Old Paths

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. 20, No.1 Straight and Narrow January 2011

“A Mighty Fortress is our God”

Driven to Defiance

“And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.” (Revelation 13:1-7)

What we have depicted here is a historical view, from its very inception until its final eradication, of an antichrist power arising that makes war and continues in war with God’s saints. This war is a continuation of a war that began, of all places, in heaven. In Revelation 12:7 we read: “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels.” The name Michael is the pre-incarnate name for Jesus Christ. It means “Who is like God?” or “The one who is like God.” Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, or Satan, and his angels. This war which began in heaven then moved to this earth and with the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve, sin entered into this world, bringing all the sinfulness of sin, including the war against God and against those who stand with God. The very first child on this earth, Cain, became the first murderer. The Bible says he murdered his brother Abel because his brother’s works were righteous and he was wicked. Sacred and secular history tells us this warfare has continued since the Garden of Eden. Sacred history tells us of the war of pagan people against God’s people, Israel and of apostate Judaism warring against the early Christian church, as recorded in the New Testament. Secular history records the record of God’s faithful people persecuted by the Romans and then by papal Rome through the inquisitions. This persecution was and has been continued by many people, such as Hitler, Stalin, and others, and we might ask why does such persecution continue? Are we not all part of the family of humanity? Even today in certain areas of the United States of America, why are people of a certain skin color or race still not welcomed? Why is it that in our family of humanity hatred exists, hatred of people against people? Jesus told us why.

In John chapter 16, he first said: “They shall put you out of the synagogues” (v. 2). The synagogue was the meeting place of the Jews after the Diaspora. Synagogues were built because the people no longer had a temple as the central focus of worship. In all the little towns and communities synagogues were built where the people could come together to read the Torah and to discuss spiritual matters, something like a chapel today, and Jesus says that his people would be put out of them. To understand the significance of what this meant, you have to understand that salvation was considered to be in the church. Satan has used the idea of salvation being found in a church to great advantage for a long time, for when you corrupt the church you then have the ability to corrupt everyone in the church who depends on it for salvation. When you were excommunicated in Judaism, a funeral was held for you, no one was allowed to speak to you or do business with you, and you were completely ostracized and shunned. It was as if you had died. Jesus said a time was coming when this would happen, but he then said something else: “Yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (v. 2). He who kills you has become so brainwashed and deluded that he thinks he is doing the will of God. Now, why would they do all this? Jesus answers this question: “And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me” (v. 3). Jesus says they put you out of the synagogue and even kill you because they do not know the Father and they do not know him.

Jesus uses this same reason in chapter 15 of John, just prior to these verses in chapter 16: “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me (vs. 20, 21). In his prayer in John 17, Jesus also said: “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee.” You see, the world does not know God, and just as soon as the world becomes friendly with so-called Christianity, you may be sure that that Christianity is but a hollow shell of something claiming to be Christian but is not Christian because the Bible says that we are to “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1John 2:15-17). The Bible tells us that the world knows not God, his parental character, and they, therefore, depart from honor and righteousness in dealing with their fellow men. When they do this, beloved, Satan exalts because he has inspired them with his attributes and they are following in the track of Romanism because as you study the history of the church of Rome, what today is called the papacy, you find that this is the exact character that they are exhibiting today.

“Those who are enjoined to represent the attributes of the Lord’s character step from the biblical platform, and in their own human judgment devise rules and regulations to force the will of others” (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 363), and when we try to force the will of others, this is the track of Romanism. This is the character of Satan. “The devisings for forcing men to follow the prescriptions of other men are instituting an order of things that overrides sympathy and tender compassion, that blinds the eyes to the mercy, justice and the love of God. Moral influence, personal responsibility are [at that point] trodden underfoot. The righteousness of Christ by faith has been ignored by some; for it is contrary to their spirit” (Ibid.). To everyone who walks in the track of Romanism the righteousness of Christ by faith is ignored because it is contrary to their spirit and their whole life experience and that experience is to rule, rule, rule. It is rule or ruin. It is men controlling men, and this is the track of Romanism and the exact opposite of the gospel of Christ. (See Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 362, 363.)

Men who think they are representing the justice of God but do not represent his tenderness and his great love wherewith he has loved us, are men who are inventing ideas, presenting teachings that are the devices of Satan, and blinding men’s eyes to the truth of God. They do this because it is inherent in their very nature (see Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 363).

Jesus said they do this because they do not know him or his Father. I am reminded of this statement of Jesus in John 17: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (v. 3), but I ask you these questions: “What does it mean to know God? Is it simply to know his identity?”

In the religious world today there is a lot of confusion about God. Followers of Hinduism worship many gods, for example, and Muslims worship Allah, a god who takes delight in seeing women treated as secondhand pieces of property.

Most of the Christian church today proclaims a view about God known as the trinity; whereas, Judaism states there is one true God, and in this they are correct. An interesting thing we must come face-to-face with is, though Judaism understood the identity of God, Jesus said they did not know his Father, and they did not know him. You see, beloved, it is not enough to know the identity of God. It is not enough to know that God is one; that he is the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ; and that he is the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5). It is not enough to know the identity of God, we must know his person, his character, and his parental nature. If we simply know about God, we will be in the same position of the Jewish people who knew there was one true God but who put other people out of the synagogues and even killed them, thinking they were doing God service.

In 1 John 4 we read: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (vs. 7, 8).When we think about God, we often think about his majestic nature and his omniscience, as David said in Psalm 8: “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him” (vs. 3, 4)? I can only say amen to such thoughts. When David looked out in the sky, he could distinguish only about three thousand stars or heavenly bodies with the naked eye, but today we know that there are billions upon billions upon billions of galaxies which have billions and billions of stars and God made them all. We think of God’s majestic, powerful nature, but this is not what makes God so great, friends. It is not just simply power, as the old saying states, “might does not make right.” Just because it is mighty does not make it right. We think of God as a being who knows everything, and he does know everything. He is omniscient, which means all-knowing, but this is not the great thing about God. The great thing about God is not his power, it is not his intelligence, and he is all-powerful and all-intelligent, but the great thing about God is that he is a kind, merciful, benevolent, tender heavenly Father and a God of love. He is a God of love because that is his essential nature, love. It is love, and the way he proves that love to us is that he sent his Son to die for us.

In l John 4 we continue to read, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation [a covering] for our sins” (vs. 9, 10). Here we are, dirty and filthy, and he covers us with his Son; and as the song says, under his wings, I am safely abiding. If we are under Christ, we may safely abide. This is a God of love who loved us so much that he sent his Son, and the Bible says in verse 19 in 1 John 4 that “We love him, because he first loved us”. And this is the motivation, this is the goal that we have that all things are of God.

Jesus says that they are going to do this because they know not him or his Father. This is so important that it is described in the Bible as the very spirit of antichrist. This is what the real essence of the nature of antichrist is. In l John 2:22, we read: “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son”. You see, friends, there is more than one way to deny the Father and the Son. We talk sometimes about this pagan, papal doctrine called the trinity, which says that God is somehow three in one and one in three, and, beloved, it is confusing. Everyone says that it is a mystery because it is confusing, and it is not a scriptural doctrine. It is not a doctrine of the Bible, but it is a doctrine of men. When we say that the spirit of antichrist denies the Father and the Son, we are usually referring to the identity of God, and this is true, but antichrist is more than that. The Jews knew the identity of God and denied the identity of Jesus, and Jesus said they did that because they did not know him. They knew his identity, but they did not know him — they did not know his character. This is speaking, friends, to us today. We must know the character — the benevolent, parental character — of God and the righteousness of his Son. When we do not have that knowledge, then we have the very spirit of antichrist.

In Adventism we talk a lot about an issue called the mark of the beast. This beast in Revelation 13 has a mark, a name, a number, and these are important issues. They are last-day eschatological issues of which every Christian believer should have an understanding. We talk about this great last test and take that issue and link it to the papacy, but 1 John 2:22 says nothing about that issue here. It says nothing about the Sabbath. It says nothing about the state of the dead. It says the Father and the Son. Friends, even if we know the identity of God correctly, we can have the very spirit of antichrist if we have the spirit of rule, the spirit that tries to control and compel the mind and the conscience of men, because we are substituting our will for the will of God. We are substituting our ideas for the ideas of the Bible. In effect, we are substituting ourselves, which is motivated by the spirit of Satan, for the God of this universe.

Martin Luther

In November 1483 a boy was born whose name was Martin. His father was a coppersmelter, and this boy was twenty years old before he ever saw a Bible. That gives me hope because I did not become a Christian until I was twenty. Paul speaks about redeeming the time, and this young boy had never seen a Bible until he was twenty years old. His father’s surname was Luther, and Martin became a monk. He decided to serve God. He made this decision during a storm he encountered while returning home from the university where he was studying to become a lawyer. Lightning was everywhere, and he thought he would die from a lightning strike. He pleaded with God that if God would save him, he would serve him. Haven’t we heard that before? But Luther meant what he said. He did not know much about God but served him the best way he knew how by becoming an Augustinian monk. He became the best monk anyone could be — a monk of the monks, so to speak. He said if monkery could save a person, he would have most assuredly found salvation. He lived a very austere life, a life of hardship and privation, because the church taught that if you suffered you could enter into the sufferings of Jesus. Luther would take cords and whip himself until he bled. He went out at night into the snow to sleep without blankets, and except some of his brother monks dragged him in, he would surely have died. He would go to confession, for the church said to confess to the priests, but a little voice in the back of his mind would tell him he was not really forgiven, so he would confess again. This little voice would tell him he did not really mean it, so he would confess again. Luther might go through seven confessions and be absolved seven times for a single sin. He was trying to be a good monk. When he was only twenty-eight, he was called to be doctor of the Bible at Wittenberg University, a newly-established school. For the first time in his life, Luther had to study the Bible for other people and not just for himself. His life now had to be centered away from himself and his torture of trying to find salvation through the works and the teachings of the church.

