Ever since the Second Advent Movement began in the early 1800s, it has been the devil’s purpose to destroy it. During the first 10 years of the 20th Century, it suffered three very powerful attacks, any one of which could have totally brought it to an end.
A study of these attacks reveals certain things that were common to all three. One was from the “holy flesh” movement, which was not considered an attack but was thought to bring in the loud cry.
Then came the development of pantheism, promoted by John Harvey Kellogg. Finally, Elder Ballenger instigated new ideas and new theology with new interpretations of prophecy and the sanctuary.
All three had two things in common. One was a misunderstanding concerning the function and role of the Holy Spirit. In the apostolic church, the Holy Spirit was in charge of the church. The church was not under the control of the apostles or church councils. The record of the first general church council is found in Acts 15:28: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things … .”
The New Testament church organization will not work unless the Holy Spirit is in charge. If you study church history, you will find that when the church lost the Holy Spirit, they lost power. When the church recognized that, they sought another way to have power to manage, to control, and to operate. So they sought power from the state.
Ellen White documents that in The Great Controversy, 443: “When the early church became corrupted by departing from the simplicity of the gospel and accepting heathen rites and customs, she lost the Spirit and power of God; and in order to control the consciences of the people, she sought the support of the secular power.”
The church has never gotten back to what the early church had. Ellen White wrote, “Before the final visitation of God’s judgments upon the earth there will be among the people of the Lord such a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times.” Ibid., 464.
The early church, under the control and the direction of the Holy Spirit, had primitive godliness. Our goal today is to be under the direction of that same Spirit.
In Acts 16:6, it says, “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.” We read here that plans were made to carry on the work, but the Holy Spirit changed their direction. In order for us to have a revival of primitive godliness that has not been seen since apostolic times, the Holy Spirit must lead. It would be appropriate for all of us to pray, “Lord, we want our family, ourselves, and our church, to be under the direction of the Holy Spirit.”
The “holy flesh” movement believed that when you have the garden experience and receive the Holy Spirit, you will then have holy flesh and no longer have a sinful nature. But that is not true. Ellen White said to the people and to the ministers, “Not a soul of you has holy flesh now. No human being on earth has holy flesh. It is an impossibility.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 32.
Fanaticism abounded in this movement in regard to the function and role of the Holy Spirit. The same is true in regard to pantheism, which holds that since God is everywhere, then God is inside you. The Holy Spirit is in everybody, whether you are saved or not. That is also not true.
Both the holy flesh movement and pantheistic theology had wrong ideas in regard to sanctification. Sometimes people believe that is old hat and not important, but similar beliefs are circulating even today. When my brother, Marshall Grosboll, was alive, he approached a fellow well-known conference pastor privately about what this minister was teaching. This man has written many books which are still today sold in local Adventist Book Centers. He asked his colleague, What was the difference between what he was teaching and holy flesh? The minister replied that the only difference was that the holy flesh movement taught that once you have the experience, then you have it for the rest of your life, but he taught that it has to happen every day. That is holy flesh theology and it is being taught in Seventh-day Adventist colleges to new ministers, and to the largest congregations. The writings are put in the bookstores all over the country and nobody seems to realize that anything is going on. These early false doctrines have had an effect that continue today.
One of the problems is that you can look at an idea from more than one point of view. It is possible to emphasize so much of one aspect that people lose sight of the entire idea.
An example of this was when my wife and I were in southern California and I was attending Loma Linda University. We attended a very large church and as far as I know the pastor was a godly man. However, this pastor only preached about righteousness by faith and specifically, justification by faith. Justification by faith is a true doctrine but after attending this church for some years, I began to wonder when we would hear anything about sanctification. It is not that there was anything wrong with his message, but it was not a complete message. It is possible to look at something, even though it’s true, and place so much emphasis on that, that something else that is very important is lost. Ellen White says it is human nature to go to extremes. So we need to pray and ask the Lord to help us be balanced.
Let’s look at relationships between different things that people think are opposites or that are in some way contradictory.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHRIST’S WORK ON THE CROSS AND THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Some emphasize so much our salvation being affected by Christ’s dying on the cross. Even though there would be no salvation if Jesus did not die on the cross, that is not all there is to salvation.
In The Desire of Ages, 671, it says, “The Holy Spirit was the highest of all gifts that He [Christ] could solicit from His Father for the exaltation of His people. The Spirit was to be given as a regenerating agent, and without this the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail.”
We are not depreciating the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, which is the foundation of our salvation, but without the Holy Spirit, the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail. She says, “The power of evil had been strengthening for centuries, and the submission of men to this satanic captivity was amazing. Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the Third Person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power. It is the Spirit [a regenerating agent] that makes effectual what has been wrought out by the world’s Redeemer. It is by the Spirit that the heart is made pure. Through the Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ has given His Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress His own character upon His church.” Ibid.
RELATION OF THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL
There are some, such as the Jews, who accept the Old Testament, and not the New Testament. There are other Christians who accept the New Testament, but not the Old Testament.
Many years ago, I was making personal gospel visits as a gospel worker in Chattanooga, Tennessee. At one home I was invited in and had a very interesting visit. I found out that the man I was speaking to was a retired preacher. As we talked, I discovered that he didn’t accept anything in the Old Testament. Not only did he not accept anything in the Old Testament, he didn’t want me to read anything to him in the New Testament before the Book of Acts, because he said, “Before Jesus died on the cross, that was all under the old covenant. That is all for the Jews, and so, all the things Jesus taught doesn’t apply to me now. Just read to me from the Book of Acts and on.” Some of these very same people don’t believe you can understand the Book of Revelation. To them the Bible starts in the Book of Acts and ends before Revelation, leaving only the books in between.
Ellen White wrote about this attitude: “There are those who profess to believe and teach the truths of the Old Testament, while they reject the New. But in refusing to see the teachings of Christ, they show they do not believe that which patriarchs and prophets have spoken. …
“Many who claim to believe and to teach the gospel are in the similar error. They set aside the Old Testament Scriptures of which Christ declared, ‘They are they which testify of Me’ (John 5:39). In rejecting the Old, they virtually reject the New; for both are parts of an inseparable whole. No man can rightly present the law of God without the gospel, or the gospel without the law.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 128. One is incomplete without the other.
JESUS: BOTH LORD AND CHRIST
There are many people today, many Christians, even Adventists, who want to look to Jesus as their Saviour from sin but fail to want Him as the Lord or Ruler of their life. It is critical to understand that Jesus cannot save you if He is not also your Lord. “… if we accept Christ as a Redeemer, we must accept Him as a Ruler. We cannot have the assurance and perfect confiding trust in Christ as our Saviour until we acknowledge Him as our King and are obedient to His commandments.” Faith and Works, 16.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GOD’S WORK AND MAN’S WORK
Some people will read I Corinthians 1:30, which says, Christ is made unto us, not only righteousness, but “… sanctification and redemption …” and assert that the Lord does everything.
“God has given men faculties and capabilities. God works and cooperates with the gifts He has imparted to man, and man, by being a partaker of the divine nature and doing the work of Christ, may be an overcomer and win eternal life. The Lord does not propose to do the work He has given man powers to do. Man’s part must be done. He must be a laborer together with God, yoking up with Christ, learning His meekness, His lowliness.” Faith and Works, 26.
This has been a huge problem in the Adventist Church. It started with the “holy flesh” people, and it still exists today. It is the idea that all that is necessary to overcome is to read your Bible, pray, and witness. There is nothing wrong with any of these things; in fact, they are essential, but the process of sanctification—overcoming—involves more than that.
