Category Archives: Soteriology (A)

A Brief Evaluation of Iglesia ni Kristo’s Soteriology in John 10:9


An Excerpt to the Critical Examination to the Critical Arguments of Iglesia ni Kristo Against Justification by Faith Alone

The soteriology of INK confuses between “entering to Christ”, as a cause of salvation and “entering to the fold”, as a result of salvation (cf. John 10:9).

One of the foundational verses for the belief that membership to the Iglesia ni Kristo is necessary for salvation can be found in John 10:9. Upon exploringinc AND THE bIBLE this verse, we can read Jesus saying: “I am the door; anyone who comes into the fold through me will be safe.” (Revised English Bible [REB]) As we have noted in the previous chapter,[30]  for the INK, if a man wanted “to attain salvation, he must come into the fold through the Lord Jesus Christ.”[31]  Thus, we can see that they equated entering to Christ and entering to the Iglesia ni Kristo as a cause of salvation.  But the writer of this paper contends that this is a misleading equation. Let us note several things on this “good-shepherd allegory”.[32]

First, while it is true that entering to Christ and entering to Church cannot be separated ecclesiologically,[33] it can be reasonably and scripturally detached soteriologically.  That is to say, while we maintain that one who enters Christ also will eventually enter to the fold (ecclesiology)—we should carefully note the difference of “entering to Christ”, as a cause of salvation to “entering to the fold”, as a result of salvation (soteriology). Unfortunately, the thought of dissimilarity in action cannot be easily seen in a very loose translation such as REB (“I am the door; anyone who comes into the fold through me will be safe”).[34] On the other hand, this can be seen clearly in a more literal translation, such as NKJV,[35] NASB, ESV, NIV, KJV, HCSB, ISV, etc: “I [Jesus Christ] am the door [Jesus Christ]; if anyone enters through Me [Jesus Christ], he will be saved [cause of salvation], and will go in and out [result of salvation] and find pasture [result of salvation].”[36] On a more literal verse reading, one can easily distinguish the difference between the cause an result difference. To equate the cause to result is to blur this biblical distinction of the two.

Second, the emphatic emphasis in Greek was placed in the role of Christ in salvific terms, not to the flock or church.[37] Jesus says the one who enters through him (“through me” is emphatic in the Greek) will be saved (John 10:9a).[38] We can note then that “there is no other entrance!” However, regarding on how to enter to Christ, “let [John] 3:16 serve as commentary: faith in Christ as the Son of God is the only entrance-door. And this faith is full, personal trust in him and in his substitutionary atonement.”[39] This is worth emphasizing, “let [John] 3:16 serve as commentary”[40] before going to Pasugo of INK. The provider and the means to be saved is through entering to Jesus Christ, not to the church.

Thirdly, the verb “going in” should not be viewed as a command to enter to the fold as “going out” obviously does not refer to going out to the fold. Instead, they should be taken together (“going in and going out”) to mean for a person who has found “security”[41] in entering to Christ. In the LXX, this expression has its meaning to “move about freely”.[42] John MacArthur elaborates:

In Jesus’ metaphor He is the door through which the sheep enter the safety of God’s fold and go out to the rich pasture of His blessing. It is through Him that lost sinners can approach the Father and appropriate the salvation He provides; Jesus alone is “the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through [Him]” (14:6; cf. Acts 4:12; 1 Cor. 1:30; 3:11; 1 Tim. 2:5). Only Jesus is the true source of the knowledge of God and salvation, and the basis for spiritual security.[43]

So according to these words, “the Gospel is of service to us in two ways: in it our souls find nourishment, while they otherwise languish with hunger and are fed only with wind; and also Christ will be a faithful protector and defense against the attacks of wolves and robbers. Thus, benefits (results) of salvation should not be viewed as condition to salvation.

Fourthly, a closer examination to John 10:9 will reveal that it was “and” (“καὶ”) was used instead of “by” or “through” (“δι’”) nor other “causal conjunctions” (i.e., “ἐξ” or “γάρ” ) to the clauses of “going in and going out” (10:9b) and “finding pasture” (10:9c). This further proves again that they do not stand in causal relationship with the first clause, “if anyone enters through Me” (10:9a), but consequential relationship.[44]

Lastly, the interpretation of INK to John 10:9 should be in harmony with the soteriology found in Romans. In relation to the said book, James Orr rightly said: “The subject of justification must be in the first place the individual and only in the second place and by consequence the society. Besides, those justified are not the cleansed and sanctified members of churches, but the ungodly (Rom 4:5).”[45] Thus, Christ is the one who leads the sheep in. Entering to Christ is the cause of salvation. The result, they become a part of the “one flock”, which probably perhaps His church. He is still the Door of salvation (John 10:9),[46] not the church. Those who trust Him enter into the Lord’s flock or fold, and they will have the wonderful privilege of going “in and out” and finding pasture. Jesus should be maintained as the mediator of the salvation, again, not the Church.

___________

[30] See chapter 3.

[31] Gary P. Barrientos, The inherent obligation of man, Pasugo God’s Message 48, October 1996, 10.

[32] “Jesus has pointed out at least four points of comparison: “(1) the shepherd is Christ; (2) the door is Christ; (3) the sheep are those for whom Jesus lays down his life; (4) the flock represents the union of all believers under one shepherd.” (Elwell, Walter A. ; Beitzel, Barry J.: Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Book House, 1988, S. 312) For a thorough investigation of the OT background of John 10, especially 10:16, see Köstenberger 2002b. On sheep and shepherd imagery, see also Keener 2003: 799–802. Köstenberger, Andreas J.: John. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Academic, 2004 (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament).

[33] This is where the author agrees that Christ and the Church cannot be separated as the Head and the Body cannot.

[34] Or Revised English Bible, which is the favored translation of Iglesia ni Kristo when it comes to John 10:9. Thus, one could not wonder why the INK favors this translation than the others.

[35] Like for instance, in NKJV we read 10:9: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture”; in NASB we read:  “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture”; in ESV we read: I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture”; in NIV we read: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture”; in KJV we read: I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture”; in HCSB we read: I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture”; in ISV we read: “I’m the gate. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved. He’ll come in and go out and find pasture.”

[36] The comments in boldface placed within brackets are mine.

[37] Note the emphatic placement of διʼ ἐμοῦ (di’ emou, through me), which focuses on Jesus’ role as the one through whom sheep may enter the fold (Morris 1995: 452). See also, Whitacre, Rodney A.: John. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999 (The IVP New Testament Commentary Series 4), S. 258.

[38] The door of the sheep. “Meaning the door for the sheep; not the door of the fold. ‘The thought is connected with the life, and not simply with the organization.’” [Vincent, Marvin Richardson: Word Studies in the New Testament. Bellingham, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2002, S. 2:190]

[39]Hendriksen, William ; Kistemaker, Simon J.: New Testament Commentary : Exposition of the Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids : Baker Book House, 1953-2001 (New Testament Commentary 1-2), S. 2:109 Emphasis and italics are mine. The substitutionary atonement of John 10 can be found in Jesus said in John 10:9–14, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. . . . I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. . . . I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”

[40] Ibid.

[41] “Will go in and out”: Jesus’ language here (a Semitism) echoes covenant terminology, especially Deuteronomic blessings for obedience (cf. Deut. 28:6; cf. Ps. 121:8)[41] [Köstenberger, Andreas J.: John. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Academic, 2004 (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), S. 304]

[42]Zerwick, Max ; Grosvenor, Mary: A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament. Rome : Biblical Institute Press, 1974, S. 317

[43]MacArthur, John: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary : John 1-11. Chicago : Moody Press, 2006, S. 430. See also: He shall enjoy all the privileges that true salvation offers—protection, safety, security, and peace, as well as spiritual food for his soul. [Nichol, Francis D.: The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary : The Holy Bible With Exegetical and Expository Comment. Washington, D.C. : Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978 (Commentary Reference Series), S. Jn 10:10]

[44] Although the conjunction “καὶ” can be interpreted to mean as: “(1) connecting single words and (MT 2.11d); (2) as a continuative, connecting clauses and sentences and (MT 21.23c); (3) as coordinating time with an event when (MK 15.25); (4) to introduce a result from preceding circumstances and then, and so (MT 4.19); (5) to introduce an abrupt question expressing a contrasting feeling then, in that case (2C 2.2); (6) as emphasizing an unexpected fact and yet, nevertheless, and in spite of that (MT 3.14); (7) to explain what preceded and so, that is, namely (MT 8.33b; JN 1.16); (8) κ. … κ. bothand, not onlybut also (AC 26.29).” [Friberg, Timothy ; Friberg, Barbara ; Miller, Neva F.: Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Books, 2000 (Baker’s Greek New Testament Library 4), 211, emphasis mine] Even though there are multiple possibilities to the meaning of “καὶ”—the writer of this paper argues that “καὶ” should mean as consequential conjunction (because phrases “go in and out” and “find pasture” should be seen as results [as privilege] of entering to Christ”. However, even without being dogmatic, it would never connote as causal conjunction. See also, Vine, W.E. ; Bruce, F.F.: Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Old TappanNJ : Revell, 1981; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996, S. 2:50

[45] Orr, James, M.A., D.D.: Orr, James (Hrsg.): The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia  : 1915 Edition. Albany, OR : Ages Software, 1999

[46] “Whoever goes through the door, will be saved”—Jesus is here conceived as the door to the sheepfold. Haenchen, Ernst ; Funk, Robert Walter ; Busse, Ulrich: John : A Commentary on the Gospel of John. Philadelphia : Fortress Press, 1984 (Hermeneia–a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible), S. 48

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Critical Examination to the Critical Arguments of Iglesia ni Kristo Against Justification by Faith Alone (Chapter 4)


Critical Examination to the Critical Arguments of Iglesia ni Kristo Against Justification by Faith Alone

by Jaymark Molo (an excerpt of chapter 4)

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[Photo credited by Exposing the Iglesia ni Cristo Cult of Manalo]

In an attempt to make healthy responses, we will now carefully examine the arguments raised in their Pasugo against the doctrine of justification by faith. This can be shown by presenting the confusion or false distinctions of objections of INK to some of the theological hallmark of justification by faith of Paul. These confusions or false distinctions are written in the following order:

I. The soteriology of INK confuses between “through faith” and “by faith alone”.

In spite of the fact that the INK understanding of salvation does not necessarily argue that “through faith” is incorrect,[1] it nevertheless obscures it. We can see this in their Pasugo, attesting that even though they “don’t deny faith is necessary for salvation.” But they will hastily add: “neither do [they] advocate that works alone are the basis for salvation… What [they] advocate, which is vouched by the Holy Bible [as they contest], is faith coupled with works on God’s teachings makes man righteous before God.”[2]

In other words, in the soteriology of INK, one cannot receive a right standing before God by which one has the divine promise of salvation (eternal life) without engaging in works of righteousness. Thus, it is clear that they do not adhere with “faith alone concept of salvation.”[3] But this is not precisely what the Scripture says.

