Has your character been transformed? Has darkness been exchanged for light, the love of sin for the love of purity and holiness? Have you been converted, who are engaged in teaching the truth to others? Has there been in you a thorough, radical change? Have you woven Christ into your character? You need not be in uncertainty in this matter. Has the Sun of Righteousness risen and been shining in your soul? If so, you know it; and if you do not know whether you are converted or not, never preach another discourse from the pulpit until you do. How can you lead souls to the fountain of life of which you have not drunk yourself? Are you a sham, or are you really a son of God? Are you serving God, or are you serving idols? Are you transformed by the Spirit of God, or are you yet dead in your trespasses and sins? To be sons of God means more than many dream of, because they have not been converted. Men are weighed in the balance and found wanting when they are living in the practice of any known sin. It is the privilege of every son of God to be a true Christian moment by moment; then he has all heaven enlisted on his side. He has Christ abiding in his heart by faith.
Testimonies To Ministers 440, 441 Oh, that the people of God would take this to heart! That they would consider that not one wrong will be righted after Jesus comes! Not one error of character will be removed when Christ shall come. Now is our time of preparation. Now is our time of washing our robes of character in the blood of the Lamb. If we go on excusing our errors and trying to make ourselves believe we are about right, we deceive our own souls and will find ourselves weighed in the balance and found wanting. Many profess the truth but are not sanctified through the truth. 5 Manuscript Releases 21,22
The letter that composes the first part of this booklet was received by us on January 19, 1993. It was sent to us by a supporter of Steps to Life. In this letter we read, “in as much as this letter is to be published . . . .“, indicating that this letter was written for publication.
It appears from this letter, that the NAD (North American Division) officers and their committee, especially Robert Dale, requested letters against “certain private organizations” to be used in their ISSUES book. However, this letter is nowhere to be found in their ISSUES book. We do not concur with the author of this letter on several points. However, in the name of fair play, we believe this letter should have been published in the NAD ISSUES book along- side the others.
We did not ask permission of any person to publish this letter. The letter itself states it was prepared for publication: “in as much as this letter is to be published. . . .“ We have depersonalized it even further, as you can tell by the blank _____ lines. This booklet contains all of the letter that was sent to us. In the letter we received, certain portions were missing, you will find these in [brackets].
“This is a partial copy of a letter written by _____ of Andrews University, to Elder Robert Dale of the N. A. D. . . . . I understand the letter was sent in May 1992.” [written on the top of the letter we received]
The Letter the NAD Officers did not Publish I do not agree with everything in Our Firm Foundation. I receive a complimentary copy every month, but I do not subscribe to the magazine and have never sent a donation. Ron Spear has called me on the phone a couple of times over a period of several years, but I have never called him. I would rather the magazine didn’t exist. But I must add that I am, [ ] I among them, appreciate quite a bit of what is published in the paper. Though we deeply regret the critical spirit that appears at times and oppose that one- time instruction on tithing, we nonetheless wish that the best of Our Firm Foundation could appear in the Adventist Review. We would like to see the magazine cease publication but feel that for the time being it fills a useful place in feeding Christ's sheep.
1. Feed the Sheep's Four Hungers.
The Review has carried a variety of warnings, especially the Perth declaration, aimed against
Our Firm Foundation and other private publishing ventures. What I have not yet seen but would like to see is an exploration into the reasons why these private publishing ventures succeed.
Career malcontents are going to publish critical materials no matter what any committee comes up with, and neither spiritual appeals nor demagoguery will make them stop. If the Committee is trying to reach career malcontents, they might as well quote Nehemiah and refuse to waste their time.
I therefore assume that the Committee is trying to reach, not the career malcontents, but the loyal and reasonable church members who send donations to support the independent publishers. So let us ask, Why do these readers support these private publishers? I'd like to propose four reasons, four legitimate hungers.
- A hunger for what appears to be solid food.
Our Firm Foundation is notable for its lengthy doctrinal articles and for its republished appeals by Ellen G. White. Evidently, then, people are supporting Our Firm Foundation because they want to read lengthy doctrinal articles and they want to read earnest appeals written by Ellen G. White.
- A hunger for prophetic interpretation and application.
Several of the independent papers consist largely of prophetic interpretation and application. Evidently, then, people pay for these papers because they want to read articles on prophetic interpretation and application.
- A hunger for the serious use of Ellen G. White.
The conservative publications quote the Ellen G. White writings copiously and do so as if they regarded the writings as authoritative.
- A hunger for sincere repentance by church leadership.
It is easy to dismiss the Pilgrims Press as merely salacious and erroneous. I assure you that I don't subscribe to it and only rarely even see a copy of it. But a very large number of Adventist church members in the North American Division are aware that some of their leaders are opinionated, selfish, and power hungry. Some of our church members hunger for evidence of humility and the character of Christ in their leaders.
Of course, a lot of our NAD members don't have these four hungers, or don't have all of them. Some of them scarcely read any of our papers, not even their Union papers or the Review.
And some are excited by Spectrum, with its criticism of Ellen G. White and the sanctuary doctrine and its campaign for social activism and a billions- of- years post- creation chronology.
But these less- hungry people aren't sending their tithe to Our Firm Foundation, so they aren't in the Committee's focus. Speaking about those who, I presume, are in the Committee's focus, my first suggestion for reclaiming the loyalty of people who read the independent publications is that as promptly as possible the North American Division acknowledge the four deep hungers I have listed as legitimate and meet them with a. solid, sound doctrinal articles, b. solid, sound prophetic interpretation and application, c. appropriate respect for the inspired authority of Ellen G. White, and d. evidence of humility and the character of Christ as needed among our leaders.
I have heard (the information may be incorrect) that one of the reasons the Committee is preparing a paper against the independent publications is that “third world” ministers are basing sermons on articles in Our Firm Foundation. Of course they are! Our Firm Foundation appears to meet at least three of the four hungers. By contrast, the Adventist Review usually offers little essays not over six typewritten pages in length, pays only sporadic attention to the fulfillment of prophecy, virtually never cites Ellen G. White for authoritative direction, and admits the failings of denominational leadership only in extraordinary areas of finance (e. g., Davenport and Harris Pine Mills). In response to intense criticism, the Review has commendably begun the Anchor Point series; but it occupies only a fraction of the available pages.
2. Avoid Discrimination.
The Quiet Hour accepts tithe. The Voice of Prophecy accepts tithe. The people at Hope International know that the Quiet Hour accepts tithe and that the Voice of Prophecy accepts tithe. Many other people either know this or assume it. If the Committee clamps down on Hope International and not on the Quiet Hour and the Voice of Prophecy, it will be guilty of discrimination. Worse, it will likely be ineffective— and will even run the risk of having Our Firm Foundation publish the facts about QH and VOP and embarrass leadership.
[Added later: I do not for a moment suggest that leadership ought to crack down on either the QH or the VOP, even though acceptance of tithe by both of them is contrary to voted NAD policy. They are both doing a noble work and should be encouraged. When Elder Tucker in the 1950's accepted a call to Berrien Springs, the Northern California Conference refused to let him take the Quiet Hour with him from Oakland. Because the NCC had given the QH a small fraction of its operating cost, it persuaded itself that it had full rights of ownership. Tucker felt abused but stayed loyal. He waited till the QH in Oakland failed before resuming it in Michigan, and when he resumed it, he resolved he would never again accept even a penny from church leadership but would, if possible, give money to the church. An this he and his sons after him have done, with utmost loyalty and devotion. To discipline the QH for occasionally accepting tithe— like Mrs. White did— from people whose hungers are not being met by leadership, would be a peculiarly abusive demonstration of “kingly power.”]
Now let me enlarge the scope of discrimination. If our leadership is going to defrock conservatives, it absolutely must be even handed and defrock supporters of Spectrum. (Who the principals of Spectrum are can be identified by a glance inside any front cover.)
Let us grant that the General Conference has a right to define where tithe should be paid. Very well, if leadership is going to defrock conservatives for defying denominational policies on where tithe should be paid, what is leadership going to do about the college staff which, scarcely waiting for the ink to dry on the denominational vote restricting extramural competition, ran an ad on the back of Insight saying (as close as I can remember), “Meet You at Court Side.” Their ad listed both the old and the newly added opportunities at their college for extramural competition.
If leadership is going to defrock conservatives for defying “denominational policy” in regard to where tithe should be paid, what is leadership going to do about the presidents of the Carolina Conference and the Southern Union? Denominational policy requires Conference presidents and Union presidents to respond “normally within three weeks” to appeals from workers who request the Conciliation Process. A certain pastor in the Carolina Conference has appealed at least five times for the Conciliation Process over a period of nearly four years but has been given a deaf ear, in disregard of denominational policy. I have, literally, a drawer full of evidence that this pastor has probably been treated insensitively and unfairly. I have appealed to the leaders directly involved asking them to appoint an independent third party to look into the situation and see if there might be a basis for the pastor's complaints; but all that each of these (otherwise good) brethren has done in response has been to consult together and report to me (or not report at all) that everything has been done just right. The pastor in question has been fired and is in debt, with a wife who may be developing cancer that they cannot afford to treat. Two individuals who are closer to the pastor than I am, two people who for many years have been very loyal tithe- paying Seventh- day Adventists, pastor. You can appreciate the fact, Bob, that nothing the Committee publishes on tithe paying will persuade these two people to follow “denominational policy” in regard to where to send tithe as long as the brethren I have mentioned decline to follow “denominational policy” on the Conciliation Process. I think you can see their point.
On another theme, who is speaking out officially in favor of the loyal, tithe paying Seventh-day Adventists who for decades have supported our church schools and our missionary magazines and the Voice of Prophecy, etc., who now hate to attend their own churches because of the “evangelical burlesque” (so- called Celebrationism) going on there in a misguided attempt to retain the unconverted? Who is speaking out on their behalf? If in a given conference no one is, can leadership there in good conscience blame these loyal tithe paying Seventh- day Adventists if, after paying their tithe to the conference for decades, they now send some of it to someone who does have courage to speak out? I don't agree with them in this use of some of their tithe. I only say that if the Committee is serious about persuading such members to return to paying all their tithe to the Conference, then the Committee should persuade Conference leadership to speak up on their behalf in respect to the worship- entertainment issue.
The Committee, I say, must do all in its power to avoid discriminating against easy conservative targets while neglecting to tackle the serious problems that so deeply concern the easy conservative targets.
3. Evaluate Actual Losses.
Inasmuch as tithe is a major bone of contention, I’d like to ask the Committee to find out just how much money the NAD is actually losing to the independent publications. Is the amount worth the blood that may be shed by a frontal assault?
To determine the money being lost to the NAD, tallying up the income of the independent publications isn't good enough. It is my current impression that many of the Adventists who are sending donations to these publications would not start sending their money to the Conferences if these publications were today shut down. So long as their four hungers persist unsatisfied, they will send their money elsewhere or bide their time till the publications are replaced with other independent publications.
What I'm trying to say in this section is that the loss of offerings to these publications is not due to the existence of the publications but to the doubtful quality of the Review and the apparent lack of humility and repentance among some of our leaders.
I would also like to urge that the amount of money these publications are receiving is relatively small, and that the proportion of tithe involved is very small.
Suppose Hope International, the largest publisher, does actually receive $1,250,000 a year as Ron Spear, when I asked him, told me that it does. Well, the total church contributions made by NAD Adventists is over $600,000,000. So Ron Spear gets only 1/ 500th (0.2%), a sizable amount to be sure, but scarcely enough to credit him with holding up the general progress of the cause.
But what about the tithe he receives, the increment of his earnings most zealously targeted by denominational leadership? Spear says (I am told) that only about 10% of his $1,250,000 represents tithe. By nature he seems to be an open man with figures, but let's suppose that the tithe total is closer to 20%. Twenty percent of $1,250,000 is $250,000— whereas NAD Adventists give $400,000,000 tithe each year. So let's figure it out. The tithe that creeps into Hope International represents at most 1/ 1600th (0.0625%) of total NAD Adventist tithe paying.
Against the amount of money that might be regained by opposing the independent publications, the Committee will want to weigh the value of souls who may become discouraged by a denominational outburst. What will it profit the church to gain several thousand dollars but lose hundreds of souls?
4. Remove the Offense.
You said in your letter that the Committee dealing with Hope International wants to be “balanced.” This is commendable; and I expect the objective is sincere. You ask my comments in a desire to achieve this end. Inasmuch as you asked, let me continue to oblige.
