Bible Study Guides – Religious Intolerance

October 17, 2010 – October 23, 2010

Key Text

“If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” John 7:17.

Study Help: The Great Controversy, 293–295; Testimonies, vol. 6, 402, 403.


“In all ages Satan has persecuted the people of God.” The Acts of the Apostles, 576.

1 When the three Hebrews were miraculously delivered in the time of Daniel, how did the king err, even as he acknowledged God’s greatness? Daniel 3:28, 29.

Note: “It was right for the king to make public confession, and to seek to exalt the God of heaven above all other gods; but in endeavoring to force his subjects to make a similar confession of faith and to show similar reverence, Nebuchadnezzar was exceeding his right as a temporal sovereign. He had no more right, either civil or moral, to threaten men with death for not worshiping God, than he had to make the decree consigning to the flames all who refused to worship the golden image. God never compels the obedience of man. He leaves all free to choose whom they will serve.” Prophets and Kings, 510, 511.

2 In all ages, how have unconverted religionists dealt with dissenters? Acts 4:1–3, 15–18.

Note: “[In the first centuries] it required a desperate struggle for those who would be faithful to stand firm against the deceptions and abominations which were disguised in sacerdotal garments and introduced into the church. The Bible was not accepted as the standard of faith. The doctrine of religious freedom was termed heresy, and its upholders were hated and proscribed.” The Great Controversy, 45.

3 How does God describe the type of scene that fosters religious intolerance and triggers persecution against the faithful? Isaiah 65:2–5.

Note: “The Cain-spirit, which leads men to accuse, condemn, imprison, and put to death their fellow-men, has waxed strong in our world. The transgressors of God’s plain commands are inspired by the spirit of Satan to harm their fellow-men, because they differ from them in religious belief. They disregard God’s law, enacting man-made laws, and trying, by their cruel inventions, to compel men to blaspheme God, as they themselves are doing. But they have been given no right to do this. Those who pass sentence of pain and death upon their fellow-men because of a difference of religion, will have just such sentence passed upon them if they continue to transgress. By their works they bear testimony that should Christ come the second time as He came the first time, they would reject Him and put Him to death.” The Signs of the Times, March 21, 1900.

4 What teachings of Christ strike at the heart of intolerance? Matthew 7:12; John 14:15.

Note: “It is no part of Christ’s mission to compel men to receive Him. It is Satan, and men actuated by his spirit, that seek to compel the conscience. Under a pretense of zeal for righteousness, men who are confederate with evil angels bring suffering upon their fellow men, in order to convert them to their ideas of religion; but Christ is ever showing mercy, ever seeking to win by the revealing of His love. He can admit no rival in the soul, nor accept of partial service; but He desires only voluntary service, the willing surrender of the heart under the constraint of love. There can be no more conclusive evidence that we possess the spirit of Satan than the disposition to hurt and destroy those who do not appreciate our work, or who act contrary to our ideas.” The Desire of Ages, 487.

“The character of God is expressed in His law; and in order for you to be in harmony with God, the principles of His law must be the spring of your every action.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 391.

5 With what words did Christ seek to correct the bitter intolerance found even among His beloved disciples? Luke 9:54, 55.

6 What contrast did He present to those who use force? Revelation 3:20; John 6:66–69.

7 What can we learn from Christ’s methods of reaching hearts and enlisting workers? Revelation 3:18; Matthew 4:17–20.

Note: “Our ministers and teachers are to represent the love of God to a fallen world. With hearts melted in tenderness let the word of truth be spoken. Let all who are in error be treated with the gentleness of Christ. If those for whom you labor do not immediately grasp the truth, do not censure, do not criticize or condemn. Remember that you are to represent Christ in His meekness and gentleness and love. We must expect to meet unbelief and opposition. The truth has always had to meet these elements. But though you should meet the bitterest opposition, do not denounce your opponents. They may think, as did Paul, that they are doing God’s service, and to such we must manifest patience, meekness, and long-suffering.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 120.

8 What attitudes must we steadfastly avoid when discussing sacred truth with those whose views may differ from our own? Luke 11:52–54.

Note: “There are some who indulge in levity, sarcasm, and even mockery toward those who differ with them. Others present an array of objections to any new view; and when these objections are plainly answered by the words of Scripture, they do not acknowledge the evidence presented, nor allow themselves to be convinced. Their questioning is not for the purpose of arriving at truth, but is intended merely to confuse the minds of others.

“Some have thought it an evidence of intellectual keenness and superiority to perplex minds in regard to what is truth. They resort to subtlety of argument, to playing upon words; they take unjust advantage in asking questions. When their questions have been fairly answered, they will turn the subject [and] bring up another point to avoid acknowledging the truth. We should beware of indulging the spirit which controlled the Jews.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 108.

9 How does the prophet illustrate the manner of preaching the Word during the long period when religious intolerance was predominant? Revelation 11:1–3.

Note: “ ‘They shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.’ Revelation 11:3. During the greater part of this period, God’s witnesses remained in a state of obscurity.” The Great Controversy, 267.

10 Why does the Lord permit such terrible persecution and trials to come upon His people? I Peter 1:7; II Timothy 3:12.

Note: “ ‘The Lord is not slack concerning His promise.’ 11 Peter 3:9. He does not forget or neglect His children; but He permits the wicked to reveal their true character, that none who desire to do His will may be deceived concerning them. Again, the righteous are placed in the furnace of affliction, that they themselves may be purified; that their example may convince others of the reality of faith and godliness; and also that their consistent course may condemn the ungodly and unbelieving.” The Great Controversy, 48.

“In all ages Satan has persecuted the people of God. He has tortured them and put them to death, but in dying they became conquerors. They bore witness to the power of One mightier than Satan. Wicked men may torture and kill the body, but they cannot touch the life that is hid with Christ in God. They can incarcerate men and women in prison walls, but they cannot bind the spirit.” The Acts of the Apostles, 576.

11 What experiences reveal the character of God in His true followers? Matthew 3:11, 12; 20:22.

Note: “Through trial and persecution the glory—the character—of God is revealed in His chosen ones. The believers in Christ, hated and persecuted by the world, are educated and disciplined in the school of Christ. On earth they walk in narrow paths; they are purified in the furnace of affliction. They follow Christ through sore conflicts; they endure self-denial and experience bitter disappointments; but thus they learn the guilt and woe of sin, and they look upon it with abhorrence. Being partakers of Christ’s sufferings, they can look beyond the gloom to the glory, saying, ‘I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.’ Romans 8:18.” The Acts of the Apostles, 576, 577.

12 To what did Paul direct the attention of believers when strengthening their faith for the time of persecution before them? Acts 14:22.

13 When men allow the spirit of Satan to lead them to persecute and attempt to force the conscience, what should we always remember? Matthew 10:28; 5:11, 12.

Additional Reading

“ ‘Remember your church covenant, in which you have agreed to walk in all the ways of the Lord, made or to be made known unto you. Remember your promise and covenant with God and with one another, to receive whatever light and truth shall be made known to you from His written word; but withal, take heed, I beseech you, what you receive for truth, and compare it and weigh it with other scriptures of truth before you accept it; for it is not possible the Christian world should come so lately out of such thick antichristian darkness, and that full perfection of knowledge should break forth at once.’—Martyn, vol. 5, pp. 70, 71.

“It was the desire for liberty of conscience that inspired the Pilgrims to brave the perils of the long journey across the sea, to endure the hardships and dangers of the wilderness, and with God’s blessing to lay, on the shores of America, the foundation of a mighty nation. Yet honest and God-fearing as they were, the Pilgrims did not yet comprehend the great principle of religious liberty. The freedom which they sacrificed so much to secure for themselves, they were not equally ready to grant to others. ‘Very few, even of the foremost thinkers and moralists of the seventeenth century, had any just conception of that grand principle, the outgrowth of the New Testament, which acknowledges God as the sole judge of human faith.’—Ibid., vol. 5, p. 297. The doctrine that God has committed to the church the right to control the conscience, and to define and punish heresy, is one of the most deeply rooted of papal errors. While the Reformers rejected the creed of Rome, they were not entirely free from her spirit of intolerance. The dense darkness in which, through the long ages of her rule, popery had enveloped all Christendom, had not even yet been wholly dissipated. Said one of the leading ministers in the colony of Massachusetts Bay: ‘It was toleration that made the world antichristian; and the church never took harm by the punishment of heretics.’—Ibid., vol. 5, p. 335. The regulation was adopted by the colonists that only church members should have a voice in the civil government. A kind of state church was formed, all the people being required to contribute to the support of the clergy, and the magistrates being authorized to suppress heresy. Thus the secular power was in the hands of the church. It was not long before these measures led to the inevitable result—persecution.

“Eleven years after the planting of the first colony, Roger Williams came to the New World. Like the early Pilgrims he came to enjoy religious freedom; but, unlike them, he saw—what so few in his time had yet seen—that this freedom was the inalienable right of all, whatever might be their creed. He was an earnest seeker for truth, with Robinson holding it impossible that all the light from God’s word had yet been received. Williams ‘was the first person in modern Christendom to establish civil government on the doctrine of the liberty of conscience, the equality of opinions before the law.’—Bancroft, pt. 1, ch. 15, par. 16. He declared it to be the duty of the magistrate to restrain crime, but never to control the conscience. ‘The public or the magistrates may decide,’ he said, ‘what is due from man to man; but when they attempt to prescribe a man’s duties to God, they are out of place, and there can be no safety; for it is clear that if the magistrates has the power, he may decree one set of opinions or beliefs today and another tomorrow; as has been done in England by different kings and queens, and by different popes and councils in the Roman Church; so that belief would become a heap of confusion.’ Martyn, vol. 5, p. 340.” The Great Controversy, 292–294.

©2005 Reformation Herald Publishing Association, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission.

Religious Liberty and the Church

We do not believe in putting too much confidence in impressions; however, we all have them. Recently I came across the notes of a sermon preached by my brother, Marshall, in Australia during the late 1980s. Though I had not heard it, I was aware of the concepts therein, as I was publicly challenged by a number of his elders and deacons denying those things to be really true.

Some people think that the church will continue to sink downwards into more and more apostasy and then, all of a sudden, bang, at the end, it is just going to spring up perfect. That is not the way it works. If you go deeper and deeper into apostasy, the end result is destruction.

God’s great desire is that He might have a pure and glorious church that is without spot or wrinkle or any such thing (Ephesians 5:27). Each church member has been called to be a steward guarding its spiritual interests, but as Jesus warned, while men slept, an enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat (Matthew 13:25).

God has ordained four basic ways to purify the church and protect it from being taken over by the tares.

New Members

The church is to exercise loving and judicious care when accepting new members into the church. “When a person presents himself as a candidate for church membership, we are to examine the fruit of his life, and leave the responsibility of his motive with himself. But great care should be exercised in accepting members into the church; for Satan has his specious devices through which he purposes to crowd false brethren into the church, through whom he can work more successfully to weaken the cause of God.” Evangelism, 313.

Baptism represents a death to sin. By it, the candidate makes a statement that he/she has chosen to leave his/her sinful life behind and walk in newness of life, a life that is in harmony with God’s law. This, according to the New Testament, is the condition of the person who is welcomed into church membership. It needs to be remembered that the church is not a club for saints; it is a hospital for sinners. The person who has not made a decision for baptism and chooses to live in sin should also be welcome to come to church, but that person who is openly living in sin, or one who has violated his/her baptismal vow and continues to live in sin, cannot be a church member.

Church Members

Matthew 18:15–17 spells out clearly the procedure to follow when a brother sins against a brother. If I sin against you, you are to come to me and speak with me about what I have done against you. But, if I will not listen to you, you then are to take one or two more and come and talk to me and say, “Look; what you have done is wrong.” If I still refuse to listen after the first two steps, then the matter is to be taken to the church.

Incidentally, Matthew 18 is not referring to difference of opinion. If you look in the Greek text, Jesus said, “If your brother sin against you.” This is specifically referring to a sin, breaking one of the last six commandments against you. The counsel is to labor with that person. If the sin is never acknowledged, the results will be disastrous. “If the sins of the people are passed over by those in responsible positions, His frown will be upon them, and the people of God, as a body, will be held responsible for those sins. In His dealings with His people in the past the Lord shows the necessity of purifying the church from wrongs. One sinner may diffuse darkness that will exclude the light of God from the entire congregation.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 265.

Open sin must not be allowed in the church. That does not mean that the open sinner cannot be saved, but the person who is living in open sin and continues in open sin cannot remain in the church, according to the teaching of Matthew 18.


This is not our favorite way of purifying the church; however, it is one way that God uses. In response to the prayers of his servants, God sends judgments on the church. Elijah prayed because of the sins of the children of Israel and God sent judgments so that it did not rain for three years and 6 months, or 1,260 days, on that land (I Kings 17).

In the early church, judgments came upon Ananias and Sapphira who sold property and then lied saying they had given all of the proceeds to the church while keeping back part of the money for themselves (Acts 5:2). The problem was not that they kept some of the money; they could have offered half or a portion of the proceeds, but they lied. Peter said to them, “You have not lied to men, you have lied to God, because you have lied to the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:4). Ananias immediately fell dead and three hours later his wife came in and told the same lie. Peter said, “The same people that carried your husband out will carry you out.” Immediately she dropped down dead. Verses 5, 7–10.

Ellen White writes about this. She says, “The Spirit of truth revealed to the apostles the real character of these pretenders, and the judgments of God rid the church of this foul blot upon its purity. This signal evidence of the discerning Spirit of Christ in the church was a terror to hypocrites and evildoers. They could not long remain in connection with those who were, in habit and disposition, constant representatives of Christ.” The Great Controversy, 44. This judgment kept unconverted people from joining the church, but it did not prevent them from soul winning and believers were multiplied to the church.

In our own denominational history as Seventh-day Adventists, God has also sent judgments because of backsliding into apostasy.

In 1902, there were two fires that burned down two of the headquarter institutions. Ellen White wrote, “In visions of the night I saw a sword of fire hung out over Battle Creek.

“Brethren, God is in earnest with us. I want to tell you that if after the warnings giving in these burnings the leaders of our people go right on, just as they have done in the past, exalting themselves, God will take the bodies next. Just as surely as He lives, He will speak to them in a language that they cannot fail to understand.” The Publishing Ministry, 171. That is a scary statement, if the lesson is not learned! Next time, it will not be the buildings; it will be the bodies. It is clear by this statement that judgments are not over yet.

Preaching the Straight Testimony

God purifies His church through the preaching of the straight testimony. This is also referred to in Revelation 3:14–22.

“The searching testimony of the Spirit of God will separate those from Israel who have ever been at war with the means that God has ordained to keep corruptions out of the church. Wrongs must be called wrongs. Grievous sins must be called by their right name. All of God’s people should come nearer to Him. … Then will they see sin in the true light and will realize how offensive it is in the sight of God. The plain, straight testimony must live in the church, or the curse of God will rest upon His people as surely as it did upon ancient Israel because of their sins.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 676.

These four methods are God’s true ways for maintaining and purifying the church and there is going to be a pure church when Jesus comes. We just read it in Ephesians 5:27 and you can read the same thing in Revelation 19:7, 8 and also in I John 3.

There is also another method being used. It is more popular than any of the four methods previously mentioned, but it is a counterfeit and produces the exact opposite result. People think that it will purify the church, but because it involves apostasy, it leads the church astray every time. Throughout the ages, church legislation and persecution have been the most popular method used to try to preserve and purify the church.

