Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16
The secret of the LORD is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant. Psalm 25:14
Vol. 11, No. 6 Straight and Narrow June 2002
By Bill James
And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed … (Revelation 12:17)
Part 1 - Futurism
In the 1600’s the Pope of Rome was under constant attack from the Protestants who, basing their beliefs on Bible prophecy, identified the Pope as the antichrist that was to come.
In response to this situation, the Pope commissioned a group of scholars to find a way to disarm these Protestant detractors. They studied the problem for many years and two theories came out of their efforts and were introduced into public thought.
The first theory was called Preterism and basically taught that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled in the time of Christ, hence no prophecy applied to the time then present.The Pope could not, therefore, be the antichrist. Except for a small following in the Germanic states, this concept had few adherents.
The second theory (later called Futurism) referred to the 70-week prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 and postulated that the last week of this time period was cut off and applied to the end of time, hence the antichrist had not yet come and would not for a long time. This concept received a little more acceptance but basically drew no following until more than 200 years later.
In the early 1800’s a group of believers began to meet together in Plymouth, England, and grew into a church body which became known, and is still known today as, “The Plymouth Brethren.” This group revived interest in futurism and adopted it as a basic teaching of their church. In the early 1830’s a young American theologian by the name of James Scofield traveled to England and began to meet and study with this group and later became a strong proponent of Futurism.
When Scofield returned to America he edited a Bible and put his study notes at the bottom of the pages. Rather than sell these new Bibles in stores, he commissioned salesmen to go door to door throughout the south and his Bible became very popular, finding its way into virtually all churches. Within twenty years Scofield’s Bible had become the teaching reference in most of the theological schools of the day.
Futurism became the prevailing Protestant teaching on the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, and in the 1970’s was popularized throughout the world through the writings of Hal Lindsey, such as his enormously popular book, The Late Great Planet Earth.
Now let’s take note of how Satan successfully managed to take the heat off of the Pope and cause most of the world to look elsewhere for the antichrist.
The rest is history. Within 50 years the truth was overrun and today you can hear Futurism taught on almost any Protestant or Catholic Christian radio or TV program in the world, in any language you can imagine, at any hour of the day or night.
Part 2 - Trinitarianism
Much of the documentation for the beginning of this next part can be found in the book, The Two Republics by A.T. Jones.
In the early 300’s AD a controversy arose in the Catholic church over whether the Son of God had existed as long as the Father or whether He had a beginning. A bishop by the name of Alexander taught the former and a layman by the name of Arius taught the latter. The issue became known as “the Arianan controversy,” and out of it grew Trinitarianism and Arianism.
While this may come as a surprise to you, the Christian church of that day, having received its doctrines from the teachings of the Apostles, had no concept of three co-eternal, co-existent, co-equal persons in the Godhead. No one even thought to suggest that the Son of God was equal with or as old as the Father.
The controversy became so divisive and widespread that it threatened to divide the whole empire as states took up one side or the other. In 325 A.D. Constantine convened what later became known as The Council of Nicea, in an attempt to deal with and settle this issue. He failed utterly and the controversy spread.
Finally in 381 A.D. at the Council of Constantinople, after many political and ecclesiastical struggles, by a show of force, the Catholic church adopted the Trinitarian position and it became what the church today declares to be their central doctrine upon which all the rest of their doctrines are based.
The mystery of the Trinity is the central doctrine of the Catholic faith. Upon it are based all other teachings of the church.
The Church studied this mystery with great care and, after four centuries of clarification, decided to state the doctrine this way: in the unity of the Godhead there are three Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit... (Handbook for Today’s Catholic, p. 16, Copyright ©1978, revised and expanded 1991)
Many, however, who held to the Bible as their rule of faith did not believe in, nor teach, the doctrine of the Trinity. Notable among these were the many Celtic, Gothic, Waldensian, and Armenian believers.
Most Adventists understand at least a little of the history of how our church came into existence and how our beliefs were developed under the direction of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Prophecy in the middle 1840s. What most of us are not aware of is the fact that our early pioneers were not Trinitarian, but rather were semi-Arian in belief. Notice these clear statements from some of the pioneers.
