Righteousness by Faith

Have you ever thought that righteousness by faith, as usually explained from the pulpit and in books and articles, is complicated? It is true that Paul the Apostle expounds on the topic extensively, especially in the books of Romans and Galatians. Righteousness by faith is also clarified in Hebrews, most notably chapter 11. When comparing Paul’s explanations as illustrated in books and sermons of today, a few of the heroes of faith in chapter 11 appear to be rather weak examples of faith. When I have read about these exemplars in Judges and the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, I occasionally wondered, “Where was their faith?” and “If I lived a life like that, would I be considered a hero of faith?”

So where in the Old Testament are there indications, statements, and theological instruction regarding righteousness by faith? Remember that both Greek and Hebrew have only one word for what is translated into English as faith, belief, or trust. These three words are a unified concept in those original languages.

Recently I have started to read in the Psalms, looking for statements related to, or indicating the concept of, righteousness by faith. Early in the book, I found the following:

“But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly; the Lord will hear when I call to Him. Be angry and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah

Offer the sacrifices of righteousness and put your trust in the Lord. There are many who say, ‘Who will show us any good?’ Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us. You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and wine increased. I will both lie down in peace and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Ps 4:3-8 NKJV

“But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; let those also who love Your name be joyful in You. For You, O Lord will bless the righteous; with favor, You will surround him as with a shield.” Ps 5:11, 12 NKJV

David has a calm assurance that God hears him when he prays; God forgives when he asks for forgiveness (offers sacrifices of righteousness) and, therefore, puts his trust (faith) in the Lord. Because he trusts God fully, he can lie down in peace and sleep (literal sleep or even the sleep of the first death). He rests in assurance that God defends him (margin, protect lit. cover), which is similar to the concepts mercy seat, at-one-ment, and reconciliation.

In Psalm 13, David wonders why God allows his enemies to exalt and oppress. Then he reminds God that he has trusted in God’s mercy, and is joyful because of what God has done for him in the past. His reaction is joyful praise in God’s salvation.

“How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him,’ lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved. But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Ps 13 NKJV

These are only a few of the texts I have found in the Psalms that have given me a different perspective on righteousness by faith. Instead of a dry, clinical step-by-step list of procedures for conviction, repentance, forgiveness, justification, sanctification, expiation, propitiation, and atonement, I have found a freeing understanding of the “process” through an honest dialogue with God, reminding Him of His promises, clinging to them as “the rope” that ties me to Him. The word pictures in the Psalms give a sense of clarity to righteousness by faith that seems to get lost in the Latin-derived terms of the New Testament.

Righteousness by faith is not a checklist procedure to follow to “be saved.” Instead, it is a calm, rational assurance that God has our best interest in mind and will make everything right in the end. It is a joyful experience of communicating with our Creator, Kinsman-Redeemer, and Savior, totally relying upon His promises.

Here are some additional texts found in the Old Testament that help portray the concept of righteousness by faith in a living, breathing manner.

Isaiah 12:2

Isaiah 31:1

Ps 31:1, 19-24

Ps 16:1-3 and 5-11

Ps 17:6-9

Ps 18:1-3

Jonah 3:5

Job 13:15-18

Job 14:13-17

Job 23:23-27

Genesis 32:26

Exodus 14:31

1 Samuel 26:23

Dennis Hollingsead works in the Office of Development at Andrews University.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10209

The major problem with JbyF has always been this factor, “…as usually explained…” When people start “explaining” the obvious they also become “too creative,” and come up with distortions of the original idea(s).

When Martin Luther stopped trying to be “creative,” and looked back into the good old Book, he found nothing but JbyF.

In our case, for ages Adventism has focused on Justification by Works - for too long. The seeds of this unbiblical concept were generously disseminated around the world, and contaminated all missionary fields.

Then…, some theologians started to come back to their senses only to realize that the (mine)field was mined in a way that it appeared impossible to rescue. They had to preach that there were now “many things that the congregations around the world had to unlearn”… What a mess…

Many fights about this issue took place everywhere. I remember when I was in the School of Theology (1969-1972) and saw this fight happening live. One of our teachers, by far the best one in Brazil at that time, (late) Jerome Justesen, was a JbyF champion who had a really bad time being constantly, endlessly harassed by a few other teachers who very strongly believed in JbyW.

