Are We Born "Saved" or
15 September 1999
An Important Question,
But is it the Right One?
A lot is riding on the question, "are we born saved or lost,"because
the answer impacts whether God is fair in the way He handles the sin problem.
If we are born in a situation that can be legally categorized as saved
or lost, then the individual child's moral choices are rendered
unimportant, and salvation becomes an arbitrary process. Satan scores.
His description of God as an arbitrary and unfair being becomes more convincing.
Furthermore, perhaps we should call into question whether these categories,
and lost are even Biblical or helpful. When we let the whole Bible
inform our understanding on this topic, we will discover that these conventional
categories are imprecise and misleading. To ask whether we are saved
or lost is to ask the wrong question.
Shift to Confusion
While there is a "legal" perspective involved in "salvation," we need to
realize that the apostasy of the Christian church in general has had a
vast impact on how we view questions of salvation and damnation. When,
in the very early centuries Christianity itself broke away from obedience
to God's law, a great instability and a tremendous imbalance was introduced
to its teachings. While God's true followers refused to participate in
the apostasy and remained obedient but obscure in "the wilderness," (Revelation
12:6, 13-17) the rest of Christianity eventually split into two camps,
commonly designated "western Christianity" (The Roman Catholic Church and
eventually Protestantism) and "eastern Christianity" (Greek and Russian
In the west, a distinctive emphasis soon led to an all-encompassing
emphasis upon salvation in the
legal sense. The issues involved
penalty and ransom, guilt and confession. But in the east a wholly different
emphasis prevailed. In the east, the issues were over healing, the
restoration of the image of God in man. The west focused on its understanding
of the legal ramifications of sin, the east focused on the spiritual ramifications
of sin. In the west, a legal solution to the sin problem was emphasized,
in the east, a restoration solution. We could further define these emphases
as upon imputation in the west, and upon impartation in the east. While
we realize that these are generalizations, it helps us understand why neither
solution is adequate. It helps us to understand that saved or lost
in the sense that we are used to thinking of, comes from our ingrown, western
Can we improve our understanding by reincorporating the eastern emphasis
into our thinking? I think we can, and that we must. The eastern emphasis
was reintroduced to western Christianity through the Protestant reformer
John Wesley, resulting in the group known as the Methodists. Seventh-day
Adventism is greatly indebted to the Methodists. We also have been granted
the important insights through our rich understanding of the great controversy
theme, the battle between good and evil and the role that it plays in the
overall plan of redemption. We thus stand in a position where, through
letting the whole Bible speak to us, we can propose two alternative categories:
and ruination. Consider the representation below:
|-- Born broken and in need or repair
impacting experience but non-accountability
|-- The child lives in a sinful nature
and is impacted by that experience, however is not accountable for his
choices because of lack of opportunity for maturation.
The Way of Life
Way of Death
|One is undergoing repair and commitment
to a repaired state, and movement towards final salvation.
||One is undergoing confirmation
of commitment to the fallen state, and movement towards final damnation.
-- Purposeful choice to follow Jesus, step by step, day by day.
-- "I will follow God when I'm ready."
-- Intention to choose right later means
moral neutrality now. This is a refusal to link to Jesus and receive His
life-changing power. Apart from that power, one slips inevitably down into
to the Way of Death
-- Persons here have chosen the pathway
of self. They have chosen the pleasures of sin for a season and final destruction.
|This Life Vindicates
||This Life Supports
Satan's Case Against God
A Discussion of the Above
After the fall, the starting point for every
person who enters the world is a difficult one. We all begin broken and
in need of repair (Genesis 3:8-19; 5:1, 3). What does this mean? Let's
clarify a few points first.
To be born with a broken nature is to be born
with an initially warped relationship within the being; a weakness in the
manner in which the intellect, the emotions, and the will were to work
together. This critical wiring is broken (Romans 5:6). The enmity against
sin, naturally in the heart (Genesis 3:15), is reversed and our nature
pulls us toward sin. We have a bias toward evil. To be more precise, within
each person is an inward pull to fulfill the self regardless of moral right
or wrong. To be born with the fallen nature is to be born into a humanity
that cleaves unto evil instead of unto good.
To be born broken and in need of repair is
not to be born a sinner. Willful choice makes one a sinner (1 John 3:4;
Isaiah 59:2). A child has made no willful choice to be a sinner (Romans
To be born broken and in need of repair is
not to be born lost. One's willful choice to affirm the fallen nature's
sin orientation causes a person to be lost (John 5:38-40; Acts 7:51; John
Impacting Experience but
As the child lives out the early period of
its life, it is not yet mature, and cannot choose between good and evil
(Romans 9:11), and thus cannot do either good or evil. Because its nature
is broken from the beginning, and the child experiences an inward pull
to fulfill the selfish nature, it follows this inclination. The result
is an increasingly fallen nature. Its experience impacts it, and makes
the problem worse, but the child is not morally accountable for its unwitting
choices that one by one increase the already selfish nature.
Life Sealing Period
Eventually, most people mature and thus become
morally accountable for their choices and actions that follow. Early in
this period, everyone who has ever lived, has (in their immature and yet
accountable state) knowingly chosen to disobey God. (Jesus is the one exception,
which we will come to in a moment). However, the span of one's life from
this point on to its conclusion (or the close of probation for those who
live at the very end of time), is a period of choosing. It is a period
where one journeys down the pathway of life, a pathway that can either
be identified as an experience of repair, the way of life, or ruination,
the way of death.
Those on the pathway of life (Romans 3:17)
and repair experience deliverance from fear and bondage to sin; they come
to greater and greater heights of righteousness, joy, and holiness. The
journey changes them, and they become settled into this way of living,
both, intellectually and spiritually. Those on the pathway of ruination
and death (Romans 3:15, 16) experience the fear and bondage and sorrow
that accompany the indulgence of sin. They sink deeper and deeper into
ruin until finally their commitment to it is complete; they are settled
into a moral stance of injustice, filthiness, uncleanness, and unholiness.
They are ruined.
Many people try to straddle the line, with
the idea that they will remain uncommitted long enough to enjoy the pleasures
of a sinful life as long as they can (Hebrews 11:25) and then finally throw
themselves across the line and "get saved" in the closing years of their
life. But a life lived this way is a life lived apart from God and His
life-changing power. They can never become right with God while they are
disobeying Him and growing more and ever more confirmed on their pathway
of ruination. Instead of cooperating with God in the process of repair,
they are making matters worse, adding layer upon layer of damage to their
already broken persons.
While life remains, and the decision is
not final, there is still hope that one can submit one's life to Christ
and come over onto the way of life and repair. But character is not formed
in a moment. The Spirit woos man for long years, not because He is bored,
but because every one of us is thoroughly broken and will require an extensive
work of repair; one that cannot be wrought out in a moment. Mind you, God
could change anyone in a moment if there were no issue of human freedom.
But God will not change a person apart from their real consent. The thief
on the cross did not give his heart to Jesus in a moment only, but the
Spirit of God was striving with him for years and years. We are so glad
that he came on across the line at the last moment. But for us to plan
on the same thing is to play a deadly game of Russian roulette with one's
opportunity for eternal life. No one can put one over on God. We are either
truly on His side, or we are not.
Period Between Closure
of Probation and Second Coming
When probation closes, and all enter the last
period between mercy's final offer and the physical change from corruption
to incorruption, they must live in the sight of a holy God without an intercessor.
This is not a period to be unconcerned about. If we are sure we can stand
at that time, then let us be especially careful to examine ourselves. What
are we? Are we prepared to live without sinning? (2 Corinthians 13:4, 5;
Hebrews 10:6). During this period after the close of probation but before
our glorification, God's people live as none have ever listed before. This
is the final evidence for God's case. He presents a people who are changed,
who have been made holy, just, clean, and righteous (Revelation 22:11,
12). He presents His people, living without sinning (Revelation 14:1-5).
They are empowered by the Holy Spirit, who is never removed from them (Matthew
28:20). But they are not sending any sins into the heavenly sanctuary to
defile it. They are not sinning and then receiving forgiveness. By the
power of God they live for God; they don't do it on their own at all. They
are repaired to the point where they are willing to follow Jesus wherever
He goes (Revelation 14:4).
What about Jesus?
All of this raised the question then, what
about Jesus? How does He fit into this understanding? We are convinced
that in the end He was just, clean, righteous, and holy. And even more,
we are convinced that in the beginning He was just, clean, righteous, and
holy. But we are also convinced of other things. We are convinced that
He was tempted in all points like as we are (Hebrews 4:15), that in spite
of this He never chose to sin (Hebrews 4:15), that He learned obedience
through His experience (Hebrews 5:8, 9; 2:10; Philippians 2:8), that He
grew in wisdom while on earth (Luke 2:52).
We are assured that Jesus ended on the
pathway of life. We are assured that He lived out a life of total obedience
while during the probationary life sealing period (John 15:10). We are
convinced that Jesus was born with a human nature identical to our own,
as human as we are, or more precisely, as fallen as we are (Romans 8:3;
Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9, 11, 14, 16-18; 4:15. That is, as broken
and as fundamentally in need of repair as ours is (Isaiah 53:4). He started
where we start. Yet he remained holy, harmless, and undefiled, separate
from sinners (Hebrews 7:26). He never chose to sin (1 John 3:4).
But what about that crucial period after
His human birth but before His physical organism matured enough that He
became morally accountable? Here we enter upon a great mystery, and can
only suggest a tentative answer to the problem. That answer is that during
this period He was supernaturally guarded or protected by the Holy Spirit
from indulging his broken nature. Although bearing a nature as broken as
ours is when born, He never strengthened that nature through His actions.
And when He passed into the period where He was morally accountable, He
still always cleaved to the good, He always opposed His nature and its
broken pull toward selfish fulfillment.
Our Choice: Repair or Ruination
So the choice for us remains: we can choose
to cooperate with heaven's plan to repair us, to bring us up onto the pathway
of life, or we can choose to cooperate with Satan's plan to destroy us;
we can choose ruination. The pathway of death, and all of its hard sorrows
and griefs and its final end of utter destruction in the second death in
the fire that was never made for us but for the fallen angels can be ours
if we insist. But it need not be.
Choose life and Jesus Christ. You have
no time to lose!