Birth of the King! The Church Structure Of Jesus’ Day

From Wichita, Kansas to Kongsberg, Norway, and around the world, the colorful sights and delightful sound of Christmas once again pervade the earth. Many Christians observe Christmas as a commemoration of the birth of Jesus in lowly Bethlehem. Though in all probability it is not His birthday, let us use this time of Christmas awareness to review the events surrounding that glorious occasion.

“When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son” for whom it was proclaimed that “of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” He was to sit “upon the throne of David, and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.” “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.”” Galatians 4:4; Isaiah 9:7, 6.

Thus, according to Scripture, when Jesus was “born,” He was to sit upon the “throne of David” and to establish the kingdom in justice and peace. Though the chosen nation should suffer economic chaos, theological apostasy and political corruption, its members were sure it would ultimately recover, for the Messiah would once again bring justice and peace, prosperity and dominion to God’s people.

Was not “the government” to be “upon His shoulder”? And does the government not refer to the leaders and authorities of the nation? Thus, the people confidently looked to their leaders to proclaim the Messiah King.

While the world of Israel thus looked expectantly toward Jerusalem for the birth announcement of their Saviour and King, a newborn babe lay sleeping on the beaten-down straw, under strips of linen, in a Bethlehem barn. He was a normal looking infant, born of peasant stock. He was the Messiah, the Creator of the universe. The future of Israel’s prosperity and existence lay huddled beside Him.

Angels, bursting with eagerness to tell the good news, flew from house to house, synagogue to synagogue, throughout the length and breadth of Judea, searching for receptive hearts, to announce the birth of this newborn Son. They searched and searched. Where were the 7,000 faithful of Elijah’s day? Though Elijah had not known their whereabouts, these angels had known every name and address. But now they searched in vain! Yet the people of Israel were zealous Sabbath-keepers. They sent their children to the rabbinical schools and daily studied the Scriptures. And most of all, they were of the lineage of Abraham, loyal Jews, as demonstrated by their loyalty to their human leaders.

In one classroom an angel lingers as a scholar lectures his students. “It is nearly time for the Messiah to come,” he says. The angel starts forward with breathtaking joy—has he found a worthy group? He readies to lighten the room and share the good news, but the teachers continues:

“Beware, however, that the historic beliefs, based upon simple Bible statements, must today be balanced with modern scholasticism. Rabbi Benikel, for example, in his recent dissertation of the linguistic origins of Daniel, which has received the endorsement of Rabbi Honohan, points out several exegetical problems with the theory of the Babylonian origin of Daniel. He asserts that portions of Daniel were written during the early Maccabean period and that the Messiah prophecy was an attempt to strengthen the support of Judas Maccabeus in his resistance to the Antiochan occupation of Judea. The Sanhedrin Council has yet to decide on this theory, but Rabbi Benikel, understandably, has not wanted to submit it to their jurisprudence until he has more support in the council.”

The angel folds his wings and turns to leave. The professor drones on—Rabbi El-Sevens has also shown problems with the year-day theory. This theory, he says, developed as a result of Israel’s disappointment when the Messiah did not come when expected shortly after Cyrus’ decree. . . . But the angel has gone. The rejection of the Messiah had already begun.

Thus it was that “angels came . . . unseen to Jerusalem, to the appointed expositors of the Sacred Oracles, and the ministers of God’s house. . . . Yet Jerusalem was not preparing to welcome her Redeemer. With amazement the heavenly messengers beheld the indifference of the people whom God had called to communicate to the world the light of sacred truth. . . . They rehearsed their meaningless prayers, and performed the rites of worship to be seen by men, but in their strife for riches and worldly honor they were not prepared for the revelation of the Messiah. The Desire of Ages, 43, 44

The angel returns from his search to the hayloft headquarters of Bethlehem: “I’ve searched the classrooms of Judea,” he reports. “The teachers are expounding the Scriptures, but they are very proud and degree-oriented. ‘They love . . . to be called . . . Rabbi.’ (Matthew 23:6, 7.) The students’ minds are crowded with material that . . . [is] worthless, and they are so busy with their biblical studies that they have no time for ‘quiet hours to spend with God.’ Thus they do ‘not hear His voice speaking to the heart.’ The Desire of Ages, 69. They have elevated human philosophy above simple faith and have ‘set human teaching above God’s Word.’ Christ’s Object Lessons, 304. They pray before every class, but there is no real desire for divine enlightenment. I am sad to report that I have not been able to find a single classroom of Judea within which I could give the glad tidings of Jesus’ birth. Even if I had told them, unless it was endorsed by the Sanhedrin and came through the official channels, they would not have believed it.”

“That’s the kind of reports we’re getting from all over,” was the answer from the coordinating angel. “It is pretty bleak. If we could even find some in individual dwellings with whom we could share the goodness, but the angels visiting the homes report that the people have ‘respected the priests and rabbis for their intelligence and apparent piety’ for so long, that ‘in all religious matters they [have] yielded implicit obedience to their authority.’” The Desire of Ages, 611. They have almost made their human leaders infallible.

“We have found two persons, however, named Simeon and Anna, who are ‘just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel’ and filled with the Holy Spirit. (See Luke 2:29, 36.) Of course, they are so old that few will listen. What’s more, Anna is a prophetess, and you know how the testimony of the Spirit has been received of late. Completely made of none effect by many, I fear.

“Another detachment of angels have found some philosophers in Persia who are sincere seekers for truth. They have the writings of Balaam. Possibly we can reach them through their belief in astrology. Balaam said, ‘A Star shall come out of Jacob’ (Numbers 24:17); now if we make a visible star arise over Bethlehem. . .”

But the commander was interrupted by the entrance of another angel who appears radiant with joy—”I’ve found some who believe!” he announces. “There are some shepherds herding their sheep right outside this very city,” he says, “who are praying and meditating on the Scripture and are expecting the Christ to come!”

“But who will listen to shepherds?” asks one of the angels standing nearby. “They have no degrees, no preaching license, no literary or oratorical skills, no friends in the synagogue, no influence at all—if they preach this gospel it will turn many away!”

“But God is no respecter of persons” responds the angel. “They are worthy and I must tell them.”

“We’re all coming,” responds the commander. “You are the only one who has had success tonight—we’re joining you!”

That night the lowly shepherds became the best and only true theologians of Israel. They did not know four of five variant possibilities of prophetic interpretations; they could not quote rabbinical sources; they did not even know the dictionary definition of exegesis, but they knew the truth. True theology is the process of humbly arriving at truth, not the process of proudly elucidating human speculation.

Those who do not understand or believe in God’s holy Sabbath are not theologians. They may be sincere, but they are not theologians. The most common and illiterate person who understands and keeps the Sabbath is a greater theologian than is the wisest scholar who is ignorant of such a basic, plain truth of the Bible. Those who do not understand the closing events of earth’s history as delineated in Daniel, the Revelation, and The Great Controversy, are not theologians. Those who do not understand the power of Christ to deliver from sin, of the plain and simple gospel story of who Jesus was—”the seed of David according to the flesh” (See Romans 1:3.)—are not theologians. Those who have known and rejected God’s voice through the Spirit of Prophecy may be applauded for their great speculative skills, but their wisdom is no greater than was that of the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day—they are not theologians. And if the church, or individuals, permit themselves to be educated by these broken cisterns, they will be deceived and rejected by God, as were the Jews in Jesus’ day.

As in Jesus’ day,

“There are men among us in responsible positions who hold that the opinions of a few conceited philosophers, so called, are more to be trusted than the truths of the Bible, or the testimonies of the Holy Spirit. Such a faith as that of Paul, Peter, or John is considered old-fashioned and insufferable at the present day. . . . God has shown me that these men are . . . to prove a scourge to our people. They are wise above what is written. This unbelief of the very truths of God’s Word because human judgment cannot comprehend the mysteries of His work is found . . . in most of our schools and comes into the lessons of the nurseries.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 79.

Few so-called scholars are true theologians, and few theologians are recognized scholars. Jesus said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them to babes.” Matthew 11:25.

As with ancient Israel at Christ’s first coming, so with modern Israel “in the last solemn work” before His Second Coming—”few great men will be engaged.” They “have trusted to intellect, genius, or talent . . . [and] did not keep pace with the light. . . . God will work a work in our day that but few anticipate. He will raise up and exalt among us those [like the shepherds] who are taught rather by the unction of His Spirit than by the outward training of scientific institutions. . . . God will manifest that He is not dependent on learned, self-important mortals.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 80, 82.

In Jesus’ day the people had been led to believe that God’s work depended upon the priests and rabbis, as “we have been inclined to think that where there are no faithful ministers there can be no true Christian, but this is not the case. God has promised that where the shepherds are not true He will take charge of the flock Himself. God has never made the flock wholly dependent upon human instrumentalities.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 80.

The Jewish people could not fathom the Lord ever forsaking them. Their leaders had emphasized the texts that spoke of their eternal heritage to the exclusion of texts that spoke of the conditions of prosperity. This led to a false sense of security in the system. They forgot that God has not made Himself dependent upon any man, nation or church. Anyone, such as John the Baptist, who said, “God can raise up children to Himself from these stones,” was thought of as a schismatic and separationist. The question they asked both John and Jesus was, “By what authority do you do these things?” —What rabbi, priest, or synagogue has endorsed you?

The rejection of Jesus and the destruction of a nation followed a very simple path:

The leaders became political with only an outward appearance of piety in order to retain the people’s confidence and support.

The educational system elevated the human above the divine.

The people were taught that all questions of administration or policy must be submitted to ecclesiastical authority and that only those under such authority could preach, write or teach.

The people were taught that the chosen nation would continue to be blessed regardless of what it did.

The people were led to believe that the work of the Lord consisted totally of the political system then in control of the nation. God was not recognized as the Head of His church as stated in Ephesians 1:22, 23. The Lord Himself was obliged to go through the “proper channels” of the church. No one could ever hope to be the Messiah without the Sanhedrin’s recognition.

Following the anointing of Jesus at His baptism, the Father gave proof after proof of Jesus’ Messiahship. But the one proof He was lacking was the official approval of the church—or at least what the people thought was the church.

Of course, Jesus was the church. He was the government.

For “where Christ is, even among the humble few, this is Christ’s church, for the presence of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity can alone constitute a church.” The Upward Look, 315.

No human council or organization, either today, in Martin Luther’s day, or in Jesus’ day can either establish or annul a church body by mere human fiat. The true church in Jesus’ day was not the temple in Jerusalem, but the believers that surrounded Jesus. This has constituted the church “in every age.” This is the church that “the gates of hell have not been able to prevail against,” and “is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard.” Acts of the Apostles, 11, 12. But to even suggest such a thing in Jesus’ day would have been considered divisive, insubordinate and apostate. Thus the leaders were able to take a whole nation with them to ruin in their rejection of the humble King of Israel. The leaders were too proud, entrenched and educated to follow Jesus or to submit to His authority, and the people cast their lot with the priests.

Witness one of the most dramatic of Jesus’ healings. The man was born blind, the result, supposedly, of a curse from the parents’ or grandparents’ sins. But Jesus made clay, packed it upon his eyes, and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam.

The man came seeing and rejoicing. Though he had never seen Jesus, he knew that He was the Messiah, and acknowledged Him so before the priests. The priests knew this man. They knew he had been blind from birth. They had tried to suggest in previous healings of Jesus, that it was by sleight of hand, but they could not deny this miracle. Neither could they accept the One who performed it, for it was done by Jesus, who was not under their authority or jurisdiction. To acknowledge Him would mean to humble themselves. It could possibly lead to the whole moral and economic collapse of their system. Tithes and offerings would probably start flowing to Jesus. Their own authority would be limited. If they should yield their authority here, what would prevent any and every other upstart from beginning his own ministry? What would preserve the “purity” of the church? To their way of thinking, the whole prosperity of a nation depended upon their handling of this case in such a way as to deprive Jesus of His glory and yet retain the confidence of the people. It would require the utmost skill in administrative tact and crisis management.

“So they . . . called the man who was blind, and said to him, ‘Give God the glory! We know that this Man [Jesus] is a sinner.’” But the healed man would not relinquish his faith in Jesus. “Then they reviled him and said, ‘You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples.’” John 9:24, 28.

As one last attempt to break through the stubborn resistance of the Jews, Jesus raised a man to life who had been dead for four days. The priests knew that they could not refute this miracle. In their hearts they knew that He was divine. But to acknowledge Him now would destroy their whole social, economic and political system. And to their way of thinking, it would therefore destroy God’s church. That, as “faithful stewards,” they could not allow. Thus Caiaphas said, “It is [more] expedient for us that one man should die for the people, . . . [than] that the whole nation should perish.” John 11:50.

Corruption and political maneuvering they could permit; but someone calling for repentance, someone speaking without their authority, they could not tolerate. When the decision came to choose between Barabbas and Christ, they unanimously, save for Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, demanded Barabbas, and the multitudes followed suit.

“At the time of the first advent of Christ to our world, the men who composed the Sanhedrin exercised their authority in controlling men according to their will,” and the people blindly accepted their dominion.” Testimonies to Ministers. 301. In their acceptance of human authority they rejected God’s. And though the true church of Israel never fell, the human machinery that the people thought was the church did fall.

“The sin of ancient Israel was in disregarding the express will of God and following their own way according to the leadings of unsanctified hearts. Modern Israel are fast following in their footsteps and the displeasure of the Lord is as surely resting upon them.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 94.

“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. . . . I know that a work must be done for the people, or many will not be prepared to receive the light of the angel sent down from heaven to lighten the whole earth with His glory.” Testimonies to Ministers, 468, 469.

When the earth was lightened with the glory of the angels at Jesus’ first coming, few were ready to receive it—only the humblest were lightened by their glory. Just so, another angel is to lighten the earth before Jesus’ Second Coming. Again, only the humblest will receive His glory. The church, purified, is going through. But not everything that purports to be the church today is going to triumph with it. Only the pure and holy are going to triumph. Nothing that in any way bespeaks corruption or political maneuvering will survive.

“The Lord Jesus will always have a chosen people to serve Him. When the Jewish people rejected Christ, the Prince of Life, He took from them the kingdom of God and gave it to the Gentiles. God will continue to work on this principle with every branch of His work. When a church proves unfaithful to the work of the Lord, whatever their position may be, however high and sacred their calling, the Lord can no longer work with them. Others are then chosen to bear important responsibilities.” The Upward Look. 131.

“Let a church become proud and boastful, not depending on God, not exalting His power, and that church will surely be left by the Lord, to be brought down to the ground.” Testimonies, vol. 8, 127.

Throughout the land it is Christmas time again. Though the origins of Christmas preceded the Christian era, let us review the meaning of the Bethlehem scene. While all eyes were fastened upon Jerusalem for the official birth announcement of their Saviour and King, a newborn babe lay sleeping on beaten-down straw, under strips of linen, in a Bethlehem barn. While the church went on with its forms and ceremonies and Sabbath rituals, the lowly shepherds were bowing beside His cradle. They were the true theologians of Israel, but none would accept their inspired announcement. There in that cradle of Bethlehem lay the government of Israel. The prosperity of a nation, a church, a people, lay huddled beside Him. Though many rejected Him, God’s true church accepted Him. That church still lives!

Martin Luther, part I – The Groundworks

During the days of Valentinian (A.D. 364), the Roman Empire was divided into the Eastern and Western sections. The Turks eventually came to control the Eastern Empire, but proved unable to conquer Western Europe. Largely as a result of the efforts of the pope to revive the Empire in the west, the nations were grouped into a body, or federation of confederate states. From the kings of these various states, one was chosen to rule over them collectively and was given the title Emperor.

Charlemagne, the first head, succeeded in giving the confederation empire a show of power, but true to the words of prophecy: “And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.” Daniel 2:43. It was extremely difficult to introduce universal laws or to bring the nations together, even in matters of mutual interest. It was only the terror inspired by Mahomet II that led the princes of Germany to unite themselves in an empire.

Pope Gregory, about the year 997, is believed to have instituted seven electors. Of these, three were churchmen and three lay princes, to which one of kingly rank was added. The three churchmen wee the Archbishop of Treve, Chancellor of France; the Archbishop of Mainz, Chancellor of Germany; and the Archbishop of Cologne, Chancellor if Italy. The four laymen were the King of Bohemia, the Duke of Saxony, Count Palatine of the Rhine, and the Marquis of Brandenburg. The election was to take place in Frankfort; and no elector was permitted to enter the city attended by more than 200 horsemen, of which only 50 were to be armed.

The emperor had no special revenue to support the imperial dignity and no power to enforce the imperial commands. The princes were careful not to make the emperor too powerful, lest he should infringe on their independent sovereignty. In the end, the Empire had only two elements of cohesion—Roman Catholicism and their fear of the Turks.

With the death of Maximilian, in 1519, the imperial crown became vacant. There were two powerful contenders who came forward to claim the price—Francis I of France and Charles of Austria, the grandson of Maximilian and King of Spain. Henry VIII had an interest; but finding his chances of winning small, he early withdrew. In the end, the Germans chose Charles.

The Turks, hovering on their frontier, helped the German princes to recognize the benefit of a strong central government. They were not, however, unaware that the hand which could be strong to protect them could as easily crush out their rights. In order to protect themselves, they drew up an instrument called a Capitulation, or claim of rights, enumerating and guaranteeing the privileges and immunities of the Germanic Body, which the representatives of Charles signed. At the time of his coronation, Charles confirmed the agreement with an oath. In so doing, these men were, quite unconsciously, creating an asylum to which Protestantism might retreat when the emperor would later raise his hand to crush it.

Charles V was more powerful than any emperor had been for centuries. To the imperial dignity he added the substantial power of Spain, which was, at that time, by far the mightiest nation in Europe. In order to better understand how Spain had achieved this position, we will briefly look at the events that had taken place to bring Spain to the pinnacle of power and grandeur that it then enjoyed.


Spain Emerges


In 711, a Berber Muslim army crossed the Strait of Gibraltar from northern Africa into the Iberian Peninsula. By 719, Moorish rule was established in Spain. Their progress northward was arrested, however, at a battle fought in France, between Tours and Poitiers, in 732 by the Frankish ruler Charles Martel.

During the centuries of Moorish supremacy, numerous schools were built, many of them free and for the education of the poor. At the great Muslim universities, medicine, mathematics, philosophy, and literature were cultivated, placing Spanish civilization far in advance of that experienced by the rest of the continent.

With the death of Hisham III, the dynasty ended and the dissolution of the central Moorish power began, enabling the Christian kings of northern Spain to gain the advantage and subdue some Moorish states, while making others tributary. The Christian kings, in a great battle fought on the plains of Toledo in July 1212, won a decisive victory and shortly thereafter largely expelled the Muslims from Spain.

Except for small areas that were still under Moorish control, Spain, for the next two centuries, consisted of various principalities. As the Reformation approached, this suddenly changed with the merging of the various kingdoms into the two kingdoms of Castile and Aragon. Only one step remained to make Spain one monarchy, and that step was taken in 1469 by the marriage of Princess Isabella of Castile and Prince Ferdinand of Aragon. They became joint rulers of Castile in 1474 and of Aragon in 1479.

In 1492, sponsored by Ferdinand and Isabella, Christopher Columbus sailed west and landed in the West Indies. The opening of the New World made Spain the richest and most powerful European State of the sixteenth century. Through conquest and exploration, the Spanish colonies came to include the West Indies, Cuba, Mexico, all of Central America, the greater part of South America, Florida, and the Philippine Islands. In a series of Spanish campaigns from 1509 through 1511, Oran, Bougie, and Tripoli, in North Africa, became Spanish tributaries. It could then be said, as was later said of the British, that the sun never set on the Spanish Empire. Upon the death of Ferdinand, his grandson Charles became the first king of a united Spain.

In addition to Spain and the Spanish colonies, Charles inherited Naples (through his mother) and the Netherlands and Burgundy (through his father) and also acquired the duchy of Milan, including most of Lombardy. “Since the noon of the Roman power, the liberties of the world had at no time been in so great peril as now. The shadow of a universal despotism was persistently projecting itself father and yet farther upon the kingdoms and peoples of Western Europe. There was no principle known to the men of that age that seemed capable of doing battle with this colossus, and staying its advance . . . Unless Protestantism had arrived at that crisis, a universal despotism would have covered Europe, and liberty banished from the earth must have returned to her native skies.” Wylie, The History of Protestantism, vol. 1, Book 2, 220.

From the fall of the Western Empire to the eleventh century, Europe experienced an era of unparalleled darkness. It was the crusades that first began to break the darkness. Though it was a feeble beginning, and of itself would not have been sufficient to bring the day that was yet to break over the world, commerce, art, and poetry began to appear to act upon society. In the passage of time, the printing press appeared, and soon after, the mariner’s compass. Men, who until this time had but a limited view of the world, suddenly awakened to discover a world larger and richer in natural resources than they had dared to dream existed.


The Bible Brings Light


Though these things could not have brought the dawn, they opened the way for the true light to make its way, scattering the darkness before it. The Bible, so long buried, was brought forth and translated into the various languages of Europe. “The light of heaven, after its long and disastrous eclipse, broke anew upon the world.” Ibid., 227.

It was into this setting that Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany. John and Margaret, Luther’s parents, were very poor. His father, however, was determined to make a scholar of his son; and at the age of fourteen, Luther was sent away to advance his education at Madeburg, and later at Eisenach. At eighteen, Luther entered the university at Erfurth where he pursued a course in law, according to his father’s wishes.

At this time, books were very rare. One day, during his second year at Erfurth, he was in the library, opening books to learn the writer’s names, when he came upon a Bible. His interest was greatly aroused to learn that there was such a book. Until this time he had thought that the fragments of the Gospels and Epistles that the Church had selected for reading made up the entire Bible. With indescribable emotion he turned the pages of the sacred Volume. The first part to which his attention was drawn was the story of Hanna and Samuel. As he read of Samuel’s dedication to the Lord, of how he witnessed the wickedness of Eli’s sons, the priests of the Lord who made the people to transgress and abhor the offering of the Lord, he fancied that he saw a parallel with his own times. Day after day he returned to read, rejoicing in the truth that began to open to his inquiring mind.

