There is no doubt that there are many religious theories being passed around by voice, by e-mail, on video tapes, on cassette tapes, and even by phone. One may wonder why and how God would permit such a thing, even among His own people.
In the first place, we do know that God is not arbitrary and therefore would not manipulate man’s thoughts and actions. He has given the human race freedom of thought that they may choose what they want to believe or think. Then, we might query, How can He work with all these heresies and false doctrines?
I know that Satan and God do not work together, but God does turn the works of Satan around to advance God’s own plans. We are told in the Bible “that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to [His] purpose.” Romans 8:28. So heresies must fit into the program some place. I read the following quotation in the Spirit of Prophecy that caused me to think about false doctrines.
“The perversion and misinterpretation of the Scriptures by the Pharisees, and even by those who claimed to believe His words, made it necessary for Christ to speak plainly. It is thought by some to be a misfortune when erroneous theories are advanced, but the Lord has said, ‘All things work together for good to them that love God.’ The contention among the Corinthians made it necessary for Paul to write his wonderful epistles to them. If the Gentiles had not backslidden from the faith, Paul would not have written, ‘I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you out of the grace of Christ unto another gospel, which is not another.’ It was a misapplication of the Scriptures, to prove falsehood and error true. If the Thessalonians had not misinterpreted the instruction they received, they would not have entertained the belief that the Lord was immediately to be revealed in the clouds of heaven, thus making it necessary for Paul to present the truth as it is in Jesus, leaving on record truth important for all time. And so opposition against light and truth called from Christ a clearer definition of the truth. Every time that error is advanced, it will work for good to those who sincerely love God; for when the truth is shadowed by error, those whom the Lord has made His sentinels will make the truth sharper and clearer. They will search the Scriptures for evidence of their faith. The advancement of error is the call for God’s servants to arouse, and place the truth in bold relief.” The Signs of the Times, January 6, 1898.
After reading the above quotation, I began to think that I should seek for a blessing from the theories that are propounded. Such theories as the Feast Days, the name Yahweh, the Trinity; what is the Store House; what is the Church; what is New Theology; and a host of other theories, some true and some false.
I surely do not have time to study all these things, and it would be damaging to my experience to delve into false theories, so how can they be a blessing to me? How can I distinguish between what is truth and what is error? How does God use these heresies? He must have a purpose, or He surely would not allow them to come into His church.
God is Sifting
Let us read a statement from the pen of Ellen White. “God will arouse His people; if other means fail, heresies will come in among them, which will sift them, separating the chaff from the wheat. The Lord calls upon all who believe His word to awake out of sleep. Precious light has come, appropriate for this time. It is Bible truth, showing the perils that are right upon us. This light should lead us to a diligent study of the Scriptures, and a most critical examination of the positions which we hold.” Gospel Workers, 299.
In Amos 9:9 we read, “For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as [corn] is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.” So, God is sifting.
Have you ever watched wheat being sifted? They may not all do it the same way, but what I have seen is that, first the wheat is winnowed. Then the chaff is blown away before the wheat is put through a sifting process. A screen that is graduated to just the right size to let the wheat go through is used. It shakes until all the wheat is shaken through and the remaining large pieces of refuse are discarded. After that process the wheat is put in a screen that is graduated to just the right size so the kernels of wheat will stay in the sieve, and any smaller, undesirable items, such as pieces of sand, will go through the sieve. After this process the wheat is considered clean.
Can you imagine what it would be like to make bread out of flour from wheat that had not been sifted? You might get a piece of bread made from flour containing straw or chaff or even some sand or gravel. The same thing is true about other grains.
Then think what the fruit would be like if it were not sorted before being sent to the store. You might get fruit that has been half eaten by the birds or have worms in it or be spoiled. So the sorting and the sifting is very essential to provide good food.
God’s Eternal Purpose
Now let us consider heaven and what it would be like to have people who still have a love for sin enter the pearly gates and live forever. The whole plan of salvation would soon be ruined, and we would be in the same situation of death and misery that has been in this world for about 6,000 years. So we must never lose sight of God’s eternal purpose, which is to rid the universe of sin and establish a kingdom that operates on the principle of love.
God uses even the wrath of man to praise Him, for we are told in Psalm 76:10, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.” So when we look at all these different theories, we may know that “We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” 11 Corinthians 13:8. God is in control; therefore all things will work together for good.
Reasons for Sifting
The sifting is necessary, and we need to know how we fit into the program. There are at least three reasons God has for the sifting process. Number one is to sift out the false-hearted. Number two is to sift out those who are over-confident in their own reasoning. Number three is to cause God’s people to study and pray until they are rooted and grounded in the truth to the place where nothing can shake them out. We must never forget that it is the chaff that is blown away and not the least grain will fall to the ground.
Let us look at the false-hearted. Who are they, and how does this affect them? The false-hearted are the ones who are in the church only by professing the truth—not by practicing what they know to be true. Their conscience may be bothering them a little bit, and when they hear of a doctrine that accepts them and promises them salvation while they are still sinning a little bit, they fall for it. Jesus describes them as “stony ground” hearers. (Mark 4:5, 6.)
John describes the false-hearted in 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would [no doubt] have continued with us: but [they went out], that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” This is the situation with the false-hearted who are shaken out; they were really not part of the program. They were really in it only for their own benefit and did not realize the depths of the love of God.
Shaking out the false-hearted is a necessary program. We are told that we must go through a time of trouble and that the antichrist will come. How will the false-hearted have the courage to stand for the truth if it means sacrificing their worldly possessions and maybe even giving their lives for it? It is better for them to fall out before the fearful time of trouble, when the desertion of such a multitude would be discouraging to the true-hearted.
Overconfident in Self
The second reason for the sifting process is being overconfident in self. This is very prevalent in the human family. There is a fine line between being overly self-confident and having abilities to perform the necessary tasks of life. We must realize that our strength and mental abilities all come to us from Jesus, and if it were not for Him, we could do nothing. When Jesus was here on earth, He said, “for without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5. Self-confidence and self-righteousness are close companions. And we do know that all our righteousness is only filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6.)
Self-righteousness and Christ’s righteousness are not always distinguishable by us human beings, but God reads the heart and sorts out the true from the false. He sorts by the truth or by trials, or He may even use heresies. However, He will have a true and faithful people to take to heaven with Him when He comes.
The apostle Peter fell on the point of self-confidence. He said he would die with Jesus, and he really thought that he would, because his love for Jesus was strong, but of himself he could do nothing. He did not realize that his strength and goodness came from God. And when he was taunted in the courtroom at Jesus’ trial, he denied His Lord because he did not have the courage within himself to stand up. Trials do sift out the self-confident.
From volume 5 of the Testimonies, we may read such words as this, “Nothing is more essential to communion with God than the most profound humility. ‘I dwell,’ says the High and Holy One, ‘with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit.’ While you are striving to be first, remember that you will be last in the favor of God if you fail to cherish a meek and lowly spirit. Pride of heart will cause many to fail where they might have made a success. ‘Before honor is humility,’ ‘and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.’ . . . ‘Many are called but few are chosen.’ Many hear the invitation of mercy, are tested and proved; but few are sealed with the seal of the living God. Few will humble themselves as a little child, that they may enter the kingdom of heaven.
“Few receive the grace of Christ with self-abasement, with a deep and permanent sense of their unworthiness. They cannot bear the manifestations of the power of God, for this would encourage in them self-esteem, pride, and envy. This is why the Lord can do so little for us now. God would have you individually seek for the perfection of love and humility in your own hearts. Bestow your chief care upon yourselves, cultivate those excellencies of character which will fit you for the society of the pure and holy.” Ibid., 50, 51.
Study and Pray
Now for the third reason, to cause God’s people to study and pray until they are rooted and grounded in the truth and beyond being shaken out. We have been warned by prophecy that, “None but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict.” The Great Controversy, 593, 594. It is wise to take note of the warnings given us through inspiration, and follow the instructions.
When we come in contact with theories that are called “New Light,” it is time to pray and study. The Lord will never allow us to be led astray, if we humble our hearts and pray and study His inspired Word.
David said, in Psalm 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” This is the thing we must do, if we are not going to be deceived or fail in the end.
Show Yourself Approved
Many people go to church and take it for granted that they are Christians, waiting for the Lord’s return. However, if asked why they keep the Sabbath or why they believe that the dead are asleep until Jesus awakens them, they could not even give you one text, let alone a Bible study on their beliefs. These individuals must either study to show themselves approved or they will be sifted out. Often when confronted with some heresy that they cannot refute, they will get in and study. Thus one of the purposes of heresies being sent into the church is fulfilled.
If you and I are going to be saved from many of the erroneous theories that are floating around, we need to study the Word of God along with the Spirit of Prophecy. And in order to comprehend the truth, we must spend much time in prayer as spiritual things are spiritually discerned. Without the help of the Holy Spirit it is impossible for our carnal minds to comprehend the truths of the Bible.
Oh! That God would arouse our people to the solemnity of the days in which we live and to the necessity of cleansing our hearts from all worldliness and filling them with the Word of God. May He help us to lay our own opinions aside and with a humble spirit accept what He has given us in His inspired Word.
Ruth Grosboll is an employee of Steps to Life. A retired, registered nurse, she worked for many years with her husband in the mission field. She may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.