Organization and Discipline

An Overview of the Early Organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

The various forms of organization and church government existing in the several religious bodies of our time, is evidence that church organization and discipline are subjects upon which great and good men have differed. The testimony of the Bible, therefore, especially of the New Testament, must be allowed to decide these subjects of vast importance to the prosperity of the church. In no one chapter or book of the New Testament, has Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, or Jude, written out a complete system of Christian discipline, giving the positions and duties of the several officers of the church.

But that there should be order in the church of God is evident, not only from the declarations of the apostles, and the record of what they did, given in the Acts of the Apostles; but from the great facts relative to organization and order found in the Old Testament. The Jewish church was disciplined by a thorough system of organization. The freedom of the gospel of the Son of God does not consist in laxity and confusion.

The epistles of Paul and Peter distinctly speak of officers of the church, and of their duties. The New Testament clearly defines the relation which Christ sustains to the ministry and to the church, and also the proper relation of the ministry to the church and to one another. But the system of Christian organization is not given as fully in the New Testament as the system of Jewish organization was given in the Old Testament. Having, however, the benefit of both the record of the system of the former and the declarations and acts of the first apostles of the latter, we have all that infinite Wisdom saw necessary for the Christian church.

The relation which Christ sustains to the ministry and to the church, is stated in the following words of our Lord and of Paul: “One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren.” Matthew 23:8. “But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:3. Christ is the great Shepherd of all, while His ministers are under-shepherds.

And Paul would impress the church with her duty to the ministry in these words: “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God.” Hebrews 13:7. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls as they that must give account.” Verse 17. And yet it was not the design of God that any system of organization should exist in the Christian church that would take the leadership from Christ.

Organization was designed to secure unity of action, and as a protection from imposture. It was never intended as a scourge to compel obedience, but, rather, for the protection of the people of God. Christ does not drive His people. He calls them. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Our living Head leads the way, and calls His people to follow.

Human creeds cannot produce unity. Church force cannot press the church into one body. Christ never designed that human minds should be molded for Heaven by the influence merely of other human minds. “The head of every man is Christ.” His part is to lead, and to mold, and to stamp His own image upon the heirs of eternal glory. However important organization may be for the protection of the church, and to secure harmony of action, it must not come in to take the disciple from the hands of the Master.

All true ministers are Christ’s ambassadors. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20. In their ministry they are to represent the doctrine of Christ, and the interests of His cause in this world. They surrender their own judgment and will to Him who has sent them. No man can be Christ’s ambassador, until he has made a complete surrender of his right of private judgment to Christ. Neither can any man properly represent Christ who surrenders his judgment to his fellow-man.

But the subject must not be left here, with the truth partly expressed. The words of Christ and His apostles relative to unity and the ordained means to secure it, and proper discipline, must have a qualifying bearing upon the subject, lest unsanctified men, who do not submit their will and judgment either to Christ or to church authority, assume the gospel ministry, and divide and scatter the flock of God.

But here we wish it distinctly understood that officers were not ordained in the Christian church to order or to command the church, or to “lord it over God’s heritage.” In the case of difference of opinion that arose in some of the primitive churches relative to circumcision and the keeping of the law of Moses, recorded in the fifteenth chapter of Acts, the apostles and elders at Jerusalem acted as counselors in a manner to give room for the Holy Ghost to sit as Judge. The report of that blessed meeting at Jerusalem to settle a festering difficulty, commences on this wise: “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.” And the brethren who were from among the Gentiles in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia, “rejoiced for the consolation.” Differences settled in this way frequently seem more than settled, and generally remain settled; while those disposed of by the exercise of mere church authority are seldom really settled at all.

Between the two extremes, of church force, and unsanctified independence, we find the grand secret of unity and efficiency in the ministry and in the church of God. Our attention is called to this in a most solemn appeal from the venerable apostle Peter to the elders of his time: “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” 1 Peter 5:1–6.

Those who drafted the form of organization adopted by Seventh-day Adventists labored to incorporate into it, as far as possible, the simplicity of expression and form found in the New Testament. The more of the spirit of the gospel manifested, and the more simple, the more efficient the system.

The General Conference takes the general supervision of the work in all its branches, including the State Conferences. The State Conference takes the supervision of all branches of the work in the State, including the churches in that State. And the church is a body of Christians associated together with the simple covenant to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.

The officers of a local church are servants of that church, and not lords to rule over it with church force. “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Matthew 23:11. These officers should set examples of patience, watchfulness, prayer, kindness, and liberality, to the members of the church, and should manifest a good degree of the love to those they serve exhibited in the life and teachings of our Lord.

Our State Conference Committees should be men of God, with liberality and breadth of views and feelings that will lead them to have a fatherly care of all branches of the work in the Conference. It is their duty to counsel together in the fear and love of God, and regard themselves as a board of counselors to all the ministers and churches under their supervision, and not a board of directors. Our great leader and director is Christ.

The labors and duties of the General Conference Committee are still more extensive and important than those of the State Conference Committee. They should be men of experience, of breadth of views, and divested of sectional feelings, whose minds and hearts of love can take in the best good of the cause in all its branches, and in all parts of the field. They should be regarded as a board of fathers to the cause in the highest sense.

In the fulfillment of the duties of their office, in taking the general supervision of the entire work, their strength is in so counseling with their brethren in the spirit of tenderness and love as to bind the hearts of all the laborers to their hearts, and give room for the voice of the Holy Ghost, as was manifested in the days of the apostles. They should ever bear in mind that the head of every man is Christ.

They may counsel with the State Conference Committees in reference to ministers laboring here or there, but should never direct. “The head of every man (every minister), is Christ.” The minister who throws himself on any Conference Committee for direction, takes himself out of the hands of Christ. And that Committee that takes into its own hands the work of directing the ambassadors for Christ, takes a fearful responsibility. “One is your Master (Leader), even Christ, and all ye are brethren.” Matthew 23:8. May God preserve to us our organization and form of church discipline in its original simplicity and efficiency.

Taken from The Review and Herald, January 4, 1881.

 

The Ordinances and the Home Church

Inspired Counsel Regarding Communion and Baptism as It Relates to Home Churches

Editor’s Note: Has it been some time since the members in your home church participated in the communion service? Have you wondered exactly what counsel is given about who should perform the service and how it should be done? Who can baptize new converts that come into your church? In this article, we have compiled statements from the writings of Ellen White about the importance of these services and also about the details of the communion service, so that your home church can gain the blessing promised if we sincerely perform these services.

What purpose does foot washing serve?

“The Holy Watcher from heaven is present at this season to make it one of soul searching, of conviction of sin, and of the blessed assurance of sins forgiven. Christ in the fullness of His grace is there to change the current of the thoughts that have been running in selfish channels. The Holy Spirit quickens the sensibilities of those who follow the example of their Lord. As the Savior’s humiliation for us is remembered, thought links with thought; a chain of memories is called up, memories of God’s great goodness and of the favor and tenderness of earthly friends. Blessings forgotten, mercies abused, kindnesses slighted, are called to mind. Roots of bitterness that have crowded out the precious plant of love are made manifest. Defects of character, neglect of duties, ingratitude to God, coldness toward our brethren, are called to remembrance. Sin is seen in the light in which God views it. Our thoughts are not thoughts of self-complacency, but of severe self-censure and humiliation. The mind is energized to break down every barrier that has caused alienation. Evil thinking and evil-speaking are put away. Sins are confessed, they are forgiven. The subduing grace of Christ comes into the soul, and the love of Christ draws hearts together in a blessed unity.” The Desire of Ages, 650,651.

“This ordinance is Christ’s appointed preparation for the sacramental service. While pride, variance, and strife for supremacy are cherished, the heart cannot enter into fellowship with Christ. We are not prepared to receive the communion of His body and His blood. Therefore it was that Jesus appointed the memorial of His humiliation to be first observed.” The Desire of Ages, 650.

What is the purpose of the communion service?

“But the Communion service was not to be a season of sorrowing. This was not its purpose. As the Lord’s disciples gather about His table, they are not to remember and lament their shortcomings. They are not to dwell upon their past religious experience, whether that experience has been elevating or depressing. They are not to recall the differences between them and their brethren. The preparatory service [foot washing] has embraced all this. The self-examination, the confession of sin, the reconciling of differences, has all been done. Now they come to meet with Christ. They are not to stand in the shadow of the cross, but in its saving light. They are to open the soul to the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness. With hearts cleansed by Christ’s most precious blood, in full consciousness of His presence, although unseen, they are to hear His words, ‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.’ John 14:27.” The Desire of Ages, 659.

Should some be excluded from participating in the ordinances of the Lord’s supper?

“Christ’s example forbids exclusiveness at the Lord’s supper. It is true that open sin excludes the guilty. This the Holy Spirit plainly teaches. But beyond this none are to pass judgment. God has not left it with men to say who shall present themselves on these occasions. For who can read the heart? Who can distinguish the tares from the wheat?” Evangelism, 277.

“The object of this service is to call to mind the humility of our Lord, and the lessons He has given in washing the feet of His disciples. There is in man a disposition to esteem himself more highly than his brother, to work for himself, to serve himself, to seek the highest place; and often evil-surmisings and bitterness of spirit spring up over mere trifles. This ordinance preceding the Lord’s Supper is to clear away these misunderstandings, to bring man out of his selfishness, down from his stilts of self-exaltation, to the humility of spirit that will lead him to wash his brother’s feet. It is not in God’s plan that this should be deferred because some are considered unworthy to engage in it. The Lord washed the feet of Judas. He did not refuse him a place at the table, although He knew that he would leave that table to act his part in the betrayal of his Lord. It is not possible for human beings to tell who is worthy, and who is not. They can not read the secrets of the soul. It is not for them to say, I will not attend the ordinance if such a one is present to act a part. Nor has God left it to man to say who shall present themselves on these occasions.” Review and Herald, May 31, 1898.

When should the foot washing take place?

“This ordinance of feet washing was made a religious service.…It was given as something to test and prove the loyalty of the children of God. When modern Israel observes the sacramental ordinance, this ceremony should precede the partaking of the emblems of the Lord’s death.” The Faith I Live By, 299.

Should men and women be separate during the foot washing?

“Brethren and sisters have not always moved as judiciously as they should in washing feet, and confusion has been caused. It should be introduced into new places with carefulness and wisdom, especially where the people are not informed relative to the example and teachings of our Lord on this point, and where they have prejudice against it. Many honest souls, through the influence of former teachers in whom they had confidence, are much prejudiced against this plain duty, and the subject should be introduced to them in a proper time and manner.

“There is no example given in the Word for brethren to wash sisters’ feet;[* See Appendix.] but there is an example for sisters to wash the feet of brethren. Mary washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head. (See also 1 Timothy 5:10.) I saw that the Lord had moved upon sisters to wash the feet of brethren and that it was according to gospel order. All should move understandingly and not make the washing of feet a tedious ceremony.” Early Writings, 117.

What should be used during the communion service?

“The broken bread and pure juice of the grape are to represent the broken body and spilled blood of the Son of God. Bread that is leavened must not come on the communion table; unleavened bread is the only correct representation of the Lord’s Supper. Nothing fermented is to be used. Only the pure fruit of the vine and the unleavened bread are to be used.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1090.

How often should we perform communion?

“Today quarterly meeting was held in the church. Willie spoke from Isaiah 50:10,11. In the afternoon the Lord’s supper was administered, preceded by the ordinance of feet washing. The celebration of these ordinances is the fulfilling of the command, ‘If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye ought also to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.’ What a place is this for hushing controversies, for forgiving those who have done us any injury. This is the time, if one has anything against his brother, to make it right, to settle every difficulty. Let there be mutual forgiveness. Let no strange flame be brought to the altar. Let no malice, no hatred, be cherished by those who meet round the communion table. Let high and low, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, meet together as those purchased by the blood of Christ.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 21,119.

“The salvation of men depends upon a continual application to their hearts of the cleansing blood of Christ. Therefore, the Lord’s Supper was not to be observed only occasionally or yearly, but more frequently than the annual passover. This solemn ordinance commemorates a far greater event than the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt. That deliverance was typical of the great atonement which Christ made by the sacrifice of His own life for the final deliverance of His people.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1090.

What example do we have, from the early Advent movement, of who took care of church affairs when there was no pastor?

“At this time the Seventh-day Adventist Church was without pastors. The work was young, with 4,500 members; the needs of the 160 churches were cared for by local elders and deacons. The thirty-two ordained and nineteen licensed ministers were spread out over the seven conferences, carrying on the evangelistic thrust. The
Review and Herald, with its weekly visits to the homes of those who subscribed, served an important pastoral role.” The Progressive Years, by Arthur White, 266.

Baptism

What should be considered when someone wants to be re-baptized?

“It is this baptism of the Holy Spirit that the churches need to-day. There are backslidden church-members and backslidden ministers who need re-converting, who need the softening, subduing influence of the baptism of the Spirit, that they may rise in newness of life and make thorough work for eternity. I have seen the irreligion and the self-sufficiency cherished, and I have heard the words spoken, ‘Except ye repent and be converted, ye shall never see the kingdom of heaven.’ There are many who will need re-baptizing, but let them never go down into the water until they are dead to sin, cured of selfishness and self-exaltation until they can come up out of the water to live a new life unto God. Faith and repentance are conditions, essential to the forgiveness of sin.” Bible Training School, April 1, 1906.

What should be considered when baptizing new members?

“There is need of a more thorough preparation on the part of candidates for baptism. They are in need of more faithful instruction than has usually been given them. The principles of the Christian life should be made plain to those who have newly come to the truth. None can depend upon their profession of faith as proof that they have a saving connection with Christ. We are not only to say, ‘I believe,’ but to practice the truth. It is by conformity to the will of God in our words, our deportment, our character, that we prove our connection with Him. Whenever one renounces sin, which is the transgression of the law, his life will be brought into conformity to the law, into perfect obedience. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. The light of the Word carefully studied, the voice of conscience, the strivings of the Spirit, produce in the heart genuine love for Christ, who gave Himself a whole sacrifice to redeem the whole person, body, soul, and spirit.” Evangelism, 308, 309.

“The test of discipleship is not brought to bear as closely as it should be upon those who present themselves for baptism. It should be understood whether they are simply taking the name of Seventh-day Adventists, or whether they are taking their stand on the Lord’s side, to come out from the world and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing. Before baptism there should be a thorough inquiry as to the experience of the candidates. Let this inquiry be made, not in a cold and distant way, but kindly, tenderly, pointing the new converts to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Bring the requirements of the gospel to bear upon the candidates for baptism.

“One of the points upon which those newly come to the faith will need instruction is the subject of dress. Let the new converts be faithfully dealt with. Are they vain in dress? Do they cherish pride of heart? The idolatry of dress is a moral disease. It must not be taken over into the new life. In most cases, submission to the gospel requirements will demand a decided change in the dress.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 95, 96.

Who is empowered to baptize?

“When one goes out as a physician, gospel teacher, and canvasser, he should be fully empowered to do the work of a minister. When under his labors souls accept the truth and give evidence of true conversion, he is to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And such workers should have the sympathy and cooperation of those who remain at home.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 13, 213.

 

Practical Tips on How to Organize a Local Church

Throughout his entire ministry, Paul, the great evangelist of the New Testament, was careful to institute proper organization in the churches he established. In fact, Paul thought organization was so important, that a short time after he had been stoned in Lystra, he returned to organize the churches. He saw that gospel order (which included the appointment of elders and deacons) was “an important factor in the spiritual growth of the new converts.” Acts of the Apostles, 185. It was a safeguard against error and fanaticism and promoted unity among the believers. In place after place, Paul diligently instructed and aided churches in the establishment of proper order.

Ellen White says that in Lycaonia and Pisidia, “churches were duly organized in all places…where there were believers. Officers were appointed in each church, and proper order and system were established….” Ibid., 185.

The church in Thessalonica was also “properly organized.” “Officers had been appointed to act as ministers and deacons.” Ibid., 261.

Regarding the work in Crete, Paul instructed Titus to “set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.” Titus 1:5.

Inspiration shows that the appointment of elders and deacons was an integral part—a fundamental element—of the gospel order that Paul established in his churches. A group of believers that simply gathers together for meetings, with no officers selected, as elders and deacons, is not a “properly organized” church.

Selection and Ordination of Leaders

To ordain an elder or deacon simply means to appoint a person to a position of authority and leadership, in the church of God. Through ordination, church members recognize a person’s spirituality and ability to serve the church in a leadership capacity.

In the selection of deacons, at the time of the early church, the apostles instructed the church to “look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the work.’ This advice was followed, and by prayer and the laying on of hands, seven chosen men were solemnly set apart for their duties as deacons.” Acts of the Apostles, 89.

We see that the apostles did not themselves alone choose the deacons, but the entire church recognized those, from among its membership, who were “of honest report and full of the Holy Ghost.” We are not told exactly how the process of the selection worked. Today, in some small churches, all the members are directly involved in the selection of officers. In other churches, members select a group of members, called a nominating committee. This committee selects, considers and prays about various potential candidates. When they are finished they recommend to the church at large their completed list of candidates. The church then votes to accept or reject the recommendations of the committee.

For new, small churches, we are given this extremely practical counsel in regards to choosing a leader for a church. “Such arrangements should be made for the little companies accepting the truth as shall secure the prosperity of the church. One man may be appointed to lead for a week or a month, then another for a few weeks; and thus different persons may be enlisted in the work, and after a suitable trial someone should be selected by the voice of the church to be the acknowledged leader, never, however, to be chosen for more than one year. Then another may be selected, or the same one may be re-elected, if his service has proved a blessing to the church.…Many fail to exercise proper discernment in these important matters where eternal interests are involved.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 619.

Consideration of whether a person meets the qualifications for an office is necessary. What are some of the questions that should be asked about a person being considered for a leadership position in the church? Please see the list of qualifications for elders and deacons along with reading the following inspired quotations:

Family

“The family of the one suggested for office should be considered. Are they in subjection? Can the man rule his own house with honor? What character have his children? Will they do honor to the father’s influence? If he has not tact, wisdom, or power of godliness at home in managing his own family, it is safe to conclude that the same defects will be carried into the church, and the same unsanctified management will be seen there.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 618.

Lay Hands on No Man Suddenly

We are also instructed in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy to give a man due consideration and to pray much before placing him in office. We should not be in a hurry. “It will be far better to criticize the man before he is put into office than afterward, better to pray and counsel before taking the decisive step than to labor to correct the consequences of a wrong move.” Ibid.

Head Elders and Deacons

Is it right that there should be a head elder or deacon? In Story of Redemption we find that Stephen was chosen to stand at the head of the seven deacons. He was to lead them. He was thought the best qualified because of his multi-cultural ability in the midst of the tension between the Jews and Greeks.

Blessings from the Appointment of Officers and the Establishment of Church Order

There are great blessings to be gained from following God’s counsel. We have found that the establishment of church order:

  • Enables churches to successfully give the Three Angels’ Messages
  • Shields churches from fanaticism
  • Is an important factor in the spiritual growth of church members
  • Serves to unite in one body all believers in Christ (Acts of the Apostles, 89)
  • Enables ministers and elders to be able to work more effectively
  • Increases the number of believers (Acts 6)
  • Increases the strength of believers (Story of Redemption, 260; Act 6:7)

Some may ask: “With all the theological issues facing the church today, why should they be concerned with the appointment of church officers? Shouldn’t we just focus on spreading the Three Angels’ Messages?” Yes, we should focus on spreading the Three Angels’ Messages. The appointment of church officers and the establishment of church order will not only help us give the message but, according to inspiration, we must have order to be successful in giving the message. “I saw that there should be order in the church of God, and that system is needed in carrying forward successfully the last great message of mercy to the world.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 211.

Many Seventh-day Adventists have been told that they should not conduct evangelistic efforts. Why? Because they are no longer connected with the conference. They have been forced out or have left because error is continually taught. Many have not felt it safe to bring their Bible students to church and felt forced to meet in their homes or in a rented building. Then, should these faithful Adventists no longer take the Three Angels’ Messages to the world—because they are not connected with the conference? No, they should do everything they can to spread it. While exercising the same courtesy that Jesus and the apostles did, we should say with Peter, “We ought to obey God rather than man.” Acts 5:29. We cannot obey any man or woman, whatever their position, when he or she tells us not to evangelize. And we cannot obey man when we are told not to follow the counsel of having orderly churches. The gospel commission of Matthew 28 still stands. And, to effectively fulfill that commission, we must have organized churches.

Proper church order will also help squelch some of the rampant fanaticism existing today and promote unity among the brethren. “There is order in heaven; and there should be system and order upon the earth, that the work may move forward without confusion and fanaticism.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 601.

Proper organization also enables ministers and elders to center their attention on the spiritual welfare of the church. Throughout history we see that it is too much for one man or one group of men to be able to focus on both the spiritual and business matters of the church. In the Old Testament, Moses’ father-in-law instructed him to delegate some of the voluminous load he was carrying, of settling all the minute details of the business, in the camp of Israel. In the New Testament (Acts 6), the church appointed deacons to oversee the business of the church and assist the apostles in spiritual leadership. As a result of dividing the labor (appointing deacons), the number and strength of the believers increased.

Results From Not Following God’s Counsel

  • If God’s counsel is not followed what will be some of the results?
  • Satan will benefit
  • Minister’s spiritual discernment will be dimmed

“Order must be observed, and there must be union in maintaining order, or Satan will take the advantage.” Testimonies, vol.1, 211.

“Those whom God has called to minister in word and doctrine should have time for meditation, prayer and study of the Scriptures. Their clear spiritual discernment is dimmed by entering into the lesser details of business and dealing with the various temperaments of those who meet together in church capacity.” The Story of Redemption, 261. This is very solemn. An elder or minister’s spiritual discernment needs to be as clear and bright as the day.

Reasons for Lack of Organization Today

There appear to be many groups of Seventh-day Adventists that believe in the historic pillars of our faith (including the Spirit of Prophecy), that meet together every Sabbath, but do not recognize the importance of “proper organization.” There are probably many reasons for the lack of organization. Examples include:

  • Fear of starting a “new organization”
  • Belief that it is unnecessary
  • Lack of knowledge of inspired counsel
  • Desire to avoid local church struggles

For those afraid to organize, for fear they are starting a new organization, we would say the following: The church is the “pillar and ground of the truth.” (I Timothy 3:15) To knowingly cling to error is to leave God’s church. If you have left a “structure” church because error is being taught, do not think that you are leaving the true church and starting a new organization.

It is unfortunate—more than unfortunate, it is a tragedy, that so many Seventh-day Adventists do not feel safe to worship in their local conference church. Surely it brings great pain to the heart of God and should to our hearts also. It should cause us to weep. But it should not cause us to disregard inspired counsel. The New Testament instruction, of Paul, Luke and Peter, is that the local church is not complete without the appointment and service of elders and deacons.

Many Seventh-day Adventists who are worshipping separately from the conference are told that they should not organize the group of historic believers with whom they are worshipping. Opponents quote a Spirit of Prophecy statement that says we should enter into no new organization and go on to say that if a church organizes separately from the conference that they are not following the Spirit of Prophecy.

Friends, the only way to avoid starting a “new organization” is to adopt New Testament church order. A candid look at inspired counsel reveals that Seventh-day Adventists, in and out of the conference, are not following the Lord’s instruction when it comes to church organization. (See previous articles by Neil Livingston, “The Mark of An Image,” parts one and two about the 1901 and 1903 General Conference Sessions.) The conferences that we are familiar with are not following God’s counsel regarding church organization. They already have entered a new form of organization and are not following the instructions clearly outlined in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy. Neither are most historic Seventh-day Adventists. It is past time that, along with following the counsel about health reform, dress reform and Christ-likeness of character, we also follow the counsel about New Testament church organization.

We cry about the departure of God’s professed people from following His counsel. And well we should. When a person cares about God’s work they will, like the apostle Paul, mourn at the pain we have caused to the heart of God and the reproach that has been brought upon His name. “The position which the Jews as God’s professed people occupied before an unbelieving world, caused the apostle intense anguish of spirit.” Acts of Apostles, 412. But let us do more than mourn. Let us look to see that we, like Paul, are individually doing all we can to promote conformity to the divine plan of order and organization among God’s people.

To those who believe organization to be unnecessary we would say, that, as children of God, we are not in a situation to be telling God what is and is not necessary. Surely our Creator, our Chief Shepherd, knows what is best for His churches. Whenever a church disregards the counsel of God, it is in a weakened position spiritually.

It seems that there are always some that are against proper church organization. There were some in the church at Thessalonica that were “self-willed, and impetuous, who refused to be subordinate to those who held positions of authority in the church. They claimed not only the right of private judgment, but that of publicly urging their views upon the church. In view of this, Paul called the attention of the Thessalonians to the respect and deference due to those who had been chosen to occupy positions of authority in the church.” Ibid., 261–262.

Deacons

In both the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy we are given counsel about the character and qualifications of deacons. Please see the shaded box.

Of the first seven deacons, in the early church, we are told that, “These officers gave careful consideration to individual needs as well as to the general financial interests of the church, and by their prudent management and their godly example they were an important aid to their fellow officers in binding together the various interests of the church into a united whole.” Acts of the Apostles, 89.

Interestingly enough, Ellen White does not limit the responsibility of attending to the business of the church to men alone. She says that women could also attend to this. “There is a wide field in which our sisters may do good service for the Master in the various branches of the work connected with His cause. Through missionary labor they can reach a class that our ministers cannot. . . . There is work neglected or done imperfectly that could be thoroughly accomplished by the help that sisters can give. There are so many kinds of work too laborious for women, which our brethren are called to engage in, that many branches of missionary work are neglected. Many things connected with different churches are left undone that women, if properly instructed, could attend to. Our sisters might serve as church clerks, and the church business would not be so sadly neglected. There are many other offices connected with the cause of God which our sisters are better qualified to fill than our brethren, and in which they might do efficient service.” Welfare Ministry, 147. This should be good news to many small churches. The workforce may be bigger than many at first thought it could be.

Ministers and Elders

The inspired instruction we are given regarding the character and qualifications of elders is both detailed and broad. Please see shaded box.

An elder’s duty encompasses more than merely preaching a good sermon. It means offering personal, unselfish effort for church members and non-church members.

“Those who occupy the position of undershepherds are to exercise a watchful diligence over the Lord’s flock. This is not to be a dictatorial vigilance, but one that tends to encourage and strengthen and uplift. Ministry means more than sermonizing: it means earnest, personal labor.” Acts of the Apostles, 526.

“The greatest help that can be given to our people is to teach them to work for God, and to depend on Him, not on the ministers. Let them learn to work as Christ worked.…Just as soon as a church is organized, let the minister set the members at work. They will need to be taught how to labor successfully. Let the minister devote more of his time to educating than to preaching.” Testimonies, vol. 7, 19–20.

“Let the neglected tithes be now brought in.…Elders of the churches, do your duty. Labor from home to home, that the flock of God shall not be remiss in this great matter, which involves such a blessing or such a curse.” Testimonies to Ministers, 306.

“But My Church is Very Small”

Some will make the plea, “But my church is so small. We do not have enough members to establish true gospel order.” Paul was careful throughout his ministry to organize even small groups of believers. “Those who in any place were by his labor led to accept Christ as the Savior were at the proper time organized into a church. Even when the believers were but few in number, this was done. The Christians were thus taught to help one another, remembering the promise, ‘Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.’ Matthew 18:20.” Acts of the Apostles, 185–186.

What Can Small Churches Do to Support Missions?

