God’s people are undergoing an unprecedented spiritual shakeup. What lesson should we learn from this crisis? We reap what we sow. We have sown to the flesh, and of the flesh reap corruption. Wherein have we sown to the flesh? In placing the wisdom of man above the wisdom of God.
One danger every student of the Bible faces is the subtle trend among modern theologians to climb on the critic’s perch and pose as an authority on spiritual things. But Jesus asks the man who is accustomed to be respected as a teacher of His people: “Art thou a master of Israel and knowest not these things?” In his first encounter with Christ, Nicodemus could not readily set aside his self-esteem and critical attitude. He challenged the truthfulness of Christ’s statement on the new birth: “How can these things be?” These words of a proud scholar epitomize the thinking of modernist theologians. They sit on the judgment seat to pick flaws in God’s word and propound their own theories as something superior. They virtually say to God, “We know more than You do.”
What is True Scholarship?
As we associate with the learned men of the world and become impressed with their learning, we may fall easy captives to the sophistries of science falsely so-called. It is fashionable and respectable to take a critical attitude and to assume the airs of a wise man. And there are always people who will admire such men, encourage them in their conceit, and contribute to their popularity.
Under such flattering influences one gradually feels self-important, and thinks he deserves the deference and respect of his brethren. He gets into the habit of indulging in worldly chatter and empty philosophizing, and disdain simply to repeat what others have been teaching. He would make a name for himself by doing some “creative” thinking and shed “new light” on God’s Word. He must be original to deserve an academic award.
God indeed expects all to develop the creative powers He has given them, but only to build up, not to tear down. We indebted to those true scholars who have done real, solid research work to verify historical facts and to find scientific evidence to fortify the positions of our faith, which would otherwise suffer under the attacks of our enemies. In this age of advancing knowledge it behooves every one of us to keep abreast of all scientific research and to be ready to meet the questions of the sincere inquirer, as well as those of less sincere opponents. Thus every gospel worker must respond to the urgent need to acquire more knowledge as a sophisticated world makes increasing demands upon him. But he must never lose sight of the fact that he is a man of God, and that he is acquiring knowledge for the purpose of witnessing for the truth—not to idolize himself.
Worldy Honor Versus Divine Approval
It is a deplorable fact, however, that some of our scholars have forgotten their indebtedness to Christ, and try to win popularity by criticizing and repudiating vital passages of Scripture, thus destroying the foundations of our faith. What is the underlying motive? It is found in the words, “Men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself.” Psalm 49:18. It is the spirit of the world. A law of the unconverted heart is to love worldly honor and be ready to give it to others. Jesus summed it up in the words: “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” “I seek not mine own glory, there is one that seeketh and judgeth . . . If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: It is my Father that honoureth me.” John 5:43-44; 8:50, 54.
Here our Lord contrasts worldly recognition with divine approval. For God works on a principle opposed to the spirit of the world. He says, “Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Luke 14:11. Christ gave us an example of true humility. It consists not merely in modest, self-effacing manners. For sometimes a humble demeanor, courteous worlds, and a generous attitude can be a cloak for the most obstinate form of spiritual pride. True meekness is manifest in unswerving devotion to God’s will, and fidelity in communicating His word—keeping himself in the background and God’s message in front.
Spokesman for God
The crux lies in the content of the message. Every preacher moved by spiritual pride strives to assert his ego. He must present something original to make a name for himself. Now hear what the Son of God has to say: “He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.” “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.” John 7:18; 8:28. “I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me; he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.” John 12:49-50. In these words Christ was giving full proof of His Messiahship. His work was a precise fulfillment of God’s promise: “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren… and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him.” Deuteronomy 18:18.
Such a task appears slavish to the man who believes in asserting his individuality. It would seem that Christ had relinquished His personal identity to become nothing more than a public address system—an unthinking automaton with no ideas of his own. Is that so? No, definitely not! Here Christ is teaching us the only effective way to develop our God-given potentialities to the utmost. Man was made after the divine similitude, and it is only when he is fully integrated with, and absorbed in, the Word of God that he can attain to the full stature of a son of God. When we, like Jesus, are determined to LET GOD SPEAK through us, we become fully aligned with the mind of God, and His word flows through us unhindered, and thus Christ’s saying will come true: “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” John 7:38.
The true servant of God yearns for the honor of bearing His message to the world. It was this motive which prompted Christ wholly to submerge His individuality and say, I don’t have a word of My own—every word I speak is transmitted to you from My Father. Christ propounded no new theory, invented no new “ism,” established no new philosophy. He came simply to be God’s spokesman. And that is why God has given Him a name which is above every name.
Can we follow Christ here? Absolutely! In fact it was for us He set this example, to show us how to be a perfect servant. He wants us to know the supreme joy of serving God, so that we will pray, “Father, grant us the privilege of bearing Thy word for Thee.” This joy in itself will be our exceeding great reward—a privilege which the angels enjoy—yea, which the Son of God enjoys. Father, deny us not this request.
Such a petition God cannot refuse. For in it He hears the voice of His only begotten Son, who once said to His disciples, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:24.
The Son of man, who was equal with God, purposed to eradicate His own will that the word of God might be exalted and His law magnified. Who are we, that we should assert ourselves to gain man’s recognition at God’s expense? And why should we disdain to be a mere public-address system if it is in God’s service? Isaiah was even proud to be a “polished shaft” in the quiver of the Lord (Isaiah 49:2), and we should covet the same honor. As we eliminate every trace of self from our work and offer ourselves as clear channels through which God can communicate to His people, we shall witness a true revival of primitive godliness among us, and God’s message will work wonders far and near.
Let God Speak to His People
Every minister possessing this spirit of Jesus is fitted to speak to God’s people in His name. Before entering the pulpit, he waits patiently in God’s presence to receive His blessing and instruction. In his preaching he will not flounder for want of something to say, nor will he feel he is there to entertain his congregation. Pity the poor preacher who must intersperse his sermons with silly witticisms to hold his audience, like a food vendor dashing on spices to cover up the smell of stale meat.
Humorous sermons in the pulpit, laughter in the congregation/neutralize all spiritual gains and bring on a lukewarm condition. Whimsical words, the idle joke, facetious remarks, cheap anecdotes make worldlings laugh, angels to weep/spoil our worship by striking the wrong note.
Sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu put their incense on common fire. Pity the man who came to banquet smugly clothed in common attire. When you stand to speak in God’s name, and His people are waiting to hear, know that holy watchers are present—choose your words in trembling and fear.
A noticeable trend among us has been the one-sided emphasis on justification to the neglect of sanctification. Coming to Christ for forgiveness is made the sum total of the message of Christ our righteousness. All people want, it appears, is His imputed and not His imparted righteousness. Why? Because, some say, it is not possible to be holy. By this answer they imply that God is expecting too much of us by saying, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” Some even shy away from the words, “Follow . . . holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14. They do not realize that the Lord justifies the penitent for the express purpose of sanctifying him. When probation closes, God will pronounce these solemn words:
He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. Revelation 22:11.
The saved are righteous, and also holy. For an unjust penitent to be changed into a righteous man takes but a moment—God imputes to him the righteousness of Christ. Then begins the lifelong process of restoring God’s holy image in the repentant soul—“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Only thus can Christ our righteousness become a living reality and not an empty slogan. Sanctification through faith in Christ is God’s central message to the world today.
The restoration of God’s holy memorial—the seventh day Sabbath—stresses sanctification.
The ministry of our Lord is the Holy of Holies—stresses sanctification.
The Laodicean message as amplified in the Testimonies—stresses sanctification.
When we really LET GOD SPEAK, He says, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3.
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God. Hebrews 6:1.
Some try to make justification by faith the sum total of the third angel’s message. They quote this passage: “The message of Christ’s righteousness is to sound from one end of the earth to the other to prepare the way of the Lord. This is the glory of God, which closes the work of the third angel.” Testimonies for the church, vol. 6, 19. But what is the specific content of “the message of Christ’s righteousness?” Is it what the popular revivalists preach—“Only believe, and you are saved?” No. Read immediate context of this quotation:
The law of God is to be magnified; its claims must be presented in their true, sacred character that the people may be brought to decide for or against the truth. Ibid.
All who attempt to set up righteousness by faith in opposition to the law of God, or as a substitute for keeping it, are making a grave mistake.
Why do some people willingly accept God’s forgiving grace but not His sanctifying power? Because they want to go on sinning and be saved in their sins. They want God to give them a free ticket to heaven in spite of their incapacity to enjoy it. Thus they accept Christ as a good—luck charm that will guarantee their security irrespective of their moral condition. They do not really hate sin; so they cannot truly repent, and are far from being justified, let alone being sanctified.
Christ’s victory over death was the result of an uninterrupted series of victories over sin in His life on earth. As He approached the last struggle with the prince of this world, He could say in triumph, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” John 14:30. So must it be with us. Christ has made full provision for us to live as He lived, fight as He fought, and win as He won. Would you know how anxious He is that we win as He won? He has made repeated promises to the overcomer.
Promises to the overcomer bespeak Jesus’ dearest affection, telling us that He loves us truly, and works for our thorough conversation. All who overcome temptation, and in His name take pride, have a place in New Jerusalem, and are counted as His bride.
He owns them before the Father; they shall walk with Him in white, He will not blot out their names from the recorded Book of Life. On their stone is a new name written; they shan’t be hurt by the second death. They may eat of the hidden manna, and have access to the tree of life.
He makes them a pillar in God’s house, writes them His Father’s name, and whithersoever the Lamb goes, they shall follow in His train. As in Christ God gave His all, so Christ withholds no good from His own, no honor is too great for His bride—He gives her a place on His throne.
