A gentlemen in Sabbath School keeps asking a question: “If salvation is by faith alone then what do we say to a thief who says they accept salvation but want to continue stealing?”
The underlying motive of the question is to make us doubt that salvation is by grace through faith alone. However, the answer is not that difficult to explain.
A person who loves God and has placed their life in His hands must know that when they accept Jesus as Savior they must also accept His Lordship over their life. This means that it is the desire of their heart to obey what Christ commands. Christians struggle with sin, give in to bad habits, fall into temptation, and most are blind and stubborn when it comes to cherished sins. However, we must accept that Jesus is Lord and make it our desire to serve Him with our hearts, minds, and soul. When we accept Jesus as savior we must also acknowledge Him as Lord.
This in no way conflicts with the gospel of Grace through faith in Jesus because our salvation is never dependent on what we do for God. It is genuine faith that requires we love and trust God with our entire life and are willing to do as He commands. If a thief claims that Jesus is savior but is unwilling to accept Him as Lord then I question the sincerity of his or her faith.
At the same time, we are all guilty of sin in our lives, and we never actually measure up to our own standards, not to mention the divine standard of sinlessness. We can be tempted to judge the person who has obvious sins as we try to hide our own secret passions of the soul. Only Jesus can motivate us to mature as Christians and give us the power to overcome temptation.
The more we focus on Jesus and the love that He revealed when He shed His blood on the cross, the more our hearts will be receptive to giving up bad habits. We must recognize that sanctification is a growing process that takes an entire lifetime and our salvation is never dependent on how well we perform in the Christian life. But the point of this message is that our hearts will be willing to accept Jesus as Lord only as we accept Him as our savior.
Stephen Beagles (2021)
Founder and Director of Gospel Adventist Ministries
When dealing with the writings of Ellen White it is wise to give her the benefit of the doubt unless there is clear biblical evidence to suggest otherwise. Calling her a plagiarist, a hypocrite, or con-artist is an ad hominem attack on her character that says little about the truth of what she wrote.
By taking a snippet of writing from here and there without full context and balancing statements it is easy to misunderstand what she wrote over the span of 80 years. She never claimed to be a prophetess nor did she ever claim to be infallible.
There were times when she spoke her own opinions, but her overall message was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Her writing was edited over a period of time as her views changed, but the main ideas–the soon return of Christ, the Sabbath, the State of the Dead, the Heavenly Sanctuary, the Health Message, and the insights into the great controversy have withstood the biblical test of accuracy and the historical test of time.
Was Ellen White perfect? No, and we should not expect her to be without fault. Was she the infallible interpreter of scripture? No, and not one of us is able to claim that status. Did she live up to her own standards 100 percent of the time? No, but she admitted her faults and kept trying to improve on her lifestyle.
Instead of attacking the character of Ellen White, it is enough to argue that what she said was biblical or not. If it is not biblical then it is safe to disregard, but be careful not to throw her entire ministry out of the window over a few minor details. Her overall message was one of God’s love for man by sending Jesus to die for our sins.
Don’t throw the Baby out with the Bathwater.
Stephen Beagles (2021)
The important thing to remember about judgment is that Christians already have the final verdict. We are “Not Condemned” while the wicked are condemned already because of their rejection of the person and work of Christ. This is a core element of the gospel.
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:18, NIV
Christians do not need fear the judgment even though we do not measure up to the legal requirements for entrance into the heavenly kingdom. Jesus lived a perfect life and became a perfect sacrifice for our sins on the cross. This allows Him to place His perfect robes of righteousness over our filthy rags of human righteousness. We are judged while standing in His robes of perfection and are declared, “Not Condemned.”
The good news is that Christians have the assurance of eternal life and have already been adopted into the family of God. We have nothing to fear of a judgment due to the person and work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.
Stephen Beagles (2021)
What MUST I believe to be saved?
There are Five essential teachings:
1. The Bible is the word of God. If a person does not believe the Bible is a product of divine revelation they have no basis to believe in Christ or God’s plan of salvation. The gospel becomes speculation and myth and Christ cannot be the object of genuine faith.
2. The Trinity. One God existing in three distinct forms and personalities. If someone were to pull the plug on God then all three persons would disappear in an instant. God has revealed Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The human brain cannot fathom the complexities of God, but this is how God has revealed Himself. Jesus is fully divine and as eternal as God the Father, but with His own distinct function and role in the God head. To deny the full divinity of Christ is to deny the one and only true God.
3. The Blood Atonement of Jesus. Jesus died in our place on the cross of Calvary. This is the central doctrine of Christ and the Apostles. It does not take a Ph.D. in theology to understand and God does not require a five page essay on the person and work of Christ on the cross to be born again. However, this is a basic truth that must be accepted: Jesus died in our place for our sins. Without the cross there is no resurrection, no Christianity, no salvation for humanity, and no basis for our faith as Christians.
4. Righteousness by Faith. What does God require of us to have the assurance of salvation? God demands we accept Jesus as the full substitute for our sins. There is no condition for salvation other than simple faith and trust in our divine savior. We are declared righteous the instant we place our faith in Jesus. Warning: We deny Christ when we worship other Gods or if we pervert the truth of the Gospel–Righteousness by Faith Alone.
5. The Second Coming. To be a Christian we must believe Jesus is coming back to provide eternal life for His followers. It is not essential that Christians agree on when and how the second coming will occur. However, the second coming is an integral part of the plan of salvation. To deny the reality of the second advent would be to deny a major promise that Christ proclaimed to His disciples–He would return to earth to set up His kingdom. Jesus will be King of Kings and Lord of Lords for all eternity.
All Christians must accept these five major teachings of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. These are non-negotiable teachings of the Bible that are simple enough for any Child to understand. They also leave us with a complexity of understanding, depth of knowledge, and profound thought that will never be fully exhausted by an eternity of study.
Stephen Beagles (2020)