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“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth;” Romans 1:16,17

“The apostle says that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, because therein the righteousness of God is revealed. This shows that it is the revelation of the righteousness of God, that brings salvation. That salvation has reference solely to sin, is shown in the fact that it is the revelation of the righteousness of God that saves. Now, since unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5:17), and sin is the transgression of a law (1 John 3:14), it is evident that righteousness is obedience to the law of God.”
The Present Truth, Vol. 8, No. 2, January 28, 1892, pp. 24-26

“But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21

The entirety of the Gospel revolves around the fact that Jesus Christ became the Saviour of this fallen world in order to redeem man from sin. For that reason, it is vitally important for every person to understand what sin is. In this presentation, we are going to allow the 1888 messengers to simply reiterate what the Bible teaches in regard to sin and how we are to understand what sin is.

Let us first remember the admonition that was given to God’s people with respect to this subject.
“It is Satan’s constant effort to misrepresent the character of God, the nature of sin, and the real issues at stake in the great controversy. His sophistry lessens the obligation of the divine law, and gives men license to sin.” {GC88 568.4}

Satan is the architect of all confusion. He was the architect who created the old Babylonian system of confusion and he is still the one working behind the scenes today. It was a known fact to all Protestants that the Antichrist power represented in Scripture is none other but the Roman Catholic institution. It is none else but the papacy which perverted the Christian faith and has led many away from the Scriptures. It is for this very reason that the reformation was established. It was intended by God to bring people back to what He revealed. Have you ever contemplated why the Bible refers to the papacy as the Man of Sin? Why this particular tittle? Let us consider something in the book of Daniel the 7th chapter:

“And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.” Daniel 7:25

In this verse we are reminded of the fact that the papacy was to change times and laws. This fact has been widely propagated by the Catholic Church.

“The authority of the church could therefore not be bound to the authority of the scriptures, because the church had changed the Sabbath into Sunday, not by command of Christ, but by its own authority.” (Canon and Tradition, page 263)

If sin is the transgression of the law and the papacy has changed the law of God, substituting the Sabbath for Sunday observance as we just saw, then we can easily come to the conclusion that the papal power has also changed the definition of sin from how the Bible has defined it. By redefining the commandments, the papacy has redefined what sin is. Thus we can understand why the antichrist power is also called the man of sin. Its goal was to introduce a new definition of sin, which contradicts what the Bible teaches. But remember, it is Satan’s constant effort to misrepresent the nature of sin. Did the Roman Catholic Church stop there, or do we find other doctrines which have been used by them in order to misrepresent sin? Let us look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church and consider one of their main teachings, which is directly related to how they define sin.

“How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam “as one body of one man”. By this “unity of the human race” all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed” – a state and not an act.” Catechism of the Catholic Church 404

According to Catholic theology, sin is twofold. It is the individual act of transgression that a person commits and also a state. Yet, when we study the Bible, we find not a single verse stating that sin is state. However, as we have already seen, the papacy bases her teachings on her own authority rather than that of Scripture.

The question that we need to answer is what did the 1888 messengers teach with respect to sin. Is sin transgression of the law according to them? Is sin also a state? As we allow them to speak for themselves, we can understand their teaching and the biblical basis thereof. Here is what they believed and taught:

“Now, I want to say to you before closing, that we have a wonderful friend in Jesus, who came to save His people from the transgression of the law. What is sin? The only definition of sin is that it is the transgression of the law. Then here is Jesus Christ, who comes right in and imparts His righteousness to us; we cannot overcome in our own strength, but by faith in Him. If you will believe on Jesus Christ, you will have Him today. You must believe that He is your Saviour now, and that He imputes to you His righteousness because He has died, and because He has been obedient unto every requirement of that transgressed law of God. If you do this, you will have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Adam and Eve lost Eden because they transgressed that law, but you will lose heaven if you transgress it.” {Ellen White, 1888 128.3}

“It is the privilege of every sinner to ask his teacher what sin really is. Give me a definition of sin. We have one in 1 John 3. “Sin is the transgression of the law.” Now this is the only definition of sin in the whole Bible. We are going to read it to you right out of the Book, so that you need not have the idea that it is not in the Bible, that it is another Bible that we preach to you. We will just read it out of the good Book, and we will begin at the beginning of the chapter. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” That is our privilege.” {Ellen White 1SAT 228.2}

“What is iniquity? Sin. And what is sin? Sin, says the beloved John, is the transgression of the law. Here is a class that is transgressing the law of God, and at the same time they come to Him boasting of what they have done, expecting His favor. And it is this class that is here represented as building on the sand. They have erected a standard of their own.” {Ellen White, 1SAT 14.1}