First, again Paul is too obvious to be misconstrued when he said that justification can be received by faith alone (1:17-18; 3:28; 4:1-5; 5:1; 10:9; 11:6). To insist in a faith plus work concept is foreign in the theology of Paul.

Second, perhaps, the very reason why INK fails to see the significance of faith in a solitary place (or being alone) is that they fail to make a clear distinction between “imparted righteousness” and “infused righteousness”. Thus, if one fails to make a clear distinction between forensic justification (declared righteous) and practical sanctification (made righteous), then the good works needed for sanctification will tend to obscure the fact that works are not needed for justification. As John Murray observes, “the purity of the gospel is bound up with the recognition of this distinction. If justification is confused with regeneration or sanctification, then the door is opened for the perversion of the gospel at its center. Justification is still the article of the standing or falling of the Church.”[4] The unexpected absence of the topic of forensic justification and its distinction with sanctification in their Pasugo seemingly supports this case.[5]

Third, the obscurity with the distinction between justification and sanctification will theologically lead to grace plus good works. By contrast Paul declares clearly that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23, emphasis added). It is “not because of any righteous deeds that we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us” (Titus 3:5). “It is not from works, so no one may boast,” says Paul (Eph. 2:9). To repeat the apostle’s words, “if by grace, it is no longer because of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Rom. 11:6). A right standing before God comes by grace through faith alone! Grace means unmerited favor. Hence, grace and works are no more compatible than is an unmerited merit! Sanctification is the actual process by which one is made righteous after being declared righteous (by justification).

Finally, the advocates of faith alone concept can respond in a much more biblical and balanced way. While we insist that while we are saved by faith alone, nevertheless, the faith that saves us is not alone.[6] Faith inevitably produces good works; that is, we are saved by faith and for works. Works are not a condition of justification but a consequence of it. As James put it, we show our faith by our works (2:18).

II. The soteriology of INK confuses between “forensic justification” in Romans and “demonstrative justification” in James (cf. 2:21-23).

Perhaps, one of the strongest arguments that INK has to offer can be found in the epistle of James. We can read a classic argument in their Pasugo: “Advocates of the faith-alone concept of salvation readily conclude that faith is enough for man to be saved—and that nothing else needs to be done. No work, they allege, is needed to attain salvation. But is this true?”[7] They answered this question by citing James 2:21-23 in NKJV: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God.” “Clearly then”, they asserted, “faith, though necessary for salvation, is not enough. It should be accompanied with works or actions.”[8] Is there really striking differences between what Paul says regarding Abraham’s justification in Romans 4:1–3 (justification by faith alone) and what James says regarding Abraham’s justification in James 2:21–24 (justification accompanied with works)?

First, we should be reminded that James does not use faith in the sense of true, saving faith as Paul uses it in Romans and elsewhere. Rather, James views faith as mere intellectual assent, a simple agreeing with certain facts.[9] He describes this kind of faith in 2:14 as that which does not produce (good) works and, therefore, that which cannot save (“What good is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can that faith save him?”) The question at the end of verse 14, “Can that faith save him?” is a rhetorical question, and, with the negative particle μὴ (not), the answer intended by James is no. In other words, a faith that does produce works is a true faith and is able to save and vice versa. Furthermore, this thought was developed with the kind of faith that James had—saving faith (2:18)—compared to the kind of faith that demons have—false faith (2:19). The difference between the two appears to be over the matter of trust in or personal commitment to the object of faith (saving faith), rather than simply the level of conviction concerning the truth about that object (false faith). With this in mind, the point of tension over James’s use of faith at 2:24 with his statement is not whether he is against to the doctrine of justification by faith alone, as INK would love to argue, but what is critical here is the kind of faith James had in view, namely false faith and saving faith.[10]

Second, perhaps the most common explanation for harmonizing James and Paul on justification is to distinguish their use of the term itself.[11] As we have noted in previous chapter, Paul uses justification and its cognates in Romans 3:28 and elsewhere in the sense of God’s declaring or pronouncing someone righteous.[12] While James, on the other hand, is understood to use the word-group in James 2:21 and elsewhere in the sense of someone’s proving or showing his righteousness before others. In 2:25, James validated this using Rahab as a parallel illustration to Abraham, saying that she too was “justified” by her works. In her case, her justification came in response to her helping the Israelite spies. From the historical context, it is difficult to see where God was forensically declaring Rahab just by her actions. The spies themselves, on the other hand, apparently saw in her works the demonstration of her righteousness since they informed the Israelites that she should be spared during their assault against Jericho. In additional to that, we can also see the cognate of justified is used in 5:16 as a substantive to describe one who is “righteous.”[13]The meaning of the cognate appears to be that of one who is characterized by or has demonstrated righteous conduct. John Calvin explained this apparent difficulty:

It appears certain that [James] is speaking of the manifestation, not of the imputation of righteousness, as if he said, Those who are justified by faith prove their justification by obedience and good works, not by a bare and imaginary semblance of faith. In one word, he is not discussing the mode of justification, but requiring that the justification of all believers shall be operative. And as Paul contends that men are justified without the aid of works, so James will not allow any to be regarded as Justified who are destitute of good works…. Let them twist the words of James as they may, they will never extract out of them more than two propositions: That an empty phantom of faith does not justify, and that the believer, not contended with such an imagination, manifests his justification by good works.[14]

As Douglas Moo concludes, “If Paul has in mind works that precede conversion and James works that follow conversion; it follows that ‘justification’ for which these respective works are the basis must be something different in Paul than in James.”[15]

Third, a growing number of interpreters argue that much of the tension between the two can be resolved by recognizing that James and Paul addressed different concerns. These differing concerns, in turn, required separate lines of argument and different theological expressions which, when properly understood, are seen as complementary (faith that works) rather than as contradictory (faith plus works). C. L. Mitton rightly observes,

“The kind of error Paul is seeking to correct in Romans and Galatians is very different from the error which James is resisting, and our statement of a truth varies according to the error we are opposing. If we ourselves were arguing against antinomians, who believed that moral conduct in a Christian was of little importance, our arguments would be very different from those we should use if our opponents were ‘legalists’ who believed that good conduct alone secured all the benefits of religion.”[16]

Hence, Paul combats some form of Jewish legalism in his discussion of justification in Romans and elsewhere. Against such confidence in human works, Paul emphasizes faith as the sole instrument of justification.[17]  James, on the other hand, responds in his discussion to a form of dead orthodoxy, or even antinomianism, both of which discounted works altogether. Against this kind of error, James asserts the necessity of works.[18] Thus, James and Paul “are not antagonists facing each other with crossed swords, they stand back to back, confronting different foes of the Gospel.[19] Angel Manuel Rodriguez concisely summarizes this point:

“James’ message is very practical in nature, addressing the suffering and trials of the community of believers and the potential and real oppressiveness of social stratification. His interest is in the social impact of the Christian faith. He rejects preferential treatment based on wealth or social status (chap. 2:1-7) and condemns social exploitation and abuse of the poor (chap. 5:1-6). For James, Christian faith cannot be socially disengaged while claiming at the same time to be relevant. His theological message is embedded in this concern for a religion that should be part of the very fabric of society. This means that whatever James says in chapter 2:14-26, it must be related to his major concern.[20]

Thus, in every side of the argument, may it be contextual or historical, linguistical or theological or lexical; the interpretation of INK clearly lacks support from the Scripture.

III. The soteriology of INK makes false distinction between “works which are commanded” or “works” and “works which are not commanded” or “works of the law”.

The New Testament verses against salvation by works are clearly opposed to the INK teaching that salvation can be merited. In order to counter this, INK scholars have made an artificial distinction between “works of the law” or “works which are not commanded” (which they admit are not a condition for salvation) and “works” or “works which are commanded” (which they insist are a condition of salvation). In one of articles in their Pasugo we can read this line of reasoning: [After citing Romans 3:20, 28 in KJV] they assert that “the good things that will make Christians worthy of true life or salvation are those which are commanded to them like the one mentioned by Apostle Paul in his first letter to Timothy [6:18-19].”[21]  In the first place, what is it that is good? They argue by answering that: “the law is holy and the commandment holy and just and good.” (Rom. 7:12, Ibid.) What is good, therefore, is God’s law—His will as written in the Scriptures. This is the good that man needs to do in order or him to enter the kingdom of God (cf. Mt. 7:21).”[22] They did not stop here: “The deeds of the law that cannot justify a man are those contained in the law of Moses (Acts 13:39). Even good works done in accordance with the law of Moses are no longer beneficial in the Christian era [cf. Lk. 16:16].”[23] But contrary to the INK claim, Paul’s statements against “works” cannot be limited to only “works of the [Mosaic] law” or “which are not commanded” (such as circumcision listed in Acts 13:39)  but extend equally to all kinds of meritorious good works, having said that, Moo’s arguments appear convincing.[24]

First, upon discussing the difference between “works” and “works of the law” of Pauline, one should recognize that work (“ἔργων”) and works of [the] law (“ἔργων νόμου”) have been used similarly to deny the possibilities of obtaining righteousness (cf. Rom. 3:20, 28; 4). If that is the case, in Rom 4:1ff., the “works” of Abraham, in which he could not boast, clearly refer to good works (hence the potential for Abraham’s boasting, cf. Rom 3:27). At the same time, the Abraham illustration in Romans 4 is closely tied to Paul’s argument in Rom 3:20–28 where “works of law” is used—this observation clearly rejects the artificial distinction of INK writers.[25]

Second, the closest, perhaps, Paul comes to a definition of “works” is in Rom 9:10–11, where “works” refers to anything that a person does, whether “good or bad.” This argument can be established in the historical proof that God has selected his chosen people not based according to “anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls.” The sovereignty of God’s choice is reaffirmed in v. 12: not of works (“οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων”). Now, as D. J. Moo observes, if “the contrast in v 12 restates the idea of v 11, ‘works’ must here include anything men do, ‘whether good or evil.”[26] This observation again disproves the false dichotomy of INK.