We are told in Gospel Workers, 466–467, that several small churches can unite to support a foreign missionary. What about two or three small home churches supporting a minister? Remember the widow with the two mites. She thought that her contribution was so small and insignificant. But how many, upon hearing the story, have given their small bit? And all those small bits added together have provided millions and millions of dollars for the advancement of the Lord’s work on earth. You may not be able to support a foreign missionary in your church, but, as we are told, you can unite with another church or several other churches and together support the local or foreign mission field.

An Important Requirement

Much more could be written about church order and organization. At the end of this article there is a list of recommended reading material for further study of the topic. However, there is one requirement to the establishment of proper church organization that we thought so key that we saved it until the end.

In speaking of the Jews and of Christians today, Ellen White said: “The order and prosperity of the church depended upon the good order and thorough discipline of families.…These injunctions which God laid upon the Jews with so much solemnity, rest with equal weight upon Christian parents.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 294.

In order to have orderly and organized churches, we must have orderly homes and disciplined families. And it does not happen overnight. Everyday we must take up the battle for order and discipline anew. Everyday we must humble ourselves before the throne of grace, pleading with God for a new heart, for wisdom to deal in a loving but firm way with our children and for a sense of our complete dependence upon Him. Only God can make our homes like heaven. In learning the secrets of how to have a happy, disciplined family and an orderly home, we will learn how to have happy, organized churches. It takes much effort, planning and prayer. But God will help you. We know He will. He has helped us. He works with all of us as we put forth earnest effort.

Today, God would have us to study—to be wide-awake to the times in which we live. The counsel is clear. God has instructed us to be organized because we need to be organized to help finish His work of salvation in our homes and our churches. He is calling us to come into line. It may not be easy. A person who has lost his job, because of keeping the Sabbath, would not call Sabbath-keeping easy. In fact, it could seem not only to be hard, but also down right awkward for several weeks; because it is new. But week after week it will become easier and more natural. The same is true with church order. It may be difficult and awkward at first, but, if we persist, God has promised a blessing.

“Choose ye this day whom you will serve.…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15.

Deacons Qualifications

  • Reverent
  • Not double-tongued
  • Not given to much wine
  • Not greedy for money
  • Possess a pure conscience
  • An experienced Christian
  • Involved only in a monogamous relationship, if married
  • Able to rule their homes well
  • Possess calm judgment and discretion
  • Able to deal with difficult cases of trial including murmuring and jealousy

Duties

  • Attend to the general financial interests of the church
  • See that a faithful tithe is brought into the treasury (Testimonies to Ministers, 305)
  • Care for individual needs of the widows, orphans and worthy poor
  • Teach the faith (example: Stephen)
  • Take difficult temporal matters to the minister or elders

Elders Qualifications

  • Blameless
  • Converted
  • Earnest
  • Elevated
  • Ennobled
  • Gentle
  • Hospitable
  • Refined
  • Sober
  • Tactful
  • Unselfish
  • Vigilant
  • A hearer
  • A learner
  • Self-governed
  • Of good repute
  • Competent
  • Able to present Bible subjects
  • Familiar with the Scriptures
  • Full of zeal
  • An effective ruler of household
  • Able to educate church members to be workers
  • Possessor of judgment
  • Possessor of a fresh experience
  • Involved only in a monogamous relationship, if married
  • An experienced Christian

See 1 Timothy 3; Testimonies, vol. 4, 406–407; and Testimonies, vol. 5, 617–618.

Duties

  •  Laboring earnestly and personally for souls, inside and outside of the church
  •  Educating church members about how to work for souls
  •  Providing church members work to do in God’s vineyard
  •  Encouraging faithfulness in the return of the tithe
  •  Preaching the Word

Why Home Churches, Part 1

In this article, we will begin to answer the following question: Why is there a worldwide home church movement in Adventism today?

In the New Testament church there were many home churches as there have been among God’s people ever since. It should not be a surprise then, that there is a growing number of home churches in Adventism, worldwide, today. The fact that there are a growing number of home churches, however, is not the main point. The point of contention is not that there are home churches, or even that there are constantly increasing numbers of the same. The point of contention is that there are increasing numbers of home churches in Adventism which are not under conference control. These churches are not affiliated with conferences or missions, but rather are cooperating with other home churches, which are in similar circumstances.

It has been claimed, far and near, that such a development is contrary to the writings of Ellen White. The quotations commonly used, in an attempt to prove this, are from the Stanton articles, written by Ellen White in 1893, and other statements about the necessity of church organization and about the church not fragmenting into separate atoms.

Is there any foundation in these claims? Are home churches unnecessary and unwarranted? We will answer these questions by looking at the broader question, Why has the development of home churches, not under conference control, taken place?

(This actually is a very involved question related to the Christian experience of millions of people in very diverse circumstances over many decades, in fact, for over 100 years.)

The Divisions of the Work

To understand how and why this has happened, we must first look at the divisions of operations within Adventism and see how the present phenomenon developed in these various divisions.

Anyone who has read the nine volume set of Testimonies for the Church, written by Ellen White, can discern that the major divisions of Adventist work for the world can be divided into the following:

  1. Publishing Work
  2. Medical missionary operations
  3. Educational Work
  4. Ministerial and evangelistic work. (There are other smaller divisions but these four are the major ones.) All four of the divisions involve the organization of the church.

There was a time when little, if any, work in any of these four areas was done outside of the church organization. Independent work outside of the church organization was definitely not the plan for Adventist work, for the world, that God had in mind. Consider, for instance, the following forceful testimonies by Ellen White:

Concerning independent medical missionary work: “Medical missionary work is not to be drawn apart and made separate from church organization. The medical students are not to receive the idea that they may regard themselves as amenable only to the leaders in the medical work.” Testimonies, vol. 8, 164.

“Special light has been given me that you are in danger of losing sight of the work for this time. You are erecting barriers to separate your work and those you are educating from the church. This must not be. Those who are receiving instruction in medical missionary lines should be led to realize that their education is to fit them to do better work in connection with the ministers of God. You are to remember, my brother, that the Lord has a people upon the earth whom He respects.” Ibid., 519.

“I was instructed by the Lord that your temptation would be to make your medical missionary work stand independent of the conference. But this plan was not right. I saw that you could not plan as you had been doing, or carry out your ideas, without injury to yourself and to the cause of God.” Ibid., 187.

Concerning independent publishing work: “As I consider the matter I see that at this time, when so much is being said against organization, we must be careful not to work for disorganization. We must not get out of line. I am fearful regarding any plan that would take the work out of our publishing houses; for this might lessen the confidence of our brethren in these important agencies for the dissemination of present truth.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, 169.

Concerning independent educational work: “Our schools are under the supervision of the General Conference. This body decides as to the advisability of establishing new schools, as to how much means it is wise to invest, and also as to the educational force to be employed. Our medical institutions should stand in the same relation to the General Conference and the great whole. The establishment of a health institution is too important a matter to be left to the independent management of a few interested individuals. If the enterprise is under control of the General Conference, the way is open for deliberate counsel and a careful consideration of the matter, and if it is undertaken, there will be a united force to give it influence and standing, and this will contribute largely to its success. Under such management, a class of workers could be enlisted that otherwise could not be secured, and thus the enterprise would prosper when it would prove a failure in ordinary hands. And furthermore, there must be an authority to guard such an institution, so that persons who are not qualified shall not be allowed to grasp responsibility through selfish ambition in their professional line as physicians.” General Conference Bulletin, January 30, 1893.

It is plainly evident, in the above quoted testimonies, what God’s plan was. It was that all of His remnant people should work together in concert, in harmony and unity with representative and deliberate counsel so as to avoid mistakes and serious pitfalls which would certainly occur if a few individuals, however talented, were to strike out on their own without counsel from their brethren or support from their church, and in such an independent way establish schools, sanitariums and publishing houses.

If this was God’s plan then how did we get to where we are now? To understand how this came to be we must go back to that watershed event in Adventist history, the General Conference, in Minneapolis, in 1888.

Changes in 1888

Many people today seem to believe that this conference, in 1888, had mainly to do with the doctrine of righteousness by faith. The 1888 Materials by Ellen White reveal that such a conclusion is very far from the truth. Ellen White describes the controversy over the law in Galatians as follows: “He stretched out his arms toward Dr. Waggoner, and to you, Elder Butler, and said in substance as follows: ‘Neither have all the light upon the law, neither position is perfect.’ ‘Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.’ Psalms 97:11. There are hundreds that know not why they believe the doctrines they do.” 1888 Messages, 93.

“The different views in regard to the law in Galatians need not have produced any such exhibitions. I have not the slightest burden upon that subject. God has not inspired all this intense feeling over that subject. I have not a particle of burden on that subject. My only trouble is the position of those ministers who were at that conference who manifested so little of the spirit of Christ and possessed more largely the spirit which controlled the scribes and Pharisees which planned the betrayal and acted a prominent part in the trial of Christ, in false statements, in accusing of Christ and making Him appear before the people in the worst possible light.” Ibid., 295.

Notice that Ellen White had not a particle of burden on the law in Galatians—that was not the major issue. What then was the real issue in 1888? And why did Ellen White, over and over again, accuse us of being like the Jews (or the Pharisees) in the 1888 General Conference? (She makes this accusation at least twenty times just in volume one of the 1888 Materials.) For example: “I want to tell you, brethren, whoever you are, I want to tell you, that you are just going over the very same ground that they went over in the days of Christ. You have had their experience: But God deliver us from having the come-out of it as they had. But notwithstanding you have heard my testimony, notwithstanding it was the testimony of the Spirit of God, you have braced yourselves,—a few of you, strong men of determined will,—to carry it out on your line, to fight it out on your line. May God have mercy upon your souls, because you need it. You have stood right in the way of God. The earth is to be lighted with His glory, and if you stand where you stand today, you might just as quick say that the Spirit of God was the spirit of the devil. You have said it now in your actions, in your attitudes, that it is the spirit of the devil. You have said it thus, and you will say it when the crisis will come.” Ibid., 593, 594.

Notice that the real nature of the opposition was the rejection of the Holy Spirit both in the messages of Jones and Waggoner and the testimony of Ellen White. The outcome of this is prophesied: “The Third Angel’s Message will not be comprehended, the light which will lighten the earth with its glory will be called a false light, by those who refuse to walk in its advancing glory. The work that might have been done, will be left undone by the rejecters of truth, because of their unbelief.” Ibid., 673.

The Problems in 1888

To understand how this awful condition of things came to be, in 1888, let us first look at how Ellen White described the problem in Adventism in the years just prior to 1888. “The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones.…Many had lost sight of Jesus.… Now, it has been Satan’s determined purpose to eclipse the view of Jesus and lead men to look to man, and trust to man, and be educated to expect help from man. For years the church has been looking to man and expecting much from man, but not looking to Jesus, in whom our hopes of eternal life are centered. Therefore God gave to His servants a testimony that presented the truth as it is in Jesus, which is the Third Angel’s Message, in clear, distinct lines.” Testimonies to Ministers, 91–93.

Notice what the problem was—“For years the church has been looking to man and expecting much from man, but not looking to Jesus.” Ibid. Now the question needs to be asked, What men do you think Ellen White is talking about that the church had been looking to and expecting much help from? And what would the response of these men be if the church began to look to someone else for help and not looking to them so much?

This is the exact problem that the chosen people of God faced when Jesus was here, and this problem, in Jesus’ day, resulted in the crucifixion of Christ. This is also the exact problem which developed in the Roman church. “Some who think that they preach the gospel are preaching other men’s ideas. Through some means they have come to the decision that it is no part of a minister’s calling or duty to think diligently and prayerfully. He accepts what other men have taught without asserting his individuality. This doctrine, taught by the church of Rome, is entire dependence upon the leaders. The individual’s conscience is not his own. Judgment must be controlled by other men’s ideas. His intelligence is to go no farther than that of those who are leaders.” 1888 Messages, 834.

Opposition to God’s Message

The response of the leaders in Adventism, to the message that God sent in 1888, has been discussed and debated since that time. Their opposition has been well documented by many writers and will not be reviewed here except to ask the question, What really was the nature of their opposition? What was behind their opposition?

The following statements will reveal the nature of the opposition and what was behind it. “Those whom God has sent with a message are only men, but what is the character of the message which they bear? Will you dare to turn from, or make light of, the warnings, because God did not consult you as to what would be preferred? God calls men who will speak, who will cry aloud and spare not. God has raised up His messengers to do His work for this time. Some have turned from the message of the righteousness of Christ to criticize the men and their imperfections, because they do not speak the message of truth with all the grace and polish desirable. They have too much zeal, are too much in earnest, speak with too much positiveness, and the message that would bring healing and life and comfort to many weary and oppressed souls, is, in a measure, excluded; for just in proportion as men of influence close their own hearts and set up their own wills in opposition to what God has said, will they seek to take away the ray of light from those who have been longing and praying for light and for vivifying power. Christ has registered all the hard, proud, sneering speeches spoken against His servants as against Himself.” Ibid., 673.

Character assassination never occurs without a motive or purpose. As human beings we cannot read the motive or purpose behind actions, but the Spirit of Prophecy, the testimony of Jesus, can do this. The Spirit of God can discern what is in the spirit of any and all men. What did the Spirit testify? “There was a spirit coming in taking possession of the churches, that if permitted would separate them from God as verily as the churches who refused light that God sent them in messages of warning and of light that they might advance in regard to His second coming to our world.…I was told this spirit had been gathering strength for years and the leavening influence was at work and spiritual life was going out of the churches.” Ibid., 296, 297. [All emphasis supplied throughout.]

“I could but have a vivid picture in my mind from day to day of the way reformers were treated, how slight difference of opinion seemed to create a frenzy of feeling. Thus it was in the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus—all this had passed before me point by point. The Satanic spirit took control and moved with power upon the human hearts that had been opened to doubts and to bitterness, wrath and hatred. All this was prevailing in that meeting. I decided to leave the meeting, leave Minneapolis.” Ibid., 309.

“The Spirit of God is departing from many among our people. Many have entered into dark, secret paths, and some will never return. They will continue to stumble to their ruin. They have tempted God, they have rejected light. All the evidence that will ever be given them they have received, and have not heeded. They have chosen darkness rather than light, and have defiled their souls. No man or church can associate with a pleasure-loving class, and reveal that they appreciate the rich current of truth which the Lord has sent to those who have simple faith in His word. The world is polluted, corrupted, as was the world in the days of Noah. The only remedy is belief in the truth, acceptance of the light. Yet many have listened to the truth spoken in demonstration of the Spirit, and they have not only refused to accept the message, but they have hated the light. These men are parties to the ruin of souls. They have interposed themselves between the heaven-sent light and the people. They have trampled upon the Word of God, and are doing despite to His Holy Spirit.” Ibid., 1335, 1336.

“While at Minneapolis many things were opened before me in regard to the propositions made by A.R. Henry and others. These plans were not inspired by the Spirit of God. If you had then stood in the love of God, you would have been able to distinguish between righteousness and unrighteousness. Plans were formed regarding the anagement of the work which could not bear the light of day; for the signature of heaven was not upon them. Those who made these propositions had no idea of where their plans and imaginations would carry them. They did not realize that they would be led to subvert right principles, to obtain control of facilities that they might manage matters according to their own ideas, to build up what they pleased and to bind about what they pleased. This planning and devising was not carried on in a frank open way, but in a way which caused God to write opposite their names, they have dissembled. They have falsified. They have worked according to the deceptive practices of Satan, in order to establish a confederacy.” Ibid., 1684.

“God would have the church roll away her reproach, but as long as men who have felt fully competent to work without accepting counsel of God are kept in office year after year, this cannot be done. This state of things is leavening every branch of the work, because men do not feel their need of the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When men feel competent to pronounce judgment and condemn the Holy Spirit, they do a work for themselves which will be difficult to counteract. The whole head becomes sick and the discernment so weak that it is apt to judge unrighteously. The Spirit still calls, but they do not hear nor heed the call of God.” Ibid., 1292, 1293.

From the above statements (similar ones could be greatly multiplied) the following conclusions can be drawn:

  1. Men of influence (leaders) were engaged in character assassination of the messengers. A wrong spirit was in control. A Satanic spirit and a slight difference of opinion created a frenzy of feeling.
  2. The Spirit of God departed from many who had interposed themselves between the light and the people.
  3. One of the main factors involved in the rejection of the light was that certain leaders were making plans regarding the management of the work which would allow them to obtain control of facilities and manage matters according to their own ideas to build up what they pleased and bind about what they pleased.
  4. And these leaders were kept in office year after year, without accepting counsel of God, and this was leavening every branch of the work.

When Satan Rules

An acceptance of the message in 1888 would have made it impossible for #4 and #5 above to be carried out. But Ellen White said: “To-day, as in Christ’s day, Satan rules the minds of many. O that his terrible, fearful work could be discerned and resisted. Selfishness has perverted principles, selfishness has confused the senses and clouded the judgment. It seems so strange that notwithstanding all the light that is shining from God’s blessed word, there should be such strange ideas held, such a departure from the spirit and practice of the truth. The desire to grasp large wages, with a determination to deprive others of their God-given rights, has its origin in Satan’s mind; and by their obedience to his will and way men place themselves under his banner. Little dependence can be placed in these that have been taken in this snare, unless they are thoroughly converted and renovated; for they have been leavened by wrong principles, which they could not perceive were deleterious in their effect. . . . If men would only give up their spirit of resistance to the Holy Spirit, the spirit which has long been leaving their religious experience, God’s Spirit would address itself to their hearts. It would convince of sin. What a work! But the Holy Spirit has been insulted and light has been rejected. Is it possible for those who for years have been so blind to see? Is it possible that in this late stage of their resistance their eyes will be anointed? Will the voice of the Spirit of God be distinguished from the deceiving voice of the enemy?

“There are men who will soon evidence which banner they are standing under, the banner of the Prince of life, or the banner of the prince of darkness. If they could only see these matters as they are presented to me, if they could only see that, as far as their souls are concerned, they are as men standing on the brink of a precipice, ready to slide over to the depths below.” Ibid., 1493, 1494.

Could it really be? Could it be that leading men in Adventism were under the control of Satan and had insulted the Holy Spirit and were on the brink of a precipice? Could it be that the leaders in the Second Advent Movement who had dedicated their lives to spreading the Third Angel’s Message were actually standing under the banner of Satan and not under the banner of the Lord? Can you believe it? According to the Spirit of Prophecy this was the situation.

The question now is not just what should you do as a church member in a situation like this. The question is not just what should you do if you were one of the leaders in this situation. The question is not just what should a prophet do in a situation like this. The question is, What will God do in a situation like this? We know that, “Our divine Lord is equal to any emergency. With Him nothing is impossible.” Signs of the Times, January 3, 1906.

Because of what happened in Minneapolis, in 1888, Seventh-day Adventists were to learn the same bitter lesson that ancient Israel experienced in the wilderness when the Lord said to them, “ye shall feel My breach of promise.” Numbers 14:34. (Geneva Bible).

After this, no longer could they hope that of “the company present at the Conference” (in 1856) some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 131, 132. No longer could they imply assume that everything would progress with no change until the Second Coming of Jesus. Big changes, in the way God was going to finish the work, were on the horizon because they would not accept correction in 1888. Big changes were far less than twenty years away.

To be continued …

Editorial — A Special Testimony

On March 14, 1897, Ellen White sent a special testimony from her home in Cooranbong, Australia, to the Oakland and Battle Creek Churches. This Special Testimony has much counsel on several different subjects that are just as relevant today as they were 100 years ago. Since this testimony is unavailable to many of our readers, we are going to give some excerpts from it in this editorial page.

Use of Tithe

“Ministers have just as much right to their wages as have the workers employed in the Review and Herald Office, and the laborers in the Pacific Publishing House. A great robbery has been practiced in the meager wages paid to some of the workers. If they give their time, and thought, and labor to the service of the Master, they should have wages enough to supply their family with food and clothing.

“The light which the Lord has given me on this subject is that the means in the treasury for the support of the ministers in the different fields is not to be used for any other purpose. If an honest tithe were paid, and the money coming into the treasury were carefully guarded, the ministers would receive a just wage. The auditing committee has often been composed of men who were farmers. These could dress in coarse clothing appropriate for the work they were doing. They raised all they needed as a family to subsist upon, and they knew not what the outlay of a minister must necessarily be when he goes into a new field to labor for perishing souls. The outlook is often hard and discouraging. Some fields when the work is first opened up, are encouraging; but there are other fields that are not so. Both must receive the truth. The minister must labor and pray. He must visit the different families. Frequently he finds the people so poor that they have little to eat and no room in which to sleep. Often means have to be given to the very needy to supply their hunger and cover their nakedness.

Extravagance in Dress

“Let those who take such delight in devoting so largely of their means to clothing their bodies, consider that they are using God’s money, that might be invested in bearing the truth to those that are perishing in their sins.

“The Lord will not serve with the selfish indulgence of these men and women. Had they clothed themselves with modest apparel, as the Holy Spirit has specified they should do, they would have the blessing of God. The atmosphere surrounding their souls would not be as spiritual malaria to others who newly come into the faith. Such examples of show and of the love of dress, of following the fashions of this degenerate age, this leaven of pride and extravagance, is gathering to itself, until the whole lump will be leavened.

Impending Judgments

“The church without living godliness is like the fig tree to which Christ, hungering for food, came and searched for fruit, and found nothing but leaves. This is as it is with many who profess religion; and our position, having as we have great light, great opportunities, great privileges, will bring the curse that came upon the fig tree upon all who have a name to live and are fruitless.

“The Lord is coming speedily, yet, notwithstanding His professed people read the signs of the times,—of famines, of thousands being swept away by earthquakes and floods, by fire, by calamities by sea and land, by plague, by war and bloodshed,—the love of self so deadens the spiritual sense that the day of the Lord will come upon them as a thief in the night, and He declares, ‘They shall not escape.’ The Lord is to judge both quick and dead at His appearing and His kingdom. Will these stand in their pride and self-glorification before that tribunal, when the judgment will sit, and the books will be opened, and every man shall be judged according as his works have been?

“Christ declares, ‘I know thy works.’ Does the Lord seem to be too far away, too indistinct, to produce any appreciable effect on the conduct of the human agent? Shall the hellish shadow of Satan ever be penetrated by living faith? Christ is a personal, present Savior, one who is ordering all things for His own glory. He is accessible at all times if we will come to Him in contrition of soul. I would urge upon all in Battle Creek to wake from your spiritual death-like slumber. Unless you do, it will pass into the slumber of eternal death.”

To be continued…

 

Bible Study Guide — At the Time of The End Shall Be the Vision

February 27 — March 4

Memory Verse: “I have sent also unto you all My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers: but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto Me.” Jeremiah 35: 15.

Study Help: Early Writings, pages 229 – 258.

Introduction: “Preachers and people have looked upon the book of Revelation as mysterious and of less importance than other portions of the Sacred Scriptures. But I saw that this book is indeed a revelation given for the especial benefit of those who should live in the last days, to guide them in ascertaining their true position and their duty.” Early Writings, 231.

“We are on our way to the city of God, and the perils of the last days are all about us. The path we are climbing is narrow and dangerous, and we do not want to make any false steps. At such a time as this, a faithful guide is as necessary to us as to the mountain-climbers, and such a guide is provided for us in the word of God.” Signs of the Times, December 10,1885.

“My brethren and sisters, do not allow trifling things to absorb your time and attention. Keep your mind on the glorious themes of the Word of God. A study of these themes will give you a strength that will carry you through the trials and difficulties of the last days, and bring you to where you will walk with Christ in white, because you are worthy. In the Word of God, studied and obeyed, we possess a spiritual guide and instructor by which the worst forms of evil in ourselves may be brought under the discipline of His law. If the teachings of this Word were made the controlling influence in our lives, if mind and heart were brought under its restraining power, the evils that now exist in churches and in families would find no place. Upon converted households the purest blessings would descend, and from these households an influence would go forth that would make God’s people a power on the side of truth.” Review and Herald, November 24, 1904.

 

1. THE FOUNDATION ON A ROCK

  • What is to be the foundation of the Christian’s faith? Luke 6: 47 – 48

 

NOTE: “The time has come when we must know for ourselves why we believe as we do. We must stand for God and for the truth, against a reckless, unbelieving generation. The man who has once known the way of life, and has turned from the convictions of his own heart to the sophistry of Satan, will be more inaccessible and more unimpressible than he who has never tasted the love of Christ. He will be wise to do evil. He has bound himself to Satan, even against light and knowledge. I say to my brethren: Your only hope is in God. We must be clothed with Christ’s righteousness if we would withstand the prevailing impiety. We must show our faith by our works. Let us lay up for ourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that we may lay hold on eternal life.” Testimonies Volume 4, 596, 597.

“Our hope is to be constantly strengthened by the knowledge that Christ is our righteousness. Let our faith rest upon this foundation, for it will stand fast forever. Instead of dwelling upon the darkness of Satan and fearing his power, we should open our hearts to receive light from Christ and to let it shine forth to the world, declaring that He is above all the power of Satan, that His sustaining arm will support all who trust in Him.” Testimonies Volume 5, 742.

“God’s Word should be received as the foundation and the finisher of our faith. It is to be received with the understanding and with the whole heart; it is life and is to be incorporated into our very existence. Thus received, the Word of God will humble man at the footstool of mercy and separate him from every corrupting influence.” Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students, 374.

 

  • What will be the fate of those who are merely hearers of God’s Word but do not put into practice the things they have heard? Luke 6: 49

 

NOTE: “The reason why our people have not more power is that they profess the truth, but do not practice it. They have but little faith and trust in God. There are but few who bear the burdens connected with His work. The Lord claims the strength of brain, bone, and muscle; but it is too often withheld from Him and given to the world. The service of God is made a secondary matter, while worldly interests receive prompt attention. Thus things of minor consequence are made important, while the requirements of God, things spiritual and eternal, are treated in an indifferent manner, as something which may be taken up at will and let alone at pleasure. If the mind were stayed upon God and the truth exerted a sanctifying influence upon the heart, self would be hid in Christ. If we realize the importance of the truth which we profess to believe we should feel that we have a sacred mission to fulfil, a responsibility involving eternal results. All temporal interests would yield to this.” Testimonies Volume 4, 613, 614.

 

2. THE PROPHETS HAVE INQUIRED AND SEARCHED DILIGENTLY

  • How are we shown that the prophets themselves did not always fully understand the things revealed to them? 1 Peter 1: 10 – 12

 

NOTE: “The prophets to whom these great scenes were revealed longed to understand their import. They ‘inquired and searched diligently: . . searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify. . . . Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you; . . . which things the angels desire to look into.’ 1 Peter 1:10-12. To us who are standing on the very verge of their fulfillment, of what deep moment, what living interest, are these delineations of the things to come.” Education, 183.

“Yet while it was not given to the prophets to understand fully the things revealed to them, they earnestly sought to obtain all the light which God had been pleased to make manifest. They ‘inquired and searched diligently,’ ‘searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify.’ What a lesson to the people of God in the Christian age, for whose benefit these prophecies were given to His servants! ‘Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister.’ Witness those holy men of God as they ‘inquired and searched diligently’ concerning revelations given them for generations that were yet unborn. Contrast their holy zeal with the listless unconcern with which the favored ones of later ages treat this gift of Heaven. What a rebuke to the ease-loving, world-loving indifference which is content to declare that the prophecies cannot be understood!” Great Controversy, 344.

 

  • What example are we given of a prophet who did not fully understand the things revealed to him and his search for enlightenment? Daniel 8: 13 – 14, 27, 9: 2 – 3, 17

 

NOTE: “Not all was made clear to the prophet. ‘My cogitations much troubled me,’ he wrote of his experience at the time, ‘and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.’ Daniel 7:28. Through another vision further light was thrown upon the events of the future; and it was at the close of this vision that Daniel heard ‘one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision?’ Daniel 8:13. The answer that was given, ‘Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed’ (verse 14), filled him with perplexity. Earnestly he sought for the meaning of the vision. He could not understand the relation sustained by the seventy years’ captivity, as foretold through Jeremiah, to the twenty-three hundred years that in vision he heard the heavenly visitant declare should elapse before the cleansing of God’s sanctuary. The angel Gabriel gave him a partial interpretation; yet when the prophet heard the words, ‘The vision . . . shall be for many days,’ he fainted away. ‘I Daniel fainted,’ he records of his experience, ‘and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king’s business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it.’ Verses 26, 27. Still burdened in behalf of Israel, Daniel studied anew the prophecies of Jeremiah. They were very plain, so plain that he understood by these testimonies recorded in books ‘the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.’ Daniel 9:2. With faith founded on the sure word of prophecy, Daniel pleaded with the Lord for the speedy fulfillment of these promises. He pleaded for the honor of God to be preserved. In his petition he identified himself fully with those who had fallen short of the divine purpose, confessing their sins as his own. ‘I set my face unto the Lord God,’ the prophet declared, ‘to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: and I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession.’ Verses 3, 4. Though Daniel had long been in the service of God, and had been spoken of by heaven as ‘greatly beloved,’ yet he now appeared before God as a sinner, urging the great need of the people he loved. His prayer was eloquent in its simplicity, and intensely earnest.” Prophets and Kings, 553-555.

 

3. WHILES I WAS SPEAKING IN PRAYER

  • How did God answer his prayer? Daniel 9: 20 – 23

 

NOTE: “As Daniel’s prayer is going forth, the angel Gabriel comes sweeping down from the heavenly courts to tell him that his petitions are heard and answered. This mighty angel has been commissioned to give him skill and understanding, to open before him the mysteries of future ages. Thus, while earnestly seeking to know and understand the truth, Daniel was brought into communion with Heaven’s delegated messenger. In answer to his petition, Daniel received not only the light and truth which he and his people most needed, but a view of the great events of the future, even to the advent of the world’s Redeemer. Those who claim to be sanctified, while they have no desire to search the Scriptures or to wrestle with God in prayer for a clearer understanding of Bible truth, know not what true sanctification is. Daniel talked with God. Heaven was opened before him. But the high honors granted him were the result of humiliation and earnest seeking. All who believe with the heart the Word of God will hunger and thirst for a knowledge of His will. God is the author of truth. He enlightens the darkened understanding and gives to the human mind power to grasp and comprehend the truths which He has revealed.” The Sanctified Life, 48 – 49.

 

  • Until what time were the things revealed to Daniel sealed up? Daniel 12: 4, 9

 

NOTE: “Honored by men with the responsibilities of state and with the secrets of kingdoms bearing universal sway, Daniel was honored by God as His ambassador, and was given many revelations of the mysteries of ages to come. His wonderful prophecies, as recorded by him in chapters 7 to 12 of the book bearing his name, were not fully understood even by the prophet himself; but before his life labors closed, he was given the blessed assurance that ‘at the end of the days’, in the closing period of this world’s history, he would again be permitted to stand in his lot and place. It was not given him to understand all that God had revealed of the divine purpose. ‘Shut up the words, and seal the book,’ he was directed concerning his prophetic writings; these were to be sealed ‘even to the time of the end.’ ” Prophets and Kings, 547.

 

  • How was the apostle John shown the unsealing of Daniel’s prophecies at the time of the end? Revelation 10: 1 – 11

 

NOTE: “After the seven thunders uttered their voices, the injunction comes to John as to Daniel in regard to the little book, ‘Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered.’ Those relate to future events which will be disclosed in their order. Daniel shall stand in his lot at the end of the days. John sees the little book unsealed. Then Daniel’s prophecies have their proper place in the First, Second and Third Angels’ Messages to be given to the world. The unsealing of the little book was the message in relation to time. The books of Daniel and Revelation are one. One is a prophecy, the other a revelation; the one a book sealed, the other a book opened.” Manuscript 59, 1900. (See Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7A, 971.)

 

4. NO PRIVATE INTERPRETATION

  • In trying to understand Bible prophecy, what error are we first warned against? 2 Peter 1: 20

 

NOTE: “While exalting the ‘sure word of prophecy’ as a safe guide in times of peril, the apostle solemnly warned the church against the torch of false prophecy, which would be uplifted by ‘false teachers,’ who would privily bring in ‘damnable heresies, even denying the Lord.’ These false teachers arising in the church are accounted true by many of their brethren in the faith, but the apostle compared them to ‘wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever.’ ‘The latter end is worse with them,’ he declared, ‘than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.’ ” Review and Herald, September 26, 1912.

 

  • What solemn denunciation given to the Jews should be a warning to those who look to Israel as the focus of end-time prophecy? Matthew 21:43

 

NOTE: “Let the mind be educated to look to Jesus. Let an effort be made to become doers of His word. The curse of God is upon Jerusalem and its surroundings, and the land is defiled under the inhabitants thereof. There is no real foundation for feelings of awe in looking upon the land of Palestine. In revering these earthly things, men clothe them with a false glory.” Review and Herald, February 25,1896.

 

  • What counsel is given to those who desire rightly to divide the Word of truth? 2 Timothy 2: 15

 

NOTE: The word “study” in this verse means “show diligence.” This verse should not be understood simply as an exhortation to Bible study. This diligence should be exhibited in every aspect of the Christian’s life. “You must experience a death to self, and must live unto God. ‘If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.’ Self is not to be consulted. Pride, self-love, selfishness, avarice, covetousness, love of the world, hatred, suspicion, jealousy, evil surmisings, must all be subdued and sacrificed forever. When Christ shall appear, it will not be to correct these evils and then give a moral fitness for His coming. This preparation must all be made before He comes. It should be a subject of thought, of study, and earnest inquiry, What shall we do to be saved? What shall be our conduct that we may show ourselves approved unto God?” Testimonies, Volume 1, 705.

 

5. A LIGHT TO OUR PATH

  • What promise is given to those who open their hearts to the Word of God? Psalm 119: 130

 

NOTE: “The work which the Lord has laid out before me especially is to urge young and old, learned and unlearned, to search the Scriptures for themselves; to impress upon all that the study of God’s Word will expand the mind and strengthen every faculty, fitting the intellect to wrestle with problems of truth, deep and far-reaching; to assure all that the clear knowledge of the Bible outdoes all other knowledge in making man what God designed he should be. ‘The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.’ With the light communicated through the study of His word, with the special knowledge given of individual cases among His people under all circumstances and in every phase of experience, can I now be in the same ignorance, the same mental uncertainty and spiritual blindness, as at the beginning of this experience?” Testimonies, Volume 5, 686.

 

  • What promise of guidance is given to those who come to God, repenting of their sins? Psalm 32: 5 – 8

 

NOTE: “Let every child of God make Him their Counselor, and firmly believe that He is at their right hand to help them, trusting the promise, ‘I will guide thee with Mine eye.’ So many mistakes would not be made if all would make God their dependence, believing that He who never makes a mistake will prepare their way before them. We must believe in Christ as a personal, sympathizing Savior, who doeth all things well. Our path, however rugged it may be, is marked out for us by the Lord; but He will walk with us, for we are to be co-laborers with Him, guided by the Holy Spirit. ‘And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and to the left.’ ” Pacific Union Recorder, November 7, 1901.

“Do not be afraid to trust God. Rely upon His sure promise, ‘Ask, and ye shall receive.’ Do not let go of the promise, even though you do not see an immediate answer to your prayers. God is too wise to err, and too good to withhold any good thing from them that walk uprightly. Man is erring, and although his petitions may be sent up from an honest heart, he does not always ask for the things that are good for him or that will glorify God. When this is so, our wise and good Father hears our prayers, and answers, sometimes immediately; but He gives us the things that are for our good and His own glory. If we could look into His plan, we should clearly see that our prayers are answered in wisdom and love. And through the temptations and trials of life the promise will be fulfilled, ‘I will guide thee with mine eye.’ ” Southern Watchman, March 24, 1908.

” ‘Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.’ These are they who are repairing the breach in the Law of God. In the face of bitter opposition, they take their stand under the banner of Prince Immanuel, proclaiming, bravely and fearlessly, the message He has given them. God watches over these faithful witnesses, and abundantly rewards their confidence. The way to His throne is always open to them. He sees and supplies their wants. They find their safety in looking to Him. When Jehovah gives them His protection, and says of them, Ye are laborers together with Me, they are safe in the midst of the greatest danger. Satan tries to deceive them, but God lifts up for them a standard against the enemy. Those who work righteousness have an ever-present help in time of trouble. In every time of need He is near. When they are tempted, He stands as their defense, saying, ‘I will guide thee with mine eye.’ I will deliver thee from perplexity, and be a covert for thee against the strife of tongues. The cause is the Lord’s. He is on board the ship as commander-in-chief. He will guide us safely into port. He can command the winds and the waves, and they will obey Him. If we follow His directions, we have no need to be anxious or troubled. In Him we may trust. He bestows His richest endowments upon those who love Him and keep His commandments. He will never forsake those who work in His lines.” Review and Herald, July 16, 1901.

“Do not say, ‘It is impossible for me to overcome.’ Do not say, ‘It is my nature to do thus and so, and I can not do otherwise. I have inherited weaknesses that make me powerless before temptation.’ In your own strength, you can not overcome, but help has been laid upon One that is mighty. Breathe the prayer, ‘Show me Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths.’ Then believe the promise, ‘The meek will He guide in judgement: and the meek will He teach His way.’ Yes, the Lord says, ‘I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with Mine eye.’ In order to receive the virtue of the blood of Christ, even the forgiveness of your sins, you must consent to the conditions He imposes. ‘If any man will come after Me,’ He says, ‘let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’ Seeking pardon of sin from His cross, you will seek direction from His throne. Looking to and believing in Christ as your personal Savior, is your only hope of salvation. Receiving Christ in all His completeness, you are in truth able to sing: ‘I will follow Thee, my Savior, wheresoe’er my lot may be. Where Thou goest, I will follow; Yes, my Lord, I’ll follow Thee.’ ” Youth’s Instructor, October 2, 1902.

 

Bible Study Guide — Holy Men Of God Spake

February 20—26

Memory Verse: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1: 21.

Study Help: Testimonies Volume 5, pages 62 – 83.

Introduction: “The light of present truth is a precious talent lent to God’s people by Him who is truth. It is not to be hoarded, but constantly imparted. The Lord desires that His professed people shall themselves profit by the truths received. It is given, first for their own development, of heart and mind and affections; then for the help and enlightenment of those in the darkness of unbelief. In this age the Lord is sending His servants with no ordinary message, but with special truths that must come before believers of every rank and tongue. Many of our church members have never studied fully into the more sure word of prophecy, and do not understand the facts that have made us what we are. All should bring into exercise the powers of the intellect, that they may clearly understand the different phases of present truth, and especially the subjects of prophecy which were opened to us when the message of Christ’s soon coming was first heralded.” Review and Herald, April 2, 1908.

 

1. BELIEVE HIS PROPHETS

  • What important counsel did Jehoshaphat give to God’s people? 2 Chronicles 20: 20

 

NOTE: “2 Chron. 20:20. ‘Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper.’ Isa. 8:20. ‘To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.’ Two texts are here set before God’s people: two conditions for success. The law spoken by Jehovah Himself, and the Spirit of Prophecy, are the two sources of wisdom to guide His people in every experience. Deuteronomy 4: 6. ‘This is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, who shall say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ The law of God and the Spirit of Prophecy go hand in hand to guide and counsel the church, and whenever the church has recognized this by obeying His law, the Spirit of Prophecy has been sent to guide her in the way of truth. Revelation 12: 17. [Compare Revelation 19: 10 & 22: 8 – 9]”Loma Linda Messages, 33.

 

  • How must the Law of God and the testimony of the prophets be used to test those who claim to speak for God? Isaiah 8: 20

 

NOTE: “Our watchword is to be: ‘To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.’ Isaiah 8:20. We have a Bible full of the most precious truth. It contains the alpha and omega of knowledge. The Scriptures, given by inspiration of God, are ‘profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.’ 2 Timothy 3:16, 17. Take the Bible as your study book. All can understand its instruction.” Testimonies Volume 8, 299.

“Those who have entered upon the work of teaching, or who have been called to any position of responsibility, should not be satisfied to take the product of the researches of other minds, but they should investigate truth for themselves. If they do not form the habit of investigating themes of truth for themselves, they will become superficial in their life and acquirements. The opinions of your associates may be of value to you, but you should not rely upon them and have no definite ideas of your own. You should examine the truths you have been led to believe, until you know that they are without a flaw. You lose much when you do not bring every point of faith you hold to the law and to the testimony, for you do not see or appreciate the truth as it is.” Testimonies on Sabbath School Work, 61.

“We are thankful that we have a sure word of prophecy, so that none of us need be deceived. We know that there are heresies and fables in our world at the present time, and we want to know what is truth. It becomes us to search carefully for ourselves that we may gain this knowledge. We cannot do this with a mere reading of the Scriptures, but we must compare scripture with scripture. We must search the Scriptures for ourselves, so that we shall not be led astray; and while many may be led astray because there are all kinds of doctrines in our world, there is one truth. Many may come to you and tell you that they have the truth, but it is your privilege to search the Scriptures for yourself. ‘To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.’ We must be acquainted with the Scriptures ourselves, that we may understand the true reason of the hope that is within us.” Review and Herald, April 3, 1888.

 

2. DESPISE NOT PROPHESYINGS

  • What was the response of some who heard God’s prophets in former times? Jeremiah 20: 7 – 8, Ezekiel 2: 3 – 7

 

NOTE: ” ‘If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.’ These words were proved true in the history of the Jewish nation. Christ’s last and crowning miracle was the raising of Lazarus of Bethany, after he had been dead four days. The Jews were given this wonderful evidence of the Savior’s divinity, but they rejected it. Lazarus rose from the dead and bore his testimony before them, but they hardened their hearts against all evidence, and even sought to take his life. (John 12: 9 – 11.) The law and the prophets are God’s appointed agencies for the salvation of men. Christ said, Let them give heed to these evidences. If they do not listen to the voice of God in His word, the testimony of a witness raised from the dead would not be heeded. Those who heed Moses and the prophets will require no greater light than God has given; but if men reject the light, and fail to appreciate the opportunities granted them, they would not hear if one from the dead should come to them with a message. They would not be convinced even by this evidence; for those who reject the law and the prophets so harden their hearts that they will reject all light.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 265.

 

  • What counsel did Paul give to the Thessalonian believers concerning prophecy? 1 Thessalonians 5: 19 – 21

 

NOTE: “The apostle cautioned the Thessalonians not to despise the gift of prophecy, and in the words, ‘Quench not the Spirit; despise not prophesyings; prove all things; hold fast that which is good,’ he enjoined a careful discrimination in distinguishing the false from the true.” Acts of the Apostles, 263.

 

3. THE REMNANT OF HER SEED

  • How is the remnant of the church to be recognized in the final struggle with the power of Satan? Revelation 12: 17

 

NOTE: “It was Christ that spoke to His people through the prophets. The apostle Peter, writing to the Christian church, says that the prophets ‘prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.’ 1 Peter 1: 10, 11. It is the voice of Christ that speaks to us through the Old Testament. ‘The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’ Revelation 19: 10.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 366, 367.

“This prophecy points out clearly that the remnant church will acknowledge God in His law and will have the prophetic gift. Obedience to the law of God, and the spirit of prophecy has always distinguished the true people of God, and the test is usually given on present manifestations. In Jeremiah’s day the people had no question about the message of Moses, Elijah, or Elisha, but they did question and put aside the message sent of God to Jeremiah until its force and power was wasted and there was no remedy but for God to carry them away into captivity. Likewise in the days of Christ, the people had learned that Jeremiah’s message was true, and they persuaded themselves to believe that if they had lived in the days of their fathers they would have accepted his message, but at the same time they were rejecting Christ’s message, of whom all the prophets had written. As the third angel’s message arose in the world, which is to reveal the law of God to the church in its fullness and power, the prophetic gift was also immediately restored. This gift has acted a very prominent part in the development and carrying forward of this message.” Loma Linda Messages, 33.

 

  • What warnings are given about Satan also having prophets in the last days? Matthew 24: 4 – 5, 11, 23 – 26, Ephesians 4: 14

 

NOTE: “False prophets arose to sow confusion among the people by turning them away from obeying the divine commands given through Jeremiah, but God’s judgments were pronounced against them in consequence of their grievous sin of bringing rebellion against Him. Just such men arise in these days and breed confusion and rebellion among the people who profess to obey the law of God. But just as certainly as divine judgement was visited upon the false prophets, just so surely will these evil workers receive their full measure of retribution; for the Lord has not changed. Those who prophesy lies encourage men to look upon sin as a small matter. When the terrible results of their crimes are made manifest, they seek, if possible, to make the one who has faithfully warned them responsible for their difficulties, even as the Jews charged Jeremiah with t heir evil fortunes. Those who pursue a course of rebellion against the Lord can always find false prophets who will justify them in their acts and flatter them to their destruction. Lying words often make many friends, as in the case of Ahab and Zedekiah. These false prophets, in their pretended zeal for God, found many more believers and followers than the true prophet, who delivered the simple message of the Lord.” Testimonies Volume 4, 173, 174.

 

4. PROVE ALL THINGS

  • What test may be used to distinguish a false prophet? Deuteronomy 18: 21 – 22, Jeremiah 28: 9, Isaiah 41: 21 – 23

 

NOTE: ” ‘The prophet which prophesieth of peace,’ Jeremiah proposed in conclusion, ‘when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him.’ If Israel chose to run the risk, future developments would effectually decide which was the true prophet. The words of Jeremiah counseling submission aroused Hananiah to a daring challenge of the reliability of the message delivered. Taking the symbolic yoke from Jeremiah’s neck, Hananiah broke it, saying, ‘Thus saith the Lord; Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years. ‘And the prophet Jeremiah went his way.’ Verse 11. Apparently, he could do nothing more than to retire from the scene of conflict. But Jeremiah was given another message. ‘Go and tell Hananiah,’ he was bidden, ‘Thus saith the Lord; Thou hast broken the yokes of wood; but thou shalt make for them yokes of iron. For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; I have put a yoke of iron upon the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they shall serve him. . . . ‘Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet, Hear now, Hananiah; The Lord hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the Lord. So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.’ Verses 13-17. The false prophet had strengthened the unbelief of the people in Jeremiah and his message. He had wickedly declared himself the Lord’s messenger, and he suffered death in consequence. In the fifth month, Jeremiah prophesied the death of Hananiah, and in the seventh month, his words were proved true by their fulfillment.” Prophets and Kings, 445 – 446.

 

  • What further test did the apostle John give for proving whether a prophet is inspired by the Spirit of God or another spirit? 1 John 4: 1 – 3

 

NOTE: “Letters have been coming in to me, affirming that Christ could not have had the same nature as man, for if He had, He would have fallen under similar temptations. If He did not have man’s nature, He could not be our example. If He was not a partaker of our nature, He could not have been tempted as man has been. If it were not possible for Him to yield to temptation, He could not be our helper. It was a solemn reality that Christ came to fight the battles as man, in man’s behalf. His temptation and victory tell us that humanity must copy the Pattern; man must become a partaker of the divine nature.” Selected Messages Book 1, 408.

 

5. BY THEIR FRUITS YE SHALL KNOW THEM

  • What straightforward test did Jesus give us to identify false prophets? Matthew 7: 15 – 20

 

NOTE: “Here is a test which all may apply if they will. None need be left in uncertainty and doubt. There is always sufficient evidence upon which to base an intelligent faith. But God will never remove from any man all occasion for doubts. Those who love to dwell in the atmosphere of doubt and questioning unbelief can have the unenviable privilege. He who turns from the weight of evidence because there are a few things that he cannot make plain to his finite understanding, will be left to the cold, chilling atmosphere of unbelief and skepticism, and will make shipwreck of faith. It should not be considered a virtue to be on the side of the doubting rather than on the side of the believing. Jesus never praised unbelief, never commended a doubting, questioning spirit. He gave to His nation evidence of His Messiahship in the miracles He wrought; but there were some who reasoned these evidences away, and in every good work found something to question and censure.” Signs of the Times, December 30, 1886.

“Many are changed by every current. They wait to hear what someone else thinks, and his opinion is accepted as altogether true. If they would lean wholly upon God, they would grow strong in His strength; but they do not say to the Lord, I can not make any decision until I know Thy will. Their natural inclination is to allow another to be conscience for them; and they speak after he has spoken, saying what he says, and acting as he acts. When these persons are placed in circumstances where they must think and act for themselves, they dare not express any decided opinion. Yet often, like Aaron, they have much ability. God pity such weaklings.” Review and Herald, May 9, 1899.

 

  • What are some of the fruits of a true prophet’s ministry? 1 Corinthians 14: 3

 

NOTE: “Early in my youth I was asked several times, ‘Are you a prophet?’ I have ever responded, I am the Lord’s messenger. I know that many have called me a prophet, but I have made no claim to this title. My Savior declared me to be His messenger. ‘Your work,’ He instructed me, ‘is to bear My Word. Strange things will arise, and in your youth I set you apart to bear the message to the erring ones, to carry the Word before unbelievers, and with pen and voice to reprove from the Word actions that are not right. Exhort from the Word. I will make My Word open to you. It shall not be as a strange language. In the true eloquence of simplicity, with voice and pen, the messages that I give shall be heard from one who has never learned in the schools. My Spirit and My power shall be with you. Be not afraid of man, for My shield shall protect you. It is not you that speaketh; it is the Lord that giveth the messages of warning and reproof. Never deviate from the truth under any circumstances. Give the light I shall give you. The messages for these last days shall be written in books, and shall stand immortalized, to testify against those who have once rejoiced in the light, but who have been led to give it up because of the seductive influences of evil.’ Why have I not claimed to be a prophet? Because in these days many who boldly claim that they are prophets, are a reproach to the cause of Christ; and because my work includes much more than the word ‘prophet’ signifies. When this work was first given me, I begged the Lord to lay the burden on some one else. The work was so large and broad and deep that I feared I could not do it. But by His Holy Spirit the Lord has enabled me to perform the work which He gave me to do.” Spalding-Magan Collection, 481.

 

6. A LIGHT THAT SHINETH IN A DARK PLACE UNTIL THE DAY DAWN

  • What function does prophecy fulfil for God’s people in the darkness of this world? 2 Peter 1: 19, Revelation 1: 3

 

NOTE: “Brethren, to whom the truths of God’s Word have been opened, what part will you act in the closing scenes of this world’s history? Are you awake to these solemn realities? Do you realize the grand work of preparation that is going on in heaven and on earth? Let all who have received the light, who have had the opportunity of reading and hearing the prophecy, take heed to those things that are written therein; ‘for the time is at hand.’ Let none now tamper with sin, the source of every misery in our world. No longer remain in lethargy and stupid indifference. Let not the destiny of your soul hang upon an uncertainty. Know that you are fully on the Lord’s side. Let the inquiry go forth from sincere hearts and trembling lips, ‘Who shall be able to stand?’ Have you, in these last precious hours of probation, been putting the very best material into your character building? Have you been purifying your souls from every stain? Have you followed the light? Have you works corresponding to your profession of faith? Is the softening, subduing influence of the grace of God working upon you? Have you hearts that can feel, eyes that can see, ears that can hear? Is it in vain that the declaration of eternal truth has been made concerning the nations of the earth? They are under condemnation, preparing for the judgments of God; and in this day which is big with eternal results, the people chosen to be the depositories of momentous truth ought to be abiding in Christ. Are you letting your light shine to illumine the nations that are perishing in their sins? Do you realize that you are to stand in defense of God’s commandments before those who are treading them underfoot?” Testimonies Volume 6, 404, 405.

 

  • 12.When will prophecy be no longer needed? 1 Corinthians 13: 8 – 10

 

NOTE: “This text does foretell the cessation of spiritual gifts, also of faith and hope. But when were they to cease? We still look forward to the time when ‘hope shall change to glad fruition, faith to sight, and prayer to praise.’ They are to cease when that which is perfect is come, when we shall no longer see through a glass darkly, but face to face. The perfect day, when the just are made perfect and see as they are seen, is yet in the future. It is true that the Man of Sin, when arrived at manhood, had put away such ‘childish things’ as prophecies, tongues, and knowledge, and also the faith, hope and charity of the primitive Christians. But there is nothing in the text to show that God designed to take away the gifts which He had set in the church, till the consummation of her faith and hope, till the surpassing glory of the immortal state should eclipse the most brilliant displays of spiritual power and knowledge ever manifested in this mortal state.” Early Writings, 136. (Spiritual Gifts Volume One, Introduction by Roswell F. Cottrell.)

 

Bible Study Guide — Thy Word Is A Lamp Unto My Feet

February 13 —19

Memory Verse: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3: 15.

Study Help: Great Controversy, pages 518 – 523

Introduction: “When you search the Scriptures with an earnest desire to learn the truth, God will breathe His Spirit into your heart and impress your mind with the light of His Word. The Bible is its own interpreter, one passage explaining another. By comparing Scriptures referring to the same subjects, you will see beauty and harmony of which you have never dreamed. There is no other book whose perusal strengthens and enlarges, elevates and ennobles the mind, as does the perusal of this Book of books. Its study imparts new vigor to the mind, which is thus brought in contact with subjects requiring earnest thought, and is drawn out in prayer to God for power to comprehend the truths revealed.” Testimonies Volume 4, 499.

 

1. WISE UNTO SALVATION

  • What are the Scriptures able to do for the one who places his faith in Jesus Christ? 2 Timothy 3: 15

 

NOTE: “What other book will teach men to love, fear, and obey God as does the Bible? What other book presents to students more ennobling science, more wonderful history? It clearly portrays righteousness, and foretells the consequence of disloyalty to the law of Jehovah. No one is left in darkness as to that which God approves or disapproves. In studying the Scriptures we become acquainted with God, and are led to understand our relation to Christ, who is the sin-bearer, the surety, the substitute, for our fallen race. These truths concern our present and eternal interests. The Bible stands the highest among books, and its study is valuable above the study of other literature in giving strength and expansion to the mind.” Special Testimonies on Education, 18.

 

  • What aspect of God’s Word should especially occupy our minds? With what result? Psalm 1: 1 – 3; Psalm 119: 9 – 16

 

NOTE: ” ‘The prince of this world cometh,’ said Jesus, ‘and hath nothing in Me.” John 14: 30. There was in Him nothing that responded to Satan’s sophistry. He did not consent to sin. Not even by a thought did He yield to temptation. So it may be with us. Christ’s humanity was united with divinity; He was fitted for the conflict by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And He came to make us partakers of the divine nature. So long as we are united to Him by faith, sin has no more dominion over us. God reaches for the hand of faith in us to direct it to lay fast hold upon the divinity of Christ, that we may attain to perfection of character. And how this is accomplished, Christ has shown us. By what means did He overcome in the conflict with Satan? By the Word of God. Only by the Word could He resist temptation. ‘It is written,’ He said. . . . Every promise in God’s Word is ours. ‘By every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God’ are we to live. When assailed by temptation, look not to circumstances or to the weakness of self, but to the power of the Word. All its strength is yours. ‘Thy word,’ says the psalmist, ‘have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.’ ‘By the word of Thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.’ Ps. 119: 11; 17: 4.” Desire of Ages, 123.

 

2. HE WILL GUIDE YOU INTO ALL TRUTH

  • What precious promises may we claim as we study the Scriptures? John 14: 26, 16: 13

 

NOTE: See Testimonies Volume 5, 703.

 

  • What prayer of David’s should be ours whenever we study the Scriptures? Psalm 119: 18

 

NOTE: “Never should the Bible be studied without prayer. Before opening its pages, we should ask for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, and it will be given. When Nathanael came to Jesus, the Savior exclaimed, ‘Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.’ [John 1: 47.] Nathanael said, ‘Whence knowest Thou me?’ Jesus answered, ‘Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee.’ And Jesus will see us also in the secret places of prayer, if we will seek Him for light, that we may know what is truth. Angels from the world of light will be with those who in humility of heart seek for divine guidance.” Christian Education, 59.

 

3. AT THE END IT SHALL SPEAK

  • Which people will understand the Scriptures and which will not? Daniel 12: 9 – 10. How does the Bible define wisdom? Psalm 111: 10

 

NOTE: See Great Controversy, 132.

 

  • Against what misuse of the Scriptures did Peter warn? 2 Peter 3: 16

 

NOTE: “In order to sustain erroneous doctrines or unchristian practices, some will seize upon passages of Scripture separated from the context, perhaps quoting half of a single verse as proving their point, when the remaining portion would show the meaning to be quite the opposite. With the cunning of the serpent, they entrench themselves behind disconnected utterances construed to suit their carnal desires. Thus do many willfully pervert the Word of God. Others, who have an active imagination, seize upon the figures and symbols of Holy Writ, interpret them to suit their fancy, with little regard to the testimony of Scripture as its own interpreter, and then they present their vagaries as the teachings of the Bible. Whenever the study of the Scriptures is entered upon without a prayerful, humble, teachable spirit, the plainest and simplest as well as the most difficult passages will be wrested from their true meaning.” Great Controversy, 521.

 

4. BY EVERY WORD

  • How did Jesus describe the importance of His words? John 6: 63, last part

 

NOTE: “Though inestimable treasures are in the Bible, and it is like a mine full of precious ore, it is not valued, it is not searched, and its riches are not discovered. Mercy and truth and love are valuable beyond our power to calculate; we cannot have too great a supply of these treasures, and it is in the Word of God we find out how we may become possessors of these heavenly riches, and yet why is it that the word of God is uninteresting to many professed Christians? Is it because the Word of God is not spirit and is not life? Has Jesus put upon us an uninteresting task, when He commands us to ‘search the Scriptures’? John 5: 39. Jesus says, ‘The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.’ John 6: 63. But spiritual things are spiritually discerned, and the reason of your lack of interest is that you lack the Spirit of God. When the heart is brought into harmony with the Word, a new life will spring up within you, a new light will shine upon every line of the Word, and it will become the voice of God to your soul. In this way you will take celestial observations, and know whither you are going, and be able to make the most of your privileges today.” Christian Education, 80.

 

  • How did Jesus teach us to value the treasures of His Word? Matthew 13: 44

 

NOTE: “It is proper and right to read the Bible; but your duty does not end there; for you are to search its pages for yourselves. The knowledge of God is not to be gained without mental effort, without prayer for wisdom in order that you may separate from the pure grain of truth the chaff with which men and Satan have misrepresented the doctrines of truth. Satan and his confederacy of human agents have endeavored to mix the chaff of error with the wheat of truth. We should diligently search for the hidden treasure, and seek wisdom from heaven in order to separate human inventions from the divine commands. The Holy Spirit will aid the seeker for great and precious truths which relate to the plan of redemption. I would impress upon all the fact that a casual reading of the Scriptures is not enough. We must search, and this means the doing of all the word implies. As the miner eagerly explores the earth to discover its veins of gold, so you are to explore the word of God for the hidden treasure that Satan has so long sought to hide from man.” Review and Herald, September 11, 1894.

 

5. COMPARING SPIRITUAL THINGS WITH SPIRITUAL

  • What principle of discovering the meaning of the Scriptures is given us in the Word? Isaiah 28: 9 – 10

 

NOTE: “Perilous times are before us. Everyone who has a knowledge of the truth should awake and place himself, body, soul, and spirit, under the discipline of God. The enemy is on our track. We must be wide-awake, on our guard against him. We must put on the whole armor of God. We must follow the directions given through the spirit of prophecy. We must love and obey the truth for this time. This will save us from accepting strong delusions. God has spoken to us through His word. He has spoken to us through the testimonies to the church and through the books that have helped to make plain our present duty and the position that we should now occupy. The warnings that have been given, line upon line, precept upon precept, should be heeded. If we disregard them, what excuse can we offer?” Testimonies Volume 8, 298.

 

  • What important principle does Paul give for those seeking to understand spiritual things? 1 Corinthians 2: 13 – 14

 

NOTE: “We should not take the testimony of any man as to what the Scriptures teach, but should study the Word of God ourselves. If we allow others to do our thinking, we shall have crippled energies and contracted abilities. The noble powers of the mind may be so dwarfed by lack of exercise on themes worthy of their concentration as to lose their ability to grasp the deep meaning of the Word of God. The mind will enlarge if it is employed in tracing out the subjects of the Bible, comparing scripture with scripture, and spiritual things with spiritual. There is nothing more calculated to strengthen the intellect than the study of the Scriptures. No other book is so potent to elevate the thoughts, to give vigor to the faculties, as the broad, ennobling truths of the Bible. If God’s Word were studied as it should be, men would have a breadth of mind, a nobility of character, and a stability of purpose that is rarely seen in these times. But there is but little benefit derived from a hasty reading of the Scriptures. One may read the whole Bible through, and yet fail to see its beauty or comprehend its deep and hidden meaning. One passage studied until its significance is clear to the mind, and its relation to the plan of salvation is evident, is of more value than the perusal of many chapters with no definite purpose in view and no positive instruction gained. Keep your Bible with you. As you have opportunity, read it; fix the texts in your memory.” Christian Education, 58.

 

6. SEEK AND YE SHALL FIND

  • What promise is given to those who diligently search for truth? Matthew 7: 7, Proverbs 8: 17

 

NOTE: “Our heavenly Father has a pure and inexhaustible fountain of knowledge from which we may draw, and there is no limit to His gifts to those who earnestly seek for truth. The capacities of those who add to their faith virtue will be enlarged to receive still greater virtues. There are undeveloped faculties lying dormant that will spring into life and activity when the human is united with the divine. Those who make the most of that which God has given them in this life will find their powers developed to as much greater degree in the future life as they have by wise improvement increased them in this life.” Sabbath School Worker, July 1, 1889.

 

  • What condition is needed if we are to understand the Bible’s teachings? John 7: 17

 

NOTE: “Satan can present a counterfeit so closely resembling the truth that it deceives those who are willing to be deceived, who desire to shun the self-denial and sacrifice demanded by the truth; but it is impossible for him to hold under his power one soul who honestly desires, at whatever cost, to know the truth. Christ is the Truth and the “Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” John 1: 9. The Spirit of truth has been sent to guide men into all truth. And upon the authority of the Son of God it is declared: ‘Seek, and ye shall find.’ ‘If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.’ Matthew 7: 7; John 7: 17.” Great Controversy, 528.

 

  • How will this obedience to God’s will be manifested? John 14: 15, 1 John 2: 3 – 5, 4: 20, 5: 2 –3

 

NOTE: See Acts of the Apostles, 562 –56 3.

 

Bible Study Guide — The Lord Our God Spake Unto Us

February 6 — 12

General Introduction

I dreamed that the Spirit of the Lord came upon me, and I arose amid cries and prayers, and said: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me. I feel urged to say to you that you must commence to work individually for yourselves. You are looking to God and desiring Him to do the work for you which He has left for you to do. If you will do the work for yourselves which you know that you ought to do, then God will help you when you need help. You have left undone the very things which God has left for you to do. You have been calling upon God to do your work. Had you followed the light which He has given you, then He would cause more light to shine upon you; but while you neglect the counsels, warnings, and reproofs that have been given, how can you expect God to give you more light and blessings to neglect and despise? God is not as man; He will not be trifled with.

I took the precious Bible and surrounded it with the several Testimonies for the Church, given for the people of God. Here, said I, the cases of nearly all are met. The sins they are to shun are pointed out. The counsel that they desire can be found here, given for other cases situated similarly to themselves. God has been pleased to give you line upon line and precept upon precept. But there are not many of you that really know what is contained in the Testimonies. You are not familiar with the Scriptures. If you had made God’s word your study, with a desire to reach the Bible standard and attain to Christian perfection, you would not have needed the Testimonies. It is because you have neglected to acquaint yourselves with God’s inspired Book that He has sought to reach you by simple, direct testimonies, calling your attention to the words of inspiration which you had neglected to obey, and urging you to fashion your lives in accordance with its pure and elevated teachings.

The Lord designs to warn you, to reprove, to counsel, through the testimonies given, and to impress your minds with the importance of the truth of His word. The written testimonies are not to give new light, but to impress vividly upon the heart the truths of inspiration already revealed. Man’s duty to God and to his fellow man has been distinctly specified in God’s Word; yet but few of you are obedient to the light given. Additional truth is not brought out; but God has through the Testimonies simplified the great truths already given and in His own chosen way brought them before the people to awaken and impress the mind with them, that all may be left without excuse.

Pride, self-love, selfishness, hatred, envy, and jealousy have beclouded the perceptive powers, and the truth, which would make you wise unto salvation, has lost its power to charm and control the mind. The very essential principles of godliness are not understood because there is not a hungering and thirsting for Bible knowledge, purity of heart, and holiness of life. The Testimonies are not to belittle the Word of God, but to exalt it and attract minds to it, that the beautiful simplicity of truth may impress all.

I said further: As the Word of God is walled in with these books and pamphlets, so has God walled you in with reproofs, counsel, warnings, and encouragements. Here you are crying before God, in the anguish of your souls, for more light. I am authorized from God to tell you that not another ray of light through the Testimonies will shine upon your pathway until you make a practical use of the light already given. The Lord has walled you about with light; but you have not appreciated the light; you have trampled upon it. While some have despised the light, others have neglected it, or followed it but indifferently. A few have set their hearts to obey the light which God has been pleased to give them.

Some that have received special warnings through testimony have forgotten in a few weeks the reproof given. The Testimonies to some have been several times repeated, but they have not thought them of sufficient importance to be carefully heeded. They have been to them like idle tales. Had they regarded the light given they would have avoided losses and trials which they think are hard and severe. They have only themselves to censure. They have placed upon their own necks a yoke which they find grievous to be borne. It is not the yoke which Christ has bound upon them. God’s care and love were exercised in their behalf; but their selfish, evil, unbelieving souls could not discern His goodness and mercy. They rush on in their own wisdom until, overwhelmed with trials and confused with perplexity, they are ensnared by Satan. When you gather up the rays of light which God has given in the past, then will He give an increase of light. Testimonies, Volume 2, pages 604 – 606.

Memory Verse: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Revelation 22: 18 –19.

Introduction: During the last several decades there has been a proliferation of new English translations and paraphrases of the Bible. In Ellen White’s day, this work was already beginning. The English Revised Version appeared in 1885 and the American Standard Version followed in 1901. Neither gained any great popularity among Christians. Ellen White’s son, William, wrote: “When the first version [the English Revised Version] was published, I purchased a good copy for Mother. She referred to it occasionally but never used it in preaching. Later on as manuscripts were being prepared for new books and for revised editions of books already in print, Sister White’s attention was called from time to time by myself and Sister Marion Davis to the fact that she was using texts which were much more clearly translated in the RV. Sister White studied each one carefully and in some cases instructed us to use the RV.” Problems in Translation, page 72.

 

1. THE LANGUAGES AND TRANSLATION OF THE BIBLE.

  • In which languages was the Bible originally written?

 

The greater part of the Old Testament is written in Hebrew. A few passages were written in Aramaic, especially several passages in Ezra and Daniel. Though Aramaic appears to have been the language of Jesus and the people of Judea and Galilee, the New Testament books are written in the common colloquial [koine] Greek spoken throughout the Roman empire. This dialect was, until recently, only known in the New Testament writings. Since the 1880s, however, large numbers of letters and other ordinary documents from the time of Christ, written in this form of Greek, have been discovered.

 

  • Into which languages was the Bible first translated?

 

After the captivity in Babylon, Aramaic became increasingly the language of the general population. In Nehemiah 8: 1 – 8, when Ezra read the book of the law aloud, it would appear from verse 8, that the book had to be translated so that the people unable to speak Hebrew could understand. In the third and second centuries BC, the Alexandrian Jews made a translation of the Old Testament into Greek. This translation became known as the Septuagint, from the tradition that it was produced by seventy-two elders. This was the Bible in popular use in New Testament times and the Old Testament quotations by the New Testament writers are often taken from this version.

 

  • What evidence do we have that the Old Testament Scriptures have been accurately preserved?

 

Until the last fifty years, the oldest Hebrew manuscripts available were no more than 1000 years old. (This was because of the custom of making new copies of old manuscripts that were dilapidated through use and then destroying the old manuscripts by burning.) Sceptical scholars argued that it was unlikely that the surviving manuscripts represented a reliable version of the Old Testament Scriptures, since they dated 1400 years after the final old Testament books were written. The discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947, a number of which were Bible books or commentaries on Old Testament passages, written no later than the second century A.D.(see SDA Bible Commentary, Volume 8, 786), revealed that most differences were of such a minor nature as not even to show up in translation. (e.g. spelling variations) It is clear that the scribes who copied the Old Testament Scriptures were meticulous in their work, even counting the number of individual letters to ensure accuracy. Imperfect copies were destroyed as a matter of course.

