The third chapter of I Corinthians is rapidly becoming one of my favorite books in the New Testament. It is really one of the great chapters in the Bible about who and what the church is. Verse 2 of the first chapter says, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus.” We see that the church in Corinth were those people in that city who were sanctified in Christ Jesus. I Corinthians 3:9, I believe, is the most astounding verse in the whole Bible: “For we are God’s fellow workers.”
If you study the Spirit of Prophecy writings carefully, you will see that this verse is also one of Ellen White’s favorites and she used it over and over again to show how we become workers together with God. There is no higher privilege that any person could have than to actually be a fellow laborer—a fellow worker with God!
Ever since the beginning of time, God has been working. As you study the inspired writings, they always focus the attention on where God is working. It is important to know this to be one of His fellow workers.
When I studied ancient history, I found out that there were many things going on during Abraham’s time. Inspiration does not go into any of these things, but focuses all the attention on where God is working. Even though Adam had many children, inspiration focuses only on a holy line of men through whom God worked. Seth had a son named Enos, and in his time, the Bible says that men began to call on the name of the Lord. That is where God was working. Then, in the seventh generation from Adam, Enoch was born. That is where God was working, and the people who chose to be fellow workers with God worked in cooperation with Enoch. After Enoch, there was Noah; and if you had been living in Noah’s time and you wanted to be a fellow worker with God, you would be working with Noah.
By the time there had been twenty generations, the whole world had rejected God twice. God looked over the world and found a man whose name was Abraham. He said to Abraham, “I am going to fulfill the plan of salvation through you and through your seed [Christ].”
As you study the Bible record, you will find a certain characteristic in common among all those through whom God was working. In speaking of Abraham, God clearly identified what qualified a person to be a colaborer with Him. “Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” Genesis 26:5. Abraham was obedient.
When God brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, He made them a wonderful promise: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.” Exodus 19:5.
This promise had conditions. God made a covenant with them. He said, “If you do this, I will do this for you; you will be My special people.”
Some say that there are unconditional promises, so in checking this out in the inspired writings of Ellen White, she says all of God’s promises and threatenings are conditional. See Maranatha, 61.
Israel wandered in the wilderness for thirty-eight years longer than they had to because they were not obedient and they rebelled. Finally, when they entered Canaan, they went into apostasy again and started worshiping idols which lasted for hundreds of years. During this time the tabernacle was still with them, and they continued to keep the yearly feast days.
During the period of the judges, the tabernacle was located in Shiloh, in the land of Ephraim. Many people have almost forgotten that Ephraim was the center of Divine worship for over three hundred years and the people of that time thought that it would always be that way.
Look what it says about this in the Psalms: “Moreover He rejected the tent of Joseph, and did not choose the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which He loved.” Psalm 78:67, 68.
Why did God reject Ephraim and remove the tabernacle from Shiloh? “The ark remained at Shiloh for three hundred years, until, because of the sins of Eli’s house, it fell into the hands of the Philistines, and Shiloh was ruined.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 514.
As a result of the leaders of God’s people falling into apostasy and sin, the Lord told Eli, “You are not going to be a priest for Me. Your descendants are not going to be My priests forever.”
They were descendants of Aaron—God’s people; but the Lord said, “You are no longer going to be priests” and Ephraim was rejected as the religious center—something that was thought could not happen, happened. “The sanctuary service was finally transferred to the temple at Jerusalem, and Shiloh fell into insignificance. There are only ruins to mark the spot where it once stood. Long afterward its fate was made use of as a warning to Jerusalem.” Ibid.
A few hundred years later the people of Jerusalem thought the same thing. The temple there was the center of Divine worship, and they believed that this was where God was working. Hundreds of years after the worship had been transferred from Shiloh, the Lord, through Jeremiah, said, “ ‘Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, “We are delivered to do all these abominations.” ‘Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,’ says the Lord. ‘But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel. And now, because you have done all these works,’ says the Lord, ‘and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you, but you did not answer, therefore I will do to this house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren—the whole posterity of Ephraim.’ ” Jeremiah 7:9–15.
As we look at history, we see that God cannot work with people who are living in sin. If you want to be a fellow worker with God, you cannot link up and work with people who are living and working in sin. With God, character is what counts; and God works with people who listen to His voice and who obey.
We are told of Israel:
“Their calamities did not come because they kept the law of God, but because they disregarded that law. God had told them that if they did not obey His commandments, He could not keep His covenant with them. The history of the Israelites is portrayed for our warning. They had great light and exalted privileges; yet they did not live up to that light nor appreciate their advantages, and their light became darkness. They walked in the light of their own eyes, instead of following the leadings of God. Their history is given for the benefit of those who live in these last days, that we may avoid following the same example of unbelief.” The Signs of the Times, July 19, 1899.
Where was God working in the time of Jesus? When Jesus was brought to the temple to be dedicated, Ellen White says that the priest did not recognize anything unusual. Commenting on this experience she says, “So it is still. Events upon which the attention of all heaven is centered, are undiscerned, their very occurrence is unnoticed, by religious leaders, and worshipers in the house of God.” The Desire of Ages, 56.
While the attention of all heaven was focused on Christ’s birth, in this world the people who claimed to be God’s true people did not even know it had taken place. How can you be a laborer together with God if you do not even know where God is working?
While on earth, God worked through His Son to bring salvation to a lost world. If you wanted to be a laborer together with God then, you had to connect yourself with Jesus and work with Him.
The New Testament writers predict that a terrible change is going to take place among those who profess to be Christians. Paul speaks, addressing the elders from the church of Ephesus: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves [church leaders] men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” Acts 20:28–30.
Speaking of this same great apostasy, Paul wrote: “Let no one deceive you by any means: for that Day [the day of Christ] will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” II Thessalonians 2:3, 4.
Peter talked about this apostasy, too. “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destructive ways … because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.” II Peter 2:1, 2. [Emphasis supplied.] The word blasphemy means to speak evil of something. As a result of this new teaching, the real way of truth will be evil spoken of.
Notice that both Peter and Paul say that false prophets will secretly bring in destructive heresies. Whenever you find a book that is written to which the authors do not want to put their name, you ought to remember these texts.
Paul identifies this element as the mystery of lawlessness. This apostasy will, therefore, involve the breaking of God’s law and result in the way of truth being evil spoken of. Did this happen?
“The history of God’s people during the ages of darkness that followed upon Rome’s supremacy is written in heaven, but they have little place in human records. Few traces of their existence can be found, except in the accusations of their persecutors. It was the policy of Rome to obliterate every trace of dissent from her doctrines or decrees. Everything heretical, whether persons or writings, she sought to destroy. … Before the invention of printing, books were few in number, and in a form not favorable for preservation; therefore there was little to prevent the Romanists from carrying out their purpose.” The Great Controversy, 61, 62.
If you were living in that time and you wanted to be a fellow worker with God, it made all the difference in the world whether or not you understood that God was working with people who were keeping His law. If you did not understand this principle, you could not be a fellow laborer with God. Do you realize, friends, that there have been millions of people who have believed that they were working with the Lord but were working with the devil the whole time?
We find that all of the sixteenth century Reformers upheld God’s law. They did not all understand the binding claims of the fourth commandment, but they did not reject it. There is a great difference between not understanding truth and rejecting it. Martin Luther, as well as John Huss, preached a great deal on the Ten Commandments and believed in them. God was leading a people on step by step.
When you study sacred history, you find that in the latter part of the eighteenth and the early part of the nineteenth century, simultaneously, all over the world, God started raising up people from all the various Christian churches with the message that Jesus was coming soon. Out of that great Second Advent Movement emerged a group of people known first as Millerites. Later, they became known as Adventists and finally, Seventh-day Adventists.
As this group studied, they discovered the messages of the three angels of Revelation 14. Having learned the meaning of the sanctuary message in the books of Hebrews and Daniel, they realized that the Day of Judgment was to begin on October 22, 1844. This is not a message that the apostle Paul preached, because it would not have been true during his lifetime. The apostle Paul taught that the Judgment was still in the future. See Acts 24:25. Martin Luther did not preach it either. But here is a message that the hour of God’s Judgment has come. You cannot preach that the hour of God’s judgment has come unless you know it has started. But how do we know for sure that it has started? There is only one way that I know of how you know that the hour of God’s judgment has started, and that is from Daniel 8 and 9.
Now, do you understand why the devil has made our understanding of Daniel 8 and 9 a focal point of attack? If he can destroy a person’s confidence in that truth, that person can no longer preach the first angel’s message. Remember, the second and third angels’ messages are built upon the first. You cannot preach the third unless you preach the second, and you cannot preach the second unless you preach the first and if you do not understand Daniel 8:14 about the twenty-three hundred days, you are no longer a Seventh-day Adventist.
God is working today with the people who are proclaiming the Three Angels’ Messages. If you want to be a fellow laborer with God today, you have to join up with the people who are doing this.
The second angel’s message cannot be preached if you do not know who Babylon is according to Revelation 18:1–5.
The third angel’s message is a warning against the beast, his image, and his mark. Notice how the message concludes: “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:12. If you are not even sure that you can really keep the commandments of God, how can you be a fellow laborer with God and preach Revelation 14:12? Have you noticed that it does not say that here are those who are trying to keep the commandments? It says they keep them. You cannot be a fellow laborer with God and be involved in His last work for the world if you cannot proclaim the message, and you certainly cannot proclaim the message if you do not believe it is true. The idea that “you are going to keep sinning until Jesus comes” is very dangerous.
If you want to know where God is working, look for a group of Seventh-day Adventists who really keep the commandments and do not play around and say, “Well, we are doing the best we can.” Listen, friends, the best you can do is not good enough, unless you are keeping the commandments by the power of God. If you give your life to the Lord, He has the power to give you so that you can keep them. If we fail to keep them when Jesus comes, He will be able to show us millions of people who had the same besetting sins that we had, and He will say, “I gave all of these people power to overcome.” There will be no satisfactory excuse then.
The people described in Revelation 12:17 not only keep the commandments but they have the testimony of Jesus. Revelation 19:10 says that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Seventh-day Adventists believe that Ellen White fulfilled this prophecy of giving the gift of prophecy to God’s remnant people. If you want to find the people through whom God is working, you want to look for a people who have, believe and obey the spirit of prophecy. That eliminates the large portion of those who make a profession of waiting for the Lord to come.
Revelation 14:12 points out that God’s people not only keep the commandments but they have the faith of Jesus. You will never find somebody who has the first qualification and does not have the third one because you cannot keep the commandments unless you do have the faith of Jesus. People who have the faith of Jesus will be a sanctified people.
There is another characteristic that, unfortunately, disqualifies many who qualify according to the first three characteristics. Revelation 14:6 tells us that God’s last people will be giving His last message to the world. “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.” If you want to find the people through whom God is working and if you want to be a fellow laborer with God, you need to find the people who are determined to take the Three Angels’ Messages to every single person in the world.
When you find those people, you will know what group to work with; you will know how to be a co-laborer with God, because that is where God is working. He is working with the people who have these four characteristics: they keep His commandments; they have the spirit of prophecy and live by it; they have the faith of Jesus; and they are out to take the gospel to every single person in the whole world.
The catastrophe that I see taking place in Adventism today is that the great majority of Adventists are going to destruction, and when given a warning they say, “You say that we are in total apostasy.” Looking at the destruction of Jerusalem, we get just a little idea of what is ahead for Adventism. The only way to avoid being part of that destruction is to be a coworker with God, working where God is working, obedient to his law.
The gospel is not a halfway business. Either you have to get into it all the way or you might as well get out. Soon time will be no more, and when it is all over, I want to know that I have given it everything I have. I want all of my money, my time, my talents, everything I have, to be in the finishing of God’s work. How about you?
Pastor John Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: historic@
stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: (316) 788-5559.