During the time of Luther, all teaching and authority in the church was based on three things — the Bible, the traditions of the church, and the magisterium of the church. The magisterium of the church is the teachings and decrees of bishops and popes, and all authority was based on these three things and in that order. The Bible was at the lowest level of authority, the traditions of the church were next highest in importance, and the magisterium was the highest level of authority. Luther decided, as he began to study the Bible and began to teach the doctrines of the Bible to others, that all of this was wrong. He believed that it was wrong because of what he read in the Bible. He came to believe that salvation is neither a church nor an institution; it is neither the teachings of men nor the will of man being forced upon another. Salvation is simply found in opening empty hands to God and accepting the salvation of Christ. Luther was a man driven to defiance, driven to defy the greatest power on earth in his day.

In October 1517, which was not too long ago, Johann Tetzel was commissioned by the Pope to sell indulgences in the area we now call Germany. An indulgence was simply a piece of paper that granted forgiveness of sin. You bought the indulgence, and if you did something wrong, you simply gave it to the priest. You did not have to confess, you did not have to go through purgatory, and you did not have to do absolution to obtain forgiveness. Without the indulgence, a person would confess to the priest that he had done something wrong and the priest would tell him what to do to absolve the sin, perhaps say twenty “Hail, Mary’s,” and then he would automatically be forgiven. Luther said this was all wrong because this is not how the Bible teaches the forgiveness of sins. So, he wrote out what has been called his “Ninety-five Theses,” a paper with ninety-five points that explained why the selling of indulgences was wrong, and he nailed the paper to the church door at Wittenberg. Nailing a paper to the church door was usually done anytime a person had a scholarly paper he wanted to bring to the attention of the people. The paper would be attached to the door, and people would read it to get an understanding of the issue. Luther became the first best-selling minister in the world because Gutenberg had recently invented, in the providence of God, the first true printing press with moveable type. Within two weeks Luther was being read in different parts of Germany, and within two months he was being read throughout Europe, all at the tender age of thirty-four. Four years later Luther stood before the arrayed tribunal of the world, before the world’s greatest emperors, to give an account for his faith and for the things he had written. Luther had come to conclusions that were revolutionary at the time. We might not think they are revolutionary today, but they are just as revolutionary now as then. We need them just as much today as the people did then because we are probably in as much darkness and do not realize it.

Luther said, and I am just summing up and not giving a specific sermon, that there are basically five things we need to understand about salvation. The first one is sola scriptura — we accept the word of God for our authority. We do not accept the traditions of men or the magisterium of the church for authority. You may not think that we would do that, but would we? Even we have to be careful, friends, because we have this little saying — “the pioneers.” The pioneers are good; they have their place, but they are not the authority. The Bible is our authority. We also have a magisterium — the General Conference. There was an issue presented for vote concerning the church manual at the last General Conference session which said that doctrine could only be decided by the General Conference. A brother took issue and said, “Wait a minute! I thought the Bible was our authority.” So what they did was, in effect, to say that the General Conference makes the decision about doctrine based on what the Bible says. Of course, we have to be careful with this because what it is saying is that the General Conference is the only one who has the authority or the spiritual skill to determine the doctrine of the Bible. In other words, I could wrongly determine things from the Bible and not rightly divide the word of truth, but the General Conference has the right, the authority, and the ability to rightly divide the word of truth. It is a teaching magisterium. We would not do that today, would we?

Luther, who had been excommunicated by Leo X, was called to appear at Worms to defend his faith, and he stood before that great tribunal. I would like to quote from the book History of the Reformation in the 16th Century by Merrill D’Aubigne, book 7, chapter 8, as quoted by Ellen G. White in The Great Controversy: “‘You have not answered the question put to you. … You are required to give a clear and precise answer. . . . Will you, or will you not, retract’” (p. 160)?

Will you deny your writings, Luther? Will you say they are wrong? Yes or no? Here is Luther’s response:

The Reformer answered: “Since your most serene majesty and your high mightinesses require from me a clear, simple, and precise answer, I will give you one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the councils, because it is clear as the day that they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by the clearest reasoning, unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the word of God, I cannot and I will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me.” (Ibid.)

May God help each one of us today, friends. Traditionally we date the beginning of the Reformation as October 31, 1517. There are different ways to do this, but the date that Luther put his ninety-five theses on the church door at Wittenberg is considered by many people today as the beginning of the Reformation.

One historian had a different understanding of the Reformation, and I would like to share it with you. It goes something like this: Yes, that was a great and important time, but that still was not the beginning of the true Reformation. You must remember that at this time Martin Luther still held to the teaching that salvation comes through the church, that the church was salvation itself and held the keys to the kingdom. There were certain issues about grace, faith, and other areas of salvation that Luther was beginning to question, but he did not question at this time whether the Catholic Church was the true church or not. Historically there have been bishops, priests, archbishops, and even cardinals who have seen apostasy, wickedness, bad practices, and evil people inside the Roman church. They spoke out about it centuries before Luther. What they always said was something like this: “There is sin inside God’s church. There are wicked people inside God’s church. Even some of the popes are worthy of being denounced. So what is needed is to get the wicked people out of their positions and then everything will be made right.” So, when a pope died, they would search all Europe to find one good man to make pope. When they found that one good man and made him pope, do you know what happened shortly thereafter? He became a wicked man because power corrupts, and absolute power absolutely corrupts. It was the system that was breeding evil. Luther came to understand that it was not simply the pope, a few priests, or even wicked teachings that were evil, it was the whole system. Luther understood that this system was antichrist, and it is when he understood the system was antichrist that the Reformation began.

Beloved, when we begin to understand that antichrist is a corrupt system which takes the place of Jesus by teaching the people to look to the church for salvation and/or by substituting a false christ in the place of the true Christ, then the Reformation will continue today.

Luther stood, as it were, alone. He stood on a principle called sola scriptura, but it was not the only sola upon which he stood. There are five great solas upon which the Reformation has been based. Do we know what they are, or are we five hundred years behind? Sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, soli Deo gloria, and solus Christus. What this means is: It is by scripture alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone that all glory goes to God alone.

The issues of the Protestant Reformation did not include the Sabbath, the state of the dead, or even the identity of God. The issue was how a man is made right with God, and this became the foundation for the Reformation. God wanted to expand the Reformation to issues like the Sabbath, his identity, and the nature of man, but salvation was the foundation upon which it was to be laid.

Psalm 119:105 says: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Does it say tradition? Is this the light? Is the magesterium light? No. God’s word is light. Jesus said: “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). Jesus is the light, and he is the word (John 1:1). Second Timothy 3:16 and 17 say: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” because with them, tradition, and the magisterium the “man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Is this what it says? Verse 17 does not say anything about the traditions or the magisterium. It says that through the word of God alone we may be perfect. Remember, we are told in Matthew 4:4 that when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus responded with an “It is written,” and this expression in the original Greek is so important. You find it used twenty-seven times in the Gospels and sixty-seven times in the Epistles. “It is written” referred back to the only thing that was written at that time — the Old Testament — and this is where our authority as Christians is. Jesus said, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17) — the Bible alone.

In Ephesians chapter 2, the Apostle Paul says: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (vs. 8-10). The Bible tells us that we are saved by grace alone, for good works.

Interestingly, Martin Luther was accused of being an anti-antinomianist. Nomos is a Greek word that means law. Antinomians are people who are against the law of God, saying that one does not have to live under the restraints of God’s moral law because if one is indeed saved by grace it does not matter how one lives. Luther was considered to be an anti-antinomianist. In other words, he was against those who said they were against the law of God. This great preacher of righteousness, who preached about salvation by grace through faith alone, said we are not relieved of our obligations to keep God’s moral law. Luther understood a concept that was pretty much universally held by all the true Protestants. Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin believed it, as well as Wesley, Whitfield, and other great preachers of reform. They believed in a doctrine that we term today (and I am not sure this is the best way to express it) the total depravity of man. In other words, within man there is absolutely no ability to do even one good thing of himself. This is exactly what Jesus Christ said, as recorded in John 15:5: “Without me ye can do nothing.” As we come from the womb, friends, we are born with a sinful nature and are unable to help ourselves. The good news is that God stepped in and did something for us. He gave us the gift of his Son and the ability to believe. Romans 12:3 says that God has given to every man the measure of faith. We would not have that ability except God had given it to us. Titus 2:11 says: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” God gives us (2 Timothy 1:9) a measure of grace whereby we can accept him. His grace is unmerited; it is something we do not deserve and have not earned. We may not be willing to follow God at this time, but if we “are ‘willing to be made willing’” (Acts of the Apostles, p. 482), even that willingness will be given to us by God. It comes to us through his grace and through faith.

In Romans 3:24 Paul speaks of being justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus. Then in verse 28, he states: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,” and in Galatians 2:16, we read: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of … law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ.” I took out a word. It is not in the original. When you see a word italicized in the Bible, it means the word has been added, but sometimes the translators added words that did not get italicized, and this is what has happened in this verse. In most places throughout Paul’s writings, when he talked about law and about justification, the definite article is there in the Greek, but here in Galatians 2:16 the definite article is not in the Greek. Paul is speaking about the concept of law, and no definite article is used. No law — moral law, civil law, ceremonial law, health law — no law can justify a person in the sight of God; it is only by faith in Christ and by the faith of Christ living in us. This is why someone rightly wrote that “divine grace is needed at the beginning, divine grace at every step of advance, and divine grace alone can complete the work” (Ellen White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 508). We have this need of salvation, friends, and sometimes we think that if God just helps us get started then we can keep going, but we need divine grace at the beginning. At every step of advancement, we need this divine grace, and then divine grace alone can complete the work. Friends, if we will allow grace to do this, it will bring us into harmony with all the commandments of God. We can be like Martin Luther. We can be an anti-antinomianist because truth faith works by love and purifies the soul (Galatians 5:6). It is busy and active, but it is faith in Christ because Christ lives and works within us. It is Christ alone, solus Christus.

First Timothy chapter 2 says: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (v. 5). This verse does not say anything about the church being in the place of Jesus Christ, the mediator, about the church being between God and men. Our mediator is the man Christ Jesus. I need Christ Jesus between me and God — not any church, not any cathedral, not any national establishment, and not any of the various Christian denominations, however good they might be. None of them can save me. I am saved by grace through faith in Christ alone because anything else cannot be to the glory of God alone.

Jesus says in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” and if you think that sounds a little exclusive, it surely is. There is no other way. No other name is given among men under heaven whereby we must be saved except through the name of Jesus Christ because there is no other name, there is no other person, who can bring salvation to us. He alone was equal to the law of God that had been broken and violated. He alone could redeem us from the penalty of that law, and there is no other name under heaven given among men that can redeem us (Acts 4:12). It is not my name, it is not the name of any person, and it is not the name of any church. If we are depending upon any man or the teachings of any man, remember that Jesus said to call no man your Father and no man your teacher (Matthew 23:8, 9).

I was recently in a meeting when a man stood up before the people and said, “I want you to know I am the leader of all these people. I am the leader of many people.” I stood up after him and said, “I am afraid of anyone who says he is the leader of people because our leader is to be Christ.” In fact, one translation in the Russian says to call no man your leader. God does have administration in his church and people who help. He has pastors, and he has apostles. There is no question that God has set people to help guide, but we need to understand that a leader is someone who can lead. A true leader does not drive or force. He goes ahead of the sheep and leads and not behind the sheep and pushes.

In Matthew 23, Jesus said: “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren” (v. 8). Ye is second person plural in old English, so it means all of us are brothers. No one is to control the mind of another. When people try to control the minds of others, it is because they do not know the parental nature of God or the righteousness of Christ. That is the problem. We can teach all the doctrines we want, but if we fail to teach these two doctrines, then what we teach will always be done in the spirit of Rome and in the track of Romanism, with men controlling other men. This is contrary to the spirit of the scriptures.

It was this spirit, the track of Romanism, that drove Martin Luther to defiance and it is that same spirit that today drives me to defiance. Will it drive you to defiance?

In John 11 we find, in many respects, a microcosm of today. Jesus had performed many miracles, including raising Lazarus from the dead at Bethany, but in verse 47, we read: “Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council.” The chief priests, not all the priests, and as we read on, we notice the high priest is among them. The Pharisees were a religious group of the Jews. Today we have Christians, and among them we have Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, members of the Church of God, and many other different groups. In Christ’s day there was the Jewish church, Judaism, but within Judaism were different groups. The Pharisees were a conservative group, but there was another group that had control of the high priests, the Sadducees. These two groups were not friendly with each other and did not usually get along. Often times they were at odds doctrinally, but now they gathered together for a council, having a common goal, and saying: “What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.”

I would think that they would have been glad for genuine miracles. Would you not be glad if you could see miracles of God being done today? That would be a great thing, and what could have been wrong with miracles done by Jesus? We know that in the last days Satan performs miracles. Revelation 16:16 says that this is one of the great hallmarks. Second Thessalonians 2 tells us of great signs and lying wonders and of miracles in the last days performed by Satan and those energized by him, but the works of Jesus were done by God through him. What was wrong with that? “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him.” What could be wrong with that, for if all men believed on Jesus Christ would it not be wonderful? But now we come to the real crux of the problem: “And the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” In other words, they would cease to be a church. They would lose their identity, just like when Nebuchadnezzar came and took the Jews captive to Babylon and dispersed them. The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time could not let that happen again. Why? Because the church was more important than God and more important than Christ, and salvation came through the high priest: “And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not” (John 11:49, 50). Today we have the same thing happening. It is better to crucify Christ afresh, and it is better to deny that he is the Son of God, to deny the parental character of God, and to deny the righteousness of Jesus then to let this great organization that we have built die. “Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death” (v. 53).

Friends, as Jesus saw what was happening in his day (maybe not with the personality of Luther, but in his own way), he was driven to defiance. Jesus was driven to defy the traditions and the magesterium of his day. He depended upon the Scriptures alone and directed the people to faith in him by grace alone so that it would be to the glory of God alone

Today we are really five hundred years behind. It has been almost five hundred years since Luther became doctor of Bible at Wittenberg University, and I do not know how much farther ahead some of us really are. Do you know that the Catholic Church claims to teach that salvation comes by grace? Salvation comes by grace in the Catholic Church plus good works, and in much of Adventism it works the same way — we believe in grace but also in what we do. Is what we do our salvation or are our works simply the fruit of faith, the result of the salvation that comes by grace through faith alone?

Friends, it is time to be Protestants. It is time that we are driven to defiance and driven to speak what is right though everyone else denies truth, to, as Luther said, take our stand, so help us God. First Peter 4:11 says: “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

The Olympic Games were about to begin, and Paul was on a slope in the Alps, six thousand feet above Garmisch, to be exact. The downhill skiers were busy with their practice runs, and Paul asked to join them. A few seconds into his run, he realized he had not clearly comprehended the skill needed to maneuver the race, and he soon lost control on the three-foot twisting path. His legs became so tired that he could no longer brake as he negotiated the turns, and his speed only increased. A two thousand foot abyss was on his left and the mountain was on his right. Then the path opened up into a wide, steep stretch of slope dotted with rocks and trees and a rise at the other end. He arrived at the bottom of the run uninjured, but he had made most of the trip down the icy, perpendicular slopes on the flat of his back. He later said it was one of the scariest times of his life. Paul was not prepared for his crisis on the slopes.

Another time Paul followed Olympic divers to the top of their thirty-foot diving tower, intending to dive with them during their competition practice, only to crawl on hands and knees away from the edge of the diving board, dizzy, scared, and a little sick. He descended the ladder with a new respect for the men and women who were able to hold onto the end of the diving board with their toes and spring off in twists, turns, and somersaults before effortlessly piercing the water below. Paul had lost confidence in what he thought he could do.

From the sidelines, professional boxing (though admittedly cruel), looked easier to Paul than it turned out to be. Paul had just completed four years as a galley slave in the Columbia eight-oared shell, and he thought he was in good physical shape. He watched as Jack Dempsey prepared for his next fight and as one spar boy after another sagged into a useless heap in the ring from what looked like no more than a light cuff on the neck or a pat to the face from a caressing stroke of Dempsey’s arm. So Paul asked if he could box a round with Dempsey, and Paul soon found himself holding onto the floor of the ring with both hands, his legs having collapsed under him, because the ring and the audience outside it were making a complete clockwise revolution, which came to a stop only to start again, this time counter-clockwise. Sports writer Paul Gallico had succeeded in only beating the air with his fists, and so will it be with us when we step into the arena of contending for the faith if we do not clearly comprehend the truths of the Bible.

I have been shown that many who profess to have a knowledge of present truth, know not what they believe. They do not understand the evidences of their faith….When the time of trial shall come, there are men now preaching to others, who will find, upon examining the positions they hold, that there are many things for which they can give no satisfactory reason.

…When separated from those of like faith, and compelled to stand singly and alone to explain their belief, they will be surprised to see how confused are their ideas of what they had accepted as truth. (Counsels to Writers and Editors, pp. 39-40)

Our desire is to help our brothers and sisters, young and old, clearly comprehend the word of God and the faith upon which they stand so that they will not be confused when controversy arises.

Let the truths that are the foundation of our faith be kept before the people…. We are now to understand what the pillars of our faith are,--the truths that have made us as a people what we are, leading us on step by step. (Review and Herald, May 25, 1905)

The truth should be presented in its simplicity, in the meekness of wisdom, having an influence to persuade. The matter should be the very choicest; the language should be chaste, elevating, every word breathing the spirit of Christ. The argumentative [the proving of points] and practical combined will make a paper beaming with light, to go forth as a lamp that burneth, as a messenger indeed from heaven. (Counsels to Writers and Editors, p.110)

“Our publications have a most sacred work to do in making clear, simple, and plain the spiritual basis of our faith” (Ibid., p. 11) for the young and the old, for the simple and the sophisticated, but this does not have to be done with dry treatises. God’s truths can be made interesting, with fresh illustrations and with fresh applications in articles devoted to biblical homilies (expositions of Scripture). Articles revealing the wonders of creation and science can be written that connect key Scriptures to the information presented. Children need true stories that illustrate biblical principles, and we all are blessed with true narratives of faith and courage. Personal testimonies giving honor and glory to God for his wonderful dealings with man inspire us. Articles on history which reveal the hand of God through the ages in both sacred and secular history help to establish our faith. Instruction on health guides us in how to honor God with excellent spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional health, and articles teaching us to develop the talents God has given us prepare us to return them to him with interest.

In an effort to lift God’s standard of truth in a clear, simple, and wise way, so that none of us need be confused when the time of crisis comes, we are beginning a series of articles addressing the fundamental doctrines of our faith. This month we begin with the Bible, the foundation of all true belief.

The Bible

Each year thousands of new books are published, and with Internet e-publishing there may be millions of books written and published. Only a small percentage of these books will last past a decade and even fewer will remain a century. Books such as The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire and The Hiding Place are few and far between; however, there is a book, one book, that stands head and shoulders above all books. That book is the Bible, and it stands alone because it is more than the work of mere men. It is the word of God himself, spoken to humanity in the language of humanity for the benefit of humanity!

While God is the goal and foundation of the Christian, the Bible is the main means that God uses to reveal himself to humanity. We, therefore, begin this series with what the Bible says about itself, so that we may clearly comprehend the messages it contains, especially those of the three angels.

The Bible is the book of all books. In fact the name Bible is from the Greek word biblion, which simply means book. The Bible is “the Book.”

The Bible is God’s voice speaking to us, just as surely as though we could hear it with our ears. If we realized this, with what awe would we open God's word, and with what earnestness would we search its precepts! The reading and contemplation of the Scriptures would be regarded as an audience with the Infinite One. (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 636)

The testimony of the Bible is that is it of divine origin, inspired by the Spirit of God. “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21). “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2Timothy 3:16). Young’s Literal Translation states “every Writing is God-breathed” (2Timothy 3:16).

The Bible is above all human teachings and tradition. Jesus said, “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:7).

We may have full confidence in the word of God to guide and direct the life of the Christian and to know that it has all that is necessary for the perfection of the saints. Paul, writing to Timothy, stated that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).

Magnifying the Word of God: “Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name” (Psalm 138:2). Philippians 2:9, 10 say that “God also hath highly exalted him [Jesus], and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.” Yet as highly exalted as that name is, God’s word is magnified even above that name.

God’s word is forever settled in heaven. “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven” (Psalm. 119:89). “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6).

Because God’s word is settled forever, it will always be a reliable defense against temptation and sin.

The Word of God and Overcoming Temptation: Jesus taught by his example how necessary the word of God is to overcome temptation. When Satan tempted Jesus, our Saviour replied with an “it is written” (Matthew 4:7, 10). David wrote, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psalm 119:9) and then stated, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).

The Savior was fortified against temptation by the written word. He used nothing except what we have within our reach!

When we are tempted to drink alcohol, we can remember the word of God: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1). When tempted to be anxious, we can claim the promises: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3).

We are granted all the power that Jesus had access to when we rely upon the mighty power of God’s word.

The Power of the Word: All the power of God is in his word. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword” (Hebrews 4:12).

By God’s word he creates all things. “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. … For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:6, 9). “The worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:3). Just as God creates by his word, he recreates a new heart by his word. “To declare [speak], I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). The believer that is in Jesus “is a new creature” (2Corinthians 5:17). To be a new creature, you must have a new creation. Since God creates by his word, we are new creatures by his word.

God speaks about his word through Jeremiah when he wrote, “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces” (Jeremiah 23:29)? Only the word of God can break your stony heart, but it is able.

As Fletcher Christian, mutineer on the Bounty, began his life of isolation on Pitcairn Island, he discovered his mother’s Bible in the bottom of his sea chest. He began taking it to a certain cave, spending hours reading its sacred pages.

John Adams found him there one day and asked to join him in his study; hence Fletcher Christian read oftern to John Adams.

Later when Violence swept the Island, Christian was killed, but the desire for Bible study had been planted deep in the heart of John Adams. He took Christian’s Bible and became the spiritual father and leader of the sons and daughters of the mutineers.

The Bounty Bible, as it is called, became their guiding light, and through its teachings came peace, education, industry, love, and a simple Bible faith which has blessed the inhabitants of Pitcairn [Island] for generations. (Robert Pierson, 501 Sermon Illustrations, p. 62)

If the Bible were not so powerful, unbelieving despots would not try to stop its reading and publication.

Nothing is more hopeless than the case of a sinner. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), yet the gift of God is eternal life, as we are born again, and though the conversion of a sinner is the greatest of all miracles, this, too, is accomplished by the miraculous word of God

The New Birth by the Word of God: The new birth experience is necessary for humanity (John 3:3, 7) and comes by the word of God.

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. (1Peter 1:22-25)

Peter goes on to say, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1Peter 2:2, 3).

A Mongolian peasant paused one day at a religious book shop where Bible portions were on sale. He seemed bent on purchasing the cheapest one available. It was a small, flimsy copy of the book of Jonah. How much happier the Christian salesman would have been had the poor farmer purchased a Gospel portion. What of Christianity could a devout Buddhist find in the Book of Jonah?

During the long winter hours the Mongolian farmer read the portion attentively and thoughtfully. A wonderful fact burst upon his consciousness. This booklet told of a divine Being who could and would forgive sin. The terrors of hell he had always heard of as a good Buddhist need terrify him no longers. The God of the Bible was not a fearful, unrelenting Judge with scales in His hand. He was a forgiving God. This meant a great deal to a poor peasant, whose scanty cash and pathetic effort had long been spent to earn some small merit to avoid the terrors of the Buddhist hell.

It was a year later that the peasant returned to the book stall, this time to purchase more books to learn more of this God. Today he lets all passersby know that his is “the Gospel Farm,” for he has found Christ. (501 Sermon Illustrations, p. 66)

Just as we are born by the Spirit of God, we are to live by the Spirit of God

Living by the Word: Jesus stated the necessity of living by all the words of God when he battled Satan in the wilderness, for he stated: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Our steps should be ordered by the word. “Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me” (Psalm 119:133).

Job said, “I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).

All the gifts of the spirit are subject to and tested by the word of God. “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1Corinthians 14:32).

Elijah is a wonderful type of the people who will be living in the last day and who must live by the word of God. Elijah had confronted Ahab, and then “the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan” (1Kings 17:2, 3). Though the spoken word, it was the word of the LORD and Elijah believed and depended upon that word. After the brook dried up, “the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee” (1Kings 17:8, 9). Elijah lived by the word of the LORD, and after instructing the widow, he told her, “For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth” (1Kings 17:14). Again, Elijah was living upon the word of God.

There is healing power in the word of God. “He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Psalm 107:20). The gospel accounts contain several examples where Jesus healed people by simply speaking the word to them, such as:

The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. … And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour. (Matthew 8:8-10, 13)

The Bible says that God heals all of our diseases (Psalm 103:3). “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings [God’s words]. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they [God’s words] are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh” (Proverbs 4:20-22).

Jesus is called “The Word of God” (Revelation 19:13), and in John 1:1 he is called “the Word.” The words of Jesus are spirit and life to the sinner. Jesus said, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

When deprived of every earthly resource, we are to live upon the word of God. “And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Faith in the Scripture as the word of God brings the transforming power of God to the soul. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4), and “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Conclusion — Living Epistles: As we partake of the word, it becomes the “engrafted word” (James 1:21) and a part of us. We then become living epistles, and unbelievers can read the Bible in our lives.

Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. (2Corinthians 3:1-3)

Wives may by their lives be instruments in God’s hands for the conversion of their unbelieving husbands. Peter writes that they “may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives” (1Peter 3:1, RSV).

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

A thoughtful hour a day in Bible study and prayer would do wonders for our relationship with Jesus. Why do we neglect this great soul-building experience?

There are aspects of the gospel that are puzzling and difficult. Some passages of the Bible are simple, and some are more difficult, such as the writings of the Apostle Paul, of which Peter wrote:

Even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:15, 16)

May we be Bereans: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). “None but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict” (The Great Controversy, pp.593, 594).  Editors

Blue Laws, Liquor, Families, Sunday, and the Pope

The November 22, 2010, issue of USA Today ran a story entitled “Blue laws becoming obsolete in U.S.” The focus of the article was alcohol sales on Sunday. The article began:

It’s getting easier to find a little hair of the dog on Sunday’s.

More states and communities are allowing sales or moving sales start times to as early as 6 a.m.

According to the USA Today report, thirty-six states allow some form of liquor sales on Sunday, and this allowance has been driven by economic factors.

Coupling this with the growing interest of professional sporting events on Sunday, we have what seems to be a lessening reverence for Sunday. It is of interest that Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter (August 23, 2010) to the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family concerning the 7th World Family Meeting to be held in Milan, Italy, in 2012. In this letter, the Pope stated:

Work and celebration are intimately connected in the life of families: they condition choices, influence relations between married couples and between parents and children, affect the relation of families with society and with the Church. Holy Scripture (cf. Genesis 1-2) tells us that the family, work and the feast day are gifts and blessings of God to help us to live a fully human existence. Daily experience attests that the authentic development of the person includes the individual, familial, and communal dimension, activities and functional relationships, as well as openness to hope and to the Good without limits.

In our days, unfortunately, the organization of labor, conceived and realized in function of market competition and maximizing profit, and the concept of feast as an occasion for escape and consumption, contribute to the break-up of the family and the community and to the spreading of an individualistic lifestyle. Thus, it is necessary to promote reflection and efforts at reconciling the demands and the periods of work with those of the family and to recover the true meaning of the feast, especially on Sunday, the weekly Easter, the day of the Lord and the day of man, the day of the family, of the community and of solidarity. (http://www.zenit.org/article-30476?l=english)

The Pope is critical of “maximizing profit” and connects this to the depreciation of the family and to the need to recover the true meaning of “the feast day” (Sunday).

In other words, the Pope wants to exalt Sunday, but Sunday is becoming more secular and a day to maximize profits. To counter this trend, the Pope, under the auspice of building families, is encouraging the use of Sunday for family-building and family-bonding and to take the place of commerce.

To continue his support for Sunday through the building up of the family, Benedict XVI , in a letter dated December 21, urged the state support of families, so that they can better fulfill their mission to pass on values to children and young people. The Pope noted:

Harmony is possible within countries and between peoples, . . Juridical inventiveness and good will often enable numerous problems to be solved which, unfortunately, arise between peoples, and favor the much desired international concord.

Giving all the components of the family the necessary help, it will facilitate effectively social harmony and cohesion . . . (http://www.zenit.org/article-31307?l=english)

While the world becomes more secular and moves to repeal the few existing blue laws for liquor due to the need for economic stimulus, the Pope appeals to the need of families and at the center of that appeal is, and will be, Sunday. From a secular standpoint, blue laws are a hindrance to growth and are out of place in a modern society which seeks pleasure and not worship. To outward appearances, a resurrection of blue laws seems impossible, but let us remember the words of Scripture: “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1Thessalonians 5:3).

The 166 years since the great disappointment have caused some to doubt if the events foretold by the Revelation will occur. Other have accepted new positions. One such concept I learned in France was that the mark of the beast will occur only in the United States. The rationale for this thinking is that the two-horned beast comes up out of the “earth” (Revelation 13:11). If the earth in verse 11 is the United States of America, then the earth should also be interpreted as the United States in verse 12: “And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.” Even if this is granted to be so, the prophecy continues to speak of the actions of the second beast and of the image of the beast and then says that:

And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. (Revelation 13:16, 17)

No national or regional restriction is placed upon those who receive the mark of the beast. It is for all who accept the child of the papacy, Sunday-keeping, in direct violation of God’s holy law. Let us not forget:

The papacy is just what prophecy declared that she would be, the apostasy of the latter times. 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4. (The Great Controversy, p. 571)  Allen Stump

Report on
Arminianism and Adventism Symposium

Synergism, monergism, supralapsarian, infralapsarian, Arminianism, Calvinism, Remonstrance. If you do not recognize most, or even any, of these terms, you would have at least heard them discussed at the Arminianism and Adventism Symposium held at Andrews University October 14-16, 2010. The symposium was billed as “celebrating our soteriological heritage.”

Arminianism and Adventism was designed to be a time when theologians and students could come together to “discuss the Adventist understanding of salvation with its roots in 17th century Arminianism and Wesleyan thought” (taken from the cover of the participant notebook). This symposium was held in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the Arminian Remonstrance.

Some of the main Adventist speakers included Dennis Fortin, George Knight, Ángel Rodríguez, Hans LaRondelle, and Woodrow Whidden. Roger Olson of Baylor University, Carry Callen, and Keith Stanglin were also presenters.

The word “remonstrance” means protest. The Arminian protest was the result of forty-one preachers and the two leaders of the Leiden University for the education of preachers meeting together in The Hague on January 14, 1610. They came together to prepare a written document to state their views concerning doctrines of salvation in which they differed with the reformed theologians (Calvinists). Jan Uytenbogaert prepared this document in the form of a remonstrance, and after a few changes, it was endorsed and signed in July of 1611.

Arminianism and Adventism, according to Dennis Fortin, was the brainchild of Martin Hanna, the head of the Master’s of Divinity program at Andrews University. He had approached Dean Fortin and suggested that something should be done to acknowledge the 400th anniversary of the Remonstrance. This suggestion was well-received, and the symposium planning began.

The schedule included six plenary sessions, with ten speakers during these sessions. Between plenary sessions there were discussion groups and breakout sessions, which gave twenty-four different presenters an opportunity to share diverse papers that covered the subject of Arminianism in a broad spectrum. Some of the sessions included “Paul’s Hope for All Israel: Romans 9-11” by Hans LaRondelle, “Ellen White and the Main Issues Between Arminianism and Calvinism” by Peter van Bemmelen, and “Does Open Theism Limit God?” by Richard Rice.

It would be beyond the scope of this article to give a synopsis of each main presentation, but most of the presentations were informative, especially Dr. Fortin’s overview of the subject and Dr. Olson’s paper, “Arminianism is God-centered Theology.”

George Knight made one of his typical presentations, which scattered some facts among a lot of opinion and misinterpretation of our history, including his usual bashing of M.L. Andreasen.

The main Sabbath worship message was presented by Ángel Rodríguez, director of the Biblical Research Institute. According to the worship bulletin, his subject was “Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection: Atonement as a Narrative,” though the printed version of his paper was entitled “Incarnation, Death, and Enthroment [sic]: Atonement as a Narrative.” In the first part of his sermon, Elder Rodríguez begins with creation and moves from the fall of man, through the counsel of peace, which he describes as “Trinitarian deliberations,” to the promise of a redeemer given to Abraham and then to David. He then discusses the Prophets Isaiah and Daniel and their unique visions. Then Rodríguez moves to the incarnation and life of Jesus. His story builds to its focus, the cross, and here Elder Rodríguez introduces an amazing concept. Not amazing because it is deeply profound, but amazing because it is so unbiblical. Rodríguez writes in his paper:

The disjointing of the Son of God from the other members of the Godhead resulted in indescribable suffering not only to Jesus but also to the Godhead. Jesus’ cry of dereliction points to a voluntary breach within the Godhead, to the sundering of the Trinity as Christ voluntarily surrendered His life for you and me. Atonement is a Trinitarian event and it took place in the mystery of the divine sundering. (Ángel Rodríguez, “Incarnation, Death, and Enthroment [sic]: Atonement as a Narrative,” p. 5; emphasis supplied)

This is a type of doublespeak. Rodríguez states that Jesus “voluntarily surrendered His life for you and me” but then says that the atonement was “the divine sundering” of the Godhead! There can be no doubt that the separation that Jesus and the Father felt at the cross was a terrible experience, in effect breaking the heart of the Son of God, from which he died, but the death was the basis of the atonement, not the “divine sundering.” Furthermore, this experience was between Jesus and the Father and not between Jesus and the “Godhead,” which would be, at that point, according to trinitarian theology, the Father and the Holy Spirit, each being torn by the sundering.

On Sabbath afternoon there was a panel discussion with questions and answers. One of the first questions was presented to Elder Rodríguez: “Why did Jesus have to die?” It was clear that he was very uncomfortable trying to answer this question, stating it was difficult to fully explain. Perhaps this was because, according to his presentation, it was the sundering of the trinity and not the death of Jesus that made the atonement.

George Knight made perhaps the most astounding remark during the question and answer session when he said that Jesus’ “mother was a virgin, [and] his Father was the Holy Spirit.” I was amazed that in the seminary’s full chapel there was not a collective gasping for breath or rows of faces with dismay upon them. At that point I was able to ask a question from the floor. After thanking Dr. Knight and the panel for their efforts, I asked how the Holy Spirit could be the Father of Jesus and not God the Father. This seemed to be no problem to Knight, who mentioned that Matthew 1 said that the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary. Neither did it bother the panel moderator, who joined the discussion, saying that the trinity was three in one and one in three, all interchangeable! This was certainly a disappointing response from men who are supposed to be trained theologians and teachers of the next generation of ministers.

One breakout session I appreciated was presented by Woodrow Whidden wherein he convincingly argued that Wesley-Arminianism was a key to the foundations of Adventism.

As with most university-held conferences and symposiums, Arminianism and Adventism was conducted in a very academic manner, with a great deal of freedom for thought and expression. The discussion group to which I was arbitrarily assigned was headed by Elder Robert Johnson, a retired teacher of theology. He was open and willing to allow all to speak and express ideas. Even after he learned I was a non-trinitarian, he did not attempt to stifle me in any manner but instead was willing to listen and accept anything that seemed reasonably proven from sound logic or by the Bible.

Overall the conference was informative and helpful in clarifying many issues between Calvinism and Arminianism. It had to be one of the most information-packed symposiums one could ever attend. Sadly many of the presentations, while having helpful and even rich material, also carried trinitarian overtones and other erroneous thoughts.  Allen Stump

Prayer Requests

We are happy to report that Brother Marc Fury is planning a camp meeting in France this summer, and we ask for your prayers that this spiritual gathering may come to fruition. God richly blessed our meetings in Paris a few months ago, and we ask for God’s Spirit to direct in this new endeavor for his cause in France.

We would like to share a special prayer request as we go to press. We have just learned that Sister Esther McDaniel, currently ministering in Africa, is very sick. Esther has been deeply involved in working with orphans for the last several years and has made several trips to help with the work in Kenya and other countries.

She has malaria (again), but she also has an unknown type of bacterial infection, as well as an inflamed appendix that was scheduled for surgical intervention. Esther had been in Africa with a support team, but that team recently returned to the United States. Esther decided to remain in Africa longer. Currently we do not have any further word on her health. Please remember her in prayer, as well as her family in the United States.

We are happy to report that Sister Irina, who lives in Moldova and who was the Russian translator on my recent trip to Europe, is willing to translate Old Paths and other truth-filled literature we publish into Russian. This is an answer to prayer, but she is in need of a laptop computer and stable Internet access in order to accomplish this work. Please pray with us that God will provide for her needs.

Also, as we go to press, we have learned of the death of one of God’s soldiers. Pastor Bob Habenicht went to sleep in Jesus on December 22. Please pray for Ardis, his wife, and their family during this time of great loss.

The Remonstrance of 1610:
Protesting the Protestants

The word “remonstrance” means protest. This special protest was the result of forty-one preachers and the two leaders of the Leiden University for the education of preachers who met together at The Hague on January 14, 1610. They had come together to prepare a written document, stating their views concerning doctrines of salvation which differed with the reformed theologians (Calvinists). Jan Uytenbogaert prepared this document in the form of a remonstrance, and after a few changes, it was endorsed and signed in July.

These forty-three men were students of the theology of James Arminius, who had died one year earlier, in 1609. Arminius was born in 1560 in Oudewater, near Utrecht, in The Netherlands. Arminius studied theology at Leiden University from 1576 to 1581. From 1582 to 1586 he studied at John Calvin’s Genevan Academy and concurrently at Basel (1582-1583). In 1588 he was ordained and became the pastor of the “Old Church” in Amsterdam, but the most notable point of Arminius’s history begins in 1603 when he became professor of theology at the University of Leiden. As Dennis Fortin notes:

Arminius soon found himself at odds with two of his university colleagues, Franciscus Gomarus and Lucas Trelcatius. During the decade or so before his university appointment, Arminius had begun to shift his understanding of the Reformed doctrine of predestination and the debate that his views initiated at the university occupied the remainder of his life. In 1608, he argued for his orthodoxy in his Declaration of Sentiments, a document he offered to the Estates General of Holland. In this document he presented his views on predestination, human free will, divine grace, assurance of salvation, the divinity of Christ, and his justification for his request to revise the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism. (Historical and Theological Perspectives on the Rise of Arminianism and the Place of Seventh-day Adventism in the Calvinist-Arminian Debate, p. 2)

The basis of Reformed theology found its footing in the emphasis placed upon the sovereignty of God, as borrowed from Augustine. God is considered perfect in every respect. God is the possessor of all power, righteousness, and holiness. God is autonomous and eternal; he is not subject to time, space, or any other being, and he cannot be reduced to time and space. God is eternal and timeless and exists in timelessness. God cannot do something new, for this would reduce him to the level of imperfection.

Zwingli and Calvin both had emphasized that everything that happens — including the fall of Adam and Eve and the election of some humans to salvation and others to damnation — is decreed by God. In other words . . . nothing at all happens or can happen accidentally or even contingently. Everything that happens outside of God himself happens by divine decree. God foreknows what will happen because he foreordains everything that happens, and he foreordains because he decrees it all from eternity. (Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology, p. 457)

They [the Reformed theologians of Arminius’s day] agreed that all of God’s decrees are simultaneous and eternal because they accepted Augustine’s notion of eternity as an “eternal now” in which all times — past, present and future — are simultaneous. For God, they believed, there is no separation or even succession of moments. Everything is eternally present. (Ibid.)

