“Faith in Christ”
“Faith in Christ”
Most Seventh-day Adventists are acquainted with the well-known text of Revelation 14:12 which speaks to “keeping the commandments of God and having the faith of Jesus” as two characteristics of Christians. However, what is less likely known are the different shades of meaning of the phrase “the faith of Jesus.” What exactly does that mean? Does it mean the faith in terms of a system of beliefs that Jesus embraced, or the faith that Jesus exercised, or faith in Jesus?
An Historical Look
I find the work of church historian George Knight in his work, A Search for Identity, most helpful in clarifying the evolution of Adventists’ understanding of this expression, “the faith of Jesus.” For some of the pioneers and early believers, they regarded the term “faith of Jesus” to mean “a body of beliefs” (The Search for Identity – Knight p. 107). One of the church leaders in 1850 indicated that Revelation 14:12 “had three major points of identification. It indicated (1) a people who were to be patient in waiting for the coming of Jesus; (2) a people who were keeping the commandments of God while waiting; and (3) a people who ‘kept the faith’ as a body of belief in such things as ‘baptism, Lord’s supper, washing the saints’ feet,” and so on (PT, April 1850, 67). Put another way, “the faith of Jesus” of Revelation 14:12 was obeying the commands of Jesus in addition to the commands of the Father” (knight, 107). The first Seventh-day Adventist Missionary, J. N. Andrews, subscribed to the same view.
At the General Conference of 1888 - Clarifying Revelation 14:12
At the 1888 General Conference Session, two young preachers, E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones, challenged the traditional view of Revelation 14:12. They connected “the faith of Jesus” to the righteousness of Christ. Ellen White held a similar position. In commenting on Revelation 14:12, she asserted, “The message given in Minneapolis was ‘not alone the commandments of God---a part of the third angel’s message—but the faith of Jesus, which comprehends more than is generally supposed.’” She added, “The third angel’s message needed ‘to be proclaimed in all its parts. . .. If we proclaim the commandments of God and leave out the other half [the faith of Jesus] scarcely touched the message is marred in our hands” (MS 30, 1889). Later, she would discuss the meaning of the faith of Jesus, which “is talked of, but not understood.” She would come to see “the faith of Jesus” as “Jesus becoming our sin bearer that He might become our sin-pardoning Savior. . .. He came to our world and took our sins that we might take His righteousness. And faith in the ability of Christ to save us amply and fully and entirely is the faith of Jesus” (ibid., p. 108). George Knight pointed out that this was no new light to her, as she was preaching this from 1844. “Thus she, along with Jones and Waggoner, had come to see the faith of Jesus as faith in Jesus” (ibid., p. 109). And may I add that the Greek language supports both translations, “faith of Jesus” and “faith in Jesus.” “With that understanding in place,” as noted by George Knight, “Adventism for the first time had a clear understanding of Revelation 14:12 in its combining of the law and gospel.”
Implication of This Understanding
Given the understanding provided of Revelation 14:12, Ellen White wrote that, “Of all professed Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting Christ before the world” (A Search for Identity, p. 106). Additionally, she contended, “Adventists should preach both the law and the gospel.” She pointed out, “Too many Adventists had not seen that ‘Jesus Christ is the glory of the law.’” She further explained, “. . .one of the great lacks of Adventism was that too many Adventists had ‘a correct theory [doctrinal understanding] of the truth,’ but had not brought the loving attributes of Christ’s character into their hearts and practical life” (MS 21, 1891). Could the same be said of some today, that we could explain doctrines but do not reflect the love of Jesus towards one another, family and non-member? Christ in the heart ought to manifest a loving and tolerant disposition toward others. Five hundred years later since the Protestant Reformation protestants should be uplifting Christ and His righteousness. For Adventists, 129 years after the pivotal 1888 General Conference, we should be major proponents of a balanced gospel –uplifting Christ but not at the expense of downplaying the law or the righteousness of Christ. As noted by the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:31: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”