In infinite love and mercy God made Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, so that in Him we might be made the righteousness of God. Led by the Holy Spirit we sense our need, acknowledge our sinfulness, repent of our transgressions, and exercise faith in Jesus as Lord and Christ, as Saviour and Lord, Substitute and Example. This saving faith which receives salvation comes through the divine power of the Word and is the gift of God’s grace. Through Christ we are justified, adopted as God’s sons and daughters, and delivered from the lordship of sin. Through the Spirit we are born again and sanctified; the Spirit renews our minds, writes God’s law of love in our hearts, and we are given the power to live a holy life. Abiding in Him we become partakers of the divine nature and have the assurance of salvation now and in the judgment. (Gen. 3:15; Isa. 45:22; 53; Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 33:11; 36:25-27; Hab. 2:4; Mark 9:23, 24; John 3:3-8, 1616; 16:8; Rom. 3:21-26; 5:6-10; 8:1-4, 14-17; 10:17, 23; 12:2; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; Gal. 1:4; 3:13, 14, 26; 4;4-7; Eph 2:4-10; Col. 1:13, 14; Titus 3:3-7; Heb. 8:7-12; 1 Peter 1:23; 2:21; 2 Peter 1:3, 4; Rev. 13:8.) (2 Cor. 5:17-21; John 3:16; Gal. 1:4; 4:4-7; Titus 3:3-7; John 16:8; Gal. 3:13, 14; 1 Peter 2:21, 22; Rom. 10:17; Luke 17:5; Mark 9:23, 24; Eph. 2:5-10; Rom. 3:21-26; Col. 1:13, 14; Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 3:26; John 3:3-8; 1 Peter 1:23; Rom. 12:2; Heb. 8:7-12; Eze. 36:25-27; 2 Peter 1:3, 4; Rom. 8:1-4; 5:6-10.)
A couple of small changes were made in the middle of this FB in San Antonio. “Lord and Christ” was replaced by “Saviour and Lord.” The meaning and purpose of “Christ” here seemed unclear to many readers and replacing it with the word Saviour seemed more helpful. “Saviour and Lord” parallels “substitute and example” in the last clause of the sentence. Placing “saving” ahead of faith instead of after it, ties the salvation to the person rather than to the word faith. This was felt to be better English grammar and more accurate theologically as well.
This fundamental belief has quite the individualistic tone. Although there is the repeated use of the plural (“we” and “our”), the things discussed in this statement are things that happen in and to individuals, not in communities. So the statement is lacking in social ethics. It is about dealing with personal sin, exercising faith, being justified and adopted, and becoming born again. On the other hand, while Romans 3 may seem individualistic at first glance (3:10-12, 20), Paul’s view of sin is quite social and community oriented, at least in the examples he chooses to share. Sin happens when people shed blood or heap curses on each other (3:13-15), there are societal consequences when sin occurs and healing from sin has social consequences as well. Sin affects “all” (3:23) and so does the remedy for sin. The solution to sin is God’s “right-making” in the faithfulness of Jesus Christ (3:22). In making individuals right with God (justified) God is also making them right with each other, at least within the saved community.
There is also a surprisingly strong focus on “participation” in this statement. That emphasis builds on the statement in 2 Peter 1:3-4, we are “partakers of the divine nature.” Adventists here maintain a strong focus on what comes after salvation. Participation in the divine nature means that there is not an infinite gulf between God and the creation (as in Greek philosophy and some Islamic theology). The Hebraic God is very much involved in the material world, He is near as well as transcendent. Adventists generally try to be as balanced as possible on the great theological issues.
One of the great questions of salvation is whether God accounts us righteous or makes us righteous. The former is often thought to be the Protestant view and the latter the Catholic view. This statement affirms both perspectives, not forcing people to make a choice. The SDA Fundamental Beliefs as originally written try to include more than to exclude. These statements are reflective of the community’s positions rather than an attempt to be prescriptive.
But being open and inclusive does not mean anything goes. You cannot accept this statement and still buy into everything that has been said by other Christians on the subject. For example, this statement excludes “Five-Point Calvinism,” with its strong focus on predestination and a lack of human freedom. It also rejects the concept of “double predestination,” that some people are predestined by God to be lost. This statement affirms that Adventism is strongly on the side of Arminianism, which sees human beings as free to make decisions for or against God and to be deeply participatory in their relationship with God. The Holy Spirit clearly plays a major part in orchestrating that freedom, but Adventism emphasizes human choice and freedom as a crucial theological element.
A number of my colleagues noted that this statement seems rather flat and uninspiring. It is as if a committee sat down to design a horse and ended up with a camel! It is careful to say all the right things but does not say them in a way that would be inspiring. Another seeming lack in the statement has to do with the eschatological element of salvation. It is hardly mentioned until the very last phrase. This future aspect of salvation is certainly emphasized in texts like Romans 5:9-10 and Titus 3:7. One final point seems worth mentioning as well. The statement is full of metaphorical language (righteousness, faith, gift, deliverance, Lordship, adopted, born again, sanctified, hearts) yet offers no indication that the language itself is metaphorical, which could lead to extremism and misuse (taking a metaphor too literally and trying to apply it in inappropriate ways).