The Filthy Garment, Part I

There are some people today who are discouraged by what they see taking place in the world and in Adventism, but I am excited! I am excited, because I see the signs, in the church and in the world, that Jesus is coming soon. When I read inspired writings and look around at what is happening, I realize that God foresaw all of this a long time ago. Although the events we see occurring are awful, it is encouraging that there is Someone who knows all about them, who said that this is what would happen, who knows how to protect us and take us out of this evil world.

I want to study with you a passage of Scripture that was written over 2,500 years ago. This passage of Scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit, has a special meaning. It had a meaning then. It had a fulfillment then. But it was meant to have a special meaning and a special fulfillment in the last days as well—in the times in which you and I are living.

The Accuser

“And he showed me Joshua the great priest standing before the angel of Jehovah, and the saw-tan was there, standing at his right hand.” Zechariah 3:1. In English, the Hebrew word saw-tan is converted to Satan. Satan is one of the few words in the English language that comes directly from the Hebrew language. The word saw-tan means “the adversary.” So the saw-tan, the adversary, was standing at his right hand “to accuse him.” In the book of Revelation, Satan is called “the accuser of the brethren.” Revelation 12:10.

Some months ago, when I was preaching a sermon, I was reading from Matthew 16:23 where Jesus, speaking to Peter, said, “You depart behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me because you do not understand the things of God, but those of men.” This verse clearly says, “Turning, He said to Peter, depart from Me, Satan.” I read that text and said, “Jesus, here, called Peter Satan,” and someone objected to that and wrote me a letter. They said, “Pastor John, you made a mistake, and it needs to be corrected. Ellen White says that Jesus was really speaking to Satan, not Peter.” (See Conflict and Courage, 312.) Well, I got my Bible out again and read it, and it says, “Turning, He said to Peter . . . .” I believe what Ellen White said—that Jesus was addressing Satan directly, but the Bible says that He was speaking to Peter. We must never take the insight of a later prophet and use that to nullify the Bible. From this text, I understand that when God rebukes the devil, He includes all the other intelligences that are allowing the devil to speak through them. Did you get that? When God rebukes the devil,—whether it is in Genesis 3:15, Matthew 16:23, or Zechariah 3:1—in that rebuke is included not only the archfiend himself but every other intelligence, whether angel or human being, that is allowing the devil to speak through them. I want to tell you, friends, there is a large number of people today who are allowing the devil to speak through them.

Zechariah says, “And he showed me Joshua the great priest standing before the angel of Jehovah, and the saw-tan was there, standing at his right hand to accuse him.” Remember that the high priest represents God’s people. How does the saw-tan, or Satan, accuse God’s people? He usually does it through other human beings. We read, in Testimonies, vol. 5, 609: “An earnest effort should be made in every church to put away evilspeaking and a censorious spirit as among the sins productive of the greatest evils in the church. Severity and faultfinding must be rebuked . . . .”

Faultfinding and Supposition

You will find yourself in plenty of trouble when you rebuke “severity and faultfinding,” but Mrs. White states that it must be rebuked “as the workings of Satan.” When a person is engaging in faultfinding, who is speaking through them? It is Satan, the adversary. Remember, Zechariah 3:1 says that the saw-tan, the adversary, was “standing at his right hand, to accuse him.” Satan was going to accuse him to the Lord.

I have noticed, as I have read various references in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy on this subject, that when the devil accuses you, he always accuses you to someone else. When the Pharisees accused Jesus, they talked to his disciples about it, and when they accused the disciples, they talked to Jesus about it. Have you noticed this? Are you glad that God does not operate in this way?

When it is necessary for God to rebuke you or me, He will come directly to us. If you are praying, “Lord, show me what is wrong in my character,” believe me, the Lord will show you! He will not go and tell all your enemies about it, but He will show you personally.

Mrs. White continued: “Let all, in the fear of God and with love to their brethren, close their ears to gossip and censure. Direct the talebearer to the teachings of God’s word. Bid him obey the Scriptures and carry his complaints directly to those whom he thinks in error.” Ibid., 609, 610.

To whom is he supposed to carry his complaints? Is he supposed to carry his complaints to the head of the nearest ministry? No. Is he supposed to carry his complaints to the pastor of the church that person attends? What did the inspired writing say? It said that he is to “bid him to obey the Scriptures and carry his complaints directly to those whom he thinks in error”—not to the pastor.

I cannot count the many times people have either called me on the telephone, written me a letter, or come directly to my office wanting to tell me about someone that is in trouble. And, of course, they expect me to fix the situation. After I have read some of the passages from the Bible and inspired writings, I have decided that I do not even need to listen to such things.

If you have a concern, you need to go directly to the person for whom you have the concern and talk to them. Write them a letter; call them on the telephone; do not come to me. That is what the Bible says to do. (See Matthew 18:15–17.) Mrs. White continued: “This united action would bring a flood of light into the church and close the door to a flood of evil.” Ibid., 610.

Another statement that discloses how people allow the devil to speak through them—remember, when God rebukes the devil, He rebukes everyone who allows the devil to speak through them or to use them—is recorded in the October 17, 1899, Review and Herald: “There is a lack of frankness; the way is hedged up by supposition.” Supposition is one of the devil’s favorite ways in which to accuse people. Mrs. White explains how supposition works: “Some one discovers a supposed defect in a brother or sister, and he acts on this supposition, as if it were true. When criticism and faultfinding, and a desire for the highest place enter the church, the serpent, disguised, enters with them, leaving a trail of evil wherever he goes.” Ibid. Who is the serpent spoken of here? It is the saw-tan, the adversary, and it enters when there is criticism and faultfinding in the church.

So Satan, the adversary, the saw-tan, is at the right hand of God’s people. He is there to accuse, to find fault. This is one of the biggest problems among God’s people—has been in all ages and still is. Some people will overcome. Those who overcome will go to heaven; the people who do not overcome will not go to heaven.

“I saw that all the religion a few poor souls have consists in watching the garments and acts of others, and finding fault with them. Unless they reform, there will be no place in heaven for them, for they would find fault with the Lord Himself.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 145. If these people do not reform, will they be going to heaven? No.

“I feel an intense interest regarding every faultfinder; for I know that a quarrelsome disposition will never find entrance into the city of God.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 7, 271. If I have a quarrelsome disposition, I will not go to heaven.

Overcome Tendencies

After reading these statements, I have made the decision to overcome these tendencies. By the grace of God, I will not do these things anymore. How is it with you?

God has allowed some terrible things to happen so we will look at the inspired writings, wake up, and see what problems must be solved before Jesus can come and take us out of this world.

Numerous churches are in trouble. One of the reasons churches get into trouble is because they are lacking in church discipline. In some churches, you can say just about anything you please and still be a member of that church. If that is the situation in your church, it is going to be destroyed.

“When a person comes to a minister or to men in positions of trust with complaints against a brother or a sister, let the minister ask, ‘Have you complied with the rules our Saviour has given?’ And if he has failed to carry out any particular of this instruction, do not listen to a word of his complaint. In the name and Spirit of Jesus, refuse to take up a report against your brother or your sister in the faith. If members of the church go contrary to these rules, they make themselves subjects for church discipline, and should be under the censure of the church. This matter, so plainly taught in the lessons of Christ, has been treated with strange indifference. The church has either neglected her work entirely in the matter of correcting evil, or has done it with harshness and severity, thus wounding and bruising souls. Measures should be taken to correct this cruel spirit of criticism, of judging the motives of others, as though Christ had revealed to men the hearts of their brethren. The neglect of doing aright, with wisdom and grace, the work that ought to have been done, has left churches and institutions almost inefficient and Christless.” Review and Herald, April 16, 1895. When was the last time you were witness to someone being disciplined by the church for faultfinding or criticism? Is there a reason God’s people are in trouble? Yes!

Church Discipline

I want to present to you a couple of statements about this matter of church discipline, and I hope that you will pray about them and say, “Lord, help us to do in our church what You have told us to do.” If you do not, the devil will see to it that your church is destroyed.

There are certain things the Lord has said that are not to be allowed in the church. Here is one: “No church can be in a healthy, flourishing condition unless its leaders shall take firm, decided measures to repress this fault-finding, accusing spirit wherever it exists. Its indulgence should be made a matter of church discipline; for it is a violation of the law of God, a violation of the rules which Christ has laid down for preserving order in the church. If these mischievous talkers are not subjected to church discipline they become confirmed in their evil work, and God charges the guilt upon the church.” Review and Herald, October 19, 1886.

Satan, the saw-tan, stood at his right hand to accuse him. What about people who are working in institutions or ministries? “No one should be retained in any one of the Lord’s institutions who in a crisis fails of realizing that His instrumentalities are sacred. . . . The halfhearted and worldly, those who are given to gossip, who dwell on the faults of others, while neglecting their own, should be separated from the work.” Testimonies, vol. 7, 202. God’s work, in so many places, is so feeble, because we have not been following this instruction.

“It is the special work of Satan to cause dissension . . . .” Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, 791. This is his special work. “We should be weeding out of our thoughts all complaining and faultfinding. Let us not continue to look upon any defects that we may see.” Ibid., 789. Notice she says that we should be weeding these things out of our thoughts. We should not even be thinking about them.

Help Each Other

You know, friends, if we spend our time looking at the defects of others, we will develop in ourselves the same defects at which we are looking, examining, watching, and studying.

Is there anything desirable in impatience? “The loud, harsh complaint, the fretful, fault-finding spirit, are evidences of a narrow, conceited mind. Impatience brings strife and accusation and sorrow.” Review and Herald, February 21, 1888.

What is the most powerful thing we can do to help our brother or sister who is very faulty? Mrs. White says, “A word of love and encouragement will do more to subdue the hasty temper and willful disposition than all the faultfinding and censure that you can heap upon the erring one.” Testimonies, vol. 7, 266.

How can we help each other to be cured from the faultfinding spirit? Ellen White suggested that “These notional, faultfinding ones would often cure themselves of the habit if they would go directly to the individual they think is wrong.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 145. How can we be cured of a faultfinding spirit? If such a person would make it a rule that, when someone else has done something wrong, they will not go to the local elder, deacon, pastor, or call some leader in a ministry trying to burden that person with the problem, but will go directly to the individual in question and talk to them, then possibly the problem would be resolved! Mrs. White says, “But it is easy to let the tongue run freely about this one or that one when the accused is not present.” Ibid. Oh, friend, we should never do that. If we find the need to point out something that is wrong with someone, the least we can do is talk with him or her directly, not talk about them when they are not present.

The Devil’s Work

As we have studied, we are in the shaking, and if we do not overcome on these points, remember, we will be engaged in the devil’s work. Zechariah 3:1 says that the saw-tan, the adversary, stood at his right hand to accuse him. Ellen White wrote: “Something will arise to test everyone. The great sifting time is just before us. The jealous and the faultfinding, who are watching for evil, will be shaken out. They hate reproof and despise correction.” Testimonies, vol. 1., 251.

The jealous and the faultfinding will be shaken out of God’s church. One of the awful things that hap-pens when someone is shaken out is that they usually do not get shaken out all by themselves. Someone goes out with them because of sympathy.

It was through sympathy that the devil caused the fall of about a third of the angels in heaven. And that is why, when someone gets shaken out, they never go out alone. Somebody else sympathizes with them. They sympathize with the one who has gotten reproved, and they hate the one who reproves. As Amos says, “They hate the one that rebukes in the gate.” Amos 5:10.

Ellen White said, “God will send reproof and warning to His people as long as they continue upon earth.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 180. There is only one way the reproofs can be made to stop and that is if we commit the unpardonable sin by refusing the invitation of mercy offered to us through Jesus Christ. When a nation or a person has gone so far, they have committed the unpardonable sin, and there is no hope for their salvation. It is then that the reproofs and warnings cease. (See The Desire of Ages, 324, 325.)

In another statement from inspired writings, we are told: “Bid him [the talebearer] carry his complaints directly to those whom he thinks in error.” Review and Herald, November 30, 1886.

As I have studied this subject, I have come to realize that God desires for us to be much happier than we are. We cannot be happy if our minds are full of all the things that are wrong in our church and with our brothers and sisters. If someone is doing something wrong, it is all right to go to them and talk with him or her about it, but we cannot be happy if we are dwelling on it all the time.

Ellen White wrote the following statement to a minister and a physician: “We must lay hold of the supreme Power, and close our ears to complaint and faultfinding. Crush this inclination, and empty the soul temple of evil-thinking. Let not one unhappy thought remain within.” This Day With God, 347. God does not want us to be full of unhappiness. He tells us to rid our minds of those unhappy thoughts!

There is Someone in charge, friends. Give Him a chance to work. Pray for the people who are in trouble. Go to them and show them how much you love them and how much you want to help them gain the kingdom of heaven.

[Bible texts quoted are literal translation.]

To be concluded . . .

Pastor Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life Ministry and pastor of the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at:, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.