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. 21, No.12 Straight and Narrow December 2012
I believe that in the end the truth will conquer.
(John Wycliffe, statement to the Duke of Lancaster (1381), as quoted in Champions of the Right (1885) by Edward Gilliat, p. 135)
The Protestant Reformation
John WycliffeA Fourteenth Century John the Baptist
On July 13, 1205, Hubert Walter, the Archbishop of Canterbury, died. That very night, secretly and without the knowledge or sanction of King John, the junior canons of Canterbury met and elected Reginald as their new archbishop. Before midnight he was installed on the archbishops throne, and by dawn he was on his way to Rome for confirmation by the pope. When King John learned of what he considered an audacious, underhanded display of power, he was enraged and forthwith pronounced the Bishop of Norwich as the new Archbishop of Canterbury! And another delegation was on its way to Rome. Such was the tug of war often seen during the Middle Ages between heads of state and the representatives of Rome, for the papacy has ever been on a mission to extend her power and influence.
The result of this particular conflict was not pleasant. Innocent III filled the chair of Peter at the time, and he vigorously insisted on the subordination of princes to the Papal See. Innocent believed in his absolute right to govern all monarchies and kingdoms in Europe, and he resolutely annulled both elections for the Archbishop of Canterbury and swiftly appointed his own man to the position.
King John immediately saw the long-range consequences of such an act by Innocent. After the king, the Archbishop of Canterbury was the highest seat of dignity and jurisdiction in England. It was an alarming encroachment on the kings prerogative and on the nations independence for the pope to appoint the man of his choice to fill the seat. The next step might be for the pope to even appoint the king of England! King John intended to fight this overreach of power and proclaimed the popes nominee would never take office. He turned the canons of Canterbury out of their offices and ordered all prelates and abbots to leave his kingdom. The pope promptly responded by placing the whole nation under interdict.
You and I would not be troubled by a proclamation of interdict, but the people of England were highly superstitious, and to them this was the greatest of disasters, full of unimaginable doom. Under interdict, the gates of heaven were locked by the strong hand of the pope, and no man, woman, or child could enter therein. They were, instead, consigned to stay in purgatory until the pope looked upon them with favor. All who died under interdict were believed to wander in unknown sufferings until the pope reopened the gates of heaven. All symbols of grace and all religious ordinances were suspended. The church doors were closed, the church bells ceased to be rung, and the crosses and images of the churches were taken down and laid on the ground. Infants were baptized on the church porch, marriages were celebrated in the church yard, and the dead were buried in ditches or in open fields instead of in the church cemetery. No one was allowed to rejoice, to eat flesh, to shave his beard, or to pay proper attention to person or apparel. Because the wrath of God rested upon the land, only signs of distress, mourning, and woe were to be seen. (J. A. Wylie, The History of Protestantism, p. 65; paraphrased)
King John withstood the interdict for two years, but then Pope Innocent turned up the heat. He pronounced the sentence of excommunication upon John, deposed him from his throne, and absolved his subjects from allegiance to him. Innocent gathered an army from the kingdom of France to carry out this blow to John, promising the king of France England as his reward. When King John saw what was happening, his courage forsook him. He knew he was losing his kingdom, and he sought an interview with the popes legate. After a short conference, he promised to submit himself unreservedly to the pope, to make full restitution to the clergy for the losses they had suffered, to make an annual payment of a thousand marks to the papal see, and to allow his successors to be instantly deposed of the throne of England if they should revoke or infringe upon Johns promises. The king then paid homage to the popes legate with all the submissive rites that feudal law required of vassals before their liege lord and superior (Ibid.). John took off his crown, laid it on the ground; and the legate kicked it about like a worthless bauble (Ibid.) and then picked it out of the dust and placed it on the bowed, cowardly head of King John.cccccccccccccccc
King Johns barons, however, refused to accept his terms of agreement, and the Magna Charta was thence borne. The throne continued to pay one thousand marks to Rome annually for a number of years, but then stopped, and all went well for thirty-five years until 1365, when Pope Urban V demanded that payment be resumed and that the thirty-five years of arrears also be paid.
And now our attention turns to John Wycliffe, for in the selfsame year (1365) he was appointed head of Canterbury Hall, a new college founded by the then archbishop of Canterbury, Simon de Islip, but within a year, Islip died. The new archbishop promptly tried to displace Wycliffe and appoint someone more to his liking as head of the college, but Wycliffe appealed to the pope for justice. He lost his appeal five years later, but in this mini-drama, Wycliffe had ventured into an arena far wider than the halls of academia, for it was no longer the monks of Canterbury Hall or the archbishop of Canterbury that Wycliffe faced, but the Prince Pontiff of Christendom himself, and this experience propelled his examination of the doctrines of the Catholic Church and resulted in his firm-set belief of the authority of the Bible alone in determining doctrine and in setting the boundaries between church and state.
Who Was Wycliffe?
Well, it depends upon whom you ask. Pope Gregory XI, who issued a series of five bulls in 1377 against Wycliffe, considered him a master of error, full of execrable and abominable folly:
Recently, with great bitterness of heart we have learned from the report of many trustworthy persons that John of Wiclyffe, rector of the church of Lutterworth, of the diocese of Lincoln, a professor holy writwould that he were not a master of error!has burst forth in such execrable and abominable folly, that he does not fear to maintain dogmatically in said kingdom and publicly to preach, or rather to vomit forth from the poisonous confines of his own breast, some propositions and conclusions . . . which threaten to subvert and weaken the condition of the entire church. (Pope Gregory XI, quoted by Stephen E. Lahey in John Wyclif, p. 18)
Years before this venomous attack, Wycliffe stepped into the flow of the Oxford community, without knowing where his steps would lead. He came as a man for his time, but of this he was also unaware. His youth was cradled in obscurity, and for all he knew, he would die in obscurity, with his words dying with him, but hoping, perhaps, that the word of God would spring from the darkness of past centuries and yield a rich harvest, for it was his desire to see an open Bible in the hands of every man.
Oxford at this time was young, and the flow of ideas among its eager, young students was a new and exciting experience. The campus was almost like a battlefield for ideas. It was not long before Wycliffe gained the reputation as the greatest secular philosophical theologian of his day, though he was known to be somewhat of a hothead. He often wrote with a pointed pen and with little tact. He was involved in noteworthy debates, and his ideas seemed to frequently stir up controversy.
He was noted at college for his fervent piety as well as for his remarkable talents and sound scholarship. In his thirst for knowledge he sought to become acquainted with every branch of learning. He was educated in the scholastic philosophy, in the canons of the church, and in the civil law . . . While he could wield the weapons drawn from the word of God, he had acquired the intellectual discipline of the schools, and he understood the tactics of the schoolmen. The power of his genius and the extent and thoroughness of his knowledge commanded the respect of both friends and foes. (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 80)
He was not only a gifted scholar, but also a powerful speaker and without flinching, he could turn the tables on his adversaries. In one attempt to silence his voice of alarm, a synod of bishops in England gained King Richards approval to consign anyone to prison that ascribed to Wycliffes beliefs. You would think that would be the end of the storythe king had approvedbut Wycliffe boldly appealed to Parliament and called for the papal hierarchy to attend the hearing with him! His friends and supporters had already yielded to papal pressure and had, thus, deserted him. He stood alone before the Parliament, his papal enemies feeling sure that he would, because he was old, alone, and friendless, yield to their demands. But! he turned Parliament completely around through the power of his appeal and through his convincing portrayal of corruption by the papacy. The Parliament repealed the kings edict and set Wycliffe at liberty, once again to continue the work God had given him to do. (See The Great Controversy, pp. 89, 90.) Who of us could single-handedly appeal to the Supreme Court on a matter of religious liberty and walk away a winner? Wycliffe did.
Over time Wycliffe attacked the doctrine of transubstantiation, the veneration of saints and their relics, pilgrimages to their shrines, and Indulgences. He denied the supreme authority of the pope, emphasized personal piety, and . . . stressed the importance of preaching based on scripture, a scripture made available to all, and to this end he and his disciples translated the Bible into English (William Stevenson, The Story of the Reformation, p. 23). He also taught that it was lawful for a subject to rebuke or even arraign an ecclesiastic, including the pope and that the authority of the church can be lost if it falls from graceall potent ideas that threatened to break the grip of the papacy.
Wycliffe was one of the greatest of the Reformers. In breadth of intellect, in clearness of thought, in firmness to maintain the truth, and in boldness to defend it, he was equaled by few who came after him. Purity of life, unwearying diligence in study and in labor, incorruptible integrity, and Christlike love and faithfulness in his ministry, characterized the first of the Reformers. And this notwithstanding the intellectual darkness and moral corruption of the age from which he emerged. (The Great Controversy, p. 94)
God appointed Wycliffe his work:
God had appointed to Wycliffe his work. He had put the word of truth in his mouth, and He set a guard about him that this word might come to the people. His life was protected, and his labors were prolonged, until a foundation was laid for the great work of the Reformation. (Ibid., p. 92)
And God has a work today that will be done by many who, like Wycliffe, rise from obscurity:
In the last solemn work few great men will be engaged. They are self-sufficient, independent of God, and He cannot use them. The Lord has faithful servants, who in the shaking, testing time will be disclosed to view. There are precious ones now hidden who have not bowed the knee to Baal. . . . it may be under a rough and uninviting exterior [that] the pure brightness of a genuine Christian character will be revealed. . . .
In this time the gold will be separated from the dross in the church. True godliness will be clearly distinguished from the appearance and tinsel of it. Many a star that we have admired for its brilliancy will then go out in darkness. Chaff like a cloud will be borne away on the wind, even from places where we see only floors of rich wheat. . . .
When trees without fruit are cut down as cumberers of the ground, when multitudes of false brethren are distinguished from the true, then the hidden ones will be revealed to view . . . Those who have been timid and self-distrustful will declare themselves openly for Christ and His truth. The most weak and hesitating in the church will be as Davidwilling to do and dare. . . . Then will the church of Christ appear fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners. (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 80, 81; all emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted)
Elishas call from the obscurity of a plowed field came after the learned men of his day had been approached, but rejected:
Elijah took Elisha from the plow and threw upon him his mantle of consecration. The call to this great and solemn work was presented to men of learning and position; had these been little in their own eyes and trusted fully in the Lord, He would have honored them with bearing His standard in triumph to the victory. But they separated from God, yielded to the influence of the world, and the Lord rejected them. (Ibid., p. 82)
You may be poor by this worlds standards, or you may have many comforts. Perhaps you live along a byway, far from the convenience of city and technology, and work long and hard, with little to show for it at the end of the day, or perhaps you live in ease. Whatever your circumstances, God is calling you, the precious, hidden ones who have not bowed the knee to Baal, to a great and solemn work, just as he called Elisha from the plow so many years ago.
It may not be on the mountains height,
Or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battles front
My Lord will have need of me;
But if by a still, small voice he calls
To paths I do not know,
Ill answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine,
Ill go where you want me to go.
God called Abram to leave Ur, a superstitious and idol-worshiping city. Ur was flourishing and had a seemingly educated and cultured populace. Life was good in many ways in Ur, but God called Abram out of it. Why?
In order that God might qualify him for his great work as the keeper of the sacred oracles, Abraham must be separated from the associations of his early life. The influence of kindred and friends would interfere with the training which the Lord purposed to give His servant. (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 126)
The ties were strong that bound him to his country, kindred, and home. His friends did not understand his actions, and his idol-loving relatives could not comprehend the reason for his decision to leave Ur for an unknown destination (Ibid); nevertheless, by faith he went out, not knowing whither he went (Hebrews 11:8), for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10). Abram wanted a city with foundationsUr didnt have godly foundations, and he knew it.
We can have the faith of Abraham which God counts as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). This faith results in an obedience that may require us to walk away from a promising career, to leave friendly and profitable associates, to separate from relatives, to give up a life of ease, and/or to renounce cherished plans, but if we obey, we will share the glories of heaven with him:
Many are still tested as was Abraham. They do not hear the voice of God speaking directly from the heavens, but He calls them by the teachings of His word and the events of His providence. They may be required to abandon a career that promises wealth and honor, to leave congenial and profitable associations and separate from kindred, to enter upon what appears to be only a path of self-denial, hardship, and sacrifice. God has a work for them to do; but a life of ease and the influence of friends and kindred would hinder the development of the very traits essential for its accomplishment. He calls them away from human influences and aid, and leads them to feel the need of His help, and to depend upon Him alone, that He may reveal Himself to them. Who is ready at the call of Providence to renounce cherished plans and familiar associations? Who will accept new duties and enter untried fields, doing Gods work with firm and willing heart, for Christs sake counting his losses gain? He who will do this has the faith of Abraham, and will share with him that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, with which the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared. 2 Corinthians 4:17; Romans 8:18. (Ibid., pp. 126, 127)
Wycliffe laid a broad and deep foundation of truth which no reformer after him exceeded:
Wycliffe came from the obscurity of the Dark Ages. There were none who went before him from whose work he could shape his system of reform. Raised up like John the Baptist to accomplish a special mission, he was the herald of a new era. Yet in the system of truth which he presented there was a unity and completeness which Reformers who followed him did not exceed, and which some did not reach, even a hundred years later. So broad and deep was laid the foundation, so firm and true was the framework, that it needed not to be reconstructed by those who came after him. (The Great Controversy, p. 93)
Even though Wycliffe died at home, without being touched by the burning hand of the papacy, his bones were later exhumed and burned because he was considered to be the founder of an heretical sect.
As he did for Wycliffe, God has appointed us our work, and our work is to far exceed that of Wycliffe! God calls his precious, hidden ones to join forces with the present bold, open ones, of whom all have refused to bow the knee to Baal, to plead his case before the parliament of the universe. What a privilege!
May we be, as Wycliffe was, students not to be ashamed. Wycliffes adherents saw with satisfaction that their champion stood foremost among the leading minds of the nation; and his enemies were prevented from casting contempt upon the cause of reform by exposing the ignorance or weakness of its supporter (Ibid., p. 80).
May we have the faith of Abraham that led him to leave and give all in obedience to Gods command.
May we faithfully break up our fallow ground and sow righteousness, as Elisha spiritually did during the days he plowed the fields of his home, for it is time to seek the Lord.
It may be the Lord will seek us, as he sought a man in Ezekiels day, and this time may he find godly men and women standing in the gap, showing the intelligences of the universe that God is worthy of all honor and praise and that though we be slain, yet will we trust in him.
And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. (Ezekiel 22:30) Onycha Holt
Does God Have an Order?
Womens Ordination, Part 2
Writing from the perspective of a man already within the ministry, I personally know of the high calling of the gospel minister and not only the height of the calling and the breadth of the privilege, but also of the depth of the responsibility, as well. While all believers called to be ministers for Christ in the sense of witnessing and ministering to others (Romans 13:6; 2 Corinthians 3:6), the gospel pastoral ministry is certainly not the calling of everyone, regardless of gender (Ephesians 4:11). The call to pastoral ministry is a great calling and responsibility and must never be viewed as commonplace in any manner. A man can have no greater honor than to be accepted by God as an able minister of the gospel (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 328). Anyone who believes that he or she has been called to the ministry should have clear evidence, based first upon the authority of the Gods Word, the Bible, then upon providence and revelation of such calling.
This study will begin an examination of inspirations view of ministry and ordination; is it only for men or are women also to be included? For over thirty years this has been a topic of serious and, at times, heated discussion within Seventh-day Adventism. During the 1984 Annual Council certain steps were mandated for achieving a final decision at the General Conference session in 1985 (Ministry, March 1985). This decision did not occur and neither was action taken 1990 when it was again discussed. It is set to be voted upon when the General Conference meets again in 2015. As we saw in the October issue of Old Paths (Is the Grass Greener?), many are not content to wait!
Todays society, specifically Western society, is embattled in a struggle over equality of rights for all people; women want equal rights with men, homosexual couples seek the same privileges as heterosexual couples, African Americans and Latin Americans seek for an end to discrimination, and the list could go on.
The battle for women to be ordained as pastors and, within some religious groups, as bishops and elders has some churches divided and certainly polarized. Equal work, we are told, demands equal privileges and rights. While the Bible certainly endorses equal pay for equal work, does it teach that the male gender is a specific qualification of God to be called to the pastoral ministry, and if so or not so, why?
Peter expressed an important principle when he noted that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). So what does this mean in context? Peter was speaking of the gift of the Spirit upon those who had received salvation. Salvation is open to all, and so is the gift of the Holy Spirit. While all may enjoy the gift of salvation, not all receive of the same spiritual gifts from the Spirit. But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will (1 Corinthians 12:11). But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ (Ephesians 4:7).
Let us now examine the history of gender in the priesthood. In the patriarchal age the only example given is that of men, usually the father, offering the sacrifices and servicing as priest of the Lord. Some examples are as follows:
And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually. (Job 1:5)
And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. (Genesis 4:35)
And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. (Genesis 8:20)
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. (Genesis 22:1, 2)
And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him. And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon. And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Beth-el. (Genesis 35:1315)
And Jethro, Moses father in law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses father in law before God. (Exodus 18:12)
There is not a single passage in the Bible where a woman makes an offering for herself, or for others, during the patriarchal age. In fact, never in the Bible does a woman function as a priestess for Jehovah.
After God called the children of Israel from Egypt, God instituted a formal priesthood, but this priesthood was not for everyone, or for anyone, who wished to become a priest. This priesthood was only for the children of Levi, who were to take the place of the firstborn who formerly would have acted as priests of their families after the death of the father. Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn that opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, for all the firstborn are mine (Numbers 3:1213). Yet, not all of the Levities were to function as priests. Within the tribe of Levi, only Aaron and his sons were to be priests. And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priests office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aarons sons (Exodus 28:1).
Does this distinction declare any kind of inequality between Aaron, his sons, and the other Levities, or between the Levities and the other men of Israel? No, it does not. Furthermore, does such a distinction affirm any kind of inequality between the men who did serve as priests and the women of Israel, none of which served as priests? No, it does not. The issue is not one of equality, or even necessarily ability, but there is clearly an order that heaven has set in the Old Testament which we need to understand.
Furthermore, as we explore those chosen as apostles by Christ, we see that only men were chosen to be leaders in this respect (Matthew 10:14; Acts 1:26; 14:14). Every time the term apostle is used in the Bible, it is in the masculine form of the word. Every apostle and elder in the New Testament was a man. Women were recorded in the New Testament who had the gift of prophecy (Luke 2:36; Acts 21:8, 9). Some women were even called deaconesses: I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant (Greek: diakonon, feminine form of diakonos) of the church which is at Cenchrea: (Romans 16:1). No women, however, were pastors, apostles, or church administrators.
While all the saved will rejoice in the goodness of God for eternity, only the 144,000 will be granted the privilege of entering the temple in heaven:
And as we were about to enter the holy temple, Jesus raised His lovely voice and said, Only the 144,000 enter this place, and we shouted, Alleluia. (Early Writings, p. 18)
Some will be allowed in the heavenly temple, and some will not. Does this make God a respecter of persons?
The Bible teaches that there is a class of beings called cherubim (Genesis 3:24). Two of these cherubim have the holy privilege of covering the sacred ark of God (Exodus 25:18). Satan used to be one of these angels (Ezekiel 28:14). We know that Gabriel took the place of Satan (Luke 1:19; The Desire of Ages, p. 35; Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 35) and now has the position of one of these two cherubim that cover the ark. While we do not know the name of the other covering cherub, we have no record or indication that this angel and Gabriel serve on a rotating basis with all the other cherubim, but this does not make God a respecter of the angels. We are told that order is heavens first law (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 200). We are also told that:
In heaven there is perfect order, perfect obedience, perfect peace and harmony. Those who have had no respect for order or discipline in this life would have no respect for the order which is observed in heaven. They can never be admitted into heaven, for all worthy of an entrance there will love order and respect discipline. (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 429)
God does have an order that he follows, and if we cannot understand and respect that order upon earth, we will not respect it in heaven, and we can never be admitted into heaven. That helps us to more clearly see the importance of this issue.
Gods order and its rational will be explored in the next few months, as we seek to find Inspirations view upon this important subject. Editors (To be continued)
Gifts of the Spirit
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:116)
God has given each believer a combination of opportunities and gifts that is perfectly suited to his or her situation in life. Every Christian is a servant with a unique contribution to make to the body of Christ. The central thrust of your life and ministry depends on the spiritual gifts you have received.
Diversity and Unity in the Body of Christ
There are three major lists of the gifts of the spirit in the New Testament. They are found in Romans 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12. Each is introduced by a description of the unity and diversity in the body of Christ.
Pauls metaphor for the church could not be more appropriate, because both the universal church of all believers and the local church of geographically localized groups of believers are unities which are built out of diverse elements. All believers have been baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). Throughout the Scriptures, Christ is declared to be the head, the ruler of the body.
And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church. (Ephesians 1:22)
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ. (Ehesians 4:15)
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. Colossians 1:18)
Christ is the head of the body and believers are the individual members or components. In this analogy, each Christian has been given a special function to perform and with it, the ability to fulfill it in a way that will benefit the other members. All His biddings are enabling (Christs Object Lessons, p. 333)
There is quantitative and qualitative growth when believers actively use their spiritual gifts. Just as in the physical body, so in the spiritual body, each part of the body depends on the rest for its well-being, and there are no useless organs. This is why edification through teaching and fellowship is so necessary in the local church. The biblical concept of koinonia or fellowship communicates the fact that isolation leads to atrophy. Just as no organ can function independently of the others, so no Christian can enjoy spiritual vitality in a relational vacuum. The Spirit has distributed spiritual gifts to every member of the body, and no single member possesses all the gifts. Thus, full growth does not take place apart from mutual ministry and dependence. The body of Christ is an organism, not a dictatorship or even a democracy. As such, the local church is best structured around the distribution and function of the spiritual gifts found in its members.
Definition and Design of Spiritual Gifts
The Greek word most frequently used for spiritual gifts is charisma, a word that relates to the grace (charis) of God. A spiritual gift is a divine endowment of a special ability for service to the body of Christ.
The Bible gives at least twelve principles that relate to Gods design for spiritual gifts. Let us look at some of them briefly:
1. Every Christian has one or more spiritual gifts. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal (1 Corinthians 12:7). But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will (1 Corinthians 12:11). But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ (Ephesians 4:7). Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God. As every man (Greek: hekastos, generic for everyone) hath received the gift (charisma), even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace (charis) of God (1 Peter 4:10). Spiritual gifts are not limited to a sub-group of believers; they are distributed by the Spirit to all Christian men, women, and even children.
2. While nobody seems to have every gift, some receive more than one gift: John was apostle and prophet.
3. Spiritual gifts are not the same as the gift of the Spirit. The gift of the Spirit has been bestowed on all believers. Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38). Every member of the body should appropriate the gift of the spirit in their lives. The gifts of the Spirit, on the other hand, are distributed as God decides to each person. (1 Corinthians 12:11).
4. Spiritual gifts are not the same as the fruit of the Spirit. Spiritual fruit is produced from within; spiritual gifts are imparted from without. Fruit relates to Christlike character; gifts relate to Christian service. The fruit of the Spirit, especially love, should be the context for the operation of the gifts of the Spirit. Paul made it clear in 1 Corinthians 13 that spiritual gifts without spiritual fruit are worthless.
5. Spiritual gifts are not the same as natural talents. Unlike the natural abilities which everyone has from birth, spiritual gifts belong exclusively to believers in Christ. In some cases, the gifts of the Spirit coincide with natural endowments, but they transcend these natural abilities by adding a supernatural quality. Both, as all good gifts, are given by God (James 1:17), and should be developed and used so that all we do may be done to the glory of God. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). 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 (1 Peter 4:11).
6. According to 1 Peter 2:9, all Christians are called to a ministry. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
7. We are to covet earnestly the best gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31). This indicates that some gifts are of a higher nature than others. Following the continuity of the apostle, we have the love chapter inserted after this statement and right after that he says, Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:1) thus indicating that prophecy was one of the gifts that should be coveted.
We are told, to covet earnestly the best gifts, but this does not mean that we are to seek to be first. We are to strive earnestly for power to follow Christs example, that we may be heralds of His gospel. This is true religion. Temptations come; suspicions and evil surmising make it hard for us to preserve the spirit of the higher life; nevertheless the Lord desires us to walk straight forward in His blessed, holy light (Pacific Union Recorder, July 26, 1906).
8. Spiritual charisma literally means grace-giftsthey are given by the sovereign grace of God to undeserving believers. There is no basis for boasting or envy. Every member of the body has a special place and purpose. Whether more or less prominent in the eyes of men, the same standard applies to all: Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2). Our goal as Christians is to work with what God has given to us (2 Timothy 1:6), and seek to please him rather than men. But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts (1 Thessalonians 2:4).
Three Reasons to Know Your Gift(s)
The first reason you should understand the way the Spirit of God is working in your life is that you will be contented and comforted knowing you are working within the parameters that God has set for you. Knowing and using your gifts will give you an understanding of the unique and truly indispensable ministry you have been called to accomplish in the body of Christ. Knowing that the work you are doing will produce eternal results will result in blessings that no temporal work can provide! You will have a sense of achievement and joy as you serve others by becoming an instrument through which the Holy Spirit can work.
A working understanding of your spiritual gifts will greatly help you in understanding and affirm the will of God at various stages in your life. God will not call you to accomplish anything without giving you the power and enablement to do it. Therefore, you will be able to make intelligent decisions about possible involvement in specific opportunities and training in light of your God-given function in the body (see Romans 12:4). Instead of focusing our attention and applying our talents to areas of that we are not called to enter, we will use our time more effectively by focusing on the things for which we have been equipped.
The second reason for understanding our spiritual gifts is that others, the body of Christ, will be edified. As you exercise your spiritual gifts, you will play a substantial role in building up other Christians and leading them into maturity (see Ephesians 4:1216). If you fail to develop your gifts or let them decline through disuse, your brothers and sisters in Christ will actually be hurt because they will be deprived of the unique ministry that only you could perform in their lives.
The third, and most important, reason for understanding your spiritual gifts is God will be glorified. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 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 (1 Peter 4:10, 11). This is your highest calling, to bring glory to God. As you use your spiritual gifts with the fruit (especially love) of the Holy Spirit and in the name and Lordship of Jesus Christ, your light will shine forth and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
Description of the Gifts
As we noted earlier from 1 Corinthians 12:7, spiritual gifts are manifestations of the Spirit given for the benefit of the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the source of these supernatural endowments given for the building up of others and the glory of God.
Let us begin now looking at the gifts as listed in Ephesians 4. Five gifts in four packages are mentioned in verse 11: And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers. Here we have apostles, prophets, evangelists and then, as a unit, we have pastors and teachers. Let us briefly examine each of these gifts.
Apostleship: In the New Testament, the apostles were not limited to the twelve, but included Paul, Barnabas, and a few others (Acts 14:14). As a spiritual gift, this is the ability to begin and/or to oversee new churches and Christian ministries. It includes the ability to govern or administrate the work in the church of God.
Prophecy: Prophecy is the ability to receive and proclaim a message from God or to be a mouthpiece for God. Prophets were to teach and exhort the people. Some prophets had universal messages that would apply to all peoples of all times. These prophets were inspired to write the Bible. This would include prophets such as Moses, David, Isaiah, Paul and others. Many times however, the gift of prophecy provides a word from God to a specific group. Prophets such as Iddo, Nathan, Gad, and others wrote messages not recorded in the Bible (2 Chronicles 29:29; 1 Kings 1:34) Ellen White was a prophet called to work for those living in the last times of the history of this earth. She noted: Whether or not my life is spared, my writings will constantly speak, and their work will go forward as long as time shall last (Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 55).
Evangelist: Someone with the gift of being an evangelist has the ability to be an unusually effective instrument in leading unbelievers to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Some with this gift are useful in personal evangelism (bible worker, literature evangelist, or medical missionary for example), while others may be used by God in group evangelism or cross-cultural evangelism.
Shepherd or Pastor: Jesus commissioned Peter to shepherd his sheep (John 21:16), and Peter and Paul exhorted the elders in the churches of Asia Minor to do the same (1 Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28). A person with this spiritual gift has the ability to personally lead, nourish, protect, and care for the needs of a flock of believers. A pastor must be able to lead the flock beside spiritually still waters and green pastures. However, only feeding good food is not enough, the pastor must also know when bad food is being given to his flock and seek to prevent that which would lead the flock astray.
Teaching: The ability to clearly explain and effectively apply the truths of Gods Word so that others will learn is a gift that pastors and others should have. This requires the capacity to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), engage in necessary research, and organize the results in a way that is easily communicated.
The next series of gifts is listed in 1 Corinthians 12:411, 28.
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:411, 28)
Governments: This word only appears one time in the New Testament. The Greek word it is translated from, kuberneseis (kubernhvseiV), is used outside of Scripture of a helmsman who steers a ship to its destination (Theological Word Book of the New Testament). This suggests that the spiritual gift of governments or administrating (ESV) is the ability to steer a church or Christian organization toward the fulfillment of its goals by managing its affairs and implementing necessary plans. A person may have the gift of leadership without the gift of administration.
Wisdom: Wisdom is not knowledge but rather the ability to know how to use knowledge. Biblical wisdom means having the ability to apply the principles of the Word of God in a practical way to specific situations and to recommend the best course of action at the right time. Using wisdom, one is able to give insight and discernment for profitable advice.
Knowledge: Having the gift of knowledge means that one has the ability to discover, analyze, and systematize truth for the benefit of others. Knowledge does not save people, but we will not be saved without it! My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). With this gift, one speaks with understanding and penetration.
Faith: Despite the fact that the Bible says that God has dealt to every man the measure of faith (Romans 12:3), faith is listed as a special gift. In this sense it is the ability to have a vision for what God wants to be done and to confidently believe that it will be accomplished because Gods word has promised even when the end results cannot be seen. The gift of faith transforms vision into reality, it takes a giant like Goliath who seems too big to hit and makes him too big to miss.
Healing: The gift of healing is the ability to serve as a human instrument through which God cures illnesses and restores health. Sometimes God accomplishes this through prayer alone and sometimes through using the one gifted as a medical missionary worker.
Miracles: One who has the gift of miracles has been endowed by God to be an instrument through which God accomplishes acts of supernatural power. Miracles bear witness to the presence of God and the truth of his proclaimed word. Miracles occur most frequently in association with the spreading of the word of God.
Distinguishing of Spirits: The distinguishing of spirits is the ability to clearly discern the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error (1 John 4:6). With this gift, one can distinguish truth versus error, reality versus counterfeits, the divine versus the demonic. In some cases this gift allows one to discern spiritual versus carnal motives (Acts 5:110). Tongues: Tongues is perhaps the most controversial gift today due to its manifestation in the Pentecostal movement. However, there is a genuine gift, and it is not some gibberish, but rather the ability to receive and impart a spiritual message in a language the recipient never learned. The first account of speaking in tongues is given in the book of Acts:
Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. (Acts 2:611)
Please notice that each person heard in his own tongue, or language. Concerning this gift, the Spirit of Prophecy states:
There were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. During the dispersion the Jews had been scattered to almost every part of the inhabited world, and in their exile they had learned to speak various languages. Many of these Jews were on this occasion in Jerusalem, attending the religious festivals then in progress. Every known tongue was represented by those assembled. This diversity of languages would have been a great hindrance to the proclamation of the gospel; God therefore in a miraculous manner supplied the deficiency of the apostles. The Holy Spirit did for them that which they could not have accomplished for themselves in a lifetime. They could now proclaim the truths of the gospel abroad, speaking with accuracy the languages of those for whom they were laboring. This miraculous gift was a strong evidence to the world that their commission bore the signet of Heaven. From this time forth the language of the disciples was pure, simple, and accurate, whether they spoke in their native tongue or in a foreign language. (The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 39, 40; emphasis supplied)
There is no evidence from the Bible that this gift was ever manifested in a way that produced gibberish or something that was unknown to anyone. While the King James Bible uses the term unknown tongue, all in 1 Corinthians 14, it is, in each case, a supplied word, noted by it being italicized. Ellen White warned against a false view of the gift of speaking in tongues, when she noted:
Some of these persons have exercises which they call gifts and say that the Lord has placed them in the church. They have an unmeaning gibberish which they call the unknown tongue, which is unknown not only by man but by the Lord and all heaven. Such gifts are manufactured by men and women, aided by the great deceiver. Fanaticism, false excitement, false talking in tongues, and noisy exercises have been considered gifts which God has placed in the church. Some have been deceived here. (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 412)
Interpretation of Tongues: This gift is the ability to translate into the common language a message publicly uttered in what would otherwise be an unknown tongue (1 Corinthians 14:13, 2628). An example of how this might work would be if there were a group that had people of different languages together (such as Greek, German, and French). The speaker could only speak one language at a time, perhaps Greek, but now someone has the ability to translate the truth from Greek, even though they do not normally understand that language, into French or German.
Helps: First Corinthians 12:28 is the only place where this gift is mentioned, and the Greek word it is translated from means to grasp. It appears to be distinct from the gift of service. There are no other references to this gift in inspiration, but we can understand that this gift is the ability to add to the effectiveness of the ministry of other members of the body. It has been suggested that while the gift of service is more group-oriented, the gift of helps is more person-oriented.
Now let us look at some of the gifts as given in Romans 12:413:
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
Ministering or Service: This gift is the ability to identify and care for the physical needs of the body through different means. The Greek word for this gift, diakonia (diakonia), is the same as that for ministry or deacon, but the gift should not be confused with the office.
Comforting: Romans 12:8 speaks of exhortation, but the Greek root word is parakalesis (parakalesiV) which is related to the word translated comforter in John 14:16. This gift is the ability to comfort those who are hurting or grieving.
Giving: Giving is the gift that allows one to have the ability to contribute material resources with generosity and cheerfulness for the benefit of others and the glory of God. Interestingly, Christians with this spiritual gift need not be wealthy.
Leadership or Rule: This gift is different from governments. The Greek word it is translated from means to set in place. This is the ability to discern Gods purpose for a group, to set and communicate suitable goals, and to inspire others to work in unity to fulfill Gods work.
Mercy: The gift of mercy indicates that there would certainly be a need within the body of Christ for some to especially show mercy and kindness to others. This is the ability to deeply empathize and engage in compassionate acts on behalf of people who are suffering, be it physical, mental, or emotional distress.
Hospitality: The Greek word translated hospitality literally means the lover of the stranger. This is the ability to welcome and provide for those in need of food, lodging, and love.
Discovering Your Spiritual Gift(s)
As you seek to discover your spiritual gift or gifts, ask yourself these questions:
Have I truly received Christ as my Savior? Unlike natural talents, spiritual gifts are bestowed, with a few exceptions, only on believers.
Am I walking in fellowship with the Lord? The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey God (Acts 5:32). To be effective, spiritual gifts must be manifested in the context of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. This fruit is impeded by unconfessed sin and a failure to abide in Christ (John 15:4).
Do I really want to develop my gift(s)? A prerequisite to knowing your gifts is a willingness to go through the effort to be involved in discovering and developing them.
The Bible teaches that all good gifts come from the Father (James 1:17). God tells us we may ask for wisdom (James 1:5); therefore, if we wish to understand the spiritual gifts that God wishes to impart, we should ask him to help us to understand our gifts. God wants you to discover and put into practice the gifts he has given you, and this is a request you can make with confidence and expectation because it is according to his good will.
Just as you discover your natural talents by trying your hand at various things, in the same way by attempting various activities, you can discover your spiritual gifts. If you do not try, you will never know. This requires being available and having a willingness to learn your weaknesses, as well as your strengths.
One of the best ways to understand your spiritual gifts is through counseling with elder brothers and sisters of discernment. Their years of experience and discernment can help much, as you seek for direction.
Finally, if God has given you a spiritual gift, then blessings should result from its exercise. As you use your gift(s), God will confirm and establish you in your ministry.
God has called each of us to a work and to fellowship with him. He grants spiritual gifts for your blessing and for the blessing of his work and his glory. These spiritual gifts are not merely for personal use. Spiritual gifts are not gained by merit or by begging. The very term charisma tells us that they are given solely by the grace of God.
The discovery and use of spiritual gifts is vitally important. You do not determine your gift or ministry; this is done by the Spirit of God and has eternal consequences. God has called you to be committed and faithful to him, and this is reflected, in part, by your stewardship of the gifts and by the opportunities to use these gifts he has given you.
A word of caution: Do not become discouraged if your spiritual gifts do not develop as quickly as you think that they should. As a rule, they develop gradually, and this requires time and work. Great preachers do not begin a sermon in the pulpit, and they were not great preachers from day one! But remember, we are witnesses. God has called us to faithfulness, not results.
Spiritual gifts should not be a cause of pride because they are given by the divine wisdom of God and through his grace. Gifts are not to be regarded as status symbols, achievements, or trophies, but rather they are divinely-entrusted responsibilities. Christian character and maturity is measured by the fruit of the Spirit, not by spiritual gifts. Allen Stump
By Allen Stump
One of the defining moments of my youth was November 22, 1963, when I received news that President John Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas. That was a defining moment for people of my generation, as 911 has become a defining moment to this generation.
My youth would be rocked again when, on April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot in Memphis, Tennessee. Just a little more than two months later, my youth was again shaken by the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy on June 6 at Los Angeles.
Assassination is the act of murdering an important person in a surprise attack for political or religious reasons (Oxford American Dictionary).
Sadly, American history is penned in the blood of the victims of assassination. President Abraham Lincoln was shot on April 15, 1865. President James A. Garfield was shot on July 2 and died on September 19, 1881. President William McKinley was shot on September 6 and died on September 14, 1901.
Many other notable people have suffered at the hands of assassins, such as Anwar Sadat, Malcolm X, Mohandas Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, and perhaps the most famous person to be assassinated, Julius Caesar. Caesars assassination is perhaps the more tragic, since he was killed by those who honestly professed to be his friends. This reminds me of Proverbs 26:22 which states: The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly. Such wounds go deep into the belly, or mind, of the person (see Proverbs 20:27; John 7:38).
Physical assassination is tragic, but there is another kind of assassinationcharacter assassination. Character assassination is tarnishing a persons reputation. It may involve exaggeration, misleading half-truths, or manipulation of facts to present an untrue picture of the targeted person. This is done through the tongue, the pen, and the keyboard. Character assassination has been attempted against every United States president, prominent religious figure, or other well-known public figure. The Bible, however, declares such a work to be wicked and against the character of God.
God Is a God of Truth
The Bible declares God to be a being of truth. Deuteronomy 32:4 states: He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. As stable and sturdy as the Rock of Gibraltar, God is solid and unmovable and is the embodiment of truth.
Isaiah writes: He who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth; and he that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of truth (Isaiah 65:16). The Son of God is declared to be the faithful and true witness (Revelation 3:14). Truth is inseparably a part of divinity, and if mankind is to partake of the divine nature, he or she must have truth as one of the fundamental components of his or her being. So vital is truth that one of the Ten Commandments deals exclusively with truth: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor (Exodus 20:16).
The purpose of this commandment is crystal clear. It is given to protect the rights, the interests, and the reputation of our neighbor by guarding our conversation and by restricting our words to only that which passes the test of truth.
God commands us in Exodus 23:1: Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. Here God plainly tells us that bearing false witness is a wicked work, and the one who does it is also wicked. Surely we do not wish to be associated with wickedness.
False witnessing has, since ancient times, been looked upon by all societies as bad. In Athens a false witness was heavily fined. If convicted thrice of this crime, he lost his civil rights. In Rome a law of the Twelve Tables sentenced the transgressor to be hurled headlong from the Tarpeian Rock. In Egypt the penalty was amputation of the nose and ears (The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 607).
Not only by direct utterance of falsehood is the ninth commandment violated. In Habakkuk 1:13 we find the prophet registering a complaint to God about Gods apparent lack of justice. Habakkuk notes:
Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he? (Habakkuk 1:13)
Habakkuk cannot understand Gods apparent silence when the wicked devour those more righteous. God does not correct Habakkuks theology in this matter, but rather instructs the prophet to be patient, for his plans and purposes will be fulfilled in their proper time (Habakkuk 2:4). To speak a lie is a sin, but to be silent in the wrong time is just as sinful.
This commandment may also be broken by those who remain silent when they hear an innocent man unjustly maligned. It can be broken by a shrug of the shoulder or by an arching of the eyebrows. Whoever tampers in any way with the exact truth, in order to gain personal advantage or for any other purpose, is guilty of bearing false witness. The suppression of truth that might result in injury to oneself or othersthis too is bearing false witness. (The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 607).
The Spirit of Prophecy is very plain on this matter. We should never give sanction to sin by our words or our deeds, our silence or our presence (The Desire of Ages, p. 152). Even our presence can bear a false witness. When we know that error is being presented and we sit quietly and do nothing, we are guilty before God.
Nehemiah was chosen by God because he was willing to cooperate with the Lord as a restorer. Falsehood and intrigue were used to pervert his integrity, but he would not be bribed. He refused to be corrupted by the devices of unprincipled men, who had been hired to do an evil work. He would not allow them to intimidate him into following a cowardly course. When he saw wrong principles being acted upon, he did not stand by as an onlooker, and by his silence give consent. He did not leave the people to conclude that he was standing on the wrong side. He took a firm, unyielding stand for the right. He would not lend one jot of influence to the perversion of the principles that God has established.
We shall meet with opposition of every description, as did the builders of the walls of Jerusalem; but if we watch and pray, and work as they did, God will fight our battles for us, and give us precious victories. . . . We should move forward with unwavering confidence, believing that God will give to His truth great and precious victories. . . . Relying upon Jesus, we shall carry a convincing power with us that we have the truth. (Sons and Daughters of God, p. 213; all emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted)
Our Words Are a Meter of Our Hearts
Our words are, in many respects, a reflection of our hearts. James notes, For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body (James 3:2). We speak a lot about perfection in Adventism. We believe that God calls his people to a high standard. If we wish to be perfect people, we must learn to control our tongues, which includes controlling the sin of slander. James continues, Behold, we put bits in the horses mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell (James 3:36).
James points out that a little fire can become a very big fire, and how true this is in the natural world. Most all have heard of the great Chicago fire of 1871, when over three square miles of city was destroyed by a fire which started as a small fire in a barn. Thirty-three years later in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, a small fire in the business district is wind-whipped into an uncontrollable conflagration that engulfs a large portion of the city by evening. The fire is believed to have been started by a discarded cigarette in the basement of the Hurst Building. When the blaze finally burned down after 31 hours, an 80-block area of the downtown area, stretching from the waterfront to Mount Vernon on Charles Street, had been destroyed. More than 1,500 buildings were completely leveled, and some 1,000 severely damaged, bringing property loss from the disaster to an estimated $100 million (The History Channel, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-great-baltimore-fire-begins; accessed November 10, 2012).
James continues speaking about the tongue: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be (James 3:810). Since we cannot tame our tongues, beloved, we need to give them over to the one who can tame the tongue. But it is really our hearts, and not only our tongues, that we need to turn over to Jesus Christ and allow him to live in us with his perfect righteousness, for Jesus said out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh (Matthew 12:34).
If we know we are having trouble with our words, then we need to look deeper to find the cause of the problem, and it will be found to be a heart that is not fully open to allowing Jesus to live inside.
Guarding Our Speech
The old proverb think twice before you speak once certainly is full of wisdom, and Jesus spoke very strongly about our need to be careful with our speech. He said:
But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. (Matthew 12:36, 37)
Have you ever considered what Jesus meant by the expression idle word? What makes words idle words? The Greek word translated idle is argos (argos), and it means lazy, or words given without thought. Argos has been defined as indolent, useless, unemployed (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged Ed., p. 339); without thought, careless in consideration (Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek).
When I was seventeen, without the help of alcohol, drugs, or acting foolish, I had an accident with one of my fathers cars, causing a moderate amount of damage. My father had been in the army, and I am not sure he ever left boot camp but only graduated to drill sergeant. In our home, when dad said jump, we just needed to know how high. His word was never disputed. After the accident my father lost control of his emotions and commanded me, in a firm and loud voice (some might have said he yelled), to get out. The instructions were clear to me, so I packed a duffle bag with what I could carry, went to the road, and hitched a ride to town, where one of my friends found me and took me to his home for a week. I learned later that when my dad noticed my absence, he wanted to know why I had left. My brother meekly reminded my father that he had ordered me to leave. Upon hearing that, my dad said that he did not mean it, but of course he sure seemed to mean it when he said it. His words were idle words and almost caused a permanent separation between us. Thankfully after a week, he said I could come home.
President Ronald Reagan was testing a microphone just prior to a regular Saturday afternoon broadcast and spoke in jest about bombing Russia. Some reporters took the comment and printed it in their columns. Before long the entire world knew the idle words that the president had spoken.
The Bible speaks very clearly about talebearing. Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD (Leviticus 19:16). We are not to go up nor down, left nor right among the people talebearing. The Hebrew word translated talebearer means a scandal-monger or slanderer. This is a specific command, and God repeats it to get his message across to his people.
Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. . . Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked. (Exodus 23:1, 7)
Cursed be he that taketh reward to slay an innocent person. And all the people shall say, Amen. (Deuteronomy 27:25)
The people were to say amen to the cursing of someone who would lie to condemn an innocent person. Today, instead of saying amen, we often say, no, we want to know more so do not stop telling things now. Instead of stopping rumors and talebearing, people open their ears, wanting to hear more.
The Bible tells us to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men (Titus 3:2). Instead of speaking no evil, gossip and slander abound, and some feel that the text should say to speak evil of all men. Even when there are differences, and perhaps offenses, between people, it is much better to follow the biblical counsel to speak evil of no man.
I recently read two books, one entitled In My Time, the personal and political memoir of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and the other No Higher Honor, a memoir of former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. These interesting books presented similar histories of the same events that shaped the United States during the presidency of George W. Bush. While most of the events were reported closely, it was obvious that Cheney and Rice, at times, had differences of opinions about certain situations. What I found refreshing was that when Rice felt that the vice president had erred, had taken a wrong position, or had worked in some way that was in opposition to the state department, she would never write that Dick Cheney had done this or that. Instead, she spoke of the office of the vice president in such a manner so that if blame was to be cast, it was upon the office of the vice president or, perhaps, some unknown person on the staff in the vice presidents office and never directly upon the person of the vice president himself. Beloved, if people in the political world can learn to speak evil of no person, than surely the children of God can do that. There is too much to lose by talebearing.
The Effects of Talebearing
The effects of talebearing can be lethal. Proverbs 18:8 says, The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly. Sound a lot like something we read earlier? Thats right, it is exactly like Proverbs 26:22. God is using repetition to emphasize his point. Talebearing creates wounds that are deep and are hard to heal. We can destroy others and our friendships very quickly this way. Proverbs 17:9 says, He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends. When a person needlessly repeats a matter, even at times when it is true, it separates friends and may drive wedges that are never healed. Lives are sometimes devastated and even destroyed.
Instead of spreading rumors and of slandering others, we need to put a guard to our lips. Just as a fire will only burn as long as there is fuel, contentions will only last as long as there is strife to keep them open and going.
The day that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, presidential candidate Robert Kennedy was campaigning in Indiana. When he arrived at Indianapolis to address a group composed primarily of African Americans, most of them had not yet heard of the shooting. Kennedy was warned by the police not to speak, for they feared a riot, but Kennedy wanted to speak to these people. After sharing the news of the assassination and then hearing the crowds many gasps and screams, Kennedy reminded the audience that Martin Luther King, Jr. had wanted to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love. Kennedy acknowledged that many in the audience would be filled with anger, especially since the assassin was believed to be a white man. He empathized with the audience by referring, for the first time, to the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, also by a white man. Quoting the ancient Greek poet Aeschylus, Kennedy said, Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God. Kennedy then delivered one of his most well-remembered remarks: What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness, but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice towards those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black. The crowd was quiet during his remarks and soon after Kennedy finished speaking dispersed quietly. In most of the rest of America, however, there were many riots and problems. In Indianapolis, however, it was peaceful, for a wise message had been given, a message of hope and a challenge, also. The words we speak or do not speak can have a very large effect upon others.
If there was a problem child church that the Apostle Paul ministered to, it might have been the church at Corinth. In his second letter he noted, For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults (2 Corinthians 12:20).
The Greek word for backbitings is katalaliai (katalaliai) which literally means to speak down or speak against. It means to slander. Paul is concerned that when he visits Corinth there will be evil speaking and gossip, among other evils. The results of such action are given in Galatians 5:14, 15, where Paul says: For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. If we love others as ourselves we fulfill the law, but if we bite (backbite) one another we consume or destroy each other. No person who does these things shall be in heaven. David gave Gods people a clear principle to determine heaven worthiness. In Psalm 15:1, he wrote: LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? Then in verses 2 and 3 we find his answer and by implication those who will not: He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. Here we find the answer to his question about who will dwell in Gods tabernacle and holy hill. We also know, however, who will notthose who do not walk uprightly and work unrigheousness speaking lies and backbiting doing evil to his neighbor taking up a reproach against them.
There are two areas of special instruction that we should not miss and seem specially targets of Satan today. The first point of instruction is found in 1 Timothy 5:19: Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. The English Standard Version translates it, Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. The Bible does not say that elders are always clean of all charges against them or that charges can never be brought against them, but it cautions that there needs to be at least two or three witnesses. A witness is someone with first-hand knowledge. This does not mean that they are witnesses because someone else has informed them or told them something. They must have first and not second-hand knowledge of the actions or events under question.
Nobody in Israel was to be convicted of a serious crime on the testimony of only one witness. One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established (Deuteronomy 19:15). This was done to safeguard the innocent. Yet even professed Christians, at times, aid Satan in his work as the devil. Remember that the term devil means accuser!
Satan has many helpers. Many who profess to be Christians are aiding the tempter to catch away the seeds of truth from other hearts. Many who listen to the preaching of the word of God make it the subject of criticism at home. They sit in judgment on the sermon as they would on the words of a lecturer or a political speaker. The message that should be regarded as the word of the Lord to them is dwelt upon with trifling or sarcastic comment. The ministers character, motives, and actions, and the conduct of fellow members of the church, are freely discussed. Severe judgment is pronounced, gossip or slander repeated, and this in the hearing of the unconverted. Often these things are spoken by parents in the hearing of their own children. Thus are destroyed respect for Gods messengers, and reverence for their message. And many are taught to regard lightly Gods word itself. (Christs Object Lessons, pp. 45, 46)
We think with horror of the cannibal who feasts on the still warm and trembling flesh of his victim; but are the results of even this practice more terrible than are the agony and ruin caused by misrepresenting motive, blackening reputation, dissecting character? Let the children, and the youth as well, learn what God says about these things. (Education, p. 235)
A verse that has been used out of place in connection to backbiting has been Matthew 18:15. But let us notice what the verse says, Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. This verse is not talking about rebuking someone for open sin (1 Timothy 5:20 covers that) or for sin against others, but it is for a situation when someone else sins against you. Then you alone go to that person first.
The second special situation that we want to look at is found in 1 Peter 2:17, Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. Can we honor the king if we slander him? Of course not!
I am not a personal supporter of nor one opposed to President Obama as being president. Perhaps like you, though, I have received dozens if not hundreds of emails the last four years slandering the president on several issues. I was recently send a link to a video clip that was obviously altered to make it appear that President Obama was stating that he was not born in the United States, but rather in Kenya. This is a direct manipulation of facts and unacceptable for a Christian not only to produce, but to distribute. (And while we mention email, how many times do we receive juicy gossip via an email, perhaps even an unsigned email, and then spread that to others without knowing if the material is factual? And even if it is factual, is it needful to share?).
A Letter from a Presidents Daughter
The position of being the president of the United States, or the head of any world government is a difficult position and the Bible says to show honor to the king and also to pray for him and his associates (1 Timothy 2:1, 2) I have to confess that when George W. Bush became the 43rd president I was not kind to him in the way I spoke of what appeared to be his lack of intelligence in some areas. But the Bible says, He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him (Proverbs 18:13). In other words, hear a person out and get all the facts. If someone comes to you and wants to share all the bad things about someone else, it is usually best not to listen. However, if there are what appear to be legitimate concerns, you have an obligation to search out the other side of the story. I recently read President Bushs book, Decision Points and after reading this book and getting another perspective, I had to admit that I had been wrong about many things concerning him. President Bush honorably and legitimately graduated from Yale University. You cannot do that if you are dumb. My high school grades would not have even got me near the entrance examines. He flew jet planes during his time in the service. I assure you that the Air Force does not entrust jets that cost millions of dollars to fools. And further, I gained a lot of respect concerning Mr. Bush in other areas from reading the book and comparing it with other sources for accuracy. Now this does not make me a Bush supporter or am I advocating that he was a perfect president or that I approved of all or even any of his policies. I am stating though that getting all the facts made a difference.
One part of the book however, perhaps has a lesson for us today. Bush mentions that when he first ran for president, his twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, were not too fond of the idea. They knew that their private life would, in effect, be over. But after four years of growing and watching how some treated their father, Jenna wrote the following letter to her dad, which he published in his book:
March 10, 2004
I had a vivid dream last night, a dream so vivid I woke in tears. Although I am not yet as spiritual as you, I have taken this dream as a sign. You have worked your entire life to give Barbara and me everything we have ever wanted or needed. You have given us love, support; and I know you have included us in every decision you have ever made.
You and Mom have taught us the meaning of unconditional love. I watched as Mom selflessly, gently gave herself to Pa as he suffered. And I watched you give a year of your life to Gampy; I watched your shared pain on election night At age twenty-two, I finally have learned what that selfless pain must have felt like.
I hate hearing lies about you. I hate when people criticize you. I hate that everybody cant see the person I love and respect, the person that I hope I someday will be like.
It is because of all of these reasons that I have decided that if you want me to I would love to work full-time for you in the fall. Please think about it, talk to Mom about it, and get back to me. For now I have stopped applying for jobs in New York. I know I may be a little rough around the edges, but I with the proper training I could get people to see the Dad I love.
This may seem like a rushed, impulsive decision but, I have been thinking about it constantly. I want to try to give you something for the twenty-two years you have given me.
In my dream, I didnt help you. And I watched somebody win who isnt supposed to. And I cried. I cried for you, for our county, and for my guilt I dont want my dream to become reality, so if I can help in any way please let me. We can talk more about it during Easter.
I love you and am so proud of you,
Jenna (Excerpt From: George W. Bush. Decision Points (Enhanced Edition). Crown Publishers, 2010.)
This is a beautiful letter and of a daughter wishing to defend and support her dad. Oh as Christians if we had such a desire to build up instead of condemn each other. This truly is the kind of letter a father lives his life to get and Mr. Bush is no doubt very proud of both of his daughters but I am sure that this letter has a special place in his heart.
Our Reaction to Attack
There are times, despite what the Bible says about gossip, backbiting, and talebearing, that we will receive the brunt of cruel words and letters that are never retracted. How should we react?
Firstly we need to understand that Jesus understands. He was accused of being the friend of publicans and associating with harlots. While a good reputation is nice, Jesus made himself of no reputation (Philippians 2:7). He did this so that we might come to him who knows what it is like to be slandered and he can help us. Not only can he help us, but he gives a blessing to those who are slandered.
Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of mans sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets. (Luke 6:22, 23)
Instead of being discouraged when others bring false accusations, we are to be joyful and thankful that we are counted worthy to suffer shame for his name (Acts 5:41).
Instead of attacking others or retaliating if we are attacked on a personal level, let us love one another and do all we can to bring the other party to forgiveness and the covering of their sin. Proverbs 10:12 says, Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins. How many times have we seen hatred and wrath returned for hatred and wrath. But the Bible says that a soft answer turneth away wrath (Proverbs 15:1) and that love covereth all sins. James 5:19, 20 counsels us:
Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
Conclusion: If we could only love people beloved like ourselves! Jesus said that the second great commandment is Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Matthew 22:39). This should be coupled with the golden rule of Matthew 7:12, Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
On October 15, 1962, President Kennedy was informed that offensive nuclear missiles were being assembled in Cuba posing a grave threat to the safety of the United States. During the next thirteen days the world tittered on destruction. But in his decision making process, President Kennedy relied upon the principle of the golden rule as he determined how to respond to the actions of Premier Khrushchev. In his memoir of those days, Robert Kennedy wrote:
THE FINAL LESSON of the Cuban missile crisis is the importance of placing ourselves in the other countrys shoes. During the crisis, President Kennedy spent more time trying to determine the effect of a particular course of action on Khrushchev or the Russians than on any other phase of what he was doing. What guided all his deliberations was an effort not to disgrace Khrushchev, not to humiliate the Soviet Union, not to have them feel they would have to escalate their response because their national security or national interests so committed them. (Robert Kennedy, Thirteen Days, A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis, p. 95)
The standard that Kennedy was applying was to think the process through and if he was in Khrushchevs shoes, what would he want to have to deal with next. This principle certainly had considerable influence in the preservation of the world and if it was applied in the church, it could have a great influence there too!
If we would follow the counsel of 1 Corinthians 11:31, what a blessing would attend Gods church. There it says, For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. The Bible in Basic English states it this way, But if we were true judges of ourselves, punishment would not come on us. Instead of judging others, if we would examine ourselves and see our own needs clearer we would be slower to speak about others. And experience teaches that those who condemn others are according to Romans 2:1, usually guilty of the very sins they condemn: Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
To borrow some language from Robert Kennedy: What we need in the church of God is not strife for supremacy; what we need in the remnant church is not covetousness; what we need among the follows of the three angels messages is not gossip or backbiting, but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of mercy towards those who still suffer within our church, no matter who they are.
Psalm 141:3 says, Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips. May not only our mouths, but our pens, and keyboards have a watch and door upon them.
From the File Cabinet of History
Elder Willie Whites reply to the letter of H. W. Carr, published last month.
Youths Corner Whose Service Have You Chosen?
In order to save man, Jesus laid aside his honor as commander in heaven, left the world of glory, and came to earth to live as a man among men. He might have appeared with all the display of royalty, attended by ten thousand times ten thousand of his ministering angels. But he humbled himself, not only to take our nature, but to become a man of sorrows, to take upon him the form of a servant. He came to do good, to help the needy and the distressed; to heal the sick; to speak peace to the suffering; to deliver those whom Satan was afflicting; to bring redemption to all who would receive this heaven-sent blessing.
The great enemy of men was constantly working to turn their minds from Christ; and he succeeded to a great degree, because the natural heart chooses to do evil rather than good. There was an unceasing battle between Satan and his angels, and Christ and his angels. Our Saviour encountered this wily foe in the wilderness of temptation. During the forty days and nights of Christs long fast, Satan, concealing his real character, sought by every means which he could devise, to overcome the Saviour of the world. He finally disguised himself as an angel of light, a heaven-sent friend, and offered to show him an easier way than the path of trial and suffering upon which he had entered. But Jesus repulsed the enemy, and forced him to depart, a conquered foe.
Satan still comes with his temptations to the children of men. He employs every means at his command to conceal himself from view, and this is why so many are ignorant of his devices. A few days since, the question was asked me, Do you believe in a personal devil? I do, was the answer. Well, rejoined the questioner, I do not believe that there is any such being; our evil thoughts and impulses are all the devil we know anything about! But, I asked, who suggests these thoughts? whence do they originate, if not from Satan?
My young friends, be not deceived by this fast-spreading delusion. Just as surely as we have a personal Saviour, we have also a personal adversary, cruel and cunning, who ever watches our steps, and plots to lead us astray. He can work most effectually in disguise. Wherever the opinion is entertained that he does not exist, there he is most busy. When we least suspect his presence, he is gaining advantage over us. I feel alarmed as I see so many of the youth yielding to his power while they know it not. Did they but see their danger, they would flee to Christ, the sinners refuge. They would resist the devil. They would pray much for wisdom, grace, and strength, and would seek most earnestly to overcome every evil trait of character. They would walk in the path which Jesus trod, and shun that which Satan urges them to choose.
The tempter often whispers that the Christian life is one of exaction, of rigorous duties; that it is hard to be on the watch continually, and there is no need of being so particular. It was thus that he deceived and overthrew Eve in Eden, telling her that Gods commands were arbitrary and unjust, given to prevent men from becoming free and exalted, like himself. Satans object is the same now as then. He desires to deceive and ruin us. We should study the life of Christ, and seek to cherish his spirit and copy his example; and the more we become like him, the more clearly shall we discern the temptations of Satan, and the more successfully resist his power.
Selfishness cannot exist in a heart where Christ dwells; if cherished, it will crowd out everything besides. It will lead you to follow inclination rather than duty, to make self the subject of thought, and to gratify and indulge yourself, instead of seeking to be a blessing to others. Your wants, your pleasures, will come before everything else. In all this you exemplify the spirit of Satan. Your words and deeds represent his character, instead of the character of Christ.
Jesus bids you, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. True happiness is to be found, not in self-indulgence and self-pleasing, but in learning of Christ, taking his yoke, and bearing his burden. Those who trust to their own wisdom, and follow their own ways, go complaining at every step, because the burden which selfishness binds upon them is so heavy, and its yoke so galling. They might change all this if they would but come to Jesus, and by his grace put off the yoke that links them to Satan, lay off the self-imposed burden, and take the burden which Christ gives them, and let his yoke bind them to him in willing, happy service.
Jesus loves the young, and he longs to have them possess that peace which he alone can impart. He bids them learn of him meekness and lowliness of heart. This precious grace is rarely seen in the youth of the present day, even in those who profess to be Christians. Their own ways seem right in their eyes. In accepting the name of Christ, they do not accept his character, or submit to wear his yoke; therefore they know nothing of the joy and peace to be found in his service.
If we have become the disciples of Christ, we shall be learning of him,every day learning how to overcome some unlovely trait of character, every day copying his example, and coming a little nearer the pattern. If we are ever to inherit those mansions that he has gone to prepare for us, we must here be forming such characters as the dwellers there are to possess.
It is ours to choose whether we will be numbered with the servants of Christ or the servants of Satan. Every day we show by our conduct whose service we have chosen. Jesus says, He that keepeth my commandments, he it is that loveth me.
Dear young reader, what choice have you made? What is the record of your daily life? (Mrs. E. G. White, Youths Instructor, November 21, 1883).
Some thoughts from Charles Spurgeon
The follow is a devotional from Charles Spurgeon (18341892), the famous English preacher who became known as the Prince of Preachers. Spurgeon was not afraid to speak of his Protestant heritage and of the dangers of the papacy. Editor
Morning, November 5
No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.
This day is notable in English history for two great deliverances wrought by God for us. On this day the plot of the Papists to destroy our Houses of Parliament was discovered, 1605.
While for our princes they prepare
In caverns deep a burning snare,
He shot from heaven a piercing ray,
And the dark treachery brought to day.
And secondlytoday is the anniversary of the landing of King William III at Torbay, by which the hope of Popish ascendancy was quashed and religious liberty was secured, 1688.
This day ought to be celebrated, not by the saturnalia of striplings, but by the songs of saints. Our Puritan forefathers most devoutly made it a special time of thanksgiving. There is extant a record of the annual sermons preached by Matthew Henry on this day. Our Protestant feeling, and our love of liberty, should make us regard its anniversary with holy gratitude. Let our hearts and lips exclaim, We have heard with our ears, and our fathers have told us the wondrous things which thou didst in their day, and in the old time before them. Thou hast made this nation the home of the gospel; and when the foe has risen against her, thou hast shielded her. Help us to offer repeated songs for repeated deliverances. Grant us more and more a hatred of Antichrist, and hasten on the day of her entire extinction. Till then and ever, we believe the promise, No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper. Should it not be laid upon the heart of every lover of the gospel of Jesus on this day to plead for the overturning of false doctrines and the extension of divine truth? Would it not be well to search our own hearts, and turn out any of the Popish lumber of self-righteousness which may lie concealed therein? (Spurgeon, C. H., Morning and evening: Daily readings, complete and unabridged; new modern edition)
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