Another earmark of the New Theology is its treatment of the longevity of a forensic declaration. In this line it is generally said that your being justified takes care of all sins you have committed, are committing, or will commit. One put it like this: “Justification occurs when one accepts Jesus as their only hope of salvation, and claims the merits of His blood. At that very moment all sin is cancelled forever, and future sin will not be held against the believer.”
However, the only way justification could cancel all sin forever is if it were a one-time, unconditional declaration. In the final analysis there is little unconditionality in the gospel and the plan of redemption. Conditions are strung through the New Testament. These are to be met through cooperation of the human with the divine agent. Man must exercise his free will to choose and must lay hold of the strength that only God can provide him in order that he be enabled actively to obey.
The fallacy of salvation without conditions, without reference to sin, has come in many forms through the years. Ellen White faced it, and wrote plainly with reference to it:
Will sins which have once been forgiven, ever be charged again to the sinner’s account? If the soul whose sins have been forgiven abides in Christ, he remains justified, and he is sanctified by the Holy Spirit; but if he continues in sin, he cuts himself off from communion with God, and, unless he repent, his sins are reckoned unto him in full, and the wrath of God abideth on him. The forgiven of God must abide in Christ, in faith and obedience. If he shows by his conduct that he has left his first love, he is walking in the darkness from which he was once delivered, and needs to repent and do again his first works. ‘But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin’ (Review and Herald, December 9, 1890).
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 (Faith and Works, p. 100).
What is the common denominator in the two quotes above? What is the common problem addressed in these statements? Read them again. There is a contrast. Abiding in Christ is set in contrast to sinning. Abiding means faith and obedience in the Christian experience. Active pursuit of good is contrasted with active indulgence in evil.
By saying justification cancels all sin forever, one is ignoring conditionality; it is saying that after the moment of initial justification, sin’s pardon is unconditional. But
In all His dealings with His creatures God has maintained the principles of righteousness by revealing sin in its true character—by demonstrating that its sure result is misery and death. The unconditional pardon of sin never has been, and never will be. Such pardon would show the abandonment of the principles of righteousness, which are the very foundation of the government of God. It would fill the unfallen universe with consternation. God has faithfully pointed out the results of sin, and if these warnings were not true, how could we be sure that His promises would be fulfilled? (God’s Amazing Grace, p. 75).
What could be more deeply antagonistic to the gospel of God than to obscure the intensity with which it confronts sin? Further, what could be more antagonistic to the gospel as understood by Seventh-day Adventists than to promise to the newly converted that the gospel is in essence, a license to live as you please? This is a deadly error, a perversion of grace, and an understanding calculated to leave many asleep in a coma of a carnal security. There is nothing in this doctrine that urges men onward to heaven, and the message of the remnant church for this hour is to prepare a people for heaven.
The testimony of the word of God is against this ensnaring doctrine of faith without works. It is not faith that claims the favor of Heaven without complying with the conditions upon which mercy is to be granted, it is presumption; for genuine faith has its foundation in the promises and provisions of the Scriptures (The Great Controversy, p. 472).
NEXT: What is the New Theology Part 10: Is the Gospel Justification Only?