Whenever the church has tried to maintain church order by giving power to its hierarchy or ruling group to control its members, it has always, without exception, led to apostasy and persecution. This was the condition of the church in the days of Jesus. The leaders had assumed such great authority over the members that if they professed faith in Jesus, they were disfellowshipped (John 9). However, this control did not keep the church pure, protecting it from the abuse of sin. In fact, it did just the opposite. It protected the church from receiving the straight testimony which God sent to them through John the Baptist, His Son and the apostles, in order for it to become pure. It was the hierarchy, the leaders, who prevented the people from accepting Jesus. They had such a strong hold on the people that the only way they could receive the straight testimony was for the power of the hierarchy to be broken.

Ellen White said, “Through their reverence for tradition and their blind faith in a corrupt priesthood, the people were enslaved. These chains Christ must break. The character of the priests, rulers, and Pharisees must be more fully exposed.” The Desire of Ages, 611, 612. “For a time it had seemed that the people of Galilee would receive Jesus as the Messiah, and that the power of the hierarchy in that region would be broken.” Ibid., 395. It was impossible to accept Jesus as the Messiah unless first, the power of the hierarchy was broken.

This same experience was repeated during the Dark Ages. Never before or since has the church assumed more control, resulting in greater persecution. The more the church exercised control through its leadership, the more it sank into apostasy. In 1414, a church council was called to eradicate apostasy and bring in reformation. It was decided to depose one of the popes who was corrupt and also to burn John Huss at the stake. Persecution was the council’s favorite way in their attempt to purify the church.

During the Protestant Reformation the reformers sought to break the power of the hierarchy over the people in the same way that Jesus did in His ministry, but those who blindly yielded reverence to the church leadership rejected the Protestant Reformation. Ellen White wrote concerning Wycliffe, the morning star of the reformation, “He fearlessly arraigned the hierarchy before the national council and demanded a reform of the enormous abuses sanctioned by the church.” The Great Controversy, 89. She goes on to say, “The fears of the hierarchy were roused, and persecution was opened against the disciples of the gospel.” Ibid., 97. That happened in England. The same thing happened in Germany. The church sought to intimidate with threats and cajole the Protestant leaders to once again accept the hierarchy with promises, but they realized that, “The re-establishment of the Romish hierarchy … would infallibly bring back the ancient abuses.” The Great Controversy, 199.

Concerning the future, Ellen White writes, “When the leading churches of the United States, … will have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy, and the infliction of civil penalties upon dissenters will inevitably result.” Ibid., 445. During the Dark Ages the church controlled the state and therefore anything done against the church became a civil crime. The image will do the same. One of the chief differences between the Protestants and the Romanists was the way in which the church was structured, but things are changing.

“There is an increasing indifference concerning the doctrines that separate the reformed churches from the papal hierarchy. … The time was when Protestants placed a high value upon liberty of conscience which has been so dearly purchased.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, 380.

Hierarchicalism always leads to religious persecution and a curtailment of religious liberty, because it denies the Lordship of Jesus Christ in practice. By profession the church acknowledges it, but in practice, it is denied. God ordained that there should be judicious administration and shepherd-like leadership for the furtherance of the gospel, but never at any time were lines of control given to human authority.

The Bible says, “He [Jesus Christ] is the head of the body.” Colossians 1:18. The body is the church. Jesus Christ is the head of the body, the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have preeminence. Whenever a person assumes undue authority in the church, which authority belongs only to Christ, the church is automatically brought into apostasy because Christ is always the head.

The usurping of authority is the sin of the beast power. “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that day 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 worshipped, so that he sits as God [hierarchy] in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” II Thessalonians 2:3.

This is also a danger within the Seventh-day Adventist church as well as in other churches and we need to learn the lessons of history. The Lord foresaw this developing in our own church and sent faithful warnings through Ellen White to our church leaders.

“The spirit of domination is extending to the presidents of our conferences. …

“They are following in the track of Romanism.”

This was being done by exerting a spirit of domination, putting a man or a group of men in the place of God.

“If a man … seeks to exercise dominion over his brethren, feeling that he is invested with authority to make his will the ruling power, the best and only safe course is to remove him, lest great harm be done and he lose his own soul and imperil the souls of others.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 362.

The New Testament church had a simple organization that was efficient, but not hierarchical in nature. There was cooperation, but not control. For example, the apostle Paul tried to cooperate with his brethren, but did not ask permission from the church in Jerusalem to speak or raise up churches in Corinth or Philippi or the other towns that he visited. One of his greatest concerns and sternest warnings was concerning the possibility of undue control being exerted over the local members of the church by some outside force, in fact, the leadership from Jerusalem. Notice, Paul called the elders (plural) of the church at Ephesus and said, “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 men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” Acts 20:28–31.

Paul’s concern, over which he stressed with great emotional appeal for three years, was that there would arise leaders in this church who would seek to draw attention to themselves and become a controlling power. He told the elders that they, not he, singular, but they, plural, were to be shepherds of the flock, not set above the flock and to keep this from happening. They were to guard the church from the wolves in sheep’s clothing, the wolves from outside and the wolves from the local congregation, and those who were visiting from a conference or some other church.

This had already been demonstrated in the churches that Paul had established in Galatia. Elders had been selected in the local churches (Acts 14:23). These churches were not independent of the body, but they were highly self-directed and self-sustained and locally organized. A situation arose when leading brethren came from the headquarters church in Jerusalem, namely Peter and some other brethren came from James, the two principal leaders at the headquarters, to minister to these churches in Galatia. Now remember, these people in Galatia had been pagan idolaters and had recently converted to the truth of Christianity. Peter and the other men who came had grown up being taught the Scriptures and had never been involved in worshiping idols.

The Galatians had a tremendous amount of respect for these leaders who had come to them from Jerusalem and it had a terrible effect on the whole congregation. Paul was unsparing in his denunciation of the Galatian leaders for allowing the leaders from Jerusalem to bring apostasy into that church. He said to them, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth?” Galatians 3:1. Notice he does not say, “What has bewitched you?” He says, “Who has bewitched you?” referring to the people who had this influence over them. Paul’s concern was what would happen in the future if the leaders of this church did not protect the church, if they were so weak as to be influenced by these outside forces, by these people from the headquarters church.

Have you ever wondered what Paul would say if he visited our churches today? Is it possible that he would say, “O you foolish churches? Who has influenced you to yield the high standard of truth and practice that was once manifested in your movement?” Paul told the Galatians to, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1. That yoke of bondage he referred to was not just circumcision and the law. If you look at the context of this question in Galatians 3:1 you will see that the yoke of bondage was bondage to leadership that had caused them to waver on a point of doctrine and teaching. He goes on to say, “This persuasion does not come from He who called you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. But he who troubles you … [the leadership from Jerusalem] shall bear his judgment. For you, brethren, have been called to liberty.” Galatians 5:8–10, 13. Paul was concerned about the influence that caused them to apostatize. He was very, very fearful of hierarchal forms of church government that would cause people to look to church councils and leaders for direction rather than the Holy Spirit.

The churches were to be grafted to Jesus Christ, cooperating with each other, and not to develop a human organization, a hierarchy.

This is the kind of organizational purity that has to come back into the church in order for the pentecostal blessings to return. Organizational purity and doctrinal purity go hand in hand and cannot be separated. It is not possible to have doctrinal purity with impure organization. Simple organization and church order are set forth in the New Testament Scriptures, ordained 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.” Loma Linda Messages, 464.

Ellen White then said to study I Corinthians 12 and 13 and Acts 15 and learn how the church is to be managed and operated. Again, she continued to write and say that many of the great difficulties that have come into our work are because of this very problem, people wanting to control and rule God’s work. As the church began to grow in the latter part of the 19th century, Ellen White began to warn, over and over, against the kingly power that was coming into the Seventh-day Adventist church. She wrote,

“The high-handed power that has been developed, as though position has made men gods, makes me afraid, and ought to cause fear. It is a curse wherever and by whomsoever it is exercised.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 361.

Many people, when beginning to run or operate churches, had very good motives, desiring to do what was right. But, as time went on, they thought that they should be in control and rule so that the church could have prosperity and grow faster. Ellen White said,

“Rule, rule has been their course of action. Satan has had an opportunity of representing himself.” Ibid., 363. “Let me entreat our state conferences and our churches to cease putting their dependence upon men and making flesh their arm. … Our churches are weak because the members are educated to look to and depend upon human resources.” Ibid., 380.

Hierarchicalism leads directly into apostasy and ultimately persecution. How does that happen? When somebody stands up and proclaims a message from God like John the Baptist or one of the prophets or one of the reformers in the 16th century, the hierarchy persecutes the one who protests. It led to the burning of martyrs during the Dark Ages and the imprisonment and death of God’s prophets and messengers throughout history. It also led to the crucifixion of Christ. This very same thing will lead to persecution in any church, including the Seventh-day Adventist church. Initially, the scribes and Pharisees would never have thought they were capable of putting someone to death, but the time came when they reasoned that they had to crucify Jesus in order to preserve the integrity of the church. Caiaphas actually said that if they did not get rid of Jesus they would be wiped out (John 11:47–50). The cross was a last resort after they had tried everything else to stop His ministry. “They regarded themselves as patriots, who were seeking the nation’s salvation.” The Desire of Ages, 541.

Today, we are Protestants and have the heritage of both the Bible and the New Testament church, the Protestant Reformation, and in America, the rich heritage of religious liberty. Concerning this heritage, Ellen White wrote, “This principle we in our day are firmly to maintain. The banner of truth and religious liberty held aloft by the founders of the gospel church and by God’s witnesses during the centuries that have passed since then, has, in this last conflict, been committed to our hands. The responsibility for this great gift rests with those whom God has blessed with a knowledge of His Word. We are to receive this word as supreme authority. We are to recognize human government as an ordinance of divine appointment, and teach obedience to it as a sacred duty, within its legitimate sphere. But when its claims conflict with the claims of God, we must obey God rather than men. God’s word must be recognized as above all human legislation. A ‘Thus saith the Lord’ is not to be set aside for a ‘Thus saith the church’ or a ‘Thus saith the state.’ The crown of Christ is to be lifted above the diadems of earthly potentates.” The Acts of the Apostles, 68, 69.

As standard bearers of the concept of the heritage of religious liberty, we cannot imagine that the Adventist church would ever become persecutors. But if hierarchicalism develops in a church, we have seen what always happens. We think that we could never do anything like the Jewish leaders did or like the Catholic hierarchy did during the Dark Ages, but we have already done it. In one situation a disfellowshiped preacher was first fined, then thrown into prison. What was his crime? He had a sign erected that said, “This is a Seventh Day Adventist church.” Because it was not under the control of the church hierarchy, he was put in prison. This happened in the United States, the land of the free, and this man was only set free after a prolonged court battle.

This proceeding was perpetrated by the General Conference in union with the state and it was financed, by the way, with the tithe money of the members of the church. Whether that man was theologically right or wrong is not the point. The church appealed to the strong arm of the state to enforce its will—its decree. When the authority will be employed by the church to accomplish her own ends, then the church has made an image to the beast. See The Great Controversy, 443.

This may be difficult to hear, but the Seventh-day Adventist church structure has been in the process of building an image to the beast for over twenty years. There have been other people, especially in communist countries, who have found themselves first disfellowshiped and then persecuted by the state in coordination with the church.

This is a testimony by Marshall when giving this sermon: “I personally have traveled to Hungary on several occasions and met with hundreds of disfellowshiped and persecuted brethren of that country. These dear brothers and sisters are true Seventh-day Adventists but simply gave the straight testimony of the involvement of the church in state politics and interdenominational ecumenicalism. Their message was given directly to the church leaders by ordained pastors and committed laymen and the response was, they were all disfellowshiped without a trial—over a thousand of them. Although the review acknowledged that the whole process was illegal, nevertheless, by the total silence of our leaders to even reprimand the offenders of this case, and by the continued barring of all the disfellowshiped members from all official church functions or activities, and by the admitting of the perpetrators of this persecution into the official activities of the General Conference, they have fully condoned their actions as a corporate entity. Now Hungary,” he says, “is just an example. The same thing has happened in Africa and other places. We have been traveling down the same dark road as was traveled by the church in the time of Christ and again during the Dark Ages, disfellowshiping and firing pastors here and there to give many examples, not just in the United States but in Europe, and other countries.”

It was this road—hierarchicalism, leading to persecution—that caused Ellen White to tremble. She said,

“My heart trembles in me when I think what a foe we have to meet, and how poorly we are prepared to meet him. The trials of the children of Israel, and their attitude just before the first coming of Christ, have been presented before me again and again to illustrate the position of the people of God in their experience before the second coming of Christ.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 406.

“At the time of the first advent of Christ to our world, the men who composed the Sanhedrin exercised their authority in controlling men according to their will. Thus the souls whom Christ had given his life to free from the bondage to Satan were brought under bondage to him in another form.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 361.

The very people that Christ had died to deliver from the bondage of Satan were brought under bondage to him in another form, through the church. That is what will happen just before the Second Coming. It has already happened!

For many years Ellen and James White fought to establish church organization. She stated, “Without some form of organization there would be great confusion, and the work would not be carried forward successfully.” Ibid., 26. Heaven is a place of order and God cannot bless disorganization. However, organization was never intended to become controlling in nature and hinder the preaching of the straight testimony or to persecute those who gave it and dictate how God should direct the work. Organization was never intended for the purpose of wresting the local churches out of the hands of the local members so that they became mere pawns in the hands of the leadership and the ministry. The leadership was to lead by example, prayer and faith, but not by commanding. The organization was not to restrict and control, but only to coordinate and promote the work, the preaching of the gospel and the straight testimony.

The devil fought so hard when James and Ellen White were trying to establish order and organization in the Adventist church that it took about twenty years before they could even become organized. Finally, when it did become organized in 1863 and the devil lost that battle, he switched his tactics to try to make them over-organized so that within four years of organization Ellen White wrote, “I dreamed I was in Battle Creek looking out from the side glass at the door and saw a company marching up to the house, two and two. They looked stern and determined. I knew them well and turned to open the parlor door to receive them, but thought I would look again. The scene was changed. The company now presented the appearance of a Catholic procession. One bore in his hand a cross [ceremonialism], another a reed [the scepter of a king]. And as they approached, the one carrying a reed made a circle around the house, saying three times: ‘this house is proscribed. The goods must be confiscated. They have spoken against our holy order.’ ” Testimonies, vol. 1, 578. She saw in that vision that the order of church organization had become controlling and persecuting in nature. From that time on she was fought constantly by church officials. Just like all the other prophets who were persecuted during their lifetime, now that she is dead she is revered, but the persecution continues against those who repeat her concerns.

In 1888, God gave the church a message through two young ministers, E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones, but the brethren thought that they should not be allowed to give it until they first had their permission. The issue was Christ our Righteousness. Ellen White’s main concern at that time was not about the doctrine, but the issue of organization and control by church organization which was also contained in that message. Referring to Christ our Righteousness, she said, “God designs that men shall use their minds and consciences for themselves. He never designed that one man should become the shadow of another, and utter only another’s sentiments. But this error has been coming in among us, that a very few are to be mind, conscience, and judgment for all God’s workers. The foundation of Christianity is ‘Christ our Righteousness.’ Men are individually responsible to God and must act as God acts upon them, not as another human mind acts upon their mind; for if this method of indirect influence is kept up, souls can not be impressed and directed by the great I AM. They will, on the other hand, have their experience blended with another, and will be kept under a moral restraint, which allows no freedom of action or of choice.” The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, 112.

“The Lord will never sanction the exercise of arbitrary authority. … Yet these things have been manifest in the management of the affairs in connection with the work in Battle Creek. Words cannot express too strongly the offensive character of the disposition to rule or ruin which has for years been revealed, and which has been strengthening by exercise. …

“Plans are set on foot for restricting the liberty of workers. Through these oppressive plans, men who should stand free in God are trammeled by restrictions from those who are only their fellow-laborers. …

“Our people, who talk of religious liberty, have lessons to learn as to what liberty in Christ really is. The Lord has marked the oppression that has been practiced.” The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, 1357, 1358.

Here in the United States of America, we are privileged to be living in a country that has been made strong and prosperous because of the principles of religious liberty. The Christian exiles who first fled to America and sought an asylum here from royal oppression and priestly intolerance decided that they were going to found a government in this country upon the broad foundation of civil and religious liberty. It was these principles of civil and religious liberty that are the secret of the prosperit and power of the United States of America. It is these same principles that are the secret for prosperity and peace within the church. In fact, the church is the place where religious liberty needs to start. This liberty is not a license to bring false doctrines into the pulpit or to bring in disorderly elements within the congregation, but religious liberty does give freedom of speech, freedom to dissent, freedom of the press without recourse to the law or defamation of character. When there are doctrinal differences, we need to be able to get together and talk those over, frankly and fairly. Error needs to be called by its right name. The problem is, when any kind of error can be taught within a system, if you tell the truth and you are not in the system, it will be rejected. That is how it was in the days of Jesus, so God chose a different channel through which to work. As it was when Jesus was here the first time, it will be again, right at the end of the world.

In the last days, God is going to work apart from those who have tried to control His work and persecute those whom they could not control. Ellen White described it this way:

“The Lord will work in this last work in a manner very much out of the common order of things, and in a way that will be contrary to any human planning. There will be those among us who will always want to control the work of God, to dictate even what movements shall be made when the work goes forward under the direction of the angel who joins the third angel in the message to be given to the world. God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reigns in His own hands. The workers will be surprised by the simple means that He will use to bring about and perfect His work of righteousness.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 300.

God’s church is going to be purified and perfected again, just like it was in the early church, but it is going to happen through God’s methods. It is not going to happen through the control of ecclesiastical power curtailing religious freedom.

It is predicted in Isaiah 4 that there is coming a time when everyone who is listed among the living in Jerusalem will be holy. You may think yourself too much of a sinner to be part of that group, but there is a way out. Jesus died to take away the guilt of your sins, to take away the power of sin in your life, to deliver you from your old ways and cover you with His robe of righteousness. But, you can only have it in God’s appointed way. When we try to do God’s work in our own way, we end up ruining it. We must learn the lesson of religious liberty if we are going to have a part in God’s final work.

Pastor John Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at:, or by telephone at: 316–788–5559.

Bible Study Guides – The Reformation Ends

November 28, 2010 – December 4, 2010

The Dark Ages and the Reformation

Key Text

“And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved.” Matthew 24:22.

Study Help: The Great Controversy, 197–210, 237–244.


“The experience of these noble Reformers contains a lesson for all succeeding ages.” The Great Controversy, 204.

1 How did the Lord defend His work of the Reformation by His overruling providences? Proverbs 15:9.

Note: “A dark and threatening day had come for the Reformation. Notwithstanding the Edict of Worms, declaring Luther to be an outlaw and forbidding the teaching or belief of his doctrines, religious toleration had thus far prevailed in the empire. God’s providence had held in check the forces that opposed the truth. Charles V was bent on crushing the Reformation, but often as he raised his hand to strike he had been forced to turn aside the blow. Again and again the immediate destruction of all who dared to oppose themselves to Rome appeared inevitable; but at the critical moment the armies of the Turk appeared on the eastern frontier, or the king of France, or even the pope himself, jealous of the increasing greatness of the emperor, made war upon him; and thus, amid the strife and tumult of nations, the Reformation had been left to strengthen and extend.” The Great Controversy, 197.

2 How did the papists try to quench the budding desire for religious liberty? Acts 5:27, 28.

Note: “If this edict [of Worms] were enforced, ‘the Reformation could neither be extended … where as yet it was unknown, nor be established on solid foundations … where it already existed.’ … Liberty of speech would be prohibited. No conversions would be allowed.” The Great Controversy, 199.

3 What quiet principles were nonetheless at work? Revelation 3:6; 22:17.

4 What example should all civil authorities adopt when asked to adjudicate on religious issues or matters of conscience? What is the duty of the state in matters of conscience? Acts 18:12–16.

Note: “ ‘Let us reject this decree,’ said the princes. ‘In matters of conscience the majority has no power.’ The deputies declared: ‘It is to the decree of 1526 that we are indebted for the peace that the empire enjoys: its abolition would fill Germany with troubles and divisions. The Diet is incompetent to do more than preserve religious liberty until the council meets.’ … To protect liberty of conscience is the duty of the state, and this is the limit of its authority in matters of religion. Every secular government that attempts to regulate or enforce religious observances by civil authority is sacrificing the very principle for which the evangelical Christians so nobly struggled.” The Great Controversy, 201.

5 What fundamental principles that are the very essence of Protestantism were outlined in the formal protest brought by the princes before the national council? II Corinthians 4:2–5.

Note: “ ‘The principles contained in this celebrated Protest … constitute the very essence of Protestantism. Now this Protest opposes two abuses of man in matters of faith: the first is the intrusion of the civil magistrate, and the second the arbitrary authority of the church. Instead of these abuses, Protestantism sets the power of conscience above the magistrate, and the authority of the word of God above the visible church. In the first place, it rejects the civil power in divine things, and says with the prophets and apostles, “We must obey God rather than man” [Acts 5:29]. In presence of the crown of Charles the Fifth, it uplifts the crown of Jesus Christ. But it goes farther: it lays down the principle that all human teaching should be subordinate to the oracles of God.’ … The protesters had moreover affirmed their right to utter freely their convictions of truth. They would not only believe and obey, but teach what the word of God presents, and they denied the right of priest or magistrate to interfere. The Protest of Spires was a solemn witness against religious intolerance, and an assertion of the right of all men to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences.” The Great Controversy, 203, 204.

6 Why is there such a great need for us to review and return to the great fundamental principle of Protestantism and religious liberty? What should we remember of history? Ecclesiastes 1:9, 10.

Note: “In our time there is a wide departure from their [the Scriptures] doctrines and precepts, and there is need of a return to the great Protestant principle—the Bible, and the Bible only, as the rule of faith and duty. Satan is still working through every means which he can control to destroy religious liberty. The antichristian power which the protesters of Spires rejected is now with renewed vigor seeking to reestablish its lost supremacy. The same unswerving adherence to the word of God manifested at that crisis of the Reformation is the only hope of reform today.” The Great Controversy, 204, 205.

7 In face of powerful foes, what far-reaching principle was clearly enunciated by Luther when the princes proposed a defense league? John 18:36, 37.

Note: “One of the principles most firmly maintained by Luther was that there should be no resort to secular power in support of the Reformation, and no appeal to arms for its defense. He rejoiced that the gospel was confessed by princes of the empire; but when they proposed to unite in a defensive league, he declared that ‘the doctrine of the gospel should be defended by God alone. … The less man meddled in the work, the more striking would be God’s intervention in its behalf. All the politic precautions suggested were, in his view, attributable to unworthy fear and sinful mistrust.’ ” The Great Controversy, 209.

8 During the protest of the princes, how was God working in a manner similar to the way He did in the days of Elisha? II Kings 6:15–17.

Note: “God’s faithful servants were not toiling alone. While principalities and powers and wicked spirits in high places were leagued against them, the Lord did not forsake His people. Could their eyes have been opened, they would have seen as marked evidence of divine presence and aid as was granted to a prophet of old. … [II Kings 6:17 quoted.] And, lo, the mountain was filled with chariots and horses of fire, the army of heaven stationed to protect the man of God. Thus did angels guard the workers in the cause of the Reformation.” The Great Controversy, 208.

