No New Denomination – Part I

Are You Starting a New Denomination?

I would like to study something with you that we actually have studied before, however, I believe we need to study it again, because of the confusion that is developing among God’s professed people, especially in the revival and reformation movement. I have received many letters and communications lately asking questions like, Are you starting a new denomination?

Why, no, we have never thought of starting a new denomination. We have never intended to do any such thing. We do not want to do anything like that. We have no intention of doing anything like that. So where are all these ideas coming from? Well, people are getting these ideas because other people are making accusations about things they do not really understand or know.

The basis for these accusations is the fact that they do not understand the New Testament concept about who and what is the church. The first time I heard about the New Testament concept of the church was in 1987; my brother had started preaching it. I had never heard of anything like this before. I had been a Seventh-day Adventist minister for over 20 years, and at that time I was working in the Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. I had to study out this theory. In fact, before I ever preached on this subject myself, which was the next year, in 1988, I had studied it very thoroughly and very carefully for a number of months, to find out what the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy really teach on this subject.

This is a critical subject. You see, Marshall and I were told, in effect, in 1988, that we could not do evangelism. It is a very serious matter when you cannot do evangelism. We are commanded in the gospel commission to go to all the world. The reason we were told that we could not do evangelism was very simple; when we got people ready for baptism, the church and the church organization would not accept them as members because they had been brought in by the “wrong” people.

We actually had people come to the Steps to Life campmeeting and say, “I want to be a Seventh-day Adventist. I want to be baptized and become part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but where I live the pastor will not baptize me because the “wrong” people gave me Bible studies.” Because of confusion on this subject, there are many people who are not doing any evangelism.

Waiting for the Lord

Publicly they have said, we cannot do any evangelism right now; we are just waiting for God to clean up the church and purify the church, and then we will do evangelism. Some of these people have been waiting now for the better part of 20 years. I do not know how long they plan to wait. How long do you want to wait to finish God’s work? Do you want to wait 50 years? 100 years?

The reason people cannot get serious about finishing God’s work is because of what they believe about who is the church. If the church tells them not to do it, they are afraid to do it for fear that they will be dishonoring God and disobeying Him. It is from the same misapprehensions that the question is asked, Are you starting a new denomination?

So before we look at the specific question of, Are you starting a new denomination? , let us ask a few very basic, simple questions that can be answered right out of the Bible.

How Many “True” Churches are There?

First question: How many true churches are there? Now some people say that there have been lots of true churches. There was the church in Abraham’s time; there was the church in Moses’ time; there was the church in Jesus’ time, the Jewish Church; there was the church during the Dark Ages, the Protestant Churches, the Waldensian Church, and there is the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Some people think that there are lots of different churches, but that is not what the Bible says. What does the Bible say about how many churches there are? My brother, Marshall, used to say that if you want to know the truth about who and what the church is, the Bible would be a good place to look. So, let us look at the Bible.

In Ephesians 1:22, 23, Paul says very distinctly that Christ is the Head of the church; it only has one Head. There are some organizations in the Scripture that are described as having seven heads, but not the church of Christ. It does not have two or three or four or seven heads; it only has One.

According to Ephesians 1:22, 23, Christ is the Head. It is also stated there that the church is His body. So, how many bodies does Christ have? Look at Ephesians 4:4: “There is one body and one Spirit.…” There are how many bodies? One. So how many true churches are there? One! There has only been one true church since the days of Adam and Eve, and there will never be more than one until the end of time. Whether you are talking about time or space, the answer is the same. There is only one body! The first three chapters of Ephesians say that His body is the fullness of Him who fills all in all. That is the whole universe.

Ellen White distinctly and very powerfully reaffirms, validates and verifies exactly what we just read in Ephesians 4. She says, “God had a church when Adam and Eve and Abel accepted and hailed with joy the good news that Jesus was their Redeemer. These realized as fully then as we realize now the promise of the presence of God in their midst. Wherever Enoch found one or two who were willing to hear the message he had for them, Jesus joined with them in their worship of God. In Enoch’s day there were some among the wicked inhabitants of earth who believed. The Lord never yet has left His faithful few without His presence nor the world without a witness.” The Upward Look, 228.

From Age to Age

She talks in very similar language throughout the first chapter of The Acts of the Apostles. She speaks of the churches being one throughout the whole period of earth’s history— from the apostles’ time, through the Dark Ages, to our time, to the end. “Through the ages of moral darkness, through centuries of strife and persecution, the church of Christ has been as a city set on a hill. From age to age, through successive generations to the present time, the pure doctrines of the Bible have been unfolding within her borders.” Our High Calling, 172.

Notice, she is talking singular here: “The church of Christ, enfeebled and defective though she may appear, is the one object on earth on which He bestows in a special sense His love and regard. The church is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to make experiments of mercy on human hearts.” Ibid. Is that not exciting? The church is a theater; a “theater of His grace.”

Revival and Reformation Exists!

I want to tell you, friends, as I travel and as I visit with people in different countries and in different places, over and over again, I have been amazed as I have seen what God is doing. When Evelyn and I went to New Guinea a few years ago, they told us that the Lord is going all through this country, and some of the people who are the greatest criminals have accepted the gospel.

In fact, while we were there, they had a baptism on Sabbath afternoon. One of the people who was baptized had been the head of a drug gang. Unbelievable things like this happen! You see people who have been involved in every kind of crime and problem, and God is pulling them out of that lifestyle and completely changing their lives, by grace.

It is something that you cannot explain by any method of psychology, human education or anything like that. It is beyond explanation. It is “the theater of His grace,” and it is worldwide. Ellen White says, in Testimonies, vol. 6, 367, that the church below and the church above are one. (See also Manuscript Releases, vol. 6, 316.) There are not two separate churches, one in heaven and one on earth. They are both one!

There is just one true church. Now it immediately follows that if there is only one true church in all time and all of space, if you or I would ever start another church or another denomination, that would be apostasy. Does that make sense? If there is only one true church in all of time and all of space, and that is exactly what the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy teaches, then to start a new church would be apostasy from the true, and we certainly do not want to do that! There is only one true church!

You see, Adventists did not start a new church in 1863 or 1861 or 1844. The church has existed since the days of Adam and Eve, and it has been shaken over and over again. People have been shaken out, but there have always been some who have gone through.

Were there some people who went through in Jesus’ day? Yes. The 12 apostles came right out of the Jewish Church. There were some people who endured the shaking and accepted the Messiah and stayed with it. Did the same thing happen in the times of Martin Luther? Yes. Did the same thing happen in the days of Ellen White? Absolutely!

A Remnant

Were there some people after the great disappointment who held on to their faith even though they were disappointed beyond measure and could not understand how God could have allowed such a thing to happen to them? Were there some people who hung on? Yes, there were, and they were not a new church. They are called, in the Bible, a remnant. Is a remnant something new? No, a remnant is not something new. A remnant is something that goes back to the beginning, but it is just the last part of the original.

But, of course, there is a dividing line in God’s church. There always has been, because in this world, since the devil rebelled in heaven and since Adam and Eve fell, we are in a situation where there are people who profess things that are not true.

The devil and his angels profess things that are not true, and so do human beings, the devil’s agents. If you are one of God’s children, you will never make a profession that is not true, because then you are breaking the ninth commandment. That is why, by the way, you and I can never, ever make any profession that we are perfect or holy. We will never be making those professions, even during the time of trouble. We will be in heaven before we will be able to say, I am holy or I am perfect. God’s children do not ever make a profession that is not true. But the devil’s children do, and the devil has been doing this for thousands of years.

Drawing the Line

The devil brings his agents into God’s church, and they make a profession of something that is not true. So now you have this group of people all together; some of them are true; some of them are not true, and you cannot tell for sure which is which because they all make the same profession. But God draws the dividing line.

You can find this in the Bible, (See Matthew 7:15, 21–23) and I like the way Ellen White put it in Signs of the Times, June 30, 1881. She says, “He draws the dividing line between those who bear His name by profession, and those whose character shows them to be His children.”

So, here you have a people, all professing to be part of the true church, the remnant. They all profess to be commandment keepers; they all profess to believe the Spirit of Prophecy, and they all profess to be Christians. Where does God put the dividing line? They all make this profession, but God draws a line. Some people are on one side of the line; some people are on the other side of the line.

You and I do not have to know where the line is. God has drawn it, and He knows which people are on which side of the line. As the shaking progresses, it will become apparent to everybody else, also. On one side of the dividing line there are the people who make the profession, but their profession is not true. On the other side of the dividing line is the true church. They are the people who make the profession, too, but their profession is true. Their character shows that they are God’s children.

The True Church

I want to go over several distinguishing points about the true church. I am not talking about the true church by profession, I am talking about the true church in character. Many, many times Ellen White describes the true church as being those who have a certain type of character. (See Christ’s Object Lessons, 310.)

The true church does not have any tares in it. There are tares that make the profession; they are all part of the group, but notice carefully, this church does not have any tares in it. Jesus talked about people who do not go through the door, but they come in another way. He said they are thieves and robbers. (See John 10:1.)

You can have a thief in your house. A thief does not come through the door, he climbs through the window. So is he part of your family? He is in the house, but that does not make him part of your family. It is the same with the wolves in sheep’s clothing; they have climbed over the wall, and they are in the fold. Does that make them part of the flock? Are they part of the true church? Well, they profess to be, but they are not. They may have their lamb’s clothing all zipped up, clear up to the neck, but they are not really a part of the true church.

Notice what Ellen White says about the true church: “From the beginning, faithful souls have constituted the church on earth.” The Acts of the Apostles, 11. Now what does the word constitute mean? That is who makes up the church, and it is the faithful souls.

By the way, are the faithful souls the tares? Is any tare a faithful soul? No, a tare is not a faithful soul. So this church that she is talking about here does not have any tares in it, because it is constituted by faithful souls. She says that, until the end of time, the true church will have the Holy Spirit. (See The Acts of the Apostles, 54, 55.)

Not the Various Denominations

And then there is this very familiar statement from The Upward Look, 315. It is a very interesting statement that I have pondered many, many times. A lot of people do not like some things in this statement, and they try to get around it. I am always afraid, if I am trying to get around something in God’s Word. If there is something in God’s Word that sounds like it is difficult, well, probably that means we just do not understand everything yet. Notice what this says: “God has a church. It is not the great cathedral, neither is it the national establishment, neither is it the various denominations.”