Luther continued to pursue his education until he acquired a Master of Arts, or Doctor of Philosophy; and for a time, the Bible appeared to be forgotten as he began to give public lectures on physics and ethics of Aristotle.

God did not, however, leave Luther. About this time, a very dear friend and companion, Alexius, was overtaken by a sudden and violent death. Soon after this, Luther paid a visit to his parents in Mansfield. On returning to Erfurth, as he neared the city gate, he was caught in a fierce thunderstorm. One bolt struck so close that, by some accounts, he was thrown to the ground. In his extremity, he vowed to God that if his life was spared, he would devote his life to His service. The storm passed, and a solemn Luther made his way into town.

On August 17, 1505, Luther entered the Augustinian Convent. He had expected that in a place so quiet and, as he thought, so near to heaven, he would find rest for his soul and relief from the burden of sin that was, to him, becoming an insupportable burden. “There is a city of refuge to which the sinner may flee when death and hell are on his track, but it is not that into which Luther had now entered.” Ibid., 236.

At the news of his son’s change of plans, John Luther became indignant and wrote an angry letter to his son. He withdrew all of his favor, and declared him disinherited from his paternal affection. In vain did the father’s friends seek to effect reconciliation.

Not long after this, the plague deprived John of two of his sons. At that time, it was related to him that Martin had also been taken in death. The father’s friends seized this opportunity to reconcile him to the young novice. Somewhat grudgingly, and still half-rebellious, John relented. “Some time after this, when Luther, who had been reconciled to his father, related to him the event that had induced him to enter a monastic order: ‘God grant,’ replied the worthy miner, ‘that you may not have taken for a sign from heaven what was merely a delusion of the devil.’” D’Aubigne’s History of the Reformation, Book 2, Chapter 3, 57.

The monks at the convent received Luther with joy. It was no small gratification to their vanity to have one of the most esteemed doctors of the age abandon the university and join their order. Nevertheless, they treated him harshly and imposed on him the meanest occupations, seeking to humble him.

The drudgery of the monastery, combined with the late nights of study, worked a transformation in the communicative and jovial student. He became solitary and withdrawn. At times he fell to the floor of his cell in sheer weakness, more like a corpse than a living man. One day, when his door had not been opened as usual, they knocked on his door; but there was no response. “The door was burst in, and poor Fra Martin was found stretched on the floor in a state of ecstasy, scarcely breathing, and well-nigh dead. A monk took his flute, and gently playing upon it one of the airs that Luther loved, brought him gradually back to himself. The likelihood at that moment was that instead of living to do battle with the pope, and pull down the pillars of his kingdom, a quiet grave, somewhere in the precincts of the monastery, would erelong be the only memorial remaining to testify that such a one as Martin Luther had ever existed.” Wylie, The History of Protestantism, vol. 1, Book 2, 237, 238.

Later, as a Reformer, he wrote to Duke George of Saxony, “I was indeed a pious monk and followed the rules of my order more strictly than I can express. If ever monk could obtain heaven by his monkish works, I should have certainly been entitled to it. Of this all the friars who have known me can testify. If it had continued much longer, I should have carried my mortifications even to death by means of my watchings, prayers, reading, and other labors. D’Aubigne’s History of the Reformation, Book 2, Chapter 3, 59.


Staupitz Points Luther to Christ


A tender conscience inclined Luther to regard the slightest fault as a great sin. He would endeavor, by the severest mortifications, to expiate it; but in all of this, he found no peace.

It was at this time that the Lord brought the pious John Staupitz into Luther’s life. Staupitz was Vicar-General of the Augustines of Germany. Through his study he had learned the way of salvation. The purity of his own life condemned the corruption that surrounded him, but he lacked the courage to be the Reformer of Christendom. In spite of this lack, God used him in preparing Luther for that work. “The pious Staupitz opened the Word of God to Luther’s mind and bade him look away from himself, cease the contemplation of infinite punishment for the violation of God’s law, and look to Jesus, his sin-pardoning Saviour. ‘Instead of torturing yourself on account of your sins, throw yourself into the Redeemer’s arms. Trust in Him, in the righteousness of His life, in the atonement of His death. . . . Listen to the Son of God. He became man to give you the assurance of divine favor. Love Him who first loved you.’ D’Aubigne’s, History of the Reformation, Book 2, Chapter 4. Thus spoke this messenger of mercy. His words made a deep impression upon Luther’s mind. After many a struggle with long-cherished errors, he was enabled to grasp the truth, and peace came to his troubled soul.” The Great Controversy, 123, 124.

The light that pierced the darkness that surrounded Luther freed him from the principles of popery. He no longer looked to himself and to the Church for salvation, but to Jesus Christ. Before he left the convent cell to break the shackles of Rome from the Christian world, the Reformation first rehearsed itself in his cell at Erfurth.

A short time later, Luther was ordained a priest and accepted a call to professorship in the University of Wittenberg. There he applied himself to his study of the Scriptures in the original tongues. He began to lecture on the book of Psalms, the Gospels, and the Epistles. His friend Staupitz urged him to ascend the pulpit and preach the Word of God; but Luther hesitated, feeling himself unworthy of such a high calling. It was only after a long struggle that he yielded to the invitation of friends.

Luther was still a true son of the papal church and had no thought that he would ever be anything else; but in the providence of God, he was led to make a trip to Rome. About this time a quarrel broke out between seven monasteries of the Augustines and their Vicar-General. It was agreed to submit the matter to the pope, and Luther’s eloquence recommended him as the person most fit to undertake the task. Descending the mountains to the fertile plains of Lombardy, he stopped for a few days of rest at a monastery on the banks of the Po. He was filled with misgivings as he observed the magnificence and luxury. The monks, endowed with a princely income, lived in splendid apartments and dressed themselves in the richest and most costly attire. His mind became perplexed as he contrasted this lifestyle with the self-denial and hardship of his own life. Friday came and, according to church law, there was to be no meat served. The tables of the monks, however, groaned under the abundance as before. Luther could no longer remain silent. “’On this day,’ said Luther, ‘such things my not be eaten. The pope has forbidden them.’” Wylie, The History of Protestantism, vol. 1, Book 2, 248.

Though it did not spoil their appetites, the manners of this rude German did startle the monks. They became apprehensive that he might report their style of life to their superiors at headquarters, and they consulted how this danger might be avoided. A friendly porter disclosed to Luther that to remain longer would be to incur great risk. Profiting by the friendly warning, Luther quickly departed with as little delay as possible.

At the first sight of Rome, Luther fell to his knees, exclaiming, “Holy Rome, I salute thee!” Expecting there to find the spotless beauty of apostolic truth, he made his way into the city.

Judgment, Weighed In the Balance, part 3

Do you remember from our earlier studies that we saw that when you come to the end, you are going to come to judgment? You are going to be placed on a scale; and unless your sins are forgiven and you are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, unless the Holy Spirit has worked a miraculous change in your heart and your life, you will never have eternal life.

I want to consider the subject of the Judgment. It is a serious subject, much more serious than death. The devil does not want you to study this subject. He wants to give it a bad name. He knows that if you think about it, it might change your whole life and you might get serious about your relationship with the Lord. It is absolutely astounding that in Adventism today people are trying to discredit the whole concept of the Judgment. Theologians begin by saying; “I cannot find the concept of the Investigative Judgment in the Bible.” What in the world are people thinking?

It is Time to Awake

“What shall I say to arouse the remnant people of God? I was shown that dreadful scenes are before us; Satan and his angels are bringing all their powers to bear upon God’s people. He knows if they sleep a little longer, he is sure of them, for their destruction is certain.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 263.

Many of you, at some time in your life, have stood beside a loved one who is dying; and it is a very, very solemn experience. The judgment, however, is a much more serious matter than that. When a person dies, if that person is a Christian, that separation is going to be temporary. But if you come up to the Day of Judgment and you are weighed in the balance and found wanting, it will be an eternal separation.

Self Examination

“I warn all who profess the name of Christ to closely examine themselves and make full and thorough confession of all their wrongs, that they may go beforehand to judgment, and that the recording angel may write pardon opposite their names. My brother, my sister, if these precious moments of mercy are not improved, you are left without excuse. If you will make no special effort to arouse, if you will not manifest zeal in repenting, these golden moments will soon pass, and you will be weighed in the balance and found wanting. Then your agonizing cries will be of no avail. Then will apply the words of the Lord: ‘Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out My hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all My counsel, and would none of My reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon Me, but I will not answer; they shall seek Me early, but they shall not find Me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: they would none of My counsel: they despised all My reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto Me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” Ibid., 263, 264.

I am a husband and a father; and someday, when I am called to account, God is going to ask me, “What has happened in your family? What has been the affect of your rulership and your influence in your home?” If I am the pastor of a church, God is going to come to me and ask, “Where is your flock?”

Found Wanting

“The church cannot measure herself by the world nor by the opinion of men nor by what she once was. Her faith and her position in the world as they now are must be compared with what they would have been if her course had been continually onward and upward.” Ibid., vol. 5, 83. That is an awesome thought. When each of us is put into the scale, God looks at what we might have been. Friends, there is no way that you can be saved unless the blood of Jesus covers all the sin of omission and poor choices. It is because we do not know when our last day will be that the apostle Paul speaks of the need to be praying always.

Do you believe that Seventh-day Adventists have had greater spiritual privileges than any other group of people in the world? If you believe that, then you believe that Seventh-day Adventists are the most privileged people in the world, as far as spiritual light goes. We are not saying that we are better than anybody else is, but we have received spiritual treasures that many other people do not have. It is according to these privileges and these advantages that we will be judged. Jesus said, “To whom much is given, from him much will be required.” Luke 12:48.

“If her spiritual experience does not correspond to the advantages that Christ, at infinite cost, has bestowed on her, if the blessings conferred have not qualified her to do the work entrusted to her, on her will be pronounced the sentence: ‘Found wanting.’ By the light bestowed, the opportunities given, will she be judged.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 247. Salvation is not something that you just drift into. Jesus said to struggle to enter in through the narrow gate. The Old King James says, “strive” to enter through the straight gate. “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13, 14.

“We are exhorted to ‘fight the good fight of faith.’ We are to wrestle with unseen foes, to labor, to watch, to strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many will be content with simple seeking, and will fail of an entrance.” Signs of the Times, July 20, 1888. Heaven and eternal life are something that result from a definite aim and a definite commitment to the Lord of heaven to follow and obey and to take advantage of the light and privileges that He has placed in your pathway.

Unconditional Guarantee

I want to tell you, friends, there is no unconditional, celestial guarantee that what we call the Seventh-day Adventist Church is just going to go through like we think. As a matter of fact, there is a conditional prophecy that if we do not turn around, we are going to be spewed out of God’s mouth. There must actually be a turning around and a following of what God says to do or we are going to reap the consequences, regardless of what we call ourselves. It has happened once to the Jews; how do we think that it cannot happen again? It is not being critical to face spiritual reality.

“Our health institutions are of value in the Lord’s estimation only when He is allowed to preside in their management. If His plans and devisings are regarded as inferior to plans of men, He looks upon these institutions as of no more value than the institutions established and conducted by worldlings. God cannot endorse any institution, unless it teaches the living principles of His Law and brings its own actions into strict conformity to these precepts. Upon these institutions that are not maintained according to His Law, He pronounces the sentence, ‘Unaccepted. Weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, and found wanting.’” Manuscript Releases, vol. 7, 212.

Oh, I can put the name Seventh-day Adventist on the outside of the building. But God says, “If My plans are considered inferior to your plans, then your institution has no more value to Me than an institution that is run by the world, no matter what you call it.”

Position and Judgment

I would rather be a part of the smallest church or smallest ministry in this world and have the Lord say in the Day of Judgment, “You have allowed Me to preside, and I will endorse what you have done,” than to be the biggest and apparently the most successful Christian institution in this world and be found wanting. Have you ever thought about that? When you start thinking through the Day of Judgment, it changes the way everything looks around you.

I remember some years ago when my brother, Marshall, was going through a very difficult experience. In fact, he was fired for conscientious reasons. He had been the pastor of the largest church in the state of Kansas, which is right in the area where Steps to Life is located. There were all kinds of appeals and pressures to try and get him to change his mind. One of the appeals that were made was the consideration of what kind of a position he would have in another ten years. That was of no concern to him. Why? Because he had a view of the Judgment. He was more concerned about what would happen when God put him in the scale than what men would think of him right now. You see, once your mind really grasps this idea; it changes your whole outlook on life.

One of the most amazing things to me is that some people cannot seem to tell the difference between God’s church and the devil’s church. First, let us read something about the devil’s church. At a devotional meeting where Ellen White spoke, she said, “None are too high to fall. Sin originated with Satan who was next to Christ. Lucifer became the destroyer of those whom heaven had committed to his guardianship.” Australasia Union Conference Record, October 1, 1906. Satan was the highest angel, and he became the destroyer of those whom God had committed to his guardianship. She continues, “Satan has a church today. In his church are all the disaffected ones and the disloyal.” Disloyal to what? Disloyal to God and His Commandments. Many people think that all churches belong to the Lord, but she says that the devil has a church.

“Each one in the day of Investigative Judgment will stand in character as he really is; he will render an individual account to God. Every word uttered; every departure from integrity, every action that sullies the soul, will be weighed in the balances of the sanctuary. Memory will be true and vivid in condemnation of the guilty one, who in that day is found wanting. The mind will recall all the thoughts and acts of the past; the whole life will come in review like the scenes in a panorama. Thus everyone will be condemned or acquitted out of his own mouth, and the righteousness of God will be vindicated.” Review and Herald, November 4, 1884.

Confession and the Judgment

I have had people come to me worried about whether or not they should confess something because of the trouble that it might get them into. I have had to say to them, “Well, you are either going to confess it now or you are going to confess it later.” It is just that simple.

“From the light which God has given me, I know that the Lord would do far more for us as a people if we would walk in humility before Him. Every one of God’s people will be tested and proved, and we want you to be in a position where you will bear the proving of God, and not be found wanting when your moral worth is weighed in the balances of the sanctuary.” Review and Herald, June 18, 1889. You see, you are going to be put in the balances whether you are saved or lost. The only question is what the result is going to be.

We must come to the point where we say, “Lord, I am choosing to humble myself before You. Please show me what needs to be changed.” As long as we are not going to acknowledge anything, we are in a position where God cannot get us straightened out. Ellen White said, “If there was ever a place where self needed to die, it is here. Let us see the death struggle. Let us hear the dying groans. Self-exaltation never separates the soul from God; no matter in whom it is found, whether in those in responsible positions or in those who are in some less important place. Whatever has been done to attract the attention to self, has detracted from the glory that should have been rendered to God, and has brought leanness to your souls. It is through this avenue of self-esteem and self-sufficiency that Satan will seek to ensnare the people of God.” Review and Herald, June 18, 1889.

How is it that Satan is going to try to trap Seventh-day Adventists so that they will not be ready for the judgment? It is through self-esteem. By the way, is that a popular subject today? Very popular. The Spirit of God impressed Ellen White to write that self-esteem and self-sufficiency would be the very avenue that Satan would seek to trap the people of God.

The End of Mercy

“Mercy’s sweet call is now sounding; but it will soon die away. Probation’s hour will soon be ended. The seven last plagues will fall, and then those who have chosen the pleasures of the world and rebelled against God, will cry for mercy when there will be none to answer their prayers. But a voice will be heard, — “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.’” Youth’s Instructor, January 1, 1854.

When probation’s hour is ended, it will then be too late to pray for mercy. Was there a time, before Noah entered the ark, when mercy could still be obtained which was no longer available at a later time? Yes, that was the experience in Noah’s day, and is an example, Jesus said, of the way that it will be at the end. Peter says the same thing.

“And as they [the lost] realize that they have no shelter from the dreadful storm of God’s wrath, they will plead for one little hour of probation that they may again hear the sweet voice, inviting ‘every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.’ It will then fall upon the ear, in that dreadful hour. ‘Too late! Too Late!’ ‘Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out My hand, and no man regarded. But ye have set at nought all My counsel, and would none of My reproof. I will also laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh.’” Ibid.

Friends, now is the day of salvation. Soon the day of salvation will be over. There is coming a time when you will not be able to offer the gospel invitation to anybody because the plan of salvation will be over. The handwriting is not yet on the wall. Now is the time to make a decision and say, “Lord, I am willing to surrender anything; I am willing to do anything; I am surrendering all. I am willing to humble myself. Show me anything that You want me to do. Please impart to me Your Holy Spirit so that my life can be changed.”

Stress, part 2

In our previous article, we noted that it is impossible to remove all stress from our lives. What is more, stress is not necessarily all bad. Without some measure of this commodity, we could not prepare ourselves to meet various life challenges. The kind of stress that stimulates personal productivity and development without burning us out is described as eustress. On the other hand, the stress that exceeds our ability to cope with it is rightly described as distress.

As the body is continually being bombarded by everyday stressors, it is constantly adjusting through various physiological mechanisms to maintain its internal environment. This marvelous action of the body in keeping all systems functioning within their normal operating ranges is known as maintaining homeostasis. For example: if the body is subjected to cold, the surface blood vessels will constrict, causing more of the blood to circulate within the deeper tissues, maintaining the body’s core temperature and protecting the major organs from below normal temperatures. On the other hand, when the body is subjected to warmer temperatures, the surface vessels dilate, allowing the heat to dissipate, thereby preventing internal overheating.

We noted in our previous article that the body is also capable of making rapid and extreme physiological adjustments when faced with an emergency. This sudden response to danger and the threat of injury is called the flight or fight response. Under the influence of nervous and hormonal stimuli, the body’s internal environment is greatly affected as certain major systems are thrown into top gear in order to meet the emergency. While such excessive nervous and hormonal activity may serve the body well in an emergency, such is not the case if such activity continues long term.

When a person becomes subject to unresolved, ongoing stress, the body, in turn, reacts by producing excessive amounts of hormones in order to contend with the situation. This phase of excessive activity by the body to the demand of the excessive level of stress is described as the general adaptation syndrome (GAS). Long term exposure to this type of situation results in exhaustion and physical and emotional breakdown; and unless corrected, will ultimately lead to premature death.

We must now ask ourselves what must be done in order to prevent such a situation from developing, or to reverse, as far as possible, the negative effects of an already present situation.

Basically, there are two approaches to meeting this problem.

  • We must increase our ability to cope with stress, and
  • We must remove or reduce the source of the stress itself.

The First Step

The first approach requires that a person seek to maintain himself in the best possible health through close attention to his lifestyle. A person who is in good health is better prepared to meet the stressors of life. While this may not remove the stressors themselves, it helps us to more effectively meet the stresses and cope with them. A person who has kept himself in good physical condition is far better prepared to handle the stress of running for the bus than the person who has become a couch potato.

Much could be said about each of the approaches, as listed above; but if we will grasp a basic understanding of how adherence to proper lifestyle can help us in the battle with stress, we will have done ourselves a worthwhile service. Depending upon the kind of stress a person is under, he may find that lifestyle adjustments in harmony with the counsel God has given us may actually resolve his stress. For instance, a person may be subject to stress because the quantity and quality of his work may be on the downward slope. He may have gotten to the point where the harder he tries, the less productive he is. As a consequence, he finds himself under stress through concern of losing his job or seeing his business go under. The solution? Do the very thing that in this case would seem to make the least sense: do not spend so long on the job!

According to Ministry of Healing, 127, rest is one of the components of proper lifestyle given to us by God. Such information is not given to us by the Lord on an optional basis. It is a positive command to get rest. This is particularly important if we are consistently running short on rest because of overwork. For this reason, we would like to especially emphasize the importance of rest and its relationship to stress reduction.

God has told us, “The health should be as sacredly guarded as the character.” Christian Education, 183. The person who claims that he has to constantly suffer excessive stress from overwork in order to succeed is the person who needs to reevaluate what true success really means. The writer had a relative who operated his own business. He built a beautiful home and acquired many of the nice things of life. Yet the day came when he died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving behind his wife and three school-age children. That which in this life is termed success if often realized in this fashion by many every year in the so-called civilized world.

There is no question that God wants us to experience the blessing of good, hard work. He wants us to know the sense of satisfaction that comes with a productive and wholesome lifestyle. Christ was not a slacker, and anyone who truly succeeds in life will never do so while rising late and daydreaming at his workstation. There is a place for drive and initiative, but they must be exercised in moderation and controlled by wisdom. The hardworking producer who is truly wise will recognize that in the long run, far more is achieved if he will discipline himself to take a proper amount of rest. Not only will he achieve more at the time, but he will also do so without cutting his life short.

Lesson from Word War II

At the beginning of World War II, in a desperate attempt to produce armaments, British industry was thrown into top gear. It was supposed that if the average workweek were considerably lengthened, it would result in greater productivity. This worked, but not for very long. It was noted that production soon began to decline. As a consequence, the work period was extended even further; but productivity declined to an even greater extent. It was not a question of laziness or a lack of incentive, as their very hope of survival depended upon the output. It was lack of rest, not of motivation, that defeated their efforts to meet higher productivity goals.

Faced with this seemingly insurmountable problem, the government decided to drastically cut the workweek, allowing everyone more rest. The outcome? Production increased dramatically. More and better was finally produced in less time than was produced during the longer work period.

The factors that applied to a nation at war may also apply to a person in conflict with the stress of decreasing production. To refrain from overwork is not a disservice to one’s employer, to one’s self, or to our Creator. Taking necessary rest is the wise choice and will ultimately result in allowing you to not only a longer period of productivity to the glory of God and to the blessing of others, but increased productivity at the time.

True Faith

Further, “It is the very essence of all right faith to do the right thing at the right time.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 24. It is not the exercise of true faith to continue working when the time has come to obtain one’s necessary rest. There will always be emergencies or events that will arise from time to time to rob us of a night’s sleep, but we can be well assured that it is not God’s will that we constantly subject ourselves to the stress of overwork, living from one production crises to another.