 

2. THE EARLIEST ENGLISH BIBLES

  • When was the Bible first translated into English?

 

Parts of the Bible, including the gospels and psalms, were translated into Old English over 1000 years ago. But, as Roman Christianity became dominant and knowledge of the Bible was discouraged, no complete translation of the Bible into English was made until the time of Wycliffe in the 14th century. “Wycliffe’s Bible had been translated from the Latin text [the Vulgate of Jerome], which contained many errors. It had never been printed, and the cost of manuscript copies was so great that few but wealthy men or nobles could procure it; and, furthermore, being strictly proscribed by the church, it had had a comparatively narrow circulation.” Great Controversy, 245. “The Waldenses were among the first of the peoples of Europe to obtain a translation of the Holy Scriptures. Hundreds of years before the Reformation they possessed the Bible in manuscript in their native tongue. They had the truth unadulterated, and this rendered them the special objects of hatred and persecution.” Great Controversy, 65. But this Waldensian Bible had never been translated into English.

  • When did the English people first receive an accurate translation of the Scriptures?

See Great Controversy, 245.

 

3.THE KING JAMES BIBLE AND ITS ORIGINS

  • How was the King James Bible produced?

 

Several English Bible translations or revisions were made after Tyndale’s translation. Examples of these are the “Great Bible,” the “Bishop’s Bible,” and the “Geneva Bible.” Notes in the margins of these Bibles explain who the antichrist was, etc. During this time countries were ruled by kings who believed in the “divine right” of the kings. King James wanted to eliminate Bibles containing explanatory notes. To do this he had a new translation made which he called the The Authorized Version. It was his purpose to prohibit all other versions from being read in church. Just as Constantine did in the fourth century so King James in the seventeenth century attempted to bring a forced uniformity into religion. But in spite of these motives the Lord overruled it for ood—at this time the English language had reached a high point of development. The King James Bible has exercised a profound effect on the English language and culture ever since. Much of the language of the King James Bible is actually a revision of Tyndale’s translation. The King James Version of the Bible, published in 1611, was translated by 47 of the most learned men in the land. They were divided into six companies and a portion was assigned to each group. Everyone in each company translated the whole portion before they met to compare their results and agree upon the final form. They then transmitted their draft to each of the other companies for their comment and consent. A select committee then went carefully through the whole work again, and at last, two of the members were responsible for the final checking. Advocates of modern versions often assume that they are the product of scholarship far superior to that of the translators of the King James Version of 1611, but this assumption is not supported by the facts. The learned men who laboured on the King James Version of the Bible were men of exceptional ability and they approached the task with a reverent regard for the Divine inspiration, authority and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures. To them it was “God’s sacred Truth” and demanded the exercise of their utmost care and fidelity in its translation.

 

  • Is the translation of the King James Bible inspired?

 

“Some…have been so bold as to assert that the King James Version of the Scripture is a divinely inspired translation. Such a claim must be doubtful. Every evidence we have indicates that, though the King James Version is an excellent translation, it is not a perfect translation, which presumably is what an inspired translation would be. Yet we do not doubt the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the work of these translators.” Modern Bible Translations Unmasked, Standish and Standish, 24.

 

3. THE WORK OF REVISION

  • Why was it felt necessary to revise the King James Version?

 

The King James Version was periodically revised during the 17th and 18th centuries to modernize the spelling, and correct misprints. This work of periodic updating appears to have ceased in 1769. In 1870 a committee was appointed to again consider the passages of the King James Bible that required amendment.

 

  • What men were involved in this revision?

 

The leading influences in the work of revision were two Cambridge professors, Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Hort. These two men had produced a radically different Greek version of the New Testament, based on two recently published manuscripts which showed marked variations from the vast majority of existing Greek manuscripts and differed even more widely from each other. One, Codex Vaticanus, had been known at the time of the translation of the King James Bible but had been rejected as worthless. The other, Codex Sinaiaticus, had been retrieved from the rubbish bin at St Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt by a visiting German scholar. This second manuscript had also long been recognized as worthless, since the incomplete manuscript, now in the British Museum, contains 14,800 corrections by nine separate early correctors in its 389.5 pages or approximately 38 corrections per page! These two manuscripts resemble the discredited Latin Vulgate version, which was the standard text of the Catholic Church. Westcott and Hort were concerned to promote their new version of the New Testament. While the Revisers made few significant changes to the Old Testament, the New Testament was extensively altered. Westcott and Hort’s new version of the Greek New Testament forms the basis of nearly every modern version.

 

  • Were Westcott and Hort Protestant Reformers?

 

Both were followers of the “Higher Criticism” and were skeptical about much Christian doctrine, including the atonement and the authority of the Bible. Westcott denied the historicity of the opening chapters of Genesis. Hort was a believer in Darwinism and both men were devotees of Mary. They were Anglo-Catholics, believing that Protestantism was ‘only parenthetical and temporary.’ They both were deeply involved in the occult from nearly thirty years before the Revision was published. In 1851 they founded the “Ghostly Guild” [now known as the Society for Psychical Research], the year Westcott was ordained as an Anglican priest. In the following year, Westcott spoke of being ‘most anxious to replace’ the traditional Greek text of the New Testament. Both expressed a deep hatred for the Received Text of the New Testament.

 

5. TWO TYPES OF PROBLEMS

  • 11.What kinds of problems arise from the use of Bible versions based on the work of Westcott and Hort?

 

In setting aside the testimony of more than 5000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament and accepting as authoritative the Vaticanus and Sinaiaticus manuscripts, the modern versions present a significantly different New Testament. It has been estimated that 36,000 changes were made in the Revised Version. The most common and noticeable of the changes in versions based on these two corrupt manuscripts are passages, verses, phrases and words omitted or questioned. These may be omitted entirely or attract footnotes seriously questioning their authenticity. Examples of passages thus treated include: Mark 16: 9 – 20 and John 7: 53 – 8: 11. Examples of verses omitted or questioned include: Matthew 17: 21, 18: 11, 21: 44, 23: 14, Mark 7: 16, 9: 44 and 46, 11: 26, 15: 28, Luke 17: 36, 22: 43 – 44, 23; 17, 23: 34, 24; 12 and 40, John 5: 4, Acts 8: 37, 15: 34, 24: 6 –8, 28: 29, Romans 16: 24.

 

  • What further problem has arisen since the appearance of the Revised Version?

 

“The King James translators were committed to producing an English Bible that would be a precise translation and by no means a paraphrase or a broadly approximate rendering. On the one hand, the scholars were almost as familiar with the original languages of the Bible as with their native English. On the other hand, their reverence for the divine Author and His Word assured a translation of the Scriptures in which only a principle of utmost accuracy could be accepted.” New King James Bible, Preface. Perhaps the greatest problem with modern versions is their extreme laxity in rendering faithfully the sense of even their own Greek original. The King James translators, when supplying words required by the sense, placed such words in italics. Such scruples are notably absent from most more recent versions. Their translation principle, called “Dynamic Equivalence,” does not require a faithful rendering of the original words but an attempt to convey what the translator thinks the writer meant.

 

6. SPECIFIC PROBLEMS

  • Do these changes make any difference to the teaching of the Bible?

 

Those who have attempted to use modern versions to teach the 70 weeks of Daniel 9 have found it impossible. Versions like the NIV, the Living Bible, the New English Bible, the Revised Standard Version and the Good News have the Messiah appearing only 7 prophetic weeks into the prophecy and then being killed 62 prophetic weeks later. Several of these versions, which were written by those believing in the appearance of the antichrist after the secret rapture, transfer the work of Christ in Daniel 9: 27 to the antichrist! They fail to distinguish between the work of the Messiah and the destruction wrought by the Romans, “the people of the prince that shall come.” It has not proved possible for these people to provide a sound historical fulfillment of these alternative versions of the prophecy and they tend instead to cast doubt on the accuracy of the prophecy itself! It is not without significance that the RSV, NIV, Good News et al. omit the reference to Daniel the prophet in Mark 13: 14, where Christ applies this prophecy to the destruction of Jerusalem. The diligent reader will discover similar tampering with the longer time prophecy of Daniel 8: 14, of which the 70 weeks is a part.

 

  • How are Bible teachings affected by the readings of modern Bible versions?

 

The inferior Egyptian manustripts (Sinaiaticus and Vaticanus) as explained already contain significant omissions and varient readings from the vast majority of extant Greek manuscripts of the New Testement. It was argued that these Egyptian manuscripts were older but as Professor Hodges (one of the leading New Testament scholars today) has pointed out, “The text which results from dependence on such manuscripts as these may fairly be described as Egyptian . . . . In contrast to this kind of text stands the form of text found in the vast majority of remaining documents. This text is recognizably different from the Egyptian Text and has been appropriately designated the Majority Text. It is true that the documents that contain it are on the whole substantially later than the earliest Egyptian witnesses. But this is hardly surpising. Egypt almost alone, offers climactic conditions highly favorable to the preservation of very ancient manuscripts. On the other hand, the witnesses to the majority text come from all over the ancient world. Their very number suggests that they represent a long and wide-spread chain of manuscript tradition. It is necessary therefore to postulate that the surviving documents are decended from non-extant ancestral documents of the highest antiquity. These must have been in their own time as old or older than the surviving witnesses from Egypt.

“It follows from this that the majority text deserves the attention of the Christian world. When all the issues are properly weighed it has a higher claim to represent the original text than does the Egyptian type. The latter is probably a local text which never had any significant currency except in that part of the ancient world. By contrast the majority of manuscripts were widely diffused and their ancestral roots must reach back to the autographs themselves.” Introduction to the Greek New Testement According to the Majority Text, Second Edition.

Versions which are translated from the Egyptian text can actually cast doubt on the divinity of Christ—one of the most central doctrines of the Christian faith. For example, in the Egyptian Text the word “God” is left out in 1Timothy 3:16, which is one of the plainest texts In the New Testement testifying to the divinity of Christ. In addition, obedience to the Commandments being a requirement to enter the Holy City is changed to simply being “forgiven” in the Egyptian Text. See Revelation 22:14. So the faulty Egyptian manuscripts are the cause of faulty teachings appearing in translations coming from them. But there is a second type of problem that is much more serious than this. This is the manipulation of the translation so that the Bible can be used to teach doctrines contrary to what the writer wrote. An example of this is when some modern translations change the phrase in Daniel 7:25 which indicates that the antichrist will think to change times and laws and make it read that the antichrist power will simply change the time of the feast days. This is a total prevarication and prostitution of the Hebrew Text.

 

  • What is Satan’s unceasing attitude to God’s Word?

 

See Early Writings, page 214.

 

Endnote: “Now that Satan can no longer keep the world under his control by withholding the Scriptures, he resorts to other means to accomplish the same object. To destroy faith in the Bible serves his purpose as well as to destroy the Bible itself.” Great Controversy, 586. Satan’s hatred of the Bible is no less than it ever was. The fact that he has changed his tactics to destroy God’s Word should not blind God’s people. Since man is to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, Christians should be careful to ensure that those words are not being tampered with or corrupted by those who, “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof,” “received not the love of the truth that they might be saved.” Not all Bibles are equal in value and the diligent lover of truth will seek to ensure that his Bible is the uncorrupted Word of God. The New Testament portion of the King James Version, we know today, was translated from a superior Greek text (a Byzantine text). And most modern translations are translated from the inferior Egyptian manuscripts. Versions available today in which the New Testament is translated from the Received Text include: the King James Version, the King James II Version, and the New King James Version.

 

Children’s Story — Can & Could

“It’ll be moonlight tonight,” said a schoolboy; “won’t you join our skating party?”

“No,” replied Can; “you know there wasn’t a boy in my class that had his arithmetic lesson today, and the teacher gave it to us again. I can master it, and I will. That lesson must not beat me twice. I mean to make sure of it, so you’ll have to excuse me from joining your party.”

“Shall I not help you?” asked his elder sister.

“Let me try it first,” replied Can; “I feel like going at it with a will; for I’ve heard that ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ ” He did not stop until every example was worked out.

“If I only could learn this horrid lesson!” exclaimed his classmate, Could, made a few random figures on his slate, and then began to draw dog’s heads.

“Is that the way you study your lesson? ” asked his mother reprovingly.

“If I only could get it,” replied the boy, fretfully, “I should be glad to work at it with all my might, but it’s too hard and dry for anybody.”

“Surely you could learn some of it, if you would only try,” said his mother, and as this could not be gainsaid, Could looked at his book again. But the next moment he jumped from his chair, and ran to the window.

“Oh, this splendid moonlight!” he exclaimed. “It’s really too bad to lose that skating. I think I’ll go.”

“But your lessons are not prepared,” said his mother.

“I know that.” Answered Could; “but when I come back, there will be time enough for them.”

Off he went, and the next day, in the class, he drawled: “I would have learned the lesson if I could.

Can and Could both had to drive cows to pasture and to hoe in the garden. Can’s cows were regularly cropping grass on the hillside long before Could was out of bed. Can easily kept ahead of the weeds by hoeing before they got much start. Could waited until there was “some real need of hoeing, to keep the weeds down,” but the weeds had such a start then that they soon got ahead of him, and ahead of the crops, too, which were hardly worth gathering, although Can’s garden yielded bountifully.

“If I could have had such a garden as that,” said Could, “I should have been glad to hoe up every weed; but my garden was so poor that it didn’t make much difference whether I hoed or not.”

“If I could only be a great man, how much I would do to reform men!” exclaimed Could. Sometime I mean to do something on a large scale in this world.”

Can was never heard to express such noble sentiments; but he attended diligently to business, and, as he prospered, employed many men at fair wages, thus enabling them to support their families in comfort.

Can, by diligence and economy, became prosperous and happy; Could, by indolence and procrastination, became discontented and unhappy. Will you be Can or Could?

Taken from The Youth’s Instructor, April 27, 1899