God does not intend to do the work that He has given you and me to do. This is illustrated when Jesus was at the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus said, Roll away the stone. This was something that they were capable of doing. Jesus raised Lazarus who was dead, something they could not do. Ellen White comments that there were legions of angels present at that time and Jesus could have asked one of them to roll away the stone which could have been done very easily. The angel that came down from heaven rolled away the stone at the tomb of Christ as if it were a pebble. (See The Desire of Ages, 535.)
You are saved because your sins are forgiven. You cannot be saved if your sins are not forgiven, but you cannot be saved by that alone. Jesus said to Nicodemus that if you are not born of water and the Spirit you are not going to be in the kingdom of heaven (John 3:5). “The religion of Christ means more than the forgiveness of sin; it means taking away our sins, and filling the vacuum with the graces of the Holy Spirit.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 419, 420.
REPENTANCE AND SALVATION
Can I be saved by repentance? Repentance is necessary; it is the first step in the way of salvation. “No repentance is genuine that does not work reformation.” The Desire of Ages, 555. Reformation involves the change of life. “The righteousness of Christ is not a cloak to cover unconfessed and unforsaken sin.” Ibid., 555, 556.
In the last 30 to 35 years, it has become very popular to teach that salvation is what Christ does for you “without” that is, apart from anything that you do on your own. That idea is not historic Adventist teaching, but rather has come in with the new theology—that you are saved by justification alone and that salvation comes as a result of what Christ has done for you on the cross.
Now what He has done for you without is important. You cannot be saved without that but that is not enough. It is indeed possible that some Adventist preachers have emphasized too much that it is what happens within, but there must be a balance and belief of the full gift of salvation.
“I call upon everyone who claims to be a son of God never to forget this great truth, that we need the Spirit of God within us in order to reach heaven, and the work of Christ without us in order to give us a title to the immortal inheritance.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 441. You need the Spirit’s work within, and you need what Christ does for you without, in order to have a title to your immortal inheritance.
FAITH AND WORKS
Faith and works. “There are many who fail to understand the relation of faith and works. … genuine faith will be manifest in obedience.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 153. If I have real faith it will be manifested in obedience.
Bible sanctification involves overcoming or conquering sin so that it no longer has power in my life and I am free from sin. This does not happen with God doing it and my not doing anything. It is the work of a lifetime and cannot happen without the Holy Spirit’s power and my cooperation.
What are some things that I should be doing to cooperate with the Holy Spirit so that I can be an overcomer?
ABSTAIN FROM FLESHLY LUSTS
“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (I Peter 2:11). The word “lust” comes from the Greek word epithumia, which means a very strong craving or a strong desire. Usually it is used in the New Testament with a negative connotation, although once in a while the word is used simply to mean a very strong craving. Jesus used this word when He spoke to His disciples in the upper room about His great desire, His epithumia, to eat the Passover supper with them before His crucifixion. He did not have an evil desire to want to eat that last supper with His disciples before He suffered, but he did have a very strong desire to do so.
Though most of the time in the New Testament this word is used with a negative connotation, referring most commonly to appetite and sexual lust, it can also refer to things like anger. Peter said, Watch out and “… abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.”
Paul said in Romans 12:1: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” In the Old Testament, a sacrifice was to be perfect. Therefore, I am to present my body and my mind in the best possible physical condition.
If I want to be successful in the process of sanctification, I must cooperate with the Holy Spirit. “The controlling power of appetite will prove the ruin of thousands, when, if they had conquered on this point, they would have had moral power to gain the victory over every other temptation of Satan.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 163–165.
If they had gained the victory on appetite, they would have had moral power to gain the victory over every other temptation. “But those who are slaves to appetite will fail in perfecting Christian character.” Ibid., 163. If I am a slave to my appetite, I can pray all I want to, but I also have a work to do.
“The continual transgression of man for six thousand years has brought sickness, pain, and death as its fruits. And as we near the close of time, Satan’s temptation to indulge appetite will be more powerful and more difficult to overcome.” Ibid., 163, 164.
We are living in that time. Ellen White wrote those words back in about 1875. The temptation is more powerful now because of all the additives that have been put in the food that stimulates you to eat, and also the food is more available than it has ever been before.
A hundred years ago you could not go out at 11 o’clock at night and buy something to eat, but you can now. Many food stores and fast food restaurants are open 24 hours. However, if we are going to overcome sin and perfect a Christian character, we have to gain control of appetite. Remember, the Holy Spirit is not going to work and make it happen if we do not cooperate. We have to do our part and say, Lord, I am choosing to do what You said to do. I am choosing to not overeat, and to avoid eating at improper times. I choose to live in harmony with the laws of my body and I pray that You will help me to have the strength, the moral power, to carry out the decision that I am choosing to follow You.
The Holy Spirit can give you the victory. I personally believe that only the Holy Spirit can give a person the victory over these fleshly lusts that we all have. Peter says, abstain from lust (I Peter 2:11). So, whether it is sexual passions, pornography, or appetite, it is all the same—fleshly lusts. But we must cooperate or the Holy Spirit will not give us the victory.
NEGLECT OF PRAYER
“Temptations often appear irresistible because, through neglect of prayer and the study of the Bible, the tempted one cannot readily remember God’s promises and meet Satan with the Scripture weapons.” The Great Controversy, 600.
When Christ was tempted in the Garden of Gethsemane and God was withdrawing His beams of light from Him, it says in Luke 22:44, “… being in agony, He prayed more earnestly … .” The bigger the problem that you are facing, the more you need to be in prayer.
You should be memorizing the Bible so that you have spiritual weapons when the devil tempts you. When the devil tempted Jesus, Jesus came back at the devil with Scriptural weapons. “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Psalm 119:11, literal translation).
SELF-CONTROL OR TEMPERANCE
In I Corinthians 9:24–27, we are told: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
Ellen White wrote, “There is no encouragement given to any of the sons or daughters of Adam that they may become victorious overcomers in the Christian warfare unless they decide to practice temperance in all things.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 35.
That is a decision we have to make. Temperance simply means to abstain from all things that you know are harmful and partake moderately of what is good for you.
FIGHT OF FAITH – RESISTING
“For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (Hebrews the 12:3, 4).
Notice, he says, “… You have not yet … .” He doesn’t say you won’t; he just says, You have not done it yet.
It has become popular in some circles to teach that you just sit in the car and ask Christ to be the driver and He will take you to heaven. That is not Bible religion. It is also important to be in the fight and resist sin. The Bible teaches that there is such a thing as the “the fight of faith” (I Timothy 6:12, first part).
Christ resisted unto bloodshed. Luke 22:44 records Jesus when in the Garden of Gethsemane, “His sweat became as great clots of blood, dropping to the ground” (literal translation). Those who have studied physiology and understand how things work in the capillaries know that a hemoglobin molecule is far too big to escape and come out the pores under normal circumstances. But Jesus resisted unto blood. Becoming sanctified and experiencing victory involves being willing to be in the fight, the Christian warfare.
Paul said, Fight the fight (I Timothy 6:12). James said, Resist the devil (James 4:7). The New Testament is full of counsel that you must be willing to be in the holy war. It is a war against sin of every stripe and type. It is a war against every sinful thought, every sinful word, and every sinful action. It is a war that you and I must win if we are going to be in heaven.
All the inhabitants of heaven are going to be overcomers. It is not optional; it is something that is absolutely necessary. Strive to live so that OVERCOMER may be written on your page in the book in heaven.
In Revelation chapters 2 and 3, it is the overcomers in all seven churches that are given the promise of eternal life.
Do not ever think that you have to do it alone. We cannot do anything alone, but the Holy Spirit has all the power needed, even if you are the weakest and most sinful person in the world.
“Or let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me” (Isaiah 27:5).
There is all the power that you need. The Lord has all the power that you need, but it is up for you and me to take hold of it.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.