Can We Have Original Unborrowed, Underived Life?

, by Joel Ridgeway


As a former Anti-trinitarian, I used to believe that Christ received His life from the Father at some point far back in the ages of eternity. One quote that disagreed with this conclusion was Desire of Ages 530: “In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived.”

To find a way around this quote, I used to quote Selected Messages Volume 1, page 296:

“In Him (Christ) was life, original, unborrowed, underived. This life is not inherent in man. He can possess it only through Christ. He cannot earn it; it is given him as a free gift if he will believe in Christ as His personal Saviour. { 1SM 296.2}

So if original, unborrowed, underived life can be given to us a gift, why couldn’t Christ receive it also? This was my argument.

But after studying this more thoroughly, with an open mind, I’ve discovered that this is a misinterpretation of what Ellen White is trying to say. Let me quote for you the whole section from Selected Messages: Notice carefully the sections in bold:

Chapter 43—Christ the Life-giver

Christ, Creator and Life-giver

[This article appeared in The Signs of the Times, April 8, 1897.]

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” ( John 1:1-5). The world did not see divinity in the humble Man of Nazareth. The only-begotten Son of the infinite God was in the world, and men knew Him not in His true character. { 1SM 296.1}

In him was life; and the life was the light of men” ( John 1:4). It is not physical life that is here specified, but immortality, the life which is exclusively the property of God. The Word, who was with God, and who was God, had this life. Physical life is something which each individual receives. It is not eternal or immortal; for God, the Life-giver, takes it again. Man has no control over his life. But the life of Christ was unborrowed. No one can take this life from Him. “I lay it down of myself” ( John 10:18), He said. In Him was life, original, unborrowed, underived. This life is not inherent in man. He can possess it only through Christ. He cannot earn it; it is given him as a free gift if he will believe in Christ as His personal Saviour. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” ( John 17:3). This is the open fountain of life for the world. { 1SM 296.2}

Giving his charge to Timothy, Paul says, “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, the Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting” ( 1 Timothy 6:11-16). { 1SM 297.1}

Writing again, Paul says: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever” ( 1 Timothy 1:15-17). { 1SM 297.2}

Immortality Brought by Christ

Christ “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” ( 2 Timothy 1:10). No man can have an independent spiritual life apart from Him. The sinner is not immortal; for God has said, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” ( Ezekiel 18:4). This means all that it expresses. It reaches farther than the death which is common to all; it means the second death. Men start back at this, saying, Would you make man no more than a beast? This is thought to be degrading. But what is it that elevates man in the sight of God? Is it his accumulation of money?—No; for God declares, The gold and the silver are mine. If man abuses his entrusted treasures, God can scatter faster than man can gather. Man may have brilliant intellect; he may be rich in the possession of natural endowments. But these are all given him by God, his Maker. God can remove the gift of reason, and in a moment man will become as Nebuchadnezzar, degraded to the level of the beasts of the field. This God does because man acts as though his wisdom and power had been gotten independently of Him. { 1SM 297.3}

Man is only mortal, and while he feels himself too wise to accept Jesus, he will remain only mortal. Men have done wonderful things in the intellectual world, but who gave them power to do this?—The Lord God of hosts. If in their fancied efficiency men triumph because of their own power, and glorify themselves, following the example of the antediluvian world, they will perish. The imagination of that long-lived race was only evil, and that continually. They were wise to do evil, and the earth was corrupted under the inhabitants thereof. Had they connected themselves with the One who is infinite in wisdom, they could have done marvelous things with their God-given ability and talents. But, turning from God, they chose to follow Satan’s lead, as many today are doing; and the Lord swept them from the earth, with all their boasted knowledge. { 1SM 298.1}

So what is Ellen White saying? She is saying that Christ has immortality: we don’t. He is the Source of our immortality. He is the Fountain of Life that is original, unborrowed, and underived. That fountain is available to us: but we do not get the fountain. We can become streamlets of the fountain. Ellen White clearly confirms this in other statements:

“Our life is something we receive from Christ by a study of His Word. “In him was life”—original, unborrowed. He was the Fountain of life. We receive life from the Saviour which He takes back again.” - Upward Look, p. 54

He can take it back again because He is the Fountain, the Source.

From Jesus is our life derived. In him is life that is original,—unborrowed, underived life. In him is the fountain of life. In us there is a streamlet from the fountain of life. Our life is something that we receive, something that the Giver takes back again to himself. If our life is hid with Christ in God, we shall, when Christ shall appear, also appear with him in glory. And while in this world, we shall give to God, in sanctified service, all the capabilities he has given us…." { RH August 6, 1914, par. 1

So getting back the original quote, it now seems obvious that Ellen White was not for a moment suggesting that Christ received original, unborrowed, underived life from the Father. The very words imply that this life doesn’t come from someone else: it’s original and it is not derived from the Father. We receive eternal life from Christ, the Fountain.

So if you are feeling spiritually dead, you need to start drinking from the Fountain of Life. The Word, which we have in written form in the Bible.

Update: A quote that is given to try and rebut what I've shared is Desire of Ages 21:

"But turning from all lesser representations, we behold God in Jesus. Looking unto Jesus we see that it is the glory of our God to give. “I do nothing of Myself,” said Christ; “the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father.” “I seek not Mine own glory,” but the glory of Him that sent Me. John 8:28; 6:57; 8:50; 7:18. In these words is set forth the great principle which is the law of life for the universe. All things Christ received from God, but He took to give. So in the heavenly courts, in His ministry for all created beings: through the beloved Son, the Father’s life flows out to all; through the Son it returns, in praise and joyous service, a tide of love, to the great Source of all. And thus through Christ the circuit of beneficence is complete, representing the character of the great Giver, the law of life." { DA 21.2} 

Does the Father's life flow to the Son and then to us? No, that is not what she said. The life of the Father flows THROUGH Christ to us. This is in the context of the plan of redemption, Humanity became separated from God because of sin, So Christ took on humanity to bridge the gap. As a man, He recieved life from God the Father to impart to us, Now that Christ is in heaven, this circuit continues. From God the Father it flows to Christ who imparts this life to us. Because He is God and Man combined, He is able to do this, 

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