“As intelligent creatures we may know and do the will of God, or we may stubbornly refuse to submit our finite will to the will of the Infinite. This responsibility that is placed upon us should fill us with a sense of awe. The requirement of God to us is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” On these two principles hang all the law and the prophets; and it is for our present and eternal interest to have a proper understanding of the far-reaching principles of the law of God. “By the law is the knowledge of sin,” and “sin is the transgression of the law.” Sinners must know what is sin before they can have a desire to be rid of sin. It is a matter of eternal interest that we do not misconceive this vital question. When appeals are made in the pulpits of our land, and sinners are invited to repent and to be converted, it is the privilege of the sinner to inquire, What is sin? This we must know, for it is at the peril of our souls that we continue in sin. The apostle gives us light on this subject, and says, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law.” {Ellen White, ST, October 1, 1894 par. 2}

“The sinner, upon being exhorted to forsake his sins, has a right to ask, What is sin? Those who respect the law of God can answer, Sin is the transgression of the law. In confirmation of this the apostle Paul says, I had not known sin but by the law. {Ellen White 1SM 229.1}

“Then if this great and infinite sacrifice has been made in our behalf, let us ask ourselves, What are we doing? Do we say, “Believe, believe on Christ, and that is all”? If we have not the faith that works by love, and purifies the soul from every stain of sin, then we have a spurious faith. Christ is not the minister of sin. And what is sin? The only definition given in God’s word is, “Sin is the transgression of the law;” and the apostle Paul declares, “Where no law is, there is no transgression.” The law is the great standard that will measure every man’s character. {Ellen White, BEcho, June 11, 1894 par. 7}

“Although the plan of salvation calls for the deepest study of the philosopher, it is not too deep for the comprehension of a child. In dying for sinners, Christ manifested a love that is incomprehensible; and in beholding this love, the heart is impressed the conscience is aroused, and the soul is led to inquire, “What is sin, that it should require such a sacrifice for the redemption of its victim?” John, the beloved disciple, declares that “whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law.” The apostle Paul instructed men in regard to the plan of salvation. He declares, “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” John, speaking of the Saviour says, “Ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.” {Ellen White, RH, April 1, 1890 par. 2}

“Little children, let no man deceive you; he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the Devil; for the Devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the Devil,” not the royal law that points out what is sin. “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the Devil; whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God.” “He that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” {Ellen White, RH, August 28, 1894 par. 9}

“A terrible doom awaits the sinner, and therefore it is necessary that we know what sin is, in order that we may escape from its power. John says, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law.” Here we have the true definition of sin; it is “the transgression of the law.” How often the sinner is urged to leave his sins, and come to Jesus; but has the messenger who would lead him to Christ clearly pointed out the way? Has he clearly pointed out the fact that “sin is the transgression of the law,” and that he must repent, and forsake the breaking of God’s commandments? Christ will come to consume the false prophet, to sweep away the hosts of apostasy, to take vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of God; and it is of the highest importance to each one of us that we know the conditions by which we shall escape the sinner’s doom. It is of the greatest moment that we understand the nature of our fall and the consequences of transgression. Man’s conscience has become hardened by sin, and his understanding darkened by transgression, and his judgment has become confused as to what is sin. He has become benumbed by the influence of iniquity, and it is essential that his conscience be aroused to understand that sin is the transgression of God’s holy law. He who does not obey the commandments of God is a sinner in the sight of God. {Ellen White, ST, June 20, 1895 par. 5}

“Sin is an intruder, for whose presence no reason can be given. It is mysterious, unaccountable; to excuse it, is to defend it. Could excuse for it be found, or cause be shown for its existence, it would cease to be sin. Our only definition of sin is that given in the Word of God; it is “the transgression of the law;” it is the outworking of a principle at war with the great law of love which is the foundation of the divine government. {Ellen White, GC88 492.2}

“The apostle gives us the true definition of sin. “Sin is the transgression of the law.” The largest class of Christ’s professed ambassadors are blind guides. They lead the people away from the path of safety by representing the requirements and prohibitions of the ancient law of Jehovah as arbitrary and severe. They give the sinner license to overstep the limits of God’s law. In this they are like the great adversary of souls, opening before them a life of freedom in violation of God’s commandments. With this lawless freedom the basis of moral responsibility is gone. {Ellen White, Con 75.2}

“It is not in the power of Satan to force anyone to sin. Sin is the sinner’s individual act. Before sin exists in the heart, the consent of the will must be given, and as soon as it is given, sin is triumphant, and hell rejoices.” {Ellen White, ST December 18, 1893, par. 10}

“Q. 14. What is sin? A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.
“What Is Sin? – “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John iii. 4. “All unrighteousness is sin.” 1 John v. 17. This is definite; let us hold it well in our minds. { E. J. Waggoner , November 8, 1894, PTUK 707.16}

“What is sin?-“Sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John iii. 4. To be a bond-servant of sin, therefore, and in nowise able to lift ourselves up, on account of infirmity, is to be unable to keep from transgressing the law. That is, it is to be unable to keep it. Why does Christ make us free? Only in order that we may walk in the law blameless. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.” Rom. viii. 3, 4. He certainly does not deliver us in order that we may go on transgressing the law.” {E. J. Waggoner, April 14, 1897, PTUK 226.12}
“The speech of Peter proves that the perpetuity of the moral law was not called in question. He said that God “put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” Purifying their hearts from what? From sin, of course. And what is sin? “Sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4. But from what sins are they purified by this faith? Paul answers, in Rom. 3:23-25: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” Christ’s blood purifies from past sins, but does not grant indulgences for future sin. Peter, whose speech we are considering, spoke in another place on this wise: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.” 1 Peter 1:22. The law of God is the truth, Ps. 119:114; Jno. 17:17. We learn, then, that having been purged from past sins by the blood of Christ, we are, by the aid of the Spirit, to keep ourselves pure for the future by obeying the law of God. This is the testimony of those apostles who took part in this famous council. And further, the very fact that we are purified by faith, proves the perpetuity of the law of God; as Paul says, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we established the law.” Rom. 3:31. That is, the fact that we can get rid of sin in no other way but by the death of Christ, shows that the claims of the law of God cannot be updated in the least; for if it were possible to remit the claims of that law, that act would free mankind from sin, and make it unnecessary for Christ to die.” {E. J. Waggoner, August 30, 1883, SITI 389.5}

“But my inquiry was this: If I drop the law, what shall I preach? “Why, preach repentance; nobody has any prejudice against that.” What an idea, that the minister must conform his preaching to people’s prejudices. But, if somebody asks me of what he shall repent, what reply shall I give? “Tell him, of course, to repent of sin.” Just so; and then if he asks me what is sin, what shall I say? In a hesitating manner he replied: “Why, the apostle says, sin is the transgression of the law.” But I thought you were going to set me on a track to get rid of the law, and you have me in the same difficulty still, and yet you tell me I must not preach the law. It thus appears that you think the law is not of sufficient consequence to be preached. But if the law is of no consequence, the transgression of it is of no consequence; and if sin is of no consequnece, repentance is of no consequence; and if repentance is of no consequence, then your preaching is of no consequence! This is the logical result of depreciating the law. With such preaching I have no desire to unite.” {E. J. Waggoner, August 21, 1884, SITI 507.4}

“The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation. Rom. 1:16. Salvation has reference to sin, for Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15), and that is why he was called Jesus, which means Saviour. Matt. 1:21. If it were not for sin there would be no need of the gospel; therefore wherever and whenever God authorizes the preaching of the gospel, it must be that there is sin. What is sin? “Sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4. What law? The law which says, “thou shalt not covet.” Rom. 7:7. And what law is that? The ten commandments, which God spoke with his own voice from mount Sinai, and wrote onto tables of stone. See Ex. 20:3-17; Deut. 10:4. Then since the gospel is preached only where there is sin, and sin is the transgression of the ten commandments, it must be that wherever and whenever the gospel is preached, the ten commandments must be in existence as the rule of life. And how extensively and how long is the gospel to be preached? “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness under all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matt. 24:14. What is the “end” here spoken of? The end of the world. See Matt. 24:3. Then just so surely as the Bible is the word of God, the ten commandments must be of binding obligation at least until the coming of Christ, and the end of the world. Whoever denies this, denies the gospel. Let anyone gainsay this reasoning and conclusion who can.” {E. J. Waggoner, November 24, 1887, SITI 720.5}

“In another word, sin is the coming short of the righteousness of God. To come short of the righteousness of God is to transgress the law. Then, whatever righteousness I may present, whatever deeds I may do, as obedience to the law of God as it stands in his word, which, in any sense at all, or to any degree at all, comes short of the righteousness of God, that is sin: it is indeed transgression of the law. This is emphasized by the fact that both in the Hebrew and in the Greek the word that God selected by which to convey to the minds of men the root-thought of what is sin, of what is transgression of the law, is the word that means to “miss the mark;” and to miss the mark by coming short.” {A. T. Jones, October 23, 1900, ARSH 659.2}

“We are in subjection to sin, and that thing is spoken of as itself exceeding, intensely, sinful. But what is sin?—The transgression of the law of God; lawlessness. Men are in subject to sin, that thing which itself is lawlessness. And that sin to which we are in subjection is declared itself to be intensely sinful.” { A. T. Jones , May 6, 1902, ARSH 10.13}

“All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17), and as sin is the transgression of the law of God, it follows that that law is the expression of the righteousness of God, that is, it is the expression of the supreme idea of right. Accordingly, it is written, “My tongue shall speak of thy words for all thy commandments are righteousness.” Psalm 119:172. And “hearken unto me ye that know righteousness; the people in whose heart is my law.” Isaiah 51:7. Therefore, as the law of God, the ten commandments, is the expression of the will of God, in respect to character, and is the expression of the supreme idea of right doing, it stands demonstrated that the ten commandments are the basis and the expression of all true morality or ethics. {A. T. Jones, AMS May 21, 1891, p. 161.5}

“By all these things it is made clear that we owe to Cesar (civil government) only that which is civil, and that we owe to God that which is moral or religious. Other definitions show the same thing. For instance, sin as defined by Webster is “any violation of God’s will;” and as defined by the Scriptures, “is the transgression of the law.” That the law here referred to is the moral law—the ten commandments—is shown by Romans 7:7:— I had not known sin, but by the law; for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. Thus the Scriptures show that sin is the transgression of the law which says, “Thou shalt not covet,” and that is the moral law.” {A. T. Jones, AMS April 16, 1896, p. 125.7}

“Crime and sin are vastly different things. Crime is the violation of human law; sin is the transgression of the divine law. The divine law is “holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12); it partakes of the attributes of its divine Author. Human law is often unjust, and therefore neither holy nor good. A transgression of an unjust law is not sin. On the other hand, a transgression of the divine law is very often not a crime. The divine law embodies the conceptions of Omniscience. It is therefore as much superior to human law as the thoughts of God are superior to those of man. The divine law is “exceeding broad” (Psalm 119:96), covering the domain of the thoughts and desires of the heart. Human law can be of force only in the domain of outward conduct, and even there to only a limited extent.” {A. T. Jones, AMS April 8, 1897, p. 209.4}

“Sin is the transgression of the divine law. 1 John 3:4. The only effective means therefore for suppressing sin is that which enables the individual to keep that law. And as this law is infinitely higher and broader than man’s law, only the Infinite One can provide the means required. And this He has done in the provisions of His gospel, which is “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” Romans 1:16. It is the privilege of Christian preachers to preach the power of God for the salvation of every sinner. It is their duty as well, and they are not true to their calling if they fail to do it. And what is “the power of God unto salvation”? The first chapter of Genesis furnishes an answer to the question. God said, “Let there be light,” and “there was light.” He said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters,” and “it was so.” He said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed after his kind, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind,” and “it was so.” His word created that which did not exist before; and in “every one that believeth” His word, there is created by its power that which did not exist before, even a new heart, which is clean and without sin. Psalm 51:10. By faith, the sinner becomes a “new creature” in Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17.” {A. T. Jones, AMS April 8, 1897, p. 210.1}

It is beyond evident from the writings of the 1888 messengers that the only definition of sin found in scripture is the individual’s transgression of God’s holy law. In fact, you will not find a single reference in their writings where they define sin to be a state. This was a foreign teaching to them. Rightfully so, since the Bible does not do that either. It is the Man of Sin, the system that changed the entire definition of sin that teaches this. It is unfortunate to see how the majority of Christendom has adopted this teaching in various forms. Nevertheless God will have a people that will stand true to thus sayeth the Lord.

Now if sin is the transgression of the law, then a sinner can only be a person who transgresses the law of God. No one who isn’t transgressing the law is deemed a sinner according to the Bible. And as the prophet of the Lord declared…”Sin is the sinner’s individual act. Before sin exists in the heart, the consent of the will must be given…” {Ellen White, ST December 18, 1893, par. 10}
The word sinner is mentioned only 21 times in scripture. When looking at all these verses we see that the Bible plainly defines sinners as people who have individually transgressed the law of God. For instance:

“Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:” Ecclesiastes 8:12


“Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” James 5:20

Both the Bible and the 1888 messengers are very clear on this subject. I encourage you to study the scriptures for yourselves and I pray that you will come to understand what Ellen White, Waggoner and Jones understood and taught for it outlines the principles found in the Word of God.

“Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:2