“The way spiritualizers this way have disposed of or denied the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ is first using the old unscriptural trinitarian creed, viz., that Jesus Christ is the eternal God, though they have not one passage to support it, while we have plain scripture testimony in abundance that He is the Son of the eternal God. (James White—The Day-Star, IX, January 24, 1846)
“To assert that the sayings of the Son and His apostles are the commandments of the Father, is as wide from the truth as the old trinitarian absurdity that Jesus Christ is the very and Eternal God. (James White—“The Faith of Jesus,” Review & Herald, August 5, 1852)
As fundamental errors, we might class with this counterfeit sabbath other errors which Protestants have brought away from the Catholic church, such as sprinkling for baptism, the trinity, the consciousness of the dead and eternal life in misery. The mass who have held these fundamental errors, have doubtless done it ignorantly; but can it be supposed that the church of Christ will carry along with her these errors till the judgment scenes burst upon the world? We think not. (James White—Ibid., September 12, 1854)
And as to the Son of God, he could be excluded also, for he had God for His Father, and did, at some point in the eternity of the past, have beginning of days. So that if we use Paul’s language in an absolute sense, it would be impossible to find but one being in the universe, and that is God the Father, who is without father or mother, or descent, or beginning of days, or end of life. Yet probably no one for a moment contends that Melchizedek was God the Father. (J.N. Andrews—“Melchisedec,” Ibid., September 7, 1869—also published in the January 4, 1881 edition of the Review & Herald.)
The Scriptures declare that Christ is ‘the only-begotten Son of God.’ He is begotten, not created. As to when He was begotten, it is not for us to inquire, nor could our minds grasp it if we were told. … There was a time when Christ proceeded forth and came forth from God, from the bosom of the Father (John 8:42; 1:18), but that time was so far back in the days of eternity that to finite comprehension it is practically without beginning. (E.J. Waggoner—Christ and His Righteousness, pp. 21, 22. From the section entitled, “Is Christ a Created Being?”)
The turning point for the denomination to shift from a semi-Arian to Trinitarian position came with the death of God’s messenger to the remnant. Ellen White died in 1915 and in 1919 the church convened a Bible conference. At that conference Christ’s place in the Godhead and Trinitarianism was discussed and a great debate broke out among the brethren. General Conference President A.G. Daniels tried to cool things down by stating, “We are not going to take a vote on trinitarianism or arianism, but we can think.” (Transcript from the 1919 Bible Conference)
Think about it we surely did! In 1928 LeRoy Froom published his book, The Coming of the Comforter, in which he more fully unfolded the Trinity doctrine for Adventist minds. He later admitted that he drew most of his information from outside of Adventism which turned out to be Pentecostal sources.
May I here make a frank personal confession? When, back between 1926 and 1928, I was asked by our leaders to give a series of studies on the Holy Spirit, covering the North American union ministerial institutes of 1928, I found that, aside from priceless leads found in the Spirit of Prophecy, there was practically nothing in our literature setting forth a sound Biblical exposition in this tremendous field of study. There were no previous pathfinding books on the question in our literature.
I was compelled to search out a score of valuable books written by men outside our faith—those previously noted—for initial clues and suggestions, and to open up beckoning vistas to intensive personal study. Having these, I went on from there. But they were decided early helps. And scores, if not hundreds, could confirm the same sobering conviction that some of these other men frequently had a deeper insight into the spiritual things of God than many of our own men then had on the Holy Spirit and the triumphant life. It was still a largely obscure theme. (Movement of Destiny, p. 322)
May I state that my book, The Coming of the Comforter was the result of a series of studies that I gave in 1927-1928 to ministerial institutes throughout North America. You cannot imagine how I was pummeled by some of the old timers because I pressed on the personality of the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Godhead. Some men denied that—still deny it. But the book has come to be generally accepted as standard. (Letter of LeRoy Froom to Dr. Otto H. Christenson, October 27, 1960. Emphasis supplied.)
And accepted as standard it soon was. In 1931 a new statement of beliefs was issued by the church which, for the first time, promoted the Trinity. It was never voted on by the General Conference but it was included in the Church Manual in 1933, while still an unofficial position of the church. In 1941 a new Baptismal Vow was issued which included an affirmation of belief in the Trinity. By this time Trinitarianism had become a “standard” teaching and given legitimacy as such, it was now taught in all our schools.
Many of the old standard textbooks, such as Daniel and Revelation by Uriah Smith and Bible Readings for the Home, that had been the basis of understanding our doctrines for years, were now edited “for updating” and reissued with all non-Trinitarian statements removed.
The book, Evangelism, was compiled and published in 1946 using misleading subtitles to direct the thinking of the reader, using only selected Spirit of Prophecy statements and statements out of context that appeared to support the new position of the church, and leaving out other plain statements that would have given a more balanced picture. This volume was then used as a hammer to force the resisting brethren to accept the new doctrine. How, after all, could they argue with “plain” statements from the pen of inspiration? Notice what Froom wrote in 1966:
I am sure that we are agreed in evaluating the book, Evangelism, as one of the great contributions in which the Ministerial Association had a part back in those days. You know what it did with men in the Columbia Union who came face-to-face with the clear, unequivocal statements of the Spirit of Prophecy on the Deity of Christ, personality of the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, and the like.
I know that you and Miss Kleuser and I had considerable to do with the selection of these things under the encouragement of men like Elder Branson who felt that the earlier concept of the White Estate brethren on this book Evangelism was not adequate. (Letter of LeRoy Froom to Roy A. Anderson, January 18, 1966)
During 1955-1956, Evangelicals Walter Martin, George Cannon, and Donald Barnhouse met with LeRoy Froom, Roy Anderson, W. E. Read, and T. E. Unruh, in what would later come to be known as the Evangelical Conferences. Walter Martin had previously written a book called Rise of the Cults, in which he labeled Seventh-day Adventists as a cult because of what he perceived as the decidedly Arian stance of our pioneers, including Ellen G. White. In 1989, Martin gave a brief history of how it occurred to a group of ministers at Loma Linda.
The climate at that time [1955, 1956], Adventism was considered like Jehovah’s Witnesses, like Mormonism, like most of the major cultic structures of the day. ...
When I first met with L. E. Froom, he took me to task for about fifteen minutes on how I could ever possibly think that Adventism was a cult. “Adventism rings as true as steel” I said “do you think Arius was a Christian?” And he was an excellent church historian and he said, “Of course he wasn’t a Christian, he denied the deity of Jesus Christ.” I said, “So did Ellen White.” Dr. Froom replied, “What!” I said, “Yes,” and opened up a suitcase and produced at least twelve feet of Adventist publications stacked up and marked for Dr. Froom’s perusal. And for the perusal of the committee to check the sources in there. And they were in mortal shock I might add, to think that it was as pervasive as it was. Mrs. White reversed herself later on very quickly, and affirmed the doctrine of the Trinity very strongly and taught it. But she was influenced by Uriah Smith. She did deny the eternal deity of Christ at one time and relegated Him to the place of a second deity. That’s why you were classified with the the Jehovah’s Witnesses early on, because of the Arian emphasis in Adventism. And because of the fact that you affirmed Michael the Archangel to be Christ.
Dr. Froom and the committee decided that they would peruse this material immediately. So we adjourned the meeting and they took all the materials with them and I guess others, and went through the materials. They came back and said, “well, a great deal of these things you’re calling attention to are there, we agree, and we don’t agree with these statements. They do not reflect orthodox Adventist theology, and we reject it.” I said, “good, happy to hear that, now can you fault us, because we read this material, and it’s not peripheral issues we are talking about.” ...
We went through all kinds of materials and then the idea came for a book where we would question and the Adventist denomination would respond. ... Out of that came the book Questions on Doctrine. Contrary to some of the fantasies and myths which I hear today from Adventists who ought to know better, the book had the approval of the General Conference. (Walter Martin - Video-taped conference at Campus Hill Church in Loma Linda, California, January, 1989)
Those who met with Walter Martin “accounted as error” the foundation teachings of the church that had sustained the work since its early times. Dr. Barnhouse, writing in Eternity magazine, noted:
Immediately it was perceived that the Adventists were strenuously denying certain doctrinal positions which had been previously attributed to them.
The Adventists specifically repudiate any teachings by ministers or members of their faith who have believed, proclaimed, and written any matter which would classify them among Arians. (Eternity, September, 1956)
Due to the misrepresentations made by these leading brethren to the Evangelicals, we are now no longer classified as “Arians;” are no longer considered a cult; and thus have the dubious honor of being accepted into the greater fellowship of the “orthodox” Protestant churches.
“As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.” (Isaiah 3:12)
Every aspiring minister and layman who has gone through our schools, and every new convert who has entered our churches in the last fifty years, has been taught concerning and required to give assent to, a doctrine that denies the faith of our founding fathers and flies in the face of the teachings of the Scriptures themselves. Is there any evidence of this?
Our opponents [Protestants] sometimes claim that no belief should be held dogmatically which is not explicitly stated in scripture (ignoring that it is only on the authority of the Church we recognize certain Gospels and not others as true). But the Protestant churches have themselves accepted such dogmas as the Trinity for which there is no such precise authority in the Gospels... (“The Catholic Church’s New Dogma: The Assumption Of Mary,” by Graham Green—Life magazine, October 30, 1950)
The Father–Son relationship in the New Testament must always be understood in the light of the event of Bethlehem. The only child born into this world with a divine, rather than a human, father is Jesus, The title, “Son,” refers to His entry into time and does not deny at all His eternal origin. There are references in the Old Testament to Sonship, but these are always in anticipation of the incarnation. (J. R. Hoffmann—Ministry, June 1982)
A plan of salvation was encompassed in the covenant made by the Three Persons of the Godhead, who possessed the attributes of Deity equally. In order to eradicate sin and rebellion from the universe and to restore harmony and peace, one of the divine Beings accepted, and entered into, the role of the Father, another the role of the Son. The remaining divine Being, the Holy Spirit, was also to participate in effecting the plan of salvation. All of this took place before sin and rebellion transpired in heaven.
By accepting the roles that the plan entailed, the divine Beings lost none of the powers of Deity. With regard to their eternal existence and other attributes, they were one and equal. But with regard to the plan of salvation, there was, in a sense, a submission on the part of the Son to the Father. (Gordon Jensen—Adventist Review, October 31, 1996, p. 12. Week of Prayer readings)
To me this signifies the interchangeableness of the members of the Godhead since they are one in action and purpose. (J. R. Spangler—Review & Herald, October 21, 1971)
So then, where has all of this gotten us to today? Maybe this will shock us awake to the war as it has really been waged!
Some Adventists today think that our beliefs have remained unchanged over the years, or they seek to turn back the clock to some point when we had everything just right. But all attempts to recover such “historic Adventism” fail in view of the facts of our heritage.
Adventist beliefs have changed over the years under the impact of “present truth.” Most startling is the teaching regarding Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Many of the pioneers, including James White, J. N. Andrews, Uriah Smith, and J. H. Waggoner, held to an Arian or semi-Arian view—that is, the Son at some point in time before the Creation of our world was generated by the Father.
Likewise, the Trinitarian understanding of God, now part of our fundamental beliefs, was not generally held by the early Adventists. Even today a few do not subscribe to it. (William G. Johnsson—Editor: Adventist Review, January 6, 1994 p. 10, 11)
Most of the founders of Seventh-day Adventism would not be able to join the church today if they had to subscribe to the denomination’s Fundamental Beliefs.
More specifically, most would not be able to agree to belief number 2, which deals with the doctrine of the Trinity. For Joseph Bates the Trinity was an unscriptural doctrine, for James White it was that “old Trinitarian absurdity,” and for M. E. Cornell it was a fruit of the great apostasy, along with such false doctrines as Sundaykeeping and the immortality of the soul. (George Knight—Professor of History, Andrews University: Ministry, October 1993 p. 10)
Now let’s take note of how Satan successfully managed to deceive God’s people and lead them back to Catholicism.
The rest is history. Within 50 years the truth was overrun and today you can hear Trinitarianism taught on almost any Adventist radio or TV program in the world, in any language you can imagine, at any hour of the day or night.
Just as the false picture of the Son of God taught by the leaders of Israel led to His rejection 2000 years ago, so the false picture of the Son of God taught by the leaders of Spiritual Israel has led to His rejection today. “The history of the rebellion of Dathan and Abiram is being repeated, and will be repeated till the close of time. Who will be on the Lord’s side? Who will be deceived, and in their turn become deceivers?” (Letter 15, 1892 printed in, Last Day Events, p. 173)
“THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH AND DWELT AMONG US AND THEN THROUGH THEOLOGIANS IT BECAME WORDS AGAIN.” Karl Barth
May God help us to awaken out of sleep and put on the whole armor, for we have been overrun and are now prisoners of war!
(Brother James writes from his home in Florida. You may contact Bill by writing to him at: 822 Crescent Valley Ranch Road, Davenport, Florida 33837. His phone number is: 407-491-0434)
A Special Prayer Request
We would like to appeal to the brothers and sisters to lift up the people of McDowell County and the surrounding areas in West Virginia and Virginia who recently experienced record flooding with great lose of lives and property. (See the report on page 6.)
Also, please lift up Sister Daphne Burson of Montana in prayer at this time. She has been fighting cancer for a while and is in special need of our prayers. Sister Daphne is a very remarkable person and we appreciate her upbeat view of life and the work very much.
One more special request is for Onycha Holt, whom is scheduled to have brain surgery about the time this paper will be mailed out. Please keep her in prayer also.
If you have a special prayer request for publication, please send it to us so we can let others know to pray. Editor
Flooding Strikes Southern WV - (Second Time in Ten Months)
and Thoughts on Gospel Order
Record flooding has occurred in southern West Virginia for the second time in ten months. McDowell County and surrounding areas were devastated by recent rainfalls, just after the area started to recover from record flooding that occurred last year. CNN news and the major news networks all carried stories on television. McDowell County has been declared both a state and federal disaster area.
Though the property damage is massive, reaching several millions of dollars, the greatest tragedy is the lives lost. At the time of this writing, ten people have been confirmed dead with some still missing. The despair of many people is difficult to describe. After having record flooding in July of last year, in which thousands lost all the material possessions they had, many had to flee their homes and watch as the flood waters rose, in many places, higher than they had been last year.
We at Smyrna have been really challenged to know how to help with the flood relief. Our resources in funds and people power seem so small compared to the need. I challenged our people with the question, “How does one eat an elephant?” The answer is, “One bite at a time!” Of course the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and other relief agencies have arrived to help, but we all have a responsibility to help. Therefore, we set out to seek those who had “fallen between the cracks.” It came to our attention that the community of Bradshaw in southwestern McDowell County, and the surrounding area, was in great need, so we worked to see that food, clothing, and especially cleaning supplies were brought into the area. The appreciation of the people has been genuine and heartfelt.
As we have been working and traveling to the different parts of the county, we have seen many sincere Christians at work for their fellow men and women. Many local churches in this area are working hard to help others with the necessities of life. As stated earlier, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army have sent help. This is usually expected. However, I have seen several vans, trucks, and trailers from Ohio, North Carolina, Tennessee, and other places. These represent help from Baptists, Mennonites, and other church groups. (To date, I have not seen ADRA, though that does not mean that they are not coming.) As I noticed these groups, I could see the blessing and benefit of having the ability to work together on projects too large for any one individual church. As the churches work together, pooling their resources, they have the ability to do much more than any single church could do.
Within the movement that is attempting to restore the truth about God to the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the world, there has been a lack of working together among the individual groups as there could have been. Many belonging to these groups have been mistreated and abused by spiritual dictators and, having broken the bonds of spiritual servitude, they are reluctant to enter into any arrangement which threatens their freedom. I have been there and I can appreciate this thinking. But I know that we must go beyond that kind of thinking, realizing that the Lord is able to both, heal the hurt of His people, and safeguard them as well from future bondage.What a blessing it could be if local groups could gather at times, or at least send representatives, to discuss ways in which the work could progress. Perhaps funds could be pooled for emergency situations such as we have in our area at this time. Different home-churches and ministries could share their time, talents, or funds to help in other areas with evangelistic meetings, literature distributions, disaster relief, etc. I believe that this can be done on a totally voluntary basis by the local churches and individuals. I think that sometimes we are so afraid of men ruling over us, that we steel ourselves against anyone “ruling” over us to the point that the Holy Spirit cannot guide us as individuals, as local churches, and as a movement. If we wish for people to be open to listen to the truth about God, must we not be open to all truth ourselves, including truth concerning gospel order. I am reminded of a testimony of Ellen White where she stated:
“Our numbers gradually increased. The seed that was sown was watered of God, and he gave the increase. At first we assembled for worship, and presented the truth to those who would come to hear, in private houses, in large kitchens, in barns, in groves, and in school houses; but it was not long before we were able to build humble houses of worship. As our numbers increased, it was evident that without some form of organization, there would be great confusion, and the work would not be carried forward successfully. To provide for the support of the ministry, for carrying the work in new fields, for protecting both the churches and the ministry from unworthy members, for holding church property, for the publication of the truth through the press, and for many other objects, organization was indispensable.” (General Conference Daily Bulletin, January 29, 1893 - emphasis supplied.)
While we may feel that we do not need organization, Ellen White believed that as the number of believers “gradually increased,” “organization was indispensable.”
The Scriptures plainly state that “all things [are to] be done decently and in order.” (1 Corinthinas 14:40) At the end of the book of Judges we read: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25) But is that the way we should work? Notice these verses from Proverbs:
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.” (Proverbs 12:15) “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.” (Proverbs 21:2) Our desire should not be to do what is right in our eyes, but what is right in the Lord’s eyes.
Gospel order on every level will greatly increase our efficiency. God told the children of Israel, “And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. (Leviticus 26:8) Later we read, “…one [would] chase a thousand, and two [would] put ten thousand to flight…” (Deuteronomy 32:30a) In each case the ratio of increase is five times the efficiency for each person when they work together with others.
While I do not believe that we need the same type of “organization” as has led to the spiritual hierarchy that exists today in the Adventist Church, there is clearly a need for gospel order for the benefit of the work. A few years ago there were some “elders meetings” that really helped advance the work in specific areas at that time. However, we have not had any such, or similar, meetings in the last few years. Perhaps this subject could be discussed at the West Virginia camp meeting in July this year when we anticipate several believers from different groups to be present. Any feedback from individual believers, home-churches, or ministries who would like to be involved, would be greatly appreciated.
Please keep the precious people of this area in your prayers and pray for us that we might know the best ways to help both temporally and spiritually, those who are victims of the flooding. Also, please be patient with us, if due to the help needed by flood victims, we have been missing from the office or late in responding to our mail. Editor
THIS IS THE CHURCH
By A. T. Jones
Christian Unity is always among the Christian things that are of the greatest importance.
While Christian Unity is in itself of great importance, to know what it is, is of greater importance.
This because to desire, and to strive for, and to promote, as Christian Unity what is not Christian Unity at all is a most dangerous mistake and an immense loss.
And much of just this has been done, and much of it is being done just now as a part of the several great “movements” in and by the churches that are now being urged.
In studying Christian Unity for what it really is, it will be helpful first of all plainly to state what it is not.
One of the clearest expressions of what it is not is the following prodigiously false statement of what it is:
“This unity is two-fold; it comprises:
“Scofield. Unity of doctrine and faith, which consists in the common accord of all the Faithful in admitting and believing all that the teaching church proposes to them as revealed or confirmed by Jesus Christ.
“2. Unity of government, which produces unity of communion, and which consists in the submission of all the Faithful to their respective bishops and in particular to the Roman Pontiff, supreme Head of the church.”
Yet utterly false and Romish as all of that is, take away from it only the part that pertains to “the Roman Pontiff,” and it fairly expresses the view of every denomination in the world as to what is Christian Unity.
But Christian Unity is altogether another thing than is any of that; and is as far higher than all of that as Heaven is higher than the earth.
Uniting of Christians upon doctrine, is not Christian Unity.
Agreement of Christians in belief, is not Christian Unity.
Uniting or agreeing of Christians upon a platform or statement of belief, or of doctrine, or of principles, is not Christian Unity.
Uniting of Christians in an agreed assent and submission to an order of church organization or church-government, is not Christian Unity.
Union of purpose or of effort of Christians or among Christians in promoting a cause, is not Christian Unity.
Free and pleasant fraternal association of Christians, is not Christian Unity.
Christians might have all of these things in one combination, indeed many of them do, and yet not have Christian Unity at all.
Christian Unity is far more and far higher than is any association or denomination or federation or council even of all the Christians in the world for any purpose or upon any platform or in any cause or in submission to any church-government. And it is so well worth having that it is worth more than all other things put together.
Come then, let us know what it is in its pure truth and splendid worth, and then let us have it for all that it is worth.
THE CHURCH OF GOD
In entering upon the study of The Church of the Living God, there is an essential that should first be considered: and not only first, but first and last and all the time. That essential is, The Place of the Holy Spirit.
In the last preceding study booklet, The Greater Purpose, it was related how that at the beginning of the building of The Church according to the new order of the eleven apostles, all of whom had been personally chosen, and called, and taught for three years, and ordained, and commissioned, by the Lord Himself, to go and preach the Gospel in all the world, were not allowed to go anywhere not to preach at all till they were endued with power from on high in the baptism with the Holy Spirit. And they must tarry in Jerusalem and wait for that baptism.
At Pentecost that Baptism came. The Holy Spirit took His place, which was the first place of all. Then they preached the Gospel and the work went on. And that work went on with always the Holy Spirit in His own place, and that the first place of all and over all and through all and in all. This is God’s way with His Church and in His Church, and it must be our way.
Let us trace for a little distance, this way of the Lord in and with His own Church: before man usurped the place of the Lord, and machinery the place of the Holy Spirit.
The second chapter of Acts is the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, Peter’s sermon telling that this was the fulfillment of the prophecy by Joel that God would pour out His Spirit “upon all flesh,” and the call to all to repent and be baptized, “and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
The third and fourth chapters tell of the healing of the lame man at the gate of the temple, of Peter’s sermon to the crowd that gathered and of Peter and John being arrested and imprisoned by the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees of the Sanhedrin, of the trial next day by the great council where “Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost,” made answer; and being let go, the two apostles went to their own company where they all together prayed “and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.”
The fifth chapter tells of the trick of Ananias and Sapphira in the matter of their agreeing to deceive as to the sale and gift of their property. And this was “to lie to the Holy Ghost,” and “to tempt the Spirit of the Lord.”
The consequences were immediate and dreadful. Then the apostles were all arrested by the high priest and council and were imprisoned for trial again. “But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors and brought them forth, and said Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this Life.” Again they were arrested and brought before the council “and all the senate of the children of Israel,” where again Peter “and the other apostles” preached the Gospel and declared. “We are witnesses of these things, and so also is the Holy Ghost whom God hath given to them that obey Him.”
The sixth and seventh chapters tell of the choosing of men “full of the Holy Ghost and Wisdom” to have charge of the “business” in “the daily ministration;” and of Stephen “a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost” speaking before the council with his face shining “as it had been the face of an angel,” and of his “being full of the Holy Ghost” and looking up into heaven and seeing “the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.”
The eighth chapter tells of the preaching by Philip in Samaria, and of their receiving “the Holy Ghost;” and of “the angel of the Lord” telling Philip to go from Samaria away down to the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza, where, when he arrived a man in a chariot was just then passing and reading in the book of Isaiah what is now the fifty-third chapter, and “the Spirit said unto Philip Go near, join thyself to this chariot.” Philip did so, and preached to him Jesus in that same Scripture; the man believed and was baptized and went on his way rejoicing; and the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more.”
The ninth chapter tells of the apprehension and conversion of the raging Saul, by the appearing of the Lord Jesus Himself, of his being “filled with the Holy Ghost” by the laying on of the hands of Ananias who was sent to him for this purpose by the Lord Jesus “in a vision;” of “the churches walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Ghost;” and of the raising of Dorcas from the dead.
The tenth chapter tells of “an angel of God” speaking to Cornelius in a vision and telling him to send men to Joppa to call Peter to him; of a vision given to Peter to prepare for the coming of the man; of the Spirit’s telling Peter that the men were seeking him and that he was to go with them; of his going and preaching in the house of Cornelius and “the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.”
The eleventh chapter tells of the rehearsal of the foregoing experience to the Pharasaic believer at Jerusalem who contended with him for what had been done; of the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles in Antioch, and of the sending of Barnabas over there “For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.”
The twelfth chapter is the story of the deliverance of Peter from prison by the angel of the Lord; and Herod’s death from being smitten by the angel of the Lord.
The thirteenth and fourteenth chapters tell of “the Holy Ghost” saying to the church at Antioch, “Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them,” and of their “being sent forth by the Holy Ghost;” of Saul, “full of the Holy Ghost” rebuking the opposing sorcerer; of the preaching of the Gospel at Antioch in Pisidia and of the disciples being “filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost.”
The fifteenth chapter tells of the settlement by the Holy Spirit of the controversy as to circumcision and keeping the law for Salvation, and the sending forth of the letter saying, “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.”
The sixteenth chapter tells us that Paul an apostle, and Silas a prophet “were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia.” and assaying to go into Bithynia “the Spirit suffered them not;” and thus traveling on, they were brought down to Troas where in a “vision to Paul in the night a man of Macedonia called them over there. And chapters seventeen and eighteen tell of their experiences there and in Greece.
Chapter nineteen tells that Paul found at Ephesus “certain disciples” to whom he said, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” They replied, “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” “Unto what then were ye baptized?” “Unto John’s baptism.” Then Paul preached Christ to them, and “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands upon them the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied.”
In the twentieth chapter Paul is on his way to Jerusalem, and he called the elders of the church at Ephesus to meet him at Miletus; and in his words to them he said, “the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me;” and “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers to feed the flock of God.”
In the twenty-first chapter, when Paul came to Tyre the disciples “said unto Paul through the Spirit that he should not go up to Jerusalem;” and when he came to Caesarea, the prophet Agabus met him and “took Paul’s girdle and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”
He went on to Jerusalem, and beginning in the twenty-first chapter and reaching to the end of the book there is one of the most remarkable chains of the direct providence and working of God that ever occurred in the world. And the last words of Paul in the book, begin with the great characteristic of the man and of the book, “Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the Prophet,” etc.
From only this mere sketch of the book of Acts it is perfectly plain that the one thing that stands out plain and clear and prominent above all other things in the whole book and throughout the whole book, is that the Holy Spirit was then the grand sovereign, reigning, and guiding Personage in the Church and of the Church.
And next to that one great thing there stands clear and plain and prominent throughout, the splendid corresponding truth that the Christians of the time constantly recognized and gladly yielded that sovereignty and reign and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Everywhere He is recognized as first. In all things He is considered first, and the first. If they had not done this, the record could not have been what it is; for then the experience would not have been what it was.
Let Christians again so recognize and yield the sovereignty and reign and guidance of the Holy Spirit over and in themselves and over all things in and to the Church, then again will experience of individuals of the Church prove to be what it was at the first; for He is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Such only is the rightful place of the Holy Spirit in individuals and in the Church; and He needs only that Christians yield to Him that place and recognize Him in that place, to prove Himself to be all that He ever was in the place that is supremely His.
Thus in all things of The Church and to The Church and in The Church, the place of the Holy Spirit is the first place. No step can be taken and nothing can be done in the right way until the Holy Spirit is given His place.
And this must be so now with us in the study of this greatest of all things — The Church of the Living God. For it is the truth that, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which in The Church God hath prepared for them that love Him; but God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit, for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
To be Continued
(Next month we will continue with the publication of this study. “This is the Church” is the third of a three part series written by Elder Jones entitled: “Ecumenism and Biblical Ecclesiology.” The first two parts are, “From Babylon to New Jerusalem,” and “The Greater Purpose.” It can be seen from Jones’ study of the Bible that the portion of the Canon that we commonly call, “The Acts of the Apostles,” could have been called, “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.” Editor)
“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.”
Nicodemus held a high position of trust in the Jewish nation. He was highly educated, and possessed talents of no ordinary character. With others, he had been stirred by the teaching of Jesus of Galilee. Though rich, learned, and honored, he had been strangely attracted by the humble Nazarene. The lessons, so new and strange, which had fallen from the lips of this teacher had greatly impressed him; and he resolved to seek Jesus, that he might learn more of these wonderful truths.
But he did not visit Jesus by day; it would have been too humiliating for a ruler of the Jews to acknowledge himself in sympathy with a teacher as yet so little known. Learning by special inquiry where Jesus would be likely to retire for the night, he waited till the city was hushed in slumber, and then sought him.
“Rabbi,” he said, “we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” By speaking of Christ’s rare gifts as a teacher, and also of his wonderful power to perform miracles, he hoped to pave the way for his interview. But in his infinite wisdom, Christ saw before him a seeker after truth. He knew the real object of the visit, and with a desire to deepen the conviction already resting upon his listener’s mind, he came directly to the point, saying, solemnly yet kindly, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
This was a very humiliating statement to Nicodemus, and with a feeling of irritation, he took up the words of Christ, saying, “How can a man be born when he is old?” But the Saviour did not meet argument with argument. Raising his hand with solemn, quiet dignity, he pressed the truth home with greater assurance: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
Some gleams of truth penetrated the ruler’s mind. As he stood before Jesus, the softening, subduing influence of the words of the Saviour shone into his mind and impressed his heart. Yet he did not fully understand the message. Amazed at the thought of a kingdom so pure that he could have no part in it unless he became a new man, he said, wonderingly, “How can these things be?” “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” Jesus asked. Surely one entrusted with sacred responsibilities in connection with the people of God should not be ignorant of truths so important. His words conveyed the lesson that instead of feeling irritated over the plain words of truth, Nicodemus should have a very humble opinion of himself because of his spiritual ignorance. Yet Christ spoke with such solemn dignity, and both look and tone expressed such earnest love, that Nicodemus was not offended as he realized his humiliating position.
In this memorable interview, Christ laid down principles of the greatest importance to every one. He defined the terms of salvation in clear terms, and emphasized the necessity for a new life. Christ showed that if a man would be a blessing in this world, and be counted worthy to take part in the joys of the future life, he must be born again,–born by the divine Spirit, which changes our wicked hearts, giving us instead a pure heart, a virtuous character, and a willing obedience to the requirements of God. To every one who names the name of Christ, who has decided to follow the meek and lowly Jesus, just as truly as to the Jewish ruler, these words are addressed, “Ye must be born again.” If they are received and heeded, they will be as a light shining in a dark place, guiding the inquiring soul into perfect day. (Mrs. E. G. White, Youth’s Instructor, September 2, 1897)
West Virginia Camp Meeting
WEST VIRGINIA CAMP MEETING: Smyrna would like to again make known the date of July 2–6 for our annual camp meeting
We hope that holding the camp meeting during the 4th of July week\weekend, will assist those with difficult work schedules. However, for those not camping, it may make finding an available motel more difficult. The nearest motels that still have rooms available are: Woody’s Motel, (304) 732-6540; The Cow Shed, (304) 732-7000; and Twin Falls State Park Resort, (304) 294-4000. Twin Falls State Park also has an excellent campground for those needing RV hookups.
Due to the lack of a large kitchen, meals will not be served. As with tenting, all will need to provide for their own meals unless prior arrangements are made.
Some of the speakers will be David Clayton, Lynnford Beachy, Willis Smith, Stephen Burks, M.D., Allen Stump, and Howard Williams. We are planning on a vegan cooking seminar, as well as a seminar on the truth about God. We hope to have some discussions on gospel order as well. Please mark your calendars now and plan to attend.
Old Paths is a free monthly newsletter/study-paper published monthly by Smyrna Gospel Ministries, HC 64 Box 128-B, Welch WV 24801-9606. U.S.A. It is sent free upon request. The paper is dedicated to the propagation and restoration of the principles of truth that God gave to the early Seventh-day Adventist pioneers. Duplication is not only permitted, but strongly encouraged. This issue, with other gospel literature we publish, can be found at our web sites. The urls are: http://www.smyrna.org and http://www.presenttruth.info. Phone: (304) 732-9204. Fax: (304) 732-7322.
Editor: Allen Stump -
Associate Editor: Lynnford Beachy - E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also visit our Present Truth Website!
This page was last updated: Sunday, May 26, 2013