At one time in their experience, Jesus told His disciples to “come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.” Mark 6:31. It was the essence of right faith that the disciples demonstrated in doing the right thing at the right time and rested in obedience to Christ’s command. The Scriptures go so far as to tell us that “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Romans 14:23. We need to beware of the human tendency to play down the fact that in matters pertaining to health, it is a violation of the Divine will to fail to get proper rest. “Today there is need that God’s chosen workmen should listen to the command of Christ to go apart and rest awhile.” Review and Herald, November 7, 1893. [All emphasis supplied.] While the context of this statement is in respect to those who are gospel workers, it is not wresting the principle from its true setting in applying it to all people.

We are also told that, “He [Jesus] did not urge upon His disciples the necessity of ceaseless toil. . . . He tells His disciples that they will be unfitted for future labor unless they rest awhile. . . . In the name of Jesus, economize your powers, that after being refreshed with rest, you may do more and better work.” Ibid., November 11, 1983.

Rest is a Duty

When we are faithfully performing our Christian duty, we are faithfully working for God. When that duty is to rest, we are doing our appointed work just as surely as in our regular work. To be unfaithful in this duty will cause us to shortchange our Maker in future production and quality. We need to keep in mind that anything we do that decreases our ability to serve to our fullest capacity is something for which we will be required to answer in the judgment. At the same time, we will also have subjected our bodies to higher levels of stress, something from which God is seeking to protect us. Whatever is ours to do within a reasonable daily work period we are to do to the best of our ability, and then leave the results with God. It can be just as much an act of faith to close shop for the day with a multitude of things still to do and trust that God will preserve our enterprise, as it is to believe that God will preserve our business if we faithfully pay our tithe. God is concerned about our temperate life and is just as willing to bless us for our faithfulness in this area, as He is willing to bless us for returning a faithful tithe.

Some might view this as too simplistic and philosophical and not geared to the realities of life. For example, the busy housewife who is not only a mother, but also a home school teacher is seemingly never done with her work; nor is there a place to escape to where she can relax and dissipate her stress. There is also the work supervisor who has to follow people around to pick up the pieces and improve upon the mess that they have left behind, making it presentable to a customer who wanted it all done yesterday for half of its real value. These are but a few of the people who are faced with the harsh realities of life that include deadlines that must be met.

It is Possible?

This raises the question, Is it possible for such individuals to live temperate work lives so that they do not succumb to the stress of overwork? While on one hand there may be factors that seemingly deny the possibility of finding the much needed rest, we must ever keep in mind that there is the constant and unchangeable factor that all of God’s biddings are enablings. (See Christ’s Object Lessons, 333.) What may seem an impossibility from the human standpoint is never so from God’s perspective. For those who choose to do His will, “Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us, of which we know nothing.” The Desire of Ages, 330.

“He [God] will change, wonderfully change, the most hopeless, discouraging outlook.” Testimonies, vol. 8, 12.

“Whatever your anxieties and trials, spread out your case before the Lord. Your spirit will be braced for endurance. The way will be opened for you to disentangle yourself from embarrassment and difficulty.” The Desire of Ages, 329.

It is an act of faith to so order our lives that we find deliverance from the stress of overwork and live within the moderate parameters of God’s design. Though it may seem an impossibility to accomplish, if it is the soul’s desire to be right, God will make it happen for those who trust Him.

“Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” Psalm 37:5.

A person may be under the stress of over-activity, not so much from his work per se, but because he is constantly seeking to cram too many things into his day. While his day may be packed with good and interesting things, the constant treadmill of one activity after another wears upon the human organism. As mentioned in our previous article, people can ultimately burn out having a good time just as surely as a result of the bad times.

In order to follow God’s plan and rest at the appropriate times, it may be necessary for us to learn to say, “No;” not only to ourselves, but also to others who seek to fill our lives with so much activity. This can be difficult, but we must learn to do it if we are going to obtain the rest and relaxation that we need.

Now another question: What do we actually mean when we speak of rest and relaxation? We should not take this to mean simply going home, putting our feet up, and relaxing in front of the television. The sedentary worker who is brain weary through constant mental activity needs to relax by getting outside and doing something physical. Working in the yard or going for a long walk will do much to clear the mind and strengthen the body. In addition, it will also reduce the stress level.

The person who has been physically exerting himself all day long needs to adopt a pastime that allows more chance for his body to physically rest and his brain to exert itself for a change. A person is much more able to go back to his regular work, refreshed and ready to produce, after having allowed his thoughts and energies to run in a different channel for a season.

Ultimately, the reason why God wants us to come aside and rest is not only so that we can dissipate all of our stress, but to afford us an opportunity to commune with Him, and as we do so, to cast our burdens at His feet. A life that has become a constant whirl of activity is a life that cannot effectively tap into the well of salvation or become firmly anchored in the Rock. Those who will be partakers of the latter rain and give the Loud Cry will prove to be the most industrious army of soul winners that the world has ever seen. They will know what it means to work hard for God, but they will also know what it means to have gone aside and learned to rest in Him.

Work that is Restful

Working unselfishly for souls is one of the most revitalizing exercises of life, bringing fresh zeal and vigor to the faithful laborer. Yet,

“while we are to labor earnestly for the salvation of the lost, we must also take time for meditation, for prayer, and for the study of the Word of God. Only the work accomplished with much prayer, and sanctified by the merit of Christ, will in the end prove to have been efficient for good.” The Desire of Ages, 362.

It takes time to effectually meditate, pray, and study God’s Word to the point that our work will prove to have been efficient for good. Therefore, each day it is important that we do not allow ourselves to become too exhausted to offer God no more than a heavy-eyed glance and a yawn. Those of this class are doing nothing less than shortening their existence for this life through the destructive working of stress and casting away all hope for the next life.

May we so order our lives that God can bring to us the same sweet release from the constant stress that we each face. As we rest in Him, may we find again the wellspring of power so that each day as we leave His presence we are freshly braced to meet the challenges of life. God bids us, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. Not only is it here alone that true rest can be found, but this is the effectual preparation for all who would be laborers for God.

“Amidst the hurrying throng, and the strain of life’s intense activities, he who is thus refreshed will be surrounded with an atmosphere of light and peace. He will receive a new endowment of both physical and mental strength.” Ministry of Healing, 58.

The Cross of Jesus Applied

We cannot draw nigh to the same cross without coming into unity of spirit. . . . Can God love us as He loves His Son when we quibble and find fault with the truth because it does not agree with our opinions, and for fear we shall understand something as our brother understands it, and so come into harmony with him? God designs that His children shall be one. If this unity did but exist, it would speak to the world of the power of God manifested in His children.” Review and Herald, March 4, 1890.

Friends, the devil is trying to destroy God’s remnant people by division and doctrinal controversy, and all manner of variance and strife. The fact that this type of thing is going on is proof that we are a great distance from the cross. In coming closer to the cross, we are coming close to Jesus, who is the way and the truth. Therefore, the closer we get to the cross, the closer we are to the truth.

The Devil’s Trick

It is amazing how the devil tricks us. He leads us to believe that the only way to have unity is through a compromise with truth. The reality of the matter is that compromise always has just the opposite effect. I say this kindly, but people are attempting to find unity without a determination to do so on the basis of truth. If you are believing all different kinds of doctrines, you are not going to have unity but variance and strife. In order to overcome this lack of unity, a hierarchy is created and there is an attempt to impose an artificial unity.

There is a cross that must be lifted up by everyone who, by faith, accepts a crucified and risen Saviour. If we yield our convictions of truth to please our father, our mother, our sister, our brother, our husband, our wife, or our children, according to Matthew 10:32–38, we are unworthy of Christ and are shunning the cross.

The cross is the great center of attraction for the universe. The heavenly intelligence’s know this, and we need to recognize it. And, if in humility of mind we study the cross, the Holy Spirit is going to come and be our teacher.

How many times have you studied the story of the cross and asked yourself, “Why did Jesus have to die such a shameful death in my place?” There are many other ways of dying. It is all right to ask that question because it is dealt with in the Bible, and Jesus Himself has answered it. It says in John 3:14, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For [that is, because] God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus revealed to Nicodemus that the reason that He came and went to the cross is because of the love that God has for the world. This is a revolutionary idea because the devil has sought to convince the world that God is a tyrant. This is what the doctrine of eternal torment is all about. It is describing God to people in such a way as to make them so angry when they think about it that they will not want to have anything to do with Him. There are many infidels and atheists in the world today because of this very doctrine. In contrast, Jesus said that it is because God loves the world that He gave His Son to die.

Two Sides of the Cross

You can approach the cross from two different sides. You can approach it from the dark side, or from the light side. On the dark side, the cross is the greatest tragedy of all time. Some of us have spent too much of our lives on the dark side of the cross.

What is the light side? The light side is the revelation to us of a love that is so broad, so great, and so comprehensive that we cannot take it all in. And although force is contrary to the principles of God’s government, once you arrive at the cross and begin to allow your mind to try and take it all in, you will find that its power of attraction is the most compelling force in the universe. And, as you seek to comprehend God’s love for you, love is awakened. “We love Him because He first loved us.” I John 4:19. Love is not something that we can create or generate in ourselves, because the natural condition of the human heart is one of cold, hard-heartedness. The love awakened by God’s love for you will create a healing to all of the divisions that we see everywhere among God’s professed people. In the midst of divisions and the apostasy that will continue to worsen until Jesus comes, there are going to be groups of people all over the world who are going to have love and unity and will experience harmony among themselves. We can be a part of that.

“My brethren are well aware that the Word of God presents the matter of church unity as a principle; those who are united to Christ by the truth of heavenly origin should have strong friendship for one another. And this is not all. “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is My commandment, that ye love one another.’ The love of Christ must come into the church, and be cherished by every member as a precious plant. If the branches of the vine are united to the parent stock, the same life dwells in them all. In Christ Jesus, there is love. And those who are united to Christ will not have merely a tame, common regard as acquaintances, but true, sincere love for one another, because they are endued with the spirit of Christ. This drawing off from one another is not Christ-like, but it is after Satan’s order. (Love is not a mere simple regard, but a living principle—not a temporary emotion, but a permanent power. We drink it fresh from the fountain of love that flows from the cross of Calvary.) We are quickened by this love.” 1888 Materials, 1141, 1142.

Notice that if you have love in your heart, you are spiritually alive; and if you do not, you are spiritually dead, regardless of how much you may know about theology.

Quickened by Love

I like the word quicken, but I do not often use it because most people do not understand its meaning. It means to make something alive. When Jesus went into the home where the little 12-year old girl was dead, He said to her, “Little girl, arise” [see Luke 8:54]; and He touched her. Ellen White says that a tremor went throughout her body. Right then she was quickened.

When you knowingly break the Law of God and are out of harmony with it, in the place of harmony and love, you experience discord and strife. But when the love of Jesus comes into your heart, you are quickened and made alive again. “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.” I John 5:3. “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me.” John 17:23. Quickened by this love, the power of the Holy Spirit brings even our thoughts into conformity to the Law of God.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” [see John 14:6]; and when you come close to the cross, you are coming close to Jesus who is the truth. Love rejoices not in unrighteousness, but in the truth. (See I Corinthians 13:6.) When we come close to the cross, we will have a burning desire in our hearts to follow, to obey the truth, because when you follow the truth, you are following the Lord.

Truth and the Cross

Many people who have a shallow understanding of the cross, come to us and ask, “Well then, why is it that we cannot all get together? Whey do we not have this unity that you talk about?” They fail to realize that for true unity to exist, there must be a willingness to follow and to obey truth. That is why there are certain groups, or churches, with whom we cannot be in harmony. It is not because we do not love them or because we do not want them to be saved; but if you are close to the cross, you have to be faithful to the truth. Whatever truth the Holy Spirit reveals to you through the Word, you have to follow and obey, because you know that if you do not, you will be crucifying the Son of God afresh. You will be at variance with the One who is the truth.

“The time has come when things must be called by their right names. The truth is to triumph gloriously, and those who have long been halting between two opinions must take their stand decidedly for or against the Law of God. Some will take up with theories that misinterpret the Word of God, and undermine the foundation of the truth that has been firmly established, point by point, and sealed by the power of the Holy Spirit.”” Upward Look, 88.

Old Truth and New Light

Once a truth has been firmly established by the whole body of believers, by studying the Word of God and by prayer, and the Holy Spirit has confirmed it by giving visions and dreams that establish it, we do not have a right to entertain any suppositions that would be contrary to that truth. That would be to walk right away from the cross.

The Godhead does not disagree. Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit comes, He will glorify Me. If I entertain something that is contrary to what the Holy Spirit has sealed, I am walking right away from the cross. To come close to the cross means that you come close to Him who is the way, the truth and the life.

“The old truths are to be revived, in order that the false theories that have been brought in by the enemy may be intelligently met. There can be no unity between truth and error. We can unite with those who have been led into deception only when they are converted.” Ibid.

Today, God’s people are getting confused by doctrines and theories that are coming in which contradict points that have been established firmly and sealed by the Holy Spirit.

Have you established in your mind that the gift of prophecy was manifested in the life and ministry of Ellen White? Have you compared her life and ministry with the Bible to see if it checks out? There were many supernatural manifestations in her life and ministry; and that, by itself, immediately proves that her work was either of God or of the devil—it has to be one or the other. Do not let anyone tell you, “Well she was just a good woman.” Absolutely not! She was not just a good woman. She was either of God or of the devil. To claim to be something that you are not is to break the ninth commandment and proves you to be under the control of evil spirits. She was either a prophet or she was a most wicked person.

If you believe that she did have the true gift of prophecy, then you should be fearful to accept any explanation of the Scriptures that would contradict her messages. Though it was not the only way, her messages were one of the ways that the Holy Spirit sealed these truths that were established point by point.

There is a story that is told of an infidel who made a challenge to a minister. He challenged the minister to a debate regarding the truthfulness and reliability of the Bible and the value of the gospel. The minister consented but on these terms. He said, “If we debate, I want you to bring just one person to the debate whose life has been transformed and changed by your theories of atheism. I can bring a hundred whose lives have been transformed and changed by what I teach.”

Another way that these truths were sealed is that when men of God stood up and spoke them, the Holy Spirit attested to their truthfulness by completely changing the lives of people all over the world.

These truths have been firmly established, point by point, and sealed by the power of the Holy Spirit. If we turn our back on that, friend, we are walking right away from the cross; and we are not going to have unity. We are going to have division and strife and all kinds of confusion.

One of the truths which has come under attack is the principle of a day for a year in prophecy. The second, which goes right along with it, is the doctrine of a two-apartment sanctuary in heaven, of which the one on earth was simply a type, as the apostle Paul clearly teaches in Hebrews 8 and 9. But friends, that is one of the teachings that was firmly established, point by point, and sealed by the power of the Holy Spirit. You are walking straight away from the cross when you reject the truth that has been firmly established and sealed by the Holy Spirit.

I have been amazed, as I have studied the Three Angels’ Messages, to see that right within the Seventh-day Adventist Church, every single point of the Three Angels’ Messages has been under attack. But the Three Angels’ Messages are messages that have been firmly established, point by point, and sealed by the power of the Holy Spirit. If you reject any point, you are walking right away from the cross. You are never going to have unity; you are going to have confusion, strife, trouble, and division.

The sanctuary doctrine has been under attack; and that includes, of course, the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment. In this doctrine, the necessity of sanctification is clearly revealed. As a result, people do not like the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment. To meet their interests, they have to invent a new kind of theology that changes the historic Adventist understanding of the human nature of Christ, changes the doctrine of the Atonement, and erases the meaning of all of the feasts and the ceremonial system. This setting aside of the sanctuary truth, of course, destroys the First Angel’s Message.

Do not be confused by what others may say when it contradicts historic Adventist truths. With an interlinear Bible or a Strong’s Concordance, you can show that the book of Hebrews teaches exactly what Adventists have taught for over 100 years; and there is no problem in the book of Hebrews. The problem is with the shallowness of human comprehension.

We also find utter confusion today in regard to who and what is Babylon. This is absolutely astounding. If you do not understand who Babylon is, of course you cannot preach the Second Angel’s Message.

This Apostasy has been Prophesied

The very things that we see happening around us today were prophesied over 100 years ago. “The days are fast approaching when there will be great perplexity and confusion. Satan, clothed in angel robes, will deceive, if possible, the very elect. There will be gods many and lords many.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 80.

If the Holy Spirit is in control of our hearts and minds, we are going to have unity and harmony that is not a veneer, but a unity that comes from the heart. It will be a unity of spirit.

The gospel always goes right to the heart of the matter and solves the real problem, and we have to go to the heart of the problem to get a real solution that will last.

Oh, friend, are you willing to stay close to the cross so that you can receive God’s love into your heart, be obedient to all of His commandments, and be filled with the Holy Spirit, so that you can be “quickened” and the Holy Spirit be in charge of your life? When this happens in a family, there is going to be unity and harmony in the family. And when this happens in a church, there is going to be unity and harmony in the church; but first it has to happen in each of our hearts.

The Atonement, What Is It and Why Is It Important?

The serious student of the atonement is likely to be perplexed when he consults the Spirit of Prophecy to find two sets of apparently contradictory statements in regard to the atonement. He will find that when Christ “offered Himself on the cross, a perfect atonement was made for the sins of the people.” Signs of the Times, June 28, 1899. He will find that the Father bowed before the cross “in recognition of its perfection. ‘It is enough,’ He said, ‘the atonement is complete.’” Review and Herald, September 24, 1901.

But he will find this: “At the conclusion of the 2300 days, in 1844, Christ entered the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, to perform the closing work of the atonement.” The Great Controversy, 422. We also read that tins will “stand on record in the sanctuary until the final atonement [in 1844.]” Patriarchs and Prophets, 357. [All emphasis supplied.] It is also stated that in “the final atonement the sins of the truly penitent are to be blotted from the records of heaven.” Ibid., 358. “Jesus entered the most holy of the heavenly, at the end of the 2300 days of Daniel 8, in 1844, to make a final atonement.” Early Writings, 253.

The first set of statements says that the atonement was made on the cross; the other says that the final atonement was made 1800 years later. I have found seven statements that the atonement was made on the cross; I have twenty-two statements that the final atonement was made in heaven. Though both of these figures are doubtless incomplete, it is evident that one cannot accept one set of statements and reject the other if they wish to arrive at truth. The question, therefore is, How can these statements be harmonized?

In the February issue of the Ministry, 1957, the statement appeared that “the sacrificial act of the cross (was) a complete, perfect, and final atonement.” This was a distinct contradiction to Mrs. White’s pronouncement that the final atonement began in 1844. I found that this was not a misprint but an official and approved statement. If we still hold the Spirit of Prophecy as having authority, we have two contradictory beliefs: the final atonement was made at the cross; the final atonement began in 1844.

Definition of Atonement

I have listened to several discussion of the meaning of the Hebrew word kaphar, which is the word used in the original for atonement, but have received little help. The best definition I have found is a short explanatory phrase in Patriarchs and Prophets, 358, which simply states that the atonement, “this great work of atonement, or blotting out of sins, was represented by the services of the Day of Atonement.”

This definition is in harmony with Leviticus 16:30 which says, “For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.” Atonement is here equated with being “clean from all your sins.” As sin was the cause of separation between God and man, the removing of sin would remove the separation between God and man.

The definition of atonement is consisting of three words—at-one-ment—is by some considered obsolete, but it nevertheless represents vital truth. Mrs. White thus uses it. Says she: “Unless they accept the atonement provided for them in the remedial sacrifice of Jesus Christ who is our Atonement, at-one-ment, with God.” In Heavenly Places, 146.

God’s plan is that in the “fullness of time He might gather together in one all things in Christ.” Ephesians 1:10. When this is done, “the family of heaven and the family of earth are one.” The Desire of Ages, 835. Then, “One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation.” The Great Controversy, 678. At least the atonement is complete.

Two Phases of the Atonement

Much confusion in regard to the atonement arises from a neglect to recognize the two divisions of the atonement. Note what is said of John the Baptist. “He did not distinguish clearly the two phases of Christ’s work, —as a suffering sacrifice and a conquering king.” The Desire of Ages, 136, 137. The book Questions on Doctrine makes the same mistake. It does not distinguish clearly; in fact, it does not distinguish at all; it does not seem to know of the two phases; hence the confusion.

The First Phase

The first phase of Christ’s atonement was of a suffering sacrifice. This began before the world was and included the incarnation, Christ’s life on earth, the temptation in the wilderness, Gethsemane, and Golgotha, and ended when God’s voice called Christ from the “stony prison house of death.” Isaiah 53 is a vivid picture of this.

Satan had overcome Adam in the Garden of Eden; and in a short time; nearly the whole world had come under his sway. At the time of Noah, there were only eight souls who entered the ark. Satan claimed to be prince of this world, and no one had challenged him.

But God did not recognize Satan’s claim to dominion; and when Christ came to earth, the Father “gave the world into the hands of the Son, that through His mediatorial work He may completely vindicate the holiness and the binding claims of every precept of the dine law.” Bible Echo, January, 1887. This was a challenge to Satan’s claim, and thus began in earnest the great controversy between Christ and Satan.

“The great work of redemption could be carried out only by the Redeemer taking the place of fallen Adam. With the sins of the world laid upon Him, He would go over the ground where Adam stumbled.” Review and Herald, February 24, 1874. “Jesus volunteered to meet the highest claims of the law.” Ibid., September 2, 1890. “By pledging His own life, Christ has made Himself responsible for every man and woman on the earth.” Ibid., February 27, 1900.

As Satan claimed ownership of the earth, it was necessary for Christ to overcome Satan before He could take possession of His kingdom. Satan knew this, and hence made an attempt to kill Christ as soon as He was born.

The first real encounter between Christ and Satan took place in the wilderness. After forty days of fasting, Christ was weak and emaciated, at death’s door. At this time, Satan made his attack. But Christ resisted, and Satan was compelled to retire defeated. But he did not give up. Throughout Christ’s ministry, Satan dogged His footsteps and made every moment a hard battle.


The climax of Christ’s struggle with Satan came in the garden of Gethsemane. Hitherto Christ had been upheld by the knowledge of the approval of the Father. But now He “was overpowered by the terrible fear that God was removing His presence from Him.” Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3, 95. If God should forsake Him, could He still resist Satan and die rather than yield? “Three times His humanity shrank from the last, crowing sacrifice. . . . The fate of humanity trembled in the balance.” Ibid., 99. “As the Father’s presence was withdrawn, they saw Him sorrowful with a bitterness of sorrow exceeding that of the last great struggle with death.” The Desire of Ages, 759. “Having made the decision, He fell dying to the ground;” but with His last ounce of strength He murmured, “If this cup may not pass from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.” “A heavenly peace rested upon His bloodstained face. He had borne that which no human being could ever bear; He had tasted the sufferings of death for every man.” Ibid., 693, 694. In His death, He was victor.

When Christ said, “It is finished,” God responded, “’It is finished. The human race shall have another trial. The redemption price was paid,’ and Satan fell like lightning from heaven.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 12. 409.

“As the Father beheld the cross, he was satisfied. He said, ‘It is enough; the offering is complete.’” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1137. It was necessary, however, that there should be given the world a stern manifestation of the wrath of God; so, “in the grave Christ was the captive of divine justice.” Signs of the Times, November 15, 1899. It must be abundantly attested that Christ’s death was real, so He must “remain in the grave the allotted period of time.” Review and Herald, April 26, 1898. When the time was expired, a messenger was sent to “relieve the Son of God from the debt for which He had become responsible, and for which he had made full atonement.” The youth’s Instructor, May 2, 1901.

“In the intercessory prayer of Jesus with His Father, He claimed that He had fulfilled the conditions which made it obligatory upon the Father to fulfill His part of the contract made in heaven, with regard to fallen man. He prayed: ‘I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.’ That is, He had wrought out a righteous character on earth as an example for men to follow.” Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3, 260.a

The contract between the Father and the Son made in heaven included the following:

  • The Son was to work our a “righteous character on earth as an example for man to follow.”


  • Not only was Christ to work out such a character, but He was to demonstrate that man also could do this; and thus man would become “more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.”


  • If Christ thus could present man as a new creature in Christ Jesus, then God was to “receive repentant and obedient men, and would love them even as He loves His Son.” Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3, 260; Isaiah 13:12; The Desire of Ages, 790.

Christ had “fulfilled one phase of His priesthood by dying on the cross for the fallen race. He is now fulfilling another phase by pleading before the Father the case of the repenting, believing sinner, presenting to God the offerings of His people.” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 929. “In His incarnation He had reached the prescribed limit as a sacrifice, but not as a Redeemer.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 12, 409. On Golgotha He was the victim, the sacrifice. That was as far as He could go as a sacrifice. But now His work as Redeemer began. “When Christ cried, ‘It is finished,’ God’s unseen hand rent the strong fabric composing the veil of the temple from top to bottom. The way into the Holiest of all was made manifest.” Ibid.

With the cross, the first phase of Christ’s work as the “suffering sacrifice” ended. He had gone the “prescribed limit” as a sacrifice. He had finished His work “thus far.” And now, with the Father’s approval of the sacrifice, He was empowered to be the Saviour of mankind. At the ensuing coronation forty days later, He was given all power in heaven and earth and officially installed as High Priest.

The Second Phase

“After His ascension, our Saviour began His work as our High Priest. . . . In harmony with the typical service, He began His ministration in the holy place; and at the termination of the prophetic days in 1844, . . . He entered the most holy to perform the last division of His solemn work, —to cleanse the sanctuary.” Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, 265, 266. On the same page, Sister White repeats, apparently for emphasis, “at the termination of the 2300 days in 1844, Christ then entered the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, into the presence of God, to perform the closing work of atonement, preparatory to His coming.” The reader cannot fail to note how clearly and emphatically this is stated. John the Baptist “did not distinguish clearly the two phases of Christ’s work, —as a suffering sacrifice and a conquering king.” The Desire of Ages, 136. Our theologians are making the same mistake today—and are not inexcusable. They have light which John did not have.

In studying this part of the atonement, we are entering a field that is distinctly Adventist and in which we differ from all other denominations. This is our unique contribution to religion and theology, that which “has made us a separate people, and has given character and power to our work.” Counsels to Editors and Writers, 54. In the same place, she warns us against making “void the truths of the atonement, and destroying our confidence in the doctrines which we have held sacred since the Third Angel’s Message was first given.”

This is vital counsel and written for this very time when efforts are being made by some among us to have others believe that we are like the churches about us, an evangelical body and not a sect. Paul, in his day, had the same heresy to meet. He was accused of being a “pestilent fellow,” a “ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” Acts 24:5. In his answer before Felix, Paul confessed that after the “way which they call a sect, so serve I the God of our fathers, believing all things are according to the law and which are written in the prophets.” Acts 24:14, R.V. In those days, men spoke sneeringly of the true church as a sect, as men do now. Paul was not disturbed by this. We have no record that he attempted to have the church of the living God recognized as an evangelical body by men who trampled the law of God in the dust. On the contrary, whatever they might call him and his “sect,” he confessed that he believed “all things which are written in the law and the prophets.” Verse. 14.

Source Material – Letters to the Churches, Letter No. 6, The Atonement, pages 71-85.

An Examination of Seven Reasons for Sunday Keeping

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” II Timothy 3:16, 17. The design of its Author in providing such a book was that the man of God might thereby be made perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. This is the treasure which God has given to His church. Nor is this all that He has done. To those who are willing to obey the teachings of His Word, He has promised the Spirit to guide them into all truth.

To men thus situated, Jehovah thus speaks: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” I Thessalonians 5:21. That is, bring every part of your faith and practice to the test of God’s sure Word; ask the Holy Spirit’s aid, that your understanding may be enlightened in the word of truth. Then, what you find revealed in that Word, hold fast; it is of priceless value; but relinquish at once every precept or doctrine not therein recorded, lest you make the doctrines of men of equal weight with the Commandments of God. “What is the chaff to the wheat? Saith the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:28.

As the first day of the week is now almost universally observed in the place of the Sabbath of the fourth Commandment, we design to examine grounds on which this observance rests. For what reason do men prefer the first day of the week to the ancient Sabbath of the Lord? On what authority do men continually violate the day which God sanctified and commanded mankind to keep holy? Come, now, and let us reason together. Here is the commandment which it is said has been changed:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8–11.

That this Commandment requires men to remember and to keep holy the rest day of the Creator, which he hallowed at the close of the first week of time, none can deny. We now ask for the authority for the change of this Commandment.

Papists believe that their church had power to change the fourth Commandment; and, on that authority alone, they are perfectly satisfied in observing the first day of the week.

Protestants deny the authority of the Church of Rome and attempt to vindicate the change of the Sabbath by an appeal to the Bible. We ask them, therefore, to present a single text in which it is said that God has changed His Sabbath to the first day of the week. The advocates of the change acknowledge that they have none. How, then, do they dare to exalt the first day of the week above the Sabbath of the Lord, which the Commandment requires us to remember and keep holy?

The Bible thoroughly furnishes the man of God unto all good works. Can Sunday-keeping be a very good work when the Bible has never said anything in its favor? Or, if it is a good work, can men be very thoroughly furnished in its defense when God has said nothing in its favor? Instead of being a good work, must it not be a fearful sin against God to thus pervert the fourth Commandment, when once the mind has been enlightened on the subject?

But there are several reasons urged for the observance of the first day of the week, which we will here notice:

First Reason

Redemption is greater than creation; therefore we ought to keep the day of God’s resurrection instead of the ancient Sabbath of the Lord.

Where has God said this? Sunday-keepers are compelled to admit that He never did say it. What right, then, has any man to make such an assertion and then to base the change of the Sabbath upon it? But suppose that redemption is greater than creation; who knows that we ought to keep the first day of the week on that account? God never required men to keep any day as a memorial of redemption. But if it were a duty to observe one day of the week for this reason, most certainly the crucifixion day presents the strongest claims. It is not said that we have redemption through Christ’s resurrection, but it is said that we have redemption through the shedding of His blood. “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for Thou wast slain, and has redeemed us to God by Thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” Revelation 5:9. “In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:12, 15.

Then redemption is through the death of the Lord Jesus; consequently the day on which He shed His precious blood to redeem us, and said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), is the day that should be kept as a memorial of redemption, if any should be observed for that purpose.

Nor can it be urged that the resurrection day is the most remarkable day in the history of redemption. It needs but a word to prove that, in this respect, it is far exceeded by the day of the crucifixion. Which is the more remarkable event, the act of Jehovah in giving His beloved and only Son to die for a race of rebels, or the act of the Father in raising that beloved Son from the dead? There is only one answer that can be given: It was not remarkable that God should raise His Son from the dead, but the act of the Father in giving His Son to die for sinners was a spectacle of redeeming love on which the universe might gaze and adore the wondrous love of God to all eternity. Who can wonder that the sun was veiled in darkness and that all nature trembled at the sight! The crucifixion day, therefore, has far greater claims than the day of the resurrection. God has not enjoined the observance of either, and is it not a fearful act to make void the Commandments of God by that wisdom which is folly in His sight? I Corinthians 1:19, 20.

But if we would commemorate redemption, there is no necessity of robbing the Lord’s rest day of its holiness in order to do it. God has provided us with memorials, bearing His own signature; and these we may observe with the blessing of heaven. The Bible tells you how to do it. “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is My body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of Me. After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the New Testament in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.” I Corinthians 11:23–26.

Would you commemorate the burial and resurrection of the Saviour? The Lord obtained a very different and far more appropriate memorial. “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father; even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.” Romans 6:3–5. (See also, Colossians 2:12.)

It is true that the professed church have changed this ordinance to sprinkling so that this divine memorial of the Lord’s resurrection is destroyed. That they may add sin to sin, they lay hold of the Lord’s Sabbath and change it to the first day of the week, thus destroying the sacred memorial of the Creator’s rest that they may have a memorial of Christ’s resurrection!

Second Reason

The disciples met on the day of our Lord’s resurrection to commemorate that event, and the Saviour sanctioned this meeting by uniting with them. (See John 20:19.)

If every word of this were truth, it would not prove that the Sabbath of the Lord has been changed. But to show the utter absurdity of this inference, listen to a few facts. The disciples did not then believe that their Lord had been raised from the dead, but were assembled for the purpose of eating a common meal and to seclude themselves from the Jews. The words of Mark and of John make this clear: “He appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue; neither believed they them. Afterward He appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen.” Mark 16:12–14. John says: “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” John 20:19.

It is a fact, therefore, that the disciples were not commemorating the resurrection of the Saviour; it is equally evident that they had not the slightest idea of a change of the Sabbath. At the burial of the Saviour, the women who had followed Him to the tomb returned and prepared spices and ointments to embalm Him; the Sabbath drew on; they rested the Sabbath day according to the Commandment; and when the Sabbath was past, they came to the sepulcher upon the first day of the week to embalm their Lord. (See Luke 23:55, 56; 24:1.) They kept the Sabbath, according to the Commandment, and resumed their labor on the first day of the week.

Third Reason

After eight days, Jesus met with His disciples again. (See John 20:26.) This must have been the first day of the week, which is thereby proved to be the Christian Sabbath.

Were it certain that this occurred on the first day of the week, it would not furnish a single particle of proof that that day had become the Sabbath of the Lord. But who can be certain that “after eight days” means just a week? It would be nearer a literal construction of the language to conclude that this was upon the ninth day, As an illustration, read Matthew 17:1: “And after six days, Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John . . . “Now turn to Luke 9:28: “And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings; He took Peter, and John and James . . .” Then, “after six days” is about eight days in this instance. But if “after eight days” means just a week, how does this prove that Sunday has become the Christian Sabbath, when there is not a particle of evidence that either Christ or His apostles ever rested on that day? There is no such term as Christian Sabbath found in the Bible. The only weekly Sabbath named in the Bible is called the Sabbath of the Lord.

Was the act of Christ, in appearing to His disciples, sufficient to constitute the day on which it occurred the Sabbath? If so, why did He next select a fishing day as the time to manifest Himself to them? (See John 21.) If this is not sufficient, then the Sunday on which He was first seen of them, the fishing day on which they next saw Him and the Thursday on which He was last seen of them, may not be Sabbaths. It was not very remarkable that Christ should find His disciples together, inasmuch as they had one common abode. (See Acts 1:13.)

Fourth Reason

The Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost, which was the first day of the week. Therefore, the first day of the week should be observed instead of the Sabbath of the Lord. (See Acts 2:1, 2.)

Admitting that the day of Pentecost occurred upon the first day of the week, it remains to be proven that that day thereby became the Sabbath. But that it was the feast of Pentecost, and not the first day of the week, that God designed to honor, the following facts demonstrate:

While the day of Pentecost is distinctly named, the day of the week on which it occurred is passed in silence.

The disciples had been engaged in earnest prayer for the space of ten days; for the day of Pentecost was fifty days from the resurrection of Christ, and forty of those days He spent with His disciples. (See Acts 1.) Forty days from His resurrection would expire on Thursday, the day of His ascension. A period of ten days after His ascension on Thursday would include two first-days, the last of which would be the day of Pentecost. If the design of God had been to honor the first day of the week, why did not the Holy Ghost descend on the first of those first-days? Why must the day of Pentecost come before the Holy Ghost could descend? This answer is obvious: It was not the design of Heaven to honor the first day of the week but to mark the antitype of the feast of Pentecost. Hence the first day of the week is passed in silence.

The slaying of the paschal lamb on the fourteenth day of the first month had met its antitype in the death of the Lamb of God on that day. (See Exodus 12; John 19; I Corinthians 5:7.) The offering of the firstfruits on the sixteenth day of the first month had met its antitype in the resurrection of our Lord on that day, the firstfruits of them that slept. (See Leviticus 23: I Corinthians 15:20–23.) It remained that the day of Pentecost, fifty days later, should also meet its antitype. (See Leviticus 23:15–21.) The fulfillment of that type is what the pen of inspiration has recorded in Acts 2:1, 2. God has spoken nothing in this place respecting a change of His Sabbath. “Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” Proverbs 30:6.

Fifth Reason

Paul once broke bread upon the first day of the week at Troas. Hence this day was observed as the Christian Sabbath. (See Acts 20:7.)

We answer that at one period the apostolic church at Jerusalem broke bread every day. (See Acts 2:42–46.) If a single instance of breaking bread at Troas upon the first day of the week was quite sufficient to constitute it the Sabbath, would not the continued practice of the apostolic church at Jerusalem in breaking bread every day be amply sufficient to make every day a Sabbath? Moreover, as the act of the great Head of the church in breaking bread must be quite as important as that of His servant Paul, must not the day of the crucifixion be preeminently the Christian Sabbath, as Christ instituted and performed this ordinance on the evening with which that day commenced? (See I Corinthians 11:23–26.)

But on what day of the week did this act of Paul’s occur? For, if it is of sufficient importance to make the day of its occurrence the future Sabbath of the church, the day is worth determining. The act of breaking bread was after midnight; for Paul preached to the disciples until midnight, then healed Eutychus, and after this attended to breaking bread. (See Acts 20:7–11.) If, as time is reckoned at the present day, the first day of the week terminated at midnight, then Paul’s act of breaking bread was performed upon the second day of the week, or Monday, which should henceforth be regarded as the Christian Sabbath, if breaking bread on a day makes it a Sabbath.

But if the Bible method of commencing the day from sunset was followed, it would appear that the disciples came together at the close of the Sabbath for an evening meeting, as the apostle was to depart in the morning. If it was not an evening meeting, why did they have many lights there? Paul preached unto them until midnight, and then broke bread with the disciples early in the morning of the first day of the week. Did this act constitute that day the Sabbath? If so, they why did Paul, as soon as it was light, start on his long journey to Jerusalem? If Paul believed that Sunday was the Christian Sabbath, why did he thus openly violate it? If he did not believe that it had become the Sabbath, why should you? And why do you grasp, as evidence that the Sabbath has been changed, a single instance in which an evening meeting was held on Sunday, while you overlook the fact that it was the custom of this same apostle to preach every Sabbath, not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles? (See Acts 13:14, 42, 44; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4.)

Paul broke bread on the first day of the week and then immediately started on his long journey to Jerusalem. So this, the strongest argument for the first day of the week, furnished direct proof that Sunday is not the Sabbath.

Sixth Reason

Paul commanded the church at Corinth to take up a public collection on the first day of the week; therefore it follows that this must have been a day of public worship, and consequently is the Christian Sabbath. (See I Corinthians 16:2.)

We answer; It is a remarkable fact that Paul enjoins exactly the reverse of a public collection. He does not say, “Place your alms in the public treasury on the first day of the week;” but he says, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store.”

J. W. Morton, in his Vindication of the True Sabbath, 51, 52, says: “The apostle simply orders that each one of the Corinthian brethren should lay up at home some portion of his weekly gains on the first day of the week. The whole question turns upon the meaning of the expression, ‘by him;’ and I marvel greatly how you can imagine that it means ‘in the collection box of the congregation.’ Greenfield, in his Lexicon, translates the Greek term, ‘by one’s self, i.e., at home.’ Two Latin versions, the Vulgate and that of Castellio, render it, ‘apud se,’ with one’s self, at home. Three French translations, those of Martin, Osterwald, and DeSacy, ‘chez soi,’ at his own house, at home. The German of Luther, ‘bei sich selbst,’ by himself, at home. . . . I have not examined one translation that differs from those quoted above.

The text, therefore, does not prove that the Corinthians church was assembled for public worship on that day; but, on the contrary, it does prove that each must be at his own home where he could examine his worldly affairs and lay by himself in store as God had prospered him. If each one should thus, from week to week, collect his earnings, when the apostle should come, their bounty would be ready and each would be able to present to him what he had gathered. If the first-day Sabbath has no better foundation than the inference drawn from this text, it truly rests upon sliding sand.

Seventh Reason

John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, which was the first day of the week. (See Revelation 1:10.)

This is the kind of reasoning which the advocates of Sunday are invariably obliged to adopt. But we ask, What right have they to assume the very point which they ought to prove? This text, it is true, furnishes direct proof that there is a day in the gospel dispensation which the Lord claims as His; but is there one text in the Bible which testifies that the first day of the week is the Lord’s day? There is not one. Has God ever claimed that day as His? Never! Has God ever claimed any day as His and reserved it to Himself? He has. “And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made.” Genesis 2:3. “Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord.” Exodus 16:23. “the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.” Exodus 20:10. “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day.” Isaiah 58:13. “Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:28.

The seventh day is the day which God reserved to Himself when He gave to man the other six, and this day He calls His holy day. This is the day which the New Testament declares the Son of man to be Lord of.

Is there one testimony in the Scriptures that the Lord of the Sabbath has put away His holy day and chosen another? Not one. Then that day which the Bible designates as the Lord’s day is none other than the Sabbath of the fourth commandment.

Editorial – The Power Needed at This Time

When David met Goliath, to the on-looking multitude, it appeared that all of the advantage lay with the giant. It was not until Goliath lay dead that the scene changed and the reality of the matter became apparent. Do you know that there is coming a time when even the weakest in the church will be like David? That we may be a part of this group, let us review how It was that David received the superior power that enabled him to overcome in the battle with Goliath.

“Modest and unassuming, he [David] did not make this declaration [to Goliath] trusting in his own wisdom, skill, or power, but in the strength of God, who had delivered him out of the paw of the lion and the bear when he was watching his father’s flocks in the wilderness. . . .

“Here we have an example of lofty courage, of a humble, but living faith. David’s trust was not in himself, neither was his motive a selfish one. But he was ready, in the strength of God, to meet Israel’s foe, to test Jehovah’s might against a heathen giant, that he might ‘take away the reproach from Israel.’ This was the divine plan for distinguishing David, Israel’s future king, and for humbling the adversaries of the true God.

“Those who are loyal to God, keeping all of His Commandments, will meet a spirit of opposition similar to that which David encountered. Learned men, proud and boastful in their supposed superiority, will feel, as did Goliath, to despise the little band who are loyal to God. Many of these never graduated from a college; but, with the Bible in their hands, they stand in defense of the truth of God, and vindicate His Sabbath, which has been trodden beneath lawless feet. But the Lord can make His strength perfect in man’s weakness. If, like David, men will forget self, and seek to honor God and to vindicate His name and His truth, He will work mightily with them, and crown their efforts with success. But there are many who take the glory to themselves if the work of God is prospered in their hands. They become proud and self-sufficient, and flatter themselves that their success is owing to their own superior abilities. Prosperity would often prove the ruin of the one thus honored of the Lord. Our compassionate Father in Heaven pities the weakness of our nature, and bears long with our follies. If this were not the case, He would not have given His Son to come to a fallen world and bear the buffetings and temptations of Satan, that He might show men how to overcome. The enemies of the truth will grow stronger and more bitter in their opposition to the Law of God. They will resort to ridicule and insult; they will wrest and misinterpret the Scriptures, and will sustain their positions by human opinions and arguments. They will present things in a false light, and thus pervert even honest minds. They will glory in their strength, as did the Philistine giant, and for a time they may appear to prosper. But their triumph will not always last; they will themselves fall into the pit which they have digged for others.

“God brings us into trials in order that we may be drawn nearer to Him. The psalmist says, ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.’ David was a representative man. His history is of interest to every soul who is striving for eternal victories. In his life, two powers struggled for the mastery. Unbelief marshaled its forces, and tried to eclipse the light shining upon him from the throne of God. Day by day the battle went on in his heart, Satan disputing every step of advance made by the forces of righteousness. David understood what it meant to fight against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world. At times it seemed that the enemy must gain the victory. But in the end, faith conquered, and David rejoiced in the saving power of Jehovah.” Signs of the Times, March 4, 1886.

Before meeting Goliath, God brought David through experiences that were designed to develop his faith. In his encounter with the bear and the lion, David was preparing himself to meet larger tests. In meeting our day to day trials, we need to ask ourselves if we are dealing with these apparent obstacles and obstructions to progress as blessings in disguise, learning from them the lessons God designs that we should, so that we will be prepared for the really large trials we will all soon be forced to meet.