is justified by faith?
2. What shows the difference between real faith and a nominal faith?
3. What will genuine faith do for its possessor?
4. What important relationship exists between faith and works?
5. What is a great danger for those who seem to be Christians?