As We Near the End of Time, Part IV

In this series, we have been dealing with unscriptural marriages. There are two or three other points that we need to consider as well. I apologize that these topics are so sensitive, but our God is a holy God, and we must come up to the standard that He has set for the way that we think, feel, act, and talk.

Fornication and Adultery

We should be balanced and look at all sides of an issue. How does the church deal with the sin of fornication and adultery? Ellen White wrote a number of statements about this. A few will be given in this article. She says: “We are nearing the judgment, and those who bear the message of warning to the world must have clean hands and pure hearts. They must have a living connection with God. The thoughts must be pure and holy, the soul untainted, the body, soul, and spirit [must] be a pure, clean offering to God, or He will not accept it. . . .

“The youth, for misdemeanors of a comparatively light character, are treated with much severity. But when men and women of large experience, who have been considered patterns of piety, are revealed in their true character—unsanctified, unholy, impure in thought, debased in conduct—then it is time for such to be dealt with in a decided manner. The greater forbearance that is exercised toward them has only had, as far as my knowledge extends, the influence to cause them to regard their fornication and adultery as a very light matter, and all their pretense has proved to be like morning dew when the sun shines upon it. . . .

“Cleanse the camp of this moral corruption, if it takes the highest men in the highest positions. God will not be trifled with. Fornication is in our ranks. I know it, for it has been shown me to be strengthening and extending its pollutions. There is much we will never know, but that which is revealed makes the church responsible and guilty unless they show a determined effort to eradicate the evil. Cleanse the camp for there is an accursed thing in it.” Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce, 235–237. Friends, do not look at some other church, some other organization. This applies to us in the Historic Adventist movement. We have the problem!

Don’t be a Pharisee

Then she says this about people who have been ministers: “I have no real ground of hope for those who have stood as shepherds to the flock, and have for years been borne with by the merciful God, following them with reproof, with warnings, with entreaties, but who have hid their evil ways, and continued in them, thus defying the laws of the God of heaven by practicing fornication. We may leave them to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling [Philippians 2:12], after all has been done to reform them, but in no case entrust to them the guardianship of souls.” Ibid., 237. That is a strong statement, with which we must come into harmony. Notice she does not say they have committed the unpardonable sin. If we look at the context, she is not talking about someone who has been a repeat offender.

“I am compelled to deal plainly and rebuke sin, and then I have it in my heart, placed there by the Spirit of Christ, to labor in faith in tender sympathy and compassion for the erring. I will not let them alone.” Ibid., 241. She is talking about people who are in the situation she just described. They cannot serve as pastors anymore, she says, but she cannot let them alone. She did not have the heart of a Pharisee; she wanted the people involved in that degradation to be saved. We have to pray that the Lord will help us not to go into the ditch on either side of the road. In one ditch (Babylon) we just let things go, let them continue to happen, and in the other ditch (Phariseeism), we just cast the offenders away to be lost. “I will not leave them to become the sport of Satan’s temptations. I will not myself act the part of the adversary of souls, as is represented by Joshua and the Angel. Souls cost the price of my Redeemer’s blood.” Ibid.

When Jesus was here, He was successful in saving a lot of the people whom the Pharisees had totally given up on and said there was no hope of them ever having salvation. When we read The Desire of Ages, or other Ellen White books, she mentions the man in Matthew 9 who was paralyzed, the man who was healed by the pool of Bethesda (see John 5), and the woman taken in adultery (see John 8). Jesus saved a lot of these seemingly hopeless people. We have to pray and ask the Lord to help us to not be like Babylon and just let anything go, and at the same time to help us to bring salvation to all of the sinners we can.

Mrs. White continues: “Our probation is short at best. We have no time to spend in indulging corrupt impulses. The familiarity of married men with married women and young girls is disgusting in the sight of God and holy angels. The forwardness of young girls in placing themselves in the company of young men, hanging around where they are at work, entering into conversation with them, talking common, idle talk, is belittling to womanhood. It lowers them, even in the estimation of those who themselves do such things.

“There is a positive necessity for reform in all our institutions. All frivolity, all undue attention of men and women, must be condemned and discontinued. Some, even married men, who have indulged in this trifling familiarity, have endeavored to excuse themselves and escape censure by claiming that they have done no moral wrong. Was it no moral wrong to jest, joke, and pay flattering attentions to young women? Are you not starting in their minds a train of thought which it is impossible for you to change? Do you not by your levity and coquetry, sanction such conduct?” Ibid., 245, 246.

Church Action

Then she talks about the danger of the entire church, and this is something about which we need to study and pray—the danger of the entire church bringing the frown of God upon them because they will not act. “I saw that the seventh commandment [Exodus 20:14] has been violated by some who are now held in fellowship by the church. This has brought God’s frown upon them. This sin is awful in these last days, but the church [members] have brought God’s frown and curse upon them by regarding the sin so lightly. I saw that it was an enormous sin and there have not been as vigilant efforts made as there should have been to satisfy the displeasure of God and remove His frown by taking a strict, thorough course with the offender.

“It has had an awful, corrupting influence upon the young. They see how lightly the sin of breaking the seventh commandment is regarded, and the one who commits this horrid sin thinks that all he has to do is to confess that he was wrong and is sorry, and he is then to have all of the privileges of the house of God and be held in [the] embrace or fellowship of the church.

“They have thought it was not so great a sin, but have lightly esteemed the breaking of the seventh commandment. This has been sufficient to remove the ark of God from the camp, if there were no other sins to cause the ark to be taken away and weaken Israel. [See 1 Samuel 4:10, 11.]

“Those who break the seventh commandment should be suspended from the church, and not have its fellowship nor the privileges of the house of God. Said the angel, ‘This is not a sin of ignorance. It is a knowing sin and will receive the awful visitation of God, whether he who commits it be old or young.’

“Never was this sin regarded by God as being so exceedingly sinful as at the present time. Why? Because God is purifying unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. [Titus 2:14.] It is at the very time when God is purifying this peculiar people unto Himself that [unsanctified] individuals step in among us. Notwithstanding the straight truths they have heard—the terrors of the Word of God set before them, and all the blazing truth for these last days calculated to arouse Israel—they sin with a high hand, give way to all the loose passions of the carnal heart, gratify their animal propensities, disgrace the cause of God, and then confess they have sinned and are sorry!

“And the church receives them and says ‘Amen’ to their prayers and exhortations, which are a stink in the nostrils of God, and cause His wrath to come upon the camp. He will not dwell in their assemblies. [This sin in the camp will prevent us from receiving the Holy Spirit.] Those who move on thus heedlessly, plastering over these sins, will be left to their own ways, to be filled with their own doings.

“Those who anciently committed these sins were taken without the camp and stoned to death. Temporal and eternal death was their doom; and because the penalty of stoning to death is abolished, this sin is indulged in beyond measure and is thought to be a small offense.” Ibid., 248, 249. If we continue to allow such sin and do not act against it, then we are going to become a sister to Babylon.

More Than Discipline

Now let us look at the other side. We must do something more than just have strict discipline. How much farther must we go? First of all, after a person has been in this kind of situation, if they come to repentance and go straight for a period of time, demonstrating that their repentance is genuine, Mrs. White said that they could be restored.

“In regard to the case of the injured Sister A. G., we would say in reply to the questions of J. H. W., that it is a feature in the cases of most who have been overtaken in sin, as her husband has, that they have no real sense of their villainy. Some, however, do, and are restored to the church, but not till they have merited the confidence of the people of God by unqualified confessions, and a period of sincere repentance.” Ibid., 250. Some people actually do have sincere and genuine repentance, and it is demonstrated in their subsequent life.

If someone has a problem that we do not have, it is always easy for us, as human beings, to criticize them for their problem and not realize that we might have a different problem that is even worse. In Jesus’ day the Pharisees criticized the kinds of individuals about which we have just read. Jesus told the Pharisees that they were even worse. Concerning this, Ellen White wrote, in 1902, “Let those who condemn others take heed to themselves lest they be condemned by God for Phariseeism.” Ibid., 265.

There is Hope!

There will be some, as they read this, who will ask, Is there any hope for me? There is hope! Jesus can save the most hardened sinner, if that person is willing to come and submit and surrender to Him.

The Spirit of Prophecy gives us an example of a man who had long continued in sin. He was a married man, but he had a mistress for a very long time. He was growing old, and Ellen White told him he did not have very much longer to live. She wrote letters to both this man and to his mistress. The letter that she wrote to him shows that there is hope for people who have been trapped in the pit of sin by the devil’s temptations. She wrote: “You have a work to do for your own soul. Make haste, or it will be forever too late. God will now forgive the scarlet sin if you will do those things you ought to do to make your wrongs right. I do not say your case is hopeless, but you have certainly almost sinned away your day of grace; and yet Jesus is in the sanctuary. Jesus pleads in your behalf. Your brethren and your sisters have labored much for you; so much interest have they manifested for you that you have regarded crime and sins as a light matter. But Jesus loves you, and I present or lift up Jesus before you.

“Satan tells you that it is not best for you to cease sinning, you have gone so far in disobedience and transgression that it is no use for you to try to come back to God. While I feel that full disgrace of your sins is upon you, while I would have you see sin as it is, I would all the time present Jesus as a sin-pardoning Saviour.

“The sands of your life are nearly run out, and now if you will come to God just as you are, without one plea but that He has died to save the chiefest of sinners, you will find pardon even in this the eleventh hour. Man must cooperate with God. Christ did not die to have the power to cover transgression unrepented of and unconfessed. Not all sins are to be confessed publicly, but some are to be confessed alone to God and the parties that have been injured. . . .

