A House Divided

We live in a world of crisis. Very soon the world, and especially God’s people, will experience a crisis more severe than any that has ever occurred. In the 1850s, the United States was going through a crisis, a crisis more severe than it had ever experienced in its short history. The turning point was reached on June 16, 1859.

It happened in Springfield, Illinois. There, a tall man, who had gone through bankruptcy, failed in business and lost in politics, time after time, was preparing to make a very controversial political speech. Many people thought he was a failure and that he would never succeed. Yet, here he stood in the midst of a momentous crisis, preparing to give a speech that his advisors told him would be political suicide. His friends urged him not to do it. But he would not turn back.

This man’s name was Abraham Lincoln. After he gave the speech, one of his friends told him that his political career was ruined. Abraham Lincoln turned to him and said, “Some day you will find out that those were the most important words that I have ever spoken.”

That speech was the turning point in American history. It is one of the most amazing speeches that you could ever read. In the third paragraph Lincoln made this startling pronouncement: “This government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.” We would not be the nation we are today if he had not given that speech and stood for the principles that he laid out so clearly.

Lincoln went on to point out that there were very powerful forces at work, in the nation, whose intent was to cause all the states to accept slavery. He showed how ridiculous his political opponents were who said that they were not pro-slavery, when they actually practiced it. They were saying one thing and doing something else. It was a dangerous speech to make, because the men who he had condemned were some of the most powerful men in America. One of the reasons that this speech had such an effect on our country was because the title for that speech was taken from the words of Jesus, in Matthew 12. Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.” Matthew 12:25.

The first sentence that Abraham Lincoln spoke that day, in Springfield was: “If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending we could better judge what to do and how to do it.” He was talking about the United States government and whether or not we would allow slavery in our states. He said: “It will become all one thing or all the other.” It works just the same with our spiritual walk. Jesus said that a house divided will not—absolutely cannot—stand.

Where does the division come from in a divided house? This is one of the great topics of the Bible. In Revelation 12 the story is told of Lucifer having a difference of opinion with God, on some vital issues. The largest of these “differences of opinion” concerned who would be God. God said, There is no one else who is qualified to be God except Me. Lucifer said, Yes, but I want to be part of the Godhead, too.

This difference of opinion led to division, the division led to rebellion and rebellion led to war. Satan’s plan was to lead the world into a rebellion against God. But Jesus said, “A house divided shall not stand.” This has been a great comfort to me, because I know that the devil’s house is divided and cannot stand no matter how powerful it seems to be.

However, this is the frightening part. With all his power, the devil is trying to cause divisions among God’s people because he knows that if we are divided, we cannot stand either.

It was Jesus’ purpose, when He came to this world, to heal all the divisions. This was one of the central themes of Paul’s preaching. He said in 2 Corinthians, “Therefore from now on we regard no one according to the flesh even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away. Behold all things have become new. Now all things are of God who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now, then, we are ambassadors for Christ as though God were pleading through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:16–20.

The natural heart is at enmity against God. (Romans 8:7.) How can this be solved? The worldly way is to force your enemy into submission, but the use of force is contrary to the principles of God’s government. Jesus did not come to this world with a club or a gun, instead He came to display to mankind what God was like. Jesus said to His disciples, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” John 14:9. The character, which Jesus displayed, showed how much God hates sin and knows that it must be destroyed, but also how much He loves sinners. In His great love, God made a way so that the guilt of our sin can be taken away and we can be reconciled to Him.

This reconciliation process can only occur when our lives are brought into conformity with God’s law.

As long as we are breaking God’s law, we are at enmity with His character, because His law is a transcript of His character. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15. The one that does not love Me, does not keep My word, and he is not reconciled to Me. John 14:21–23.

Paul talked to the Ephesians about the time when they were at enmity with God. He said, “At that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity that is the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one spirit to the Father.” Ephesians 2:12–18.


Answers for Division


We are living in a world and a church that is divided. This division is seen among all those who profess to be Christians around the world; not only Seventh-day Adventist Christians. How are we to relate to all of these divisions? The first thing that we must not do is quarrel. (See 2 Timothy 2.) It is part of our human nature to get in an argument when someone disagrees with us, but that is not God’s way.

Inspiration tells us, “When Christians contend, Satan comes in to take control. How often has he succeeded in destroying the peace and harmony of churches? What fierce controversies, what bitterness, what hatred, has a very little matter started! What hopes have been blasted, how many families have been rent asunder by discord and contention.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 244.

So then, what are we to do about the division? Some people say that we just need to wait and God will shake out all the tares, and then everything will be all right. I know some people that have been sitting and waiting for this to happen for years and years. Can we just sit there and say, “Lord, shake those bad people out of the church so that those of us that are left can have harmony?”

Before it is over, the angels will bind up the tares and remove them. There is no question that we are very close to that happening, because we are in the beginning stages of the Sunday law crisis. However, we must not sit back and say, “Lord, bind those people up and get them out of here.” We must say, “How about me? Will I be one of the ones that is bound up or will I be part of the wheat when this all happens?”

We have a work to do. This is how Sister White described it. “A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work.” Review and Herald, March 22, 1887.

I cannot simply sit back and say, “Lord, remove the tares.” I have to say, “Lord, I need to be revived. I need to have true piety, true godliness inside. You have told me that my greatest need is for a revival.”

Revival means to come back to life. The people that need to be revived are those that are almost dead spiritually. Their need is very urgent. God’s people are almost spiritually dead. This experience is so vital that Sister White said it is our most urgent need.

If this should be our first priority, then it is more important than making physical preparation for the future? I have heard many say that we need to go to the mountains or go to this island to be safe from the coming crises, but, there is no place in the world that is safe. Instead of trying to figure out what I should do to survive on a physical level (and this is not necessarily wrong) my first priority should be to seek for a revival of true godliness.

Sister White counsels that next “There must be earnest effort to obtain the blessing of the Lord.” Ibid. The Bible says that God is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask than a parent is to give gifts to his children. The problem is that we are not prepared to receive it. We must seek the Lord and ask for a change of heart so we will be ready to receive it.


Four Steps to Revival


How do we experience this revival of true godliness and gain God’s blessings? The Review and Herald lists four steps that we need to follow.

The first is confession. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Some people have thought that confession is something that you do as a child before you are baptized, but not one of us will experience a revival until we have confessed our sins.

If you think that you have nothing to confess, I encourage you to go to the Lord and ask Him what you need to confess. I have found that the Holy Spirit can point out many things to people, very quickly.

Confession is a subject that we need to study and practice. Ministers, elders, deacons, Sabbath School teachers, even if they have been Christians for forty years, all need to understand the subject of confession. The time is coming when it will be too late to confess our sins—a time when it will be forever too late! That is why we must now take advantage of the time and plead with the Lord, asking, “Is there anything in my life that I need to confess? Please show me what it is.” A divided house will never be healed if there is no confession.

The second step to revival is humiliation. If you are wondering why we must bring up this point, it is because the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy speak of it often. The prophet Isaiah recorded: “For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, Whose name is holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit.” Isaiah 57:15.

Do you want the Holy Spirit to work on your heart? Then come to God knowing, as Paul did, that in your “flesh there is no good thing.” Romans 7:18. If we want a revival, we must come to the Lord, not only asking what it is that we need to confess, but, also, with a humble spirit, realizing that we have no merit or goodness of our own. We must depend totally on Christ’s goodness, righteousness and grace, for we have none of our own.

James said, “Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.” James 4:10. The way to reach a high position is to assume a lowly place before God. He can lift you higher than anyone else ever could.

The third step to revival is repentance. We will never heal the division by fighting with each other and forcing others to accept our views. We must come to the Lord with confession, humiliation and repentance. The divided house will never be healed unless there is repentance. Repentance is being sorry for sins and turning away from them. True repentance can be found at the foot of the cross. The cross is for you and me as individuals. Christ died for our sins. That is what sin cost. If you stay there, it will change your mind about sin and this is what repentance is all about. If you have not changed your mind about sin, you have not repented.

Repentance is something that only God can give you. He will give it to you if you will come to the cross. The problem is that most people have pictures of the cross and some even have images of the cross around their necks or in their cars, but they do not understand what it means. For them, the cross is just an emblem, with a meaning that they do not begin to understand.

The fourth step that is vital to revival is earnest prayer. This is something we need to do as individuals and as families. We need to do it in the church to fulfill the conditions upon which God has promised to grant us the blessings of the Holy Spirit, revival, true godliness, healing, reconciliation and unity that God wants to bring in among His people. We will never have a revival unless we pray earnestly and say, “Lord, I want the people in my church to experience a revival.”

