Crucial Question 14:  Is Ellen White's emphasis on works-based sanctification biblical?




Ellen White grew up in a very legalistic family with deep roots in Puritanism and Wesleyan perfectionism.  Ellen never understood salvation by faith alone, and her misunderstanding has been transmitted to her Adventist followers.


From the Pen of Ellen White:


By faith in Christ and obedience to the law of God we may be sanctified, and thus obtain fitness for the society of holy angels and the white-robed redeemed ones in the kingdom of glory” (SL 83).




The above quoted passage is from Ellen White’s book entitled The Sanctified Life.  For Ellen White, sanctification was the work of a lifetime, as she stated repeatedly, and it was attained through obedience to the law of God rather than being a gift of God.  The above quote clearly shows that sanctification is based on faith plus works, and that works-sanctification is required for salvation.  Because of her works-based theology, it is clear that Mrs. White never understood the primary message of the New Testament.  She was not faithful to the teachings of scripture.


Please see the Sabbatismos article on Perfection for a more complete exposition of Mrs. White’s teaching on the necessity of character perfection for salvation.


Thought Questions:


  1. Can a prophet misunderstand the gospel and still be a true prophet?
  2. Can the SDA Church credibly claim to be a Protestant organization teaching salvation by faith alone?
  3. Is sanctification a gift of God, or is it a product of works?
  4. Did Ellen White misunderstand what the Bible means by the word perfect? 
  5. Was her meaning of the word perfect consistent with modern-day usage?   
  6. Given the damage done by her perfectionism, wouldn’t God have helped her understand the truth had she been a true prophet?


Bible Texts:


For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17).


“Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called . . . .” (Jude 1).

“Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:9-14).

“And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).

“Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:29-30).

“Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.  Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered” (Rom. 4:4-7).

“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).

“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.  Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4).

“But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).

“[F]or if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:21).

“But if ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law” (Gal. 5:18).


For Further Study:


  • Ellen G. White, Faith and Works
  • Ellen G. White, The Sanctified Life
  • Ellen G. White, Notebook Leaflets, vol. 1
  • Arthur G. Daniells, Christ Our Righteousness, Review & Herald, 1941
  • Margaret Davis, What Shall I Do to Inherit Eternal Life? [privately published – no publication information available]
  • Joe W. Gresham, Which Gospel? Fort Worth: Fourth Angel’s Publishing, 2006
  • Dennis Smith, Spirit Baptism & Abiding in Christ [no publication information available]
  • Julius Gilbert White, The Christian’s Experience in the Conquest of Sin, 1942 [privately published]


Continue on to Crucial Question #15:  Dress Reform Vision

Go back to Crucial Question #13:  Sanctification Through Health