Therefore, when one reads the Bible and sees what appears to be God’s response to man’s actions, it is not really a reaction at all but rather what God has ordained and decided from all eternity. We will look at some of the implications of Reformed theology later, but let us proceed to the main points of Reformed theology, or Calvinism, that Arminius came to oppose. There were at least four fundamental points that he opposed in Reformed theology:

Let us now briefly examine these four points.

Unconditional Election

God’s election of people is unconditional: Simply put, God has no conditions upon him in making up his elect. God is not bound by the actions or non-actions of humanity. According to Reformed theology, the sovereignty of God is supreme, and he has elected those who will be saved and those who will not be saved or who will be eternally lost. Since the will of God is supreme, the will of man can not decide one’s salvation. A defense of this position states:

An emphasis on election bothers many people, but the problem they feel is not actually with election; it is with depravity. If sinners are as helpless in their depravity as the Bible says they are, unable to know and unwilling to seek God, then the only way they could possibly be saved is for God to take the initiative to change and save them. This is what election means. It is God choosing to save those who, apart from His sovereign choice and subsequent action, certainly would perish. (James Montgomery Boice, former pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia where Dr. Donald Barnhouse had been pastor during the Seventh-day Adventist—Evangelical conferences of 1955, 1956, The Reformed Reader, http://www.reformedreader.org/t.u.l.i.p.htm)

Limited Atonement

Christ’s death was only for the redeemed, not for all humanity. Since God has elected only a certain group to be saved, Christ’s death was only for this redeemed group. The sins of the lost are not covered by the blood of Jesus. This is sometimes called the “limited atonement.” It is defended thusly:

The name is potentially misleading, for it seems to suggest that reformed people want somehow to restrict the value of Christ’s death. This is not the case. The value of Jesus’ death is infinite. The question rather is what is the purpose of Christ’s death, and what He accomplished in it. Did Christ intend to make salvation no more than possible? Or did He actually save those for whom He died? Reformed theology stresses that Jesus actually atoned for the sins of those the Father had chosen. He actually propitiated the wrath of God toward His people by taking their judgment upon Himself, actually redeemed them, and actually reconciled those specific persons to God. A better name for “limited” atonement would be “particular” or “specific” redemption. (Ibid.)

Notice the argument of Boice is not the scope but the value of the sacrifice. While Arminius did not deny the value of the sacrifice, he saw the scope of the sacrifice to be far beyond the view of Calvinism.

Irresistible Grace

God’s grace is so strong and irresistible that when God calls the individual to grace, that person cannot finally resist. A man who believed this once told his experience of living a dreadful life of sin until one day God called him, and without any prior religious experience, he became determined to leave his wicked ways and to follow God. Calvinism says:

Left to ourselves we resist the grace of God. But when God works in our hearts, regenerating us and creating a renewed will within, then what was undesirable before becomes highly desirable, and we run to Jesus just as previously we ran away from Him. Fallen sinners do resist God’s grace, but His regenerating grace is effectual. It overcomes sin and accomplishes God’s purpose. (Ibid.)

Perseverance of the Saints

This teaching states that God will protect and persevere with his saints so that they never fall from grace. It leads to the position of once saved, always saved. Perseverance is said to be the ultimate proof of election. The saints persevere because God preserves them from falling away from him.

A main point of Reformed faith that Arminius did not totally disagree with concerned the total depravity of humanity. Total depravity taught that man, of himself and unaided by God, was unable to accomplish anything good or to do anything towards his salvation. Perseverance of the saints and the other fundamental points form the mnemonic TULIP.

Total Depravity

Unconditional Election

Limited Atonement

Irresistible Grace

Perseverance of the Saints

Some famous reformed theologians include Richard Baxter, Thomas Goodwin, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, James M. Boice, and John Piper.

James Arminius

Enter into our picture James Arminius. Though trained in Reformed theology, Arminius began to doubt aspects of Calvinism, especially predestination. While he continued to agree with some basic points, such as the total depravity of man, the differences were fundamental enough to produce a different system of soteriology.

While at Leiden University, Arminius became involved in a heated fight over the teachings of the Dutch Reformed Church, with the doctrine of predestination being at the center of the controversy. Dutch Calvinists were divided into two schools of thought. The position that was considered to be orthodox became known as supralapsarian. This position taught that God had decreed, or predestined, who would be saved and damned before man’s fall in the sin of Adam. The second school was known as infralapsarian. This position taught that God had decreed, or predestined, who would be saved and damned after man’s fall in the sin of Adam. Human decision in either case was irrelevant to the process of salvation. The Reformed Church, holding the “orthodox” view of the supralapsarian position, asked Arminius to refute Dirck Volckertszoon Coornhert, a man whose preaching was very similar to what Arminius would later believe. This conflict had a lasting effect upon Arminius. Arminius came to believe that God did not decree particular individuals to be either saved or damned, but he rather believed that salvation was by faith alone and that Christ died for all men, not just for some who were elected. Arminius taught that whosoever believed would be saved and those who rejected God’s grace would be damned.

To counter the position of Calvin, Arminius taught that “preventing”* grace had been conferred upon all humanity by the Holy Spirit, and this grace was “sufficient for belief, in spite of our sinful corruption, and thus for salvation” (Justo Gonzalez, A History of Christian Thought, vol. 3, p. 257.) Arminius stated that “the grace sufficient for salvation is conferred on the Elect, and on the Non-elect; that, if they will, they may believe or not believe, may be saved or not be saved” (W. R. Bagnall, The Works of James Arminius, vol. 1, p. 367)

The Remonstrance

As noted earlier, in 1610 forty-three men met at The Hague to craft a document expressing their opposition to Calvinism. The document became known as “The Remonstrance of 1610.” The five articles of the Remonstrance are:

Article I

That God, by an eternal, unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ, his Son, before the foundation of the world, hath determined, out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ's sake, and through Christ, those who, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, shall believe on this his Son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath, and to condemn them as alienate from Christ, according to the word of the Gospel in John iii. 36: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him," and according to other passages of Scripture also.

Article II

That, agreeably thereto, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption, and the forgiveness of sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins, except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of John iii. 16: "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life"; and in the First Epistle of John ii. 2: "And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."

Article III

That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free-will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do anything that is truly good (such as having faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the word of Christ, John xv. 5: "Without me ye can do nothing."

Article IV

That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of an good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without that prevenient or assisting; awakening, following, and co-operative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But, as respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, inasmuch as it is written concerning many that they have resisted the Holy Ghost,—Acts vii, and elsewhere in many places.

Article V

That those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory, it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand; and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no craft or power of Satan, can be misled, nor plucked out of Christ's hands, according to the word of Christ, John x. 28: "Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scriptures before they can teach it with the full persuasion of their minds. (Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, vol. 3, pp. 545-549)

These articles of the Remonstrance contrast with four of the five points of Calvinism. The first article denies that election into Christ is unconditional, stating that it is conditional. The Remonstrance asserted that election is conditional upon faith in Christ and that God elects to salvation those whom he knows beforehand will have faith in him. Article II teaches the death of Jesus to be an unlimited atonement, that Christ died for all. This stands in stark contrast to the limited atonement of Calvinism, which asserts that Christ died only for those God predestined to be saved. Article III agrees with Calvinism in affirming the total depravity of man, that man cannot save himself. Article IV repudiates the teaching of irresistible grace, stating that humanity has the free will to resist God’s grace. Article V does not outright reject the concept of perseverance of the saints, but it argues that it may be conditional upon the believer remaining in Christ. The Remonstrance explicitly stated that they were not clear on this point and that further study from the Bible was needed.

The Bible on the Remonstrance

At this point we need to proceed to the Bible and examine scripture to see if it can verify the points of the Remonstrance.

Article I—Election is Conditional: Simply put, God has conditions upon him in making up his elect. God is bound by the actions or non-actions of humanity, as he will not force the will of humanity. The Bible teaches that we are not pre-chosen to life or death and that salvation has been provided for all men, if they believe. Jesus stated:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:16, 17)

In this most-loved text, we see that Jesus declared that all who believe may have eternal life. Someone might say, however, that “only the elect can believe.” To this we respond that in each verse Jesus says that this great love of God is directed toward the world, not to just an elect few.

Paul, when speaking at Mars Hill in Athens, stated:

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:30, 31)

This text declares that God is calling all men to repent. Does God speak tongue in cheek? Does God really mean what he says? Can we call him a “God of truth” if he does not mean what he says? Paul boldly declares that God will judge not just an elect, but the world, and the assurance has been given to all men! Paul, writing to Timothy, also noted:

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3, 4)

Paul says it is God’s will not for just an elect to be saved, but for “all men to be saved.” If the will of God was totally sovereign and he never submitted to the free will of man, then all men would be saved. This would be equivalent to the teaching of universalism.

The Apostle Peter also is a witness to the truth of conditional election. He writes that “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). He also wrote: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2Peter 3:9). Here the sovereign God is again depicted as one who wishes all to be saved. Yet, Reformed theology states that it is God’s will to elect some for salvation and the rest for destruction; however, God, through the prophet Ezekiel, states: “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezekiel 33:11).

The call of Joshua still rings clearly today, not as hollow words for only a few, but for all: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

Salvation is for all who believe, and there is no respect of persons or nations with God. (The Review and Herald, July 7, 1891)

Article II—Unlimited Atonement: The second article of the Remonstrance declared that the atonement of Jesus upon the cross was not for only an elect few, but for all. “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1John 2:1, 2). Romans 3:23 teaches that “all have sinned,” so we see that Jesus is to be the Saviour for all the world, not for an elect or even for those who profess, but for the “whole world.” According to the Calvinist, the lost in hell would believe that Jesus did not wish to be their Saviour. No person, however, will ever look into the face of Jesus Christ and say, “You didn’t want to be my Saviour.” No! No! Jesus is “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Paul wrote:

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. (Hebrews 2:9)

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all. (1Timothy 2:5, 6)

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men. (Titus 2:11)

Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. (Hebrews 13:12)

Christ suffered without the gates of Jerusalem, for Calvary was outside the city walls. This was to show that Christ did not die for the Hebrews alone, but for all mankind. (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 121; all emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted)

The Prophet Isaiah wrote of the death of Jesus, saying: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). It might be argued that the Father only laid upon Jesus the iniquity of the elect. The Calvinist might say that the “all” at the end of this verse is simply all of the elect. However, “all” is used twice in the verse. The first time it speaks of the universal fact of sin: “All we like sheep have gone astray.” The second time “all” is used it speaks of universal atonement: “and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

The death of Jesus Christ on the cross made provision for every person to be saved. However, for it to be efficient in the life of a person for salvation, the sinner must believe or have faith. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John 3:36). The atonement is not limited; rather, it is as universal as sin. Romans 5:20 says, “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

Article III—Total Depravity: Article three declares the total depravity of man or, as someone noted, the totally lost condition of man. Jesus said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). Did he really mean these words? Did “the truth” (John 14:6) misspeak? We think not! Jesus also said:

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. (John 6:44)

Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. (John 6:65)

Jeremiah 17:9 tells us the heart of man is wicked: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” If unaided man is totally unable to respond to God, it is evident that God must step in and do something to aid or enable man to respond to his invitation. Total depravity had a slightly different meaning for Arminius than for Calvin. To Calvin, man was spiritually dead and could only receive Christ by regeneration, which was an act of God alone apart from the decision of the person. Arminius saw man as totally lost and unable of himself to respond to God but that God had given him a measure of faith and grace so that he could have enough free will restored to accept Jesus and the plan of salvation. For example, Romans 12:3 tells us that “God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” Young’s Literal Translation says, “to each God did deal a measure of faith.” Paul also wrote:

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. (2Timothy 1:9)

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men. (Titus 2:11)

The Bible solidly teaches that every person is given “the measure of faith” and has been enlightened by Jesus Christ while still in his unsaved, fallen state.

Ellen White totally agreed with the concept that unaided man is powerless to find God. Notice the emphasis on the word unaided in the following quotations.

The unaided human will has no real power to resist and overcome evil. The defenses of the soul are broken down. Man has no barrier against sin. (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 291)

The most humbling lesson that man has to learn is the nothingness of human wisdom, and the folly of trying, by his own unaided efforts, to find out God. (The Review and Herald, April 5, 1906)

No man can keep the law of God apart from Christ, and God will not accept his unaided efforts. The nature of man is in opposition to the divine will, depraved, deformed, and wholly unlike the character of God expressed in his law. (Signs of the Times, June 9, 1890)

It is impossible for man in his own unaided strength to overcome the natural propensities to evil. (Signs of the Times, April 4, 1895)

Ellen White does not diminish the issue of cooperation with God but clearly shows that we can only cooperate with God when aided by divine power.

Article IV—Resistible Grace: This article teaches that grace can be resisted and even rejected. Grace can be resisted by the exercise of the free will of man: Grace is an attitude, not a power. Nowhere does inspiration speak of “irresistible grace.” The Bible teaches that men do resist and reject God. Stephen, just before he was stoned, declared to the murderous Jews: “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye” (Acts 7:51). Paul writes in 2Corinthians 6:1, “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” Paul is saying that God’s grace can be received in vain. In Galatians 2:21, he says: “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Jude 4 tells us that the “grace of our God” can be turned “into lasciviousness” and that we can finally deny “the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Psalm 78:41 is an interesting text, for it says that Israel “limited the Holy One of Israel.” This text tells us that God’s grace to Israel was resisted.

The parable of the marriage of the king’s son (Matthew 22:1-14) tells of a king (God) sending his servants (the prophets) to call them that were bidden to the wedding (the Jews) to receive his son (Jesus). However, upon their refusal, he commands his servants: “Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage” (Matthew 22:9).

Ellen White writes negatively towards the concept of irresistible grace when, speaking of “the spiritual declension which had been manifest in England just before the time of Wesley,” she says that while some admitted to “the perpetuity of the law, declared that it was unnecessary for ministers to exhort the people to obedience of its precepts, since those whom God had elected to salvation would, ‘by the irresistible impulse of divine grace, be led to the practice of piety and virtue,’ while those who were doomed to eternal reprobation ‘did not have power to obey the divine law’” (The Great Controversy, pp. 260, 261).

Article V—The Perseverance of the Saints: Article five does not explicitly reject the concept of perseverance of the saints, but it argues that it may be conditional upon the believer remaining in Christ. The Bible teaches that a person may receive the grace of God in vain. Paul especially dwells upon this subject in Hebrews:

But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. (Hebrews 3:6)

For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end. (Hebrews 3:14)

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6)

For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26-29)

Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. (Hebrews 10:35)

Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. (Hebrews 10:38)

Two other plain statements of Paul come from Romans and Corinthians:

But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1Corinthians 9:27)

Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. (Romans 11:22)

It is important to note that while God will not force someone to be saved or force him to continue in the Christian path if he chooses to walk away, salvation is assured and perseverance is complete for the believer who does hold fast his faith. Jesus said:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29)

The Synod of Dort

The Dutch Reformed Church called a synod from November 13, 1618, to May 9, 1619, in the city of Dortrecht to respond to the Remonstrance. Eight nations were represented in this synod and the articles of Remonstrance were rejected, while the main points of Calvinism that were in dispute were affirmed in what became known as the Canon of Dort. As a result of the synod, “two hundred Arminian clergymen” were disposed “and by the preceding though independent arrest of the political leaders of the Remonstrants, at the instigation of Maurice. Grotius was condemned by the States-General to perpetual imprisonment, but escaped through the ingenuity of his wife (1621). Van Olden Barneveldt was unjustly condemned to death for alleged high-treason, and beheaded at the Hague (May 14, 1619)” (Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, vol. 1, p. 514).

Johan Van Olden Barneveldt was highly respected and an influential statesman who had been the protector of the Arminian Remonstrants. His trial was of a highly irregular manner. The online resource, The Free Dictionary, states:

His execution was a judicial murder brought about by his personal enemies; no incriminating evidence has ever been found against Oldenbarneveldt, who was one of the ablest and most patriotic statesmen in the history of the Dutch. (http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Oldenbarneveldt,+Johan+van)

This action from the followers of Calvin’s teaching does not come as such a surprise when one remembers that John Calvin personally instigated the death of Michael Servetus at the stake for disagreeing with him on the doctrine of the trinity.

Implications of Calvinism

No doctrine or teaching is of value unless it somehow incorporates into the life of the believer spiritual life. God’s nature and character is essentially love. John writes:

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1John 4:8-10

Love is a moral quality, a principle that respects the decisions made by free, created beings. Remember the issue of the sovereignty of God that Calvin was concerned about? Calvin said that God is sovereign and all that he decrees happens. Since he has decreed that some will be saved and some will be lost, orthodox “supralapsarianism argues that the decree that brings the most glory to God is the salvation of the elect and the damnation of others” (Fortin,, Ibid., p. 3).

Calvinism claims to be God-centered and not man-centered, as it claims for Arminianism. As Roger Olson states:

What would count as truly God-centered theology to these Reformed critics of Arminianism? First, human depravity must be emphasized as much as possible so that humans are not capable, even with supernatural, divine assistance, of cooperating with God’s grace in salvation. In other words, grace must be irresistible. Another way of saying that is that God must overwhelm elect sinners and compel them to accept his mercy without any cooperation, even non-resistance, on their parts. This is part and parcel of high Calvinism, otherwise known as five-point Calvinism. According to Boice and others, theology is only God-centered if human decision plays no role whatsoever in salvation. The downside of this, of course, is that God’s selection of some to salvation must be purely arbitrary and God must be depicted as actually willing the damnation of some significant portion of humanity that he could save because salvation in this scheme is absolutely unconditional. In other words, Calvinism may be God-centered, but the God at the center is morally ambiguous and unworthy of worship.

…In this theology, the God at the center is the ultimate narcissist, the greatest egoist who finds glory in displaying his naked power even to the point of consigning millions to hell just to manifest his attribute of justice. (Roger E. Olson, Arminianism is God-Centered Theology, pp. 3-5)

Calvinism claims to have a God-centered theology, but what value is such a theology if the God at its center is glorious power but of a capricious moral character? Alexander the Great had a glorious reign, but he was a morally corrupt person. The German Adolf Hitler conquered most of Europe while Martin Luther had little but his character, yet today we would say that Luther was more glorious than Hitler. God is glorious and majestic because he is omnipotent and good, but if his goodness cannot have significance to our ability to understand what is good, then it is meaningless and empty to humanity.

In his message “Predestination Calmly Considered,” John Wesley noted:

The Scripture describes God as the Judge of the earth. But how shall God in justice judge the world? (O consider this, as in the presence of God, with reverence and godly fear!) How shall God in justice judge the world, if there be any decree of reprobation? On this supposition, what should those on the left hand be condemned for? For their having done evil? They could not help it. There never was a time when they could have helped it. God, you say, “of old ordained them to this condemnation.” And “who hath resisted his will?” He “sold” them, you say, “to work wickedness,” even from their mother’s womb. He “gave them up to a reprobate mind,” or ever they hung upon their mother’s breast. Shall he then condemn them for what they could not help? Shall the Just, the Holy One of Israel, adjudge millions of men to everlasting pain, because their blood moved in their veins? Nay, this they might have helped, by putting an end to their own lives. But could they even thus have escaped from sin? Not without that grace which you suppose God had absolutely determined ever to give them. And yet you suppose him to send them into eternal fire, for not escaping from sin! that is, in plain terms, for not having that grace which God had decreed they should never have! O strange justice! What a picture do you draw of the Judge of all the earth! (The Works of John Wesley, vol.X, pp. 261, 262, Ages Library)

Interestingly both Calvinism and historical Arminianism both claim to worship God in trinity, but clearly it is not the same God. (This should be a lesson to us, that though we say we worship the one true God, we may indeed have different gods.) The god of Calvinism is a being of morally ambiguous power who is very much like the devil, a being who wants all people to go to hell. The god of Calvinism wants some, even most people to be lost in hell. Calvinism would have us understand that Satan is a tool of God to bring misery, destruction, and death into the world and that this is done all for the glory of God!

The God of the Bible, however, is the Father of Jesus Christ. He is a God of love and is full of grace and truth, one worthy of man’s highest acceptance and love. May we each come to truly know him better, know him as he reveals himself, for this is life eternal. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

Arminianism and Adventism

Finally it should be understood that the basic principles of Arminius and his rejection of predestination had great influence upon the Advent Movement. At its foundational level, the doctrine of the investigative judgment is dependent upon the doctrines of grace and “freed will.”

In fact, one of the very strong reasons why Arminians came to reject the doctrine of irresistible election, or deterministic predestination, was their logical claim that this teaching effectively made God out to be the author of sin! Thus at the very heart of this strong, negative reaction to irresistible election was a desire to vindicate the God of loving grace.

This whole notion of Arminian (even biblical) free grace seems to implicitly lead to a strong emphasis on calling, convicting, converting, justifying, and sanctifying grace—all of whose fruits will be on full display in the final public judgments of God. It will therefore be this display of the evidential ‘fruit’ of faith that will persuasively contribute to the final vindication of God’s dealings with sin and sinners through His judgments of investigation. To put it very simply: no “free grace” and its “freed wills,” no God-vindicating “Great Controversy theme” for Seventh-day Adventism! (Woodrow Whidden, Adventist Review, October 14, 2010, p. 19)

In fact, why have a judgment at all if everything was predetermined by God? A judgment would seem to place contempt upon God and his eternal decisions, calling his goodness into question. That, of course, is what Arminianism does to Calvinism — it calls its goodness into question, weighs it in the balances of the God’s word, and finds it wanting. Thank God we have been given something better than Calvinism: grace, free will, and salvation available to all!  Allen Stump

Youth’s Corner — Valentina

Valentina was twenty-seven years old and lived in Russia when she was arrested in 1981 for “transporting Christian literature.” She was sent to jail. She had never been in jail and did not know what to expect, but she found that her every move was watched. The government prosecutor wanted to know what kind of person Valentina was and if she had any weaknesses, so he recruited people to spy on her. He wanted use what he learned about her to pressure her to give up her Christian faith and to admit that she had been wrong in possessing Christian literature. The prosecutor claimed that Valentina used the literature to teach people, especially children, to obey the Bible instead of the government.

For six months Valentina was in prison in Stavropol, awaiting trial. She wanted to be her own lawyer at her trial, so she asked the investigator for a Bible to help in her defense. He did not want to allow her to represent herself, but he eventually changed his mind and gave her a Bible. She was very happy because now she could review the texts she needed to present at her trial and also because she could read the Bible for the comfort and truth it contains whenever she wanted. Her Bible encouraged her greatly. It was like food to her, and it strengthened her.

At Stavropol, the prisoners and the cells were searched regularly, and every time this happened, the guards found her Bible. They always handled it very carefully, however, because a Bible was hard to find in Russia at that time. The guards would gently turn the pages and say, “Valentina, how did you get this Bible? We have never seen one before!” The guards were always impressed with her Bible. Even the lead investigator for her case was impressed. When he saw her Bible, he asked about a famous trial in the Bible. Can you think of someone whose trial is recorded in the Bible? That’s right — Jesus’ trial.

The investigator wanted to know all about the trial of Jesus, so Valentina told him. She said, “You know, my trial is something like his trial because Jesus was falsely accused also. The leaders had to find false witnesses to say things that were not true about Jesus, and that is exactly what you are trying to do to me. You are looking for witnesses to give a testimony about me that is not true.” Then she told him about Pilate. “He just washed his hands about the trial. He said Jesus wasn’t guilty but then turned him over to be crucified anyway. You say you are sorry this is happening to me, but at the same time you promise me a five-year sentence. I have the feeling that no matter what happens at my trial, you will send me back to prison.”

And that is exactly what happened. During her trial the judge forced her to have an attorney represent her. The attorney arrived just as the trial was scheduled to start and the judge would not allow the attorney to speak with Valentina before the trial. The prosecutor said things that were not true about Valentina and brought false charges against her. Finally he reverted to accusations, saying: “You claim that you haven’t infringed on the rights of other citizens, but you pray on your knees. This is very degrading.” The prosecutor was accusing Valentina of making others feel badly about themselves when she knelt in prayer.

Valentina was sentenced to five years in Siberia, and she was placed on a train on January 28. It took a whole month for the train to make its way to Siberia., Many other prisoners were on the train with Valentina, prisoners condemned of serious and hurtful crimes, but no one else was there who had been condemned for her faith. She says the train trip was very hard because it was freezing all the time, and she had no warm clothes. (She had expected to be sentenced to a prison in her home area where it was warmer.) Also, she had no food to take with her on the trip and was given only a little bread and a small packet of sugar by the officials before she left. Other prisoners, however, took pity on her and shared their meager supplies of food with her. Valentina says she was reminded of how God provided for the widow of Zarephath and Elijah. There was always enough food for them and for her!

The train made four stops along the way at “transit” prisons, which had special rooms to hold all the prisoners from the train. It also was very cold in these cells. Each cell had a window with bars but no glass! It was an open hole in the wall. The wind blew a lot and all four walls and the ceiling were covered with a thick layer of frost when they arrived, and after all the people gathered in the room, their warm breaths caused some of the frost to melt, and the frost began to drip, drip, drip. This lasted all night long.

Valentina finally arrived at the women’s camp in Siberia. It was very isolated. The wind was very strong, and, of course, it was very cold — about 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Her first summer was a rainy summer, and her boots and her jacket never dried. The mud was knee-deep because nothing at the camp was paved. She and the rest of the prisoners were in Siberia to work in a factory by cutting pieces of material all day long. Her job was to cut, cut, cut, and her work was not scheduled for a certain amount of hours each day. Instead she had to cut a certain amount of pieces each day before she could return to her barracks. Her day started at 5:30 in the morning, and sometimes it was 2 o’clock the next morning before she had cut all the pieces required. She became very tired and sometimes discouraged.

For a long time Valentina was the only Christian in her camp. The other prisoners at her camp had never seen anyone pray. “When you pray, Valentina, who are you talking to?” they would ask, “And what do you say?” So Valentina was able to explain prayer to the people and even taught one lady the words of a hymn about prayer. Later she heard this lady singing the hymn! She had composed her own tune and sang the precious words of the hymn while she worked in the factory. People at the camp, especially the administrator, watched Valentina closely because they did not know what to expect from a Christian. The administrator wondered if Valentina would be defiant and refuse to do what she was told or if she would create dissatisfaction among the rest of the prisoners. Everyone, however, found Valentina to be different from the rest of the prisoners. She was kind and helpful, and she did her work well. There were times, however, when she was discouraged because all she seemed to do for hours and hours was cut, cut, cut. Then she received a special post card.

Valentina’s camp was isolated from other villages. Everything for their camp was brought in by horse and wagon, even the mail, and on this particularly discouraging day, she received a post card with Colossians 3:23 written on it: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” These words of the Bible helped Valentina to be more cheerful. They reminded her she should work to please God and not men. Even though she was tempted to think she was doing something meaningless day after day in the factory, she knew she could please God in what she did, so she did her best. Even her supervisor noticed the difference and gave her greater responsibilities because she was being faithful in the small duties.

One single postcard made a difference in Valentina’s life, but she received hundreds of letters that offered encouragement to remain faithful to God in spite of her trying circumstances. Most of her letters came on the significant days of her religious faith. On these days, many letters arrived, reminding her that she was not forgotten in the hearts and prayers of her loved ones at home. Even children wrote Valentina. Letters came to her, for example, from “Nadia, age 8” and “Natasha, age 7.” The letters were a great source of comfort to Valentina, but they were also a blessing to others in the camp. People would say, “Why are you getting so much mail, Valentina? We don’t get any mail.” So, Valentina would pass her letters around and let other people read what had been written to her. The letters contained Bible verses, and women in the camp started to memorize the texts. What friends and family were writing to Valentina was being shared with other women in the camp! People started to listen to what Valentina had to say. They looked at her and saw that she was different. Even the most hardened criminal could see a difference. One lady said, “You know, I was always taught that Christians were bad people because they did not obey the law, but I see that I was wrong. Christians are good people.”

To another prison and at a different time, people were writing. Pastor Yakov was also in Siberia, sentenced there three different times because of his faith. His last two sentences ran consecutively. He was not allowed to return home when his second sentence was completed because the government added more years to his sentence, so Pastor Yakov felt he was sentenced three times. When he was finally allowed to leave Siberia after his second and third sentences, he had a rich treasure to take with him — all the letters he had received during his “double” stay! Nine thousand, five hundred forty-six letters to be exact, all written to encourage him during the many years he was in Siberia for his faith!

We can be a blessing to others just like many people were a blessing to Valentina and to Pastor Yakov. You may only be eight or nine years old like Nadia and Natasha, or perhaps you are twenty-seven like Valentina, but whatever your age, you can use the gift of writing to bless others. What you write does not have to be polished and ready for publication, it does not have to be perfect or profound, it only needs to be filled with love and truth, and it will bless others. Letter-writing changed the lives of Valentina and the people with whom she came in contact while in Siberia, and it will change the lives of the people your letters touch as well. Onycha Holt

Waldensian Center’s new term for online classes begins January 30, 2011. For information, please go to waldensiancenter.org or call David Sims at 530-294-1115.

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 - E-mail: editor@smyrna.org.
Associate Editor: Onycha Holt - E-mail Onycha@smyrna.org

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This page was last updated: Sunday, May 26, 2013