The Bible clearly teaches that the Holy Spirit is promised to everyone, on certain conditions. It is up to us to read the Bible and find the conditions. We have already seen several of the conditions: confession, humiliation, repentance and, earnest prayer. But we need to pray that the Lord will show us any other conditions so that we can be revived and receive the Holy Spirit.


What We Need to Fear


It is common for people to be fearful because of what they see happening in the world around them. From appearances, it seems that there will be no peace, civil or religious liberty, anywhere in the world. People get scared because of what is out there, but the Lord tells us what we really need to fear. “We have far more to fear from within than from without. The hindrances to strength and success are far greater from the church itself than from the world . . . But how often have the professed advocates of the truth proved the greatest obstacle to its advancement! The unbelief indulged, the doubts expressed, the darkness cherished, encourage the presence of evil angels, and open the way for the accomplishment of Satan’s devices.” Selected Messages, vol. 1, 122.

Our greatest fear should be for what is within our church. Inspiration tells us that the evil traits cherished “open the way for the accomplishment of Satan’s devices.” Ibid. What a fearful warning! We should be grateful that God in His mercy has shown us exactly how we can close the door so the devil cannot walk into our churches.

“The adversary of souls is not permitted to read the thoughts of men; but he is a keen observer, and he marks the words; he takes account of the actions, and skillfully adapts his temptations to meet the cases of those who place themselves in his power. If we would labor to repress sinful thoughts and feelings giving them no expression in words or actions, Satan would be defeated.” Ibid., 122, 123.

Everyone is tempted with sinful thoughts and feelings, but if we will resist and repress them and never let them pass our lips, the devil will be defeated. If instead we start talking our feelings, the devil knows just how to tempt us. Sister White continued, “How often do professed Christians, by their lack of self-control, open the door to the adversary of souls! Divisions, and even bitter dissensions which would disgrace any worldly community, are common in the churches, because there is so little effort to control wrong feelings, and to repress every word that Satan can take advantage of.” Ibid., 123.

If all of God’s people would say, “Lord, help me to repress every word that Satan can use,” the door would be closed and the devil would not be able to come in and work havoc among God’s people.

Instead, all too often, God’s people open the door. “As soon as an alienation of feeling arises, the matter is spread before Satan for his inspection, and the opportunity given for him to use his serpent-like wisdom and skill in dividing and destroying the church. There is great loss in every dissension.” Ibid.

Sometimes war is necessary. God is willing to fight to keep from having His kingdom divided. (See Revelation 12.) But so much dissension is unnecessary. Sister White continued: “Personal friends of both parties take sides . . . A house divided against itself cannot stand. Criminations and recriminations are engendered and multiplied. Satan and his angels are actively at work to secure a harvest from seed thus sown. “Worldlings look on, and jeeringly exclaim, ‘Behold how these Christians hate one another! If this is religion, we do not want it.’” Ibid.

How sad! We must do something to change this condition. And we have been told just what to do. “Let us confess and forsake every sin.” Ibid. After we have done this we can pray that the Holy Spirit will “come into our assemblies and impart His rich grace.” Ibid.

This is exactly what the devil does not want us to do. “There is nothing that Satan fears so much as that the people of God shall clear the way by removing every hindrance, so that the Lord can pour out His spirit upon a languishing church, an impenitent congregation.” Ibid., 124.

It is time for us to make confession in humiliation, receive repentance and pray for revival. If Satan had his way, this would never happen. (See Ibid.) Will we let Satan have his way? He wants to keep the house divided so that it cannot stand. And we can be sure that God will take care of the division, but when He takes care of the division, do we want to be swept out the back door in the shaking?

Here is what Ellen White says is the condition in the church during this fearful time when the door of salvation and probation is about to close. “Alas, what pride is prevailing in the church, what hypocrisy, what deception, what love of dress, frivolity, and amusement, what desire for the supremacy! All these sins have clouded the mind” Ibid., 125.

We need to go to the Lord on our knees and say, “Lord, I want a change to happen inside. Show me by Your Holy Spirit what I need to confess. Show me how I need to humble myself so that every detail in my life is pleasing in Your sight.”

We are headed for the judgment. Jesus is coming soon and when He comes, you will either be ready or you will not. If we will be ready, we must receive the Holy Spirit and we cannot receive the Holy Spirit if we are unprepared. “The Spirit of God can never come in until she [the church] prepares the way. There should be earnest searching of heart. There should be united, persevering prayer, and through faith a claiming of the promises of God.” Ibid., 126.

Time is short, and very soon it will be too late to be saved. If you are going to be saved, you need to do something now. Confess your sins and come to the Lord with humiliation, relying fully on Him.

The people that do that will have revival. There will be healing and the house will not be divided any longer. Are we going to have to have a civil war like they had in the time of Lincoln in order to heal the division? Yes, we have to go through the conflict. There is no other way. But this is a spiritual war and you do not win a spiritual war with physical weapons. You win by confession, humiliation, repentance, and earnest prayer to God, that you will receive the Holy Spirit and be revived. Let us all pray that the Lord will give us this experience, not just individually, but as a church.


How to Meet a Controverted Point of Doctrine

From every direction we hear of new religious teachings that someone believes to be truth. How we relate to these new teachings has eternal consequences. While we must bring every new idea to the test of the Scriptures, we should never stoop so low as to use ridicule, even if we firmly believe someone to be in error. Ridicule is not from the Spirit of Christ but rather from the spirit of the evil one. “The papal authorities first ridiculed the Reformers, and when this did not quench the spirit of investigation, they placed them behind prison walls, loaded them with chains, and when this did not silence them or make them recant, they finally brought them to the fagot and the sword. We should be very cautious lest we take the first steps in this road that leads to the Inquisition. The truth of God is progressive; it is always onward, going from strength to a greater strength, from light to a greater light. We have every reason to believe that the Lord will send us increased truth, for a great work is yet to be done. In our knowledge of truth, there is first a beginning in our understanding of it, then a progression, then completion; first the blade, then the ear, and after that the full corn in the ear. Much has been lost because our ministers and people have concluded that we have had all the truth essential for us as a people; but such a conclusion is erroneous and in harmony with the deceptions of Satan; for truth will be constantly unfolding.” Signs of the Times, May 26, 1890

We want to keep pace with the advancing light and truth, remembering that we can never stop the continual climb on the pathway to heaven. As we advance, we must not, however, deny past light lest we fall from the path of truth. “Others rashly denied the light behind them and said that it was not God that had led them out so far. The light behind them went out, leaving their feet in perfect darkness, and they stumbled and lost sight of the mark and of Jesus, and fell off the path down into the dark and wicked world below.” Early Writings, 15

One of the first questions that we must carefully consider with every new teaching is: Does it contradict the past truth that has been firmly established in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy? That condition may sound simplistic—but it is absolutely not optional.

Think of some of the new ideas that you have encountered. Are they new light, fanaticism, or a mixture? The first place to look is to the old light. (Old light should not be confused with tradition.) We must look to Jesus. “In Him was life, and the life as the light of men.” He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 1:4; 14:6. But men in His day were so blind that the light shining in their darkness was not understood. (See John 1:5.)

We cannot expect to understand truth if we have darkness in our hearts. This spirit of darkness manifests itself in contentions and debates. “There are many who cannot distinguish between the work of God and that of man. I shall tell the truth as God gives it to me, and I say now, If you continue to find fault, to have a spirit of variance, you will never know the truth. Jesus said to His disciples, ‘I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.’ (John 16:12). They were not in a condition to appreciate sacred and eternal things.” Selected Messages, book 1, 412, 413. [All emphasis supplied] In even stronger language, Ellen White writes, “Nothing frightens me more than to see the spirit of variance manifested by our brethren. We are on dangerous ground when we cannot meet together like Christians, and courteously examine controverted points. I feel like fleeing from the place lest I receive the mold of those who cannot candidly investigate the doctrines of the Bible.” Ibid, 411

The prophet of the Lord felt like fleeing. This is similar to the approach that Jesus adopted when the spirit of variance manifested itself between His disciples and the disciples of John. The story of Jesus departing into Galilee is recorded in John 3:25–4:3. “And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou bearest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to Him. . . .When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (though Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples,) He left Judaea and departed again into Galilee.”

Jealousy—Cause for Dispute

How did this variance first start between John’s disciples and Jesus’ disciples? The Spirit of Prophecy reveals what was going on in the hearts of John’s disciples. “The disciples of John looked with jealousy upon the growing popularity of Jesus. They stood ready to criticize His work, and it was not long before they found occasion. A question arose between them. . . . Soon they were in dispute with Christ’s disciples.” The Desire of Ages, 178

If we have the root problem of jealousy, we are prepared to be in a dispute very soon, because unless jealousy is overcome, we will be standing by ready to criticize. Then be assured that it will not be long before we will find an occasion to criticize, and soon there will be a dispute. Even when the Lord was here on earth with His workers, John’s disciples (John was a godly man) found a reason to criticize Jesus’ work and His workers.

How did John handle these complaints from his disciples? “John had by nature the faults and weaknesses common to humanity, but the touch of divine love had transformed him. He dwelt in an atmosphere uncontaminated with selfishness and ambition, and far above the miasma of jealousy. He manifested no sympathy with the dissatisfaction of his disciples.” Ibid., 179

The way that John the Baptist handled the situation with the jealousy of his disciples towards Jesus and His workers is left on record as a guiding light for us. Satan used John’s disciples to tempt him to have hurt feelings at being set aside. “If he had sympathized with himself, and expressed grief or disappointment at being superseded, he would have sown the seeds of dissension, would have encouraged envy and jealousy, and would seriously have impeded the progress of the gospel.” Ibid.

John did not fall to Satan’s temptation. “The soul of the prophet emptied of self, was filled with the light of the divine.” Ibid, 180. John, on hearing the complaints of his disciples, said, “He must increase, but I must decrease. . . for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him.” John 3:30, 34

“So with the followers of Christ. We can receive of heaven’s light only as we are willing to be emptied of self. We cannot discern the character of God, or accept Christ by faith, unless we consent to the bringing into captivity of every thought to the obedience of Christ. To all who do this the Holy Spirit is given without measure. In Christ ‘dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and in Him ye are made full.’ Colossians 2:9, 10, R. V.” Ibid., 181

If we can apply the lessons that are given for our learning, there will be far less variance. “Those who are true to their calling as messengers for God will not seek honor for themselves. Love for self will be swallowed up in love for Christ. No rivalry will mar the precious cause of the gospel. They will recognize that it is their work to proclaim, as did John the Baptist, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’ John 1:29. They will lift up Jesus, and with Him humanity will be lifted up.” Ibid., 179, 180

Following Jesus’ Example

While there is a lot to learn from John—we have much to learn from Jesus’ response to the criticism of John’s disciples. Even though John the Baptist was a godly man, Jesus simply withdrew. The two ministries never again worked in the same close proximity. Jesus understood how to apply this truth. “If you continue to find fault, to have a spirit of variance, you will never know the truth.” Selected Messages, book 1, 412. “Never” is an all inclusive word. There was, therefore, no point of John’s and Jesus’ workers to be together since there was contention. There is room for only one—either truth or variance, because they do not co-habitate. There are times when withdrawing as Jesus did is the only way to continue to be able to teach the truth.

Variance and contention come from pride. The wise man said, “Only by pride cometh contention.” Proverbs 13:10. Jealousy is one of the fruits of pride, and it was jealousy that caused this dispute between the workers there in Judea. We need to look at what Jesus did for us, and our pride will be humbled in the dust. “He humbled Himself to become a babe and suffer the wants and woes of mortals. He humbled Himself not to the highest position, to be a man of riches and power, but though He was rich, yet for our sake He became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. He took step after step in humiliation. He was driven from city to city; for men would not receive the Light of the world. They were perfectly satisfied with their position.” Selected Messages, book 1, 407

Humility Before Knowledge

Men in Jesus’ day refused to receive the light. They would not let self be humbled so that they could understand truth. They determined not to accept a Messiah that would not come in pomp and pride, free them from the Romans, and give them their riches. They were locked in error, and unless they humbled themselves and accepted Jesus, their city and nation would be destroyed.

“All self-sufficiency, egotism, and pride of opinion must be put away. We must come to the feet of Jesus, and learn of Him who is meek and lowly of heart. Jesus did not teach His disciples as the rabbis taught theirs. Many of the Jews came and listened as Christ revealed the mysteries of salvation, but they came not to learn; they came to criticize, to catch Him in some inconsistency, that they might have something with which to prejudice the people. They were content with their knowledge, but the children of God must know the voice of the True Shepherd. Is not this a time when it would be highly proper to fast and pray before God? We are in danger of variance, in danger of taking sides on a controverted point; and should we not seek God in earnestness, with humiliation of soul, that we may know what is truth?.” Ibid., 414

After our pride has been humbled in the dust and all contention has ceased, there are still some additional steps to be taken to discern between truth and error. Notice: “If there is a point of truth that you do not understand, upon which you do not agree, investigate, compare scripture with scripture, sink the shaft of truth down deep into the mine of God’s Word. You must lay yourselves and your opinions on the altar of God, put away your preconceived ideas, and let the Spirit of Heaven guide you into all truth.” Ibid., 413

“When God’s Word is studied, comprehended, and obeyed, a bright light will be reflected to the world; new truths, received and acted upon, will bind us in strong bonds to Jesus. The Bible, and the Bible alone, is to be our creed, the sole bond of union; all who bow to this Holy Word will be in harmony. Our own views and ideas must not control our efforts. Man is fallible, but God’s Word is infallible. Instead of wrangling with one another, let men exalt the Lord. Let us meet all opposition as did our Master, saying, ‘It is written.’ Let us lift up the banner on which is inscribed, The Bible our rule of faith and discipline.” Ibid., 416

Every cell and fiber of our beings are so contaminated by sin that we do not realize the impossibility of understanding truth without the aid of the Holy Spirit. It was this realization by Jesus of the complete infiltration of sin within the heart of man that caused Jesus His greatest agony on the cross. “It was not bodily anguish that filled Him with horror and despair; it was a sense of the malignity of sin, a knowledge that man had become so familiar with sin that he did not realize its enormity, that it was so deeply rooted in the human heart as to be difficult to eradicate.” Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3, 162

During the hour of trial, “even the disciples doubted His [Jesus’] divinity.” Ibid., 158. What a deep hold sin had on their hearts, making them unable to comprehend truth. The thief on the cross did not have the advantage of being with Jesus for over three years as the disciples had, yet he clearly understood the truth of Jesus’ divinity. How could one who was apparently not a theologian actually be one of the greatest theologians of all history?

Experience of a Thief

The thief had earlier in life been convicted of the teachings of Jesus. Instead of following the Saviour, he accepted the priests’ testimony against Jesus. But even the priests could not drown the conviction in his heart, and he plunged into the pleasure of sin to silence his convictions. A bad choice of friends led him deeper and deeper into wickedness until he was arrested for open crime and condemned to die. He was present at the trial of Jesus. As the thief watched the kindness and forbearance of Jesus toward His tormentors, the thief acknowledged in his heart that Jesus was truly the Son of God.

By this first response to God, the door was opened for the Holy Spirit to reveal to him vast tracts of truth. These truths, doubted by even Jesus’ disciples, were believed and even taught by the thief as he hung upon his cross. “As his heart went out to Christ, heavenly illumination flooded his mind. In Jesus, bruised, mocked, and hanging upon the cross, he saw his Redeemer, his only hope, and appealed to Him in humble faith.” Ibid., 157. “The Spirit of God illuminated the mind of this criminal, who took hold of Christ by faith, and, link after link, the chain of evidence that Jesus was the Messiah was joined together, until the suffering victim, in like condemnation with himself, stood forth before him as the Son of God.” Ibid., 158

This man stands in the foreground of systematic theologians. Notice that through the Holy Spirit, the thief pieced truth together “link after link” in the chain of evidence. This is a description of systematic theology in action. To him was granted the exalted privilege of ministering to Christ in His suffering. By him were spoken the most welcome words ever to fall on the ears of Jesus. “Never in His entire ministry were words more grateful to His ears than the utterance of faith from the lips of the dying thief, amid the blasphemy and taunts of the mob.” Ibid., 159

No one can understand truth without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, but He can teach truth to the veriest sinner who bows in humble faith at the foot of the cross. Theology must be experienced to be understood. David says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8

In Conclusion

  1. There is no point in discussing various new ideas unless they agree with the established light.
  2. It is impossible to discern between truth and error if there is any contention present.
  3. If there is contention, sometimes it is better to depart than to continue in close proximity.
  4. We must be humble to understand truth.
  5. We cannot understand truth without the aid of the Holy Spirit.
  6. “Investigate, compare scripture with scripture, sink the shaft of truth down deep into the mine of God’s Word. You must lay yourselves and your opinions on the altar of God, put away your preconceived ideas, and let the Spirit of Heaven guide you into all truth.” Selected Messages, book 1, 413

“God wants us to depend upon Him, and not upon man. He desires us to have a new heart; He would give us revealings of light from the throne of God. We should wrestle with every difficulty, but when some controverted point is presented, are you to go to man to find out his opinion, and then shape your conclusions from his?—No, go to God. Tell Him what you want; take your Bible and search as for hidden treasures.” Ibid., 415
The End