The Everlasting Gospel
Wherein does our teaching on “Christ our righteousness” differ from the gospel presented by the popular churches of our day? The difference lies primarily in the Sabbath truth. Ever since the law of God was proclaimed in its fullness—since 1844—the Seventh-day Adventist Church has been God’s sole agency on earth qualified to present a full and complete gospel. In Revelation 14 it is called “the everlasting gospel,” because only a full and complete gospel can be everlasting.
Is this an empty boast? No, we feel our weakness and inadequacy keenly, and dare make no rash assertions; but the truth remains, that whoever rejects the Sabbath cannot truly accept the Lord of the Sabbath, for that is Christ’s mark of identification. He says to the last of the seven churches, “I am the beginning of the creation of God.”
Today, as multitudes are assenting to the evolutionary origin of man, Christ appears before them as their Creator—the Lord of the Sabbath. Will you accept Christ? If so, you must accept His Sabbath. If you reject the Sabbath, you thereby reject its Lord and His righteousness. This equation is not of our inventing. Christ identifies Himself with the day He has sanctified, and to us He assigns the task of proclaiming this everlasting gospel: “Fear God, and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgement is come, and worship him that made heaven, and hearth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” Revelation 14:7.
Any gospel that preaches only Christ our Saviour but omits Christ our creator is a denatured gospel. Its proponents virtually say to Christ: We love You and Your teachings—You are wonderful! But—Your Sabbath—we don’t want it. So they are obliged to preach Christ as detached from, and in opposition to, His Sabbath, thus distorting, yea, even counterfeiting His divine image. Hence their Christ is no longer what God’s Word presents Him to be, but what they would prefer Him to be. In other words, they don’t really know Christ, and in the end He will say to them, “I know you not.”
But, some will argue, Paul “determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” God is proclaiming the everlasting gospel today precisely because the world has crucified their Creator and His Sabbath. Peter once said to the Jews, “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Acts 2:36. Today we say to the world, “God has made the Sabbath, which you have trampled, His sign of sanctification.” It is the divine purpose in this time of the end to resurrect the downtrodden Sabbath and make it the seal of perfection on the foreheads of all true servants of God.
Some Adventists who are impressed with the “dynamic” preaching of “dynamic” preachers of other churches wonder if we may not be too much concerned over “side issues,” if we shouldn’t drop these “minor points” and get back into the “mainstream” of modern Christianity. This attitude is typical of Adventists who have lost their vision of our historic task and the substance of the everlasting gospel.
The everlasting gospel is the gospel of Him who is the beginning and the end. It begins with the Creation, ends with the Judgement, These are not minor, but principal issues and all who proclaim the everlasting gospel are in God’s mainstream.
Seventh-day Adventists are uniquely qualified to present a perfect image of Christ: Christ our Creator, the Lord of the Sabbath; Christ the Lamb of God slain as our substitute; and Christ our High Priest serving in the Holy of Holies. Our gospel is everlasting, embracing the past, the present, and the future, and freighted with gripping realities of the coming showdown between Christ and Satan.
LET GOD SPEAK to his people through His Sabbath. “It is a sign between me and you throughout your generations that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.” Exodus 31:13
LET GOD SPEAK to His people from His sanctuary. “Ye shall afflict your souls… For on the day shall the priest make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.” Leviticus 16:29, 30.
LET GOD SPEAK to His people in the Testimonies. All the talk about verbal and thought inspiration is enough. We need to take the books down from the shelf, blow the dust off and read carefully to hear Him say, “those who have clean hands and pure hearts shall be able to stand; My grace is sufficient for you.” Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 60.
God's Will is Heard
The issue is clear enough. Satan’s studied effort is to stifle God’s voice. He has launched a three-pronged offensive against the investigative judgement, the Sabbath reform, and the gift of prophecy. And he seems to be having some success. His attack on our doctrine of the 2300 days is coordinated with a campaign to hush all talk on sanctification and perfection; he has convinced some of our scientists that the creationist positions are no longer tenable; then he tries to probe that Ellen White was a plagiarist.
In the face of the devil’s rabid attacks, the forces of truth must not falter. We must unite under the bloodstained banner of Prince Immanuel and push the battle to hell’s gates. We must let God’s voice shatter the conspiracy of silence on sanctification and say to His people:
Be Holy, for I am Holy
In the face of forbidding circumstances we will take courage. Remember Jesus in Pilate’s judgment hall. Judas has betrayed Him. Peter had denied Him, and other disciples had fled in cowardice. The mob was crying, “Crucify Him!” He was soon to be executed. But Jesus did not falter. He said, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. He that is of the truth heareth My voice.” He never lost sight of His mission, and was sure that His voice would be heard. So too should we ground our faith on the certainty of our God-appointed task and know that we shall win. Wherever God’s voice is heard, “he that is of the truth” will respond and obey. Our primary concern must be to LET GOD SPEAK.