Why Home Churches, Part II

Why is there a home church movement worldwide in Adventism today?

In part one, it was seen that those who were the foremost in denouncing the message from God, in 1888, were those in positions of leadership. The message of righteousness by faith was treated with contempt by the president of the General Conference and by the editor of the Review and Herald. The administration of the General Conference did its best to commit the denomination to what was called “the old landmarks,” righteousness by works, and that spirit and element did not cease in 1888, as the 1888 Materials clearly document.

“The righteousness of Christ by faith has been ignored by some; for it is contrary to their spirit and their whole life experience. Rule, rule, has been their course of action. Satan has had an opportunity of representing himself. When one who professes to be a representative of Christ engages in sharp dealing and in pressing men into hard places, those who are thus oppressed will either break every fetter of restraint, or they will be led to regard God as a hard master. They cherish hard feelings against God, and the soul is alienated from Him, just as Satan planned it should be.

“This hard-heartedness, on the part of men who claim to believe the truth, Satan charges to the influence of the truth itself, and thus men become disgusted and turn from the truth. For this reason no man should have a responsible connection with our institutions who thinks it no important matter whether he has a heart of flesh or a heart of steel.” Testimonies to Ministers, 363.

“A strange thing has come into our churches. Men who are placed in positions of responsibility that they may be wise helpers to their fellow workers have come to suppose that they were set as kings and rulers in the churches, to say to one brother, Do this; to another, Do that; and to another, Be sure to labor in such and such a way. There have been places where the workers have been told that if they did not follow the instruction of these men of responsibility, their pay from the conference would be withheld.” Ibid., 477.

A big part of the problem that plagued the church both before and after 1888 (since the message was not accepted) was a rejection of the message of righteousness by faith. It was accepted, perhaps, theoretically. However, the church had lost sight of Jesus (Ibid., 93), and had been looking to man and expecting much from man. This resulted in looking to herself for authority, and in a compelling power used to control the members. (See above quotation.) The message of righteousness by faith was to set the church free from this compelling power and place it again under the direct control of divine agencies, where men and human leadership would be in an advisory and not a controlling capacity. Notice the way leadership is to operate from the following quotation: “Simple organization and church order are set forth in the New Testament Scriptures, and the Lord has ordained these for the unity and perfection of the church. The man who holds office in the church should stand as a leader, as an advisor and a counselor and helper in carrying the burdens of the work. He should be a leader in offering thanksgiving to God. But he is not appointed to order and command the Lord’s laborers. The Lord is over His heritage. He will lead His people if they will be led of the Lord in the place of assuming a power God has not given them. Let us study the twelfth and thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, and the fifteenth chapter of Acts.” Paulson Collection, 298.

The Work of a Satanic Spirit

Sadly, the message in 1888 was rejected, and the weight of evidence shows that a large part of the reason for this was the reluctance and the actual refusal of those in positions of leadership to release control of the work so that the Holy Spirit could take control. The Holy Spirit was insulted, as we saw in part one, and a Satanic spirit took control: “Thus it was in the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus—all this had passed before me point by point. The Satanic spirit took control and moved with power upon the human hearts that had been opened to doubts and to bitterness, wrath and hatred. All this was prevailing in that meeting. I decided to leave the meeting, leave Minneapolis.” 1888 Materials, 308.

“I had been shown that in their special meetings but little good was accomplished because they did not have such a living connection with God that He could impress them by His Holy Spirit. When not under the control of the Spirit of God, another spirit had control of their thoughts, words, and actions, and in place of growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ they were becoming dwarfs in spiritual things.” Ibid., 358, 359.

“The spirit manifested is not of Christ. The outgrowth of this will be that some will turn away from light and others will come to a standstill in spiritual growth, because from this hour blindness of mind and self-righteousness will take the place in their experience of justice, mercy, and the love of God. The seeds of disaffection and disunion will be scattered broadcast, and all because men allow their own spirit to control them and make them unsympathetic and unimpressible, like moral icebergs, cold, sunless, dark, and forbidding. The result will be ruin to souls.” Ibid., 95. (See also Ibid., 1116.)

“He who trusts in man not only leans upon a broken reed, and gives Satan an opportunity to introduce himself, but he hurts the one in whom the trust is placed; he becomes lifted up in his estimation of himself, and loses the sense of his dependence upon God. Just as soon as man is placed where God should be, he loses his purity, his vigor, his confidence in God’s power. Moral confusion results, because his powers become unsanctified and perverted. He feels competent to judge his fellowmen, and he strives unlawfully to be a god over them.” Testimonies to Ministers, 376.

Testing and Proving

“The Lord was testing and proving His people who had had great light, whether they would walk in it or turn from it under temptation, for but few know what manner of spirit they are of until circumstances shall be of a character to test the spirit which prompts to action. In many the natural heart is a controlling power, and yet they do not suppose that pride and prejudice are entertained as cherished guests, and work in the words and actions against light and truth. Our brethren who have occupied leading positions in the work and the cause of God should have been so closely connected with the Source of all light that they would not call light darkness and darkness light.” Selected Messages, vol. 3, 176. (1888)

This testing and proving went on for thirteen years. In 1896, Ellen White wrote: “O if I could have the joyful news that the will and mind of those in Battle Creek who have stood professedly as leaders, were emancipated from the teachings and slavery of Satan, whose captives they have been for so long, I would be willing to cross the broad Pacific to see your faces once more. But I am not anxious to see you with enfeebled perceptions and clouded minds because you have chosen darkness rather than light.” 1888 Materials, 1497.

What were these teachings and the slavery of Satan she referred to in this statement? “Organizations, institutions, unless kept by the power of God, will work under Satan’s dictation to bring men under the control of men: and fraud and guile will bear the semblance of zeal for truth, and for the advancement of the kingdom of God. Whatever in our practice is not as open as the day, belongs to the methods of the prince of evil. His methods are practiced even among Seventh Day Adventists, who claim to have advanced truth.” Ibid., 1433.

People often think that reorganization attempts in 1897 and 1901 were made to change the outward church structure. Actually this was peripheral to the problem that was actually being addressed. These outward changes were made to end the reign of kingly power and to place the control of the work again under the Holy Spirit with all men in servant-brethren relationships.

Ellen White outlined the problem and the needed solution for coming into working order in the famous library speech in 1901. She stated that these changes should have been done years ago. “I feel a special interest in the movements and decisions that shall be made at this Conference regarding the things that should have been done years ago, and especially ten years ago, when we were assembled in Conference, and the Spirit and power of God came into our meeting, testifying that God was ready to work for this people if they would come into working order. The brethren assented to the light God had given, but there were those connected with our institutions, especially with the Review and Herald Office and the Conference, who brought in elements of unbelief, so that the light that was given was not acted upon. It was assented to, but no special change was made to bring about such a condition of things that the power of God could be revealed among His people.” Ibid., 1743.

Notice the following points from the above quotation:

  1. The power of God could not be revealed among His people until there were some changes.
  2. God was ready to work for us if we would come into working order.
  3. The work was not in working order when the statement was made.
  4. The changes which needed to be made had been made known years before and had been assented to but not acted upon.

Ellen White revealed that some needed to be separated from the work: “Why, I ask you, are men who have not brought self into subjection allowed to stand in important positions of truth and handle sacred things? They have grown to the stature of men, but they have brought with them their childish tendencies. God does not want any such thing. He has made provision for all to have in them the grace of Christ. No others will enter heaven. There has been one rebellion there, and there will not be another. We have been given an opportunity to get rid of every kind of rebellion.” Ibid., 1744.

“It only takes a word to fire up a man who has not made a practice of talking with God. This spirit is as contagious as the leprosy. One and another catch it, and thus dissension and strife and commotion are brought in. God is not in any of this work.

“O, my very soul is drawn out in these things! Men who have not learned to submit themselves to the control and discipline of God, are not competent to train the youth, to deal with human minds. It is just as much an impossibility for them to do this work as it could be for them to make a world. That these men should stand in a sacred place, to be as the voice of God to the people, as we once believed the General Conference to be,—that is past. What we want now is a reorganization. We want to begin at the foundation, and to build upon a different principle.” Ibid.

“Now I want to say, God has not put any kingly power in our ranks to control this or that branch of the work. The work has been greatly restricted by the efforts to control it in every line…. Let me tell you, if your heart is in the work, and you have faith in God, you need not depend upon the sanction of any minister or any people; if you go right to work in the name of the Lord, in a humble way doing what you can to teach the truth, God will vindicate you.” Ibid., 1746.

Self-Supporting Work Develops

In 1903, as we have documented in other articles, the progress made in 1901, which Ellen White said that the Lord endorsed, was reversed. The 1901 constitution was rejected and a new one, that allowed the same old problems to exist, was put in its place.*

Since we live in a moral universe, there are consequences to all actions. The result of the turn around in 1903, the very next year, the world-wide self-supporting movement had its beginnings, in the development of Madison.

Following are some inspired statements about the Madison School and these statements need to be read in addition to those mentioned earlier about all our schools being under the authority of the General Conference.

“In the work being done at the training school for home and foreign missionary teachers in Madison, Tennessee, and in the small schools established by the teachers who have gone forth from Madison, we have an illustration of a way in which the message should be carried.” Spaulding Magan, 420.

“The Lord has instructed me that, from the first, the work in Huntsville and Madison should have received adequate help. But instead of this help being rendered promptly there has been long delay. And in the matter of the Madison school, there has been a standing off from them because they were not under the ownership and control of some Conference. This is a question that should sometimes be considered, but it is not the Lord’s plan that means should be withheld from Madison, because they are not bound to the conference. The attitude which some of our brethren have assumed toward this enterprise shows that it is not wise for every working agency to be under the dictation of conference officers. There are some enterprises under certain conditions, that will produce better results if standing alone.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 8, 202.

“We are to respect the light that led Brethren Magan and Sutherland to purchase property and establish the school at Madison. Let no one speak words that would tend to demerit their work, or to divert students from the school. I do not charge any one with an intention to do wrong, but from the light I have received, I can say that there is danger that some will criticize unjustly the work of our brethren and sisters connected with the school at Madison. Let every encouragement possible be given to those who are engaged in an effort to give to children and youth an education in the knowledge of God and of His law.” The Madison School, 17.

“When my advice was asked in reference to the Madison school, I said, Remain as you are. There is danger in binding every working agency under the dictation of the conference. The Lord did not design that this should be. The circumstances were such that the burden bearers in the Madison school could not bind up their work with the conference. I knew their situation, and when many of the leading men in our conferences ignored them, because they did not place their school under conference dictation, I was shown that they would not be helped by making themselves amenable to the conference. They had better remain as led by God, amenable to Him, to work out His plans. But this matter need not be blazed abroad.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 8, 202, 203.

“The school at Madison not only educates in a knowledge of the Scriptures, but it gives a practical training that fits the student to go forth as a self-supporting missionary to the field to which he is called. In his student days he is taught how to build simply and substantially, how to cultivate the land, and to care for the stock. To this is added the knowledge of how to treat the sick and care for the injured. This training for medical-missionary work is one of the grandest objects for which any school can be established. There are many suffering from disease and injury, who, when relieved of pain, will be prepared to listen to the truth. Our Saviour was a mighty Healer. In His name there may be many miracles wrought in the South and in other fields through the instrumentality of the trained medical missionary. Therefore it is essential that there shall be a sanitarium connected with the Madison school. The educational work at the school and the sanitarium can go forward hand in hand. The instruction given at the school will benefit the patients, and the instruction given to the sanitarium patients will be a blessing to the school.” Ibid., 192, 193.

“The Lord does not set limits about His workers in some lines as men are wont to set. In their work, Brethren Magan and Sutherland have been hindered unnecessarily. Means have been withheld from them because in the organization and management of the Madison school, it was not placed under the control of the conference. But the reasons why this school was not owned and controlled by the conference have not been duly considered.…The Lord does not require that the educational work at Madison shall be changed all about before it can receive the hearty support of our people. The work that has been done there is approved of God, and He forbids that this line of work shall be broken up. The Lord will continue to bless and sustain the workers so long as they follow His counsel.

“Brethren Sutherland and Magan are as verily set to do the work of the Lord at Madison as other workers are appointed to do their part in the cause of present truth.

“The Lord’s money is to sustain them in their labors. They have a right to share the means given to the cause. They should be given a proportionate share of the means that comes in for the furtherance of the cause.

“God forbids you to put yokes on the necks of His servants. Brethren Sutherland and Magan have a right to solicit means for the support of the Madison school. This wonderful burden to restrict their work, which some suppose God has bestowed upon them with their official position, has never been laid upon them. If they were standing free on the high platform of truth, they would never accept the responsibility of framing rules and regulations that will hinder and cramp the laborers in their work for this time. When they learn the lesson that ‘All ye are brethren,’ and realize that their fel-low workers sometimes know just as well as they do how to use in the wisest way the talents and capabilities entrusted to them, they will remove the yokes that they are now binding upon them, and will give them credit for love for souls and a desire to labor unselfishly to promote the interests of the cause.” Manuscript Releases,
vol. 20, 103.

“Some have entertained the idea that because the school at Madison is not owned by a conference organization, those who are in charge of the school should not be permitted to call upon our people for the means that is greatly heeded to carry on their work. This idea needs to be corrected. In the distribution of the money that comes into the Lord’s treasury, you are entitled to portion just as verily as are those connected with other needy enterprises that are carried forward in harmony with the Lord’s instruction.” Spaulding Magan, 411.

We conclude from these statements that:

  1. It was not God’s will for all of His work to be under the control of the conferences and the reasons for this have been amply documented.
  2. God approved and authorized the setting up of Adventist work for the world, independent from the conference, as Madison.
  3. This work that was independent from the conference was just as much Adventist work as conference work, just as much a part of the last great work of the second Advent movement for the world as conference work. In fact,
  4. Self-supporting work was to have a significant part in the closing work for the world.
  5. God forbid for this kind of work to be broken up.
  6. The first part of the work to be organized in this way was educational work but other kinds of work were also authorized including food factories, sanitariums, etc. The question is, could there be a self-supporting church body anywhere in the world as there were schools, sanitariums and publishing houses and food factories?

—To be continued…

* In regard to claims made by many that the voice of the General Conference in session is the voice of God, it needs to be asked, since the 1901 decision and the 1903 decision were opposite and contrary to each other, which one was the voice of God? Obviously the General Conference in session is not necessarily the voice of God, for He never changes. (Malachi 3:6.)

Counsels and Doctrines

Strife Within the Church

Why is strife so common in the home church movement today? What has the devil done that has caused so much dissension and how will it be remedied? These are certainly questions that we should be asking ourselves, and there is not one simple answer.

I believe a good share of the problems we see today are the result of a common misunderstanding. Many today are confused about the difference between inspired counsel and inspired law or doctrine. You may be asking, “Can that really be so very important?” You may not think so at first glance, but in fact, the consequences of this misunderstanding can, and are, causing great harm in many churches and families today.

Let us begin our study by first looking at a lesson that Jesus taught in the eighth chapter of John. In this chapter is recorded the very familiar story of the woman taken in adultery. “Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives. And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say unto Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not. So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”

Judge Not

It is clear that Jesus did not condone this women’s sin. He instructed her, “Go and sin no more.” But rather, this story was given to teach us a lesson. So often we are quick to judge someone, while we ignore the sins (sometimes even the very sins of which are condemning another) that dwell within our own hearts. I wonder, if Jesus was with us in person today, observing all the strife that is within the church, if he would not again stoop down to write in the sand all the faults and shortcomings of those who are condemning their brethren for not dressing or eating or doing something in the way that they feel is correct.

Today, the scene of this pitiful woman is repeated again and again, only with different circumstances. Brothers and sisters are brought before our private “judgment seat” and condemned for wearing the wrong clothing or eating the wrong food, while we commend ourselves for being such godly Christians. God’s prophet warned, “The ruling, driving, storming spirits need to take their hands off and turn their attention to themselves. Their own destitution of the Spirit of God is the reason of their unquiet, censorious, condemning spirit.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 12, 285.

Think back in your own experience, how many divisions have you seen in churches and families because of this condemning spirit? It is breaking up churches and families everywhere in the world. And so the devil delights, for it is his game plan to divide and conquer homes, churches, husbands and wives. It is his goal to do everything he possibly can to stir up strife, suspicion and fanaticism to divide God’s people, for he knows that united we will stand and divided we will fall.

When Should We Separate?

Should we separate ourselves from a person or group of people that do not eat, dress, etc., exactly as we think they should? Let us look more closely at this subject of separation and unity from an inspired outlook, and notice why there will be a true need for separation in the last days.

“As trials thicken around us, both separation and unity will be seen in our ranks. Some who are now ready to take up weapons of warfare will in times of real peril make it manifest that they have not built upon the solid rock; they will yield to temptation. Those who have had great light and precious privileges, but have not improved them, will, under one pretext or another, go out from us. Not having received the love of the truth, they will be taken in the delusions of the enemy; they will give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, and will depart from the faith.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 400, 401. [Emphasis supplied.]

Are there times when there should not be a separation? “A house divided against itself cannot stand. 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!

“Paul charged his brethren to beware lest in trying to correct the faults of others they should commit sins equally great themselves. He warns them that hatred, emulation, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, and envyings are as truly the works of the flesh as are lasciviousness, adultery, drunkenness, and murder, and will as surely close the gate of heaven against the guilty.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 244. [Emphasis supplied.]

Separate from Unsound Doctrine

It is perfectly appropriate, and necessary, to sever ties with a church that is not teaching sound doctrine. But is it appropriate to leave a church that is teaching sound doctrine, but where some may be dressing or eating a little differently than we think they should be? These types of issues (where the questions concern inspired counsel not law) are splitting up churches all over the world. Could it be that in fact the real problem is that we are cherishing the age-old sin of pride that Lucifer had in heaven.

“He sought to gain control of heavenly beings, to draw them away from their Creator, and to win their homage to himself. Therefore he misrepresented God, attributing to Him the desire for self-exaltation. With his own evil characteristics he sought to invest the loving Creator. Thus he deceived angels. Thus he deceived men. He led them to doubt the word of God, and to distrust His goodness. Because God is a God of justice and terrible majesty, Satan caused them to look upon Him as severe and unforgiving. Thus he drew men to join him in rebellion against God, and the night of woe settled down upon the world.” The Desire of Ages, 21, 22.

What is Counsel?

Before we study a Biblical example of the difference between counsel and law, let’s look at the simple dictionary definition of the two words. Counsel is “a mutual exchange of ideas. Advice.” Law is “the rules of conduct established by an authority or any rule expected to be observed.” Webster’s New World Dictionary. And we know that God’s divine laws are “immutable, unchangeable, eternal.” Maranatha, 177.

In the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden, God made a distinction between counsel and law. In the instructions given to Adam and Eve regarding the tree of knowledge there was both counsel and law. The law, if disobeyed, would lead to death.

“And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom had had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” “And the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Genesis 2:8-9, 15-17. [Emphasis supplied.]

Counsel vs Command

God told our first parents that they were not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil or they would die. “Adam and Eve were permitted to partake of every tree in the garden save one. There was a single prohibition. The forbidden tree was as attractive and lovely as any of the trees in the garden. It was called the tree of knowledge because in partaking of that tree of which God had said, “Thou shalt not eat of it,” they would have a knowledge of sin, an experience in disobedience.” Confrontation, 12.

In the following quotations, see if you can find the counsel that God gave which Eve ignored. “Eve had wandered near the forbidden tree, and her curiosity was aroused to know how death could be concealed in the fruit of this fair tree. She was surprised to hear her queries taken up and repeated by a strange voice. ‘Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’ Eve was not aware that she had revealed her thoughts in audibly conversing with herself; therefore, she was greatly astonished to hear her queries repeated by a serpent. She really thought that the serpent had a knowledge of her thoughts, and that he must be very wise.

“She answered him, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.’ And the serpent said unto the woman, ‘Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.’” Ibid., 13.

“Eve had overstated the words of God’s command. He had said to Adam and Eve, ‘But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’ In Eve’s controversy with the serpent, she added ‘Neither shall ye touch it.’ Here the subtlety of the serpent appeared. This statement of Eve gave him advantage; he plucked the fruit and placed it in her hand, using her own words, He hath said, If ye touch it, ye shall die. You see no harm comes to you from touching the fruit, neither will you receive any harm by eating it.” Ibid., 14.

God counseled Adam and Eve not to go near the tree because there Satan would have access to them. But it was not a sin that would cost them their lives, if they did. If you are being tempted, that is not a sin. The temptation becomes sin when you yield to that temptation either in your mind or when you act upon it.

What other counsel did God give Adam and Eve? “The angels had cautioned Eve to beware of separating herself from her husband while occupied in their daily labor in the garden; with him she would be in less danger from temptation than if she were alone. But absorbed in her pleasing task, she unconsciously wandered from his side. On perceiving that she was alone, she felt an apprehension of danger, but dismissed her fears, deciding that she had sufficient wisdom and strength to discern evil and to withstand it. Unmindful of the angels’ caution, she soon found herself gazing with mingled curiosity and admiration upon the forbidden tree.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 53, 54.

Was it a sin for Eve to wander from the side of her husband? No, it says that the angels cautioned her to beware if she should be separated from Adam’s side because she would place herself in unnecessary danger. The only place Satan could have access to the pair in Eden was at the tree of knowledge of good and evil. “The angels charged them to closely follow the instructions God had given them in reference to the tree of knowledge, for in perfect obedience they were safe, and this fallen foe could then have no power to deceive them.” Lift Him Up, 20. [Emphasis supplied.]

The Problem with Fanaticism

All of God’s counsel is given for our good, and how much hardship and misery it would have saved our first parents if they followed God’s counsel. When they ignored God’s counsels they placed themselves in a position where they could more easily be lead into sin. However, we need to understand the definition of sin. “Our only definition of sin is that given in the Word of God; it is ‘the transgression of the law;’ it is the outworking of a principle at war with the great law of love which is the foundation of the divine government.” The Great Controversy, 492. This is the only definition given in the Bible of what sin is. It is breaking God’s law, either in the mind or openly.

However, sometimes we want to go beyond what the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy say in order to try to make it support our own ideas. This is what the Spirit of Prophecy calls “fanaticism.” As fanaticism takes a firm hold on a group or person criticism always follows. This particular point becomes the only subject discussed and studied and those who do not agree with our cherished opinion are chastised and condemned.

Sister White faced many types of fanaticism in her day. In Early Writings, 22, she gives this account. “At this time there was fanaticism in Maine. Some refrained wholly from labor and disfellowshiped all those who would not receive their views on this point, and some other things, which they held to be religious duties. God revealed these errors to me in vision and sent me to His erring children to declare them; but many of them wholly rejected the message, and charged me with conforming to the world.”

“In every age Satan has sought to impair the efforts of God’s servants by introducing into the church a spirit of fanaticism. Thus it was in Paul’s day, and thus it was in later centuries during the time of the Reformation. Wycliffe, Luther, and many others, who blessed the world by their influence and their faith, encountered the wiles by which the enemy seeks to lead into fanaticism overzealous, unbalanced, and unsanctified minds.” Acts of the Apostles, 348.

She warned a certain brother, “I consider you to be in positive peril. I present this because I know that you are in great danger of being seduced by Satan. We are living in a time when every phase of fanaticism will press its way in among believers and unbelievers. Satan will come in, speaking lies in hypocrisy. Everything that he can invent to deceive men and women will be brought forward.” Medical Ministry, 114. [Emphasis supplied.]

We are certainly living in that day and age right now. The devil has stolen a march upon us. He has successfully wounded the revival and reformation movement within Adventism today by the fanatical theories that are coming into the church. He is using men and women who have unbalanced minds to bring in some form or another of fanaticism to divide and conquer. And friend, we must each be on guard because the devil has been studying human nature for nearly six thousand years and he has designed some fanaticism to exactly fit each of our personalities and temperaments.

We have many lessons to learn. May God help us that we might each surrender our lives and our opinions to Him that He may cleanse us from the root of bitterness and the condemning spirit which destroys unity and impedes the gospel work. There is no longer time to waste in bickering and strife, there is world waiting to be warned. May the Lord bless each of you.

Why Home Churches, Part 1

In this article, we will begin to answer the following question: Why is there a worldwide home church movement in Adventism today?

In the New Testament church there were many home churches as there have been among God’s people ever since. It should not be a surprise then, that there is a growing number of home churches in Adventism, worldwide, today. The fact that there are a growing number of home churches, however, is not the main point. The point of contention is not that there are home churches, or even that there are constantly increasing numbers of the same. The point of contention is that there are increasing numbers of home churches in Adventism which are not under conference control. These churches are not affiliated with conferences or missions, but rather are cooperating with other home churches, which are in similar circumstances.

It has been claimed, far and near, that such a development is contrary to the writings of Ellen White. The quotations commonly used, in an attempt to prove this, are from the Stanton articles, written by Ellen White in 1893, and other statements about the necessity of church organization and about the church not fragmenting into separate atoms.

Is there any foundation in these claims? Are home churches unnecessary and unwarranted? We will answer these questions by looking at the broader question, Why has the development of home churches, not under conference control, taken place?

(This actually is a very involved question related to the Christian experience of millions of people in very diverse circumstances over many decades, in fact, for over 100 years.)

The Divisions of the Work

To understand how and why this has happened, we must first look at the divisions of operations within Adventism and see how the present phenomenon developed in these various divisions.

Anyone who has read the nine volume set of Testimonies for the Church, written by Ellen White, can discern that the major divisions of Adventist work for the world can be divided into the following:

  1. Publishing Work
  2. Medical missionary operations
  3. Educational Work
  4. Ministerial and evangelistic work. (There are other smaller divisions but these four are the major ones.) All four of the divisions involve the organization of the church.

There was a time when little, if any, work in any of these four areas was done outside of the church organization. Independent work outside of the church organization was definitely not the plan for Adventist work, for the world, that God had in mind. Consider, for instance, the following forceful testimonies by Ellen White:

Concerning independent medical missionary work: “Medical missionary work is not to be drawn apart and made separate from church organization. The medical students are not to receive the idea that they may regard themselves as amenable only to the leaders in the medical work.” Testimonies, vol. 8, 164.

“Special light has been given me that you are in danger of losing sight of the work for this time. You are erecting barriers to separate your work and those you are educating from the church. This must not be. Those who are receiving instruction in medical missionary lines should be led to realize that their education is to fit them to do better work in connection with the ministers of God. You are to remember, my brother, that the Lord has a people upon the earth whom He respects.” Ibid., 519.

“I was instructed by the Lord that your temptation would be to make your medical missionary work stand independent of the conference. But this plan was not right. I saw that you could not plan as you had been doing, or carry out your ideas, without injury to yourself and to the cause of God.” Ibid., 187.

Concerning independent publishing work: “As I consider the matter I see that at this time, when so much is being said against organization, we must be careful not to work for disorganization. We must not get out of line. I am fearful regarding any plan that would take the work out of our publishing houses; for this might lessen the confidence of our brethren in these important agencies for the dissemination of present truth.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, 169.

Concerning independent educational work: “Our schools are under the supervision of the General Conference. This body decides as to the advisability of establishing new schools, as to how much means it is wise to invest, and also as to the educational force to be employed. Our medical institutions should stand in the same relation to the General Conference and the great whole. The establishment of a health institution is too important a matter to be left to the independent management of a few interested individuals. If the enterprise is under control of the General Conference, the way is open for deliberate counsel and a careful consideration of the matter, and if it is undertaken, there will be a united force to give it influence and standing, and this will contribute largely to its success. Under such management, a class of workers could be enlisted that otherwise could not be secured, and thus the enterprise would prosper when it would prove a failure in ordinary hands. And furthermore, there must be an authority to guard such an institution, so that persons who are not qualified shall not be allowed to grasp responsibility through selfish ambition in their professional line as physicians.” General Conference Bulletin, January 30, 1893.

It is plainly evident, in the above quoted testimonies, what God’s plan was. It was that all of His remnant people should work together in concert, in harmony and unity with representative and deliberate counsel so as to avoid mistakes and serious pitfalls which would certainly occur if a few individuals, however talented, were to strike out on their own without counsel from their brethren or support from their church, and in such an independent way establish schools, sanitariums and publishing houses.

If this was God’s plan then how did we get to where we are now? To understand how this came to be we must go back to that watershed event in Adventist history, the General Conference, in Minneapolis, in 1888.

Changes in 1888

Many people today seem to believe that this conference, in 1888, had mainly to do with the doctrine of righteousness by faith. The 1888 Materials by Ellen White reveal that such a conclusion is very far from the truth. Ellen White describes the controversy over the law in Galatians as follows: “He stretched out his arms toward Dr. Waggoner, and to you, Elder Butler, and said in substance as follows: ‘Neither have all the light upon the law, neither position is perfect.’ ‘Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.’ Psalms 97:11. There are hundreds that know not why they believe the doctrines they do.” 1888 Messages, 93.

“The different views in regard to the law in Galatians need not have produced any such exhibitions. I have not the slightest burden upon that subject. God has not inspired all this intense feeling over that subject. I have not a particle of burden on that subject. My only trouble is the position of those ministers who were at that conference who manifested so little of the spirit of Christ and possessed more largely the spirit which controlled the scribes and Pharisees which planned the betrayal and acted a prominent part in the trial of Christ, in false statements, in accusing of Christ and making Him appear before the people in the worst possible light.” Ibid., 295.

Notice that Ellen White had not a particle of burden on the law in Galatians—that was not the major issue. What then was the real issue in 1888? And why did Ellen White, over and over again, accuse us of being like the Jews (or the Pharisees) in the 1888 General Conference? (She makes this accusation at least twenty times just in volume one of the 1888 Materials.) For example: “I want to tell you, brethren, whoever you are, I want to tell you, that you are just going over the very same ground that they went over in the days of Christ. You have had their experience: But God deliver us from having the come-out of it as they had. But notwithstanding you have heard my testimony, notwithstanding it was the testimony of the Spirit of God, you have braced yourselves,—a few of you, strong men of determined will,—to carry it out on your line, to fight it out on your line. May God have mercy upon your souls, because you need it. You have stood right in the way of God. The earth is to be lighted with His glory, and if you stand where you stand today, you might just as quick say that the Spirit of God was the spirit of the devil. You have said it now in your actions, in your attitudes, that it is the spirit of the devil. You have said it thus, and you will say it when the crisis will come.” Ibid., 593, 594.

Notice that the real nature of the opposition was the rejection of the Holy Spirit both in the messages of Jones and Waggoner and the testimony of Ellen White. The outcome of this is prophesied: “The Third Angel’s Message will not be comprehended, the light which will lighten the earth with its glory will be called a false light, by those who refuse to walk in its advancing glory. The work that might have been done, will be left undone by the rejecters of truth, because of their unbelief.” Ibid., 673.

The Problems in 1888

To understand how this awful condition of things came to be, in 1888, let us first look at how Ellen White described the problem in Adventism in the years just prior to 1888. “The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones.…Many had lost sight of Jesus.… Now, it has been Satan’s determined purpose to eclipse the view of Jesus and lead men to look to man, and trust to man, and be educated to expect help from man. For years the church has been looking to man and expecting much from man, but not looking to Jesus, in whom our hopes of eternal life are centered. Therefore God gave to His servants a testimony that presented the truth as it is in Jesus, which is the Third Angel’s Message, in clear, distinct lines.” Testimonies to Ministers, 91–93.

Notice what the problem was—“For years the church has been looking to man and expecting much from man, but not looking to Jesus.” Ibid. Now the question needs to be asked, What men do you think Ellen White is talking about that the church had been looking to and expecting much help from? And what would the response of these men be if the church began to look to someone else for help and not looking to them so much?

This is the exact problem that the chosen people of God faced when Jesus was here, and this problem, in Jesus’ day, resulted in the crucifixion of Christ. This is also the exact problem which developed in the Roman church. “Some who think that they preach the gospel are preaching other men’s ideas. Through some means they have come to the decision that it is no part of a minister’s calling or duty to think diligently and prayerfully. He accepts what other men have taught without asserting his individuality. This doctrine, taught by the church of Rome, is entire dependence upon the leaders. The individual’s conscience is not his own. Judgment must be controlled by other men’s ideas. His intelligence is to go no farther than that of those who are leaders.” 1888 Messages, 834.

Opposition to God’s Message

The response of the leaders in Adventism, to the message that God sent in 1888, has been discussed and debated since that time. Their opposition has been well documented by many writers and will not be reviewed here except to ask the question, What really was the nature of their opposition? What was behind their opposition?

The following statements will reveal the nature of the opposition and what was behind it. “Those whom God has sent with a message are only men, but what is the character of the message which they bear? Will you dare to turn from, or make light of, the warnings, because God did not consult you as to what would be preferred? God calls men who will speak, who will cry aloud and spare not. God has raised up His messengers to do His work for this time. Some have turned from the message of the righteousness of Christ to criticize the men and their imperfections, because they do not speak the message of truth with all the grace and polish desirable. They have too much zeal, are too much in earnest, speak with too much positiveness, and the message that would bring healing and life and comfort to many weary and oppressed souls, is, in a measure, excluded; for just in proportion as men of influence close their own hearts and set up their own wills in opposition to what God has said, will they seek to take away the ray of light from those who have been longing and praying for light and for vivifying power. Christ has registered all the hard, proud, sneering speeches spoken against His servants as against Himself.” Ibid., 673.

Character assassination never occurs without a motive or purpose. As human beings we cannot read the motive or purpose behind actions, but the Spirit of Prophecy, the testimony of Jesus, can do this. The Spirit of God can discern what is in the spirit of any and all men. What did the Spirit testify? “There was a spirit coming in taking possession of the churches, that if permitted would separate them from God as verily as the churches who refused light that God sent them in messages of warning and of light that they might advance in regard to His second coming to our world.…I was told this spirit had been gathering strength for years and the leavening influence was at work and spiritual life was going out of the churches.” Ibid., 296, 297. [All emphasis supplied throughout.]

“I could but have a vivid picture in my mind from day to day of the way reformers were treated, how slight difference of opinion seemed to create a frenzy of feeling. Thus it was in the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus—all this had passed before me point by point. The Satanic spirit took control and moved with power upon the human hearts that had been opened to doubts and to bitterness, wrath and hatred. All this was prevailing in that meeting. I decided to leave the meeting, leave Minneapolis.” Ibid., 309.

“The Spirit of God is departing from many among our people. Many have entered into dark, secret paths, and some will never return. They will continue to stumble to their ruin. They have tempted God, they have rejected light. All the evidence that will ever be given them they have received, and have not heeded. They have chosen darkness rather than light, and have defiled their souls. No man or church can associate with a pleasure-loving class, and reveal that they appreciate the rich current of truth which the Lord has sent to those who have simple faith in His word. The world is polluted, corrupted, as was the world in the days of Noah. The only remedy is belief in the truth, acceptance of the light. Yet many have listened to the truth spoken in demonstration of the Spirit, and they have not only refused to accept the message, but they have hated the light. These men are parties to the ruin of souls. They have interposed themselves between the heaven-sent light and the people. They have trampled upon the Word of God, and are doing despite to His Holy Spirit.” Ibid., 1335, 1336.

“While at Minneapolis many things were opened before me in regard to the propositions made by A.R. Henry and others. These plans were not inspired by the Spirit of God. If you had then stood in the love of God, you would have been able to distinguish between righteousness and unrighteousness. Plans were formed regarding the anagement of the work which could not bear the light of day; for the signature of heaven was not upon them. Those who made these propositions had no idea of where their plans and imaginations would carry them. They did not realize that they would be led to subvert right principles, to obtain control of facilities that they might manage matters according to their own ideas, to build up what they pleased and to bind about what they pleased. This planning and devising was not carried on in a frank open way, but in a way which caused God to write opposite their names, they have dissembled. They have falsified. They have worked according to the deceptive practices of Satan, in order to establish a confederacy.” Ibid., 1684.

“God would have the church roll away her reproach, but as long as men who have felt fully competent to work without accepting counsel of God are kept in office year after year, this cannot be done. This state of things is leavening every branch of the work, because men do not feel their need of the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When men feel competent to pronounce judgment and condemn the Holy Spirit, they do a work for themselves which will be difficult to counteract. The whole head becomes sick and the discernment so weak that it is apt to judge unrighteously. The Spirit still calls, but they do not hear nor heed the call of God.” Ibid., 1292, 1293.

From the above statements (similar ones could be greatly multiplied) the following conclusions can be drawn:

  1. Men of influence (leaders) were engaged in character assassination of the messengers. A wrong spirit was in control. A Satanic spirit and a slight difference of opinion created a frenzy of feeling.
  2. The Spirit of God departed from many who had interposed themselves between the light and the people.
  3. One of the main factors involved in the rejection of the light was that certain leaders were making plans regarding the management of the work which would allow them to obtain control of facilities and manage matters according to their own ideas to build up what they pleased and bind about what they pleased.
  4. And these leaders were kept in office year after year, without accepting counsel of God, and this was leavening every branch of the work.

When Satan Rules

An acceptance of the message in 1888 would have made it impossible for #4 and #5 above to be carried out. But Ellen White said: “To-day, as in Christ’s day, Satan rules the minds of many. O that his terrible, fearful work could be discerned and resisted. Selfishness has perverted principles, selfishness has confused the senses and clouded the judgment. It seems so strange that notwithstanding all the light that is shining from God’s blessed word, there should be such strange ideas held, such a departure from the spirit and practice of the truth. The desire to grasp large wages, with a determination to deprive others of their God-given rights, has its origin in Satan’s mind; and by their obedience to his will and way men place themselves under his banner. Little dependence can be placed in these that have been taken in this snare, unless they are thoroughly converted and renovated; for they have been leavened by wrong principles, which they could not perceive were deleterious in their effect. . . . If men would only give up their spirit of resistance to the Holy Spirit, the spirit which has long been leaving their religious experience, God’s Spirit would address itself to their hearts. It would convince of sin. What a work! But the Holy Spirit has been insulted and light has been rejected. Is it possible for those who for years have been so blind to see? Is it possible that in this late stage of their resistance their eyes will be anointed? Will the voice of the Spirit of God be distinguished from the deceiving voice of the enemy?

“There are men who will soon evidence which banner they are standing under, the banner of the Prince of life, or the banner of the prince of darkness. If they could only see these matters as they are presented to me, if they could only see that, as far as their souls are concerned, they are as men standing on the brink of a precipice, ready to slide over to the depths below.” Ibid., 1493, 1494.

Could it really be? Could it be that leading men in Adventism were under the control of Satan and had insulted the Holy Spirit and were on the brink of a precipice? Could it be that the leaders in the Second Advent Movement who had dedicated their lives to spreading the Third Angel’s Message were actually standing under the banner of Satan and not under the banner of the Lord? Can you believe it? According to the Spirit of Prophecy this was the situation.

The question now is not just what should you do as a church member in a situation like this. The question is not just what should you do if you were one of the leaders in this situation. The question is not just what should a prophet do in a situation like this. The question is, What will God do in a situation like this? We know that, “Our divine Lord is equal to any emergency. With Him nothing is impossible.” Signs of the Times, January 3, 1906.

Because of what happened in Minneapolis, in 1888, Seventh-day Adventists were to learn the same bitter lesson that ancient Israel experienced in the wilderness when the Lord said to them, “ye shall feel My breach of promise.” Numbers 14:34. (Geneva Bible).

After this, no longer could they hope that of “the company present at the Conference” (in 1856) some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 131, 132. No longer could they imply assume that everything would progress with no change until the Second Coming of Jesus. Big changes, in the way God was going to finish the work, were on the horizon because they would not accept correction in 1888. Big changes were far less than twenty years away.

To be continued …