Third, now granting without conceding that the “works of the law” can be limited in “the law of Moses”,[27] that does not prove anything. Because even if we grant the notion of restriction of INK that Paul uses “works of law” in 3:20–28 to refer to a specific kind of works, those done in obedience to the Mosaic Law, we can argue that they are used in order to show that even these are excluded.[28] Thus, if the artificial distinction between “works” and “works of the law” made by INK scholars can be proven false—then their additional distinction between “works which are commanded” and “works which are not commanded” much more cannot be proven scripturally, “for through the Law [whether commanded or not] comes the knowledge of sin” (3:20bc), it cannot have power to justify nor to save (3:20a), but it can reflect our needfulness to the Savior.

To sum up this argument: “usage and the context of Romans 3-4 demonstrate that “works of the law” and “works” have essentially the same functional meaning in Paul. It is evident, furthermore that when erga is used in parallel fashion to ta erga tou nomou the term has reference particularly to good actions which could conceivably be regarded as meritorious.”[29] There is no simply room for such an artificial restriction. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the INK does.

IV. The soteriology of INK confuses between “entering to Christ”, as a cause of salvation and “entering to the fold”, as a result of salvation (cf. John 10:9).

One of the foundational verses for the belief that membership to the Iglesia ni Kristo is necessary for salvation can be found in John 10:9. Upon exploring this verse, we can read Jesus saying: “I am the door; anyone who comes into the fold through me will be safe.” (Revised English Bible [REB]) As we have noted in the previous chapter,[30]  for the INK, if a man wanted “to attain salvation, he must come into the fold through the Lord Jesus Christ.”[31]  Thus, we can see that they equated entering to Christ and entering to the Iglesia ni Kristo as a cause of salvation.  But the writer of this paper contends that this is a misleading equation. Let us note several things on this “good-shepherd allegory”.[32]

First, while it is true that entering to Christ and entering to Church cannot be separated ecclesiologically,[33] it can be reasonably and scripturally detached soteriologically.  That is to say, while we maintain that one who enters Christ also will eventually enter to the fold (ecclesiology)—we should carefully note the difference of “entering to Christ”, as a cause of salvation to “entering to the fold”, as a result of salvation (soteriology). Unfortunately, the thought of dissimilarity in action cannot be easily seen in a very loose translation such as REB (“I am the door; anyone who comes into the fold through me will be safe”).[34] On the other hand, this can be seen clearly in a more literal translation, such as NKJV,[35] NASB, ESV, NIV, KJV, HCSB, ISV, etc: “I [Jesus Christ] am the door [Jesus Christ]; if anyone enters through Me [Jesus Christ], he will be saved [cause of salvation], and will go in and out [result of salvation] and find pasture [result of salvation].”[36] To equate the cause to result is to blur this biblical distinction of the two.

Second, the emphatic emphasis in Greek was placed in the role of Christ in salvific terms, not to the flock or church.[37] Jesus says the one who enters through him (“through me” is emphatic in the Greek) will be saved (John 10:9a).[38] We can note then that “there is no other entrance!” However, regarding on how to enter to Christ, “let [John] 3:16 serve as commentary: faith in Christ as the Son of God is the only entrance-door. And this faith is full, personal trust in him and in his substitutionary atonement.”[39] This is worth emphasizing, “let [John] 3:16 serve as commentary”[40] before going to Pasugo of INK. The provider and the means to be saved is through entering to Jesus Christ, not to the church.

Thirdly, the verb “going in” should not be viewed as a command to enter to the fold as “going out” obviously does not refer to going out to the fold. Instead, they should be taken together (“going in and going out”) to mean for a person who has found “security”[41] in entering to Christ. In the LXX, this expression has its meaning to “move about freely”.[42] John MacArthur elaborates:

In Jesus’ metaphor He is the door through which the sheep enter the safety of God’s fold and go out to the rich pasture of His blessing. It is through Him that lost sinners can approach the Father and appropriate the salvation He provides; Jesus alone is “the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through [Him]” (14:6; cf. Acts 4:12; 1 Cor. 1:30; 3:11; 1 Tim. 2:5). Only Jesus is the true source of the knowledge of God and salvation, and the basis for spiritual security.[43]

So according to these words, “the Gospel is of service to us in two ways: in it our souls find nourishment, while they otherwise languish with hunger and are fed only with wind; and also Christ will be a faithful protector and defense against the attacks of wolves and robbers. Thus, benefits (results) of salvation should not be viewed as condition to salvation.

Fourthly, a closer examination to John 10:9 will reveal that it was “and” (“καὶ”) was used instead of “by” or “through” (“δι’”) nor other “causal conjunctions” (i.e., “ἐξ” or “γάρ” ) to the clauses of “going in and going out” (10:9b) and “finding pasture” (10:9c). This further proves again that they do not stand in causal relationship with the first clause, “if anyone enters through Me” (10:9a), but consequential relationship.[44]

Lastly, the interpretation of INK to John 10:9 should be in harmony with the soteriology found in Romans. In relation to the said book, James Orr rightly said: “The subject of justification must be in the first place the individual and only in the second place and by consequence the society. Besides, those justified are not the cleansed and sanctified members of churches, but the ungodly (Rom 4:5).”[45] Thus, Christ is the one who leads the sheep in. Entering to Christ is the cause of salvation. The result, they become a part of the “one flock”, which probably perhaps His church. He is still the Door of salvation (John 10:9),[46] not the church. Those who trust Him enter into the Lord’s flock or fold, and they will have the wonderful privilege of going “in and out” and finding pasture. Jesus should be maintained as the mediator of the salvation, again, not the Church.

V. The soteriology of INK confuses between “Christ as the Savior of the Church” and “Christ as the Savior of the sinners” (Eph. 5:23).

Perhaps, the most favored argument of INK for the notion of salvation by membership can be concisely put down into this statement: “Since it is the church that will be saved by the Savior, one must then be in the Church to be saved.”[47] Ephesians 5:23 becomes now pivotal for this assertion.[48] This calls us again to carefully investigate this text in its proper context.

First, this verse simply informs us “who the Savior is” and not “how to become saved by the Savior”. Neither the immediate context nor the larger context support the interpretation offered by INK. To argue on the methodology of salvation here is a wishful exegesis on the INK part.

Second, even though the notion of salvation by membership does not necessarily excluded here on this text—it does not also necessarily included. Thus, their assertion would become argument from silence at its best.

Third, it is unfortunate for the side of INK to see them confusing the motif between “Christ as the Savior of the Church” and “Christ as the Savior of the sinners.” As we have pointed out earlier, the biblical writers have no intention of limiting the efficacy of salvation solely into the church when they referred Christ as its Savior. Thus, if the biblical writers wanted to convey a significant doctrine such as salvation by membership in Christ as Savior of the church motif, they could have developed this concept more in their soteriology as they did in justification by faith in Christ as the Savior of the sinner motif. Unfortunately, one could hardly find a single text to support such teaching in the Scripture.[49] Instead, we can find a sharp opposite in 1 Timothy 4:10, we read, “Because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”[50] As Walter A. Elwell points out, “It is true that the benefits of Christ’s death are referred to as belonging to the elect, his sheep, his people, but it would have to be shown that Christ died only for them. No one denies that Christ died for them. It is only denied that Christ died exclusively for them.”[51] Thus, Millard Erickson remarkably concludes that the:

statements about Jesus loving and dying for his church or his sheep need not be understood as confining his special love and salvific death strictly to them….It does not follow from a statement that Christ died for his church, or for his sheep, that he did not die for anyone else, unless, of course, the passage specifically states that it was only for them that he died….Certainly if Christ died for the whole, there is no problem in asserting that he died for a specific part of the whole. To insist that those passages which focus on his dying for his people require the understanding that he died only for them and not for any others contradicts the universal passages. We conclude that the hypothesis of universal atonement is able to account for a larger segment of the biblical witness with less distortion than is the hypothesis of limited atonement.”[52]

 VI. The soteriology of INK fails to stand by misidentifying “Church of Christ” into “Church of God” (cf. Acts 20:28).

One of the most frequently used and commonly abused text to prove that it is only the members of Church of Christ is Acts 20:28. On this we can see a common reasoning that the name of the church which Christ had purchased was the Church of Christ, we read in Lamsa’s Translation: “Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood.” Although INK admittedly accepts that the phrase “church of Christ” could not be found in Greek Manuscript,[53] INK seeks still to defend the legitimacy of this phrase by arguing:

(1) Theologically—Internal Evidence. Here they argue that “Jewish Christian could not have used the term God, because in their eyes God is spirit, and spirit has no flesh and blood. . . . It was Jesus of Nazareth who shed his blood on the cross for us, and not God.”[54]

(2) Lexically—External Evidence. Here they assert that “it is not just Lamsa’s translation which mentions “Church of Christ” in Acts 20:28. The English translation of the verse in Syriac manuscript such as MS Syriac 325 (12th century), MS Syriac 27 (16th century), and the Novum Testamentum Syriace (17th century) read “Church of Christ.”[55]. These two leading arguments deserve a cautious response.

First, the theological argument of INK believes not to be the best approach to solve the dilemma of this text. As we can see, for them to save the controversial phrase “Church of Christ” they tried to argue to the impossibility of God having “flesh and bones”[56] specifically, having “no blood”.[57] Nevertheless, the writer suggests that linguistical problem like this should be faced linguistically first before going to theological solutions to avoid tainted or biased interpretation,[58] because even without going to the theological exposition, one could solve this dilemma by looking at the construction of the Greek in its grammar. Upon looking at this text, we must admit though that there is no other reference in the New Testament refers to “the blood of God.” But the Greek phrase διὰ του̂ αἵματος του̂ ἰδίου (dia tou haimatos tou idiou) can also be translated “with the blood of his own,” that is “the blood of his own [son].”[59] So, the issue would not be whether God has a blood or not, but whether the phrase “Church of God” should be used instead of “Church of Christ”. As a result, if this observation is correct, Acts 20:28 would be translated into this (NET Bible): “Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.” It is the writer’s opinion that linguistical-grammatical solution serves a better methodology than theological solution for it would emphasize the relationship of Christ to God and yet maintains the phrase “Church of God”[60] without contradicting the theology of having blood in reference to God.

Second, INK’s lexical argument bears no weight to the solution of the problem. Since it is scholarly and historically established that the New Testament was written in Koine Greek,[61] to use different translations of Aramaic proves nothing at all. We must keep in mind that the intricacy at hand is not whether we can find Church of Christ in Aramaic manuscripts, but whether the phrase Church of Christ could be found in Greek manuscripts.[62] Unfortunately, the evidence is next to nothing and their argument simply does not follow.

Third, it is feeble to build a doctrine from a highly controversial text like Acts 20:28.

VII. The soteriology of INK fails to stand by treating baptism as “inward cause of salvation” and not as “outward sign of salvation” (cf. Mrk. 16:16-17).

In an attempt to debunk the widespread belief of faith alone of Paul they argue that faith is indeed necessary for salvation.”[63] However, they are quick to protest to the insufficiency of faith by asking whether faith is enough without baptism. This is where in their soteriology that baptism will play an important role in the cause of one’s salvation because “aside from listening to the gospel and having faith”[64] they will gladly introduce to you the importance of baptism embedded in the command of Jesus to his disciples: “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned’.” (Mark 16:16, 17, KJV) This argument deserves a careful attention.

First, the phrase “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (16:17a) is not the same as equating baptism as necessary to salvation; this can be evidently seen in the last half of the verse of Mark, where we can find the omission to the reference to baptism—“but he who does not believe will be condemned’.” (16:17b) We can press the question then, if baptism is truly necessary to salvation, why would Mark omit baptism in the presence of faith in the second part of the verse (v. 17b)? Perhaps, plainly because “condemnation comes from refusal to believe, not from a failure to be baptized.”[65]

Second, “it is tenuous to argue the point from Mark 16:16 because some of the oldest New Testament manuscripts do not contain Mark 16:9-20.”[66] Whether this is true or not, one should avoid building doctrines in a questionable foundation like Mark 16:16-17. Unfortunately, if one will look with Matthew, Luke and John; one cannot find the same teaching in the Synoptic Gospels (cf. Matt. 28:18-20).

Third, “Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 1:17), thus putting the “gospel” and “baptism” in opposition. Clearly, baptism is not part of the gospel. But the gospel “is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). Since, then, the gospel saves us and baptism is not part of the gospel, it follows that baptism cannot be part of what saves us. Baptism, rather, is an outward sign of what saves us, namely, the regeneration of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who believe the gospel.[67]

VIII. The soteriology of INK fails to stand by missing the difference between “such as should be saved” and “those that were being saved” (Acts 2:47).

As we have seen the arguments above, Christ being the Savior of the church does not necessarily imply that one must be in the Church to be saved. However, the scholars of INK insist to prove their point “that joining the church is indispensable to man’s salvation”[68] by quoting in Acts 2:47, we read in the King James Version: “…And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” One INK writer forcefully ask: “Why does God still add to the Church those who will be saved if indeed, the Church is not needed for salvation?”[69] Thus, “God’s master plan of salvation involves the Church, thus, nobody can rightfully say that the Church membership is not needed for man’s salvation. In view of this, we can be sure that preachers who claim to be God-sent, but adhere to, and even propagate the teaching that Church membership is not necessary for man’s salvation, are not in the truth.”[70] The writer simply asks: “Shall we focus on the question then?” Interestingly, the rendering of the King James Version of “should be saved” has no support in the construction of the grammar in the Greek text—τους σωζομενους [tous sōzomenous]—which is in present passive participle.[71] The causal rendering of “should be saved” in Acts 2:47 should be translated with the descriptive phrase “those who were being saved.” This phrase does not imply a gradual salvation of the individual believer but rather indicates that the miracle of salvation occurs daily.[72] Nor does it express any purpose that they should be saved, but simply the fact that they were those who would be, or who were about to be saved. The question raised earlier cannot be answered rightly because it was framed in the wrong method of salvation and faulty translation. Thus, those who are to be saved will join themselves to the church, not to be saved, but because they are already saved.


[1] In a sense that it should be accompanied with works.

[2] Tomas C. Catangay, Are you on the true path to salvation, Pasugo God’s Message 49, March 1997, 13, italics and supplication mine.

[3] Nicanor P. Tiosen, Not by faith alone, Pasugo God’s Message 51, February 9, 18, 19.

[4] John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied p. 121.

[5] The writer of this paper stands to be corrected when they can show an article that distinguishes from justification with sanctification.

[6] R. C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Carol Stream, I. L.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1998), 191.

[7] Nicanor P. Tiosen, Not by faith alone, Pasugo God’s Message 51, February 9, 18, 19.

[8] Ibid. 18.

[9] Donald Guthrie, New Testament  Theology (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity, 1981), pp. 505-506; 598–599; Davids, Epistle of James, pp. 50, 132; idem, James, pp 70, 78; Rakestraw, “James 2:14–26,” pp. 36–37. Similarly, NIDNTT,  s.v. “Faith,” by C. Brown, 1:605.

[10] Cf. Hiebert, The Epistle of James, p. 177; Douglas J. Moo, James, TNTC, ed. L. Morris (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), p. 100; Homer A. Kent, Jr., Faith that Works: Studies in the Epistle of James  (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986), p. 89; Ronald Y. K. Fung, “‘Justification’ in the Epistle of James,” in Right with God: Justification in the Bible and the World, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), pp. 147, 278

[11] So Calvin: “to Paul, the word denotes our free imputation of righteousness before the judgment seat of God, to James, the demonstration of righteousness from its effects in the sight of men” (A Harmony of the Gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and The Epistles  of James  and Jude, trans. A. W. Morrison, ed. D.  W. Torrance and T.  F. Torrance, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972], p. 285). Many have followed his lead, for example, O. Palmer. Robertson, “Genesis 15:6: New Covenant Expositions of an Old Covenant Text,” WTJ 42 (Fall 1980): 286–287; Davids, Epistle of James, p. 51 (but note his discussion of the verb in Jas 2:24, p. 232); Fung, “Justification in James,” pp. 152–154; Buist M. Fanning, “A Theology of James,” in A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, ed. R. B. Zuck (Chicago: Moody, 1994), pp. 428–429; Richardson, James, pp. 44, 142.

[12] See, chapter 2.

[13] Friberg, Timothy ; Friberg, Barbara ; Miller, Neva F.: ““δίκαιος,” Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Books, 2000 (Baker’s Greek New Testament Library 4), S. 116; Kittel, Gerhard (Hrsg.) ; Bromiley, Geoffrey William (Hrsg.) ; Friedrich, Gerhard (Hrsg.): “δίκαιος,”Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. electronic ed. Grand Rapids, MI : Eerdmans, 1964-c1976, S. 2:182

[14] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge, 3:17:12 (reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1966), 2:115.

[15] Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1985), 46.

[16] C. L. Mitton, The Epistle of James (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966), 104.

[17] Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1985), 46.

[18] Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1985), 46.

[19] Alexander Ross, “The Epistle of James and John,” The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan.: Eerdmans, 1954), 53.

[20] Angel Manuel Rodriguez, “Faith That Works,” Adventist World, October 1, 2008, 26.

[21] Nicanor P. Tiosen, Not by faith alone, Pasugo God’s Message 51, February 9, 18, 19, emphasis not mine.

[22] Pasugo, March 1996, p. 3, emphasis mine.

[23] Ibid. 19

[24] Most of the arguments here are adapted from D. J. Moo see, “‘Law,’  ‘Works of the Law’ and Legalism  in Paul,” WTJ 45 (Spring 1983): 73–100, esp. pp. 90–100.

[25] Ibid., 94, 95.

[26] Ibid., 95, emphasis not mine.

[27] Pasugo, March 1996, p. 3.

[28] Martin Luther, writing on Romans 3:27-28, presents the traditional understanding of the phrase: “What the apostle means by works of the law are works in which the persons who do them trust as if they are justified by doing them, and thus are righteous on account of their works.” By “deeds prescribed by the law” Paul “means thereby that no one will attain the status of uprightness before God’s tribunal by performing deeds mandated by Mosaic law, or by “all that the law says’ (3:19).”[Martin Luther, Lectures on Romans, trans. and ed. Wilhelm Pauck, Library of Christian Classics 15 (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961), 119, cited on William D. Barrick, “The New Perspecive and ‘Works of the Law’ (Gal 2:16 and Rom 3:20) TMSJ 16/2 (Fall 2005), 290.

[29] D. J. Moo see, “‘Law,’  ‘Works of the Law’ and Legalism in Paul,”, 96.

[30] See chapter 4.

[31] Gary P. Barrientos, The inherent obligation of man, Pasugo God’s Message 48, October 1996, 10.

[32] “Jesus has pointed out at least four points of comparison: “(1) the shepherd is Christ; (2) the door is Christ; (3) the sheep are those for whom Jesus lays down his life; (4) the flock represents the union of all believers under one shepherd.”[32] (Elwell, Walter A. ; Beitzel, Barry J.: Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Book House, 1988, S. 312) For a thorough investigation of the OT background of John 10, especially 10:16, see Köstenberger 2002b. On sheep and shepherd imagery, see also Keener 2003: 799–802. Köstenberger, Andreas J.: John. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Academic, 2004 (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament).

[33] This is where the author agrees that Christ and the Church cannot be separated as the Head and the Body cannot.

[34] Or Revised English Bible, which is the favored translation of Iglesia ni Kristo when it comes to John 10:9. Thus, one could not wonder why the INK favors this translation than the others.

[35] Like for instance, in NKJV we read 10:9: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture”; in NASB we read:  “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture”; in ESV we read: I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture”; in NIV we read: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture”; in KJV we read: I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture”; in HCSB we read: I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture”; in ISV we read: “I’m the gate. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved. He’ll come in and go out and find pasture.”

[36] The comments in boldface placed within brackets are mine.

[37] Note the emphatic placement of διʼ ἐμοῦ (di’ emou, through me), which focuses on Jesus’ role as the one through whom sheep may enter the fold (Morris 1995: 452). See also, Whitacre, Rodney A.: John. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999 (The IVP New Testament Commentary Series 4), S. 258.

[38] The door of the sheep. “Meaning the door for the sheep; not the door of the fold. ‘The thought is connected with the life, and not simply with the organization.’” [Vincent, Marvin Richardson: Word Studies in the New Testament. Bellingham, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2002, S. 2:190]

[39]Hendriksen, William ; Kistemaker, Simon J.: New Testament Commentary : Exposition of the Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids : Baker Book House, 1953-2001 (New Testament Commentary 1-2), S. 2:109 Emphasis and italics are mine. The substitutionary atonement of John 10 can be found in Jesus said in John 10:9–14, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. . . . I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. . . . I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”

[40] Ibid.

[41] “Will go in and out”: Jesus’ language here (a Semitism) echoes covenant terminology, especially Deuteronomic blessings for obedience (cf. Deut. 28:6; cf. Ps. 121:8)[41] [Köstenberger, Andreas J.: John. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Academic, 2004 (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), S. 304]

[42]Zerwick, Max ; Grosvenor, Mary: A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament. Rome : Biblical Institute Press, 1974, S. 317

[43]MacArthur, John: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary : John 1-11. Chicago : Moody Press, 2006, S. 430. See also: He shall enjoy all the privileges that true salvation offers—protection, safety, security, and peace, as well as spiritual food for his soul. [Nichol, Francis D.: The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary : The Holy Bible With Exegetical and Expository Comment. Washington, D.C. : Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978 (Commentary Reference Series), S. Jn 10:10]

[44] Although the conjunction “καὶ” can be interpreted to mean as: “(1) connecting single words and (MT 2.11d); (2) as a continuative, connecting clauses and sentences and (MT 21.23c); (3) as coordinating time with an event when (MK 15.25); (4) to introduce a result from preceding circumstances and then, and so (MT 4.19); (5) to introduce an abrupt question expressing a contrasting feeling then, in that case (2C 2.2); (6) as emphasizing an unexpected fact and yet, nevertheless, and in spite of that (MT 3.14); (7) to explain what preceded and so, that is, namely (MT 8.33b; JN 1.16); (8) κ. … κ. bothand, not onlybut also (AC 26.29).” [Friberg, Timothy ; Friberg, Barbara ; Miller, Neva F.: Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Books, 2000 (Baker’s Greek New Testament Library 4), 211, emphasis mine] Even though there are multiple possibilities to the meaning of “καὶ”—the writer of this paper argues that “καὶ” should mean as consequential conjunction (because phrases “go in and out” and “find pasture” should be seen as results [as privilege] of entering to Christ”. However, even without being dogmatic, it would never connote as causal conjunction. See also, Vine, W.E. ; Bruce, F.F.: Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Old TappanNJ : Revell, 1981; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996, S. 2:50

[45] Orr, James, M.A., D.D.: Orr, James (Hrsg.): The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia  : 1915 Edition. Albany, OR : Ages Software, 1999

[46] “Whoever goes through the door, will be saved”—Jesus is here conceived as the door to the sheepfold. Haenchen, Ernst ; Funk, Robert Walter ; Busse, Ulrich: John : A Commentary on the Gospel of John. Philadelphia : Fortress Press, 1984 (Hermeneia–a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible), S. 48

[47] Ruben D. Aromin, No other way, Pasugo 54 December 2002, 7.

[48] Although, this is not only the text which was commonly used to prove this assertion, it is the writer’s opinion that Eph 5:23 can be most explicit text to support this view, therefore, this text will be the main focus of this section (see also argument no. 4 and no. 5).

[49] Except maybe with John 10:9 as INK would likely to argue (see argument no. 4 for response).

[50] NIV, emphasis mine.

[51] Walter A. Elwell, “General Redemption,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books House, 2001), 116.

[53] May 2004| Volume 56 |Number 05| ISSN 0116-1636| p. 3

[54] New Testament Commentary: From the Aramaic and the Eastern Customs, pp. 149-150) in God’s Message: May 2004| Volume 56 |Number 05| ISSN 0116-1636| p. 3

[55] May 2004| Volume 56 |Number 05| ISSN 0116-1636| p. 3

[56] May 2004| Volume 56 |Number 05| ISSN 0116-1636| p. 3

[57] Ibid.

[58] One could argue that since God was made flesh then it can

[59] Gaertner, Dennis: Acts. Joplin, Mo. : College Press, 1993 (The College Press NIV Commentary), S. Ac 20:31

[60] This lead various scholars and other considerations led the committee to regard θεοῦ as the original reading. See, Henry Alford, The Greek Testament, new ed., ii (Boston, 1881), pp. 230 f.; R. J. Knowling, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, ii (London, 1900), p. 434; E. Jacquier, Les Actes des Apôtres (Paris, 1926), p. 615; K. Lake and H. J. Cadbury, The Beginnings of Christianity, iv (1933), p. 261; Charles F. De Vine, “The ‘Blood of God’ in Acts 20:28, ” Catholic Biblical Quarterly, ix (1947), pp. 381 ff.; F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles (London, 1951), p. 381; C. S. C. Williams, A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (New York, 1957), p. 234; E. Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles, A Commentary, pp. 582 f.

[61] See the following works that defends the Greek Primacy, Bruce M. Metzger and Bart D. Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (Madion Avenue, New York: Oxford University Press, 1992). See also, Archibald Macbride Hunter, Introducing the New Testament (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Westminster Press, 1972); Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament  (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997).

[62] Jose Ventelacion, perhaps the leading scholar and debater of INK commits the same mistake when he argued on his debate presentation that because Aramaic was the language of Jesus used—Church of Christ in Aramaic should be maintained. Again, problem at hand is not whether we can find Church of Christ in Aramaic, nor whether what was the language of Jesus, but whether the phrase Church of Christ could be found in Greek manuscripts. See, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVxgBYIRkw4

[63] God’s Message: October 2008| Volume 60| Number 10| ISSN 0116- 1636| p. 04

[64] Ibid.

[65] The Moody Handbook of Theology By Paul P Enns Chicago, I.L.: Moody Publishers, 2008, 342.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Most of the arguments here are adapted from the work of Geisler, Norman L. ; MacKenzie, Ralph E.: Roman Catholics and Evangelicals : Agreements and Differences. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Books, 1995, S. 261

[68] Ruben D. Aromin, No other way, Pasugo 54 December 2002, 7.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Ibid.

[71] Vincent, Marvin Richardson: Word Studies in the New Testament. Bellingham, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2002, S. 1:458. See also, Robertson, A.T.: Word Pictures in the New Testament. OakHarbor : Logos Research Systems, 1997, S. Ac 2:47

[72] Kistemaker, Simon J. ; Hendriksen, William: New Testament Commentary : Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids : Baker Book House, 1953-2001 (New Testament Commentary 17), S. 114.

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Concept of Salvation in Seventh-day Adventist Church and in Islam


Concept of Salvation in Seventh-day
Adventist Church and in Islam 

Jaymark John D. Molo

“…Only he who is saved far from the fire and admitted to the garden will have attained the object (of life): for the life of this world is but goods and chattels of deception.” (Surah 3:185b, Yusuf Ali)

“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4, ESV)

Seventh-day Adventist and Islam share much common ground. Both believe in prophecy, God’s messengers, revelation, scripture, resurrection and man’s need of salvation. However, even though both religions hold some significant views, close examination shows conclusively that their teachings are widely divergent and contradictory. This does not exclude the topic of soteriology. This topic will become subject of this paper.

On this article, we will consider soteriology by contrasting some important points within the theological context of each religion. A biblical and philosophical evaluation will follow the presentation of each soteriology, with a conclusion at the end.

Christ and Salvation by Grace

 Seventh-day Adventists firmly and wholeheartedly believe that salvation is purely a gift from God in Jesus Christ. Sinful as we are, we can add nothing to the perfect righteousness of Christ, which he wrought out in his incarnation by his perfect obedience to the law of God and by his death on the cross for our sins. In the words of one of the Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists:

In Christ’s life of perfect obedience to God’s will, His suffering, death, and resurrection, God provided the only means of atonement for human sin, so that those who by faith accept this atonement may have eternal life, and the whole creation may better understand the infinite and holy love of the Creator. This perfect atonement vindicates the righteousness of God’s law and the graciousness of His character; for it both condemns our sin and provides for our forgiveness. Fundamental Beliefs, 9.[1]

This statement is a clear denial of salvation by works. Christianity teaches that man cannot earn salvation. However, God cannot just wink at sin. We need a savior who will bridge the gap and who will pay the penalty for us. That is why, salvation is only in Christ’s finished work on the cross that God considers our blemishes healed. Good works cannot become the cause of salvation, but only the undeniable effect of it.[2]

Mohammad and Salvation by Works[3]

It is noteworthy to remember that while Seventh-day Adventist views salvation as a form of grace the religion of Islam does not. For them, it is not a gift. It has to be earned through vigorous works.[4] Salvation is in direct relation to work.[5] “Then those whose balance (of good deeds) is heavy, they will attain salvation: but those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls; in Hell will they abide.”[6] However, we must not forget that works should be accompanied by faith or belief. As the Koran Says: “To those who believe And do deeds of righteousness Hath God promised forgiveness And a great reward.”[7] This is the great dividing line that needs to be reconciled between Christianity and Islam.

Biblical and Philosophical Evaluation

Now that we have seen the two contrasting views of each religion regarding salvation, the logical question would be: “Which religion holds the truth?” On this section, the affirmative side will fairly evaluate the Islamic view in the light of eternal attributes of God.

First, the soteriology of Islam is morally deficient because the love of God was not unconditional.

“God loves not.”[8] That phrase is not surprising in the book of Qur’an because that teaching was popularly promoted and heavily influenced by their doctrine of salvation by works. Again, we must be reminded that Islam teaches that love and mercy of God is conditioned upon good works.[9] That is to say, the love of the Muslim God is tied with good works. So, if a person is not doing righteous deeds, Allah’s love is not with him or her. However, Jesus made a revolutionary point when He asked this question to his audience: “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” The he quickly added: “Even sinners love those who love them.”[10] Therefore, If God then only loves those who love Him, or do good, or are pure then this love is not above or beyond man’s love since man also loves and appreciates such people – this is clearly a moral deficient in the love of God in Islam.

Second, the soteriology of Islam is groundless promise because the justice of God was left unsatisfied.

The Muslim concept of forgiveness is unlike that of biblical Christianity. In Seventh-day Adventist, forgiveness is based upon the death of Christ on the cross. This means that once a person receives Christ as his or her Savior, all of his or her sins are forgiven and each one is assured a place in heaven: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned[11] However, in the Muslim context, “there is forgiveness but no real basis for forgiveness.”[12] Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb clearly explain it this way:

       “Indeed, Mislims, like Christians, believe that God will punish forever those who do not repent of their sins (14:17; 25:11-14). But if God’s holy justice demands that those who do not accept him be eternally punished for their sins, then it would seem to follow that God cannot just arbitrarily forgive anyone for anything with- out there being a just basis for this forgiveness. However, in Muslim theology—with its rejection of the cross—there is forgiveness but no real basis for this forgiveness. For Muslims reject Christ’s sacrificial payment for sin to a just God by which he can then justly justify the unjust who accept Christ’s payment on their behalf (cf. Rom. 3:21-26). After all, a truly just God cannot simply close his eyes to sin; he cannot overlook evil. So unless someone capable of paying the debt of sin owed to God does so, God is obligated to express his wrath, not his mercy, upon them.”[13]

The justice of God was completely compromised because it was left unsatisfied – this is clearly a groundless promise to the forgiveness of God in Islam.

Third, the soteriology of Islam is wishful thinking because the sovereignty of God  overrides the will of man.

The inevitable dilemma that a Muslim can have is the concept of salvation in the context of Allah’s predestination. As the Koran says, “All things have we created after a fixed degree….”[14] Moreover “God leads astray whomsoever He will; and He guides whomsoever He will….”[15] Abdiyah Akbar Abdul- Haqq observes:

“There are several [Muslim] traditions also about the predestination of all things, including all good and bad actions and guided and misguided people…. Even if a person desires to choose God’s guidance, he cannot do so without the prior choice of God in favor of his free choice. This is sheer determinism.”[16]

Dr. Wilson keenly adds: “The fifth article of [Muslim] faith is predestination… the fact that everything that happens, either good or bad, is foreordained by the unchangeable decrees of Allah. It will be seen at once that this makes Allah the author of evil, a doctrine that most Muslim theologians hold.”[17] To put in a nutshell: The Muslim God saves those whom He only wants;[18] the Christian God saves all those who will receive Jesus Christ as Savior.[19] In relation to good works[20], Abdiyah Akbar Abdul-Haqq comments that the Islamic reliance on good works is bound to leave any Muslim who seeks for personal assurance of salvation “utterly confused”[21] because in this life no Muslim can ever know if his good works are finally sufficient—let alone if he is predestined to Allah’s favor. Thus, a Muslim can only hope that He was chosen to saved – this is clearly a wishful thinking in the part of sovereignty of their God in Islam.

These arguments do not only show the irreconcilable dilemma of Islamic theology, but also destroys the credibility of their God.

Conclusion

Seventh-day Adventist teaches that our salvation is a free gift through faith alone in Jesus Christ—and specifically not by works. While, Islam teaches that one gains entrance into heaven by your works in addition to faith. We have also shown in the above arguments that there are theologies that are needed to be reconciled in Muslim theology regarding the attributes of God. Unless, these irreconcilable dilemmas are not solved, there is no sufficient reason on believing the concept of salvation in Islam. Thus, Seventh-day Adventist paves way to the right path of salvation.


[1] “Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists, 9. ‘Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ,’” in Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 2006 ([Silver Springs, Maryland:] The General Conference Corporation of Seventh-day Adventists, 2006), 5.

[2] As it says in the Bible, in the sight of a holy God “all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:5-7) “But God demonstrated his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) This is what they call the gospel.

[3] Of course, the Muslims will tell us the Qur’an teaches that Allah is gracious to them and that they do not earn their forgiveness. The affirmative side acknowledge this. The Qur’an says, “…Allah is the Lord of grace unbounded,” (8:29), and also,” …But Allah will choose for his special mercy whom he will – for Allah is lord of grace abounding,” (2:105). But still, Allah’s forgiveness is tied to the Muslim’s works which disqualify as a grace.

[4] Qur’an, 2.195.

[5] Qur’an 20.15.

[6] Qur’an 23.102.

[7] See, statement above.

[8] God does not love the al-mua’tadeen, the brutal: 2:19; 5:90; 7:55. God does not love the al-fasideen, the corrupt: 2:205; 5:67; 28:77. God loves not the al-kafireen, the unbelievers: 2:276; 3:32; 30:45. God loves not the ad-dalemeen, the wrongdoers: 3:57; 3:140; 42:40. God loves not the musarifeen, the wasters: 6:141; 7:31. God loves not the boaster: 31:18; 57:23; 4:36. God loves not the proud and boasting: 16:23. God loves not those who boast in their riches: 28:76 God loves not the treacherous: 8:58. God does not love those who are given to crime and to evil speaking: 4:107; 4:148.

[9] God loves those who do good. 2:195; 3:134; 3:148; 5:14; 5:96. God loves the pure and clean: 2:222; 9:108. God loves those who are righteous: 3:76; 9:4; 9:7; 19:96. God loves those who are just and judge rightly: 5:45; 49:9; 60:8. God loves those who trust Him: 3:159. God loves the persevering or patient: 3:146. God loves those who love Him and follow the Prophet: 3:31. God Himself will produce a people He will love: 5:57. God loves those who fight in His cause: 61:4.

[10] Luke 6:32.

[11] John 5:24., emphasis mine.

[12] Norman Geilser and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam, (GrandRapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2002, 2nd Ed.), p. 290.

[13] Ibid.

[14] J. M. Rodwell, The Koran, (New York: Dutton, Everyman’s Library, 1977), p. 78.

[15] A. J. Arberry, The Koran Interpreted, (New York: MacMillan, 1976), p. 174.

[16]Abdiyah Akabar Abdul-Haqq, Sharing Your Faith with a Muslim (Minneapolis: Bethany, 1978), p. 159.

[17] J. Christy Wilson, Introducing Islam, (New York: Friendship Press, 1965, rev.), p. 24.

[18] Qur’an 14.4.

[19] See the following texts: 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:2; Luke 19:10.

[20] See argument no. 1.

[21] Abdiyah Akbar Abdul-Haqq, Sharing Your Faith With A Muslim Minneapolis, MN: Bethany, 1980),p.164.

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Brief Assessment: The Intercessory Prayer of Blessed Virgin Mary to Jesus Christ our Savior is Necessary for Salvation.


The Intercessory Prayer of Blessed Virgin Mary to Jesus
Christ our Savior is Necessary for Salvation.

Jaymark Molo

For many Protestants, Mariology and Mariolatry are almost identical. This is quite unfortunate because Seventh-day Adventist and Roman Catholics hold a number of common on the doctrine of Mary.[1]

The Theotokos of Vladimir, one of the most ven...

The Theotokos of Vladimir, one of the most venerated of Orthodox Christian icons of the Virgin Mary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nevertheless, since this paper will give a very brief response to the abbreviated argument of Mr. Zandro Ganipan,[2] we will focus on the major differences on the two said groups based on his first presentation and to his church dogma. Here are the following observations that we can ponder upon.

First, the scriptural evidence for intercessory prayer of (not for) Blessed Virgin Mary to Jesus is totally lacking.[3] Moreover, to put her in a role of “mediator” or “co-redeemer” is highly assuming. Even the prominent theologian Ludwig Ott admits that: “Express scriptural proofs are lacking.”[4] Indeed, the clear meaning of many passages of sacred Scripture declare that there is only one “mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human” (1 Tim. 2:5; cf. Jn. 10:1-11; 14:6; Heb. 1:2-3; 10:12).

Second, there is an inevitable dilemma in Catholic theology. On the one hand, Catholic theology admits that everything we need as believers we can get from Christ. On the other hand, many Catholic theologians have exalted the role of Mary as the dispenser of all grace. In my humble opinion, this is a hopeless dilemma for Zandro Ganipan. For either the role of Mary is rendered superfluous or else the all sufficiency of Christ’s mediation is diminished.

Third, true that our minsters voluntarily rendered prayers to his parishioners, but we do not find it as a requirement to salvation. In fact, the mediatorship of Mary has never been proclaimed as an infallible dogma by the church and, therefore, can be rejected by faithful Catholics without of being anathematized.

Therefore, we Seventh-day Adventist see no biblical basis for believing that Mary has a power to dispense grace through prayers. Christ alone has the power, role and right to acclaim that position.


[1] These refer her being the most blessed among women, her virgin conception of Christ the being the most blessed among women, her virgin conception of Christ the God-man.

[2] This is very unfortunate because the negative side cannot give a detailed response to affirmative side if he will cite a mere text alone (unaccompanied by exegesis).

[3] Unfortunately, the biblical texts (Lk. 1:48, Rev. 11:19; 12:1, Jn. 2:1-12 and 2. Cor. 5:18) [excluding Eph. 5:18, however, this is a miss gross interpretation because Paul is exhorting living saints to pray for one another] that he used do not even mention the word “prayer.”

[4] Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 214.

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Notes on Justification by Faith and Judgment according to Works


Notes on Justification by Faith and Judgment according to Works

Prepared by Jaymark Molo (mostly adapted from Ivan Blazen)

Reading Romans 3:1-8 reveals:

God is faithful, that is, He keeps His promises to human beings, even though they have broken their promises to Him (verses 1-4). Second, there is no excuse in God’s faithfulness for human sin, no encouragement to its continuance (verses 5-8).

Paul will develop the first point in his teaching on God’s justification of the ungodly by faith, and the second point in terms of his teaching on judgment according to works.

Facets of Justification

I. Justification as a right relationship with God. In justification a person in a wrong (broken) relationship to God comes into a right relationship with Him. All the terms begin with the stem dik in Greek and, therefore, are best begun with the stem right in English. In this way the interconnection between justification and righteousness is immediately evident.

II. Justification as acquittal. A meaning of justification directly related to its forensic or juridical background is “acquittal,” the opposite being “condemnation.” This contrasting word pair is found in Deuteronomy 25:1; Proverbs 17:15; Matthew 12:37; Romans 5:16, 18; 8:33, 34; and 2 Corinthians 3:9. Thus, in justification, God saves sinners from condemnation for their sins (Rom. 8:1) by acquitting them of all charges.

III. Justification as the reckoning of righteousness. The most important passage for understanding justification is Romans 4. Here Abraham, whom Jews considered a paragon of virtue, is brought forth to illustrate what the forefather of God’s people found, and what his descendants may find as well (verses 1–5, 22–24). If the best need God’s righteousness, so do all. That Abraham was justified by his good works is denied in verse 2 by Paul’s declaration that Abraham could not boast before God. The implication is that if one cannot boast in the Creator’s presence, justification cannot be by works. Thus, verse 2 shows us what Abraham did not find. Verse 3, quoting Genesis 15:6, describes what he did find, namely a divine reckoning of righteousness to him when he believed God. The line of argument in verses 1–6 reveals three major stages: the divine promise of blessing, the human response of faith, and the divine pronouncement of righteousness. In other words, faith is declared to be a right response to God’s grace and indicative of a right relationship with Him. Righteousness, or a right standing with God, does not result from the promise or faith by itself but from the cause-effect interaction between the two. The promise elicits faith, and faith receives the promise. The argument in Romans 4:3 is that if divine righteousness is reckoned, it can never be considered as man’s achievement, but only as God’s grace. Verse 4 indicates how things operate on the human level: people work and get pay for it, not grace. Verse 5, on the other hand, indicates how things operate on the divine level: by abandoning working for righteousness in favor of trusting (having faith in) the God who justifies the ungodly, this trust or faith is reckoned as righteousness.

IV. Justification as divine forgiveness. In Romans 4:6–8 Paul comes to the heart of the matter. As he has discussed Abraham and a prominent text, Genesis 15:6, so now he discusses David and another prominent text, Psalm 32:1, 2. Since the OT stipulated that an important testimonial was to be established by at least two witnesses (Deut. 17:6), Paul presents Abraham and David as witnesses from the law and the prophets to righteousness by faith (Rom. 3:21). In fact, he uses the testimony of David to explain more fully the meaning of the reckoning of righteousness to Abraham. Here he seems to be applying Rabbi Hillel’s second rule of biblical interpretation,“equivalency of expressions,” (cf. Strack 93, 94). According to this principle, a word or phrase found in one text of Scripture could be explained by the meaning it bears in another text. Since the word “reckoned” appears not only in Genesis 15:6 but also in Psalm 32:1, 2, Paul uses the latter text from Psalms, with its threefold parallelism, to illumine the former text from Genesis. Justification comes to mean forgiveness of sin, covering of sin, or not reckoning sin to the believer (Rom. 4:7, 8). Put otherwise, guilt is gone, sin no longer appears for judgment, and all charges are dropped. That God does not reckon sin finds a meaningful echo in 2 Corinthians 5:19: “God was in Christ [at the cross] reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” Thus, forgiveness lies at the heart of justification.

V. Justification as eschatological life and new creation. Justification also involves the gift of new life. Romans 5:18 teaches that Jesus’ act of obedience at the cross leads to “justification of life” (literal translation of “dikaiosis zoes”). The words “of life” (genitive case in Greek) may be rendered “life-giving justification” or “justification which issues in life.” In harmony with this, Romans 4:17 utilizes two great realities to explain the fullness of justification: Creation (God “calls into existence the things that do not exist”) and Resurrection (God “gives life to the dead”). In other words, justification is a new creation in which God brings life to those who are spiritually dead (cf. Eph. 2:1–5). “If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). In Galatians, where justification is the main theme, Paul argues that what really counts with God is a new creation (Gal. 6:15). This coheres with Paul’s rabbinic background according to which, when a Gentile was converted to Judaism, he was considered to be a new creature through the forgiveness of all his sins. Romans 6:4 speaks of one who has been united to Christ as having newness of life (“newness of Spirit” [Rom. 7:6]), meaning the eschatological life of the age to come. This new life, made available through the Spirit, is the foundation for ethical transformation, for the life brought by the Spirit is to be conducted under the guidance of the Spirit and bearing its fruit (Gal. 5:22–25).

VI. Justification as exchange of lordships. An element without which the full implications of justification will not be seen is found in Romans 6. The occasion for the chapter was the misunderstanding of Paul’s teaching on justification by faith alone apart from the law (Rom. 3:21–4:25). His teaching had been misconceived to mean that believers could unconcernedly perform evil so that good might come (Rom. 3:8), or that they could continue in sin that grace might abound (Rom. 6:1). This was an erroneous deduction from Paul’s teaching that when the law was revealed at Sinai, far from sin being abated—the Jewish position—trespasses abounded, only to be met by the superabounding of grace (Rom. 5:20). Paul’s Jewish critics thought such a construction tantamount not only to justification of the ungodly but to the justification of ungodliness. Paul wrote Romans 6 to explain that justification did not mean this. His primary argument is that in the life of believers there has taken place a transfer or exchange of lordships. Sin used to be lord (verses 17, 20) but, as a result of baptism into Christ and His death (verses 3, 4), death to sin’s lordship has occurred and the lordship of Christ has begun. In the forensic language of Romans 8:3, Christ judicially condemned sin in the flesh; thus, sin has lost its case in court. It is thereby deprived of authority over, or custody of, the life of one joined to Christ.

It is illuminating that the Greek word employed in Romans 6:7 to state that freedom from sin’s reign has taken place is dikaioo, which is the word ordinarily meaning “to justify.” This apo word, when used in the passive voice with the preposition “from” (
(cf. Acts 13:39, where forgiveness is coordinated with being freed from). This finds its parallel in), means being freed from apo the passive of eleutheroo (to free) in combination with “from” (
can be no question that for Paul justification, in addition to forgiveness of sins, involves freedom from the old lordship of sin. When this freedom takes place, it is the root out of which the fruit of sanctification emerges. Justification is a far more powerful reality than a mere legal adjustment in the books of heaven. It is a dethroning of that illegitimate authority that prevents a sanctified life, and the establishment of that divine authority that enables it. Perhaps this is why Paul can in Romans 6:18, 22. There twice move from justification to glorification without mentioning sanctification between (Rom. 5:2; 8:30). Justification, in the full Pauline sense, implies the concept of sanctification as moral growth predicated upon the believer’s transfer to the lordship of Christ.

VII. Justification as the reality of righteousness. It is common to say that in justification believers are treated as though they were righteous, or as if they had not sinned. This language is appropriate on two grounds. First, when righteousness is defined in a moral sense as perfect obedience to God’s holy law (SC 62), justification must mean that sinners are treated as though they were righteous. And since, for Christ’s sake, they are granted life instead of death, they are being treated as if they had not sinned. Second, the language of “as if we were righteous” is appropriate in a polemical situation with the Roman Catholic view that in justification we are not declared righteous, but are actually so by virtue of an infusion of grace and righteousness into the soul. However, when righteousness or justification is looked upon in its primary relational sense of being set into a right relationship with God, with all its salvific benefits, there can be no “as if.” When God says believers are right with Him, accepted by Him, forgiven by Him, reconciled to Him, adopted by Him, and granted life by Him as our Lord, they “really are (cf. 1 John 3:2). Thus, in a relational sense, one can appropriately speak of “being made righteous,” as in the RSV translation of Romans 5:9.

Facets of Judgment

I. To judge means to justify.

According to biblical understanding, “to judge” means “to justify” which is a judgment, which breaks through to our situation, and we are justified by His grace, i.e., declared just. Judgment is justification: God as a true Judge justifies repentant sinners (Rom 3:22-26; 5:6-11), and we are cleansed and acquitted from all guilt (Ps 51:1-2; Isa 6:7; Zech 3:4).

George Ladd correctly explains: “The doctrine of justification means that God has pronounced the eschatological verdict of acquittal over the man of faith in the present, in advance of the final judgment. . . . Thus the man in Christ is actually righteous, not ethically but forensically, in terms of his relationship to God.” (George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974], 446.)

II. To judge means to save.

God saves believers from the second death, sin, guilt, the power of evil, and gives eternal life (John 1:12; 3:16; 10:28; Rom 6:5-9, 23; 8:1-4). King David first describes a negative aspect of divine judgment in terms of destruction and cutting off but then emphasizes judgment as salvation: “All sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off. The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble” (Ps 37:38-39).

When God sends His message of judgment to people, it is a message of grace—an opportunity to repent; see the experience of the Ninevites (Jonah 3:6-10) or Daniel’s messages to Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 4:27-33). God does not want people to die as informed sinners. His message has the power to change people, if they are willing to listen, obey, and repent from their arrogance, stubbornness, or indifference (Isa 55:11).

III. To judge means to deliver.

God helps us to understand the nature of God’s judgment through the Old Testament book of Judges. What was the primary function of these judges? To condemn, punish, or destroy God’s people? On the contrary, judges were sent by God to deliver them from the oppression and devastation of their enemies.

David also prays: “Judge me, O Lord!” David asks God this on three occasions (Pss 7:8; 26:1; 35:24). If judgment mainly has a negative meaning, then, of course, David would never express such a prayer. He is not begging for condemnation or punishment. He hopes for God’s deliverance from his enemies and asks God for protection from his opponents.

IV. To judge means to vindicate.

The story of Job reveals this truth. In the heavenly tribunal, Satan accused Job of impure selfish motives: “Does Job fear God for nothing” (Job 1:6, 9)? The key term in this devilish question is the word chinnam (“for nothing”). In this court setting, God is on the side of Job even though He cannot answer directly and immediately Satan’s accusation, because the Accuser can be defeated only by someone who is weaker than he is and not by God’s argumentation or power. At the end, God accomplishes moral victory when Job’s unselfish love, trust, and service are revealed. Ultimately God’s love, truth, and justice prevails (Pss 100:5; 101:1; 103:8-11; 117), and God is just while justifying sinners (Ps 51:4; Rom 3:4, 26).

V. To judge means to condemn, to punish and to destroy (secondary meaning).

We know that God is holy (Lev 11:44-45;19:2; 1 Pet 1:15-16), a consuming fire (Isa 30:27), and we are sinners (Ps 51:5; Eccl 7:20; Jer 17:9; Rom 3:23; 1 John 1:8). Consequently, we cannot possibly stand before the awesome Judge of the whole Universe (Gen 18:25; Judg 11:27; 2 Tim 4:8). The typical response is aptly described by Asaph: “Who can stand before you . . . ? From heaven you pronounced judgment, and the land feared and was quiet” (Ps 76:7b-8a; see also Judg 13:22; Isa 6:3-5). At the bottom of our negative thoughts lies the conviction of our insufficiency and sinfulness.

Texts Concerning Judgment According to Works

2 Cor. 12:10—For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Romans 14: 10, 12—But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.

Romans 2:16—In the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

Other texts: 1 Corinthians 3:13; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Colossians 3:5, 6; 1 Thessalonians 4:6; Galatians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Ephesians 5:5, 6; Galatians 6:7, 8; Romans 8:5-13; Hebrews 2:1-3; Hebrews 10:26-31; etal.

Resolving the tension

I. Paul’s use of prepositions: Justification is through/by/from faith; judgment is according to works.

In linking justification to faith and judgment to works, Paul consistently uses “dia” or “ek” when relating faith to justification (Rom 3:22, 25; 5:1; Gal 2:16; cf. Eph 2:8; Col 2:12) and “kata” when relating works to judgment (Rom 2:6; 2 Cor 11:15; cf. Rom 2:2; 2 Tim 4:14).

Paul understands salvation to be through (dia) faith, and in accordance with (kata) a life of obedience and fruit. Faith is a means, works a manner. Justification is contingent upon faith; judgment is congruent with obedience.

II. Recognizing multiple dimensions of antithesis: the “already” and “not yet” theology of Paul—the salvation-historical view.

The essence of this view is that there is only one justification, and it accompanies the believer from the time of faith’s inception (the “already”) all the way into the final judgment, where its reality and vitality are tested and attested by its fruits (the “not yet”).

The principle is “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6, R.S.V.).

According to that plan, God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, His Son, and offered justification, a right relation with Himself, to all who would place their faith in the crucified, risen Christ. Those whom God justified through Jesus Christ He called to witness to Jesus Christ in word and deed until the consummation of all things. When the end comes, the judgment assesses and testifies to the reality of justification evidenced by the faithful witness of God’s people.

Though the blessing of acquittal in the future judgment indeed become operative even now, Scripture is clear that what God desires to see in the final judgment is justified believers who through His grace have borne fruit to His glory (verses 9-11).

The new history God gives each believer is not over when he comes to Christ and is justified; it is just begun. At the end God asks for justification with its fruit—not in the sense of the formula “Faith plus works saves,‘‘ but in the sense that justification is the source of sanctified fruit.

In the final judgment Christ as Saviour and Lord can legitimately ask of those He has justified, ‘‘Have you, in the strength of My grace, been My disciple?”

The judgment asks if this has become reality. To fail to take due account of the judgment according to works is, in a word, to discount the “not yet” element of Paul’s theology of salvation.

NOTE: The order of salvation found in Romans 6:15-23 and summarized in verse 22: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life” (R.S.V.).

III. Justification grants assurance, but judgment guards it.

If justification grants assurance, judgment guards it. It guards it from the illusion that assurance is possible without a fundamental relationship to Christ and a committed following of Christ.

As we see from Galatians 1:8, 9 and Romans 3:8, those who advocated either position—working for justification or the justified not working—were alike condemned by Paul in strong language.

Justification by faith helps to guard the judgment from the false ideas that human beings never will be able to stand in God’s judgment or that standing there self-goodness will place God’s righteousness under obligation. In other words, justification contradicts the concept that humans cannot make it in the judgment or that they make it by themselves.

On the other hand, judgment according to works guards the doctrine of the justification of the ungodly from meaning the justification of ungodliness. If there is a judgment according to works, then justification must mean that the lives of the justified are claimed by Christ and that they are called to live for Him who died for them (2 Cor. 5:14, 15).

IV. Salvation comprises both God’s gift (Christ as Savior) and His claim (Christ as Lord) upon our lives.

We must now develop an element mentioned previously. The relationship between justification and judgment can be seen better by placing it in the setting of a discussion on the relation between Christ as Saviour and Christ as Lord, between the gift of God and the claim of God.

God’s plan has run its full course when His people, the justified, stand before Him at the end of time with the fruit of their personal (ethical) and evangelistic labor in the power of the Spirit. To be without fruit is to be not a part of, but apart from, God’s redemptive process in this world. Philippians 1:5-11.

There are a number of texts that ground what believers are to do in the gift, strength, and example of what Christ has done for them. For example:
John 13:34: “Love one another. . . as I have loved you.”
Eph. 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (N.I.V.).
Eph. 4:32: “Forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Rom. 12:1: “I beseech you . . . by the mercies of God [God’s sacrificial grace described in Romans 1-11], that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice” (K.J.V.).

Col. 2:6: “As you received the Lord Jesus, so walk in him.”

Gal. 5:25: “If we have gained life through the Spirit, let us live according to the Spirit.”

Rom. 14:8, 9: “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”

2 Cor. 5:14, 15: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

Rom. 14:15: “If your brother is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died.”

Rom. 15:2, 3: “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached thee fell on me.'”

Phil. 2:5-11 (Christ’s humility and service) in relation to Phil. 2:1-4 (the church’s call to humility and service).

Conclusion: If Paul had been asked to illustrate in a parable his teaching on justification and judgment, he might well have chosen the type of parable represented by the story of the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18:23-35).

NOTE: (1) the sanctified fruit of justification must be present, but (2) justification itself must continue its function of pardon. Grace is not in contradiction with fruit, nor fruit with grace. In the judgment the two elements coexist.

Ellen White

“Makefriendshipwith Christ today. Put your case in the hands of the great Advocate. He will plead your cause before the Father. Though you have transgressed the law, and must plead guilty before God, Christ will present his precious blood in your behalf, and through faith and obedience, and vital union with Christ, you may stand acquitted before the Judge of all the earth, and he will be your friend when the final trump shall sound, and the scenes of earth shall be no more” (Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, 27 July 1888).

“It was possible for Adam, before the fall, to form a righteous character by obedience to God’s law. But he failed to do this, and because of his sin our natures are fallen, and we cannot … perfectly obey the holy law … . But Christ has made a way of escape for us … . If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ’s character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned” (SC 62).

“The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster … . Every truth in the word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption—the Son of God uplifted on the cross” (GW 315). “Hanging upon the cross Christ was the gospel” (7-A BC 456).

“Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. ‘With His stripes we are healed’ ” (DA 25).

“Our sins were laid on Christ, punished in Christ, put away by Christ, in order that His righteousness might be imputed to us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (ST May 30, 1895).

“Through faith we receive the grace of God; but faith is not our Saviour. It earns nothing. It is the hand by which we lay hold upon Christ, and appropriate His merits, the remedy for sin” (DA 175).

“We look to self, as though we had power to save ourselves;; but Jesus died for us because we are helpless to do this … . At this very time He is … inviting us to come to Him in our helplessness and be saved. We dishonor Him by our unbelief. It is astonishing how we treat our very best Friend, how little confidence we repose in Him who is able to save to the uttermost, and who has given us every evidence of His great love” (1SM 351).

“We shall often have to bow down and weep at the feet of Jesus because of our shortcomings and mistakes; but we are not to be discouraged. Even if we are overcome by the enemy, we are not cast off, not forsaken and rejected of God. No; Christ is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (SC 64).

“When the mind dwells upon self, it is turned away from Christ, the source of strength and life. Hence it is Satan’s constant effort to keep the attention diverted from the Saviour … . The pleasures of the world, life’s cares and perplexities and sorrows, the faults of others, or your own faults and imperfections—to any or all of these he will seek to divert the mind. Do not be misled by his devices … . We should not make self the center, and indulge anxiety and fear as to whether we shall be saved. All this turns the soul away from the Source of our strength. Commit the keeping of your soul to God, and trust in Him … . He is able to keep that which you have committed to Him” (ibid. 71, 72).

“While good works will not save even one soul, yet it is impossible for even one soul to be saved without good works” (1SM 377).

“If we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service.

When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us” (DA 668).

Resources

Moskala, Jiri. “The Gospel According to God’s Judgment: Judgment as Salvation.” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 22, no. 1 (2011): 28-49.

__________.  “Toward a Biblical Theology of God’s Judgment:
A Celebration of the Cross in Seven Phases of Divine Universal Judgment (An Overview of a Theocentric- Christocentric Approach).” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 15, no. 1 (Spring 2004): 138–165.

Hasel, F. Gerhard. “The Theology of Divine Judgment in the Bible: A Study of God’s Past, Present, and Future Judgments and Their Implications for Mankind”. Unpublished article, (June 1984): 1-22.

Ortlund, Dane C. “Justified by Faith, Judged According to Works: Another Look at a Pauline Paradox.” Journal of Evangelical Theological Society 52, no. 2 (June 2009): 323-39.

Blazen, Ivan T. “Justification by Faith and Judgment According to Works,” Symposium on Daniel, ed. Frank B. Hoolbrook (Washington, D.C.: Biblical Research Institute, 1986), vol. 2.

____________. “Salvation.” Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology. Commentary Series Reference Volume 12. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2000.

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