9 When Luther saw the danger of armed conflict, what were the only weapons he used in defense of truth? Ephesians 6:11–17.

Note: “When powerful foes were uniting to overthrow the reformed faith, and thousands of swords seemed about to be unsheathed against it, Luther wrote: ‘Satan is putting forth his fury; ungodly pontiffs are conspiring; and we are threatened with war. Exhort the people to contend valiantly before the throne of the Lord, by faith and prayer, so that our enemies, vanquished by the Spirit of God, may be constrained to peace. Our chief want, our chief labor, is prayer; let the people know that they are now exposed to the edge of the sword and to the rage of Satan, and let them pray.’ …

“Luther declared that the only weapon employed in this warfare should be ‘the sword of the Spirit’ [Ephesians 6:17]. He wrote to the elector of Saxony: ‘We cannot on our conscience approve the proposed alliance. We would rather die ten times than see our gospel cause one drop of blood to be shed. Our part is to be like lambs of the slaughter. The cross of Christ must be borne. Let your highness be without fear. We shall do more by our prayers than all our enemies by their boastings. Only let not your hands be stained with the blood of your brethren. If the emperor requires us to be given up to his tribunals, we are ready to appear. You cannot defend our faith: each one should believe at his own risk and peril.’ ” The Great Controversy, 209.

10 What great example has been inherited from the Reformation of the sixteenth century concerning the peril of compromise for temporal gain? Psalm 146:3–6.

Note: “Had the Reformation, after attaining a degree of success, consented to temporize to secure favor with the world, it would have been untrue to God and to itself, and would thus have ensured its own destruction. The experience of these noble Reformers contains a lesson for all succeeding ages. Satan’s manner of working against God and His word has not changed; he is still as much opposed to the Scriptures being made the guide of life as in the sixteenth century. In our time there is a wide departure from their doctrines and precepts, and there is need of a return to the great Protestant principle—the Bible, and the Bible only, as the rule of faith and duty. Satan is still working through every means which he can control to destroy religious liberty.” The Great Controversy, 204, 205.

11 Besides Germany and Switzerland, what other nations opened their doors to the Reformation? Who were other leaders with a wide influence? Acts 11:19–21.

Note: “The teachings of Luther found a congenial soil in the Netherlands, and earnest and faithful men arose to preach the gospel. From one of the provinces of Holland came Menno Simons.” The Great Controversy, 238.

“Tausen, ‘the Reformer of Denmark,’ was a peasant’s son. …

“Tausen went to Cologne, which was then, as now, one of the strongholds of Romanism. Here he soon became disgusted with the mysticisms of the schoolmen. About the same time he obtained Luther’s writings. He read them with wonder and delight, and greatly desired to enjoy the personal instruction of the Reformer. But to do so he must risk giving offense to his monastic superior and forfeiting his support. His decision was soon made, and erelong he was enrolled as a student at Wittenberg.

“On returning to Denmark, … Tausen began to preach. The churches were opened to him, and the people thronged to listen. Others also were preaching the Word of God. The New Testament, translated into the Danish tongue, was widely circulated. The efforts made by the papists to overthrow the work resulted in extending it, and erelong Denmark declared its acceptance of the reformed faith.

“In Sweden, also, young men who had drunk from the well of Wittenberg carried the water of life to their countrymen. Two of the leaders in the Swedish Reformation, Olaf and Laurentius Petri, the sons of a blacksmith of Orebro, studied under Luther and Melanchthon, and the truths which they thus learned they were diligent to teach.” Ibid., 241, 242.

Personal Review Questions

1 What enabled the Reformation to survive against overwhelming odds?

2 What was the keystone of the Reformation in the sixteenth century?

3 Wherein is the strength of every true reformation?

4 What alternative is given for temporal weapons?

5 Who were the leaders of the Reformation in different lands?

Additional Reading

“This contest, though conducted upon a stage comparatively obscure, serves to show us ‘the sort of men that formed the rank and file of the army of the Reformers. They were not illiterate, sectarian, noisy controversialists—far from it; they were men who had studied the word of God, and knew well how to wield the weapons with which the armory of the Bible supplied them. In respect of erudition they were ahead of their age. When we confine our attention to such brilliant centers as Wittenberg and Zurich, and to such illustrious names as those of Luther and Melanchthon, of Zwingli and Oecolampadius, we are apt to be told, these were the leaders of the movement, and we should naturally expect in them prodigious power and vast acquisitions; but the subordinates were not like these. Well, we turn to the obscure theater of Sweden, and the humble names of Olaf and Laurentius Petri—from the masters to the disciples—what do we find? … Scholars and theologians; men who have thoroughly mastered the whole system of gospel truth, and who win an easy victory over the sophists of the schools and the dignitaries of Rome.’ ” The Great Controversy, 243, 244.

©2005 Reformation Herald Publishing Association, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission

Religious Liberty by Law

A few days since the writer was very much interested in reading the story of the experience of an agent of the Bible Society in South America. It told of narrow escapes from Roman Catholic mobs, and of the power of the preaching of the pure Gospel, to remove prejudice. In the last paragraph of the article there occurred this statement: “No less a personage than the public school teacher came to warn me that, not bonds and imprisonment (we have religious liberty by law), but death at the hands of a mob awaited me if I did not desist from entering Orobe Grande.” 

This started a train of thought. What is religious liberty? and is it something which can be secured to people by law? Is its existence doubtful if it be not upheld by law? and can oppressive laws deprive people of it? The answers to the last three questions depend upon the answer to the first. According to the popular idea of religious liberty, the last three questions must be answered in the affirmative; but there is at least a strong probability that the popular idea of the matter is wrong. How can we find out the true definition? 

A question concerning religious liberty is one that pertains to religion; and where should we go for information concerning religion, except to the Bible? There we learn that, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). 

How can one keep himself “unspotted from the world”? – Again we read the answer, in the statement that the Lord Jesus Christ “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Galatians 1:4). Therefore true religion is a religion of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

There are very many kinds of religion in the world, but only one true religion. That is not a form, but a life. It consists not in a creed and ceremonies, but in a living faith in Christ. The word religion is not synonymous with Christianity, but true religion is. It promises what no other religion does, and fulfils its promises. It alone gives salvation. Besides the name of Jesus, “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” There is not salvation in any other (Acts 4:12). And this salvation is not merely something, promised for the future, but is a present reality. It is deliverance “from this present evil world” (Galatians 1:4), and that means deliverance from the evil of this present world. (See John 17:15.) 

The word deliverance means freedom. To deliver is to free. Therefore we find that the religion of Jesus Christ is a religion of freedom. Read the words of Christ, and the opening of His earthly ministry. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18). 

Read again what He said to the Jews who followed Him: “If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31, 32). Then when the Jews demurred, saying that they were never in bondage, He continued, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (verse 34). And so the apostle Peter, speaking of false prophets that were to arise, teaching false light, said: “While they promised them [that is, their followers] liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption; for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is He brought in bondage” (2 Peter 2:19). 

We have just read the Scripture which says that the Spirit of the Lord anointed Jesus to preach deliverance to the captives, and to set at liberty them that are bound. Now read in 2 Corinthians 3:17: “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” That means, as well, that where the Spirit of the Lord is not, there is not liberty. If it were otherwise, there would be no point in Christ’s work. He came to grant liberty, for the reason that liberty could be obtained from no other source. 

We have therefore the answer to our first question. Religious liberty is the possession of the Spirit of the Lord. The others are easily answered. Can religious liberty be secured by law? – Not unless the Holy Spirit can be secured by law. What saith the Scripture? – “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). The Spirit of God is subject to no men, or the will of the men. God is not a subject; He is the King of kings; and therefore His Spirit cannot be controlled by any human power. The Spirit can no more be affected by human law than the north wind can by legal enactment be made to blow from the south. Therefore since religious liberty is obtained only through the Spirit, it is evident that religious liberty is something with which human laws have no more to do than with the blowing of the wind or the shining of the sun. 

That which is ordinarily called religious liberty is not religious liberty in any sense of the term. Legal permission to worship in public without molestation, is of precisely the same nature as liberty to open a shop, or to carry on any business without interference. But liberty to think or to believe, is something with which laws can have nothing to do. The slave is as free to think as is his master. Prison bars cannot stop a man from thinking what he pleases, nor can they take away man’s freedom to believe. Nay, more, they cannot take away a free man’s freedom to speak what he will. The apostles spoke in spite of all the laws against them; and their words were with power because of the very liberty which they enjoyed through Christ, which could not be checked by bonds and imprisonment. 

The man who depends upon civil law for liberty to believe, is not a free man, even though the law be the most liberal ever known. For the fact that he derives his freedom from the law, shows that if the law were adverse, he would at once lose his liberty; and that shows that his is not the liberty of Christ, for that comes from heaven. 

It is evident therefore, that they who think to advance the cause of religious liberty by political action, are really working against it. The very existence of laws concerning religion is a badge of slavery. When men wish a law to “protect” them in the performance of religious duties, or what they conceive to be religious duties, they thereby show that they are slaves to fear. They want a law to help them to do what they have not the power or the courage to do without the support of “public sentiment.” “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). 

“The word of God is not bound” (2 Timothy 2:9), and therefore whosoever has it abiding in him has liberty. Let us “stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free (Galatians 5:1), and not dishonour Him by intimating that He or His cause depends to any degree whatever on human laws. 

Present Truth UK, November 23, 1893, 531, 532.

Current Events – Free Speech in Jeopardy

The pressure continues to change the definition of marriage between a man and a woman to any combination of two or more people of any gender. However, speak out publicly against the proposed change and be prepared for “all hell to break loose.”

Chick-fil-A Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy has never sugarcoated his ideals about traditional marriage. In the midst of a national firestorm surrounding gay marriage, Cathy won’t back down from his biblical values. Despite left-wing criticism and pressure, Cathy has reaffirmed his company’s stance and support for traditional family values.

“Guilty as charged,” Cathy told the Family Research Council. “We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.

“We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

Cathy rightly expresses his gratitude for living in a country where we can share our values. Unfortunately, public sentiment has moved so far to the left that unless one shares values that adhere to popular opinion, regardless of how that aligns with Biblical standards, Satan attacks with all possible fury.

The opposition to Cathy’s stand supporting the Biblical definition of the family unit has come from a surprising array of sources. The Jim Henson Company has terminated its partnership with Chick-fil-A. (See The leaders of several large metropolitan areas have indicated that Chick-fil-A restaurants would not be welcomed in their cities. (Ibid.,, and .)

There have been more reasoned responses, such as from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee:

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is standing up and speaking out for the chicken chain: “Too often, those on the left make corporate statements to show support for same-sex marriage, abortion or profanity, but if Christians affirm traditional values, we’re considered homophobic, fundamentalists, hate-mongers and intolerant.”

One recent blog entry expressed a different perspective from the mainstream response.

One would be hard-pressed to find a better example of Liberal Fascism than the move by liberal politicians to ban Chick-fil-A from their jurisdictions because of the owner’s opinion on gay marriage.

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind.” I Corinthians 6:9.

“Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” Leviticus 18:22.

Current Events – Voting

A number of countries around the world have recently elected or will soon elect new leaders. The United States of America will, on November 6, 2012, vote for its leader. The following quotes should be considered before Christians vote.

Should representative men keep the way of the Lord, they would point men to a high and holy standard. Those in positions of trust would be strictly temperate. Magistrates, senators, and judges would have a clear understanding, and their judgment would be sound and unperverted. The fear of the Lord would ever be before them, and they would depend upon a higher wisdom than their own. The heavenly Teacher would make them wise in counsel, and strong to work steadfastly in opposition to all wrong, and to advance that which is right and just and true. The word of God would be their guide, and all oppression would be discarded. Lawmakers and administrators would abide by every good and just law, ever teaching the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment. God is the head of all good and just governments and laws. Those who are entrusted with the responsibility of administering any part of the law, are accountable to God as stewards of His goods. The Review and Herald, October 1, 1895.

Many who are elevated to the highest positions of trust in serving the public are the opposite of this. They are self-serving, and generally indulge in the use of narcotics, and wine and strong drink. Lawyers, jurors, senators, judges, and representative men have forgotten that they cannot dream themselves into a character. They are deteriorating their powers through sinful indulgences. They stoop from their high position to defile themselves with intemperance, licentiousness, and every form of evil. Their powers prostituted by vice open their path for every evil. The Signs of the Times, July 8, 1880.

Intemperate persons should not by vote of the people be placed in positions of trust. Their influence corrupts others, and grave responsibilities are involved. With brain and nerve narcotized by tobacco and stimulus they make a law of their nature, and when the immediate influence is gone there is a collapse. Frequently human life is hanging in the balance; on the decision of those in these positions of trust depends life and liberty, or bondage and despair. How necessary that all who take part in these transactions should be those who are proved, those of self-culture, those of honesty and truth, of staunch integrity, who will spurn a bribe, who will not allow their judgment or convictions of right to be swerved by partiality or prejudice. To Be Like Jesus, 177.

Only men of strict temperance and integrity should be admitted to our legislative halls and chosen to preside in our courts of justice. Property, reputation, and even life itself, are insecure when left to the judgment of men who are intemperate and immoral. The Signs of the Times, February 11, 1886.

In an article published in the Review of November 8, 1881, I [Ellen White] wrote:

‘There is a cause for the moral paralysis upon society. Our laws sustain an evil which is sapping their very foundations. Many deplore the wrongs which they know exist, but consider themselves free from all responsibility in the matter. This cannot be. Every individual exerts an influence in society. In our favored land, every voter has some voice in determining what laws shall control the nation. Should not that influence and that vote be cast on the side of temperance and virtue?’ The Review and Herald, October 15, 1914.

Current Events – Persecution

“The early Christians were often called to meet the powers of darkness face to face. By sophistry and by persecution the enemy endeavored to turn them from the true faith. At the present time, when the end of all things earthly is rapidly approaching, Satan is putting forth desperate efforts to ensnare the world. He is devising many plans to occupy minds and to divert attention from the truths essential to salvation. In every city his agencies are busily organizing into parties those who are opposed to the law of God. The archdeceiver is at work to introduce elements of confusion and rebellion, and men are being fired with a zeal that is not according to knowledge.” The Acts of the Apostles, 219.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide is urging the Government to raise concerns over religious intolerance and other human rights violations in Indonesia. In particular, the organisation raises concerns over the forced closure of churches in Indonesia, including churches that have secured legal permission. Last week nine churches and six Buddhist temples had been closed down as a result of intense pressure from local Islamist groups.

A massive four-day national prayer event in the desert north of Cairo, is expected to draw 50,000 people from all over Egypt. In the midst of increased persecution, turmoil and uncertainty, Christians are reaching out to others and fervently praying “in such a time as this.” With all the political, social, economic and religious challenges Egypt has faced in the last few months, all Egyptians are left with many uncertainties and concerns about the present and future.

Seven people are dead and at least 100 others were injured after a suicide bomber ran an SUV filled with explosives into a Catholic church during mass Sunday [October 28]. The bombing in Kaduna is the latest in a series of attacks on Nigerian churches. No group claimed responsibility for this attack.

Authorities in southern Laos pressure three jailed pastors and other Christians to participate in occult rituals and recant their faith in Jesus Christ, a religious advocacy group said.

In India, an Indian evangelical pastor was recovering of injuries, after he and his family were beaten by “anti-Christian” Hindu extremists near the capital New Delhi, a major mission group and relatives said. In published remarks his son who suffered a broken hand, said at least two men entered the house and used “a steel water bucket” to hit his father’s head till he was unconscious. The beatings were encouraged by nearly a dozen other Hindus who earlier hurled stones and other materials at the pastor’s family home, Christian witnesses said.

In Montana [United States of America], the Kalispell city council has declined to take possession of a Ten Commandments monument and move it to a prominent location on city-owned land in downtown Kalispell. The Flathead Beacon reports that the council decided earlier in the week that accepting the statue could lead to legal problems. The Fraternal Order of the Eagles asked the council to take possession of the statue and six others that include historical texts from the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence that together form a “cornerstone of law” display. The Flathead Area Secular Humanist Association threatened legal action if such a move took place.

Editorial – Essential Training

The time is soon coming when we will not be able to openly work in evangelistic lines as we can do today in America, Europe and many other parts of the world. The reason is because Bible prophecy predicts that both religious and civil liberty will be lost a short time before Jesus comes. (See Revelation 13:14–17.)

“When heavenly intelligences see that men are no longer permitted to present the truth, the Spirit of God will come upon the children, and they will do a work in the proclamation of the truth which the older workers cannot do because their way will be hedged up.” The Adventist Home, 489.

The question needs to be asked, Are our children being trained to give the last message of warning to the world? Our children must learn more than arithmetic, grammar and composition. They are to be trained to give the last message of warning to the world. If you are in an isolated area and your children are going to a public school because there is no church school available, remember Abraham Lincoln—he grew up in a poor home, but he read books every night by firelight until he had read all of the books in the local area. You can enroll your children in a Bible correspondence school so they learn the truth for these last days.

Older people also are to be trained to do a special work when we can no longer work openly in evangelistic lines. What should this training be?

“As religious aggression subverts the liberties of our nation, those who would stand for freedom of conscience will be placed in unfavorable positions. For their own sake, they should, while they have opportunity, become intelligent in regard to disease, its causes, prevention, and cure. And those who do this will find a field of labor anywhere. There will be suffering ones, plenty of them, who will need help, not only among those of our own faith, but largely among those who know not the truth.” Counsels on Health, 506.

I want to address specifically those people reading this magazine and who say in their hearts, “I wish that I could obtain such a training, but I have a family to support and I cannot take off time from my work and go to a school to study to be a medical missionary.”

Can you not obtain books about the subject of health and disease so that you will be prepared to help your fellowmen when the health care system is not able to do it? You could study The Ministry of Healing Training Manual For Medical Missionaries, a study book based on the book, The Ministry of Healing, or The Natural Remedies Encyclopedia or Get Well at Home or When There is No Doctor.

Current Events – Christian Institutions Stand up for Religious Liberty

New healthcare policy requires institutions to provide coverage for abortion. A flurry of lawsuits (now up to 45) have been filed against the rule in the Affordable Care Act. These lawsuits claim that forcing employers to pay for abortion-causing drugs violates their freedom and practice of religion, a Constitutional right.

The banner of truth and religious liberty held aloft by the founders of the gospel church and by God’s witnesses during the centuries that have passed since then, has, in this last conflict, been committed to our hands. The responsibility for this great gift rests with those whom God has blessed with a knowledge of His word. We are to receive this word as supreme authority. We are to recognize human government as an ordinance of divine appointment, and teach obedience to it as a sacred duty, within its legitimate sphere. But when its claims conflict with the claims of God, we must obey God rather than men. God’s word must be recognized as above all human legislation. A ‘Thus saith the Lord’ is not to be set aside for a ‘Thus saith the church’ or a ‘Thus saith the state.’ The crown of Christ is to be lifted above the diadems of earthly potentates.” The Acts of the Apostles, 68.

On January 20, 2012 the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, unveiled a new policy which has come to be known as the “HHS Mandate.”

The new Mandate would require nearly all private health insurance plans to include coverage for all FDA-approved prescription contraceptive drugs and devices, surgical sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs—drugs that interfere with implantation in the womb and therefore destroy the life of a human being in the earliest stage of development.

The United States Supreme Court has denied a request by a national arts and crafts chain with 500 stores in 42 states, to shield the company from the so-called contraceptive mandate, a part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while its legal battle plays out, after a federal court similarly ruled against the Christian-owned company. Its CEO argued that his family would have to either “violate their faith by covering abortion-causing drugs or be exposed to severe penalties.”

The American Center for Law and Justice, a pro-life legal organization that focuses on constitutional law, achieved a significant victory in the legal battle against the mandate when a federal appeals court granted an emergency motion for an injunction putting the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate on hold—preventing it from being enforced against an Illinois business and its owners.

In December 2012, a federal district court in Missouri granted an ACLJ request for an injunction—blocking the mandate from being enforced against a Missouri company. And, in November, a federal appeals court also stepped in and put a halt to the enforcement of the mandate against a St. Louis company.

Following a decision by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor denying the arts and crafts chain’s request for an exemption from the administration’s HHS mandate, the Christian retail company said it will defy the mandate.

An extremely narrow exemption effectively only protects houses of worship. Business owners’ ability to run their businesses consistent with their religious and moral convictions is not protected. Accepting the Administration’s logic would limit the application of religious freedom to individuals acting within their houses of worship on weekends. It would further erode the free exercise of religion, restricting religious believers’ ability to live out their faiths in their day-to-day lives.

The freedom that has been enjoyed in the United States and protected by the Constitution in the past is being eroded away.
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Wendell Phillips (1811–1884).

Current Events – Christian Discrimination

“The enemy stirs up persons whose hearts are not stayed upon God, who are admitting into their hearts unpleasant and disagreeable things to ponder over, and then pass along the unsavoury dish as a repast for other minds and hearts. This is feeding upon Satan’s garbage, and makes the soul impoverished.”

Australasian Union Conference Record, August 1, 1900.

“Today, we face incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s armed forces.”

Those words were recently written by Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), in a column he wrote for the Huffington Post. Weinstein will be a consultant to the United States Pentagon to develop new policies on religious tolerance, including a policy for court-martialing military chaplains who share the Christian Gospel during spiritual counseling of American troops.

Is the Pentagon discriminating against Christians?

A representative said he’s been monitoring a steady stream of religious discrimination complaints over the past four years from Christian soldiers.

“It’s been a steady attack on faith and religious freedom that we’ve seen in our military like we’ve never seen before. We are getting a lot of calls from soldiers saying ‘we’re afraid of going to church, we’re afraid to be seen praying, we’re afraid that would hurt our careers, our promotions.’ ”

Instances of the Christian faith coming under attack in the military include:

  • Commanders barred from disclosing any programs that are tied to the Chaplaincy or any programs involving religion;
  • The Air Force banning the word ‘God’ from an Air force patch logo – even though the reference had no religious connotation;
  • A Navy directive that banned Bibles at Walter Reed Hospital;
  • An Army Reserve training program that listed Evangelical Christians and Catholics as examples of religious extremism;
  • An Army email that listed prominent Christian ministries like the Family Research Council and American Family Association as “domestic hate groups.”

The question has been asked whether the military is enforcing section 533 of the National Defense Authorization Act. The Act, signed into law last year [2012], includes a conscience provision clause protecting the religious rights of troops.

The section reads, “No member of the Armed Forces may — require a chaplain to perform any rite, ritual, or ceremony that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain; or discriminate or take any adverse personnel action against a chaplain.”

A United States Army officer sent an email to dozens of subordinates listing the American Family Association and Family Research Council as “domestic hate groups” because they oppose homosexuality—and warned officers to monitor soldiers who might be supporters of the groups.

An Army training instructor told a Reserve unit based in Pennsylvania that Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism were examples of religious extremism. The Army categorized that episode as an isolated incident.

“Several in the military have this belief that evangelicals and people who hold to traditional values seem to be a problem and need to be monitored.”