“The robes of Christ’s righteousness never cover cherished sins. No one can enter into the marriage supper of the Lamb without the wedding garment on, which is the righteousness of Christ. Without holiness no man shall see God. God is waiting to give divine power to every soul to combine with human effort. ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.’ [Philippians 2:12.]” Ibid., 133, 134.

I do not know what happened in this case. Salvation involves our personal decision. There were people in Ellen White’s day that she said if they were saved, they would have to be saved alone. They could not be in the fellowship of the church because of what they had done; they would drag the reputation of the whole church down before the world. But they could still be saved. (See Ibid., 249, 250.) We serve a Saviour; we have a Mediator who is all powerful!

When people have fallen, we must not do what Babylon does. We must not just turn our head and pretend nothing is happening. On the other hand, we have to ask the Lord to teach us and show us what to do so that these people can be saved. They may have to be disfellowshipped from the church. Ellen White said that these people who have committed adultery have to be suspended from church fellowship.

Strive to Understand

“When one at fault becomes conscious of his error, be careful not to destroy his self-respect. Do not discourage him by indifference or distrust. Do not say, ‘Before giving him my confidence, I will wait to see whether he will hold out.’ Often this very distrust causes the tempted one to stumble.

“We should strive to understand the weakness of others. We know little of the heart trials of those who have been bound in chains of darkness and who lack resolution and moral power. Most pitiable is the condition of him who is suffering under remorse; he is as one stunned, staggering, sinking into the dust. He can see nothing clearly. The mind is beclouded; he knows not what steps to take. Many a poor soul is misunderstood, unappreciated, full of distress and agony—a lost, straying sheep. He cannot find God, yet he has an intense longing for pardon and peace.” Ibid., 260, 261.

That is what we need to understand. Have we not had chains of sins that we have had to go to the Lord and plead that He set us free? Others, in and out of the church, who are bound surround us, and we need to consider them as they really are. Someone may say, “It is their choice.” Yes, it is, but the devil has them bound in slavery from which they can never get free unless the Lord delivers them.

If we are going to stay on the narrow road and go all the way to the Holy City, we cannot fall off into the ditch on one side or the other. We have to ask the Lord to help us not go into the ditch on either side.

We are Weak

Whatever our natural weaknesses, Christ has made provision. “For all the natural weaknesses Jesus has made ample provision, that they may be overcome through His grace.” Ibid., 91. We are the weakest generation there has ever been. We are weak morally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Remember, the apostle Paul had an affliction. He thought this affliction would be taken away, if he would earnestly pray for its removal. (See 11 Corinthians 12.) Jesus told him to not talk to Him anymore about it. The Lord did not take it away, but He told the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.” [Verse 9.] Although we are weak and sinful, there is grace sufficient for us, if we will come to Jesus, surrender to Him, and ask for it.

Jesus made a wonderful assertion to His disciples, just before His ascension: “All authority in heaven and upon the earth is given to Me.” Matthew 28:18. The devil does not want us to know that, because he knows, if we fully realize and recognize that we serve a Mediator who is all-powerful, that the bondage, the shackles of sin, will be broken in our lives. Whatever your weakness, however you have fallen, whatever your past has been, whatever situation you are in right now, Jesus says, ‘All authority is given to Me in heaven and earth.’ We serve an all-powerful Mediator, and in the situations in which we find ourselves today, we need that Mediator. We need His power and His grace in our personal lives, in our homes, and in the church.

Another wonderful promise, which I have pondered and claimed many times, is: “He is able to save perfectly those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession on their behalf.” Hebrews 7:25. If we are clear at the bottom, in a hopeless situation, there is Someone who is able to save us perfectly—to bring us to perfect holiness, to perfect purity! He is in the business of solving impossible problems.

Whatever our situations may be—in our church, in our marriage, in our family—they may be so complicated that we have to do as Mrs. White said and leave them to the Lord. But the Lord that we are going to leave them to is all-powerful, and He can solve the problem if we are willing to surrender all to Him.

For those of you who are suffering because of something you have done in the past or that your spouse has done in the past, I want you to remember the promise in Matthew 19:29. If you are suffering because you decided to stand for the right and your spouse decided to divorce you because you did that, remember this; Jesus told His followers: “Whatever you suffer, whatever you lose in this world for My sake, you will receive a hundred-fold, plus eternal life.” That is a promise to which you can cling. There is going to be a payday someday, and if you hang on, even if you are suffering, and you commit your life to Christ and choose to follow Him, He is going to reward you for your faithfulness to Him. Do not give up because you are suffering and let the devil trick you into going back out into the world. The Lord is a better paymaster; He is a better master all the way around. Stick to Him; give your life to Him, and ask Him to lead you through all the difficult experiences you may have.

Pastor Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life Ministry and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas.