Was Ellen White a Legalist?

Many of Ellen White’s statements that are seen as legalistic in nature can almost make sense if we work backwards from what is expected of Christians after the second coming of Jesus.

During the resurrection of the dead-in-Christ those who are raised will be raised with perfect and sinless bodies. They will be able to live a sinless life without a mediator and they will be expected to live according to the perfect law of God. There will be no sin in heaven.

Christians who are alive to see Jesus return will be changed in a twinkling of an eye from sinful to sinless. Once they are glorified they will be able to live in heaven without sin. The condition for living in heaven is perfect obedience to the laws of God. Those who are not willing to live by the laws of heaven will not be happy and will only serve to perpetuate the problem of sin.

But all this happens AFTER the close of probation/During the Second Coming of Jesus.

Until the second coming of Jesus, we are called to prepare for the final tribulation. There is no room for lukewarm discipline since Christians will have to undergo immense suffering and spiritual struggle to maintain faith in Jesus. If we are not praying now then we most likely will not be staying with Christ during the tribulation period. Many will lose faith in the gospel during this period. We need to prepare ourselves now.

It is understandable that Ellen White spoke out against spiritual complacency and came down quite hard on those who felt at liberty to accept Jesus as savior but not as Lord of their life. She was concerned that many would fall away during persecution and that some were misleading themselves by believing that they were not going to live under God’s law in the heavenly kingdom.

I am willing to admit that she may have overstated things and that she seemed to come across as harsh and legalistic at times. It may be easier to understand when we put her in the immediate context of what type of heresy she was attempting to correct.

Ellen White does have a habit of jumping from justification to sanctification to glorification and then back again without giving us a clear understanding of when she is talking about a certain phase of salvation. She tends to blend them all together at times which makes it difficult to follow her line of reasoning. However, there are times when she makes herself clear about how each phase of salvation is separate and distinct.

Stephen Beagles (2023)

One Comment

  1. Linda A. Johnson

    I came into the SDA Church thru a Voice of Prophecy Bible Course and baptized at age 14. I never went to an SDA Church School even graduated from a State University. The retired pastor who had spent 5 years in a Japanese prison camp during WW2 in the Philippines, gave my mother, younger sister and I baptismal classes and said it was time for me to be baptized. We did not attend any Church before. I told him that I did not know much about Ellen White and how did the Church know she was really a prophet? This dear old man who almost died of starvation and could not even standup when he was liberated from the death camp, said to me. “Linda, you believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord in your life that is all you need to believe now. You can find out about her later.”
    I am still not sure about her, but Jesus I am very sure, even more so than my belief as a new believer teenager. That was in 1954. I read EGW’s book
    Messages to Young People and knew that I was lost. It gave no encouragement to my young heart for salvation. No victory in Jesus that I needed to hear then. I never heard about grace in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s. I was an unhappy SDA Christian because I thought that I had to save myself, and I knew that was impossible so I knew, I was lost. I went through the motions even led out and taught in Junior and Early Teen Sabbath School for 30 years, but I never heard about Grace and Justification and Sanctification until I heard about it from Desmond Ford in the 90s after he had been disfellowshipped and kicked out of the ministry. My life began anew. It was the fist time that I heard the gospel preached. SDA pastors did not preach from apostle Paul’s letters then. Paul explains the Gospel of Jesus in such understandable ways, and I had been going to Church for 40 years. I am so glad to hear the Gospel more now from SDA pulpit.
    We are all happier Christians too, for now we know that we are saved. My theme song now and always, “Victory in Jesus, my Savior forever. He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood. He loved me e’er I knew Him, and now my love is due HIm. He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.” Amen

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