What about Spectrum and its parent organization, The Association of Adventist Forums? If you don't read Spectrum, I don't blame you. But you probably made an exception and read about Elder Folkenberg and the anonymous donors in the August 1991 issue. Is it all right for
Spectrum to be sharply critical of leadership but not for Pilgrim's Press to be critical? What about “Growing Up with the Beasts” and “Social Reform as Sacrament of the Second Advent” in the May 1991 issue of Spectrum? These articles reinterpret the beasts of Revelation as social ills and the “remnant” as social activists. The Committee should also savor the relish with which the magazine's March 1992 issue, on pp. 63- 64, reported that Seventh- day Adventist Kinship International won its trademark case with the General Conference. The Committee should then read the articles about Desmond Ford and by Ford himself beginning on pp. 9 and 12 of the March issue.
Inasmuch as this letter is to be published, I am deleting the names of certain individuals whose behavior and theology are strikingly out of harmony with normal Adventism. But I have privately called them to your attention.
What about the seven papers written by honor students at Walla Walla College in the spring of 1991 that have received deserved notoriety. I understand that Elder Folkenberg has reproved the WWC religion faculty, and I'm mighty glad to hope that the report is true. But will there be any real change at WWC?
What are our people to expect of Adventist education as long as strong supporters of Spectrum serve as college presidents? As long as the president of Atlantic Union College is the man who publicly praised another of our retired educators for coming out in favor of a billions- of years post- creation chronology, can we reasonably expect our conservatives to support our schools?
As earnestly as I am capable of saying it, if the Committee is serious about reclaiming the loyalty of those people who support our independent conservative publications, I urge it first of all to set about removing the most obvious offenses.
5. Review Our History.
Our Firm Foundation, like some of our other independent publications, (a) speaks of a “new theology” that it says arose in the 1950's. It (b) emphasizes that Jesus had the same human inheritance as we all have, rather than having been created as clean as Adam. And it (c) talks about perfecting our characters in preparation for the second coming.
These emphases annoy a branch of our conservatives even more than they also annoy our liberals. These annoyed conservatives almost angrily scold Our Firm Foundation for emphasizing doctrines that are “not generally agreed on” in our denomination.
But does their distaste for Our Firm Foundation on these points prove that the magazine is wrong on these points? [ ]theology for over twenty years, requiring me to do constant research. I have [ ] with my antennae out for the same length of time, and have served as a minister since 1946. 1 can say unequivocally that in the 1950's Adventist theology as taught in our NAD centers did undergo a change, one that can be attributed especially but not exclusively to two of the editors of Questions on Doctrine and to at least two fascinating and influential Seminary professors— a change which has been perpetuated and (we must recognize) distorted by students who rose quickly to positions of educational and administrative prominence. Yes, indeed, there is a “new theology,” and Our Firm Foundation is historically correct when it refers to it.
Perhaps, however, we should say, more precisely, that certain views which had been held for some time by a minority were, in the 1950's, reformulated, given new emphasis, and taken up by a large group of those Adventists who enjoyed the advantage of attending our schools. I believe in our schools ______, but I observe that the theological cleavage which exists today among conservative NAD Adventists is largely between those who have studied the writings of non- SDA theologians in our colleges on the one hand and, on the other hand, those who, deprived of an SDA college education, have confined their study mostly to the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White. I am repeatedly struck with the way new converts, fresh from the study of the Bible and Ellen G. White, side with the older SDA theology, while so- called “second” and “third- generation” Adventists tend to side with the new theology.
Maybe I should add at this point that I think that some language used by the QOD editors in defense of their product set an ugly stage that leadership still needs to sweep clean. Deeply embarrassed to have the Evangelicals discover that many Adventists did not agree with QOD's new theology, the QOD editors cruelly denounced the conservatives as a “lunatic fringe.” I knew a lot of those lunatics and respected them highly. They included the fine PUC teachers who set the tone of my ministry. Well, leaders can say things like this, but it seems hardly reasonable for them to expect people they call lunatics to enjoy paying them their tithe.
The cry is often raised by the new- theology conservatives that Our Firm Foundation and similar publications are all wrong when they insist on the view that Jesus was not given a pre- f all nature like Adam's. These new- theology conservatives say that the publications are wrong in that they insist on a view of Christ's nature that has never been accepted as a Fundamental Belief by the church as a whole.
But if the denomination has never taken an official stand on this subject, why is it wrong for the old- theology conservatives to publish articles on the subject but perfectly right for the new theology conservatives to do so? New- theology conservatives such as the editors of Our Firm Foundation are frequently criticized for bringing up the issue. But let's face it; they didn’t start the argument! The argument was started publicly by the 1949 edition of Bible Readings and the 1957 publication of Questions on Doctrine, and by certain Seminary professors and others in the years that followed. And the pot has been kept boiling by the professors and others in the years that followed. And the pot has been kept boiling by the new- theology liberals and conservatives, who now control several of our magazines and colleges. One recalls the old quip:
“You started the fight when you hit me back.” The fact that new- theology people control the chief NAD publications and colleges represents choices made by entities of the NAD. Choices involve consequences. If NAD entities have chosen such editors and presidents, NAD must expect a reaction. It is in my opinion irresponsible and unsportsmanlike for NAD to choose partisans of new- theology views which have not been officially accepted by the General Conference and then cry foul when loyal church members publish evidence in favor of the old- theology views which they committed themselves to when they became Seventh- day Adventists.
6. Assess the implications of Voluntaryism.
I have just spoken about the convictions of people who adopted certain understandings when they became Seventh- day Adventists. If church leadership thinks the time has come to teach different views from the views being taught when these people became Seventh- day Adventists, that is one thing. But to treat people as rebellious, heretical, disloyal, and legalist because they choose to continue to believe what they sincerely committed themselves to years ago, seems gross and boorish.
Commitment is precious, and church membership is sacred. Church membership is also entirely voluntary. Payment of tithe and offerings in the Seventh- day Adventist movement is totally unenforceable. Loyalty is unenforceable. Ours is a voluntary movement.
Members will pay or will not pay tithe as they please. They will be loyal or disloyal as they please, and no one can force them to be any different.
How important, then, that our leaders seek consensus rather than political victories. Our previous General Conference presidency was marked by increasingly sharp politicization at the expense of consensus. You and the Committee are painfully aware of this.
If leadership wants to settle for, say, a vote of 60%, let it do so. No one can stop it. But let leadership recognize that when it settles for 60% it runs the real risk of alienating many of the other 40%. Alienation and loyalty are opposite principles.
The trouble with administrating a voluntary organization on the basis of major- fraction votes is that the volunteers who are unconvinced may simply stop being volunteers. How much better, how very much better, for the church to move slowly enough and persuasively enough to secure consensus!
One of the seething causes of the current wave of unofficial publications is frustration with disenfranchisement. Church leadership, apparently intent on retaining our educated liberals, has found ways politically and editorially to give several of the denomination's colleges, periodicals, and key administrative positions to educated liberals. Time after time our conservatives, the ones who still read the Spirit of Prophecy, have been frustrated. Their articles have been rejected by denominational editors. And even when they have written “letters to the editor,” too often their letters haven't been published unless a contrary letter was available for publication next to theirs, to make their letters look foolish. All of this maneuvering has left many of our thinking conservatives frustrated. But they love our church more than they love their money. They are alarmed at the way things are going because they care enough to be alarmed; and so, well, they speak up through their own publications, and they put their money where their mouths and hearts are. They are, after all, volunteers, generous, giving volunteers who support the kind of Adventism they believe in.
It is my conviction, as I said in beginning, that Our Firm Foundation ought to close down. We ought not to need it. We ought to have an Adventist Review that feeds our people's legitimate hungers without the accusing spirit and without the false tithe advice sometimes found in Our Firm Foundation. The Review— and our colleges, pastors, and teachers— should feed our people's hunger for solid, sound doctrinal instruction, for solid, sound material dealing with the fulfillment of prophecy, and for solid respect for the inspired authority of Ellen G. White. And our administrators should use the columns of the Review to make earnest confession, acknowledging specific wrongs and offering specific restitution.
The Committee (it seems to me) should persuade leadership to act without discrimination, removing offenses, and counting the possible gain in money against the possible loss in souls.
In brief, in dealing with the supporters of Our Firm Foundation, the Seventh- day Adventist movement needs to display strong, clear- headed, moral leadership. God give us moral leadership, armed by faith, winged by prayer, and informed by the Spirit of Prophecy, its soul cleansed and its influence enhanced where necessary through public confession and repentance.
There is a danger that God's commandment- keeping people will be found, as were the Jews, weighed in the balance of the heavenly sanctuary, and found wanting. YI
10/14/97 ISSUES: Part Two SECTION TWO TABLE OF CONTENTS
Spiritual Nature of the Church
Israel (Abraham's seed)
The apostasy in Christendom
When reformation of the church was impossible
Can you tell the difference between the true church and the professed- only church?
Two true churches? (the invisible church)
The professed church and the true church
Who are God's denominated people?
Questions and answers
To be a Christian is not merely to take the name of Christ, but to have the mind of Christ, to submit to the will of God in all things. Many who profess to be Christians have yet to learn this great lesson. Many know little of what it is to deny self for Christ's sake. They do not study how they can best glorify God and advance His cause. But it is self, self, how can it be gratified? Such religion is worthless. In the day of God those who possess it will be weighed in the balance and found wanting. TMK 174
ISSUES: Part Two SECTION TWO “The Church” Dr. John J. Grosboll
The church is one of the things of God, the most precious thing on earth in His sight. It has been established and purchased at an infinite cost to heaven. What is it about the church that makes it so precious? Although no human can give a complete answer to this question, a very imperfect and partial answer could be as follows. When the great controversy was inaugurated in heaven, God and His government were challenged with the following justification: (1) First of all, Lucifer claimed that God's law was unnecessary for angels, and second, he claimed that created beings could not perfectly keep the law. Lucifer wanted a change in God's law that would allow him to be part of the Godhead or like God (this would require a change in the first commandment and a change in the spiritual meaning of the rest of the commandments). (2) Lucifer claimed that Christ had privileges that he should have also. God did not at all consent to this demand. (3) Lucifer claimed that he wanted to obtain more freedom and liberty and that the principles of God's government did not work perfectly and could be improved upon. Although Lucifer attempted to gain God's condemnation by the entire universe of creatures created by God's own hand, the nature of the charges made it impossible for God to vindicate His character or government as God because the charges which were accepted by about one third of the angels were not only against God, His government and His law, but they claimed that created beings could not keep His law and that His law resulted in a condition of life for created beings that was inferior to that life which could be enjoyed if the law were changed.
After Lucifer was expelled from heaven, he determined to be revenged upon God by causing the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve, which he succeeded in doing. When Adam and Eve fell, they lost their former righteousness and purity of character. They were transgressors of the first commandment and spiritually they had broken every commandment in God's law (Romans 7: 14). Satan claimed that either Adam and Eve would have to die with all the other transgressors of God's law (including himself) or God would have to allow him and all the other fallen angels back into heaven if Adam and Eve were forgiven. God said to the devil, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise your head and you will bruise his heel” Genesis 3: 15.
SPIRITUAL NATURE OF THE CHURCH
Here in Genesis 3: 15, immediately after the fall, God announces the establishment of His church as His people. All people in the world can claim Eve as their mother according to the flesh, but God was here speaking only of those who would be, not just the fleshly descendants of Eve, but her spiritual descendants— those who would demonstrate by the character that they would develop that God was their Father and the devil their adversary.
Immediately after the fall of man, the spiritual nature of the church is revealed. There would be descendants of Eve that would be the seed of the devil— his spiritual children— and there would be enmity between these descendants of Eve according to the flesh and the descendants of Eve who were not only her fleshly but her spiritual children. Immediately after the fall, God makes it plain that ONLY the spiritual descendants of Eve are His people, His church. Those who are only her descendants according to the flesh, or who make a profession of being His children but develop characters like Satan, are the seed of the serpent and are not God's children or part of His church at all. “There must be open and avowed enmity between the church and the serpent, between her seed and his seed” ST 8/ 26/ 89.
From this time on, often the church was again likened to a woman or sometimes the seed of the woman. This promise in Genesis 3: 15 was passed down for twenty generations. In the twentieth generation, the promise was renewed and more explicitly stated to Abraham in Genesis 12, 15, and 17. God's covenant renewed with Abraham included the following provisions: (1) The sign or token that one had entered into this covenant was the rite of circumcision (Genesis 17: 10- 14). (2) For everyone who entered into this covenant, God promises to be their God (Genesis 17: 7, 8). (3) God promised that everyone who was part of this covenant would “inherit the land in which you are a stranger” (Genesis 17: 8). Some have thought that this refers only to the land of Palestine, but Abraham understood it to refer not only to Palestine but to an eternal inheritance in the earth made new at the end of time (Hebrews 11: 8- 10). The righteous are strangers in this earth (Hebrews 11: 13- 16; 1 Peter 1: 1), but they will inherit the earth (Psalm 37). (4) To be part of the covenant you must be part of Abraham's seed because the covenant was made only to Abraham and his seed (Genesis 17: 7). (5) The covenant was not made with the fleshly descendants of Abraham but only with those who were his spiritual seed. We know for sure that this was a condition of the covenant from the beginning because Ishmael was of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh and was circumcised— he received the token or symbol of being part of the covenant (Genesis 17: 25), yet Ishmael was never part of the covenant! (see Romans 9) This is absolute proof that to be part of the covenant or testament you must be the spiritual seed of Abraham, not just the literal seed. In fact, you could be part of the spiritual seed of Abraham and thereby be part of the covenant even if you were not of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh. The experience of Rahab the harlot in Jericho and of Ruth the Moabitess who became one of the progenitors of Christ demonstrates this fact— neither were of the physical seed of Abraham, but they both became part of his spiritual seed, so much so, that Ruth was chosen to be an ancestor of the Christ who was to come from the seed of Abraham.
ISRAEL (ABRAHAM'S SEED)
This covenant or testament of promise was renewed with Isaac and Jacob. After the night of Jacob's trouble, God changed Jacob's name to Israel, which means “a prince with God,” and this became the official name of God's people in this world forever. (This is not the only official name of God's people today, however.) From this time on, one of the most common names for God's church is “Israel.” In describing the victory of the saints at the end of the time of trouble, Ellen White calls them the Israel of God (EW 285).
However, many in ancient times and today are confused because they think that whenever the Bible talks about Israel it is talking about God's true church. This assumption is often not true.
The human mind was originally created to operate in harmony and within the parameters of the Ten Commandments. Almost all learning from babyhood is based on the assumption that what is heard or what is seen is the truth. Without an observance of the ninth commandment, no order or learning can take place. But sin deceived (Romans 7: 11) and people who were the descendants of Abraham according to the flesh did not develop a character of faith and love like Abraham. They were his descendants according to the flesh, but they were not his spiritual descendants; they were not God's children. Therefore an element of confusion was initiated which has continued to the present day: people who professed to be the children of Abraham, Israelites, God's people, part of His church, were not the spiritual children of Abraham at all; spiritually they were not Israelites but they were called Israel; they professed to be part of Israel; they professed the same religion and were called Israelites (and they were Israelites according to the flesh). They were Israel by profession but not in reality. This is one of the awful results of sin— you cannot determine reality by a person's profession or word.
Even a casual reading of the Old Testament reveals that many who were Israelites according to the flesh were not God's people (some of them were called by the Old Testament writers the sons of Belial, that is, the devil); whereas those who are really part of His church are His people. Notice how explicitly the Bible writer states it: “They are not all Israel who are of Israel” Romans 9: 6. Those who are of Israel are those who profess to be God's people, those who profess to be the Israel of God; but not all of these are really Israel; not all of them are really God's people; not all of them are really part of the church. Today as then there are many who are “of Israel.” They have received the rite of baptism; they have professed to be God's people; they are accounted by men to be God's people, His church; they are numbered with God's people and joined to them, but they are not really part of the church at all— they are only “pretended believers,” they are “false brethren” (COL). A false brother is not a true brother, but all those who are really part of the church are true brethren.
Until this basic fact is understood, much confusion will exist in the mind of a student of the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy. In the Bible “different meanings are expressed by the same word; there is not one word for each distinct idea” 1SM 20. If the word Israel or the word church is always interpreted to mean the same thing, then explicit contradictions are found in the inspired writings; but a real contradiction is impossible because ‘‘ all truth. . . . is consistent with itself in all its manifestations PP 114. No lie is of the truth (1 John 2: 21).
It is a common practice when an apparent contradiction occurs in inspired writings for students to make philosophical models to explain these contradictions. Because those who are part of the true church by profession and those who are part of the true church in character (reality) as well as profession have not been the same group for thousands of years and the prophets are using the imperfect language of men (1SM 20) in prophetic writings, both groups are often called simply “the church.”
In the Bible the word law is another example of the imperfectness of human speech. Sometimes the Bible writer uses the word law when talking about the Ten Commandments. At other times the same word without qualifiers is used to describe the ceremonial law or the same word is used to describe the first five books of Moses which were called the law in the Hebrew Bible. And still other times the word law is used to describe the effect of sin on a person or persons. In each case, the context of the verse must be examined to determine what law is being talked about.
This multiple use of the word law has been a prolific field for misunderstanding in which Seventh- day Adventists have had to learn how to explain the different ways that the word is used and that the moral law of Ten Commandments has never been and never can be changed. If a person is candidly looking for evidence, the different ways that the word law is used can be demonstrated from the text itself so that there is no real contradiction, even though from the first casual reading there had seemed to be. The same is true for the word church.
Until it is understood that “they are not all Israel who are of Israel,” the Old Testament prophets cannot be properly understood because when they use the word Israel, sometimes they are talking about the real or true Israel of God, His true church, and sometimes they are talking about Israel according to the flesh, those who profess to be Israel but are not all Israel. A knowledge of this fact explains many apparent contradictions in the Old Testament. For example, compare the following apparently direct contradictions: “I have forsaken My house, I have left My heritage”; Jeremiah 12: 7 (see also Deuteronomy 31: 17; Isaiah 2: 6; Jeremiah 7: 29; 2 Chronicles 15: 2; 24: 20) and “For Israel is not forsaken nor Judah by his God, the Lord of hosts, though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel ” Jeremiah 51: 5 (see also Deuteronomy 31: 6, 8). How do you explain this apparently direct contradiction? An examination of all similar passages reveals the answer. The professed Israel, or Israel according to the flesh, the professed church of that day was forsaken and left by God (Ezekiel describes it graphically in the first chapters of his book.) because they had forsaken Him; but the true Israel of God never has been and never will be forsaken (Hebrews 13: 6). Those who will never be forsaken are the spiritual seed 01 Abraham— those who seek God and put their trust in Him (Psalm 9: 10), those who are righteous, the saints (Psalm 37: 25,28). Because God's professed people forsook Him, He forsook them; but even though the land (that actually belonged only to His true people) was filled with the sin of His professed people, His true people were not forsaken and never will be.
But in Bible times as today people often base their life on what they can see and not on the spiritual reality of a godly character. Most of the tribes of the children of Israel were “lost” as a result of the Assyrian captivity and have not since that time had a distinct visible identity. Of the Israelites who remained, the majority were of the tribe of Judah and the name for God's true people became the Jews instead of Israel (which they still were).
Most of the Jews eventually put their trust in the outward church organization instead of developing a godly character. They became so confused their thinking that they thought the outward manifestations or symbols of true religion were the essence itself. They could not tell the difference between the professed church and the true church. They could not distinguish the form from the substance. They could not tell the difference between profession and spiritual reality. This is always the result of spiritual blindness. (Jesus said that the Jews were spiritually blind— John 9 and Matthew 15.) This is one of the main reason for the confusion today about who and what the church is— Laodicea is spiritually blind.
One of the results of this misperception is that religious faith and trust is placed in church organizations, creeds and outward forms of religion. When trust is placed in the creature instead of the Creator, instead of fearing God (Revelation 14: 6) men fear other men. This fear of men is amply documented in the gospels which speak often about the fear of the Jews (see John 7; 9; 12).
Also, whenever spiritual blindness has occurred, the emphasis in religion is always upon the physical— circumcision of the flesh, baptism with water, the attainment of various human goals and objectives; but it does no good to keep the symbols if the spiritual reality that is symbolized is lost. Circumcision represented the cutting away of sin from the life (Deuteronomy 30: 6); baptism represents the washing away of sin from the life and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It does no good to observe the symbol if the spiritual reality is not experienced.
When Jesus was here, the Jews believed they were the true church because they were the seed of Abraham. They forgot that the promises were given only to the spiritual seed. They forgot that without a spiritual similarity to Abraham, a genealogy showing your fleshly connection to him was useless. When John the Baptist said, “And do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father, ' ' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones” Matthew 3: 9, he was assaulting their most treasured religious beliefs. They believed that, because they were Abraham's descendants, they were members of the true church, the true people of God. John the Baptist told them not to think that a fleshly connection to Abraham guaranteed this. “John declared to the Jews that their standing before God was to be decided by their character and life. Profession was worthless. If their life and character were not in harmony with God's law, they were not His people” DA 107. (All emphasis supplied) It was true that to become Abraham's seed was to have everlasting life, but the Jews thought it was the literal seed that counted and John the Baptist said that this counted for nothing— profession counted for nothing. It was character that counted and God could raise up from the stones (Gentiles— people spiritually dead) people who would have the character of Abraham and therefore be in the most literal sense Abraham's spiritual children. John the Baptist said that it was character likeness or spiritual relationship to Abraham that counted, not an outward relationship of profession (or of the flesh).
Jesus stated this truth in even stronger language “‘ I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father and you do what you have seen with your father. They answered and said to Him, ‘Abraham is our father. ' Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham' children, you would do the works of Abraham. Bu now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did no do this. You do the deeds of your father. ' Then the said to Him, ‘We were not born of fornication; w have one Father— God. ' Jesus said to them, ‘I God were your Father, you would love Me, for proceeded forth and came from God; nor have come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” ' John 8: 37- 44.
Jesus acknowledged that they were the descendants of Abraham according to the flesh, but He denied that they were the children of promise. He denied that they were Abraham's spiritual seed; He denied that they were part of the church, rather Jesus said plainly that they were of the synagogue of Satan. Jesus here made it plain that it was spiritual or character likeness that counted.
“The Pharisees had declared themselves the children of Abraham. Jesus told them that this claim could be established only by doing the works of Abraham. The true children of Abraham would live, as he did, a life of obedience to God. They would not try to kill One who was speaking the truth that was given Him from God. In plotting against Christ, the rabbis were not doing the works of Abraham. A mere lineal descent from Abraham was of no value.
Without a spiritual connection with Him, which would be manifested in possessing the same spirit, and doing the same works, they were not His children” DA 466, 467.
The Jews believed that the professed church professed Israel (Israel according to the flesh), was the true church; but Jesus said that they were not truly the children of Abraham but rather the children of the devil— they were not the true church at all, but of the synagogue of Satan, the devil's children. They were the professed church of God. the professed people of God, the professed true church, but not the true church at all in reality. In a time of apostasy, the professed church and the true church is not the same at all.
This same battle over the definition of the true church— that the professed or outward church is not the same as the true church— had to be fought by the apostles and is discussed in detail in the New Testament, not only in the gospels but in the epistles and other New Testament books.
The theology of the Jews taught that the professed church was the true church. The theology of the apostles taught that the true church could only be defined by spiritual relationship and not on profession alone.
The Jews thought that the fleshly seed of Abraham or the professed church was the true church, but the apostles taught that only the spiritual seed was truly the church (Romans 4: 13- 17; 9: 8; Galatians 3: 7).
The Jews thought that the visible, outward relationship was what counted, but the apostles taught that it was the inward, vital relationship that counted (Romans 2: 28, 29).
The Jews professed to be the true church of God. If you could not tell the difference between the professed church and the true church, you would not have become a member of the apostolic church at Pentecost.
THE APOSTASY IN CHRISTENDOM
However, in Christendom something very similar happened to what had formerly happened in Judaism. Part of the great apostasy in Christianity, was the teaching which has affected Christendom to the present day that “Christianity consists in the mere profession of the name pertaining not to the essential character, nor implying any material change in the general conduct” Great Empires of Bible Prophecy, A. T. Jones, 471.
A person calling himself a Christian, professing to be a Christian but not living a Christlike life, is a fraud; he is a Christian in name but not in character. He is not really a true Christian but a professed Christian only. Likewise a church professing to be Christian but breaking God's law, teaching others to break God's law or saying that it cannot be kept, is a Christian church in name only, not in reality. It is not a true Christian church at all. As apostasy comes into a church, the whole church is of professed Christians; but within the professed church is a usually much smaller number of true Christians whose character is in harmony with their profession. A true Christian may not have character perfection yet and may be making many mistakes, but he will be loyal to the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus or spirit of prophecy and will not seek any excuse to explain away disobedience.
Professing Christians became confused again between the profession and the reality. A philosophy was developed which has enslaved billions of human beings right up to the present day. Seventh- day Adventists are not exempt from this slavery. Again the confusion had to do with the identification of the true church just as in the days of John the Baptist, Jesus and the apostles. The philosophy which has enslaved so many could be summarized like this:
Christians were taught and believed that you could only have eternal life if you belonged to the “visible church.” They believed that this was the professed Christian organization who claimed to have received apostolic authority directly from a line of uninterrupted bishops all the way back to Peter and that these bishops had the keys to the kingdom of heaven and could send a person to heaven or hell. People believed that if these bishops or their appointed subordinates cut one off from their church organization (excommunication and mass excommunications called interdicts), that one would lose eternal life and go to everlasting burnings.
WHEN REFORMATION OF THE CHURCH WAS IMPOSSIBLE
As in the time of Christ, people were confused between profession and real spiritual relationship. Eternal life is only for those who are a part of the body of Christ, but who is part of the body of Christ? It is spiritual relationship and not merely visible profession that makes one a part of the church or the body of Christ (see Ephesians 5: 25- 32).
There has only been one church since the beginning of time. The apostolic church was not a new church, and the Seventh- day Adventist Church is not a new church founded in the nineteenth century. The Adventist Church is but the remnant of the church that has existed since the beginning of time (see Revelation 12 and the first chapter of Acts of the Apostles).
The keys to the kingdom of heaven— the power to bind and loose— is given to all Christians (see 1 Corinthians 5 and Matthew 18: 15- 20), but a person is not a Christian unless he is Christlike in character (see 1 John 3). In other words, it is impossible for any person or group of persons who do not have a Christlike character to actually cast a person out of the true church. In the Dark Ages there never could be revival or reformation until the fear of man was broken. Many Roman Catholics abhorred the apostasy which had engulfed the Christian world and they wrote and preached about the need of revival and reformation, but reformation was impossible. Every time revival and reformation started, the church threatened excommunication.
Revival and reformation could never come until the fear of man was overcome. In Jesus' time you had to overcome your fear of man to follow Jesus. In the Dark Ages and in the time of the Reformers you had to overcome your “fear of man” to follow truth (see John 14: 6). It was impossible for the Reformation to succeed as long as people thought they would lose eternal life if the church excommunicated them. Until men understood who and what the church was according to the New Testament, there could be no reformation. People could see that the men who were operating the church were wicked, but they said the church is holy! Those who were following the doctrines and teachings of the church were evil, but they said the church was righteous!
Again, as in the days of Christ, men had mistaken profession for character, the symbols for the substance, the forms and rituals for the reality. Again mankind had to learn that if the character does not conform to the profession, all the professions in the world are worse than meaningless because, if our character does not conform to our profession, we are living a lie. The devil's most successful agents are men and women who profess to be Christians but are unlike Christ in character.
Who has apostolic authority? The doctrine of apostolic succession teaches that Christ gave to the apostle Peter apostolic authority and this apostolic authority was passed down in succession to each later bishop of Rome (the pope). Ellen White comments on this “question that has long agitated the Christian world,— the question of apostolic succession. Descent from Abraham was proved, not by name and lineage, but by likeness of character. So the apostolic succession rests not upon the transmission of ecclesiastical authority, but upon spiritual relationship.
A life actuated by the apostles' spirit, the belief and teaching of the truth they taught, this is the true evidence of apostolic succession. This is what constitutes men the successors of the first teachers of the gospel” DA 467.
This is especially applicable in the present day when such an ado is being made about who has authority to baptize, preach, write, or ordain or to call himself a Seventh- day Adventist, a Seventh- day Adventist minister or a Seventh- day Adventist Church. A real or true Seventh-day Adventist minister (an historic Seventh- day Adventist) will teach and preach the Seventh-day Adventist message that God raised up the second advent movement to proclaim to the world— Revelation 14: 6- 12. A person who claims to be a Seventh- day Adventist minister who is not preaching this message is not really a Seventh- day Adventist minister, no matter what credentials he has; and a person who is preaching the historic Adventist message is a Seventh-day Adventist minister, whether he has received credentials or not. The way some reason today would have kept them from hearing John the Baptist and Jesus and, for sure, the apostle Paul.
I wonder, have we learned and retained the lesson the apostles had to learn about the identity of the true church? Have we learned and retained the lesson the Reformers had to learn about who the church is? Is there any chance that in these last days the devil has forgotten errors which he has used so successfully in the time of Christ and since that time to cause the loss of countless millions of human beings?
CAN YOU TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TRUE CHURCH AND THE PROFESSED- ONLY CHURCH?
In the days of Jesus and the apostles, unless you could tell the difference between the real true church and the professed true church you would never have been a Christian. The Jewish church professed to be the true church of God all the days of the apostle Paul (see Sketches from the Life of Paul, 226). In a time of apostasy, unless you can tell the difference, you will not be able to make proper decisions about what church to be a part of.
The Jews believed that the true church was professed Israel, but the apostles taught that the true church was spiritual Israel only (see Romans 9: 6- 8).
You become a member of God's professed people when you are baptized with water, but you only become a member of God's true people when you are baptized with the Holy Spirit—” By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body” 1 Corinthians 12: 13. Baptism with water is a symbol of baptism with the Holy Spirit and after the ratification of the New Covenant, if a person does not receive the Holy Spirit at his baptism (Acts 2: 38), his baptism is only a form.
You are in reality part of the church only when you partake of the life of Christ; and the person who partakes of the devil's program of living— any kind of living in known sin— is not a member of the body of Christ (the church) no matter what his profession is (1 Corinthians 10: 15- 21).
Being part of the true church involves a vital union with Christ, but a person can be a part of the professed church with only a superficial or professed union with Christ (Ephesians 5: 32; John 12: 40- 42).
To really be a member of the true remnant church, you must keep the commandments and have the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 12: 17 and 19: 10); but you may profess to be a member, and outwardly be a member in a time of apostasy, and not live according to the spirit of prophecy or keep God's commandments.
There could be no sixteenth century reformation until men understood who the true church really was because as long as they thought that they would burn in hell- fire if the church excommunicated them, fear of men would prevent any lasting reformation.
Disfellowshipping is occurring again today and a lasting revival and reformation cannot occur until men and women have no fear of what men can do. Whole churches are being disbanded. We must face reality. Whole conferences and even divisions could be lost. Even the General Conference could be lost in the battle before the final victory of God's saints. Actually, all of these entities will be lost and destroyed if there is not true repentance, confession of wrong and restitution, and a determination to stand on the solid platform where the church militant stands (UL 152). If you are not prepared for such an eventuality, you simply are not prepared for what is very rapidly developing among God's professed people today (see None Dare Call It Apostasy). Many who are professed “Christians” are actually part of the synagogue of Satan— Revelation 2: 9— they are not really part of the body of Christ, or the church, at all. This can be true of people in all churches, including the Seventh- day Adventist Church.
“The trials of the Children of Israel, and their attitude just before the first coming of Christ, have been presented before me again and again to illustrate the position of the people of God in their experience before the second coming of Christ” 1SM 406.
TWO TRUE CHURCHES? (THE INVISIBLE CHURCH)
In attempting to create a philosophical model which will explain the apparent contradictions in inspired writings, many inventions have been developed. One of the oldest of these is the theory of two true churches. The Bible teaches that there is only one true church (Ephesians 4: 4). This is true for both time and space. Ellen White concurs with this Biblical teaching as you would expect (see the first chapter of Acts of the Apostles) . There has only been one true church since the beginning of time and there is only one true church in all the universe. Ellen White says that the church in heaven and the church on earth are one (ST 6/ 6/ 95; 6T 366) and also that from the beginning of time faithful souls have constituted the church (AA 11; OHC 172).
There have not been two or three or six churches since the beginning. The church in Old Testament times, in the days of the apostles, and today are not separate churches even though they might be called by different names to designate the time or place being spoken of. They are each a part of the one church that has been since the beginning. This one church has always gone through and it will always go through. The true church went through in Jesus' day, but very few of the professed church went through with it. The same was true in the time of the midnight cry and the same will be true at the end.
In the Dark Ages the theory of two true churches was developed. The theory went like this, “There is an invisible church and Christ is the head of that and there is a visible church and the pope is the head of that.” Concerning this theory John Wycliffe said that if the church had two heads, it was a monster. All the Protestant Reformers said that the church had only one head and that head was Christ (Ephesians 1: 22, 23).
The concept that there are two true churches, a visible church and an invisible church, is heresy and is not acknowledged by any inspired writer. This false teaching forms the foundation of an entire theological structure which may seem very logical but is not based on inspired writings. This theory was part of the confusion of the Dark Ages and, unfortunately, many have imbibed this ancient heresy and brought it into their experience today. This theory and all the theology built on it will end in disaster. It results in a totally distorted concept of who the church is. Anytime anyone starts talking about the “invisible church,” a red flag should wave in your mind and the bells should start ringing in your head that you are being taught heresy. Not once does Ellen White ever talk about an invisible church.
It is true that part of the true church is presently invisible to us, but it is not a separate entity or church. Ellen White says that the church on earth and the church in heaven are one and we cannot presently see the church in heaven while the church on earth is visible to us, but inspired writers never speak of a separate entity or church called the invisible church. Such an entity does not exist. Like the Virgin Mary, an entire theology has been built up over an assumption which is none- existent. When the foundation of a theology is based on a false assumption, no matter how logical the system is, it is entirely false.
Many Protestant theology students have been surprised to find out how logical Roman Catholic theology is. But even though it is logical, it is still false because it is built on a false foundation— the assumption that the Roman bishop is by divine right the head over all the churches in the world and that the decrees of the church supersede the Bible. In the same way, all the theology built on the theory of two true churches, a visible and an invisible church, will someday be seen to have caused the loss of a multitude of souls because it is built on a false foundation. One of the most common ways that this man- made theory is used to cause the loss of souls is to define the visible church as a certain church organization and then take inspired statements concerning the true church and use them to influence people to be faithful to that church organization no matter how deep in apostasy or sin it becomes. This sly tactic caused the loss of millions of souls during the Dark Ages and the devil has not forgotten it.
The net effect of creating two true churches and designating them the visible and the invisible church is to enable a person to ignore some of the plainest statements in inspired writings about who and what the church is. One of the most common ways that this man- made theory is used to cause the loss of souls is to pre- define the inspired statements about the true church to refer to a non- entity, the invisible church, and then simply sweep aside all the inspired statements that explicitly define who and what the church is. The most clear, simple, convincing and explicit definition statements in inspired writings are simply made of none- effect by this theory. But the statements still say the same thing and they will still have to be faced in the judgment if at no other time. It is not honest to take the clear statements of inspiration and simply sweep them aside and arbitrarily relegate them to something that really does not exist— the invisible church. Once this heresy has really taken hold of a person's mind you cannot touch them with any evidence from inspired writings— as soon as you read a definition statement about the church, they immediately decide in their mind that the statement is talking about the invisible church (which term Ellen White never uses) and then refer to a quotation in which the word church is used in a different way to prove their position. It is very similar to talking to a Church of Christ member about the Sabbath and the law. The clearest statements in Scripture are swept aside with the theological system they have developed and then texts talking about the ceremonial law are used to prove that you are in error.
For example, in at least five places in the Ellen White writings you will find a statement similar to the following: “All down through the history of the world, faithful souls have constituted the church on earth” OHC 172 (see also AA 11; RH 12/ 4/ 1900). This is not just a sentence in which the word church appears, as are many of the statements used by those teaching the heresy of the invisible church. This is a definition statement of who and what the church is. But those who believe in the false doctrine of two true churches, a visible and an invisible church, sweep away this plain inspired definition of who and what the church is and make it of none effect by saying that it refers to the nonentity that they have concocted in their imagination— the invisible church. They make the plain inspired Word of God of none effect by their tradition— their man- made doctrine of the invisible church.
Notice that this statement is not talking about the church triumphant. It is talking about the church down through the history of the world or, as is stated in Acts of the Apostles on page 11, the church that has existed from the beginning. I
Incidentally, what does the word constitute mean? Synonyms would be the words compose , comprise, form, and make up. If you insert any of these simple words into the definition statement of Ellen White as to who and what the church is, you will see how plain inspiration is in defining who and what the church is. In the Appendix of this booklet there are listed numerous inspired definitions of the church; but if this was the only definition you had, you would have enough to know the truth for sure— you would never need to be mixed up because truth is always consistent with itself in all its manifestations (PP 113) and you can be sure that Ellen White, being an inspired prophet of the Lord, will never say anything in any other context that will contradict her plain definition statements about who and what the church is. If you are really a sincere seeker for truth, you will interpret all difficult texts that you may not understand in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy by the clear definition statements that are unmistakable. You would not, for example, use the details of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus as a definition statement about the state of the dead. In the same way, when the word church is used by Ellen White or a bible writer to describe many different entities in place or time, you will not take these statements as definition statements.
This is basic Protestant theology. Notice how John Knox explained this principle: “Said Mary: ‘Ye interpret the Scriptures in one manner, and they [the Roman Catholic teachers] interpret in another; whom shall I believe, and who shall be judge?” '
“‘ Ye shall believe God, that plainly speaketh in His word, ' answered the Reformer; ‘and farther than the word teaches you, ye neither shall believe the one nor the other. The word of God is plain in itself: and if there appear any obscurity in one place, the Holy Ghost, which is never contrary to Himself, explains the same more clearly in other places, so that there can remain no doubt but unto such as obstinately remain ignorant” ' GC 251.
But many people take some of the plainest statements in inspired writings about who and what the church is and make them of no effect because of their man- made doctrine about an entity that does not exist— the invisible church. This false teaching is often explained like this: All the statements in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy stating exactly who and what the church is are swept aside by saying that they are talking about the invisible church (the non- entity), and that all those in spiritual Babylon who are God's true children, all in the apostate world who are His true children, compose this non- entity of the invisible church as well as the true and faithful Seventh- day Adventists. But then they say that there is a second true church, the visible Seventh- day Adventist Church or the church militant, which is obviously composed of wheat and tares. Since this is confusing to many people, we should ask the question: What is the church militant, which is often referred to as the visible church and sometimes as the organized church?
Before answering this question from inspired writings, it can be pointed out what the church militant is NOT. Never does Ellen White define the church militant as being a certain church organization. This is important to understand because many are reading into Ellen White statements their own preconceived opinions just as the Jews did with inspired statements in the time of Christ.
One of the most prominent definitions of the church militant in the Ellen White writings is that it is God's living church (TM 45). The living church has the following characteristics: (1) It is a working church (RH 11/ 6/ 88). (2) It has a high standard of holiness (9MR 185, 186). (3)
Each member of a living church is “individually a habitation of God through the Spirit.., that the Lord Jesus Christ may dwell in his innermost being, ennobling and sanctifying his human nature by His divine attributes” IHP 283. (4) This living church was not founded in 1844 or 1863, it “through the ages has been building in accordance with the divine pattern, with materials that have been likened to ‘gold, silver, precious stones, ' ‘polished after the similitude of a palace. ' 1 Corinthians 3: 12; Psalm 144: 12. Of this spiritual temple Christ is ‘the chief Cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. ' Ephesians 2: 20, 21” PK 36, 37. (5) It will be “practicing the word” (1888 Materials, 1532). (6) “We have a work to do if we would be a living church. Individually and as a whole we are to tread sin under our feet. Our habits, our conversation, our daily life, must be placed on the Lord's side. We must intercede and wrestle with a covenant- keeping God in behalf of His watchmen, that souls may be won to the Saviour” 12MR 102.
The above quotations do not exhaust the Ellen White descriptions of what a living church is but they do make it evident that not every professed Seventh- day Adventist is part of the church militant because the church militant is a living church (FLB 305).
Second, the church militant is fighting and wrestling against temptations and is fighting severe battles with the spiritual forces of evil. It is wrestling “against the confederacy of evil” (FLB 305). It is in a severe conflict and this conflict will become more bitter and fierce until the end. If we do not individually take part in the battle, we are not really part of the church militant and will never be part of the church triumphant. Notice the following graphic descriptions of this fact:
“The Christian life is a constant warfare. The church militant is not the church triumphant. Paul says, ‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. ' We must meet human beings of power and influence who are on Satan's side of the controversy”
Peter's Counsel to Parents, 23. “The church militant is not in this world the church triumphant. From generation to generation, the enemy has been marshaling his forces against God. His enmity against the law of God has increased as time has passed. And his followers are at enmity with any one who has moral courage to depart from evil, and bear witness to the truth” RH 7/ 26/ 1898.
“The Church militant is not the Church triumphant. Unless the people of God wage a valiant warfare against every species of sin, they will never pass through the portals of the holy city. And we shall have no second trial” RH 12/ 31/ 1901.
“Christians are engaged in a warfare. The church militant is not the church triumphant. The followers of Christ, marching toward Zion, must fight at every step.... He [Satan] has claimed this world. Declaring that no human- being can keep the law of God's kingdom, he claims all men as his subjects” ST 6/ 10/ 03.
“The Lord desires us to be victorious over the powers of darkness. He is willing to save to the uttermost all who come to Him. It is through Him that ~we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand. ' Through Him we have access to heaven's treasure- house— His Word, the Holy Scriptures. From this treasure- house we are to draw the weapons of our warfare— the weapons so effectively used by our Saviour. With the sword of truth— 'it is written'— He vanquished the foe. Armed with this sword, and protected by the shield of faith, we, the church militant, shall be able to stand unmoved by Satan's assaults. Continuing to resist the enemy, we shall constantly gain strength, and finally become the church triumphant” ST 6/ 10/ 03.
Third, the church militant does not sustain (condone) those who are carnally minded although carnally minded people will be found within her borders (RH 1/ 16/ 94). We will see how this occurs shortly.
Fourth, the church militant is composed of erring men and women and is not yet perfect (as the church triumphant will be) and it will be necessary not only to exercise mercy toward the erring but also by this practice we will be preparing to become part of the church triumphant (ST 1/ 4/ 1883).
So who is the church militant? The church militant is the living church of God that has all the above identifying characteristics. Obviously, not every professed Seventh- day Adventist is part of the church militant— the church militant is by definition that church who is fighting the spiritual forces of darkness in this world; and those who are not taking part in the war, who are spiritually dead while they have a name that they are living, cannot be part of the church militant in reality. They are simply part of the professed church or/ people of God. This is a term used frequently by Ellen White and she often draws a sharp distinction between the professed church and the true church. In times of persecution, the professed people of God and His true people become almost the same thing, but, in times of liberty, the same is not true.
THE PROFESSED CHURCH AND THE TRUE CHURCH
We have seen that in Old Testament times there was only one true Israel of God, but we saw that this true Israel of God was a remnant of a much larger group that Paul calls Israel according the flesh. Paul made it very clear that “they are not all Israel [the true people of God] who are of Israel [the professed people of God]” Romans 9: 6. The same was true during New Testament times. We saw that the Jews were the professed true church of God all during the time of the apostle Paul's ministry. But the true church of God were those, both Jews and Gentiles, who had not only the profession but the spiritual relationship to the True Vine, the ones who were in reality the spiritual seed of the woman. So there was a difference between the professed church in both Old Testament and New Testament times.
Was this true during the Dark Ages also? Indeed it was: “For many centuries, first through paganism and then through the Papacy, Satan exerted his powers to blot from the earth God's faithful witnesses. Both heathen and papists were actuated by the same dragon spirit. They differed only in that the Romish apostate, making a pretense of serving God, was the more dangerous and cruel foe. Through the agency of Romanism, Satan took the world captive. The professed church of God was swept into the ranks of this delusion, and for more than a thousand years the true people of God suffered under the dragon's ire” ST 2/ 8/ 1910. What is this inspired statement saying? Who was the professed true church of God during the Dark Ages? It was those churches that had been swept into the Roman apostasy and were no longer part of spiritual Israel but had become part of spiritual Babylon. In plain English, the professed true church of God during the Dark Ages was the Romanist or Roman Catholic Church. But was that giant professed true church the true people of God, His true church, the spiritual seed of the woman (Genesis 3: 15)? No, they were trying to destroy the true church. In plain language, the professed true church was attempting to destroy the real or true church. Obviously, the professed true church and the real or true church was not the same.
Would the same be true today during the time of the end? “Oh, no,” someone might say, “the cycles have to stop in the last days; God's professed true people today are finally the true church in reality” (even though this has never once been completely the case in nearly 6,000 years!). The professed church will never be the same as the one true church until the very end (see Word to the Little Flock, 12). There is only one true church, not two; and this one true church is defined in Appendix #1.
The professed Seventh- day Adventist Church is composed of all those who have made a profession of faith in all the doctrines of the Bible, including Revelation 14: 6- 12, and have been baptized by water. If they experience what they profess, they are really modern Israel, the spiritual seed of the woman (Revelation 12: 17). If they do not experience what they profess, if their character is not in harmony with their profession, they are only Israel according to the flesh— the professed people of God but not such in reality.
You become part of the professed church when you are baptized with water, but you are not actually part of the body of Christ unless you have been baptized with the Holy Spirit, which is one of the things baptism with water represents. Paul says that we become part of the body of Christ (the church) when we are baptized with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12: 13). You are part of the professed remnant church when, having been baptized with water, you profess to keep all the commandments of God and live according to the Spirit of Prophecy as revealed in the writings of Ellen White (Revelation 12: 17; 19: 10; Joel 2: 28- 32); but you are recognized in heaven as part of the true church when you actually do what you profess.
We are not to accept into fellowship in the professed church anyone who is living in open sin and all such that are already members are to be disfellowshipped (see 1 Corinthians 5; 2 John). This does not mean that there are no tares (A tare is someone who is living a righteous life on the outside, that is, he is not living in open sin, but his heart is not right— see COL 70- 74.) in the borders of the professed church of God. There will be tares until the angels separate them from the wheat. (It appears that we have been in this separation process now for several years— it is most commonly referred to by Ellen White as the shaking and is called a terrible ordeal.)
This shaking and sifting process continues until the end. Until the very end there will always be a difference between the professed and the true church or people of God. Following are a few Ellen White statements which contrast the professed church and the true church as we near the end. It is important to understand the difference because, just as in the Dark Ages, the professed Seventh- day Adventist Church can turn on and attempt to destroy the true Seventh-day Adventist Church (see the clear inspired definitions of the true Seventh- day Adventist Church in Appendix #1).
“The true people of God, who have the spirit of the work of the Lord and the salvation of souls at heart, will ever view sin it its real, sinful character. They will always be on the side of faithful and plain dealing with sins which easily beset the people of God. Especially in the closing work for the church, in the sealing time of the one hundred and forty- four thousand, who are to stand without fault before the throne of God, will they feel most deeply the wrongs of God's professed people” RH 6/ 8/ 86 (parallel statements in 3T 266 and RH 9/ 23/ 1873).
“You think, that those who worship before the saint's feet, (Rev. 3: 9), will at last be saved. Here I must differ with you; for God shew me that this class were professed Adventists, who had fallen away, and ‘crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. ' And in the ‘hour of temptation, ' which is yet to come, to show out every one's true character, they will know that they are forever lost; and overwhelmed with anguish of spirit, they will bow at the saint's feet” Word to the Little Flock, 12. In Maranatha on page 287, these professed Adventists are called the synagogue of Satan.
In Christ's day, most of the Jews, the professed people of God, were actually the synagogue of Satan, as Jesus made clear in John 8: 44. A professed church becomes part of the synagogue of Satan when it becomes involved in deliberate disobedience to God's law: “Christ speaks of the church over which Satan presides as the synagogue of Satan. Its members are the children of disobedience. They are those who choose to sin, who labor to make void the holy law of God. It is Satan's work to mingle evil with good, and to remove the distinction between good and evil. Christ would have a church that labors to separate the evil from the good, whose members will not willingly tolerate wrong- doing, but will expel it from the heart and life” RH 12/ 4/ 00.
“All that is not in accordance with the known and expressed will of God, is at enmity with God, and has its origin in the synagogue of Satan. The will of God is expressed in his law, and sin is the transgression of the law. Those who disregard the commandments of God, and teach for doctrines the commandments of men, are working in Satan's line, and are in harmony with the great leader of apostasy” ST 6/ 11/ 94.
“It should be noted that this is not the same as saying that a church or group has past the borders of probation. After a professed church has begun following Satan by practicing disobedience, the Lord sends messengers to them to turn them from this disobedience and bring them back into harmony with the law of God and the testimony of Jesus. If the reproofs and rebukes of God are listened to, a revival and reformation can happen and the lost sheep of the house of Israel can be reclaimed. If nobody will listen to messages of warning, then the last resort God has is to send judgments and finally mercy makes her last plea” (DA 587).
WHO ARE GOD'S DENOMINATED PEOPLE?
It is often assumed that God's distinct denominated people must be a certain Seventh-day Adventist organization, etc., but we must let inspiration tell us who God's distinct denominated people are. Again we will find that inspiration defines God's distinct denominated people today in spiritual terms and if we do not have the spiritual characteristics, we are not really God's distinct denominated people no matter what organization we are a member of.
- The identifying mark that makes you part of God's denominated people is keeping God's commandments:
“As I was considering this matter in the night season, it seemed as if One stood up in the midst of us and pointed us back to the Israelites as an illustration of a distinct people, denominated of God. That which made them denominational was the observance of God's commandments. In the twelfth to the eighteenth verses of the thirty- first chapter of Exodus their distinguishing sign is mentioned. ‘Verily My Sabbaths ye shall keep, ' the Lord declared, ‘for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.. . . It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever” ' 19MR 38.
- We are Seventh- day Adventists because we keep the Sabbath and look for the second advent:
“We are Seventh- day Adventists. This is a fitting name, for we keep the seventh-day Sabbath, and look for the second advent of our Lord in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. Even with respect to the name indicating some of the peculiar points of faith distinguishing us from other Christians, we are denominational. In keeping the Sabbath that God declares should be kept holy as a sign between Himself and His people, we show to the world that we are His peculiar, chosen people— a people whom He has denominated” 19MR 40.
- When you decide to serve God, you are denominational: Mrs. E. G. White: “When you come to the point where you decide to serve God, you are denominational.
You should not link up with men who have no faith, men who although acquainted with the truth for many years, refuse to obey its teachings. Such men are not to have a voice in your council- meetings. Even if they were very rich, I would not bind myself to them by a single thread. I would not seek their advice in regard to the business transactions and other matters connected with the management of the institution. The time has come when we must find our bearings. We must come to our senses, and know where we are standing. We are on the very borders of the eternal world. We cannot tell what may happen next” 19MR 52.
- Those who keep the Sabbath are God's denominated people and we are to cherish this denominational distinction:
“Do not these words point us out as God's denominated people? and do they not declare to us that so long as time shall last, we are to cherish the sacred, denominational distinction placed on us? The children of Israel were to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations ‘for a perpetual covenant. ' The Sabbath has lost none of its meaning. It is still the sign between God and his people, and it will be so forever” RH 8/ 4/ 04.
- We are not to hide our name: “In the name of the Lord we are to identify ourselves as Seventh-day Adventists” BCL 52. “The reasons why we are denominated people of God are to be repeated and repeated. Deuteronomy 4: 1- 13; 5: 1- 33.— Ms 175, 1905. (Diary, July 10, 1905.)” 8MR 427.
There has been an attempt to slander God's true people. God's true people, His true church, are those who keep the commandments of God and obey the Spirit of Prophecy (see UL 315). But there has been an attempt to say that anyone who is not under the authority of a certain Seventh- day Adventist organization is not a part of God's true people or true church. Conscientious Seventh- day Adventist ministers have been asked by a conference or union or the General Conference to do something that they could not do with a clear conscience. For being faithful to their conscientious convictions, they have been fired or disfellowshipped or in some other way forcefully separated from the organized structure, the professed Seventh- day Adventist Church, the professed true church of God of the last days. Then the message goes out far and near that these persons have separated from the church, that they are working independent of the church. In some cases the charge is made that they are not part of God's denominated people anymore, that they are not Seventh- day Adventists, when the truth is that the professed Seventh- day Adventist Church cast them out with force. This has not only been done with individuals but with entire churches and even larger groups! This underhanded work is misleading because many Seventh- day Adventists do not yet know who the true church really is— they think that it is a certain church organization, but it is rather the people who love God and keep His commandments (UL 315). In many cases around the world, the true and faithful have been disfellowshipped; but these are still the only true church and those who have disfellowshipped them thereby give the whole universe evidence that they are on the opposite side of the great controversy from God's true and faithful people— His true church. They thereby show that they are part of the synagogue of Satan just as the Jews were in Christ's day. They are not part of the true church at all: “We can see from this scripture [Revelation 12: 17] that it is not the true church of God that makes war with those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. It is the people who make void the law, who place themselves on the side of the dragon, and persecute those who vindicate God's precepts” ST 4/ 22/ 1889.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Question: Who and what is a Seventh- day Adventist church?
Answer: A Seventh- day Adventist church is a congregation of Seventh- day Adventist believers who are organized as a local church body. To tell if a professed Seventh- day Adventist church is a truly historic Seventh- day Adventist local church, you should find out if they believe the historic Adventist beliefs as listed in Appendix #3.
Question: Could you give me more quotations where Ellen White draws a distinction between the true church and the professed church?
Answer: Yes, see Appendix #2.
Question: What is an historic Seventh- day Adventist?
Answer: An historic Seventh- day Adventist is a person who professes to believe all the historic Seventh- day Adventist beliefs (briefly listed in appendix #4) and does not believe the “new theology.” Hallmarks of the new theology are the following concepts: (1) A person cannot have complete and perfect victory over sin in this life, (2) rejection of the significance of 1844 and the investigative judgment and the doctrine of the heavenly sanctuary being the antitype of the Jewish sanctuary, (3) rejection of the writings of Ellen White as those of a true prophet of God and authoritative, (4) salvation (and the gospel) is by justification alone and (5) substitution of the authority of the church (church manual) in place of the supreme authority of the Bible. If a person believes any one of the five above, he is not an historic Adventist.
Question: Who is modern Israel?
Answer: “I was shown that those who are trying to obey God and purify their souls through obedience to the truth are God's chosen people, His modern Israel” 2T 109.
Question: Could you give many Ellen White definition statements of the church to back up your thesis?
Answer: Yes, see Appendix #1.
Question: Doesn't the Spirit of Prophecy say that God's people today are destined to triumph?
Answer: The truth is soon to triumph and only those who stay with the truth will triumph with it:
“The church of God, hated and persecuted by the world, are educated and disciplined in the school of Christ. They walk in narrow paths on earth; they are purified in the furnace of affliction. They follow Christ through sore conflicts; they endure self- denial and experience bitter disappointments; but their painful experience teaches them the guilt and woe of sin, and they look upon it with abhorrence. Being partakers of Christ's sufferings, they are destined to be partakers of His glory. In holy vision the prophet saw the triumph of the people of God. He says, ‘I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory, . . . stand on the sea of glass, having the hams of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints. ' ‘These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. ' Revelation 15: 2, 3; 7: 14, 15” MB 31. “The truth is soon to triumph gloriously and all who now choose to be laborers together with God will triumph with it” 9T 135.
Question: Who is really a church member? (Who is really a Seventh- day Adventist?)
Answer: (1) You become a member of the professed church when you are baptized with water; but you are not a member of the true church, the actual body of Christ, unless you are baptized with the Holy Spirit. According to 1 Corinthians 12: 13, we do not become a member of the true church— the body of Christ— until we are baptized by the Holy Spirit. (2) When your name is voted in by a local church body after your baptism with water, then your name is added to the church book on earth and you are a member of a local professed church. Usually, within this body, some are professed only, but some are both professed and members of the true church— the church of the Firstborn and the names of the members of the church of the First- born are registered in heaven (Hebrews 12: 23). “God . . . . draws the dividing line between those who bear his name by profession, and those whose character shows them to be his children” ST 6/ 30/ 1881.
Special Note: In this small booklet only the definition issue of the church has been addressed. Several other serious and slanderous charges are being leveled against ministries attempting to help complete the gospel commission in the world. These will be addressed later if the Lord wills. One issue is the charge of separation; another is the charge of criticism; another is the charges concerning church authority and church organization; and still another issue is the definition of Babylon. All these must be addressed because: “When man assails his fellow men, and presents in a ridiculous light those whom God has appointed to do work for him, we would not be doing justice to the accusers, or to those who are misled by their accusations should we keep silent, leaving the people to think that their brethren and sisters, in whom they have had confidence, are no longer worthy of their love and fellowship. This work, arising in our very midst, and resembling the work of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, is an offence to God, and should be met. And on every point the accusers should be called upon to bring their proof. Every charge should be carefully investigated” 3SM 348.
Inspired Definitions and Descriptions of the true church:
1. “Those who keep God's commandments, those who live not by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, compose the church of the living God. Those who choose to follow Antichrist are subjects of the great apostate. Ranged under the banner of Satan, they break God's law, and lead others to break it” 1MR 296.
2. “The church is the instrumentality by which Christ enlightens those that sit in darkness” RH 3/ 22/ 98.
3. “The people of God have a high and holy calling. They are Christ's representatives. Paul address the church in Corinth as those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints. '
And he adds: For we are laborers together with God; ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. ' ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. ' Again he says to them: What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. ' To the saints at Ephesus he writes: ‘Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and the household of God, and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit. ' Says Peter, ‘Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” RH 5/ 6/ 1884.
4. “To the end of time, the presence of the Spirit is to abide with the true church” CS 251.
5. “Jesus sees His true church on the earth, whose greatest ambition is to cooperate with Him in the grand work of saving souls” HP 284.
6. “There is a strife between the forces of good and evil, between the loyal and the disloyal angels. Christ and Satan are not at an agreement, and they never will be. In every age the true church of God has engaged in decided warfare against satanic agencies. Until the controversy is ended, the struggle will go on, between wicked angels and wicked men on the one side, and holy angels and true believers on the other” Testimonies for the church Containing letters to Physicians and Ministers Instruction to Seventh- day Adventists, 5.
7. “We can see from this scripture that it is not the true church of God that makes war with those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. It is the people who make void the law, who place themselves on the side of the dragon, and persecute those who vindicate God's precepts” ST 4/ 22/ 89.
8. “In holy vision, John saw the remnant church on the earth, in an age of lawlessness, and he points them out in unmistakable language: ‘Here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. ' They are in harmony with that law that rests in the ark in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary” ST 2/ 3/ 88.
9. “It is Christ's organized body upon the earth, and respect is required to be paid to His ordinances. In the case of Saul, Ananias represents Christ, and he also represents Christ's ministers upon the earth who are appointed to act in Christ's stead” 3T 433.
10. “God has a church. It is not the great cathedral, neither is it the national establishment, neither is it the various denominations; it is the people who love God and keep His commandments. ‘Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them. ' Where Christ is, even among the humble few, this is Christ's church, for the presence of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity can alone constitute a church. Where two or three are present who love and obey the commandments of God, Jesus there presides, let it be in the desolate place of the earth, in the wideness, in the city, [or] enclosed in prison walls. The glory of God has penetrated the prison walls, flooding with glorious beams of heavenly light the darkest dungeon. His saints may suffer, but their sufferings will, like the apostles' of old, spread their faith and win souls to Christ and glorify His holy name. The bitterest opposition expressed by those who hate God's great moral standard of righteousness should not and will not shake the steadfast soul who trusts fully in God” 17MR 81, 82.
11. “God calls the church His body. The church is the bride, the Lamb's wife. God is the Father of the family, the shepherd of the flock. But a mere outward connection with any church will not save a man. It is personal faith in a personal Saviour that brings the soul into spiritual union with Christ. This truth Christ plainly teaches in the sixth chapter of John” 16MR 277.
12. “The church on earth is God's temple, and it is to assume divine proportions before the world. This building is to be the light of the world. It is to be composed of living stones laid close together, stone fitting to stone, making a solid building. All these stones are not of the same shape or dimension. Some are large, and some are small, but each one has its own place to fill. In the whole building there is not to be one misshapen stone. Each one is perfect. And each stone is a living stone, a stone that emits light. The value of the stones is determined by the light they reflect to the world” RH 12/ 4/ 00.
13. “In the Scriptures the figure of the erection of a temple is frequently used to illustrate the building of the church. . . . Writing of the building of this temple, Peter says, ‘To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood... ' (1 Peter 2: 4, 5)” God's Amazing Grace, 123. 14. “The church is very precious in His sight, It is the case which contains His jewels, the fold which encloses His flock, and He longs to see it without spot or blemish or any such thing. He yearns after it with unspeakable love” 6T 261.
Ellen White quotations which distinguish between the true church and the professed church:
1. “Romanists have persisted in bringing against Protestants the charge of heresy and willful separation from the true church. But these accusations apply rather to themselves. They are the ones who laid down the banner of Christ and departed from ‘the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. ' Jude 3” GC 51.
2. “There is a lack of moral and spiritual power throughout our Conferences. Many churches do not have light in themselves. The members do not give evidence that they are branches of the True Vine, by bearing much fruit to the glory of God, but appear to be withering away. Their Redeemer has withdrawn his light, the inspiration of his Holy Spirit, from their assemblies; [‘ To the end of time the presence of the Spirit is to abide with the true church” AA55.] for they have ceased to represent the self- denial, the sympathy and compassionate love of the world's Redeemer; they have not love for the souls for whom Christ has died. They have ceased to be true and faithful. [“ From the beginning faithful souls have constituted the church on earth” AA 11.] It is a sad picture— the feeble piety, the want of consecration and devotion to God. There has been a separation of the soul from God; many have cut off the communication between him and the soul by refusing his messengers and his message” 1888 Materials, 764.
3. “These are the true feelings of a large class in Battle Creek. Satan exults at his success in controlling the minds also many who profess to be Christians. He has deceived them, benumbed their sensibilities, and planted his hellish banner right in their midst, and they are so completely deceived that they know not that it is he. The people have not erected graven images, yet their sin is no less in the sight of God. They worship mammon. They love worldly gain. Some will make any sacrifice of conscience to obtain their object. God's professed people are selfish and self- caring. They love the things of this world, and have fellowship with the works of darkness. They have pleasure in unrighteousness. They have not love toward God, nor love for their neighbors. They are idolaters— worse, far worse, in the sight of God, than the heathen graven- image worshipers who have no knowledge of a better way” Appeal to the Battle Creek Church, 2,3.
Contrast the above statement about the professed church with the following statement about the true church: “There is a strife between the forces of good and evil, between the loyal and the disloyal angels. Christ and Satan are not at an agreement, and they never will be. In every age the true church of God has engaged in decided wait are against satanic agencies. Until the controversy is ended, the struggle will go on, between wicked angels and wicked men on the one side, and holy angels and true believers on the other” Special Testimonies, Series B, 5.
4. “The apostle's words of warning to the Corinthian church are applicable to all time, and are specially adapted to the wants of our day. By idolatry he did not alone mean the worship of idols, but also selfishness, love of ease, the gratification of appetite and passion. All these come under the head of idolatry. A mere profession of faith iii Christ, and a boastful knowledge of the truth, does not constitute a Christian. A religion which seeks only to gratify the eye, the ear, and the taste, or which permits any hurtful self- indulgence, is not the religion of Christ. It is in harmony with the spirit of the world, and is opposed to the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. Festivals and scenes of amusement, in which professed members of the Christian church imitate the customs and enjoy the pleasures of the world, constitute a virtual union with the enemies of God” LP 169, 170.
5. “For many centuries, first through paganism and then through the Papacy, Satan exerted his powers to blot from the earth God's faithful witnesses. Both heathen and papists were actuated by the same dragon spirit. They differed only in that the Romish apostate, making a pretense of serving God, was the more dangerous and cruel foe. Through the agency of Romanism, Satan took the world captive. The professed church of God was swept into the ranks of this delusion, and for more than a thousand years the true people of God suffered under the dragon's ire” ST 2/ 8/ 10.
6. “Even the professed church of Christ, with their exalted privileges and high professions, discerned not the image of Christ in this self- denying child of God because they were so far removed from Christ themselves that they reflected not His image. They judged by the external appearance and took no special pains to discern the inward adorning. Here was a woman whose resources of knowledge and genuine experience in the mysteries of godliness exceeded those of anyone residing at ,and whose manner of address to the youth and children was ~5V~ sing, instructive, and salutary. She was not harsh, but correct and sympathetic, and would have proved one of the most useful laborers in the field as an instructor of the youth and an intelligent, useful companion and counselor to mothers. She could reach hearts by her earnest, matter- of- fact presentation of incidents in her religious life, which she had devoted to the service of her Redeemer. Had the church emerged from darkness and deception into the clear light, their hearts would have been drawn out after the lonely stranger. Her prayers, her tears, her distress, at seeing no way of usefulness open to her, have been seen and heard in heaven. The Lord offered to His people talented help; but they were rich and increased with goods, and had need of nothing. They turned from and rejected a most precious blessing of which they will yet feel the need. Had Elder E stood in the clear light of God and been imbued with His Spirit when this servant of Jesus, lonely, homeless, and thirsting for a work to do for her Master, was brought to his notice, spirit would have answered to spirit, as face answereth to face in a mirror; his heart would have been drawn out after this disciple of Christ, and he would have understood her. Thus also with the church. They had been in such spiritual blindness they had lost the sound of the voice of the true Shepherd and were following the voice of a stranger, who was leading them from the fold of Christ” 2T 141, 142. Notice that the fold is the church of Christ (1MR 237) and these were professed church members, members of the Battle Creek SDA church who were being led ‘from the fold of Christ, ' that is, from the true church.
7. “Pride and lukewarmness have made the professed people of God an offense in his sight” RH 8/ 7/ 94. Now notice the contrast between the professed people and the true people of God: “We are to find the assurance of our acceptance with God in his written promise, not in a happy flight of feeling. Were we to ground our hope upon joyful emotions, there are many of God's true people who would be without assurance. There are in the fold of Christ not only the sheep, that he leads into green pastures, but the lambs, that the Shepherd gathers in his arms and carries in his bosom. . . . they are precious in the sight of the Lord” ST 4/ 18/ 95.
8. “There are many, many, professed Christians who are waiting unconcernedly for the coming of the Lord. They have not on the garment of His righteousness. They may profess to be children of God, but they are not cleansed from sin. They are selfish and self- sufficient. Their experience is Christless. They neither love God supremely nor their neighbor as themselves. They have no true idea of what constitutes holiness. They do not see the defects in themselves. So blinded are they, that they are not able to detect the subtle working of pride and iniquity. They are clad in the rags of self- righteousness, and stricken with spiritual blindness. Satan has cast his shadow between them and Christ, and they have no wish to study the pure, holy character of the Saviour” RH 2/ 26/ 1901.
9. “The times are marked by extraordinary depravity. The religion of the churches of today is of a kind that should make every true follower of God afraid of it. The religious character of professed Christians makes them act like demons. ‘We have a law, ' they say, and by our law He ought to die. ' More than common contempt will be shown to those who make the Word of God their criterion” ST 1/ 31/ 1900.
10. “The trouble is, religion is professed but not practiced. The Spirit of God will dwell in the hearts of his followers. The condition of the cause of God will cause the deepest suffering of mind and anguish of soul. Oh that the history of the past would influence the present! Oh that all would feel to the depths of their souls that they have it as a privilege and duty individually to be earnest believers in the truth and co- laborers with their self- denying Saviour who has loved them and given his life for them” Special Testimony to the Battle Creek Church, 17, 18.
11. “When Jesus came as a man to our world, Satan had led the Jews into the practice of a religion that pleased the powers of darkness. The professed people of God had departed from God, and were following another leader. Through their own perversity, they were going on to destruction; but Christ came to dispute the authority of Satan. He was met on every hand by the temptation of the enemy, who sought to appear not as a fallen, evil angel, but as an exalted, loyal angel. He sought to veil his true character of the deceiver, the falsifier, the apostate, the accuser of the brethren, and the murderer, and to present himself as one who had the honor of God at heart. But the life of Christ was made one long scene of conflict. Satan stirred up the evil hearts of men, and set envy and prejudice at work against the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. He caused men to question and to doubt the word, works, and mission of Christ” ST 4/ 25/ 95.
12. “The true people of God, who have the spirit of the work of the Lord and the salvation of souls at heart, will ever view sin in its real, sinful character. They will always bean the side of faithful and plain dealing with sins which easily beset the people of God. Especially in the closing work for the church, in the sealing time of the one hundred and forty- four thousand who are to stand without fault before the throne of God, will they feel most deeply the wrongs of God's professed people. This is forcibly set forth by the prophet's illustration of the last work under the figure of the men each having a slaughter weapon in his hand. One man among them was clothed with linen. with a writer's inkhorn by his side. ‘And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” 3T 266.
13. “But the heavenly principles that distinguish those who are one with Christ from those who are one with the world have become almost indistinguishable. The professed people of Christ are no longer a separate and peculiar people. The line of demarcation is indistinct. People are subordinating themselves to the world, to its practices, its customs, its selfishness. The church has gone over to the world in transgression of the law, when the world should have come over to the church in obedience to the law. Daily the church is becoming converted to the world. Professing Christians are slaves of mammon. Their indulgence of appetite, and extravagant expenditure of money for selfish gratification, greatly dishonors God” Special Testimony to the Battle Creek Church, 9.
14. “Christ declares that there will exist similar unbelief concerning His second coming. As the people of Noah's day ‘knew not until the Flood came, and took them all away; so, ' in the words of our Saviour, ‘shall also the coming of the Son of man be. ' Matthew 24: 39. When the professed people of God are uniting with the world, living as they live, and joining with them in forbidden pleasures; when the luxury of the world becomes the luxury of the church; when the marriage bells are chiming, and all are looking forward to many years of worldly prosperity— then, suddenly as the lightning flashes from the heavens, will come the end of their bright visions and delusive hopes” GC 338, 339.
15. “Satan was seeking by this means to oppose and destroy the work of God. The people had been greatly stirred by the advent movement, thousands of sinners had been converted, and faithful men were giving themselves to the work of proclaiming the truth, even in the tarrying time. The prince of evil was losing his subjects; and in order to bring reproach upon the cause of God, he sought to deceive some who professed the faith and to drive them to extremes. Then his agents stood ready to seize upon every error, every failure, every unbecoming act, and hold it up before the people in the most exaggerated light, to render Adventists and their faith odious. Thus the greater the number whom he could crowd in to make a profession of faith in the second advent while his power controlled their hearts, the greater advantage would he gain by calling attention to them as representatives of the whole body of believers” GC 395.
16. “Those among Sabbathkeepers who have yielded to the influence of the world are to be tested. The perils of the last days are upon us, and a trial is before the professed people of God which many have not anticipated. The genuineness of their faith will be proved. Many have united with woridlings in pride, vanity, and pleasure seeking, flattering themselves that they could do this and still be Christians. But it is such indulgences that separate them from God and make them children of the world. Christ has given us no such example. Those only who deny self, and live a life of sobriety, humility, and holiness, are true followers of Jesus; and such cannot enjoy the society of the lovers of the world” 4T 633
Who is an historic Seventh- day Adventist?
An historic Seventh- day Adventist is a person who believes the historic teachings of Seventh- day Adventists. The following article by James White from the Signs of the Times in 1874 outlines the historic doctrines of Seventh- day Adventists. A historic Seventh- day Adventist still believes all of these. It should also be said that an historic Seventh- day Adventist believes that Ellen G. White is a prophet of God and that her writings have divine authority— an historic Seventh- day Adventist will never argue against a theological position based on the weight of evidence in the Ellen G. White writings.
Fundamental Principles By James White
In presenting to the public this synopsis of our faith, we wish to have it distinctly understood that we have no articles of faith, creed. or discipline aside from the Bible. We do not put forth this as having authority with our people, nor is it designed to secure uniformity among them, as a system of faith, but is a brief statement of what is, and has been, with great unanimity, held by them. We often find it necessary to meet inquiries on this subject, and sometimes to correct false statements circulated against us, and to remove erroneous impressions which have obtained with those who have not had an opportunity to become acquainted with our faith and practice. Our only object is to meet this necessity.
With these remarks, we ask the attention of the reader to the following propositions which aim to be a concise statement of the more prominent features of our faith.
1. That there is one God, a personal, spiritual Being, the Creator of all things, omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal, infinite in wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, and mercy; unchangeable, and everywhere present by His representative, the Holy Spirit. Psalm 139: 7.
2. That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, and Son of the Eternal Father, the One by whom God created all things, and by whom they do consist; that He took on Him the nature of the seed of Abraham for the redemption of our fallen race; that He dwelt among men, full of grace and truth, lived our example,' died our sacrifice, was raised for our justification, ascended on high to be our only Mediator in the sanctuary in heaven, where, with His own blood, He makes atonement for our sins; which atonement, so far from being made on the cross, which was but the offering of the sacrifice, is the very last portion of His work as priest, according to the example of the Levitical priesthood, which foreshadowed and prefigured the ministry of our Lord in heaven. See Leviticus 16; Hebrews 8: 4, 5; 9: 6, 7; etc.
3. That the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, contain a full revelation of His will to man, and are the only infallible rule of faith and practice.
4. That baptism is an ordinance of the Christian church, to follow faith and repentance, an ordinance by which we commemorate the resurrection of Christ, as by this act we show our faith in His burial and resurrection, and, through that, of the resurrection of all the saints at the last day; and that no other mode fitly represents these facts than that which the Scriptures prescribe, namely, immersion. Romans 6: 3- 5; Colossians 2: 12.
5. That the new birth comprises the entire change necessary to fit us for the kingdom of God, and consists of two parts First, a moral change, wrought by conversion and a Christian life; second, a physical change at the second coming of Christ, whereby, if dead, we are raised incorruptible, and, if living, are changed to immortality in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. John 3: 3, 5; Luke 20: 36.
6. We believe that prophecy is a part of God's revelation to man; that it is included in that scripture which is profitable for instruction (2 Timothy 3: 16); that it is designed for us and our children (Deuteronomy 29: 29); that so far from being enshrouded in impenetrable mystery, it is that which especially constitutes the word of God a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119: 105; 2 Peter 1: 19); that a blessing is pronounced upon those who study it (Revelation 1: 1- 3); and that, consequently, it is to be understood by the people of God, sufficiently to show them their position in the world's history, and the special duties required at their hands,
7. That the world's history from specified dates in the past, the rise and fall of empires, and the chronological succession of events down to the setting up of God's everlasting kingdom, are outlined in numerous great chains of prophecy; and that these prophecies are now all fulfilled except the closing scenes.
8. That the doctrine of the world's conversion and temporal millennium is a fable of these last days, calculated to lull men into a state of carnal security, and cause them to be overtaken by the great day of the Lord as by a thief in the night; that the second coming of Christ is to precede, not follow the millennium; for until the Lord appears, the papal power, with all its abominations, is to continue, the wheat and tares grow together, and evil men and seducers wax worse and worse, as the word of God declares.
9. That the mistake of Adventists in 1844 pertained to the nature of the event then to transpire, not to the time; that no prophetic period is given to reach to the second advent, but that the longest one, the two thousand and three hundred days of Daniel 8: 14, terminated in that year, and brought us to an event called the cleansing of the sanctuary.
10. That the sanctuary of the new covenant is the tabernacle of God in heaven, of which Paul speaks in Hebrews 8, and onward, of which our Lord, as great High Priest, is minister; that this sanctuary is the antitype of the Mosaic tabernacle, and that the priestly work of our Lord, connected therewith, is the antitype of the work of the Jewish priests of the former dispensation (Hebrews 8: 1- 5, etc.); that this is the sanctuary to be cleansed at the end of the 2300 days; what is termed its cleansing being in this case, as in the type, simply the entrance of the high priest into the most holy place, to finish the round of service connected therewith, by blotting out and removing from the sanctuary the sins which had been transferred to it by means of the ministration in the first apartment (Hebrews 9: 22,23); and that this work, in the antitype, commencing in 1844, occupies a brief but indefinite space, at the conclusion of which the work of mercy for the world is finished.
11. That God's moral requirements are the same upon all men in all dispensations; that these are summarily contained in the commandments spoken by Jehovah from Sinai, engraved on the tables of stone, and deposited in the ark, which was in consequence called the “ark of the covenant,” or testament (Numbers 10: 33; Hebrews 9: 4, etc.); that this law is immutable and perpetual, being a transcript of the tables deposited in the ark of God's testament; for under the sounding of the seventh trumpet we are told that “the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament” (Revelation 11: 19).
12. That the fourth commandment of this law requires that we devote the seventh day of each week, commonly called Saturday, to abstinence from our own labor, and to the performance of sacred and religious duties; that this is the only weekly Sabbath known to the Bible, being the day that was set apart before Paradise was lost (Genesis 2: 2, 3), and which will be observed in Paradise restored (Isaiah 66: 22, 23); that the facts upon which the Sabbath institution is based confine it to the seventh day, as they are not true of any other day; and that the terms Jewish Sabbath and Christian Sabbath, as applied to the weekly rest day, are names of human invention, un- Scriptural in fact, and false in meaning.
13. That, as the man of sin, the papacy has thought to change times and laws (the laws of God, Daniel 7: 25), and has misled almost all Christendom in regard to the fourth commandment; we find a prophecy of a reform in this respect to be wrought among believers just before the coming of Christ (Isaiah 56: 1, 2; 1 Peter 1: 5; Revelation 14: 12, etc.).
14. That, as the natural or carnal heart is at enmity with God and His law, this enmity can be subdued only by a radical transformation of the affections, the exchange of unholy for holy principles; that this transformation follows repentance and faith, is the special work of the Holy Spirit, and constitutes regeneration or conversion.
15. That, as all have violated the law of God, and cannot of themselves render obedience to His just requirements, we are dependent on Christ, first for justification from our past offenses, and, secondly, for grace whereby to render acceptable obedience to His holy law in time to come.
16. That the Spirit of God was promised to manifest itself in the church through certain gifts, enumerated especially in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4; that these gifts are not designed to supersede, or take the place of, the Bible, which is sufficient to make us wise unto salvation, any more than the Bible can take the place of the Holy Spirit; that in specifying the various channels of its operation, that Spirit has simply made provision for its own existence and presence with the people of God to the end of time, to lead to an understanding of that word which it had inspired, to convince of sin, and work a transformation in the heart and life; and that those who deny to the Spirit its place and operation do plainly deny that part of the Bible which assigns to it this work and position.
17. That God, in accordance with His uniform dealings with the race, sends forth a proclamation of the approach of the second advent of Christ; that this work is symbolized by the three messages of Revelation 14, the last one bringing to view the work of reform on the law of God, that His people may acquire a complete readiness for that event.
18. That the time of the cleansing of the sanctuary (see proposition 10), synchronizing with the time of the proclamation of the third message, is a time of investigative judgment, first, with reference to the dead, and, at the close of probation, with reference to the living, to determine who of the myriads now sleeping in the dust of the earth are worthy of a part in the first resurrection, and who of its living multitudes are worthy of translation— points which must be determined before the Lord appears.
19. That the grave, whither we all tend, expressed by the Hebrew Scheol and the Greek hades, is a place of darkness in which there is no work, device, wisdom, or knowledge. Ecclesiastes 9: 10.
20. That the state to which we are reduced by death is one of silence, inactivity and entire unconsciousness. Psalm 146: 4; Ecclesiastes 9: 5, 6; Daniel 12: 2; etc.
21. That out of this prison house of the grave, mankind are to be brought by a bodily resurrection; the righteous having part in the first resurrection, which takes place at the second advent of Christ; the wicked, in the second resurrection, which takes place a thousand years thereafter. Revelation 20: 4- 6.
22. That at the last trump, the living righteous are to be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and with the resurrected righteous are to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, so forever to be with the Lord.
23. That these immortalized ones are then taken to heaven, to the New Jerusalem, the Father's house in which there are many mansions (John 14: 1- 3), where they reign with Christ a thousand years, judging the world and fallen angels, that is, apportioning the punishment to be executed upon them at the close of the one thousand years (Revelation 20: 4; 1 Corinthians 6: 2,3); that during this time the earth lies in a desolate and chaotic condition (Jeremiah 4: 20- 27), described, as in the beginning, by the Greek term abussos, bottomless pit (Septuagint of Genesis 1: 2); and that here Satan is confined during the thousand years (Revelation 20: 1, 2), and here finally destroyed (Revelation 20: 10; Malachi 4: 1); the theater of the ruin he has wrought in the universe, being appropriately made for a time his gloomy prison house, and then the place of his final execution.
24. That at the end of the thousand years, the Lord descends with His people and the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21: 2), the wicked dead are raised and come up upon the surface of the yet unrenewed earth, and gather about the city, the camp of the saints (Revelation 20: 9), and fire comes down from God out of heaven, and devours them. They are then consumed root and branch (Malachi 4: 1), becoming as though they had not been (Obadiah 15, 16). In this everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 1: 9), the wicked meet the everlasting punishment threatened against them (Matthew 25: 46). This is the perdition of ungodly men, the fire which consumes them being the fire for which “the heavens and the earth, which are now,” are kept in store, which shall melt even the elements with its intensity, and purge the earth from the deepest stains of the curse of sin. 2 Peter 3: 7- 12.
25. That a new heavens and earth shall spring by the power of God from the ashes of the old, to be, with the New Jerusalem for its metropolis and capital, the eternal inheritance of the saints, the place where the righteous shall evermore dwell. 2 Peter 3: 13; Psalm 37: 11, 29; Matthew 5: 5.
'As stated in the first paragraph of this article, the “Fundamental Principles” was not regarded as a creed but rather as a synopsis of current beliefs generally held by Seventh- day Adventists, beliefs which were and are subject to deeper understanding and restatement from time to time. An example of the restatement of an essential doctrine— that of the atoning work of Christ, of which Ellen G. White said, “The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster” (Gospel Workers, page 315)— is seen in a revised statement of principles by the congregation at Battle Creek in 1894. Many of the leaders of the church were residing at Battle Creek at the time, so that the revision, presented under the title, “Some Things Seventh- day Adventists Believe,” may be considered representative.
The portion of the revision which concerns the atonement is as follows: “lived our example, died our sacrifice, was raised for our justification, ascended on high to be our only Mediator in the sanctuary in heaven, where, through the atoning merits of His blood, He secures the pardon and forgiveness of all who penitently come to God through Him; and as the closing portion of His work as priest before He comes again as King of kings, He will make the final atonement for the sins of all believers, and blot them out, as foreshadowed and prefigured by the Levitical priesthood.”
Who is the church that appears to fall but does not?
By Ellen White
My mind is deeply exercised in regard to our condition as a people. . . . when we do practice the truth we are then following Jesus, who is the light of the world; and if we as a people are not constantly elevating, becoming more and more spiritually minded, we are becoming like the Pharisees— self righteous— while we do not the will of God.
I think of how many who profess the truth are keeping it apart from their lives. They do not bring its sanctifying, refining, spiritualizing power into their hearts. I think how this grieves Jesus.
I think of His great sorrow as He wept over Jerusalem, exclaiming, “0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not” [Luke 13: 34]! God forbid that these words shall apply to those who have great light and blessings. In the rejecting of Jerusalem it was because great privileges were abused, which brought the denunciation upon all who lightly regarded the great opportunities and precious light that were entrusted to their keeping. Privileges do not commend us to God, but they commend God to us. No people are saved because they have great light and special advantages, for these high and heavenly favors only increase their responsibility. The more and increased light God has given makes the receiver more responsible. It does not place the receiver in any safer position unless the privileges are wisely improved, prized, and used to advance God's glory. Christ said, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee. Bethsaida! for if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (Matt. 11: 21].
When Jerusalem was divorced from God it was because of her sins. She fell from an exalted height that Tyre and Sidon had never reached. And when an angel falls he becomes a fiend. The depth of our ruin is measured by the exalted light to which God has raised us in His great goodness and unspeakable mercy. Oh, what privileges are granted to us as a people! And if God spared not His people that He loved, because they refused to walk in the light, how can He spare the people whom he has blessed with the light of heaven in having opened to them the most exalted truth ever entrusted to mortal man to give to the world?
We are far from being the people God would have us to be. because we do not elevate the soul and refine the character in harmony with the wonderful unfolding of God's truth and His purposes. “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” [Prov. 14: 34]. Sin is a disorganizer. Wherever it is cherished— in the individual heart, in the household, in the church— there is disorder, strife, variance, enmity, envy, jealousy, because the enemy of man of God has the controlling power over the mind. But let the truth be loved and brought into the life, as well as advocated, and that man or woman will hate sin and will be a living representative of Jesus Christ to the world.
The people claiming to believe the truth will not be condemned because they had not the light, but because they had great light and did not bring their hearts to the test of God's great moral standard of righteousness. The people who claim to believe the truth must be elevated by living it out. Real Bible religion must leaven the life, refine and ennoble the character, making it more and more like the divine model. Then will the home be vocal with prayer, with thanksgiving and praise to God. Angels will minister in the home and accompany the worshiper to the house of prayer.
Let the churches who claim to believe the truth, who are advocating the law of God, keep that law and depart from all iniquity. Let the Individual members of the church resist the temptations to practice evils and indulge in sin. Let the church commence the work of purification before God by repentance, humiliation, deep heart searching, for we are in the antitypical day of atonement— solemn hour fraught with eternal results. . . .
God never forsakes people or individuals until they forsake Him. Outward opposition will not cause the faith of God's people, who are keeping His commandments, to become dim. The neglect to bring purity and truth into practice will grieve the Spirit of God and weaken them because God is not in their midst to bless. Internal corruption will bring the denunciations of God upon this people as it did upon Jerusalem. Oh, let pleading voices, let earnest prayer be heard, that those who preach to others shall not themselves be castaways. My brethren, we know not what is before us, and our only safety is in following the Light of the world. God will work with us and for us if the sins which brought His wrath upon the old world, upon Sodom and Gomorrah and upon ancient Jerusalem, do not become our crime.
The least transgression of God's law brings guilt upon the transgressor, and without earnest repentance and forsaking of sin he will surely become an apostate.
All the policy in the world cannot save us from a terrible sifting, and all the efforts made with high authorities will not lift from us the scourging of God, just because sin is cherished. If as a people we do not keep ourselves in the faith and not only advocate with pen and voice the commandments of God, but keep them every one, not violating a single precept knowingly, then weakness and ruin will come upon us. It is a work that we must attend to in every one of our churches. Each man must be a Christian. . . .
We are to be ready and waiting for the orders of God. Nations will be stirred to their very center. Support will be withdrawn from those who proclaim God's only standard of righteousness, the only sure test of character. And all who will not bow to the decrees of the national councils and obey the national laws to exalt the sabbath instituted by the man of sin to the disregard of God's holy day, will feel, not the oppressive power of popery alone, but of the Protestant world, the image of the beast.
Satan will work his miracles to deceive; he will set up his power as supreme. The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out--the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place. None but those who have been overcoming by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony will be found with the loyal and true, without spot or stain of sin, without guile in their mouths. We must be divested of our self-righteousness and arrayed in the righteousness of Christ.
The remnant that purify their souls by obeying the truth gather strength from the trying process, exhibiting the beauty of holiness amid the surrounding apostasy. All these, He says, I have graven…upon the palms of my hands" [Isa. 49:16]. They are held in everlasting, imperishable remembrance. We want faith now, living faith. We want to have a living testimony that shall cut to the heart of the sinner. There is too much sermonizing and too little ministering. We want the holy unction. We need the spirit and fervor of the truth. Many of the ministers are half paralyzed by their own defects of character. They need the converting power of God. Manuscript Releases, Volume Twelve, Pages 318-325