The Heart of The Covenants

I think it probably happens in various churches, when the churches ‘find’ a doctrine in the bible and then get attached to the idea, and then feel compelled to dismiss or explain away contrary teachings - also found in the bible.

The bible was written by many people over perhaps 1000 years and they had different religeous ideas and different ways of expressing them in different languages and different cultures.

That they didn’t all agree with each other isn’t surprising at all. Nor is it surprising that modern Christians miss this and go straight to the much more difficult task of trying to make them all agree with each other and with our modern doctrines.


Here are some quotes of Ellen White about salvation from an article written by an Adventist pastor/author:

‘We cannot have the assurance and perfect confiding trust in Christ as our Saviour until we acknowledge Him as our King and are obedient to His commandments.’ (Faith and Works, p.16).

‘When souls are converted, their salvation is not yet accomplished. They then have the race to run. An arduous struggle is before them.’
(My Life Today, p. 313)

‘We are saved by climbing round after round of the ladder, looking to Christ, clinging to Christ, mounting step by step to the height of Christ, so that He is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. Faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly-kindness, and charity are the rounds of this ladder’ (Testimonies, vol.6, p.147).

Contrast the above quotes with Tim’s citation from Galatians 3 in comment#17.

I think it is a difficult thing for us to accept what the NT tells us about salvation. The world teaches us that we must work for what we get. Yet Paul says salvation is a gift, a free gift, of God. We claim it simply by faith in what Christ has done for us. Justification is by faith. Sola Fide. Period.

I have recently come to recognize that God knows what each one of us needs and what each one of us can accept at any point in our journey. I think that Abram showed great faith by leaving Ur at God’s beckoning. But he could not rest in God’s promise of an heir for him from his body and that of Sarai. To human reasoning that was impossible. So they decided God couldn’t fulfill His promise and needed help. You know the story - Ishmael, not Isaac resulted. Today, our faith is similarly tested. God has said He will place the law in our hearts and minds and Paul tells us God works in us according to His will and good pleasure. We have a hard time believing God can and will do this, of resting in His promises to us.

Ellen White tells Adventists that God can’t do this, that conversion or belief isn’t enough, that we must struggle to ‘achieve’ salvation. That view fits the need of many Christians and aligns with familiar methods to reach other goals in life. That’s how the world works.

Different people have differing understandings. We are at various points on our spiritual journey and our perspectives are subject to many past and present influences. How we see the plan of salvation is largely governed by what we have been taught about the nature of God - His sovereignty, power and love for us. Our view of Him determines how much we think we must contribute to the plan of salvation.

Things became much clearer for me when I accepted His gift and and realized that my sanctification is not about my salvation but is for other valid and important purposes.

See Phillipians, where Paul, speaking of his salvation, says that he has not yet attained…but preaches to himself lest at any time he becomes a castaway. IOW, Paul spoke of salvation as a complete gift that never came apart from the giver, but he also spoke of it as an ongoing experience that was a faith that always met opposition, temptation, and even attack. It was a life of faith lived underway towards a final goal, lived in assurance and hope, but also lived within the reality of the need for watchfulness and continual dependence upon Christ and his Spirit.

To press the description of salvation in either direction is to distort the connection and even tension in Paul’s and Jesus’s description of salvation by faith.




Hi Frank,

I think the difficulty with your interpretation of Phil 3:8-15, and a similar passage, 1Cor 9:24-27, is that you are assuming Paul is talking about his salvation. It is natural to make that assumption - that is our need and what we are primarily concerned with. I think he is talking about something else.

He speaks of striving to win some kind of prize (the word he uses refers to the victor in an athletic contest). He says he is disciplining himself and hopes not be disqualified (the word he uses means unapproved, unfit, failing the test and was used of metals and coins). He says all run the race but only one wins (implying all the other competitors lose). To me that doesn’t sound like the ‘good news of great joy that will be for all people’.

He says he is striving for something he has yet to attain. To me that doesn’t sound like the gospel he preached in Romans and Galatians in which he emphasized justification and imputed righteousness by faith and that salvation is a gift of God we claim by faith in Christ. One author I respect said we can be right with God right now (i.e., at the time of conversion).

This prize he is aiming for he calls the ‘upward call’ or ‘high calling’ of God. It’s somewhat ambiguous because I don’t think we have another passage in his writings where he specifically equates this upward calling with salvation. He also says he hopes he might be a part of ‘the out-resurrection of the dead.’ The word he uses here literally means resurrection out of or from. To my knowledge, this is the only place he uses that word. I think it means he is talking about trying to be part of a special group.

I think Paul is looking beyond his salvation. He is not concerned about being saved - his faith in Christ has assured him of that. He wants to be more than a citizen of the coming kingdom. I believe he is striving for a future position of authority under Christ. He wants to serve even beyond his glorification. This view requires one to think beyond the end of this age, something we don’t do much, again, I think because we are so preoccupied with our own salvation.

The Bible speaks of several future roles for qualified believers in the next age.
Some will be part of the priesthood (Is 66:21; Rev 5:10; 20:6).
2Tim 2:12, and Rev 20:4&6 say that some will reign with Christ. Perhaps Paul wants to become an administrator or a ruler over five or ten cities as Jesus prophesied some believers would (Luke 19:15-19).
Part of ruling involves the judging of others. This will be done not to administer punishment as man does in order to separate the guilty from society and act as a deterrent but to apply the law in the compassion of Christ to restore and assist those whom the judgment at the end of this age will show are still on the journey to glorification. Jesus said to his disciples,’…when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’ (Matt 19:28). Paul said to the Corinthians, ‘…do you not know that the saints will judge the world? Do you not know that we will judge angels?’ (1Cor 6:2-3).

That is my understanding of this passage of Paul’s writing. I believe he is pointing out one of the important reasons for our sanctification - those who learn and live a Christian life in this age will be most qualified to be rewarded with positions as servant/leaders in the coming kingdom.

I don’t think Paul’s words here tell us he is striving to attain salvation (by his works or keeping the law). He is not contradicting his belief and teaching of justification by faith in what Christ has done for us.


In that Philippians passage he ends up by saying so that he somehow may attain to the resurrection from the dead. He most certainly is referring to salvation… resurrection being the goal of faith. This was consistent with the Jewish hope of resurrection and being part of the age to come.

I find that Adventists have been so scarred with works righteousness and perfectionism, that they have over compensated with the idea of salvation as a gift that is a possession apart from a faith relationship with the giver. I get the need for security. But, I think that this security never comes apart from the need of continually responding in faith to Christ, and to live as a member of his body/family. It is congruent with Paul’s call to live a life worthy of the calling with which we were called, or to pursue holiness, without which no one will see the Lord, or Jesus’s admonition about those enduring to the end being saved.

These are not optional add ons to the life of faith by which salvation is experienced and received. They are central to life in Christ and in community with one another, which is ultimately what God is looking to restore fully through his gracious rule on earth as it is in heaven.

Salvation is truly covenant relationship and belonging, received and continually lived by faith… loyalty to Christ. It is truly a gift. But never separate from this relationship to the giver and with his people.



Discussion or doctrine regarding the covenants usually promotes or perpetuates the antinomian, Rom 8:7 attitude of worldly churchgoers. This is why trickle down immorality is the result of the crime & clergy connection.

Been that way for over 2000 years.
The mystery of iniquity was already at work.

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