It is the work of the Christian to mend, to restore, to heal. This healing process saves many a soul and hides a multitude of sins. God is love; God is, in Himself, in His essence, love. He makes the very best of what appears an injury, and gives Satan no occasion for triumph by making the worst appear and exposing our weakness to our enemies. The world must not be introduced into the church, and married to the church, forming a bond of unity. Through this means the church will become indeed corrupt, and as stated in Revelation, ‘a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.’ ” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 265.
Who is Babylon?
Do you understand the significance of this statement? If the world is introduced into and married to the church, it will become Babylon. She does not place it in a time frame, but she says it will happen. Our danger, as Seventh-day Adventists, is that we will be reading the statements Ellen White wrote in the 1893 Review and Herald (August 22, 29; September 5, 12), which say that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not Babylon, and saying, “See, this proves everything.” It does not prove everything at all, friends. You have to look at all of the inspired statements before you draw your conclusions. Do not take one group of statements that were addressed to a specific situation in 1893 and then forget everything else that was written and assume that you know it all.
Who ever thought up this terrible heresy that has gone around among God’s people that professed Israel can never become Babylon? There are two cases in the Bible where Israel became Babylon, one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament. By the introduction of the world into the church, it can become Babylon. We have been inclined to believe that it is only the acceptance, and promulgation of such false doctrines as Sunday sacredness and the immortality of the soul that constitutes Babylon. But Ellen White is very clear that while these do clearly mark a church as being part of Babylon, it is the acceptance of these, and kindred heresies, and “the rejection of the truth,” which convert the church into Babylon. (See Selected Messages, Book 2, 68.) This should cause every Seventh-day Adventist great concern.
“Unsanctified ministers are arraying themselves against God. They are praising Christ and the god of this world in the same breath. While professedly they receive Christ, they embrace Barabbas, and by their actions say, ‘Not this Man, but Barabbas.’ Let all who read these lines, take heed. Satan has made his boast of what he can do. He thinks to dissolve the unity which Christ prayed might exist in His church. He says, ‘I will go forth and be a lying spirit to deceive those that I can, to criticize, and condemn, and falsify.’ Let the sin of deceit and false witness be entertained by a church that has had great light, great evidence, and that church will discard the message the Lord has sent, and receive the most unreasonable assertions and false suppositions and false theories.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 409.
Sin of Deceit
Friends, we have accepted false witness and been engaged in the sin of deceit for a long time.
One of the greatest shocks I have experienced came a few years ago when I was reading the book The Word was Made Flesh. (Ralph Larson, Cherrystone Press, Cherry Valley, California, 1986.) Toward the back of the book is a section that shows how some material is used in the book Questions on Doctrine. (Prepared by a Representative Group of Seventh-day Adventist Leaders, Bible Teachers, and Editors, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington, D.C., 1957.) The material used is a collection of statements by Ellen White, put together by a group of scholars or theologians. I had done some research in my life, and as I was studying over this material, I started comparing the sources and how it was put together. In just minutes I was in a state of shock. I said to myself, “No honest man could do this.” (See The Word was Made Flesh, Section 4, 219–275, especially pages 249–264.) You can disagree with me, but I do not believe that it is possible that anyone who is smart enough to do research could do this with an honest mind.
This took place a number of years ago, but have you ever noticed any public declaration that says we repudiate Questions on Doctrine and appeal to God and all of humanity to forgive us for publishing it? There are four steps that have to be taken before historic Adventists can ever be in harmony and unity with the world structure. They are repentance, confession, restitution, and a willingness to get back on and stand on the platform of truth. The only way to have unity is if we are all willing to repent, confess, make restitution, and stand together on the platform of truth.
“Infidelity has been making its inroads into our ranks; for it is the fashion to depart from Christ, and give place to skepticism. With many the cry of the heart has been, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ Baal, Baal, is the choice. The religion of many among us will be the religion of apostate Israel, because they love their own way, and forsake the way of the Lord.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 467, 468.
The word Baal or Baalim in Hebrew means lord. When you are worshiping Baal, you are obeying and following a different lord. You think you are doing your own thing, following your own way, but the devil really has control of you, and you do not know it.
Be a Disturber
We are at a time when the trumpet must give a certain sound. We are to show people that there can be no unity between truth and error and that there can be no unity between those who are standing under Satan’s banner and those who are standing under the banner of the Lord.
“Evil must be assailed; falsehood and error must be made to appear in their true character, sin must be denounced; and the testimony of every believer in the truth must be as one. All your little differences, which arouse the combative spirit among brethren, are devices of Satan to divert minds from the great and fearful issue before us.” The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, vol. 3, 1014.
If you are a believer in the truth, you must stand against evil and apostasy. If you do not, you cannot be accounted today as one of God’s children. It is just that simple.
“All who live a conscientious life, who bear testimony of the claims of God, of the evil of sin, of the judgment to come, will be called the disturbers of Israel. Those whose testimony awakens the apprehension of the soul, offend pride, and arouse opposition. The hatred of evil against good exists as surely now as in the days of Christ when the multitudes cried, ‘Away with him!’ ‘Release unto us Barabbas.’ ” Ibid., 1013.
Anyone whom God commissions to do this kind of work is going to be accused of being critical. People are going to speak evil of them and try to destroy their influence.
Have you ever met someone who said, “I want peace; I just cannot stand all of this conflict”? Do you know when we will have true peace? “The true peace will come among God’s people when, through united zeal and earnest prayer, the false peace that exits to a large degree is disturbed.” Ibid., 1014.
There is a false peace in Adventism today, and we are out to disturb it! We want to shake people up right down to their shoes so that they no longer feel secure and make them realize that, if they do not do something different, they are going to go straight to destruction. We have to go through the steps of repentance, confession, restitution, and standing together on the truth.
“While we cannot fellowship with those who are the bitter enemies of Christ, we should cultivate that spirit of meekness and love that characterized our Master—a love that thinketh no evil and is not easily provoked. . . .” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 504.
Those who are followers of Christ cannot fellowship with those who are His bitter enemies. If you can fellowship with people who are enemies of the cross of Christ and are not teaching historic Adventism, there is something seriously wrong. You are not headed in the direction you think you are.
Unity in Diversity
Before Jesus comes, God’s people are going to have a true and perfect unity with one another. The question is not whether or not it is going to happen; it is a matter of prophecy. If those whom God has commissioned to have this unity do not come into line, He will raise up others who will. Those refused to be united will lose their souls.
Even when we do have unity, we will not have the type of unity that many people expect. We are not going to come to the point where we all have the same identity or have absolute uniformity. That is not what we are talking about when we talk about unity. Ellen White describes this with the phrase “unity in diversity.” (See Review and Herald, November 9, 1897.) We are all still going to be individuals. Like branches that are part of a vine, all are different and yet they are all united to the vine.
One of the problems that even historic Adventists are having today is that many people believe that in order to have unity, other people have to think the same as they think, sing the same, play the piano the same, preach the same way, and right on down the line. If this idea is a reflection of your thinking, not only are you never going to experience the type of unity you are hoping to achieve, but you are actually going to become a roadblock to true unity. In order to obtain unity, you are going to try to get everybody else to be like you are, and that is not the unity about which we are talking. All will, however, think the same with regard to the platform of truth. We will all agree on all the truths that God has given us.
“God is leading a people out from the world upon the exalted platform of eternal truth, the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. He will discipline and fit up His people. They will not be at variance, one believing one thing and another having faith and views entirely opposite, each moving independently of the body.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 29.
Notice, if we are going to have unity, we are not going to have theological views that are absolutely contradictory to one another, each one of us moving independently from the body. How can you not move independently from the body and still have unity and not compromise any truth? If you do not understand who the true church is versus the professed church, you will never make it. You have an absolutely impossible situation.
“Through the diversity of the gifts and governments that He has placed in the church, they will all come to the unity of the faith.” Ibid. [Emphasis supplied.] Did you notice that coming to the unity of the faith has something to do with the governments that God has placed in His church?
In a book written by a person whom I used to consider a very close friend of mine, the author totally reinterpreted prophecy. The problem with the total reinterpretation is that some of the reinterpretations contradict the Spirit of Prophecy, so I cannot accept that. I am not saying this to criticize that person, because anyone can make a mistake. Fields of secular endeavor are not the only areas in the world where mistakes are made. You can make a mistake in theology, even if you are sincere. How am I going to keep from going off on a tangent independent of the body? Sister White points out that one of the purposes of governments in the church is to help us keep from going off on a tangent.
“If one man takes his views of Bible truth without regard to the opinion of his brethren, and justifies his course, alleging that he has a right to his own peculiar views, and then presses them upon others, how can he be fulfilling the prayer of Christ? And if another and still another arises, each asserting his right to believe and talk what he pleases without reference to the faith of the body, where will be that harmony which existed between Christ and His Father, and which Christ prayed might exist among His brethren?” Ibid., 29, 30.
If I am really going to find out the opinion of my brethren in some organized way, we must have some kind of church organization. That has to do, Sister White says, with the organization, the governments that God has placed within the body of Christ—so, unity in diversity. This unity can happen if I have regard to the opinion of my brethren and I am willing to keep myself from going off independent of the truth of the body.
“When ministering brethren come together in council, let deference be shown to the expression of intelligent principles, let intellectual freedom be freely accorded to all. There should be unity and love and freedom in communicating one with another. It should be a pleasure to consult one with another, to compare ideas and to review plans. An atmosphere of goodness, confidence, and love should be diffused; for this is the assurance of the presence of the Holy Spirit. The presence of God should be felt, and the soul should be humbled in acknowledging the condescension of God in planning for every soul for whom Christ has died, and thus hearts would be softened and broken.” Manuscript Release, No. 311, 30.
I may not be in harmony with the professed church, but I must be in harmony with the true church. That is not optional. I must not go off independently on my own, out of harmony with the body. But I cannot be sure that I am in harmony unless we have communication, and that requires some type of association or “government.”
It is in the order of God that people who are widely different in character, disposition, background, and thought should get together to counsel and talk. This is one of the greatest safeguards of unity and the organization of God’s church.
“Perfection of character means perfection in unity.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 11, 179. We will never have perfection of character until we have perfection in unity.
“An army in battle would become confused and be defeated if the individual soldiers should move according to their own impulses instead of acting in harmony under the direction of a competent general. The soldiers of Christ also must act in harmony. A few converted souls, uniting for one grand purpose under one head, will achieve victories in every encounter.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 139.
This is a wonderful promise. It is a statement that all of the people in home churches ought to learn. If you are united, if you have harmony and are organized, you are going to have victory at every step.
No New Organization
We have written a booklet entitled No New Organization. (Available from Steps to Life.) Do not get the idea that we are forming some new organization. We absolutely are not. The new organization has already been started, but we did not start it.
Do you remember that the early Adventists did not intend to start any kind of an organization? They were just going to work through the organizations that already existed. But as they began preaching the first angel’s message, they were thrown out of their churches. In the days of John Wesley, these Protestant churches were spiritual Israel. They did not have all of the truth, but they were living up to all of the light that they had. When they disfellowshipped the true body of Christ, they became Babylon.
You who belong to the Adventist world structure, please consider this. The Protestant churches in Ellen White’s day disfellowshipped the true body of Christ and rejected the first angel’s message. As a result of that, they became Babylon.
After these Adventists had been disfellowshipped, they were widely scattered, yet they resisted the idea of becoming organized. They knew that the churches they had just come out of were Babylon, and they did not want to be like them. Ellen White said that the Adventists were afraid to organize, because they were afraid they would become Babylon if they organized. But the churches in New York, because of their lack of organization in 1861, were already Babylon. (See Testimonies, vol. 1, 270.)
We have had the same problem of late. People have twisted statements, like the one about no new organization in Notebook Leaflets, vol. 1, 51 [“The Lord has declared that the history of the past shall be rehearsed as we enter upon the closing work. Every truth that He has given for these last days is to be proclaimed to the world. Every pillar that He has established is to be strengthened. We cannot now step off the foundation that God has established. We cannot now enter into any new organization; for this would mean apostasy from the truth.—Manuscript 129, 1905.”], until historic Seventh-day Adventists are afraid to organize. If you do not want your home church to become Babylon, you are going to have to organize it.
If you have a home church and you are going to be organized, you need to have one or more elders and deacons in your church so that you can be organized. Read the first part of the book of Acts, and you will find there the job of the elders and deacons in the church.
The first step in the organization of the Christian Church was in the ordination of the apostles. (See The Acts of the Apostles, 18.) We have had many letters and phone calls in which people say, “Well, couldn’t you do the same work if you did not ordain someone, because then it wouldn’t stir up so much controversy?” Well, that is just about the same as saying, “Couldn’t you be a Christian without getting baptized?” Listen, when God teaches you to do something, if you are not in harmony with divine counsel, you are an apostate. There is no other way about it. We do not ordain to stir up controversy, but because the Bible teaches it. We do it to be true to our conscience.
There are people who are saying, “You do not believe in organization.” The fact that we ordain people ought to prove the falsity of this accusation. If we did not believe in organization, we would not ordain anyone.
Unless we can learn to associate together and be able to call councils where we can get together and discuss what we need to do, as the apostolic church did, the devil has a very good chance of destroying us. This is one of the reasons why we are studying the subject of unity. We are determined that we are going to follow all of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy counsel in this matter. Are you willing to follow all of the counsel in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy? If you are, we must become more organized and, by the grace of God, we are going to do it.
Reprinted from LandMarks, November 1993.
Pastor Grosboll is the director of Steps to Life Ministry and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas.