Highest of Our High Callings

It may seem that we are few, that the cause of evil is prospering when we look at one location, or one little group; but it is not true. You are most emphatically not alone. There are thousands like you, clinging firmly and resolutely to the faith of our fathers, the faith that came to us by the gift of prophecy, if you will, and has been affirmed as our true faith. Paul had a very keen awareness of, and appreciation for, the calling of God when he wrote, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13, 14. Reflecting on the call of Abraham, he wrote in Hebrews 11:8, who, “when he was called . . . went out, not knowing wither he went.” In doing so, from that time forward, Abraham became the head of the family of faith—those who respond to the call of God. He knew, of course, about the call of Jacob and of the call of Moses at the burning bush. More recently, he had learned of how Jesus had called the twelve apostles; nor could he forget his own calling, when on the Damascus road the Lord had spoken to him and later when the Holy Ghost told those who were ministering in Antioch to set aside “Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” Acts 13:2.

The calling of God was very significant in Paul’s thinking. As he saw it, not only the leaders like himself, but every Christian was called of God. Notice in I Corinthians 7:17–22 a passage in which the word call appears seven times. “But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches. Is any man called being circumcised? Let him no become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised. . . . Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? Care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.” The strong emphasis here on the call and the calling of God makes it very clear how important it was in Paul’s mind. (See also Ephesians 4:4; Colossians 3:15; 1 Timothy 6:12.)

The Ekklesia

As Paul saw it, every individual Christian is called; and as he responds to that call, he is then brought into a fellowship of the called ones. We find in 1 Corinthians 1:9 that “God is faithful, by Whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” We are individually called. When we respond to the call, we, as individuals, are brought into a fellowship; and this fellowship of the called ones, this community of the called ones, becomes the ekklesia. That was Paul’s word for the church. We use it in our own language today. Ek means “out,” and klesia means “call.” Klesia is a past participle of kaleo. And so the ekklesia are the called ones. That is the church. We are the called ones, the community of the called ones, the fellowship of the called ones; we are the church.

In 2 Timothy 1:9, he also calls it a “holy calling.” In Hebrews 3:1, he calls it a “heavenly calling;” and in Ephesians 4:1, he appeals to us to be worthy of that calling. “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” Worthy in many ways, worthy in many aspects. There are many aspects of the calling, this high calling.

Called to Imitate Christ

We are called to a Christian lifestyle. We are called to imitate the life of Christ. “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.” 1 John 2:6. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not grievous.” 1 John 5:3. It is a high calling to the work of witnessing for Christ. Our own Lord said, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me.” John 9:4. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father.” John 14:12. “I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.” John 17:4. These are high callings, but these are not the highest calling. These are not the highest of our high callings. The highest, beloved, is this: the calling to Christ-likeness in suffering and persecution. This is the test above all tests that shows whether we are really responding to, and are faithful to, the calling of our Lord.

Today we are dealing with spiritual wickedness in high places. We are in a situation which is getting rather grim and that is soon going to be much more so. What some are already calling the great Adventist inquisition has been announced in the church paper; and in some places, it has already begun. I recently spoke to a physician in the sate of Arizona who, along with his wife, was disfellowshipped from the church on trumped up charges, using wholly improper, illegal, and unchristian procedures. Within a few hours after that, we had another telephone conversation with a couple in New Mexico who had experienced a similar situation. The signal for this inquisition was given at a campmeeting in Hope, British Columbia, last spring when the President of the General Conference issued a fierce tirade against independent ministries. This was followed by the declaration of Perth, which some are already calling a declaration of war against independents, quite appropriately I would think. It finally reached its next move in the publication of the “Issues” tract that you saw in the Review and the 467-page Issues book which also followed.

I want to briefly point out to you the unrighteous methods that are being used in this inquisition, the invalid arguments that are being advanced, and the accusations that are being made, methods that compare very favorably with the great Inquisition of the Dark Ages. The two are uncannily alike.

We have been in the habit of recommending that everybody be familiar with the last few chapters in The Great Controversy, and that is wise; but you need, just now, to take a careful look at the first few chapters. I think that you will be absolutely astonished at the parallelism between what happened during the Reformation and what is beginning to take place right now.
On page 148, we have an expression of he scornful attitude of church authorities toward those feeble few who were pleading for Scripture. “The same arguments are still urged against all who dare to present, in opposition to established errors, the plain and direct teachings of God’s Word. ‘Who are these preachers of new doctrines?’” Did you catch that? New doctrines. We are being accused of setting up new standards in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We are being accused of setting up new ideas, which is absolutely, categorically, unconditionally false. Everything that we are preaching and teaching is written in the statement of faith. Let no one ever confuse you about that.

The Spirit of Erasmus

There are men who have, in the past, held very high positions of responsibility within the Seventh-day Adventist Church who communicate with me quietly, almost secretly. I appreciate the fact that their thinking appears to be in line with the truth of God, but I wonder about their timidity and self-protectiveness. In The Great Controversy, 216, I find an interesting comment on Erasmus, the greatest of all Reformation scholars. Erasmus was a far greater scholar than either Luther or Calvin. Beyond any question, he was the greatest scholar of Reformation times. We are greatly indebted to him for translations and for the recognition and use of the best manuscripts upon which to base translations; but notice what Ellen White says about him. “The timid and time-serving Erasmus, who with all the splendor of his scholarship, failed of that moral greatness which holds life and honor subservient to truth.”

At one time, Erasmus wrote to a young man whom he sensed to be in danger. He said to him, “Ask to be sent as ambassador to some foreign country; go and travel in Germany. You know Beda [this was a Catholic leader] and such as he—he is a thousand headed monster, darting venom on every side. Your enemies are named legion. Were your cause better than that of Jesus Christ, they will not let you go till they have miserably destroyed you. Do not trust too much to the king’s protection. At all events, to not compromise me with the faculty of theology.” Ibid. Cowardly words, are they not?

I wish that I knew how to appeal to men who privately defend the faith but publicly keep their lips tightly closed. There are a lot of them around Loma Linda. I could name half a dozen right now, men who have held very high offices in the church and who do not in any way condemn the work that I am doing, as some would do. It seems to me, however, that men such as these have an obligation to speak up when the time comes that thousands of innocent people are about to be disfellowshipped for the crime of holding to the doctrines that they were taught when they joined the church. It seems to me that it is unconscionable for any man who has ever been a leader in God’s work to stand by and do nothing at such a time.

Moving on, let us consider how we shall relate to this inquisition. Shall we react in fear and surrender? That is something that Jesus never did. “Jesus Himself never purchased peace by compromise.” Christians are to “’follow after the things which make for peace’ (Romans 14:19); but real peace can never be secured by compromising principle. And no man can be true to principle without exciting opposition.” The Desire of Ages, 356.

How shall we handle the inquisition? When we see outrageous violations of principles and brazen violations of procedure, it is difficult not to react in anger. Perhaps a degree of righteous indignation can be permitted, but we need to make sure that we do not echo the baying of the wolves.

Standing Against Apostasy

A church in Australia was told by the officials to get rid of two members of that church who were faithful Historic Adventists. The church manual, however, says that the local churches make those decisions and that higher authorities have nothing to do with it. The pastor gathered the people in the church together and said, “We have to get rid of these two members. What do you say? And the members said, “Nothing doing. We want to keep them.” They voted in a church business meeting to retain them in membership. As a result, the conference disfellowshipped the whole church. They then said, “Those of you who wish to discuss it with us, we will put your names on the conference church books.” Now there are two churches in the area—the faithful, historic church and the timid, time-serving one; the disciples of Erasmus are there.

We must remember that the battle is the Lord’s; and when we are called upon to stand in trial, we must remember Paul who, when he was in prison, called himself the prisoner of the Lord. The Lord did not put him there; but He permitted it, and Paul accepted it. If you and I are called before a church council, we must not falter or fear. We must not react with bitterness and anger, even though we are terribly shocked at the injustices that are unfolding right before our very eyes—people who are supposed to be standards for righteousness in church leadership actually lead in the unrighteous actions. When the shepherd plays the role of the wolf, we must be able to handle that; we must not let that surprise us or dismay us. Just remember that it has happened to our Lord; it has happened to many others of God’s people who have gone before us.

We need to remember Jesus and how He handled that very same experience. “He spoke no burning words of retaliation. His calm answer came from a heart sinless, patient, and gentle, that would not be provoked. . . . Of all the throng, He alone was calm and serene. . . . Patiently Jesus listened to the conflicting testimonies.” The Desire of Ages, 700, 703, 706.

“On His face he [Pilate] saw no sign of guilt, no expression of fear, no boldness or defiance. . . . He stood unmoved by the fury of the waves that beat about Him. . . . Pilate was filled with amazement at the uncomplaining patience of the Saviour.” Ibid., 724, 726, 736. While they lied about Him, while the judges tried to do evil things against Him, “the Son of God had taken upon Himself man’s nature. He must do as man must do.” Ibid., 729. Therefore, we must do as He did.

The Highest Calling

Remember the words of Peter when he said, “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” 1 Peter 2:20–23. “For even hereunto were we called.” This is the highest of our high calling.

There is going to be another trial. There is going to be another judgment. There is going to be another judge and another jury; and in that great trial, there will be absolute, total justice laid to the line. Every man will give account for what he has done.

“We can, we can, reveal the likeness of our divine Lord.” Yes, we can do it. We can stand before false accusers and listen to them lie about us, misrepresent us, distort our words, and misquote things that we have said. We can listen to all of that and still be like Jesus. Yes, “We can, we can, reveal the likeness of our divine Lord.” Signs of the Times, May 10, 1910.

Just now, let us kneel and present our weakness before the Lord and plead with Him for that special grace that will make us equal to that highest of our high callings.