Now that is a very pointed statement. It is not the various denominations. It is not?

Well, it is our denomination, people say.

No, it is not. It is not the various denominations.

Oh, but ours is an exception.

It does not say there are any exceptions. It just says that it is not the various denominations. Now that is a very powerful statement. I did not write it. I am not even interpreting it. I am just sharing it with you.

Well, who is it then?

Oh, it is our denomination.

No, that is not what she said. Now she is going to tell you who it is.

“It is the people who love God and keep His commandments.” Ibid.

So, do you love God and keep His commandments? Then you are part of the true church. You are a member of the church of which there is only one in all time and space. When the church is taken to heaven, all generations from all over the world, plus the angels and the beings up there, will all be one. And you will be part of it—if you are one of those who love God and keep His commandments.

This is important to understand right now, especially if some of you have heard Pastor Billy Paul tell about what is happening in Central and South America. People are being disfellowshipped all over Central and South America for standing up and proclaiming the Three Angels’ Messages. Should these people become frightened and say, Oh, no, I am lost! I am not in the church anymore. Is that what they should think? Are they out of the church? No. Do they love God and keep His commandments? Yes, they do. Then they are in the church!

Organization Needed Now!

Now, just because you love God and keep His commandments does not mean that you should not be organized. All we are saying is that the organization is not the church. Our organization is not the church. We have a church at Steps to Life, and it is organized. We have elders, deacons, a church clerk, and a treasurer. We are an organized church so that we can do the work of Christ. But our church organization is not the church itself. Do you see the difference? And if that church organization should apostatize, even if all the leaders should apostatize, the church would still remain.

Let me tell you, I have seen that happen more than once. I have seen the leaders of a church all apostatize, but the church remains, because the church is the people who love God and keep His commandments.

The General Conference is Not the True Church

And then, I thought about this. I asked myself, Should I get this pointed? I think that I had better do it. I think that I have an obligation to do it. So, brace yourself for this, because some people are going to read this and they are going to be shocked when they do. The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is not the true church, and it has not been the true church, or even part of the true church, for a long time.

I am going to read that to you right out of the Spirit of Prophecy: “Says the prophet, ‘The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.’ [Now notice what she says about this text. She has just quoted Revelation 12:17.] We can see from this Scripture that it is not the true church of God that makes war with those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” The Signs of the Times, April 22, 1889. [Emphasis supplied.]

Any organization, or group, that makes war with those who keep the commandments is not the true church. That is what Ellen White says. When you take people, who are keeping the commandments, to court and you put them in jail, and believe me, that has happened; when you take them to court and try to ruin them financially, you are waging war. Do you know what a lawsuit is? A lawsuit is a legal war, a legal battle. I do not know how anybody could controvert or dispute that. If you think that it is not, you have just not yet been sued.

People can lose everything that they have and go to jail because of a lawsuit, you know. Mrs. White says that it is not the true church of God that makes war with those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. That makes it absolutely certain that the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists could not possibly be the true church today, or any part of it, because they are making war against those who are trying to take the Three Angels’ Messages to all the world. They are making war on these people all over the world. In Interamerica they are disfellowshipping them. In South America they are disfellowshipping them. In the United States they are taking them to court. They are doing similar things in the South Pacific, in Australia and in Europe, and just about anywhere in the world where people are getting aggressive and saying that we need to get the Three Angels’ Messages to the world now!

Now, I know that they are the true church by profession. So that nobody will misunderstand that, let me just remind you that Caiaphas and company were the true church by profession in the days of Jesus, but it was not true.

The true church is built, established, on the Rock. (See Matthew 16:18.) This is one of the favorite texts of the papacy. The true church is established on the Rock. It is established on the Rock, Christ Jesus. By the way, I have thought many times that, of all the apostles, the Lord chose to have the apostle Peter explain that explicitly so that nobody would be mixed up about who the Rock is upon whom the church is built.

Built on the Chief Cornerstone

So the apostle Peter spends about ten or eleven verses in 1 Peter 2, and he tells you exactly who the Rock is upon whom the church is built, so you cannot make a mistake. He says, Now the rest of you, you are living stones, too, but you are built on a Foundation and on the Chief Cornerstone. And any church that is not built on that Rock is not the true church. The church that is built on the apostle Peter is not the true church, because he is not the Rock.

Let us look at two or three more characteristics about the true church. In the book The Great Controversy, 51, Ellen White makes the following statement: “Romanists have persisted in bringing against Protestants the charge of heresy and willful separation from the true church. But these accusations apply rather to themselves. They are the ones who laid down the banner of Christ and departed from ‘the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.’ Jude 3.”

Now, if you study that statement carefully, she says the accusation against the true church of departing from the church applies to whom? To the Romanists. And why does it apply to them? Because of two things: they laid down the banner of Christ and departed from the faith once delivered to the saints. Now that paragraph, if you study it carefully, reveals to you characteristics of the true church.

The true church is that group of people who will uphold the banner of Christ and who will defend the faith once delivered to the saints. They will defend the historic Christian teachings in the Bible. That is still true. That is where the term “historic” Adventists came from. People said, We want the doctrines that we know are true, that our people have believed and that Christians have believed throughout all ages. They studied their Bibles. That is what we want!

Who Laid Down the Banner of Christ?

Now the Roman Church laid down the banner of Christ and departed from the faith that was once delivered to the saints, so they are the ones that willfully separated from the true church. You need to understand this point crystal clear. I am amazed that I find Seventh-day Adventists who are mixed up on this point, and I hope after you have studied this over with me that nobody will ever be able to be mixed up on this again.

Who was the true church during the Dark Ages, between the time that the apostles died and the Protestant Reformation or up to our own time? I find that people are very confused on this. I was absolutely shocked just a few weeks ago when I found out that there are Adventist leaders in the revival and reformation movement who apparently think that the Roman Church was the true church clear up until the sixth century.

I could have fallen off my chair. The Roman Church, friends, apostatized in the second century, and after they apostatized, they were not the true church any more. Who was the true church? Ellen White is very, very specific about this.

“‘The church in the wilderness, [Now who is the church in the wilderness? That was those Bible-believing Christians who had to flee from persecution.] and not the proud hierarchy enthroned in the world’s great capital, was the true church of Christ.” The Great Controversy, 64. And that is as plain as you can state it!

Here is another one. “The professed church of God was swept into the ranks of this delusion, and for more than a thousand years the people of God suffered under the dragon’s ire.” The Signs of the Times, November 1, 1899.

So, the church at Rome went into apostasy in the second century, before ad 170 or 180. We have good historical evidence that it was starting in the late ad 120s at least, and that the apostasy was well under way by the late ad 150s. We do not need to look at the spiritual, religious, Bible side of things, you can go right to the history book and figure that out.

Upholding the Banner of Christ

So the true church will uphold the banner of Christ, and it will not depart from the faith. In fact, the apostle Paul gives that as a definition of the true church. It is the pillar and ground of the truth. (See 1 Timothy 3:15.)

So who was the true church in Jesus’ day? Was it Caiaphas and company? They professed to be, but it was not really true, was it? Remember that God draws the dividing line between those who are His children by profession and those whose characters show that they really are His children. So who was the true church in Jesus’ day? It was the people who followed Jesus, and that is all that it was.

The people who were following Caiaphas crucified Jesus. Did the true church crucify Jesus? No, that was not the true church; those were the people following the devil. You cannot be following the devil and the Lord at the same time. Does that make sense? The true church in Jesus’ day were those who followed Jesus.

Who was the true church in the second, third, fourth and fifth centuries? It was those Christians who maintained their faith, those who were Bible-believing Christians. They were scattered all over the world. They were called many, many different names. Ellen White says that the whole world became a battlefield over the Christian faith. You can see the evidence of the battle in England, the British Isles, the Continent of Europe, in the Middle East, down to Africa and India. (See The Great Controversy, 55, 56.)

The whole world became a battlefield, and what happened to the true church? Do you know where one of the most common places was that the true church met? One of the most common places where the true church met was in the fields of martyrdom, where their members were killed by those claiming to be the true church.

If you read the book, The Martyr’s Mirror, one of the major debating points was the Waldenses claim that they were the only true church. The papists could not stand that, because if the Waldenses were the true church, then they were an apostate church.

The true church was in the wilderness, according to Revelation 12. So you know from Revelation 12 that you would not find the true church in London or Paris or Rome or Jerusalem. The true church was in the wilderness, in the desert.

The Church in the Desert

Several years ago when I was traveling in southeastern France, in the Cevennes Mountains, which was where the headquarters of the Huguenots was located, I had the privilege of visiting a church. I looked on the stone wall that was built in 1696; I went inside the church, and the church was built like a fort. It had walls about three feet thick. You had to get on a ladder to see out the windows, as they were probably higher than the peak of most ceilings.

They still have the church Bible. You see, private people in those days often could not afford to have a Bible, so the church had a Bible and you would come to the church; somebody would read, and the rest of the church would listen. That is the way you studied the Bible back in those days. If they really wanted a part of the Bible for themselves, while it was being read they copied down the text, then they had part of the Bible for their own. The Bible is still there, in the front of the church.

It is very interesting what they called themselves. They called themselves the church in the desert. Where do you suppose they got that idea? They got it from Revelation 12. They knew that they were the church described in Revelation 12.

So who was the church in 1844? It was the people who accepted the truth about the hour of God’s judgment to come. Like always, the church was the pillar and ground of the truth. Now, they did not understand what that meant yet, but it was the people who accepted that. There were a lot of people who claimed to accept it who were not true, so the Lord arranged to divide things so you could find out who really believed this message.

Sorting Things Out

And that is what is going to happen to us, too. It is already under way. God is arranging things for the shaking to sort things out. By the time Jesus comes, all of the people who make a profession, and whose character does not agree with their profession, will be weeded out. But that is God’s business, not ours. We do not take the tares out of the church. God does that, and He is doing it right now. We do have an obligation to disfellowship members living in open sin. When a tare becomes an open sinner, he is to be disfellowshipped by the church. (See 1 Corinthians 5; 2 John and Christ’s Object Lessons, 71.)

Who is the church now? And who will be the church in the future? It will still be the same as it has always been, since the days of Adam and Eve. It is those who love God and keep His commandments; those who uphold the banner of Christ; those who defend the faith once delivered to the saints; those who have the Holy Spirit; those who are built on the Rock, and those who do not ever make war against those who are keeping God’s commandments.

We need to be careful that we never have the wrong spirit. People might come to you and me and say, Well, you know so-and-so, look what they are doing; they are terrible; they are fanatics. They may be a fanatic. They may be doing something wrong, but let me tell you something, if they are keeping God’s commandments, we had better not get in a war with them, even if they are making mistakes. Because, if we do, we will show the whole universe that we are on the opposite side of the great controversy, that we are not part of the church at all, no matter what our profession.

We are not self-supporting workers or some adjunct, some sideline, some irregular line. I believe Martin Luther put it best when he said, “The Pope and the priests need not make a noise. We are the church!” Do you believe that? It is still true. We are the church.

Melancthon said it just as well: “‘There is no other church than the assembly of those who have the word of God, and who are purified by it.’” Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, 237.

to be continued…

Where Does God Deposit Truth – Part II

God’s Noblemen

“In the past, the servants of God wrestled with principalities and powers, and with the rulers of the darkness of this world, and with spiritual wickedness in high places, the same as we, who bear aloft the banner of truth, do today. These men were God’s noblemen, His living agencies, through whom He wrought in a wonderful manner. They were depositaries of divine truth to the extent that the Lord saw fit to reveal the truth that the world could bear to hear. They proclaimed the truth at a time when false, corrupt religion was magnifying itself in the world.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 345, 346.

“If the Bible was studied and obeyed; if we had the spirit of Christ, we should make determined efforts to be laborers together with God. We should better appreciate the worth of the soul; for every soul converted to God means a vessel dedicated to a holy use, a depositary of truth, a bearer of light to others. God expects more of the schools than has yet been brought forth. Christ has said, ‘Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life; which the Son of man shall give unto you; for Him hath God the Father sealed.’ [See John 6:27.] Christian Education, 82.

“‘Wake up, brethren and sisters, wake up. Sleep no longer. ‘Why stand ye here all the day idle?’ Jesus calls you, saying, ‘Go work today in My vineyard.’ Whoever has received the Holy Spirit, will make it manifest; for all his powers will be employed in the most active service. All, who actually receive Christ by faith, work. They feel the burden of souls. God now calls upon every one who has a knowledge of the truth, who is a depositary of sacred truth, to arise and impart the light of heaven to others. Those who have been illuminated by the Holy Spirit, will show its office work upon life and character. They will be mediums through which the Holy Spirit will communicate light and knowledge to others. The wonderful truth revealed to us in these last days, is to be revealed to others. ‘The end of all things is at hand.’ The Lord has been speaking to you in America, and may the Lord forbid that at the time of great illumination, darkness should come upon you because you fail to walk in the light that has been given. Darkness corresponding to your light will surely come upon you, if you do not now arouse from your slumbers, and shake off your useless musings and selfish indulgences, and trade diligently with your Lord’s goods. Move out from your pleasant homes. Develop the talents God has given you, and tell to others what the Holy Spirit has communicated to you. God requires you to work in proportion to the light He has given.” (Concluded next week.) — The Review and Herald, December 5, 1893.

“Ministers of Christ whom God has made the depositaries of His law, you have an unpopular truth. You must bear this truth to the world. Warnings must be given men to prepare for the great day of God. You must reach those whose hearts are callused by sin and love of the world. Continual and fervent prayer, and earnestness in well-doing, will bring you into communion with God; your mind and heart will imbibe a sense of eternal things, and the heavenly unction, which springs from connection with God, will be poured upon you. It will render your testimony powerful to convict and convert. Your light will not be uncertain, but your path will be luminous with heavenly brightness. God is all-powerful, and Heaven is full of light. You have only to use the means God has placed in your power to obtain the divine blessing.” Ibid., August 8, 1878.

A Sacred Responsibility

These statements are clear enough, and there are more like them. As individuals we have a sacred responsibility as depositaries of God—; indeed, vessels to be filled with all the fullness of Him who fills all in all, human safety deposit boxes entrusted with the most important message ever given to mortals.

Now look at some statements dealing with the church as a body of individuals being the depositary of God.

“Jesus came to the world, lived a holy life, and died, to leave to the church His legacy in the valuable treasures He entrusted to them. He made His disciples the depositaries of most precious doctrines, to be placed in the hands of His church unmixed with the errors and traditions of men. He revealed Himself to them as the light of the world, the Sun of Righteousness. And He promised them the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father was to send in His name.” Signs of the Times, November 16, 1891.

“Christ has said, ‘Ye are the light of the world.’ Then let us individually send forth clear, steady rays of light to the world. Our light is never to grow dim, never to burn low. The Lord is at the door; who will prove to be the wise, and who the foolish virgins? Who will be revealed at last as those who have the lamps, but no oil of grace in their vessels with their lamps? The church has been made the depositary of truth. Light has been imparted to her members, and they are to have works corresponding to their privileges and opportunities. They cannot correctly represent the truth in a single instance, unless they are sanctified through the truth. To sanctify is to set apart for a special service. Those who are controlled by worldly ambition will never shine as lights. ‘Ye cannot serve God and mammon.’” The Review and Herald, February 27, 1894.

“Let all understand the words that I now write. Those who are laborers together with God are but His instruments, and they in themselves possess no essential grace or holiness. It is only when they are cooperating with heavenly intelligences that they are successful. They are but earthen vessels, the depositaries in which God places the treasure of His truth. Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but it is God alone that gives the increase.

“God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. But Satan is a vigilant, unsleeping foe, ever at work upon human minds, seeking a soil in which he can sow his tares. If he finds any whom he can press into his service, he will suggest ideas and false theories, and make them zealous in advocating error. The truth not only converts, but works the purification of its receiver. Jesus has warned us to beware of false teachers. From the beginning of our work, men have arisen from time to time, advocating theories that were new and startling. But if those who claim to believe the truth would go to those who have had experience; would go to the word of God in a teachable, humble spirit, and examine their theories in the light of truth and with the aid of the brethren who have been diligent Bible students, and at the same time make supplication unto God, asking, Is this the way of the Lord, or is it a false path in which Satan would lead me? They would receive light, and would escape out of the net of the fowler.

“Let all our brethren and sisters beware of anyone who would set a time for the Lord to fulfill His word in regard to His coming, or in regard to any other promise He has made of special significance. ‘It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power.’ False teachers may appear to be very zealous for the work of God, and may expend means to bring their theories before the world and the church; but as they mingle error with truth, their message is one of deception, and will lead souls into false paths. They are to be met and opposed, not because they are bad men, but because they are teachers of falsehood and are endeavoring to put upon falsehood the stamp of truth.” Testimonies to Ministers, 53–55.

“But we see that the God of heaven sometimes commissions men to teach that which is regarded as contrary to the established doctrines. Because those who were once the depositaries of truth became unfaithful to their sacred trust, the Lord chose others who would receive the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness, and would advocate truths that were not in accordance with the ideas of the religious leaders. And then these leaders, in the blindness of their minds, give full sway to what is supposed to be righteous indignation against the ones who have set aside cherished fables. They act like men who have lost their reason. They do not consider the possibility that they themselves have not rightly understood the word. They will not open their eyes to discern the fact that they have misinterpreted and misapplied the Scriptures, and have built up false theories, calling them fundamental doctrines of the faith.” Ibid., 69.

“Can we then be surprised to hear of ministers falling under temptation and sin, disgracing the cause they were professedly advocating? Can we wonder that there are apostasies when men who urge conversion upon others are not themselves converted; when they commend to others the love of Christ which does not glow in their own souls; preaching repentance which they themselves have not practiced, and faith which they have no experimental knowledge of; telling of a Saviour whom they have never known except by rumor? They are self-deceived men, not far from destruction. Pitiful indeed is their situation. All may seem peaceful to them, because the palsy of death is upon them. We are fully aware that dishonest men, immoral men, who preach the Word, are not always reproved and warned. They are not unmasked. They learn to hold the truth in unrighteousness, and can tamper with it without a trembling of heart and rebuke of conscience. Oh, that with pen and voice we might lead the people who claim to be the depositaries of sacred and eternal truth to feel the necessity of enthroning the Word of God in their heart, and bringing every thought, word, and action into subjection to Jesus Christ. It is a fearful thing to be in daily connection with the truth of God, telling others of eternal truth, and yet be unsanctified through that truth.

It is not safe to place men in the position God should occupy, for men cannot be trusted. If they do not constantly live as in the presence of God, if they do not walk humbly before God and their brethren, they will diverge almost imperceptibly, and by slight degrees, from the straight line of God’s work. Trusting to their own wisdom, they will deceive themselves and their fellow men. Their ideas become so confused that they offer strange fire before the Lord.

The Word of God is to be the man of our counsel. With pen and voice I proclaim to all who bear credentials, to all licentiates, to all colporteurs, and all canvassers, that the Bible, and the Bible only, studied on your knees, laid up in your heart, and practiced in your life, attended by the Holy Spirit’s power, can be your safeguard. It alone can make you righteous and holy, and keep you thus. Every human influence is weak and varying unless the truth of God’s Word is brought home to the soul, and placed upon the throne. Not till this is done will the heart be sanctified, purified, and made holy, a fountain out of which are the issues of life.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 11, 89, 90.

No One is Free from Failing in Responsibility

Needless to say, such warnings are not being heeded by the majority of professed believers in this hour of earth’s history, and it will get worse, as we have been warned. The point to be made here is that individuals making up a group have as much or more responsibility as depositaries as an entire group of people claiming depositary status. No individual is free from failing in responsibilities as a depositary of sacred things. Common sense would conclude no group of individuals is free either. Let us look at some statements dealing with the church as a working body.

“The people whom God has made the depositaries of His law are generally from the poorer classes, and they have not had the advantages of wealth and culture. As they wish to make a good impression, and win souls to the light of truth, they must become intelligent and refined. They should stop at no low standard; for they will be hated and criticized by all who choose darkness rather than light. .” The Review and Herald, May 6, 1884.

We have a message of warning to the church. God says to you, ‘Be zealous and repent’ ‘I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.’ Precious time has been squandered in which you might have won souls to Christ,—souls that through your love of ease are now lost. Every member of the church should awake to duty now. May God help you to take on the burden. Let the church-members pray and fast and believe. Let the hearts of parents be turned to their children, and the hearts of children to their parents, ‘Lest I come,’ saith the Lord, ‘and smite the earth with a curse.’ Your souls are in peril. Shall the Sun of Righteousness set, and leave you enshrouded in the darkness of eternal night?

Great light and privileges were given to the Jewish nation, but their sin was in neglecting to improve these blessings. Great privileges are granted to those whom God has made the depositaries of His law. These privileges are not evidences of our piety, and do not commend us to God; but they lay us under most solemn obligation to respond in holiness of life to the benefits received. Privileges abused will ever result in corresponding darkness and judgment from God.

But God never forsakes a people until they first forsake Him. ‘Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause My anger to fall upon you; for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever.’” Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day Adventists, 286, 287.

The Lord Jesus has made His church the depositary of sacred truth. He has left with her the work of carrying out His purposes* and His plans to save the souls for whom He has manifested such interest, such unmeasured love. Like the sun in relation to our world, He rises amid the moral darkness—the Sun of Righteousness. He said of Himself, ‘I am the light of the world.’ He said to His followers, ‘Ye are the light of the world.’ Jesus came to the world in the garb of humanity, to instruct the world and guide them in the way of light, to eternal happiness. The followers of Christ are His representatives in the world. By reflecting the image of Jesus Christ, by the beauty and holiness of their characters, by their continual self-denial and their separation from all idols, large or small, they reveal that they have learned in the school of Christ. They are continually catching the spirit of love and forbearance, meekness and gentleness, and they stand as representatives of Christ, a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.” Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, 778.

[* “In order to endure the trial before them, they must understand the will of God as revealed in His word; they can honor Him only as they have a right conception of His character, government, and purposes, and act in accordance with them.” The Great Controversy, 593.]

Separated from the World!

“God has called His church in this day, as He called ancient Israel, to stand as a light in the earth. By the mighty cleaver of truth, the messages of the first, second, and third angels, He has separated them from the churches and from the world to bring them into a sacred nearness to Himself. He has made them the depositaries of His law and has committed to them the great truths of prophecy for this time. Like the holy oracles committed to ancient Israel, these are a sacred trust to be communicated to the world. The Three Angels of Revelation 14 represent the people who accept the light of God’s messages and go forth as His agents to sound the warning throughout the length and breadth of the earth. Christ declares to His followers: ‘Ye are the light of the world.’ To every soul that accepts Jesus the cross of Calvary speaks: ‘Behold the worth of the soul: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”’ Nothing is to be permitted to hinder this work. It is the all-important work for time; it is to be far-reaching as eternity. The love that Jesus manifested for the souls of men in the sacrifice which He made for their redemption, will actuate all His followers.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 455. (See Also 619.)

We profess to have more truth than other denominations; yet if this does not lead to greater consecration, to purer, holier lives, of what benefit is it to us? It would be better for us never to have seen the light of truth than to profess to accept it and not be sanctified through it.” Ibid., vol. 5., 619, 620.

Words of Warning

“I have been instructed to trace words of warning for our brethren and sisters who are in danger of losing sight of the special work for this time. The Lord has made us depositaries of sacred truth. We are to arise and shine. In every land we are to herald the Second Coming of Christ, in the language of the revelator proclaiming: ‘Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.’ Revelation 1:7.” Ibid., vol. 8, 116.

“It is a solemn and terrible truth that many who have been zealous in proclaiming the Third Angel’s Message are now becoming listless and indifferent! The line of demarcation between worldlings and many professed Christians is almost indistinguishable. Many who once were earnest Adventists are conforming to the worldto its practices, its customs, and its selfishness. Instead of leading the world to render obedience to God’s law, the church is uniting more and more closely with the world in transgression. Daily the church is becoming converted to the world. How many professing Christians are slaves of mammon! Their indulgence of appetite, their extravagant expenditure of money for selfish gratification, greatly dishonors God.” Ibid.. vol. 8, 118.

“The world must not be introduced into the church and married to the church. Through union with the world the church will become corrupt, — ‘A cage of every unclean and hateful bird.’ The customs of the world must not have a place; for they will open doors through which the prince of darkness will find access, and the line of demarcation will become indistinguishable between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not.” The Review and Herald, February 26, 1895.

“There are many who, if they understood the spirit and the result of religious legislation, would not do anything to forward in the least the movement for Sunday observance. The world is overborne with falsehood and iniquity, and those whom God has made the depositaries of His law and of the pure religion of Jesus, must be determined to let their light shine. If they do nothing to disabuse the minds of the people, and through ignorance of the truth our legislators should abjure the principles of Protestantism and give countenance and support to the Roman fallacy, enforcing allegiance to the spurious sabbath, God will hold His people, who have had great light, responsible for their lack of diligence and faithfulness. But if the subject of religious legislation is judiciously and intelligently laid before the people, and they see that through Sunday enforcement, the Roman apostasy would be re-enacted by the Christian world, and that the tyranny of past ages would be repeated, then whatever comes, we shall have done our duty. The Review and Herald, March 9, 1911.

Plain Speaking

“In these last days God has brought to His people a knowledge of His law. A flood of light has been poured upon the New Testament, revealing the truths of the Old. God has brought out from the world and from the church a people whom He has made the depositaries of His law. They are to teach that that law must be obeyed if men would enter into life. To those who keep His commandments He will be a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, to lighten and lead the way in the path cast up for the ransomed of the Lord to walk in.” Signs of the Times, July 19, 1899.

That last quote is very interesting, is it not? It is as plain as can be how God passes the torch to those who remain faithful to duty as individuals or religious bodies. It gets even plainer.

The Seventh-day Adventist church, or any of its actual congregations, interestingly enough, is only mentioned by name a few times in all the references available on this subject. Some are now included here. Pay close attention to the messages Mrs. White sent them.

“God is leading out a people. He has a chosen people, a church on the earth, whom He has made the depositaries of His law. He has committed to them sacred trust and eternal truth to be given to the world. He would reprove and correct them. The message to the Laodiceans is applicable to Seventh-day Adventists who have had great light and have not walked in the light. It is those who have made great profession, but have not kept in step with their Leader, that will be spewed out of His mouth unless they repent. The message to pronounce the Seventh-Day Adventist Church Babylon, and call the people of God out of her, does not come from any heavenly messenger, or any human agent inspired by the Spirit of God.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 66.

Well, here is one that is at the heart of great controversy among God’s professed people in our day. What would principle declare about the historical and present meaning of this passage, and others like it, in light of what you have already read and will now read? You decide, because God will, indeed, judge each one of us in how we relate to and judge heavenly principles.

“But the heart of the work, the great center, has been enfeebled by the mismanagement of men who have not kept pace with their Leader. Satan has diverted their money and their capabilities into wrong channels. Their precious time has been passing into eternity. The earnest work that is now being done, the aggressive warfare that is being carried on, might long ago have been just as vigorously carried forward in obedience to the light of God. The whole body is sick because of mismanagement and miscalculation. The people to whom God has entrusted eternal interests, the depositaries of truth pregnant with eternal results, the keepers of light that is to illuminate the whole world, have lost their bearings. Has God made a mistake? Are those at the heart of the work chosen vessels that can receive the golden oil, which the heavenly messengers, represented as two olive trees, empty into the golden tubes to replenish the lamps? Are those in Battle Creek, the men and women that God has appointed to do the most solemn work ever given to mortals, in partnership with Jesus Christ in His great firm? Are those whom He has bidden to communicate the light from the burning lamps to others, that the regions of darkness may have opportunity to hear the saving message, doing their duty? … “ Testimonies to Ministers, 397.

God Does Not Make Mistakes!

Does God make mistakes? No, of course not. His choosing of Israel was not a mistake. His choosing of the early church over the Jewish church was not a mistake. His choosing of the faithful few as the early church majority went into apostasy was not a mistake. His choosing of the Protestant Reformers was not a mistake. His choosing of the Adventists prior to 1844 was not a mistake. His choosing of another faithful remnant to carry on after 1844 was not a mistake. Now, given that God does not make mistakes, will the real depository please stand up?

Read this next statement carefully:

“The church at Battle Creek has had great light. As a people they have been peculiarly favored of God. They have not been left in ignorance in regard to the will of God concerning them. They might be far in advance of what they now are, if they had walked in the light. They are not that separate, peculiar, and holy people that their faith demands, and that God recognizes and acknowledges as children of the light. They are not as obedient and devotional as their exalted position and sacred obligation as children walking in the light require them to be. The most solemn message of mercy ever given to the world has been entrusted to them. The Lord has made that church the depositaries of His commandments in a sense that no other church is. God did not show them His special favor in trusting to them His sacred truth that they alone might be benefited by the light given, but that the light reflected upon them from heaven should shine forth to others and be reflected again to God by those who receive the truth glorifying Him. Many in Battle Creek will have a fearful account to give in the day of God for this sinful neglect of duty.

“Many of those who profess to believe the truth in Battle Creek contradict their faith by their works. They are as unbelieving, and as far from fulfilling the requirements of God and from coming up to their profession of faith, as was the Jewish church at the time of Christ’s first advent. Should Christ make His appearance among them, reproving and rebuking selfishness, pride, and love of the friendship of the world, as He did at His first advent, but few would recognize Him as the Lord of glory. The picture He would present before them of their neglect of duty they would not receive, but would tell Him to His face: ‘You are entirely mistaken; we have done this good and great thing, and performed this and that wonderful work, and we are entitled to be highly exalted for our good works.’

The Jews did not go into darkness all at once. It was a gradual work, until they could not discern the gift of God in sending His Son. The church at Battle Creek has had superior advantages, and they will be judged by the light and privileges they have had. Their deficiencies, their unbelief, their hardness of heart, and their neglect to cherish and follow the light are not less than those of the favored Jews, who refused the blessings they might have accepted, and crucified the Son of God. The Jews are now an astonishment and reproach to the world.Testimonies, vol. 3, 199, 200.

“Jerusalem is a representation of what the church will be if it refuses to walk in the light that God has given. Jerusalem was favored of God as the depositary of sacred trusts. But her people perverted the truth, and despised all entreaties and warnings. They would not respect His counsels. The temple courts were polluted with merchandise and robbery. Selfishness and love of mammon, envy and strife, were cherished. Everyone sought for gain from his quarter. Christ turned from them, saying: ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,’ how can I give thee up? ‘How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’ Matthew 23:37.

Christ Weeps Over our Failed Churches

So Christ sorrows and weeps over our churches, over our institutions of learning, that have failed to meet the demand of God. He comes to investigate in Battle Creek, which has been moving in the same track as Jerusalem. The publishing house has been turned into desecrated shrines, into a place of unholy merchandise and traffic. It has become a place where injustice and fraud have been carried on, where selfishness, malice, envy, and passion have borne sway. Yet the men who have been led into this working upon wrong principles are seemingly unconscious of their wrong course of action. When warnings and entreaties come to them, they say: ‘Doth she not speak in parables?’ Words of warning and reproof have been treated as idle tales.

When Christ looked down from the crest of Olivet, He saw this state of things existing in every church. The warnings come down to all that are following in the tread of the people of Jerusalem, who had such great light. This people is before us as a warning. By rejecting God’s warnings in this our day, men are repeating the sin of Jerusalem. The Lord sees what the human agent does not see and will not see—the outcome of all the human devising in Battle Creek. He has done all that a God could do. He has flashed light before the eyes of the people, that their sins might not reach the boundary where repentance cannot be felt. But by a long process of departure from just and righteous principles, men have placed themselves where light and truth, justice and mercy, are not discerned. This course has become part of their very nature.

I call upon all who have united in a course of action that is wrong in principle, to make a decided reformation and forever after walk humbly with God .…

These are no idle tales, but truth. Again I ask: On which side are you standing? ‘If the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow Him.’ I Kings 18:21.” Ibid., vol. 8, 67, 68.

Frankly, dear reader, I am not into idle tales, and we should have no doubt in our minds that the Seventh-day Adventist denomination walks no safer ground than presented to any other group in religious history. Nay, she is held more accountable because of all the examples given her.

Who Are the Disfellowshipped and Disenfranchised?

If the Seventh-day Adventist denomination and its recognized, authorized membership is the depositary of God, who are those thousands now disfellowshipped and disenfranchised from her borders? If the Seventh-day Adventist denomination is God’s depositary, let it be proven from “true theology and common sense,” not sentimentality, false reasoning, or human wisdom and philosophy. It is Rome who says, “We are the true church. We are holy, no matter what was done in the past, or is done now, because the church is Christ’s and He is holy.” God forbid such Romanism should exist within that movement which was called into being as the final spearhead movement of the Protestant Reformation! But it does; God help us!

The church is the pillar and ground of truth. It cannot be the pillar and ground of error. It cannot be the pillar and ground of a mixture of truth and error, once light has shined on its pathway. The mixture of truth and error is the track of Satan and deception and the makeup of the prophetic family of Babylon. The Depositary and the Second Angel’s Message are now on the table for discussion as never before. If principles mean anything, if warnings mean anything, if circumstances mean anything, if conditions mean anything, they had better mean something now, because our present and future depend on it.

There is God; there is Baal. There is the true Mother and the remnant; there is the false Mother and her daughters. There is Protestantism; there is Romanism. There is light, there is darkness. There is Christ; there is Satan.

Pray tell, on whose side are you?

“He that has ears to hear . . . . “

[All emphasis supplied]

The End

No New Denomination – Part II

The Denomination of Christ

In Part I we learned that the true church is made up of those who have the Word of God and are purified by it.

So, if somebody says, of what denomination are you a part? Well, we are not part of any new one; I will tell you that! We are part of a denomination that existed since the days of Adam and Eve, and we do not ever intend to start a new one. We just want to stay with the old one. What is it that makes us a part of this denomination?

People say, Oh, you are non-denominational.

Well, I beg your pardon. We are strictly denominational. Ellen White said that she was strictly denominational. Here are a couple of statements that explain why we are denominational and what makes us denominational. People are very confused about this. I find people tend to think that we are just self-supporting workers, out there somewhere on the fringes. No, we are strictly denominational, friend. This is what it means to be denominational. “As I was considering this matter in the night season, it seemed as if One stood up in the midst of us and pointed us back to the Israelites as an illustration of a distinct people, denominated of God. That which made them denominational, was the observance of God’s commandments.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 19, 38, 39.

Are you keeping God’s commandments? If you are, that is what makes you denominational. That is what Ellen White says. “We are strictly denominational,” she said. Testimonies, vol. 7, 109. We still are.

This next quote is even more pointed than the first one. “When you come to the point where you decide to serve God, you are denominational.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 19, 52. Now what do you think of that? Have you decided that? Are you denominational? You are strictly denominational!

I am not claiming to be perfect. We do not claim to be the church triumphant. We do not claim that we are not making mistakes, but we have decided to serve God, have we not? We are trying to serve Him in an organized way. Then we are strictly denominational. That is what makes you denominational, she says. Then she says, “You should not link up with men who have no faith… Such men are not to have a voice in your council-meetings. Even if they were very rich, I would not bind myself to them by a single thread. I would not seek their advice in regard to the business transactions and other matters connected with the management of the institution. The time has come when we must find our bearings. We must come to our senses, and know where we are standing. We are on the very borders of the eternal world. We cannot tell what may happen next.” Ibid.

So, are we denominational? We are strictly denominational on two counts:

  1. We have decided to keep God’s commandments, and
  2. We have decided to follow the Lord. When you make that decision, Ellen White says, you are denominational. You are not somebody out there on the fringes. All the people who have made those decisions are to press together and work for harmony and unity.

Back to the Beginning

You see, we are not founded on any new denomination or any new organization. We are founded on an organization that goes back, back, back to the beginning. Here is the way Ellen White expressed it: “God has a church, and these churches [local churches] are organized on the foundation.” Testimonies to Southern Africa, 7. To what foundation do you suppose she was referring? The foundation of 1863? The foundation of 1861? The foundation of 1517? The foundation of 1901? No, no, no!

These churches are organized on what foundation? “God has a church, and these churches are organized on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” Ibid.

So we belong to that same denomination for the very same reason that the Israelites did, because we decided to keep God’s commandments, and we have decided to follow the Lord all the way.

Now having said that, that does not mean that you will not have to organize some new churches. When you organize a new church, have you started a new denomination? Absolutely not! Was Paul starting new churches when he went all over Galatia? We do not even know how many churches they formed there. It could have been in the hundreds.

Remember, in those days they did not have automobiles. You could not travel to a church that was 20 or 30 miles away, so they organized little churches. They had many churches in the big cities. Paul told Barnabas to ordain elders in every city. Why did he have to do that? Because they had a church in every city.

Was Paul starting a new denomination when he organized these new local churches? Absolutely not. In fact, friends, we need to organize new churches and new conferences all over the world. Let us read what Ellen White said about this. This is not starting a new denomination. This is just organizing to finish God’s work, staying in the same organization.

Forming a New Conference

She says, “New conferences must be formed.” The General Conference Bulletin, April 5, 1901.

Oh, no, somebody says, that is starting a new organization! That is starting… No, it is not. Let us not be foolish. She was not talking about starting a new organization. Starting a new conference is not starting a new organization. It is not starting a new denomination. Ellen White does not contradict herself. She says starting a new organization would be apostasy from the truth. Was she telling people in the 1901 General Conference to go into apostasy against the truth by starting new conferences? Do you see, that starting a new conference and starting a new organization is not the same thing?

Is there any way, friends, that we can come to our senses and not just go contradicting ourselves and making the Spirit of Prophecy contradictory? You see, if the Spirit of Prophecy is the truth, it all has to agree with itself. Do you agree?

Ellen White says in Patriarchs and Prophets, 113, 114, that the truth is consistent with itself in all of its manifestations. If we really understand the truth, the Spirit of Prophecy will all agree. And Ellen White, while she said not to start a new organization, did say new conferences must be formed.

Oh, somebody says, that was 1901. We have all we need now.

No, we do not, friends. We need many new churches and these churches need to be organized into conferences to finish God’s work. Do you realize, that we still have billions of people to reach with the Third Angel’s Message? Are we going to be able to reach these people if we are not organized? To be organized is not starting a new organization. We are organized on the foundation of the prophets and the apostles, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. Ellen White said, “New Conferences must be formed.” Local churches need to be established in all parts of the world.

The Message Must Go Out

When Evelyn and I were in India last year, we went out with the man we were visiting to look around. We were up in the mountains, out in the country, and there was a little village over there and another little village over there. There were not any Seventh-day Adventist churches in any of those villages.

I will tell you that when you go to a place like that, and you start looking around, you say, Lord, help us to get busy and to get organized so the work gets done. Those villages have to have the Three Angels’ Messages before Jesus can come. Do you believe that? So do not let the devil trick you.

This is the devil’s trick. The devil wants to keep God’s people from being organized so that God’s work can never be finished. That is the devil’s program. So he invents all kinds of philosophical tricks to try to make people think that if you organize to finish God’s work, then you are starting a new organization.

No, we are not! We believe and belong to the same denomination to which Adam and Eve belonged. The same one to which the disciples belonged. The same one to which Martin Luther belonged. The same one to which the Waldenses belonged. We are not starting anything new. All during all those times, God’s people were organized to do His work. We have the biggest job that anybody has had since the days of Noah.

We have the job of getting the Three Angels’ Messages to a world that is exploding in population. We are never going to do it, friends, unless we are organized. Becoming organized is not starting a new organization; it is getting back to the old principles that God taught us right in the Bible. In fact, Ellen White was so strong on this, that she said that the angels of God cannot bless His ministers if they work in an unorganized way. (See Testimonies, vol. 1, 49, 650.)

I do not want to work in a way so that angels cannot bless my work. How about you? If the angels are going to bless our work, we are going to have to be organized. That does not mean that we are going to start a new organization. We are going to start churches and organize conferences the same way that the apostle Paul did, the same way the Waldenses did, and the same way they did in the days of Ellen White.

New Testament Gospel Order

The same way! We are not starting anything new! What we are doing is exactly what you read about in the book of Acts. Is it all right to get back to New Testament gospel order? That is what we need, friends, and that is what we are going to have to do if the work is going to be finished quickly.

Sometimes, when I see the opposition to it, I say, Lord, what is going to happen? If You do not help us get organized, we are going to be in this world for another 50 or 100 years. If something does not happen so that God’s people can get organized to finish His work, we will be. But it is going to happen, and if you and I do not get involved in it, it will still happen. God will just finish His work with somebody else.

I have talked to the Lord many times about the thing that is scary to me. I have said, Lord, I do not need to be a leader, and I do not need to be known by anybody. I am not asking for any position or name or any title or anything else. But I just ask you one thing, Lord, since I see the evidence that You have decided to finish Your work in the world. Please, I know I am a sinner, and I know I need a powerful amount of grace so that I can overcome and do what is right, but Lord, please do not pass me by. I am willing to have the smallest part. I am willing to be the doorkeeper. I am willing to do whatever needs to be done. I am willing to take a lowly place and have nobody know anything about me; that is fine. But, Lord, please do not pass me by. Help me to have just a little part in Your work.

Do you want to have a part in God’s finishing work? If we are going to have a part in it, we are going to have to quit fighting New Testament Church organization and start getting organized the way the apostles were organized. They were organized, and they took the gospel to the whole world in just one generation. It can happen again. It can happen very quickly, when God’s people are ready.

Let me tell you it is already happening in some other countries, where they have almost no resources, faster than it is happening in the United States. I think that is a shame! With all the resources we have, I think we ought to be more organized than any other country in the world. But we are not. Could this be changed? Well, that is up to you and to me.

The Ship

In preparing for this Week of Prayer series, we believe it is important, in this first presentation, to discuss the subject of who and what is the church. Many of us have perhaps already studied this topic, but we are going to look at it from a little different perspective. I believe this study focuses on the concept of the theme for this week, “What Will it Take to Stand in the Last Days?”

Seventh-day Adventists have always had a great appreciation for the Bible books of Daniel and Revelation, because these are books about prophecy. Prophecy has established us as a people. It has given us meaning. It has given us understanding concerning end-time events.

When the end times do come, they will bring the world into a crisis and then into the end of the world, as we know it. We as Seventh-day Adventists have studied and restudied Daniel and Revelation, and we have interpreted and reinterpreted these books until it would seem that there is nothing new to uncover. But in our study of Daniel and Revelation, I believe we have neglected other books that have great prophetic significance as well.

One such book is the Book of Acts. The Book of Acts deals with end-time events, perhaps not in the same scope nor with the same focus as the books of Daniel and Revelation, but each has a special message for us.

Normally, we do not view the Book of Acts as a book of apocalypse; we only view it as a history of the early Christian church. We see it recording the acts of the elders, the deacons, and the apostles, and unfurling events of how the early church got its start and grew under the power of the Holy Spirit. But in this study, I want to take you on a journey through a passage of Scripture that I believe has real prophetic significance to us. It is the generally accepted understanding that, as we study books of prophecy and get closer to the ends of those books of prophecy, they seem to have more relevance to us as a people. The closer we come to the end of the Book of Revelation, the closer we come to the end of time and its importance to us as a people. The same thing is true of the Book of Acts. With this in mind, we will look at the next to the last chapter in Acts, chapter 27. But before we begin, there is needed a bit of background setting.


The setting for this portion of Scripture centers on Paul’s arrest and his arraignment before Agrippa. It is here that we have Agrippa’s famous statement to Paul: “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Acts 26:28. Paul’s response to Agrippa was, “I would to God, that not only you, but everyone who has heard me today, would be like me, except for these chains,” with which he was bound. (Verse 29.)

The testimony was that nobody was interested. Life seemed to have too much to offer. Why should they restrict themselves by becoming Christians? No, they were satisfied to continue on as they had been doing before. The question facing them now, though, was what were they going to do with this man—Paul? He had not committed any offense worthy of death. He had not killed anyone. He had not violated any law of which they knew. “Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.” Verse 32.

I will have to confess that I do not understand everything that God does, but there is one thing I do understand: God is working to try to save as many souls as He possibly can. How God arrives at certain points where all things come together, I do not claim to understand, because I have finite vision. God is able to see, through infinite eyes, how all these things can work together for good, but in my humanity, this I cannot always see. The route that God takes, many times, is not a route that man would take to arrive at a certain point to accomplish the same thing.

Here is Paul, at one time a criminal, but now he is a converted man whose only desire is to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result of this service, he has been brought into a set of circumstances resulting in his arrest and has been charged with crimes that some deemed worthy of death. I do not understand this, but God works in mysterious ways.

Currently, there are individuals enrolled in Steps to Life’s ministerial training course who are behind prison bars. Their one desire is to learn as much as they can, so when they are set free, they will be able to carry the gospel message to whomever they can. When we go through experiences such as this, God has promised to be with us. Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5.)

Appeal Granted

This was not an easy time for Paul, but God was with him. You see, Paul was, in fact, a double prisoner. He was not only a prisoner of the state, but he was also a prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. This event was allowed in Paul’s life so he could stand before the emperor and give testimony for his faith. God had a purpose. Paul appealed to Caesar, and to Caesar he would go.

Preparations for the trip were made. Paul, with over 200 other people, would make his way to Rome. “And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto [one] named Julius, a centurion of Augustus’ band. And entering into a ship of Adramyt-tium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; [one] Aristar-chus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us.” Acts 27:1, 2. So Paul begins his journey by ship, with the idea that he is going to stand before the emperor and bring to him the gospel message.

Words of Bondage

Now, we are going to look at words that have been used to hold Seventh-day Adventists in bondage. These words, rightly understood, will free us, so we will be able to accomplish what God has called us to do. Verse 31 says, “Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.”

This concept of the ship has been distorted; it has been twisted and made to say what is not in the teaching of this portion of Scripture. It has been used to scare people into submission, as they have been taught and repeatedly told that, except they abide in the ship, they cannot be saved. This has been used to frighten people from searching for the truth that would set them free.

The idea of the ship has been applied to the denomination, and this text has been interpreted to mean that unless we stay with denominational churches, we will never make it to heaven. I want to suggest to you that the ship is not the church. It never has been. We will see, as we study together, what the ship really is. It is imperative that we understand this, so we are not encumbered with haunting fear, and we can be free to move forward in God’s plan.

The Journey Begins

Now, we will return to the begin-ning of Acts 27 and analyze its message so we may better understand what is being said to us in these last days.

Verse 2 tells us that they boarded a ship of Adramyttium. This was a sturdy ship, known for its stability and its serviceability; plying the seas, it carried cargo safely to its destination. It was dependable. It had on board an experienced crew. The crew possessed wisdom, and when the weather and sea were threatening, they pulled into port so they and the ship were kept safe.

“And the next [day] we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave [him] liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself. And when we had launched from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, [a city] of Lycia.” Verses 3–5.

Contrary Winds

Any time you are in the service of the Lord, the winds will blow contrarily. At least three individuals on this boat had a mission for the Lord: Paul, Aristarchus, and Luke. Even though Luke does not mention himself by name, he speaks in the first person, so we know that he was there. The Bible says that the winds blew. You see, the devil did not want them to arrive safely at their destination. Remember, the ship was sound. This was a safe ship for them to be on—it was solid, it was seaworthy, and nothing is mentioned about it being leaky or having any problems that would cause difficulties.

Finally, they arrived at a city in Lycia. They could not go any further at that time, because contrary winds were blowing. But they were a long way from their destination.

Change Ships

Julius, the centurion, was in charge of the prisoners, and he had a decision to make. He could wait to complete his journey, staying on the same ship that they had originally taken, or he could make arrangements to secure another ship and continue on.

Verses 6–8 continue: “And there the centurion found a ship of Alex-andria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein. And when we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Salmone; And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called The fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city [of] Lasea.”

This is where the story begins to take on meaning for us. They left the ship that was safe and sound and that would have carried them to their destination without any diffi-culty. We need to understand that fact! They left that ship, and they boarded another ship. Now consider this carefully. The centurion in charge of the trip was an agent of Rome. It was he that made the decision to put everyone on board another ship. It was a ship from Alexandria.


Alexandria was a city in the land of Egypt. The Bible has always used Egypt as a symbol for the land of sin, a place where the dragon dwells, a place known for idolatry and false doctrine. Alexandria was a metropolis of great learning. It had universities of higher education, and those with simpler educations could go there and be introduced to greater depths of philosophy, theories of knowledge, and critical study. That was what Alexandria was all about. It was a place where people could learn how to question their known truths. It was Alexandria and its universities that prepared the way for the rejection of Jesus as the Messiah at His first coming!

This came about as a result of the Babylonian captivity, where the Jewish nation had learned its lesson relative to the worshiping of false gods and idols. When they returned to their land, they determined never to be caught in that kind of situation again. They became so repulsed by the Gentiles and their worship of false gods that they would not even approach their neighbors to tell them about the soon-coming Messiah. It finally came to the place that if the shadow of someone who was unclean fell across them during the time of their special purification, they believed it made them unclean also. That is how much they were repulsed by the Gentile way of life.

Time Brings Change

But as time went on—and the progression of time is something we have to be cautious about, for time can change things—various groups developed within the nation of Israel. One group was very conservative—fundamental in its beliefs. They were known as Pharisees.

Whenever we discuss the Pharisees, there is a tendency for us to do so with disdain, because we do not like the Pharisees. They had their problems, to be sure, but it was the Pharisees who preserved what truth the church had in that day. They rejected all attempts to introduce new theology that was running rampant in those times. Do not think that the new theology is a new phenomenon. It has raged in every generation. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, and he became a follower of Jesus. Paul was a Pharisee of Pharisees, and he became a follower of Jesus. But, do you know that there is not one record of any kind or any historical documentation that a Sadducee ever became a follower of Jesus?

As time drew near to the birth of Jesus, a great persecution broke out upon the Pharisees. The persecution was so great that many of them were not only kicked out of their church offices and had their memberships taken away, but numerous ones paid the ultimate price with their lives, because they were standing for the truth that they understood and believed.

The Groups Differ

The other main party that formed in those days was the Sadducees. This group developed about the same time as the Pharisees. They were theologically similar, but there were some very major differences. The Sadducees came into being because those who were leading out in the Jewish denomination felt that the people, and those they were trying to win to the faith, could be better reached and served by an educated clergy. So certain ones were selected to go down to Alexandria in Egypt to receive the benefits of higher education. They went, and what they learned, they brought back to the nation of Judah and taught to others.

First, they learned liberal philosophies. Where the Pharisees were fundamental, the Sadducees were liberal. They learned what is today called “higher criticism,” and this led them to reject most of the Scripture. The only books that were acceptable, as far as they were concerned, were the five books of Moses.

The Pharisees were called “separatists”; they did not believe in being part of the world. They knew that they had to be in the world, but they did not get involved in all the trappings that came with it. They opted for traditions instead, and this is where they ran headlong into the teachings of Jesus.

Now, the Sadducees did not have any problem being a part of the world. They loved the world and all that it had to offer. They became involved with the politics of the day. They loved to rule. They had given up most of those characteristics that made them stand out from the other Jews. If you looked at a Pharisee, there was no question in your mind that here was a child of Israel. Not so with the Sadducees. The Sadducees wanted to look like everyone around them. They did not want to be peculiar.

Not being peculiar called for the Sadducees to give up certain fundamental doctrines for the new theology. This meant that they no longer believed in the resurrection of the dead. They did not believe in angels. They did not believe in devils. They did not believe in the punishment of those who were sinners. They were progressive. They were modernists in their thinking. The Sadducees were the ones in charge. They were holding offices in the church headquarters when Jesus began His ministry.

It was a Sadducee who, during a discussion, said, “It is better that one man die than the whole nation perish.” (John 11:50.) The Sadducees were thoroughly absorbed in their new theology, which they had learned in Alexandria, Egypt.

Prophetic Instruction

Returning to the journey of Paul and the prophetic instruction to us in these last days contained in the Book of Acts, the travelers changed ships under the direction of the leader of Rome. They boarded a ship from Alexandria, and after they were underway again, Luke records for us what was happening: “Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished [them], And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives.” Acts 27:9, 10. This is very significant.

Paul respectfully goes to those in charge. Addressing them as “Sirs,” he told them that they were now on a ship that was going to cause damage to them; they were not going to come out of this trip without loss. Have you ever heard those kinds of voices before? Three things were going to be damaged—the cargo of the ship, the ship itself, and the lives of those on the ship.

Ship Defined

At this point, we need to define what is the ship. Many have tried to convince us that the ship is the denomination, and that if we will just stay with the denomination, we will sail right into the harbor with ease. Just stay with the ship. I would like to suggest to you, as I did earlier, that the ship is not the denomination at all. It is not the structure. It is not the General Conference. It is not the local conference. It has nothing to do with any structure of any kind. The ship is truth, pure and simple. Jesus is the Captain of the ship, and it is His truth that carries us along as a people.

Let me share with you some quotations from the Spirit of Prophecy, which should establish this more.

“God’s people must give to the world a representation of the character of God in Jesus Christ. The Christian churches are fast losing their knowledge of God. His character has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. But a message has come from God which must be proclaimed. The trumpet must give a certain sound. ‘I Jesus have sent mine angel to proclaim these things to the churches.’ [Revelation 22:16.] The truth, the revelation which Jesus gave to John, must be sounded forth everywhere. ‘Lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.’ [Isaiah 40:9–11.]” The Signs of the Times, December 23, 1897.

“The only way in which men will be able to stand firm in the conflict, is to be rooted and grounded in Christ.” General Conference Daily Bulletin, January 28, 1893. Who is Jesus? He is the truth. He is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6.) The only way men will be able to stand in the last-day conflict is to be rooted and grounded in Christ. “They must receive the truth as it is in Jesus. And it is only as the truth is presented thus that it can meet the wants of the soul. The preaching of Christ crucified, Christ our righteousness, is what satisfies the soul’s hunger.” Ibid.

It is the truth, as it is in Jesus, that will carry us along in our experience of life as we go through the world. This is the only thing that makes any sense at all. We are not to depend upon anything in this world to carry us through. We are not to depend upon any person—nothing other than the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only One that is going to carry us through. He is the Truth. And the Truth will carry us through. “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32.)

It is with this in mind that the next quotation, from the Review and Herald, September 20, 1892, makes any sense at all: “There is no need to doubt, to be fearful that the work will not succeed. God is at the head of the work, and he will set everything in order.” Who is at the head of the work? God is! He will take care and set things in order. “If matters need adjusting at the head of the work, God will attend to that, and work to right every wrong. Let us have faith.” Now, consider this very carefully! If you have only lightly read everything so far, concentrate on this: “Let us have faith that God is going to carry the noble ship which bears the people of God safely into port.”

The noble ship that bears the people of God is the truth. Nothing else can safely carry us into port. It is the truth, and when we begin to say that the ship is the denomination, we have missed the whole point of what inspiration is trying to teach us. I say that, because historically, we can look back and find that denominations fail. Truth never fails! Men can disappoint us and can take us into trouble, but truth never disappoints us.

Counsel of Man

“Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.” Acts 27:11. When God gives us the words of inspiration but we choose to take the counsels of men, we are headed for disaster. If this man from Rome had listened to Paul, they would not have had the problems that they encountered. “And because,” verses 12–15 say, “the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, [and there] to winter; [which is] an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west. And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained [their] purpose, loosing [thence], they sailed close by Crete. But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let [her] drive.”

The truth, distorted as it had become here, or as distorted as it may become in our own experience, is going to run into winds that are designed to totally destroy it. Any little remnant of truth—no matter where it is found—the devil will try to destroy, in any and every way that he can.

Theological Darkness

Do not ever forget that Paul was a prisoner on this journey. He was held captive. He was on board, but he was bound in chains, unable to counsel, unable to reason, unable to take any kind of command over what was going on, so the only thing that was left for him and the other two to do was to just let the ship sail. Did Paul know what was going to happen? Of course; he told them that they would experience damage.

“And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat: Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven. And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next [day] they lightened the ship; And the third [day] we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship. And when neither the sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on [us], all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.” Verses 16–20.

They had changed ships. They had changed from a sturdy ship to a weak vessel from Alexandria. They had taken the word of Rome over the counsel of the prophet, and as they began to run into opposition because of this, they started throwing the tackling of the ship overboard. They were frantic to try to find some way out of the mess in which they had found themselves. Verse 20 says that they were plunged into darkness. There was no light. They could not tell what was going on. Do not tell me that the Book of Acts is not prophetic!

Theological darkness is a terrible experience to go through. Right in the midst of this entire situation, it became so bad that they thought they were lost. All hope was taken away that they should be saved. Does that say anything to us? Will it be easy for us, when we get into the end of time? How are we going to be able to stand when, in the end of time, darkness is prevailing? Are we going to sail into the harbor standing on deck with clowns and balloons and the band playing? I do not think so!

The Bible tells me that the just shall live by faith! (Romans 1:17.) When everything around is nothing but darkness, it is our faith that will light our way, because our feet are firmly grounded on the truth.

Abandonment Brings Death

Verse 21 says, “But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.” Paul begins to give some counsel: “And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of [any man’s] life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” Verses 22–24. Nobody was going to die, but the ship—the truth—was going to be broken up.

“Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island. But when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country; And sounded, and found [it] twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found [it] fifteen fathoms. Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day. And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship . . . .” Verses 25–30.

Some of those on board saw that there was a change in the situation, and they wanted to abandon ship. They were not an offshoot, as such. They were part of Rome. They did not have any better wisdom than to take off. (These were not the ones in Paul’s party.) Paul told the centurion about this, and said, “Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.” Verse 31.

God does not save heathen just because they follow the counsel of the prophet. We need to understand that. Every person must have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Truth, in and of itself, does not save anyone. The Holy Spirit blesses it, and it leads us into a born-again experience. When that happens, the truth becomes more blessed to us. Nicodemus had the truth. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, but Jesus told him that he had to be born again. Just staying with the ship was not enough.

Ellen White tells us that if these sailors had left the ship, it would have been certain death for them. They could not have survived the raging sea, and the rocks would have torn them to pieces. (See The Acts of the Apostles, 439–445.) And so Paul, wanting them to be saved from death, said what he did. Staying with the ship was important. It was designed by God to give them one last opportunity to see His wonderful grace. But seeing it still meant that they had to make their own decisions on an individual basis—not on a corporate basis.

Iceberg of Error

Do you remember the story that Ellen White told in 1904 about the raging Alpha of apostasy? One night she had a vision from God. In this vision, she said, “A vessel was upon the waters, in a heavy fog. Suddenly the lookout cried, ‘Iceberg just ahead!’ There, towering high above the ship, was a gigantic iceberg. An authoritative voice cried out, ‘Meet it!’ There was not a moment’s hesitation. It was a time for instant action. The engineer put on full steam, and the man at the wheel steered the ship straight into the iceberg.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 205.

Under normal circumstances, the ship would have collided with that iceberg, and it would have gone to the bottom of the sea. But she said that when the ship hit that iceberg with a tremendous crash, it split the iceberg right in half in such a way that ice thundered down on the deck of the ship. She said that the ship rebounded from the contact and trembled like a living creature. It was damaged, but there were no lives lost. And after they hit that iceberg, the ship went right on and kept on its course. Do you know what that iceberg represents? It represents error. Do you know what the ship represents? The ship represents truth. This message comes through in the story of Paul as well. The ship had to meet error. The truth came into collision with error. The ship suffered damage, but it survived.

Working Together

“Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.” Verse 32. Problems were not yet over. It would take everyone at this point in time working together. God makes it very plain through inspiration that the heathen will be used of God to further His cause, and here is an instance of it right here in Acts 27.

They had been fasting. They had not been eating anything. Now the time had come for them to take some nourishment to deal with what was ahead. Notice what it says in verses 33 and 34: “And while the day was coming on, Paul besought [them] all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing. Wherefore I pray you to take [some] meat: for this is for your health.” Ah! I could mention here that the health message is part of the last-day scenario for God’s people.

“For there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you. And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken [it], he began to eat. Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took [some] meat. And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls. And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea.” Verses 34–38. They started throwing all the cargo of the ship overboard. That tells us something about the purging of theological error.

“And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship. And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed [themselves] unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoised up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore.” Verses 39, 40.

There is going to come a time for us when we will come under such trying circumstances that the only thing that will uphold us is the fact that we have committed ourselves wholly and completely to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will carry us through. That is what the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is about in these last days. We are to be sealed with the latter rain experience, and let that experience carry us on into the shore.

That is what the sailors did. “And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves. And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.” Verses 41, 42.

The Ship is Truth

Do you think it is going to be easy when we get into the last days? It is not going to be easy at all. Everything we know as the truth is going to go through some of the most wrenching, twisting, breaking-up experiences it can possibly experience. But notice verses 43 and 44: “But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from [their] purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast [themselves] first [into the sea], and get to land: And the rest, some on boards, and some on [broken pieces] of the ship . . . escaped all safe to land.”

The ship was the truth, and even though the ship hit the rock and began to break apart, there were still preserved elements of truth there that would carry the survivors safely onto the shore.

If there is ever a message that we need to read, understand, and incorporate into our hearts, it is the fact that God’s truth will go through—regardless of what men do to it, regardless of what the winds blowing from the breath of Satan do to it. God is going to use, if necessary, just parts and pieces to carry His people on to safety.

If this ship were a denomination, it would have been scattered everywhere. Only the truth of God will carry us safely into port!

Editorial – The Questions Jesus Did Not Ask

Christ was not exclusive. . . . In His contact with men He did not ask, What is your creed? To what church do you belong? . . . At all times and in all places He manifested a loving interest in men, and shed about Him the light of a cheerful piety.” The Desire of Ages, 86.

A creed is a brief statement that describes a person’s religious belief, and it is used as a confession of faith. A specific statement of this kind is often used by a church or denomination as an authoritative statement of its beliefs. Some of the more famous Christian creeds include the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed, the Athanasian Creed, the articles of faith drawn up by the Westminster Assembly, and the Augsburg Confession.

When we ask someone, “What is your creed?” we are really asking, “What do you believe is the truth?” This was a popular question in Christ’s day, and has continued to be ever since. It was a constant question by the inquisition and by the persecutors of all ages. It is a very popular question among historic Adventists.

I have received numerous letters from various ministers and believers in which I am asked, What do you believe about . . . ? Sometimes the questioner asks a number of such questions. To give an adequate answer to some of these questions would require the writing of at least a small book.

Often a question is asked so that it can be shown from your answer that you are a heretic or at least not exactly orthodox. Jesus was asked questions like this by the Jews repeatedly. But Jesus did not ask such questions. Have you ever wondered why?

Another question that is often asked repeatedly is, To what church do you belong? If we are Christians, we need not be embarrassed by declaring who we are and to what organization we belong, and never should we stoop to deception to get somebody to take some literature. Since I try to be as transparent as possible in these situations, I respond that we teach the historic doctrines that Seventh-day Adventists have taught for over 100 years, but that I and the church I attend are not affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. Nobody appears surprised at such a response; in fact, many people are more willing to take literature when they learn that we are not affiliated with a denomination.

I have often thought about the fact that Jesus would not have asked either one of those kinds of questions. The type of questions a person asks reveals a great deal about his or her character. When Jesus asked people questions, He was not seeking information; He wanted to awaken in a person’s heart a desire to gain eternal life. We mortals are prone to think, as did the Jews and the state churches of the Dark Ages, that whether or not a person will have eternal life is dependent on whether he or she is a heretic or orthodox (believes in the right creed) and a member of the right church organization. But Jesus thought differently than this, and He asked a different kind of question. “No question of policy could influence His movements. With Him external distinctions weighed nothing. That which appealed to His heart was a soul thirsting for the water of life.” Ibid., 274. Jesus asked questions like this: “Do you want to be made whole?” John 5:6.

Bible Study Guides – Seventh-day Adventists and the Work of Rebuilding the Church and the Wall

August 8, 2010 – August 14, 2010

Key Text

“Each of the ancient prophets spoke less for their own time than for ours. … their prophesying is in force for us. … Daniel, Isaiah, and Ezekiel … spoke of things that … reached down to the future, and to what should occur in these last days.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 338, 419, 420.


Let’s summarize what we have seen thus far in our study of the history of the captivity of God’s people.

In last month’s lessons we have seen:

1 The purpose of God’s church on earth to bear His identity, be a refuge, and gain coverts.

2 The purpose of God’s church as described by trees and vines that bear fruit, and a married woman who bears children.

3 That this fruit of the tree and of the womb are symbols of purified character and converts intertwined.

4 That failure in God’s church is described by barren trees, vineyards, wombs and failed marriage.

5 The reasons for the original Babylonian captivity: union with foreigners, rejection of prophets and the requisite ignorance that follows, Sabbath breaking and the leadership of unfaithful pastors.

6 That Israel refused to acknowledge their captivity (Jeremiah 26–28, 42)!

7 Because of this rebellion, this physical captivity became much more extensive and severe than God intended, and led to the complete physical destruction of the church, wall, and city.

8 That the secular government opened the way for the church to be rebuilt after 70 years of captivity, but that few of God’s professed people heeded the call to return and rebuild.

9 That the first priority of Israel was to rebuild the church, and then the wall, and that God’s people were disowned when they did not make church restoration the first priority.

10 Specific reasons these tasks were successful (such as collective action), and reasons that they clearly were not (such as marriage with foreigners).

11 That in the time of Christ, God’s people were in captivity again. We focused on the spiritual nature of the captivity of the Jewish church, but saw that this captivity was both physical and spiritual in nature (John 18:31; 8:34–44).

12 That even though churches, schools and pastors were many in Christ’s day—that it was as though they had been destroyed. They effectively didn’t exist (Mark 6:34; John 9:34–39).

13 That once again, Israel refused to acknowledge this captivity (John 8:33).

14 That once again, because of this refusal to acknowledge their captivity, God’s professed people were led to the complete physical destruction of church, wall, and city.

15 The blossoming of a new and pure church along-side, but separate from the legacy church in rebellion (Luke 5:37–39).

16 That both of these churches, new and old, claimed the name of Israel.

17 That parallel promises of glory and destruction were fulfilled together to two different groups bearing the name Israel (Romans 9:6–8; 24–33).

18 That the final destruction of Jerusalem, the old church of Israel, happened after the gospel had already been taken to the entire world by the new Israel in the 1st century!

In the previous lesson, we have seen:

1 That the largest part of the Christian church, in name, returned to a Babylonian captivity during the Dark Ages.

2 That this captivity had broad physical and spiritual effects.

3 That once again, the church did not in general recognize the broad extent of the captivity.

4 That the rebuilding of God’s decimated church began in earnest with the Protestant reformation.

5 That the rebuilding work was halted (Revelation 3:1–6).

6 That through the religious liberty proffered by the civil government of the United States of America, the way was paved for church rebuilding to continue.

7 That the Protestants ultimately rejected their assignment to rebuild God’s church (Revelation 14:8).

8 That Seventh-day Adventists received the assignment to finish rebuilding the church and restore the wall, a symbol of God’s Law (Isaiah 58:12–14).

From here we pick up the story:


From this point forward, the student should lean heavily on three groups of themes that have been explored extensively in the previous lessons:

  1. The terminology for the purposes of God’s church examined so closely in lesson one and referenced above (trees, vines, fruit, marriage, children, and offspring).
  2. The identifying characteristics of captivity, and the task of God’s people to rebuild His church following its destruction; as we studied in lessons 3, 4, and 5.
  3. The extension of the application of intertwining parallel prophecies of triumph and disaster that applied to two groups of people identified as Israel at the same time. This was the focus of our study in lesson five.

The author has made generous use of ellipses in these lessons. These perform two functions: they draw related thoughts together, and conserve time and space. The author believes that appropriate use of ellipses have been made, even at times over large spans of text, but invites the reader to examine the appropriateness of the editing for himself.

1 Has the Seventh-day Adventist denomination completed the rebuilding of God’s church?

In order to start to answer this question, we would have to have some sort of understanding of what the rebuilt church should look like, else how could we recognize its completion? There are many Scriptures to which we could refer. Here is a small sampling of verses to guide your thoughts and discussion:

John 17:19–23; Ephesians 2:18–22; Isaiah 52:8; Ephesians 5:25–27; John 13:35; 1 Timothy 3:15.

2 Has the Seventh-day Adventist denomination completed the rebuilding of the wall (repairing the breach made in God’s law)?

The reader is asked to consider this question in the context of the rest of the lesson.

3 Has there been a work stoppage?

Let’s now start to take an extensive look at what the prophets have to say about our situation, starting with Haggai’s time, chapter 1, verse 2. This chapter deals with the work stoppage on the temple. Of it, Ellen White says:

“The expression, ‘This people say,’ is significant. … Prompt obedience is expected of those whom the Lord chooses and leads. Pleas for delay are a dishonor to God. … Thus the Israelites declared that they … were broken off in their work because of the hindrances. … This is why, in a communication through his prophet, he referred to them not as ‘my people,’ but as ‘this people.’

“The Israelites had no real excuse for leaving their work on the temple. The time when the most serious objections were raised, was the time for them to persevere in building. But they were actuated by a selfish dislike to encounter danger by arousing the opposition of their enemies. … They hesitated to move forward by faith in the opening providences of God, because they could not see the end from the beginning. When difficulties arose, they were easily turned from the work.

“This history will be repeated. There will be religious failures because men do not have faith. When they look at the things that are seen, impossibilities appear; but God can lead them step by step in the course he desires them to take. His work will advance only as his servants move forward by faith.” The Review and Herald, December 5, 1907. [Emphasis supplied.]

Apply It:

Ellen White, writing in 1907, said that the history of work stoppage on the rebuilding church would yet be repeated. What exactly would a work stoppage on the temple look like? How would we know? What sign should we wait for to indicate a cessation of work has commenced? Does that mean that the Seventh-day Adventist church would run out of money to complete construction projects? Does it mean that Maranatha volunteers would cease volunteering? Or that evangelism projects would cease? Does it mean that fire or financial collapse would cripple institutions? Does it mean that individual work would completely stop, or collective work, or both? Does it mean that the organization of divisions, unions, and conferences would fall apart?

Or would the situation be more likely to appear as it did in Christ’s day? An organized church of Israel functions, despite deep divisions of conservatives and liberals. An imposing edifice (temple) on the outside, decaying on the inside (Matthew 23:27). While a motley group of disciples, at first unable to grasp the full significance of the church that Christ had founded and was raising up, and unable at times to collectively realize the full potential of unified action, forms the genesis of a modern Israel that took the gospel to the world—while the forms of the ancient church of Israel carried on.

“O Israel … You have not gone up into the gaps to build a wall for the house of Israel.” Ezekiel 13:4, 5.

“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.” Ezekiel 22:30. [Emphasis supplied.]

Studies prepared by John T. Grosboll, PE. John T. is a mechanical engineer living near Vancouver, Washington. His secular employment includes several years of experience in primary metals and transportation-related industries. He, along with his wife Teresa, is actively involved in the work of the Historic Message Church in Portland, Oregon. He may be reached at: