Editorial – The Infallible Guide, Part I

Informed Seventh-day Adventists do not claim infallibility for inspired writings in the strictest sense of the word: “We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn. God and heaven alone are infallible. Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion, will be disappointed. As long as we hold to our own ideas and opinions with determined persistency, we cannot have the unity for which Christ prayed.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 37.

“The Bible is written by inspired men, but it is not God’s mode of thought and expression. It is that of humanity. God, as a writer, is not represented. Men will often say such an expression is not like God. But God has not put Himself in words, In logic, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible. The writers of the Bible were God’s penmen, not His pen.” Ibid., 21.

“Some look to us gravely and say, ‘Don’t you think there might have been some mistake in the copyist or in the translators?’ This is all probable . . . All the mistakes will not cause trouble to one soul, or cause any feet to stumble, that would not manufacture difficulties from the plainest revealed truth.” Ibid., 16.

Notice that in the above statement Ellen White is talking about mistakes in the Bible. We do not possess one autograph of one book of the Bible and, as she indicated, mistakes have occurred in the copying process. We know this because when we compare various Greek and Hebrew manuscripts they do not all agree word for word. This is true for the received text, (Textus Receptus) the majority text, and all other ancient textual families of the scriptures. Both in the Bible and the writings of Ellen White grammatical mistakes were made in the writing. This is evident in the Greek New Testament and in the Spirit of Prophecy.

Concerning the Spirit of Prophecy writings given through Ellen White, she wrote, “In regard to infallibility, I never claimed it; God alone is infallible.” Ibid., 37.

Historic Adventists know that the writings of Ellen White were inspired in the same way and to the same extent (prophetic inspiration is an either-or situation) as the Bible, but infallibility in the strictest sense of the word is not claimed for either.

In addition to grammatical mistakes, Ellen White gives us the following insight into mistakes in the Bible. “I saw that God had especially guarded the Bible; yet when copies of it were few, learned men had in some instances changed the words, thinking that they were making it more plain, when in reality they were mystifying that which was plain, by causing it to lean to their established views, which were governed by tradition. But I saw that the Word of God, as a whole, is a perfect chain, one portion linking into and explaining another.” Early Writings, 220, 221.

Even though there are many mistakes, in every translation, which do indeed affect a person’s theological beliefs. And it is for this very reason that we, like William Miller use concordances to check our understanding of the text. We still know that in a larger sense the Bible is infallible, namely it is an infallible guide to eternal life. Not one person will be able to claim in the day of judgment that he attempted to live by every word in the Bible and was lost in consequence. We must compare Scripture with Scripture and follow the weight of evidence, even when we cannot explain every text on a subject.

How to be sure that you will be saved:

“It [the Bible] is an infallible guide under all circumstances, even to the end of the journey of life. Take it as the man of your counsel, the rule of your daily life.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 264.

“They [young people] are infatuated with the subject of courtship and marriage, and their principal burden is to have their own way. In this, the most important period of their lives, they need an unerring counselor, and infallible guide. This they will find in the word of God. Unless they are diligent students of that word, they will make grave mistakes.” Review and Herald, January 26, 1886.

“Christ will be to you an infallible guide if you will choose Him before your own blind judgment. . . . If you had trusted to the True Counselor instead of to your own judgment, you would ever have been guided out of your perplexities in your business transactions.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 457.

The following testimonies have application to the quibbling over the Ellen White writings that we see today, which was exactly what was being done to the Bible in her day:

“The testimony is conveyed through the imperfect expression of human language; yet it is the testimony of God.” Review and Herald, September 30, 1906.

“Brethren, cling to your Bible, as it reads, and stop your criticisms in regard to its validity, and obey the Word, and not one of you will be lost.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 18.

The Need for Certainty, Part I

Bible prophecy is very clear that a short time before Jesus returns again, there is going to be a time of trouble such as has never been since there was a nation. And God’s people will not be meeting together in churches during that time. Some will be in prisons, some will be in caves, some will be in dungeons, some will be in dens, some will be in forests or in the rocks of the mountains. But when you are in situations like that, you will know that Jesus is coming very soon, and if you have faith, it will be one of the most exciting times of your life. The question is will you have faith?

Some years ago I became acquainted with a man who had gone as a self-supporting missionary to Mexico in 1956. That country is almost entirely Roman Catholic in religion. However, he was a Protestant missionary, and as he became acquainted with people and studied the Bible with them, many in that part of the country became Protestant. He told me when he went to Mexico there were only about fifteen thousand Protestants in the whole area, and now there are almost three hundred thousand.

The same thing happened in Guatemala. Approximately thirty percent of the Guatemalan people are now Protestants. For many years, I have seen evidence that millions of former Roman Catholic people, from around the world, have become Protestant. However, sometimes a Protestant becomes a Roman Catholic. A book was recently published describing the experiences of eleven Protestants who became Roman Catholic. I was interested in finding out what these individuals were looking for and what they found, so I read a review of this book.

What is Mankind Searching For?

First, I discovered that these people were completely confused concerning the biblical meaning of who and what is the church. What does the Bible say that the church really is? There are a lot of Protestants today who do not know, and if you do not know who and what the church is, you might become a Roman Catholic some day.

In this book, I discovered that there was something for which all of these people were searching. When they became Roman Catholics they thought that they had found it. They were searching for certainty. They wanted to know for sure that they knew the truth. Do you know for sure that you know the truth? Unless you know that your beliefs are the truth, one of these days you are not going to believe what you believe now. You are going to be swept off your feet by the pressure that is going to come in the last days. It is important to know for sure that you know the truth. We are living in an age when many well-educated people do not seem to know anything for certain.

Several years ago I was attending a meeting in Dallas, Texas. It was not a religious meeting. It was a convention where nutritionists and dieticians were meeting with people from the public school system in Dallas. A public school educator asked these experts in nutrition and diet the following question: “I would like to know what you know for sure about nutrition.” I was very interested in the answer that they gave him. They said, in essence, “We do not know anything for sure.” And I thought to myself, “Well if these people do not know anything for sure, why should I go to them for counsel and advice?”

A minister recently spoke to a physician who had attended a medical meeting. At this meeting reports were given concerning new advances and discoveries in the field of medical science. One lecturing physician said, “Now we know statistically, from looking at the past, that approximately half of what I just told you will be proved, in the future, to be wrong.” He said, “The trouble is, I do not know which half it is.” That is a nice way to say that you are terribly uncertain about what you are thinking and about what you are doing.

Several years ago I spoke to a physician at a rehabilitation program where we were trying to help people who had heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. He told me about how he was trained to treat these problems when he was a young physician back in the 1940s. He treated his own mother for high blood pressure, and he told me, “I know now, that what I told my mother to do for high blood pressure was exactly the wrong thing to do, but I did not know it then.”

Uncertain Times

Today, we are living in a time of uncertainty. The theory today is proven wrong tomorrow. As people see one theory after another proven wrong, they soon do not have certainty about anything, or confidence in anything. They know what looks like certainty today will be proved wrong tomorrow. So today, as in no other time, people have a need to know something for certain.

Do you know anything for sure? Are you absolutely sure that what you know is infallibly so? How important is it to know something for sure? Revelation 13:15–17 says, “He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”

Here is predicted a time, in the very near future, when, if you do not worship the beast or have the mark of the beast, you will be told that you cannot buy groceries. Perhaps you say, “No problem, if it is that tough I will just accept whatever it is. I will just accept the mark of the beast or worship the beast or whatever I have to do. I have to eat.” That is your choice. If that is what you want to do, you can. But if you accept the mark of the beast, or worship the beast, notice what is going to happen to you. “Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.’ Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:9–12. Notice, you can accept the mark of the beast so you can buy and sell, if you want to do so, but if you do, God says that you are going to receive the wrath of God.

The world that we live in today is approaching the most stupendous crisis of world history, and this is what the crisis is going to be about. You must either receive the wrath of men, who are telling you that you cannot buy or sell, or you are going to receive the wrath of God, who says, “I am going to put you in hellfire if you do this.” It is going to be one way or the other. You are going to have to decide which you are going to endure. When this time comes, is it going to be important for you to know for sure what you believe? Are you going to risk your life with threatened imprisonment and death, unable to buy or sell? Are you going to risk all of that for something of which you are unsure? Why no! No one risks their life for something that they are unsure of. You had better find out for sure what you believe. Is there certainty, something that you can know absolutely for sure, that is infallible, and cannot be proved false? There is!

Is the Church of God Infallible?

Millions and millions of Christians believe that the thing that is infallible in the world, the thing that can bring certainty to people, is the church. They believe the organized church, or its leaders, to be infallible. They quote Matthew 16:18 where Jesus said to Peter, “on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Have you studied this out in the Bible? According to the Bible, is the church, any church, infallible? Absolutely not!

How long has God had a church? In Acts 7:38 we read, “This is He who was in the congregation [the church] in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us.” So God had a church in the wilderness with the Children of Israel when He gave them His law from Mount Sinai. God had a church, and that church was the church of the Old Covenant, the church in the Old Testament. It was the Jewish Church, the Children of Israel, and it was their mission to take the gospel to all the nations of the world. God told them in Isaiah 49, “You are to be a light to the nations, a light to the Gentiles.” And there were some Gentiles that became part
of the church. They even became the progenitors of the Messiah. Have you read, in your Bibles, the story of Ruth? She was not an Israelite by lineal descent. She was a Moabite woman, but she became a part of the Israelite Church and became part of Israel.

Then there is the story of Rahab. And there are the stories of many others in Old Testament times, like Naaman, who became part of God’s people. But as we read the story of God’s church in the Old Testament, was God’s Old Testament Church infallible? No, they went into apostasy over and over again. A large part of the Old Testament deals with their apostasy. Daniel talks about this very problem, and he says in Daniel 9:11, “Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him.”

Jesus commented on their apostasy in Matthew 23:31–35. “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”

Was the church in Old Testament times infallible? Oh no, they killed the prophets Jesus said. In fact, Jesus said to them, “Show me which one of the prophets you did not try to kill. Show me one.” Who was it that instigated the crucifixion of our Lord and Saviour? It was God’s chosen people, His church. It was not the Romans, because Pilate was not in favor of it. The Romans just did what the church coerced them into doing. The church was responsible for the crucifixion of the Lord.

Infallible Apostles?

Some may think that New Testament times would be different, because Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 that the gates of Hades would not prevail against His church. Well, was the New Testament Church infallible or not? Let us look at the church at Corinth. Paul writes in I Corinthians 3:1, 3: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. For you are still carnal.” They were in apostasy. Galatians 3:1 tells us just how bad the church in Galatia was. “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?” Does that sound like an infallible church? No! The church in New Testament times went into apostasy too. The church was not infallible and the leaders of the church were not infallible.

Acts 21:18 talks about the apostles and leaders of the apostolic church. In this instance they were not infallible, they made a dreadful mistake that resulted in the imprisonment of the apostle Paul. Acts 21:18 says, “On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.” These were all the elders of the General Conference Church, the Apostolic Church, and you can read in that chapter about what they did there. The decision they made was a mistake and resulted in the apostle Paul going to prison. They were not infallible.

A Great Apostasy

After the time of the apostles, not only was the church not infallible, but Paul and Peter predicted that a great apostasy would develop within the church itself. In Acts 20:28–30 Paul addresses the church leaders in Ephesus, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves.”…Here Paul says that among the bishops, the elders of the apostolic church in Ephesus, this apostasy was to come. He says, “I know that after my departure also among yourselves, men will rise up speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” He is predicting that right in the heart of the Christian church, among the leadership of the Christian church, a great apostasy is going to develop.

Paul knew that the Second Coming of Christ was not going to happen right away; something else was going to have to happen first. He wrote, “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day [the Second Coming of Christ] will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4. Paul says that a man of sin is going to come, and he is going to come into the temple of God (the church); he is going to be a leader of the church, and he is going to show that he, himself, is God.

All the early Christian fathers read this text. Chrysostrum, one of the early Christian fathers living about the fourth century, was a bishop in Constantinople. When he read this passage he taught the people in Constantinople that the antichrist power was going to rise up right in the church, and it was going to arise from the leadership in the church. That is what the early Christian fathers taught.

The book of Revelation clearly shows that the church is not infallible. The church could go into apostasy. Revelation 2:18–26 talks about a church in Thyatira and the Lord says to this church, “You have allowed Jezebel to come right into your church and to deceive people right in the church.”

It is very clear all through the New Testament that all the apostles taught the infallibility of the church. The theologians were not infallible (Galatians 1), the church councils were not infallible (Acts 21:18), the leaders of the church, the bishops, were not infallible (Acts 20), even the apostles were not infallible. Paul wrote, “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.… But when I saw that they were not straight forward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?’” Galatians 2:11–14. So, Peter himself was not infallible. That is what the New Testament teaches. Peter made a very serious mistake and the apostle Paul had to rebuke him in public.

To be continued…

The Need for Certainty – Part II

In Part 1 of this article we learned that all of the apostles taught the infallibility of the church. Even the apostles, themselves, were infallible. If this is the case, in such an uncertain world and uncertain times, in what, then, can we believe?

The One Infallible, Certainty!

How can you know with certainty, how can you know with infallible certitude, exactly what you believe? How can you know for sure? This is a question that every Bible- believing Christian needs to understand. Where can you find certainty? How can you know for sure that something is infallible, that all the demons of hell or the governments of the world cannot change it because it is the truth? Where can you find that kind of certainty? That is what people are looking for today. We read from the Bible in Revelation 2:18–26 that you cannot get it from the church, you cannot get it from church councils (See Acts 21:18), you cannot get it from theologians (See Acts 20). You cannot even get it from the apostle Peter.

Since you need to know for a surety, I will show what is absolutely for certain. It is infallible. It has infallible certainty. You can know the truth, and by means of the truth you can have salvation, if you choose it. We will go to a source that is accepted by every Roman Catholic in the world. We will go to a source that is accepted by Protestants. We are going to go to the apostle Peter himself.

We see in Galatians 2 that Peter himself was not infallible, but Peter knew the source of infallible certainty. He knew where to get it, and he tells us where we can get it. He says, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming [that is the Second Coming] of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.” 2 Peter 1:16–18. Here, Peter is referring to a story in Matthew 17.

In Matthew 16:28 Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” Now who were the ones that were standing right there that were not going to see death until they saw the Son of Man coming in His kingdom?— Peter, James and John. How could He say that? Because, in just a few days Jesus was going to show them, in miniature, what the Second Coming of Christ would be like. We read in the very next chapter, Matthew 17:1–5, “Now after six days [six days after Jesus’ statement in Matthew 16:28] Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’” Notice, Jesus was transfigured before them into a glorious personage, just as He will appear in the clouds at His Second Coming, and there were two people talking with Him. One of them was Moses, who had died on Mount Nebo as recorded in Deuteronomy, but Jude tells us Moses had been resurrected from the dead and taken to heaven. Who did Moses represent? Moses represented all those who have died in Christ. We all probably know someone, a Christian who loved and followed Jesus, who has died. But they are not going to stay dead, because Jesus is coming again. The graves are going to open up, and they are going to come up in the clouds. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 the dead in Christ are going to rise first, so Moses represents those who have died in Christ but who will be resurrected to go with the Lord. Elijah was also there, and the book of Kings tells us that Elijah was taken by a chariot of the Lord up into heaven. Who did Elijah represent? Since he never died, and never will, he represents the people who are living on the earth in the last generation and who are ready to meet the Lord. You see, the Transfiguration was a symbol of the Second Coming of Christ, in miniature. And, you notice, Peter was one of the ones that saw this. He heard the voice of the Father saying out of the luminous cloud, “This is My beloved Son. The Jews may decide to crucify Him. They may decide to spit in His face. The Roman Soldiers may nail Him to a cross, but just remember, this is My Son in whom I am well pleased. You listen to Him.”

So Peter says to the people, “What we told you when we preached about the Second Coming of Christ and His coming in glory, it was not some cunningly devised fable. It was not something that we made up. We were eyewitnesses of His majesty. We saw it. We heard it.” But now remember what you need? You need something that is infallible. You need something that you know absolutely for certain. Do you know that there is something that is even more certain than what the apostles saw? They saw the Second Coming of Christ in miniature; they heard the voice of God themselves, and they reported it to us.

An Even More Sure Word

But there is something that is even more certain than that. Look at 2 Peter 1:19, “We also have the more sure prophetic word.” More sure than what? Made more sure than what you see and hear. It is infallible! The church is not infallible, the theologians are not infallible, the preachers are not infallible, even the apostles are not infallible, but the Word of the Lord, the word of prophecy is infallible. It is more sure than what you see and hear, and you can depend on it. It will never ever fail.

Do you know how many learned people have tried to prove the Bible is wrong? They have been trying for hundreds of years. My grandfather was one of them. There was a time when he was a skeptic. William Miller was, at one time, a skeptic. These people tried to prove that the Bible was wrong. They used to say, “There never were any people like the Hittites.” The Bible talks a lot about the Hittites. They said, “Somebody made that up, because we do not have any record that there were any Hittites.” They are not saying that any more, because archeologists have found abundant evidence in the Middle East of a large nation in ancient times called the Hittites.

People used to say, “There never was a king Belshazzar as written of in Daniel, because we do not have any record of it in the Greek records of the Babylonian kings.” But, archeologists have since discovered a great deal of evidence, so no one is arguing today whether Belshazzar existed. They all know that they were wrong.

That is what happens every time skeptics try to prove the Bible wrong. The Bible is an infallible guide to truth. Peter says it is more sure than what you see and hear. It is infallible. You can depend on it.

“We also have the more sure prophetic word which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:19–21.

Whenever this subject comes up there immediately is a controversy between Roman Catholics and Protestants. Roman Catholics say that the church gave us the Bible. The Protestants say that the Bible gave us the church. Which is so? Let us go to the Bible itself for the answer. In James 1:17, 18, James is talking to the Christian church, as you can see in verse seventeen, and he says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will [It is not talking about the church here, it is talking about God in heaven.] He brought us [the church] forth….” Who is the parent here, and who is the child? The parent is God in heaven; the child is the church.

The church was formed by the Word of God. The Word of God produced the church. The church does not produce the Word.

I have been questioned about how we acquired the Bible. Jesus, Himself, tells us. “Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’” Luke 24:44. Those are the three divisions of the Hebrew Bible that contain exactly the same books that we have today in the Old Testament. Jesus confirms that we still have the same books in the Old Testament as they had in His day. It is infallible. You can depend on the Old Testament.

How about the New Testament? Jesus answers that for us, also. “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth [Holy Spirit] who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” John 15:26, 27. Who did Jesus say was to bear witness to the whole world that He was the Messiah? It was the apostles. He selected them. The early church did not produce the New Testament. Do not ever get confused on that. That is a lie. The apostles wrote the New Testament under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and the church received it from them. The Bible is not the word of the church. The Bible is the Word of the Lord.

The early church understood this concept. There were all kinds of people (see Revelation 2 and 3), who were coming to the early church saying, “I am an apostle.” The early church tested these people claiming to be apostles and found out that they were liars. The early church had one simple rule as to whether a book should appear in the New Testament—was it written by an apostle? All of the books in the New Testament came from apostles.

Peter knew the prophetic Word was Scripture. He says, “…that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” 2 Peter 3:15, 16. Peter recognized that the apostle Paul’s writings were Scripture. The apostle Paul wrote over half the books in the New Testament, so there is the evidence for over half the books in the New Testament. This Book, the Scriptures, is infallible.

“Oh,” somebody says, “can you really say something like that?” Yes, I can. “But aren’t there some mistakes in the Bible? Did the translators make some mistakes? Did the copyists make mistakes?” Let me ask you something. Suppose you received a letter. The person who wrote you the letter dictated it to his secretary, and the secretary misspelled a word. The person told you the truth, but the secretary they dictated the letter to misspelled a word. Do you throw out the letter as being in error? No. This is what happened with the Bible. When we look at the Greek text, we can see that the people the apostles dictated to sometimes made a grammatical mistake. It does not change the message. I want to tell you something. It is all true. It is infallible. If you follow it, you will be saved.

The Strongest Arguments

The two strongest evidences in the Bible that prove that it is infallible are:

1 Fulfillment of prophecy. Prophecy has been fulfilled over and over and over again.

Just a hundred years ago people who were studying Bible prophecy said, “The time is going to come in the United States when this country is going to get very close to Rome.” And people said, “Oh no, this is a Protestant country; that will never happen here.” But it is happening here! How did they know that? They knew it from studying Revelation 13, 14 and 17.

As a boy I can remember when all the different churches were split up. There were people who studied Bible prophecy in Revelation 17 who said, “According to Revelation 17 there is going to be a movement when all the churches are going to try to get together.” People did not believe them. The Bible told the truth nineteen hundred years ago. It is that way with every single Bible prophecy.

Infallibility. This is the strongest proof of all that the Bible is true, that it is infallible. In Romans 8 the apostle explains the Gospel. He shows how a sinner, who cannot save himself, can have his sins taken away by the blood of Christ. If he puts his trust in Jesus, all of his guilt can be taken away; his life can be changed; he can receive the Holy Spirit, and he can live a new life. Then in Romans 8:16 Paul says, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” When you surrender your heart to Jesus as your Lord and Saviour from sin, the Holy Spirit changes your heart. The Holy Spirit comes in, changes your heart, and takes away the hate, the bitterness, the anger, the clamor, the competition, the sourness, the negativeness; all these awful things of sin that have ruined your life and ruined your family, the Holy Spirit takes them all away. That is the strongest evidence that the Bible is infallible and that it is true! And that is what all the apostles taught.

Maybe you have tried a hundred times to change. Mark Twain said that it is not hard to stop smoking. He said, “I quit smoking a thousand times.” That means that he started again at least nine hundred ninety-nine times. You may say, “I am not going to speak that way anymore to my wife because it hurts her,” and then you do it again. You try, and you try, and you try, and you find out, like the Bible says, that the sinner is in hell. He is bound with the cords of his sins, and there is nothing he can do about it. The Holy Spirit sets you free and gives you the power. He gives you a new heart so that you think differently; you feel differently; you speak differently; and everybody says, “What has happened? This is not the same person anymore.” The Holy Spirit is living inside, and when the Spirit bears witness with your spirit that you are a child of God, you are not a child of the devil anymore. You do not have covetousness anymore. You do not have wrath, anger, clamor and strife in your home anymore, because you have given your heart to the Lord, and you have the peace of heaven in your heart and in your home. When that happens, that is a miracle that all the philosophy, all the psychology, all the sociology, all the learning of this world cannot produce. None of those things can give you a new heart. Only the Holy Spirit can do that, and that happens when you yield yourself to Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.

The strongest proof that the Bible is true is the miracle that God has worked in your life. No matter how many unbelievers there are, you know the Bible is infallible and it is true, because it has happened to you.

Do you want that miracle to happen in your life? It can. Even if you are the worst sinner, it can happen to you. Paul said that Jesus came to this world to save sinners “of whom I am chief.” I Timothy 1:15. Paul was a murderer, you know, and the people he murdered were not criminals. They were holy people. Do you want Jesus to come into your heart and your life to give you a new heart? That is a Bible promise. The Lord says, “I will give you a new heart, a new spirit. If you will seek me with all your heart you are going to find me.” (See Ezekiel 26:36, Jeremiah 29:13.) Jesus said, “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,…and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28–30.

Do you want to come? Do you say, “Lord Jesus I want the strife, the anguish, the trouble, the anger, the wrath, the bitterness, all of these awful things that sin has produced, out of my life; I want a new heart! Is that what you want? Only He can give it to you, and He will give it to you, if you want it. He said, “If you come to Me I will give you rest for your souls.” Ibid. You will have the evidence that the Bible is so. It is the infallible proof of the Christian religion. It is infallible, and if you follow and do what it says, you will be saved.

Do You Really Love Jesus? Part II

Let us look at some of the ingenious ways the devil has used to unsettle the faith of the remnant. One, of course, is just plain saying that Ellen White was not a true prophet. We are going to look at the ways in which the authority of the Spirit of Prophecy is undermined by those who claim to believe.

First, those who profess to believe will say, “Well, yes, but the Bible is the greater light and Ellen White is the lesser light.” Have you heard that? We have all heard it, I am afraid. Let us take a look at that statement, and see what it means and what it does not mean.

Who is He that Gave Thee This Authority?

The real question, actually the bottom line question we are examining in this whole study, is the authority of the Spirit of Prophecy. Is it a greater authority? Is it a lesser authority? Is the Bible infallible, but the Spirit of Prophecy has some mistakes and contradictions in it? Is the Bible true, but something is false in the Spirit of Prophecy? Is it the Bible we need to obey, but we do not need to obey the Spirit of Prophecy? Is this true, or are all of these things false? Are the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy equal in terms of authority, accuracy, reliability and infalibility so that we need to obey all of it? This is the bottom line question.

The first thing we need to question is what would make the Spirit of Prophecy a lesser light? There is not a greater Holy Spirit and a lesser Holy Spirit. No, the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy are both inspired by the same Holy Spirit. “The Holy Ghost is the author of the Scriptures and of the Spirit of Prophecy.” Selected Messages, book 3, 30.

Hebrews 6:18 and Titus 1:2 say that it is impossible for God to lie. So is anything a lie that has been inspired by the Holy Ghost? No. Well, that answers the question of whether there is anything in the Spirit of Prophecy that is untrue.

With this consideration, why would the Spirit of Prophecy be a lesser light? “. . . Through the Testimonies . . .God has seen fit. . . to bring the minds of His people to His Word, to give them a clearer understanding of it.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 31.

So the Testimonies are to give us a clearer understanding of the Word of God, the Bible. “The Lord has given me much light. . . .it has been given to correct specious errors and to specify what is truth.” Ibid., 32. I do not know if that could be any clearer. “God has. . . promised to give visions in the ‘last days;’ not for a new rule of faith, but for the comfort of His people. [Have you ever been comforted by the Spirit of Prophecy? Amen! But it does not stop at that.], “and to correct those who err from Bible truth.” Ibid., 29.

“. . . the Lord has given special testimonies to His people, not as a new revelation, but. . . that errors may be corrected . . . that every soul may be without excuse.” Ibid., 31.

Without Excuse

Well, according to that quote, is the lesser light excuse valid? No, the Spirit of Prophecy was given so we would be without excuse. Earlier we read that God said to Ellen White, “Dedicate yourself to the highest work ever committed to mortals.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 39. So in mission and message her work is as important as any of the Bible prophets, equal in grace and authority.

The next argument we hear to undermine the authority of the Spirit of Prophecy is, “I go by the Bible and the Bible alone. Sola Scriptura.” Have you ever heard that one? Some even quote Mrs. White’s statement that if we study the Bible appropriately, we would not need the Spirit of Prophecy. (See Testimonies, vol. 5, 665.) Maybe you have read that.

Before the flood the people did not have books; they did not even have the Bible. Ellen White says that they were so intelligent, they could remember everything and transmit it to their posterity unimpaired. (See Patriarchs and Prophets, 83.) As mankind’s physical and mental abilities declined, God began to give inspiration through written form. The Bible was given because there was a need, and it was because there was a need that the Spirit of Prophecy was given.

“It is Satan’s special object to prevent this light [of the Spirit of Prophecy] from coming to the people of God, who so greatly need it amid the perils of these last days.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 667. There is a similar quote in Selected Messages, book 3, 84: “. . . all who believe that the Lord has spoken through Sister White, and has given her a message, will be safe from the many delusions that will come in these last days.”

There are many delusions going around, but those who have implicit faith in the Spirit of Prophecy are not being deceived. It is those who are undermining the authority of the Spirit of Prophecy who are being misled. We need to pray for these people; we need to love them; but we need to share with them the seriousness of this subject.

Sola Scriptura was a very good thing during the Protestant Reformation, but the Spirit of Prophecy had not been given then. The contrast was between the Bible and traditions, the traditions of man and the Papacy. So in this day and age the principle applies Sola Inspirationa. We go by the inspiration, and inspiration alone, rather than the traditions of man.

Some professed believers quote: “Lay Sister White to one side. Do not quote my words again as long as you live until you can obey the Bible.” Selected Messages, book 3, 33. This quote is referring to obeying the Bible, not referring to understanding or interpreting the Bible. It does not say anything against using the Spirit of Prophecy to correct misunderstandings of the Bible. It is talking about those who are not obeying the Bible, those who are clearly breaking God’s Biblical Law but who are trying to hammer people over the head with the Spirit of Prophecy.

Infallible Message or Infallible Prophet?

Was Ellen White infallible? She says, “I have never claimed it.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 37.

Do not say that there are mistakes in the Spirit of Prophecy merely because she says she was not infallible. There is a big, big difference between a prophet being fallible and a prophetic message being fallible. Ellen White was fallible. She was a human being. She made mistakes just like every other human being, just like every other prophet.

“Enoch, Noah, Moses, Daniel and the long roll of patriarchs and prophets…were not infallible.” Gospel Workers, 1915 edition, 13. Ellen White stated she was not infallible. “In regard to infallibility, I have never claimed it.” Selected Messages, book 1, 37. She is stating the difference between herself and the message that God has given through her.

Other people ask, “Why do you put Ellen White above the Bible?” Well, you could ask them, “Why does the Bible put the Spirit of Prophecy and all true prophets above your interpretation of the Bible?” That is really what it is; they are putting their interpretation of the Bible above the Spirit of Prophecy. Neither one is above or below each other in terms of accuracy.

There are no errors in either one. How could one be above the other in terms of accuracy or reliability? They are both equal in that sense. You could also say, “I do not put Ellen White above the Bible; I put Ellen White above you.”

Some may say, “Well some things she wrote were inspired, and some things she wrote were not inspired.” Let us examine several aspects of that statement.

Read in context the section titled “The Nature and Influence of the Testimonies” in Testimonies, vol. 5, 654-691. Some pull out the sentence: “If the Testimonies speak not according to the Word of God, reject them.” Ibid., 691. They say, “See, if you read something in the Testimonies, and it contradicts something in the Bible, throw it out.”

This Work is of God, or it is Not!

But if you read this sentence in context, she is saying exactly the opposite. She is talking about the entire writings of the Spirit of Prophecy, all of her testimonies, everything that God gave to her. They are either of God, or they are of the devil. They are either in harmony with the Bible, or they are not. If they are not in harmony with the Word of God, if they are of the devil, then reject them—all of them. If they are of God, then accept all of them. That is what it means in context.

Notice this: “This work is of God, or it is not. God does nothing in partnership with Satan. . . .There is no halfway work in the matter. The Testimonies are of the Spirit of God, or of the devil.” Ibid., 671. That is putting it in context. Also in context, it says, “If you lose confidence in the Testimonies you will drift away from Bible truth.” Ibid., 674. “In many cases the Testimonies are fully received. In other instances . . .the Testimonies are rejected, and many excuses which are untrue are offered to others as the reason for refusing to receive them.” Ibid., 675.

Many excuses, that is exactly what we are looking at. Every one of the excuses we are covering are untrue, but they are offered to people as reasons for not believing the Spirit of Prophecy.

“If the Testimonies speak not according to the Word of God, reject them.” Ibid., 691. Do not by your criticisms take out all the force, all the point and power, from the Testimonies. Do not feel that you can dissect them to suit your own ideas, claiming that God has given you the ability to discern what is light from heaven and what is the expression of mere human wisdom. “If the Testimonies speak not according to the Word of God, reject them. Christ and Belial cannot be united. For Christ’s sake do not confuse the minds of the people with human sophistry and skepticism, and make of none effect the work that the Lord would do.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 691. The last great deception will be to make of none effect the Spirit of Prophecy. “The Bible must be your counselor. Study it and the testimonies God has given; for they never contradict His Word.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 32. Nothing in the Spirit of Prophecy ever contradicts the Bible. Isaiah 8:20.

One of the tests of a true prophet says, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” They are either a true prophet or a false prophet. There is nothing in between.

The Arguments Continue from Unsanctified Minds

Another argument you will hear is, “I believe that what she saw in vision was inspired, but the other things are uninspired.” As with the other fallacies, you could do the same thing with the Bible. The majority of the Bible was not given specifically in vision, so we could throw much of the Bible out on that same basic premise.

“They said: ‘We believe Sister White’s testimonies; but when she tells us things that she has not directly seen in vision, her words are of no more account to us than the words of any other person.’” Testimonies, vol. 5, 687.

Now notice the response: “The Spirit of the Lord came upon me, and I arose and rebuked them in the name of the Lord.” Ibid.

Another excuse you hear is that Ellen White was influenced, or some of what she wrote was influenced, by others. “There are those who say, ‘Someone manipulates her writings.’ I acknowledge the charge. It is One who is mighty in counsel, One who presents before me the condition of things.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 64. God is the one who influenced her writings. “What you have said, Sister D, influenced me not at all. My opinion has nothing to do with what God has shown me in vision.” Ibid., 63.

And that leads to, “Well, you know, that was just her own opinion.” That is just another way to say that it was not inspired. “This over here was inspired, but that was her opinion.”

“In no case have I given my own judgment or opinion. I have enough to write of what has been shown me, without falling back on my own opinions.” Ibid., 70. “Many times in my experience I have been called upon to meet an attitude of a certain class, who acknowledged that the testimonies were from God, but took the position that this matter and that matter were Sister White’s opinion and judgment. This suits those who do not love reproof and correction, and who, if their ideas are crossed, have occasion to explain the difference between the human and the divine. . . . Everything that sustains their cherished ideas is divine, and the testimonies to correct their errors are human—Sister White’s opinions.” Ibid., 68.

How convenient, I might add. Is it not strange how the things that agree with what they believe are inspired, and things with which they do not agree, just happen to be what was uninspired, or her opinions. She goes on to say, “They make of none effect the counsel of God by their tradition.” Ibid. Another way to make of none effect the Spirit of Prophecy.

Still others say that the things she wrote in personal letters to other people, were not inspired.

“You might say that this communication was only a letter. Yes, it was a letter, but prompted by the Spirit of God. . . . In these letters which I write, . . . I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 67.

Once again, what do we have in the Bible, the New Testament? Letters to different people. Are these letters from God? Yes, they are! Please note, “. . . there are times when . . . common letters must be written. Such are not given under the special inspiration of the Spirit of God.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 39. (Read pages 38 and 39 for a clearer understanding of this subject.) It is true that Ellen White wrote common letters which were not inspired by the Holy Spirit.

But even this quote has been misused. I have seen people reject things based on this quote. They say, “Well that was just a common letter.” But Mrs. White defines what is a common letter and what is not a common letter in the very next sentence. It says, “Questions are asked at times that are not upon religious subjects at all, and these questions must be answered. We converse about houses and lands. . . ” Ibid. That would be a common letter; one that was not inspired, but anything that is on a religious subject is just as inspired as is the Bible.

Those Who Criticize the “Word” of God Need Fear and Tremble!

“In the very same way that they treat the writings in my published articles and in my books, so do skeptics and infidels treat the Bible.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 19. The very same principle we have been covering, that can be used to undermine the Spirit of Prophecy, skeptics and infidels use on the Bible.

“When men venture to criticize the Word of God, they venture on sacred, holy ground, and had better fear and tremble and hide their wisdom as foolishness. God sets no man to pronounce judgment on His word, selecting some things as inspired and discrediting others as uninspired. The testimonies have been treated in the same way; but God is not in this.” Ibid., 23.

“I would have both my arms taken off at my shoulders before I would ever make the statement or set my judgment upon the Word of God as to what is inspired and what is not inspired. . . . Never let mortal man sit in judgment upon the Word of God or pass sentence as to how much of this is inspired and how much is not inspired, and that this is more inspired than some other portions. God warns him off that ground. God has not given him any such work to do.” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 919.

So, from now on, if anybody comes to you with any of these ideas, you do not have to read all the quotes we have printed here, just read them this one in the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary. Tell them, “I will be glad to hear all you have to say on this subject as soon as you come back to me with both your arms amputated.” I do not believe you will have many who wish to pursue the subject.

For further study: Who is He That Gave Thee This Authority? [See Luke 20:2] by Paul Rahoi. You may write:
Cornerstone Ministries,
P.O. Box 212,
Cedarpoint, IL 61316.

Much to Learn, Much More to Unlearn

Those who are on a quest for an infallible church will be sorely disappointed, for there is no such thing.

Often, we here at Steps to Life are criticized for calling ourselves historic Seventh-day Adventists and not believing all that our pioneers believed. Ellen White, writing to the church in the official publication of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, The Review and Herald, at a time when most of the pioneer Adventist ministers were still alive, said, “We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn.” Ibid., July 26, 1892.

The Lord led William Miller and the Adventist pioneers to understand the heavenly sanctuary, the law of God, the Second Coming of Christ, the judgment, and many other things, but that does not mean there has been no growth since that time. The pioneer Adventists were still using calamine, mercury, and all manner of dangerous drugs, and many were still eating pork in the 1850s before light was given on the health reform. Many of them were still using tobacco in 1844. In fact, it is recorded that in 1850 when J. N. Loughborough went to a physician he was prescribed tobacco for a medicine. So, when we say we are historic Adventists, it does not mean we are exactly the way they were. We should have growth as time goes on and that involves learning new things and unlearning others.

“God and heaven alone are infallible. Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion, will be disappointed. As long as we hold to our own ideas and opinions with determined persistency, we cannot have the unity for which Christ prayed.” Ibid.

There is no infallible church. I am happy to say that from my little research I have discovered that the Protestant churches in general have never claimed infallibility. The Roman Catholic Church alone makes that claim.

Ellen White never claimed infallibility for herself or even for the Bible. Now that comes as a shock to some Adventists, because there is a sense in which the Bible is infallible. She believed that if everybody would take the Bible and read it for himself or herself and study it, even if they did not have the opportunity to be where the word of God is preached, that not one soul would be lost. The Bible is an infallible guide to salvation, but it is not infallible in an absolute sense; neither is the Spirit of Prophecy nor does it claim to be. Let me give you some examples.

Speaking of the same event, in the Old Testament the Bible mentions that 24,000 people died in one day (Numbers 25:9), and in the New Testament, referring to the same event, it says that 23,000 died (I Corinthians 10:8). There are unbelievers who list all the contradictions of the Bible to discredit the message of salvation. At one time Ellen White referred to a sanitarium that had 40 beds. A physician went to that sanitarium and counted the beds. He then wrote to Ellen White telling her she was wrong; there were only 39. He was then tempted to conclude that the Spirit of Prophecy was not inspired because of her mistake in the count. Both the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy use rounded numbers of which there are many illustrations.

As a sophomore at Walla Walla College, Walla Walla, Washington, U.S.A., and in my second year of Greek, we had an assignment to translate the whole book of Revelation verse by verse from Greek into English. Some students were surprised to find that Greek was not the apostle John’s native language but a second language. The book of Revelation was written while he was banished on the isle of Patmos. It was written in Greek because it was the language that most people could read. His native language was Aramaic, and because he was alone without a secretary, it was found that there were some grammatical mistakes in the Greek text. That bothered some people, although there is nothing wrong with the message he presented. Later, after he had been set free, he wrote the gospel of John. At that time he had access to a professional secretary, and the gospel is in well-written Greek.

Ellen White had only a second or third grade education, and in her original writings she made quite a few grammatical mistakes. Her husband James corrected them for her. Some people have a real problem with that. The message in the Spirit of Prophecy, just like in the Bible, if read, studied and followed, ensures that person will not be lost.

No one will come to the Day of Judgment and say to the Lord they were not given the right version and now they are lost. These incidental grammatical mistakes will not cause you to be lost. We need to understand this so we do not take extreme positions on inspiration as many Protestants have done. Some believe that the word of God, the Bible, is infallible in the original text and that all mistakes are due to copyist errors. Well, if you understand how the Spirit of Prophecy came, you understand the fallacy of that argument.

Referring to the “so called” infallible church, Ellen White says, “It is one of the leading doctrines of Romanism that the pope is the visible head of the universal church of Christ, invested with supreme authority over bishops and pastors in all parts of the world. More than this, the pope has arrogated [been given] the very titles of Deity. He styles himself ‘Lord God the Pope,’ assumes [has been declared] infallibility [unable to make a mistake], and demands that all men pay him homage. Thus the same claim urged by Satan in the wilderness of temptation is still urged by him through the Church of Rome, and vast numbers are ready to yield him homage.” The Great Controversy (1888), 50.

“Another step in papal assumption was taken, when, in the eleventh century, Pope Gregory VII proclaimed the perfection of the Romish Church. Among the propositions which he put forth, was one declaring that the church had never erred (it is infallible) nor would it ever err, according to the Scriptures. But the Scripture proofs did not accompany the assertion.” Ibid., 57. There were no Scriptural proofs. Scripture does not teach infallibility of the pope or the church.

If the church was infallible, then the book of Galatians would never have had to be written. Paul had to rebuke Peter because of his faults (Galatians 2:11–14). How could Peter, who made many mistakes, pass on infallibility to his successors if it was something he did not have himself?

“The proud pontiff also claimed the power to depose emperors, and declared that no sentence which he pronounced could be reversed by anyone, but that it was his prerogative to reverse the decisions of all others.” Ibid. On what did the papacy base their claim for infallibility?

The Jews made their claim to infallibility and the infallibility of their organization on the basis of Jeremiah 31:35–37: “Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (the Lord of hosts is His name): ‘If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the Lord, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the Lord.’ ” That passage was used over and over again to prove that they were the true church, and because Jesus did not accept them, He could not be the Messiah.

The papacy made its claim to infallibility also based on an inspired statement in the words of Jesus Himself. In Matthew 16:17–19, it says, “ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ ”

The keys to the Kingdom of Heaven are the words of Jesus. Those words were written down by the apostles and have been recorded in the New Testament. When the gospel is preached, everybody gets bound and everybody gets loosed. Let me explain how it works.

You hear the gospel and accept it. You are bound to Christ with cords; bonds that will never be broken. “Laying up treasure in heaven will give nobility to the character; it will strengthen benevolence, encourage mercy; cultivate sympathy, brotherly kindness, and charity. It will unite the soul of man with Christ, by links that can never be broken.” The Review and Herald, September 18, 1888.

In fact, your relationship to Christ will be closer than angels that have never fallen. “Because we believe and act out that we are members of the Royal Family, children of the Heavenly King, bound to Jesus.” Mind, Character and Personality, vol. 1, 175.

But, you will also be loosed. If you accept the gospel, you will be loosed from the slavery of sin. You will be loosed from your guilt and released from the power of sin in your life. “So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” Luke 13:16.

If you accept the gospel, you will be bound, and you will be loosed. But what if you hear the gospel and you reject it? You will also be bound. You will be bound with the cords of your sin so that you cannot get free. The Bible is very clear about this. But, you will also be loosed. If you reject the gospel, you will be released from any hope of everlasting life. Everyone that hears the gospel is bound and loosed.

But let’s look carefully at Matthew 16:18: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” The Catholic Church claims this text as proof that their church is eternal—forever. I love the way that text is written, “the gates of Hades will never prevail against it.” The New Testament was written in human language. Hades is a word from Greek mythology. The Greeks did not understand the state of death and had been deceived just like the Egyptians. Ellen White stated that as soon as Adam and Eve sinned, the devil instructed his angels that they were to convince men that they had immortality. (See The Great Controversy, 534.) People had to be convinced that something within them still went on living after they died. The different nations had different names for it. In Egypt it was called Ra. It was the belief of immortality of the soul.

Hades was believed to be a place under the earth that is very hot where people go for punishment. During the last two hundred years before Jesus was born, the Jews had begun to study Greek Philosophy and Jesus used that very theory, wrecking it for them when He showed them that all their ideas about it were not going to work. The story He told was of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.

The idea was that when you died you went to Hades to be purified. It was a precursor to the theory of purgatory that came along later. If you were really bad, instead of going to Hades, then you could be cast clear down to Tartarus, which in Greek mythology was lower than Hades. It is interesting that the word Tartarus is used once in the New Testament. The apostle Peter says that God cast the angels that sinned down to Tartarus; in other words, a place lower than the grave, Hades. Hades was a place of the dead, so when the New Testament uses Hades, it is talking about the grave.

When it says the gates of Hades are not going to prevail against Christ’s church, it means the grave is not going to prevail against Christ’s church, because Jesus is coming back and all of His people will be set free from the grave. That is going to be exciting. Though you may die, it is just a temporary sleep, for if you are in Christ, you will be raised up again.

The Catholic Church claims this text to prove she is infallible. However, there is a condition that somehow people forget. The church is built on the rock. Though the Catholic Church claims to be built on Peter and Peter is the rock, there is a problem. The New Testament was written in Greek. The Greek language is like Spanish and German and French that have masculine and feminine words.

A masculine or feminine word must also have a masculine or feminine adjective. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “I say to you that you are Petras [a stone, a Greek masculine word], and upon this Petra [a large boulder or rock, a feminine word] I will build My church.” The genders of the words do not agree. Petra is not the same word as Petras. The closest you could come to it in English would be: “I say unto you, you are Mr. Rock, and on this Mrs. Rock I will build My church.” Jesus did not mean that the church was built on Peter.

Peter himself recognized that. He said, “Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’ Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.’ They stumble being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.” I Peter 2:6–8.

Peter never taught that he was the rock on which the church was built. He taught that Jesus was that Rock. Paul also is very specific about this. He tells the people in Ephesus that they are members of the household of God; then describes the church: “Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being [joined] fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” Ephesians 2:20, 21.

The church, built on the Rock, Jesus Christ, is the only one that will not fall, and the gates of Hades or the gates of the grave will not prevail against it.

Jesus said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” Matthew 7:24–27.

The church that is built on the Rock obeys the teachings, the words of Jesus. To the church claiming to be infallible based on a misunderstanding of Scripture, God says, “Another angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.’ ” Revelation 14:8.

“He cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, ‘Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.’ And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.’ ” Revelation 18:2–4.

While the Christian world today is saying, “Let’s all get together,” God is saying, “Come out, because there is sin in the camp, and if you participate in the sin you are also going to participate in the plagues.”

God continually sends the church, through both the Old and New Testaments, a message of rebuke and reproof, appealing to them to forsake their sins and be saved. It is dangerous to be in a church that is in open sin, be aware of it, and get used to it so that it doesn’t bother you anymore. By supporting it with time, money and influence, you endorse the errors and share in its guilt.

Jesus says, “Come out!” It’s very interesting that in the Roman Catholic Bible, it says, “Go out.” In the Protestant Bible it says, “Come out.”

To participate in giving the last warning message to the world, you must understand that Babylon is fallen and what has caused her to fall.

“Thus the message of the third angel will be proclaimed. As the time comes for it to be given with greatest power, the Lord will work through humble instruments, leading the minds of those who consecrate themselves to His service. The laborers will be qualified rather by the unction of His Spirit than by the training of literary institutions. Men of faith and prayer will be constrained to go forth with holy zeal, declaring the words which God gives them. The sins of Babylon will be laid open. The fearful results of enforcing the observances of the church by civil authority, the inroads of spiritualism, the stealthy but rapid progress of the papal power—all will be unmasked. By these solemn warnings the people will be stirred. Thousands upon thousands will listen who have never heard words like these. In amazement they hear the testimony that Babylon is the church, fallen because of her errors and sins, because of her rejection of the truth sent to her from heaven.” The Great Controversy, 606, 607.

Babylon falls because of her errors and sins. Now we’re not talking about a sin of stumbling or a sin that’s committed by mistake. These are not sins of ignorance or a sin of stumbling but because of open sin of which she refuses to repent and forsake. The true church is to be organized, but the organization is not the true church. The organized body of Christ is the church of God by profession, but character determines whether that profession is true or not.

Martin Luther, John Calvin and all of the reformers who were at one time staunch Roman Catholics had been taught that their church was the spouse of Christ; it was infallible. Finally, they figured out that with all that was happening it could not be the true church. Then who and what is the true church?

Ellen White quotes what Melanchthon said: “In the days of the Reformation, the gentle and pious Melancthon declared, ‘There is no other church than the assembly of those who have the word of God, and who are purified by it.’ ” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, 237. A profession is not enough!

“God has a church. It is not the great cathedral, neither is it the national establishment, neither is it the various denominations; it is the people who love God and keep His commandments.” The Upward Look, 315.

“From the beginning, faithful souls have constituted the church on earth.” The Acts of the Apostles, 11.

And then this shocking statement about Adventists: “Those who become confused in their understanding of the Word, who fail to see the meaning of antichrist, will surely place themselves on the side of antichrist.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 949.

“Those who keep God’s commandments, those who live not by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, compose the church of the living God.” Ibid.

You see, the issue is not if you make a profession, because the true church not only makes a profession but they have a character that is in harmony with their profession.

[Bible texts quoted are NKJV translation.]

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Free Seventh-day Adventist Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.

Lives of Unfaithfulness

There are hundreds of millions of people in the world today, and have been in times past, who believe there is an infallible church. But, there is no such thing.

The first church I have studied about in history that believed this was the Jewish church. “The Jewish people cherished the idea that they were the favorites of heaven, and that they were always to be exalted as the church of God. They were the children of Abraham, they declared, and so firm did the foundation of their prosperity seem to them that they defied earth and heaven to dispossess them of their rights. But by lives of unfaithfulness they were preparing for the condemnation of heaven and for separation from God.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 294.

The Jews were confident that they were the true church and always would be. They defied earth and heaven to deprive them of their rights. But heaven had a response to that kind of self-confidence and sent them a message and a messenger to shake them out of their self-complacency. You can read it from the Bible in a sermon that John the Baptist preached. This is what he said in Matthew 3:7–12: “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’ ”

The Jews were the descendants of Abraham and claimed the right to the covenant that God made with Abraham (Genesis 17). God promised Abraham that He would be God to his children and that they would be His people and He promised to Abraham’s children special blessings.

Some people would say that there is a lot of sin in the church. But even though that is the case, the church is going to go through, because the Lord has promised us, through the prophet Jeremiah that the church is going to go through no matter how much sin is in it. “Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (the Lord of hosts is His name): If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the Lord, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever. Thus says the Lord: ‘If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the Lord.’ ” Jeremiah 31:35–37.

And they would read that and they would say, “Do you see here what the prophet Jeremiah said? He said, ‘As long as the sun is in the sky and the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, that long, the children of Israel are going to remain.’ ” So, is the sun still in the sky? Well, yes. Does the moon still come up at night? Well, yes. Are the stars still in the sky? Well, yes. Then if that is so, we are God’s people.

What they did not understand was, Who is the real Israel? I have been told, with great confidence by Adventist ministers, that the Jewish nation was God’s people right up until Matthew 23:38 and 39. This belief is contrary to the words of Jesus and the words of John the Baptist who told them not to even think they were Abraham’s children. It is no wonder so many Adventists have been deluded on this point, because many of our ministers have the very same delusion that the Jews had in the time of John the Baptist.

The Jewish leaders were so deluded that just before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, in 70 A.D.,

“The leaders of the opposing factions at times united to plunder and torture their wretched victims, and again they fell upon each other’s forces and slaughtered without mercy. Even the sanctity of the temple could not restrain their horrible ferocity. The worshipers were stricken down before the altar, and the sanctuary was polluted with the bodies of the slain. Yet in their blind and blasphemous presumption the instigators of this hellish work publicly declared that they had no fear that Jerusalem would be destroyed, for it was God’s own city.” The Great Controversy, 29.

Ellen White goes on to say that right until the time the Romans came in and slaughtered them all, plowed and totally destroyed the whole city, they thought that Jerusalem could not be destroyed because they were God’s people and Jerusalem was God’s city. Over a million people lost their lives because of that delusion. They really believed they were God’s people and could prove it from the Bible.

In the book, The Desire of Ages, 107, Mrs. White explains very clearly what John the Baptist, who, according to Jesus, there was not anyone born of women greater than him (Matthew 11:11), was talking about. He clearly defined who the church is and who the people of God really are.

“ ‘And now also,’ said the prophet, ‘the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire’ [Matthew 3:10]. Not by its name [Israel], but by its fruit, is the value of a tree determined. If the fruit is worthless, the name cannot save the tree from destruction.” John declared to the Jews that their standing before God was to be decided by their character and life and not whether they could trace their genealogy. John the Baptist taught that profession was worthless, and if their lives and characters were not in harmony with God’s law, they were not His people. That principle is still true today.

God had called the Jewish nation and their mission was to represent Him on the earth. However,

“The people whom God had called to be the pillar and ground of the truth had become representatives of Satan.” Ibid., 36.

A very sober message was given to the church of today that in these last closing days of earth’s history ministers are going to have to give a message that is even straighter than that given by John the Baptist. One wonders how this can be possible when John the Baptist addressed the leaders of the Jewish church, calling them a bunch of poisonous snakes and not to even think they were children of Abraham. In other words, do not think that you are the church just because of your heritage.

Jesus said, “ ‘I know that you are Abraham’s descendants [according to the flesh] but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.’ They answered and said to Him, ‘Abraham is our father’ [the same argument they used with John the Baptist]. Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.’ Then they said to Him, ‘We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.’ ” John 8:37–44.

Notice what Jesus is saying here. He first acknowledges that they are the physical descendants of Abraham, but He says, “You are not really the children of Abraham.” Why? “You do not have the same character or the same religious experience that Abraham had; you don’t have the same connection with God that Abraham had, so spiritually, you are not the children of Abraham at all. Your spiritual father is the devil.” This is the same thing that John the Baptist said. It is character that counts and not profession.

Ellen White explains this same concept:

“The Pharisees had declared themselves the children of Abraham. Jesus told them that this claim could be established only by doing the works of Abraham. The true children of Abraham would live, as he did, a life of obedience to God. They would not try to kill One who was speaking the truth that was given Him from God. In plotting against Christ, the rabbis were not doing the works of Abraham. A mere lineal descent from Abraham was of no value. Without a spiritual connection with him, which would be manifested in possessing the same spirit, and doing the same works, they were not his children.

“This principle bears with equal weight upon a question that has long agitated the Christian world—the question of apostolic succession.” The Desire of Ages, 466, 467.

Apostolic succession is the theological theory that God gave the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven to the apostle Peter, and he was the first bishop of Rome, passing the keys on to the next bishop of Rome, right on down to the two hundred and sixty-fifth one we have today. The theory goes that the bishop of Rome has authority over the church because the keys given to Peter have been passed on right to this present day.

“Descent from Abraham was proved, not by name and lineage, but by likeness of character. So the apostolic succession rests not upon the transmission of ecclesiastical authority, but upon spiritual relationship. A life actuated by the apostles’ spirit, the belief and teaching of the truth they taught, this is the true evidence of apostolic succession. This is what constitutes men the successors of the first teachers of the gospel.” Ibid., 467.

The successors of the first teachers of the gospel are the people who have the same spirit that they had, those who teach the same things that they taught. The Jews misunderstood who it was that truly represented Israel. They thought that by making a profession and joining their church, then you were part of Israel. But John the Baptist said no, a profession without a corresponding character is nothing.

If what was true then is still true now, then a true Seventh-day Adventist is not just somebody who makes a profession of the Adventist faith; it is somebody whose character backs up his or her profession. “God is honored, not so much by the great number, as by the character of those who serve Him. He appreciates moral worth. He draws the dividing line between those who bear His name by profession, and those whose character shows them to be His children.” The Signs of the Times, June 30, 1881. That is an interesting statement. Let us think that through.

It says that God “draws a dividing line.” Now this dividing line, by the way, is drawn through every church. Every professing Christian is either on one side or the other of this dividing line. On one side are those who bear His name by profession, and on the other side are those whose character shows them to be His children. Jesus is coming soon, and there are many people who have been deceived into thinking that by their profession they will be saved. We do not believe that. We believe that a character that is in harmony with it must back up the profession. The New Testament is full of instruction on this point. Look for example in the book of Titus. Paul wrote to the young minister about problems they were having with some people who were professing to be Christians. Notice the problem: “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” Titus 1:16.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly [that is, without being intoxicated], righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Titus 2:11–14.

The message that the apostle preached was not a message that you could be saved by profession of faith alone when your character was out of harmony.

So who is Israel?

“But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called.’ That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God [those who make a profession]; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed [those whose character is in harmony with their profession].” Romans 9:6–8.

Let me repeat, God has drawn a dividing line in our church, and every single one of us who professes the Adventist faith is on one side or the other of that dividing line. Paul emphasizes this over and over again to the Roman church. “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” Romans 2:28, 29.

Again, saying it about as plain as it can be said: “For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, ‘I have made you a father of many nations’) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” Romans 4:13–17.

If you belong to Christ, you are Abraham’s seed, you are Israel. That is what Paul said to the Galatians, in Galatians 3. If you have been baptized into Christ, if you belong to Christ, you are Abraham’s seed. You are Israel, and even if you can claim a genealogy that goes all the way back to Abraham, if you do not believe in Christ, you are not Abraham’s seed.

“Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.” Galatians 3:7.

In Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, 204, there is a statement that was written to Seventh-day Adventist physicians, but it applies to all of us. It says, “A profession of Christianity is not sufficient to constitute us Christians. We must each have the character manifest by our divine Pattern.”

There is a dividing line in the Adventist church. If you profess the Adventist faith, you are on one side or the other of the dividing line. On what side are you? The Christian religion is the most attractive and spiritual of all religions. The reason is that in the Christian religion Jesus Christ makes decisions in your behalf on the basis of your choice, the decisions that you make in your mind, and not just by going through some ritual.

If you want to follow Jesus, not just by profession but actually learn how to live His life, to become like Him, God will hear that, and He will answer that prayer. John said, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” I John 3:2.

It will be a terrible disaster to come to the Day of Judgment and find yourself on the wrong side of the great divide. Choose today the right side; Jesus is waiting to answer your plea for help to save you.

(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Free Seventh-day Adventist Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.