Pastor Justesen eventually prevailed and changed the landscape in Brazil since the students understood his clear biblical teaching on JbyF. Six classes graduated under the new influence, which at that time meant about 180 new pastors on the field, just in Brazil. Unfortunately his career ended after 6 years and he returned to the US. The Division, under Robert Wilcox at that time, didn’t support his leadership as the Dean of the department, but would rather undermine his efforts to make the school of theology academically more beneficial to the students.

I am not sure that JbyF has yet completely replaced the old JbyW heresy planted there by the pioneers… :thinking: But the progress has been indeed significant.



Noah had 120 years to preach Righteousness by faith and then the flood came.

SDA’s rejected righteousness by faith in 1888 and we have had 132 years to reconsider and still God is patiently waiting for us to put it into practice.



… to go further in @GeorgeTichy delineation, what is lost in the “wash” of all the causal ways to understand RBF (which has multiple defined components), is the “state of the believer”.

Having grown up in the 60’s and 70’s, it was “imputed” to me (not imparted), that you could lose your salvation at any moment, which instantiates fear, in that your constant vigilance is one of adherence, not one of thanksgiving for salvation which has been provided. Both concepts have merit (JBF, JBW, and SBF), SBW are not (by SDA) parlance a concern (because you reach the “sealed state”), predicated upon your “live connection to the law” in the primacy of the writing of EGW and secondarily the bible (as exemplification of the 28 FB).

That being said, if you are a NT believer (most people living today are), (some are OT believers - specifically in what they put their faith in), Hebrews Chapter 3 and 4 provide the concept of “sabbatismos”. “entering into God’s rest”… the Sabbath is a “symbol” of the salvation “rest” available to all believers. We are to come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy.

Given the Greek meaning of this “rest” - it equates to “abiding in Jesus” and this is further ratified an confirmed thru the remaining chapters of the book of Hebrews with the detailed explanation of the life, death, resurrection, priestly, High Priestly ministry, and propitiation of the blood of Jesus on the Mercy seat. Understood within this context the “once for all” establishes provisions amply provided for the Christian walk of faith…

So this brings me to a few NT points.

  • Our names are already written into the book of life
  • Provisions for our spiritual journey are already provided for at the throne
  • A resting place has been provided if we enter into a relationship of abiding trust in Jesus.


Given this as a the preamble, “the scorched earth, and law/fear motivation” perspective doe not equate…

The closer I get to Jesus the more thankful I would be for what he already has provided.

The closer I fellowship with Jesus and worship him, the more stark my sin appears in contrast to his perfect and holy character.

To reach a deeper assurance and experience, spending more time focused “on Jesus” includes adherence to the law, but its a matter of honor and fealty, not out of obligation and fear of reprisal…

I wonder what John saw…

A golden thread runs in me right through…
It shows by night and day anew.
That focus on the light of heaven, not earth as dark.
With deeper focus, the contrast so stark,

That he has provided walk with him alone.
True solace, thru paths, of wood and stone
That one day I may, with heavenly vision see,
By faith, to experience, His purpose for me

with kind regards,



Yes, Yes! Though I have known him for years, I am just learning this. Abiding in him, regardless.

Thought I fail, and look into self and am discouraged, He bids me look to him and be saved. I am of the more introspective types that dwell on self and weaknesses too much, when he has done it all. He has taken care of our sin, bone it himself, and freed us from guilt. He bid us come up, higher still, lifting us up to give us the gifts that he has won for us. And, as you say, he has our best interests at heart.

I have often thought that he wants to take some trifling pleasure from me, and I will suffer. While he has pleasures at his right hand that I am blind to when infatuated by my little indulgences.

As Lewis said,

"“God does not find our desires too strong but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures playing around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who goes on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a vacation by the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”


The Old Testament had Justification by Faith.
It just wasn’t called that. May not even had a similar expression.
However, God did have a scheme by which they could ask
forgiveness for sins.
God did ask for them to do 2 things.

  1. Love the Lord with all heart, soul, mind, and their neighbor
    as themselves.
  2. Be a Holy group of people.
    THEN God tells them HOW to do this. Exodus 21,22,23 and
    Leviticus 19. Matthew calls it “Perfect”, Luke calls it “compassionate”.
    In either case – Imitate God and be God to other persons.
    Later prophets like Isaiah, Micah, writers in the Psalms present commentary
    on these. Being specific in godly behaviors.

But “works” of the Law were ONLY supposed to be a manifestation of what was
in the heart, mind, soul. We have the same idea in James. Our faith and belief in
God causes us to have “good works”.
We don’t do good works TO MAKE GOD LOVE US or to DO PENANCE for “sin”.

We have a number of examples written stating that God DID NOT want animal
sacrifices. But they were there to go along with repentance.
He preferred “perfect”, “compassionate” behaviors that imitated Him as children
behaving like one is a Child [offspring] of God.


Had it not been for RBF I would never have come back to SDA church 40 years ago… It wasn’t long after my return that I found out there was a theological crisis in the church. Over the years it seemed like the church TALKED a lot about RBF, but in reality the old school/old convenient crowd prevailed and in practice it was RBW. Were it not for the teachings of Morris Venden, I most likely would have given up in despair.
Now in retrospect I see that at the core the SDA church in embracing the IJ is in practice tied to Last Generation Theology. Just read EGW chapter on the IJ and the Time of Trouble in her book The Great Controversy. She embraced LGT, and anyone who claims otherwise doesn’t understand how thorough this teaching is held in the IJ doctrine that is unique to Adventism

To define LGT. It is the belief that there will be a final generation of believers that will have overcome sin and Satan to the point that they will not fall, therefor Christ can cease his work as Mediator, and show proof that by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit they can be safe to save. This “perfect” final generation will live through the terrible time of trouble without a mediator.(they are so perfect they don’t need one) Finally Christ will come to claim this final generation of people who have stopped sinning and this will prove that Satan is a liar.

I guess Christ life here on earth and death on the cross isn’t sufficient. @GeorgeTichy


That’s exactly it! The LGTarians actually do not believe in the “It’s finished” declaration. They teach people that “It’s finished” actually means, “It will be finished” (in 1844). And they believe that there will be a generation if “saints” at the end, and that Christ cannot return until that final generation of “saints” is miraculously generated. :roll_eyes:

Good luck to them… If the Cross is not enough for them, what else will be? Maybe their own goodness and sanctity?..


For many years a large mural hung on the wall at the GC which depicted the vision Ellen White preached about depicting a path narrowing upward toward the clouds and the path got narrower and narrower and as the people climbed, it got more treacherous and life-threatening. Finally, when you got near the top the path it ended altogether and the only way you could keep from falling into the abyss was clutching onto the ropes that hung down through the cloud.

This message and this mural has driven more people out of the church than anyone could imagine. The idea that you must not deviate from this narrowing path or you fall and are lost, and finally, your faith must constrain you to hold on to that rope hanging from the clouds or you will be lost forever. What a frightening message. Trusting God should not be a process developed by fear, the fear of falling or being lost, but by the loving assurance that God has already provided the access, we simply have to remain committed to Him through faith.


The Bible says “narrow is the way, but few find it”. It’s very hard to find a path that eventually disappears altogether as EGW depicts in her “vision”. I wonder how many folks that message drove crazy before they could drive out of the church.

Just maybe she got this idea from Joseph Smith. JS: (“Vision”) “Behold, I have dreamed a dream … And I also beheld a straight and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron … And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron … And they did press their way forward continually holding fast to the rod of iron…and many were lost from his view, wandering into strange roads … I beheld a large and spacious field … And I also beheld a straight and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron … unto a large and spacious field…” BM 1 Nephi 8:2;9;19; 20;24;30;32


So in otherwards God is not in control, but the final generation, yet to be formed, is. Hmm, sounds sorts antichrist doesn’t it.


Righteousness by faith as a phrase in the book of Romans is the same as justification by faith. It’s not difficult to understand. Paul, the Apostle, to whom Christ revealed it on the road to Emmaus brings us to a judgment scene in Romans 3:19 where ‘the whole world is held accountable to God’, and ‘every mouth is silenced’. But it’s speaking to ‘those who are under the law’. However, Paul says, NO ONE will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather through the law we become conscious of our sin’. (Rom. 3:20).

Paul continues, ‘But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe’ (Rom. 3:21-22).

So, initially, we get the idea of a final judgment scene where God weighs all of humanity and levels us all because we are all sinners. But Paul goes on to say, that is not how God has done it. He’s given us righteousness as a gift. Faith is a hand that reaches out with no merit and takes it gratis.

In our denomination, we have been taught to focus on the very end of time where judgment awaits us. Let me suggest again that this is not what Paul is teaching. The righteousness of God is ‘given by faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe’. It is APART FROM LAW. It is by faith and it is a gift of God to us. The reason for this is that there is no other way into heaven than Christ. God looks at Christ’s perfect life and his atoning death, not ours (as far as our salvation).

Adventism has been in error when it has taught that justification is a relationship, or when it says justification is an experience. This is not what the New Testament is teaching.* Justification is a declaration of something that has happened outside of us. It is speaking about how we are saved, about our status before God. And at this level, nothing we do or experience can add to God’s verdict.

The doctrine of justification leads to an experience and involves a relationship; and it leads to sanctification. These things result from justification, but they are separate and have to be distinguished from it to understand what it really means.

A friend I visited recently said justification is both forensic and eschatological. Adventists seem to hate this word forensic and the word legal. But it’s not the same as legalistic. It’s just the language of the court, and Judaism was a legal economy. When we say justification is eschatological, we mean that instead of the judgment taking place at the end of all things, it has happened at the Cross, and we enter into that judgment when we believe and accept Christ’s work for us on our behalf—with nothing added from or by us. Christ’s work plus nothing.

John 5:24: ‘Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life’. Read it repeatedly to see what it means.

Paul taught that the Last Days had come with Christ and that we are living in the end times. He taught that those who accept Christ have already died with him, been buried with him, been raised with him and ARE seated in heavenly places. Adventist preachers rarely preach with this conviction and assurance.

Adventists have continually stuck sanctification into bed with justification or made justification a doctrine for the beginning of the Christian life to be outdone by sanctification (often a bald work righteousness ending up in perfection before Christ comes). Let’s be clear, this is heresy and will never bring the kingdom of God. Such teachings are associated with a denial that we can have the assurance of salvation. Pastors preach that ‘we hope one day we will have assurance that we are saved’. However, Paul is saying, ‘my children, by the hand of faith you may enter into a reality that is far more real than life down here—you have passed through [the judgment], and you have already arrived’.

  • Though you can make a case for a judgment of works at the end of time, it seems likely that James and other apostles did not comprehend what Paul was saying.

Exactly. It is obvious that the LGTarians feel that they have a role in the process…According to them, it’s not just God, it’s actually God+LGTarians that will get things done… Now, how crazy is this heresy??? :open_mouth:

Well, if they think they are right…, they should review their commitment to their cause, because they are failing badly and God may be getting a little impatient with their inefficacy. They need to work harder…

My challenge to them has always been asking to introduce us one, just one fruit of their labor, one person that has reached the perfection goal. :roll_eyes: … But they always come up with some distraction instead.

I don’t believe we have any LGTarian currently participating here, or do we?


Is the mural still hanging at the GC? It can be very telling.

One can argue that the theme has infantile origins. A child is born with his mental framework geared toward having narcissistic tendencies. An infant’s physiological and physical needs are met only by crying. As the child matures cognitively the task of his parents are to instill autonomy and empathy. Those who retain narcissistic tendencies develop a mental framework throughout adulthood of being grandiose including not needing the grace of God thus being vulnerable to doctrines such as LGT, among many.


Thanks Gill for your whole comment, you said it all.

This “waiting for the judgment” seems completely off to me. If we believe in God’s omniscience, we have actually been judged at some point during the past eternity (whatever this means…), way before we were even created in Adam. When God decided to create humans, He already knew who will be save/lost… Which tells me that the real judgment, the final judgment, occurred long time ago and it’s bnot something that started in 1844…

This is why I like Rick Rice’s book, “The Openness of God.”


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I always thought the vision was pretty accurate. The path is the way to heaven, but it is not walked on by any other method than by faith. And the dangers are certainly real. Jesus said the path was narrow and few would find it, and the way to destruction is wide, and many find it. That scares me a bit, and I think should.

So, the mural seems to accurately depict his words. Peter said Satan goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. So, she is not the only one who paints a picture with some fear in it.

But most important is the role faith played in her vision. The green chord let down from above. I think that may be the most important part of the vision.

That means instead of looking into self, where there is weakness and doubt and sin, we are to walk by the promises of God. He says, “Come follow me.” I, like Peter, say, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” He repeats his invitation. So, instead of looking at the reality of my sin and weakness, I stand up and obey, believing that I can follow because he has said that I can. The evil passions of the body may cry out for indulgence, I may be tempted and harassed on all sides, but if I will look to heaven where the green chord is fastened, ignoring the other, I am safe.

I can concentrate on the stuff within, and the world without, or walk by the Word from above, the green chord let down to me by my Savior. If you stop holding onto the chord, you will fall. Now if may not be an immediate plunge, as you seem to be worrying about, but it will be a plunge nevertheless. It has to be faced sometime.

Daniel says the judgement was given in favor of the saints (Dan 7:27). Why would that cause fear? Now of course there can be fear of a coming judgement. The wicked have something to fear, and do. I recall an interview of Fallon’s show or somewhere were the guest expressed his fear of death, and the audience fell silent. Paul does tell us we will be judged by the deeds of the body (2 Cor 5:10), so there will be an accounting.

Those found in Christ are covered by his righteousness, but to be outside of that is indeed a frightening state.

One must ask, did Jesus depend on knowledge of perfect doctrine,
and a lifetime of sinless deed, when he cried for help?

In the crisis of soul that darkest night, he seemed to repudiate these works of hand and head, and instead prayed Abba accept us despite our clinging to “the mark”.

And he said, it is the heart work that matters-that our “rest” from our beliefs and behaviors evinced our identity in Him. Now that sounds like a seal-“resting” despite the hellish fear.

Is it possible that the sabbath (and the sanctuary) truths have been, so far, completely missed?

Can a little child lead us out of the convoluted calisthenics, the minefield of our feeble religious yoga? These things-doctrine and deed, belief and behavior-seem to repudiate our heart work-namely, that faith IS enough…remember Jesu last words. “Forgive them, daddy, for the mark on their hands (works) and on their heads (knowledge).”

Juxtaposed over the sanctuary-what are we missing? Bill Liversidge had a beautiful treatise on how the sanctuary (a three room tent of skin dragged by man through a foreign land) relates to man (a hand-head-heart three room tent of skin dragging himself through enemy territory), and how these two antetypes (the ONLY TWO things which writ says are in the image of something in heaven)
relate to love (synonymous with worship).

Do we worship our works and our knowledge, and fail to enter the most holy place, where the heartwork is? Seems to me Jesus said nothing about his own deed and dcotrineal perfection, either during his life, or in that last gasp at deaths door.

George, it has a very long time since I read his book, but one of the things I remember (or misremember?) Rice asserting was that God was omniscient in the sense that He knew all that there was to know, but that fortelling how we would relate to Him was not knowable; that having a personal relationship with a being who already knows what you are going to say and how He would respond before the earth was a twinkle in His eye was in the realm of the unknowable/impossible as well as personally unsatisfactory. (Or have I completely misread, not understood, what you or Dr.Rice are saying ?)

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I too read this book long time ago, 30+ years. And I have the same memories in mind as you do.

I am told that, after the NDA left the building, what the GC is displaying there now is a “shut door” … :wink: