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.
The secret of the LORD is with them
that fear him; and he will show them his covenant. Psalm 25:14
Vol. 25, No.6 Straight and Narrow
Photo courtesy of Godot13
According to Josephus, 960 Jews committed suicide at the ancient fortress of Masada instead of surrendering to the Romans. “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2).
In this issue:
The Gospel of
the Glory of God
on the Incarnation
Emotions of Suffering
Gospel of the Glory of God
The great composer J. S. Bach ended all of his church compositions with the initials S. D. G. for the Latin phrase soli Deo gloria, which means
glory to God alone.
As Seventh-day Adventists we have a mission. We say it is to give the three angels’ messages. This is true, and the most fundamental part of that message and mission is found in Revelation 14:7:
Saying with a loud voice,
Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.
There is certainly a warning to give to the world of coming judgment, and there is most definitely a call to give to worship the Creator, but all of this is done in the context of
giving glory to God. The very focal point of the everlasting gospel is giving glory to God. Interestingly, Ellen White wrote:
As Christ’s ambassadors, they are to search the Scriptures, to seek for the truths that have been hidden beneath the rubbish of error. And every ray of light received is to be communicated to others. One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other,—Christ our righteousness. (Ellen G. White,
The Review and Herald, December 23, 1890; all emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted)
Ellen White declared in the early part of the same year that “justification by faith” was “the third angel’s message in verity” (White,
The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890), but here the mention is not simply
justification by faith but, rather,
Christ our righteousness. What does she mean by this? Is this only justification? Does it also include sanctification, or did Ellen White have something else in mind? Of course, if Ellen White were alive today, we could ask her and she would tell us. But wait, she has told us! In the very next sentences from
The Review and Herald article of December 23, 1890, we read:
“This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” “Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” This is what needs to be brought into the experience of every worker, high or low, in all our institutions, in all our churches. God wants every soul to return to the first love. He wants all to have the gold of faith and love, so that they can draw from the treasure to impart to others who need it. (Ibid.)
In this passage Ellen White quotes John 17:3 and Jeremiah 9:23, 24. Her emphasis is knowing and loving God and having that experience in our lives. Most presentations of the gospel center upon the need of man and upon helping man, but the true gospel centers upon our great God, upon his wonderful works and deeds, and upon knowing and loving him. Paul noted to the church at Corinth:
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1, 2)
The gift of God’s son for mankind (John 3:16) and his death upon the cross were the forces that drove Paul forward. He also wrote to the Corinthians:
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead. (2 Corinthians 5:14)
Because of the love of God demonstrated at Calvary, the glorification of God will be the focus of the final generation, as they proclaim the three angels’ messages.
Only as we fear God and give glory to him can we properly worship him. We are told in Psalm 29:2, “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.” There is a beauty in holiness, and worshiping God in holy lives will give unto the LORD the glory that is due unto his name. In Revelation we find that those who are end-time overcomers will give glory to God.
And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest. (Revelation 15:2–4)
Romans 3:23 declares that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Sinning brings humanity short of the glory of God, but the obedience of fallen humanity brings glory to God. God’s end-time saints will bring glory to him by their lives of obedience, through the indwelling Christ. Their focus is not upon themselves and their salvation but, rather, upon God and his glory.
If we simply take a protestant reformed theology of justification by faith to the world, we have not done the work of Revelation 14. If protestant churches had the true gospel, then there would have been no need for the Advent movement. Ellen White made it very clear what the message of the righteousness of Christ would do for the believer. Writing May 1, 1895, from Tasmania to Elder O. A. Olsen, who was at that time president of the General Conference, she noted:
The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.
It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel’s message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure. (Ellen G. White,
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92)
An important point she makes is that the receiving the righteousness of Christ will be manifested in obedience to all the commandments of God. God loves each person as if there were not another. He invites all to come to him just as they are, but God does not plan to leave people where they are when they come to him. God’s plan is to have a changed people, a people who have gone from sin to righteousness:
I will make
a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. (Isaiah 13:12)
God will present not simply a single man who has been made whole, but a whole nation:
Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. (Isaiah 26:2)
Here God speaks of a righteous nation which is keeping the truth. What would Isaiah have understood the truth to have been that this righteous nation kept? He would have read Psalm 119:142: “Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.” Later Jesus would complement this by stating that he is “the truth” (John 14:6). Jesus is the embodiment of truth, for the law is a transcript of his character. It is wonderful to know that God has made every provision for humanity to live a righteous life within the boundary of his sacred law. Jude writes:
Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. (Jude 24)
God’s law written in the believer’s heart
The Old Covenant was based upon the Ten Commandments written upon stone. Israel agreed to this covenant, based upon their faulty promises to keep the law. The New Covenant is based upon the same law, but this time, instead of the law being written upon stone, God writes that same eternal law in our hearts:
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:31–34)
The only way God can write his law in our hearts is if he gives us new hearts in the new birth experience. He says:
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)
This is John 3:16 in action. God’s love in giving his only begotten Son for humanity convicts the sinner to turn his life over to God, who then writes his law in the sinner’s heart. Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), to save his people
their sins (Matthew 1:21), not
in their sins. Salvation is a complete process of being saved not only from the penalty of sin, but also from the power and, finally, from the presence of sin.
Title and fitness
Many consider salvation simply to be receiving a title (justification) to enter heaven. We certainly need a title, but a title is not enough. We are told:
The righteousness by which we are justified is imputed; the righteousness by which we are sanctified is imparted. The first is our title to heaven, the second is our fitness for heaven. (Ellen G. White,
The Review and Herald, June 4, 1895)
Here we read of two ways we receive righteousness—
imparted. These words sound a lot alike but have different meanings in a theological sense.
This “righteousness from God” is first the righteousness God Himself possesses and manifests in all His actions; and second, it is the righteousness that God gives to human beings by grace through faith. This involves an imputed righteous standing before God (justification) and an imparted righteous practice and a progressively transformed lifestyle, the latter due to the regenerating and indwelling Holy Spirit of God (regeneration and sanctification). (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Editors,
The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, vol. 2, p. 437)
The righteousness we receive in justification is imputed; that is, it comes, if you please, all at once and brings total and complete forgiveness of sin. It is our title to heaven. The righteousness we receive in sanctification is imparted; that is, it comes in
parts each day as we live closer and closer to the Lord. This righteousness is our fitness to heaven. This is the character-building process.
As we noted justification is our title to heaven. All have sinned (Romans 3:23), and we have a bent to do wrong (sinful flesh). God’s answer is to justify the sinner by grace through faith.
In Luke 18:9–14, we read a parable of Jesus designed to teach us how we may be justified.
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were
righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house
justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:9–14)
This parable was spoken to people who thought that they were righteous (verse 9). In the parable the Pharisee considered himself very righteous and that God would have to accept him, based upon his good works. He was the perfect modern-day Seventh-day Adventist. He said, in effect,
God, I thank thee, that I am not as the dissidents are, heretics, unjust, adulterers, or even as this disfellowshipped person. I am a strict health reformer, and I am a faithful supporter of the church and of all of its programs. I even have a will and trust with the conference.
This self-righteous person, however, was not justified but rather, the publican (dissident) was, who asked for mercy.
The Greek root words for
righteous in verse 9 and
justified in verse 14 are the same: δίκη (dikē). The version of the word translated
justified is simply the verb form of the word translated
righteous. To be righteous is to be justified. This happens by grace through faith because of God’s great mercy.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)
When we come to Jesus just as we are, he takes away our stony heart and gives us a new heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26) that loves righteousness and hates iniquity (Hebrews 1:9). This happens by grace through faith, as we confess our sins.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Our works cannot save us. Our justification is the work of God alone:
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (Romans 3:24–28)
For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. (Romans 4:2)
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)
Because this work is
all of God, it brings glory to God.
Wait, you say,
did not man have to agree to the deal? Yes, we have to surrender our hearts to God. He will not force the will, but even the ability to repent is a gift of God (Acts 5:31). All the glory goes to God and none to man.
Now does the arrangement change when we come to sanctification? Some are of the opinion that while justification is of God, it is our work to produce sanctification, this “fitness for heaven.” Let us be very clear on the matter. Both the righteousness of justification and the righteousness of sanctification are a gift from God, received by faith. Jesus, speaking to Paul on the Damascus Road, said that Paul’s mission would be:
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are
sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:18)
Furthermore, we read:
. . . salvation comes to us not as a reward for our works, not bestowed because of the merits of sinful man, but it is a gift unto us, having its foundation for bestowal in the spotless righteousness of Christ. (Ellen G. White,
Signs of the Times, September 5, 1892)
When Martin Luther was ascending Pilate’s staircase in Rome, he heard, in thunderous tones in his conscience, “the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).
Luther applied this text to salvation, as many do today, but, interestingly, it does not say
the sinner shall come to God by faith. This text is not giving a prescription for justification. It says that the
faith. The Greek root word that is translated
just here is δίκη (dikē), the same word we saw Luke using in the parable of the publican and the Pharisee. It means the just, or the righteous. So the text could have said
the righteous shall live by faith.
How can it be clearer? Sanctification is also a gift from God, received by faith, like justification is; and like justification, it also requires a surrender to God and an allowance for him to work within us. Let us also make no mistake—sanctification is necessary for salvation. Paul writes:
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)
The Greek word translated
holiness in Hebrews 12:14 is from the same Greek root word that is translated
sanctification (ἅγοις—hagios) in the New Testament. To be sanctified, then, is equivalent to being made holy.
Some people believe that Adventism teaches that salvation is a process, a lifelong struggle to attain the mark, and this process is spoken of in a negative manner.
Is there a constant struggle with sin in this life? First Timothy 6:12 says we are to “fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” The word
fight (as well as the Greek word it is translated from) is present tense, not past. To be in a battle does not mean one must lose, but it does mean that one is in a constant warfare, and it is to be a warfare of victory. Paul further says:
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1 Corinthians 9:25–27)
The testimony of Jesus agrees perfectly with this position:
must be a constant, earnest struggling of the soul against the evil imaginings of the mind. There
must be a steadfast resistance of temptation to sin in thought or act. The soul
must be kept from every stain, through faith in Him who is able to keep you from falling. (Ellen G. White,
Mind Character and Personality, bk. 2, pp. 405, 406)
Did you notice that three times in this one paragraph the word
must is used? There “must be a constant, earnest struggling . . .
must be a steadfast resistance of temptation . . . soul
must be kept from every stain.” Yet notice that in each
must, it is to be “through faith in Him who is able to keep” us “from falling.”
Though we are in a warfare all of our lives, we know that our cause is right, that our purpose is true, and that the Captain of our salvation is mighty and able to help us overcome each step along the way. Therefore, we can be sure of our salvation at any and at all times, as long as we are abiding in Jesus. So that nobody is to uncertain about his or her standing with God, the Apostle John has penned:
He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:10–13.)
So, we know we have salvation if our hearts are Christ’s. If his people do not hold back from him, he will forgive
and cleanse them. Our Christian life, from start to finish, is to be a living transformational experience, and it is wonderful to know this experience can grow and prosper each day. We need not, we must not, be stagnate and how wonderful that God does not leave us in an unprogressive state. This is simply the process of Christ imparting his righteousness to us and of our character being developed. In fact, the whole point of character development is to have a living, transformed life and experience. Interestingly, we are told that:
In a world of sin Jesus endured struggles and torture of soul. In communion with God He could unburden the sorrows that were crushing Him. Here He found comfort and joy. (Ellen G. White,
The Desire of Ages, p. 362)
Jesus endured “struggles and torture of soul,” but that certainly did not preclude Jesus from having a vibrant, living relationship with his Father. On the contrary, Jesus found special comfort and joy in his communion with God because of these struggles.
Because God has chosen to allow his children, at times, to have struggles and trials does not mean that they are forsaken or that enduring struggles should be thought of negatively; no, not at all! Some see something negative about salvation being a lifelong struggle, but this is part of God’s chosen method of character development, and I say that thankfully. God knows his business, and he knows it infinitely well.
If I am going to try to gain strength in my muscles, I have to work them, even make them struggle, but it is this very work that causes the muscles to grow. Furthermore, we are told:
Sanctification is not the work of an hour, it is the result of the constant effort of a lifetime. We must fight the good fight of faith, struggle against the powers of darkness, resist evil, subdue the natural tendencies to sin, and by the grace of God perfect holiness, and work out our own salvation. (Ellen G. White,
Signs of the Times, February 10, 1888)
When Christ shall come, He will not change the character of any individual. Precious, probationary time is given to be improved in washing our robes of character and making them white in the blood of the Lamb.
To remove the stains of sin requires the work of a lifetime. (Ellen G. White,
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 429)
Sometimes people may feel that such teaching does not emphasis the new birth enough, but we should realize that different people have different needs. If I am speaking to a person who is not a Christian, almost all I speak about concerning faith is the new birth, but what about the Christian who has accepted Jesus? Should we dwell mostly upon the new birth after they have been born again? Only if we wish to avoid sanctification and a changed life. We certainly need a title to enter heaven, but what about character, or our fitness? Can we go to heaven with stains upon our character? Revelation 21:27 says: “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Sin defiles and prevents admission into heaven. What will all have who enter heaven? The Spirit of Prophecy is clear:
In the word of God they are to learn that all who enter heaven
must have a perfect character; for then they will meet their Lord in peace. (Ellen G. White,
Sabbath School Worker, April 1, 1886)
And again, we cannot say it enough that both the title to heaven, our justification, and our fitness to heaven, our sanctification, are found in Jesus.
The proud heart strives to earn salvation; but both our title to heaven and our fitness for it are found in the righteousness of Christ. (White,
The Desire of Ages, p. 300)
Only those with a surface knowledge of the Bible will reject true sanctification as a biblical doctrine. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonian church, declared:
For this is the will of God, even your sanctification . . . (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Clearly, holiness is the will of God for his people, and that holiness is to extend to their whole spirit, soul, and body. Not only does the Bible clearly teach the necessity of sanctification, but it is also clear on how it is to be attained. The Saviour prayed for his disciples to be sanctified by the word: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17).
Paul teaches that believers are to be “sanctified by the Holy Ghost.”
That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. (Romans 15:16)
Since it was the Spirit of God that produced the Bible (2 Peter 1:21), we can rightfully teach that is it through the word of God and through the Holy Spirit that we are sanctified.
The work of the Holy Spirit is clearly noted by Jesus:
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come,
he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. (John 16:13)
By the word and by the Spirit of God are opened to men the great principles of righteousness embodied in his law. Since the law of God is “holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12), it is a transcript of divine perfection, and, therefore, it follows that a character formed by obedience to that law will be holy.
Christ is a perfect example of such a character. He says that he kept his Father’s commandments and always did the things that pleased God:
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. (John 15:10)
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. (John 8:29)
John writes that we are to walk as he walked: “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6). This walking as Jesus walked is biblical sanctification:
The followers of Christ are to become like Him—by the grace of God to form characters in harmony with the principles of His holy law. This is Bible sanctification.
This work can be accomplished only through faith in Christ, by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God. Paul admonishes believers: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12, 13. The Christian will feel the promptings of sin, but he will maintain a constant warfare against it. Here is where Christ’s help is needed. Human weakness becomes united to divine strength, and faith exclaims: “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57. (Ellen G. White,
The Great Controversy, pp. 469, 470)
As we walk with Jesus day by day and as we behold his image, we are changed into that same image:
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
We cannot be born again without a change happening. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Clearly, we are to walk as he walked (1 John 2:6), but if he had a different set of tools than I have, I cannot walk in the same way as he. Recently, I was visiting a brother who has a farm tractor. One of the big back tires had lost air pressure, and he had unsuccessfully tried to pump it up with a small air compressor, the type one might keep in the trunk of one’s vehicle. However, I had a bigger, but portable, air compressor, with a tank to hold compressed air, with me in my van. We took it to the tractor and soon had the tire pumped up. The better tool made the difference. To say that Jesus came to this earth to live a perfect life and then to say that we are to live as he lived but he had some advantage, or tools, that we do not have is unreasonable. To say that Jesus had only a fallen physical nature that could be hungry or tired does not bring a Saviour to me that can save me where I am at. We are told that:
He took upon His sinless nature our sinful nature, that He might know how to succor those that are tempted. (Ellen G. White,
Medical Ministry, p. 181)
A point of care here—Ellen White never said that Jesus
had a sinful nature; she says that he
took our sinful nature
upon his sinless nature. That nature was more than being able to be physically hungry or tired. Jesus understood temptation and understood it well. He was not exempt from trials without or from trials within. In spite of having a fallen nature with a bent to sin, God has provided a plan to save man. God does not remove the sinful, fallen nature but, instead, gives power to overcome it.
The sinful nature is to be kept under the control of the Spirit of God. The transforming grace of Christ will bring the will into harmony with the will of Christ. (Ellen G. White,
General Conference Daily Bulletin, February 6, 1893, Art. B)
Our flesh is not holy. We still retain the fallen nature that has to be subdued until Jesus comes.
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:51–57)
Clearly, God has a plan so that when he returns for his people there will not be a spot, wrinkle, or any such thing upon his people spiritually.
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:27)
The work that Jesus will perform in the final atonement is for the glory of God. In Ephesians 2 is Paul’s emphatic statement that salvation comes by grace through faith (2:8). Just prior to this statement, he says:
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4–7)
In Poland there are over two hundred castles still remaining from another time era. A few years ago I had the privilege of visiting one of these castles, called Niedzica. Niedzica is located at the southern border near Slovakia. It was built between the years 1320 and 1326 by Kokos of Brezovica. Inside the six-foot walls of the castle is a room that was described to me as
The Trophy Room. This room is filled with stuffed animals, such as wolves, bears, foxes, birds, and many other types of creatures. It is said that in old times when the lord of the region was hosting a guest of noble rank that he would have meals served in the trophy room. Here the lord would show off all the trophies of his hunting. Through these trophies his ability as a hunter would become clear to his guests. According to Paul, the redeemed will be God’s trophies that he will have on eternal display, which will demonstrate the riches of his grace and kindness toward us through Jesus Christ! Truly Christ is “of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Niedzica castle (Photo courtesy of Łukasz Śmigasiewicz)
David expressed his desire for God beautifully in song: “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Psalm 42:1, 2). When our hearts will desire nothing more than God and to love him “with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5), when we find him whom our soul loveth and hold him and not let him go (Song of Solomon 3:4), when we serve him in obedience of love (1 John 5:3), we may be sure that we are in harmony with him, and we will then not only be covered with his righteousness but will also be fitted for the commission and the mission that he has said will bring honor and glory to him and will lighten the earth with his glory!
The angel that proclaims the everlasting gospel proclaims the law of God; for the gospel of salvation brings men to obedience of the law, whereby their characters are formed after the divine similitude. (Ellen G. White,
Selected Messages, bk. 2, p. 106)
Andreasen on the Incarnation
The following study on the incarnation of Christ is from Elder M. L. Andreasen’s Letters to the Churches, pp. 5–10 and 73–77. Andreasen’s clear writing style is both interesting and informative. This material is a must for Adventists to understand,not only because of the attack on our faith by the book, Questions on Doctrine, but also because of those who have adopted or adapted its tainted teachings. This reprint uses Andreasen’s spellings, capitalizations, and punctuation. Editors
WAS CHRIST EXEMPT?
With these reflections in mind, we read with astonishment and perplexity, mingled with sorrow, the false statement in Questions on Doctrine, p. 383 that Christ was “exempt from the inherited passions and pollutions that corrupt the natural descendants of Adam.” To appreciate the import of this assertion, we need to define “exempt” and “passions.”
The College Standard Dictionary defines “exempt”: “To free or excuse from some burdensome obligation; free, clear or excuse from some restriction or burden.” Webster’s New World Dictionary, College Edition defines exempt: “to take out, deliver, set free as from a rule which others must observe; excuse, release . . . freed from a rule, obligation, etc., which binds others; excused, released . . . exemption implies a release from some obligation or legal requirement, especially when others are not so released.”
Passion is defined: “originally suffering or agony . . . any of the emotions as hate, grief, love, fear, joy; the agony and sufferings of Jesus during the crucifixion or during the period following the Last Supper. Passion usually implies a strong emotion that has an overpowering or compelling effect.” Passion is an inclusive word. While originally it has reference to sorrow, suffering, agony, it is not confined to these meanings nor to passions of the flesh only, but includes all man’s emotions as mentioned above, as well as anger, sorrow, hunger, pity; it includes, in fact, all temptations that incite men to action. To take these emotions away from a man, to exempt him from all temptation, results in a creature less than a man, a kind of no-man, a shadow man, a non-entity, which Markham calls a “brother to the ox.” Temptations are the character-building ingredients of life for good or ill, as man reacts to them.
If Christ was exempt from the passions of mankind, He was different from other men, none of whom is so exempt. Such teaching is tragic, and completely contrary to what Seventh-day Adventists have always taught and believed. Christ came as a man among men, asking no favors and receiving no special consideration. According to the terms of the covenant He was not to receive any help from God not available to any other man. This was a necessary condition if His demonstration was to be of any value and His work acceptable. The least deviation from this rule would invalidate the experiment, nullify the agreement, void the covenant, and effectively destroy all hope for man.
Satan’s contention has always been that God is unjust in requiring men to keep the law, and doubly unjust in punishing them for not doing what cannot be done, and what no one has ever done. His claim is that God ought at least to make a demonstration to show that it can be done, and done under the same conditions to which men are subject. Noah, Job, Abraham, David—all were good men, but all failed to come up to God’s high standard. “All men have sinned,” says Paul. Romans 3:23.
God was not moved by Satan’s challenge; for long before, even from eternity, God had decided upon His course of action. Accordingly, when the time came, God sent “His own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, and condemned sin in the flesh.” Romans 8:3. Christ did not condone sin in the flesh; He condemned it, and in so doing upheld the power and authority of the law. By dying on the cross He further enforced the law by paying the penalty required for its transgression, and upheld the infliction of its penalty by paying its demand, He was now in position to forgive without being accused of ignoring the law or setting it aside.
When it became evident that God intended to send His Son and in Him demonstrate that man can keep the law, Satan knew that this would constitute the crisis, and that he must overcome Christ or perish. One thing greatly concerned him; would Christ come to this earth as a man with the limitations, weaknesses and infirmities which men had brought upon themselves because of excesses? if so, Satan believed he might overcome Him. If God should exempt Him from the passions that corrupt the natural descendants of Adam, he could claim that God played favorites, and the test was invalid. In the following quotations we have God’s answer:
“God permitted His Son to come, a helpless babe, subject to the weakness of humanity. He permitted Him to meet life’s perils in common with every human soul, to fight the battle as every child of humanity must fight it, at the risk of failure and eternal loss.” – The Desire of Ages, p. 49
“Many claim that it was impossible for Christ to be overcome by temptation. Then He could not have been placed in Adam’s position. . . . Our Savior took humanity with all its liabilities. He took the nature of man with the possibility of yielding to temptation.” – The Desire of Ages., p. 117
“The temptations to which Christ was subject were a terrible reality. As a free agent He was placed on probation with liberty to yield to Satan’s temptations and work at cross purposes with God. If this were not so, if it had not been possible for Him to fall, He could not have been tempted in all points as the human family is tempted.” – The Youth’s Instructor, Oct. 26, 1899.
“When Adam was assailed by the tempter, none of the effects of sin was [sic] upon him. He stood in the strength of perfect manhood, possessing the full vigor of mind and body . . . It was not thus with Jesus when He entered the wilderness to cope with Satan. For four thousand years the race had been decreasing in physical strength, in mental power, in moral worth; and Christ took upon Him the infirmities of degenerate humanity. Only thus could He rescue man from the lowest depth of his degradation.”–The Desire of Ages, p. 117
Christ “vanquished Satan in the same nature over which Satan obtained the victory. The enemy was overcome by Christ in His human nature. The power of the Savior’s Godhead was hidden. He overcame in human nature relying upon God for power. This is the privilege of all.” – The Youth’s Instructor, April 25, 1901.
“Letters have been coming in to me, affirming that Christ could not have had the same nature as man, for if He had, He would have fallen under similar temptations. If He did not have man’s nature, He could not be our example. If He was not a partaker of our nature, He could not have been tempted as man has been. If it were not possible for Him to yield to temptations, He could not be our helper. It was a solemn reality that Christ came to fight the battle as man, in man’s behalf. His temptation and victory tell us that humanity must copy the Pattern; men must become a partaker of the divine nature.” – Review, Feb. 18, 1890.
“Christ bore the sins and infirmities of the race as they existed when He came to the earth to help man. . . . He took human nature, and bore the infirmities of the degenerate race.” – The Temptations of Christ, pp. 30, 31.
If Christ had been exempt from passions, He would have been unable to understand or help mankind. It, therefore, behoved Him “in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest . . . for in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.” Hebrews 2:17,18. A Savior who has never been tempted, never has had to battle with passions, who has never “offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him who was able to save him from death,” who “though he were a son” never learned obedience by the things He suffered, but was “exempt” from the very things that a true Savior must experience: such a savior is what this new theology offers us. It is not the kind of Savior I need, nor the world. One who has never struggled with passions can have no understanding of their power, nor has he ever had the joy of overcoming them. If God extended special favors and exemptions to Christ, in that very act He disqualified Him for His work. There can be no heresy more harmful than that here discussed. It takes away the Savior I have known and substitutes for Him a weak personality, not considered by God capable of resisting and conquering the passions which He asks men to overcome.
It is, of course, patent to all, that no one can claim to believe the Testimonies and also believe in the new theology that Christ was exempt from human passions. It is one thing or the other. The denomination is now called upon to decide. To accept the teaching of Questions on Doctrine necessitates giving up faith in the Gift God has given this people.
It may interest the reader to know how these new doctrines came to be accepted by the leaders, and how they came to be included in Questions on Doctrine, and thus receive official standing.
The question of the nature of Christ while in the flesh is one of the foundation pillars of Christianity. On this doctrine hangs the salvation of man. The apostle John makes it a deciding factor by saying, “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God. And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God.” 1 John 4:2, 3.
In what kind of flesh did Jesus come to this earth? We repeat a quotation which we have given above: “Christ took upon Him the infirmities of degenerate humanity. Only thus could He rescue man from the lowest depth of his degradation.” – The Desire of Ages, p. 117.
Only as Christ placed Himself on the level of the humanity He had come to save, could He demonstrate to men how to overcome their infirmities and passions. If the men with whom He associated had understood that He was exempt from the passions with which they had to battle, His influence would immediately have been destroyed and He would be reckoned a deceiver. His pronouncement, “I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33) would be accepted as a dishonest boast; for without passions He had nothing to overcome. His promise that “to him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3:21) would be met by the claim that if God would exempt them from passions, they also could do what Christ had done.
That God exempted Christ from the passions that corrupt men, is the acme of all heresy. It is destruction of all true religion and completely nullifies the plan of redemption, and makes God a deceiver and Christ His accomplice. Great responsibility rests upon those who teach such false doctrine to the destruction of souls. The truth, of course, is that God “spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us” (Romans 8:32); rather, because His nature was sensitive to the least slight or disrespect or contempt, His tests were harder and His temptations stronger than any we have to endure. He resisted “even unto blood.” No, God did not spare or exempt Him. In His agony He “offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that he feared.” Hebrews 5:7. “Though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” Verse 8. (Letters to the Churches, pp. 5–10)
On page 383 of the book Questions on Doctrine occurs the statement that Christ “was exempt from the inherited passions and pollutions that corrupt the natural descendants of Adam.”
This is not a quotation from the Spirit of Prophecy. It is a new doctrine that has never appeared in any Statement of Belief of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, and is in direct conflict with our former statements of doctrine. It has not been “adopted by the General Conference in quadrennial session when accredited delegates from the whole field are present,” as Questions on Doctrine says must be done if it is to be official. See page 9. It is therefore not approved or accepted doctrine.
There are two statements in the Testimonies which are referred to as proving that Christ was exempt from inherited passions. The first says that Christ “is our example in all things. He is a brother in our infirmities, but not in possessing like passions.” Testimonies, V. 2, p. 202. The other states, “He was a mighty petitioner, not possessing the passions of our human, fallen natures, but compassed with like infirmities, tempted in all points even as we are.” Ibid. p. 509. Both of these statements mention passions, neither mentions pollutions. The word exempt is not found.
Does Sr. White’s statement that Christ did not have or possess passions mean that He was exempt from them? No, for not to have passions is not equivalent to being exempt from them. They are two entirely different concepts. Exempt is defined “to free or excuse from some burdensome obligation; to take out, deliver, set free as from a rule which others must observe, which binds others; to be immune from.” Was Christ excused from “a rule which others must observe, which binds others?” No, “God permitted His Son to come, a helpless babe, subject to (not exempt from) the weakness of humanity. He permitted Him to meet life’s peril in common with every human soul, to fight the battle as every child of humanity must fight it, at the risk of failure and eternal loss.” Desire of Ages, p. 49. “While He was a child, He thought and spoke as a child, but no trace of sin marred the image of God within Him. Yet He was not exempt from temptation. He was subject to (not exempt from) all the conflicts which we have to meet.” Ibid. p. 71. “God spared not His own Son.” Romans 8:32. “No child of humanity will ever be called to live a holy life amid so fierce a conflict with temptation as was our Savior.” Desire of Ages, p. 71. “It was necessary for Him to be constantly on guard to preserve His purity.” Ibid. A man may not have cancer, but does that mean that he is immune from it, exempt from it? Not at all. Next year he may be afflicted with it. Sr. White does not say that Christ was exempt from passions. She says He did not have passions, did not possess passions, not that He was immune from them.
Why did Christ not have passions? Because “the soul must purpose the sinful act before passion can dominate over reason, or iniquity triumph over conscience.” Testimonies, V. 5, p. 177. And Christ did not purpose any sinful act. Not for a moment was there in Him a sinful propensity. He was pure, holy, undefiled. But this did not mean that He was exempt from temptation or sin. “He could have sinned, He could have fallen.” Bible Commentary, V. 5, p. 1128. I am still puzzled how any one can make Sr. White say that Christ was exempt, when she says just the opposite, and does not use the word exempt.
IS TEMPTATION SIN?
Temptation is not sin; but it may become so if we yield to it. “When impure thoughts are cherished, they need not be expressed in word or act to consummate the sin and bring the soul into condemnation.” Testimonies, V. 4, p. 623. “An impure thought tolerated, an unholy desire cherished, and the soul is contaminated . . . Every unholy thought must be instantly repelled.” Testimonies, V. 5, p. 177.
Satan tempts us to get us to sin. God uses controlled temptation to strengthen us and teach us to resist. Satan tempted Adam in the garden; he tempted Abraham and all the prophets; he tempted Christ; he tempts all men, but God will “not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.” 1 Corinthians 10:13.
“Christ was a free moral agent who could have sinned had He so desired. He was at liberty to yield to Satan’s temptations and work at cross-purposes with God. If this were not so, if it had not been possible for Him to fall, He could not have been tempted in all points as the human family is tempted.” Youth’s Instructor, October 26, 1899.
THE GREAT LAW OF HEREDITY
Questions on Doctrine says, page 383, that Christ was “exempt from the inherited passions and pollutions that corrupt the natural descendants of Adam.” Every child, that is born into this world, inherits varying traits from his ancestors. Did Christ likewise inherit such traits? Or was He exempt? Here is the answer:
“Like every child of Adam He accepted the results of the working of the great law of heredity.” Desire of Ages, p. 48. “What these results were is shown in the history of His earthly ancestors.” Ibid. Some of these ancestors were good people; some were not so good; some were bad; some were very bad. There were thieves, murderers, adulterers, deceivers, among them. He had the same ancestors that all of us have. “He came with such a heredity to share our sorrows and temptations.” Ibid. “Jesus accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by four thousand years of sin.” Ibid.
In view of these and many other statements, how can any say that He was exempt? Far from being exempt or reluctantly submitting to these conditions, He accepted them. Twice this is stated in the quotations here made. He accepted the results of the working of the great law of heredity, and with “such heredity He came to share our sorrows and temptations.”
The choice of the devout Adventist is therefore between Questions on Doctrine and Desire of Ages, between falsehood and truth. “God permitted His Son to come, a helpless babe, subject to the weakness of humanity. He permitted Him to meet life’s peril in common with every human soul, to fight the battle as every child of humanity must fight it, at the risk of failure and eternal loss.” Desire of Ages, p. 49. “Christ knew that the enemy would come to every human being to take advantage of hereditary weakness . . . and by passing over the ground which man must travel, our Lord has prepared the way for us to overcome.” Desire of Ages, p. 122, 123. “Upon Him who had laid off His glory, and accepted the weakness of humanity, the redemption of the world must rest.” Ibid. p. 11.
Few, even of our ministers, know anything of what Sr. White calls the great law of heredity. Yet this is the law which made the incarnation effective and made Christ a real man, like one of us in all things. That Christ should be like one of us in all things, Paul considered a moral necessity on the part of God, and makes bold so to state. Says he: “In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God to make reconciliation for the sins of the people; for in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.” Hebrews 2:17, 18. Behoved here means “ought to,” a moral duty devolving upon God.
The great law of heredity was decreed by God to make salvation possible, and is one of the elemental laws that has never been abrogated. Take that law away, and we have no Savior that can be of help or example to us. Graciously Christ “accepted” this law, and thus made salvation possible. To teach that Christ was exempt from this law negates Christianity and makes the incarnation a pious hoax. May God deliver Seventh-day Adventists from such teaching and teachers!
I have not touched upon the subject of pollution, though it is mentioned in Questions on Doctrine in connection with passions. Christ was subject to the great law of heredity, but that has nothing to do with pollution. Impure thoughts tolerated, unholy desires cherished, evil passions indulged in, will issue in contamination, pollution, and downright sin. But Christ was not affected by any of this. He “received no defilement;” “Jesus, coming to dwell in humanity, received no pollution.” Desire of Ages, p. 266.
Passion and pollution are two different things, and should not be placed together as they are in Questions on Doctrine. Passion can generally be equated with temptation, and as such is not sin. An impure thought may come unbidden even on a sacred occasion, but it will not defile; it is not sin, unless it is dwelt upon and tolerated. An unholy desire may suddenly flash to mind at Satan’s instigation; but it is not sin unless it is cherished.
The law of heredity applies to passions and not to pollutions. If pollution is hereditary, then Christ would have been polluted when He came to this world and could not therefore be “that holy thing.” Luke 1:35. Even the children of an unbelieving husband are called holy, a statement that should be a comfort to the wives of such husbands. 1 Corinthains 7:14. As Adventists, however, we do not believe in original sin. (Letters to the Churches, pp. 73–77)
M. L. Andreasen
The Emotions of Suffering
Twenty-year-old Tristan was simply taking a motorcycle ride on what appeared to be a beautiful spring afternoon. Tristan was an expert motorcyclist. He had won off-the-road racing events and had qualified for a national championship race. Earlier that morning his aged grandfather stopped by the farm Tristan and his mother ran. The grandfather had quit driving a while back, but here he was, as if some strange providence had sent him. Tristan had sent a text to his mother the day before, telling her how much he appreciated life and how much he loved her and appreciated all she did for him.
But less than twenty-four hours later a young driver, whose license had already been revoked for driving under the influence of alcohol, pulled out onto the road without stopping . . . without looking . . . and collided with Tristan and his motorcycle.
Tristan’s family was in shock, especially his mother, who had been following him in her car and saw the accident happen, but she was of hope that somehow he would be okay. Tristan, however, was losing massive amounts of blood. After emergency surgery to stabilize him enough to send him for a CT scan, the vigil began at the doors of the intensive care unit. Tristan’s father was the leading neurosurgeon at the trauma center, but this evening his son’s life would be in the hands of others. The evening turned into night and the night into early morning, when at 6:00 am the surgeon told the family that “some decisions have to be made.” Unit after unit of blood had been transfused into Tristan in an attempt to keep him alive, despite tests showing no brain stem activity.
As the terrible decision was made, his mother asked me, “Are you tired?” I told her that we were all tired by this time but that God’s grace was sufficient. She then said, “No, I mean are you tired of this world and the suffering?” To that I replied that I was very tired of this world of suffering and stress.
Are you tired; are you tired today? I hope that you can answer
The inner distress
The suffering from stress and experiences such as Tristan’s gives rise to inner distress. We are tempted to feel a sense of injustice. We feel frustration for the great loss. We may be tempted to feel anger that God allowed this to happen, or we are angry that we cannot fix the situation or that we have not prevented it from happening.
When we are in these deep distresses, we may know that Jesus Christ himself provides us an example of such suffering, and he shows us how we may live over and above it. Let us first look, however, at some of the causes of our emotional stress and suffering.
Causes of emotional suffering
One of the major reasons we have emotional suffering is a sense of injustice. The wicked seem to live in indifference to God’s law and to man’s law. In Tristian’s case we think,
How dare a boy drive so carelessly when he was without a license? David related to such injustice, when he wrote:
Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law. (Psalm 119:53)
How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. (Psalm 82:20)
As the situation became clearer that Tristan’s chances of recovery were getting smaller, his mother said, “I don’t want to be a Job tonight,” making reference to the fact that her firstborn, Christina, was killed twelve years earlier in a car accident. Job not only had personal tragedy with the death of his ten children, but he, too, saw the wicked not come under justice:
Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: I cry aloud, but there is no judgment. (Job 19:7)
When stressed with terrible burdens, we may cry out,
its not fair, and, of course, it is not fair, but sometimes we fail to remember that sin is not fair. Satan plays by no rules, and life can be terribly hard, with the only part of a bed of roses we lie upon being thorns.
Another major reason we have emotional suffering is frustration because we are not able to see and understand God’s workings. Job experienced this:
Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him. (Job 23:8, 9)
Job was saying that no matter in what direction he turned, no matter where he looked, he could not find God. It was as if God were hiding himself. Job was tempted to feel that God was actually working at cross purposes against him:
He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and he hath set darkness in my paths. (Job 19:8)
How many times have we, when at the apogee of a crisis, cried out,
God, why did you let this happen? If God did not directly bring the crisis, we fill he certainly allowed it to happen, and sometimes that is the truth. Paul stated that he, with Silas and Timothy, wanted to visit the brethren in Thessalonica, “but Satan hindered” them (1 Thessalonians 2:18).
Another major reason we have emotional suffering is the feeling of loss. We suffer for the things we lose. Recently Dee Gordon, a player for the Florida Marlins baseball team was suspended eighty games (almost one half the season) for using performance-enhancing drugs. He will lose almost about five million dollars of salary. Gordon released a statement expressing sorrow for letting his fans down. But was he really sorry for
letting the fans down, or was he sorry because he was going to lose five million dollars?
Esau was cheated out of his birthright by Jacob. He was sorry for suffering a loss. He pleaded with his father to still share a blessing with him:
And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father. . . . And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept. (Genesis 27:34, 38)
But Gordon’s loss and Esau’s loss were based upon selfish motives. We can be truly hurt and suffer loss through the death of our loved ones.
Tristan’s mother said, “I can’t do this. I can’t bury another child.” I could understand and have empathy for her. These were the very words I had said when my second son was terminally ill. (His brother had died at fourteen months of age.)
During World War II, following word that an only son had been killed in action, a minister was called to the home of grief-stricken parents. The father was pacing the floor and weeping. In anger he demanded, “Where was God when my son was being killed?” Silence prevailed. Then the minister replied, “I guess where he was when his son was being killed.” This calm, yet profound, answer impacted the father, for it brought God out of remoteness into the circle of real life.
Jacob knew what loss felt like, even if it was in deception. When he thought that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal he responded with great grief:
And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him. (Genesis 37:34–35)
David’s son, Absalom, rebelled against his father, attempting to take the kingdom by the death of his father. When word reached David that Absalom was dead, he suffered great loss:
And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son! (2 Samuel 18:33)
Another biblical example of suffering loss and bereavement is the story of the mothers of the children slain during Herod’s wrath upon the children of Bethlehem:
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. (Matthew 2:16–18)
Here the mothers of these children were weeping and were without comfort for the loss of their children. Yet God, who foresaw this terrible tragedy, also had promised:
Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border. (Jeremiah 31:15)
Far worse than weeping for the loss of the physical death of a person is the suffering of knowing that a person is spiritually dead or in the process of spiritually dying. Our children who are living physically may be dead spiritually, and this causes even more grief to the spiritual parent who realizes that, without repentance, the child will suffer eternal loss.
Emotional suffering in the Lord’s work
All Christians are a part of the work of God in one manner or another. We have been commissioned to work for the master and to be his witnesses. This can bring suffering upon us, if we are faithful to the Lord. Paul notes: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus knew about suffering firsthand. “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Jesus certainly knew what it was to suffer as he ministered to others. Isaiah wrote:
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3)
When people are suffering, many times they seek human companionship. While Tristan’s family was receiving the worst of the news, a nurse came through the waiting area whom I knew. She was well-acquainted with the family and was hurting, too. Without saying a word, she came over to where I was sitting, sat down beside me, and took a firm grip upon my hand. She silently prayed and in a few minutes, simply asked if there was any news. She needed to connect with someone. Jesus, in his greatest trials, would have liked to have had someone to connect to, but Isaiah says that “we hid as it were our faces from him.” At the time the disciples could have helped Jesus the most, they failed him.
Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? (Matthew 26:38)
Three times the disciples could have watched with Jesus, but they failed. People fail us. When we seem at the worst point of peril, people leave us or fail to help us. Jesus understood this well, and that is why he is able to help us in our needs today.
For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. (Hebrews 2:18)
Furthermore, we are told by the pen of inspiration:
Christ suffered keenly under abuse and insult. At the hands of the beings whom He had created, and for whom He was making an infinite sacrifice, He received every indignity. And He suffered in proportion to the perfection of His holiness and His hatred of sin. (Ellen G. White,
The Desire of Ages, p. 700)
So Jesus suffered to help us, for as his followers, we, too, share his lot of sufferings. Apostle Paul suffered much. Just a partial list of his suffering is given to the church at Corinth:
Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (2 Corinthians 11:23–27)
This, of itself, would be enough, but Paul says that he endured more and implied that this further suffering was worse! He says, “Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (v. 28).
Paul was willing to suffer for Israel and was willing to be accursed if he could only win his people to Jesus:
I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises. (Romans 9:1–4)
A man wrote of a dream he had and related the following:
I saw in a dream that I was in the Celestial City—though when and how I got there I could not tell. I was one of a great multitude which no man could number, from all countries and peoples and times and ages. Somehow I found that the saint who stood next to me who had lived in the time of Rome.
“Who are you?” I said to him. (We both spoke the same language of heavenly Canaan, so that I understood him and he me.)
“I,” said he, “was a Roman Christian; I lived in the days of the Apostle Paul, I was one of those who died in Nero’s persecutions. I was covered with pitch and fastened to a stake and set on fire to light up Nero’s gardens.”
“How awful!” I exclaimed.
“No,” he said, “I was glad to do something for Jesus. He died on the cross for me.”
The man on the other side then spoke: “I lived in the 19th century. I came from an island in the South Seas—Erromanga. John Williams, a missionary, came and told me about Jesus, and I too learned to love Him. My fellow-countrymen killed and ate the John Williams, and they caught and bound me. I was beaten until I fainted and they thought I was dead, but I revived. Then next day they knocked me on the head, cooked and ate me.”
“How terrible!” I said.
“No,” he answered, “I was glad to die as a Christian. You see the missionaries had told me that Jesus was scourged and crowned with thorns for me.”
Then they both turned to me and said, “What did you suffer for Him? Or did you sell what you had for the money which sent men like John Williams to tell the heathen about Jesus?”
And I was speechless. And while they both were looking at me with sorrowful eyes, I awoke, and it was a dream! But I lay on my soft bed awake for hours, thinking of the money I had wasted on my own pleasures; or my extra clothing, and costly car, and many luxuries; and I realized that I did not know what the words of Jesus meant: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). (Adapted from Paul Lee Tan,
Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, pp. 992, 993)
Suffering is not something you brag, or boast, about. We certainly can be thankful to God for deliverance from suffering, but we are to be positive when communicating with others:
When someone asks how you are feeling, do not try to think of something mournful to tell in order to gain sympathy. Do not talk of your lack of faith and your sorrows and sufferings. The tempter delights to hear such words. When talking on gloomy subjects, you are glorifying him. We are not to dwell on the great power of Satan to overcome us. Often we give ourselves into his hands by talking of his power. Let us talk instead of the great power of God to bind up all our interests with His own. Tell of the matchless power of Christ, and speak of His glory. All heaven is interested in our salvation. The angels of God, thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand, are commissioned to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation. They guard us against evil and press back the powers of darkness that are seeking our destruction. (Ellen G. White,
The Ministry of Healing, p. 253)
God’s response to the emotional suffering of believers
First Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” God does not sit back idly during our suffering. He invites us to cast our cares upon him because he cares for us. He is the God of comfort:
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and he God of all comfort; Who comforteth us
in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4)
Notice that the text says that God comforts us
in all our tribulations, not
from all tribulations. Trials and sufferings will be a part of the lot through which Christians must walk. But we have the promise that he will be with us and will comfort us through those sufferings, and one of the ways that he comforts us is by sending angels. David writes: “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them” (Psalm 34:7). Furthermore, we have been told:
Heaven is brought near to earth by that mystic ladder, the base of which is firmly planted on the earth, while the topmost round reaches the throne of the Infinite. Angels are constantly ascending and descending this ladder of shining brightness, bearing the prayers of the needy and distressed to the Father above, and bringing blessing and hope, courage and help, to the children of men. These angels of light create a heavenly atmosphere about the soul, lifting us toward the unseen and the eternal. We cannot behold their forms with our natural sight; only by spiritual vision can we discern heavenly things. The spiritual ear alone can hear the harmony of heavenly voices. (Ellen G. White,
The Acts of the Apostles, p. 153)
What a wonderful thought that, though we cannot see them or hear them, angels of light are creating a heavenly atmosphere around our souls. This they do continually, for they are “constantly ascending and descending” from earth to heaven and back.
While God uses angels in his work for humanity, he also uses the ministry of Jesus.
he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4)
Christ has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. The Hebrew word translated
borne (nāśāʾ) means
to lift up
to carry. Like in the poem “Footprints in the Sand,” when we have felt most alone, the Lord was carrying us all along.
Jesus promises his followers rest, even during our sufferings, if we will yoke up with him. He says:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30)
Jesus, the faithful and true witness, says that his yoke is easy and his burden is light, but this promise is only for those who come to him. He also invites you to “let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1). Not only does Jesus offer rest for our troubled hearts, but he also offers us peace.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
In this world God has promised comfort to his people in their sufferings and in the world to come, God has promised comfort from all sufferings:
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:10)
For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. (Revelation 7:17)
Though the Lord has promised to help us with and through our sufferings, he has not promised to totally take away sufferings. In fact, we have been told:
Of all the gifts that heaven can bestow upon men, fellowship with Christ in His sufferings is the most weighty trust and the highest honor. Not Enoch, who was translated to heaven, not Elijah, who ascended in a chariot of fire, was greater or more honored than John the Baptist, who perished alone in the dungeon. “Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Philippians 1:29. (Ellen G. White,
The Ministry of Healing, p. 478)
The response of believers to emotional suffering
As believers we have inspired counsel to know how we are to cooperate with God under stressful situations.
One of the first things we should do is to assess with God the problem, especially keeping in mind the big picture. David was concerned as he saw the prosperity of the wicked. It caused him to suffer:
Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. (Psalm 73:1–3)
The prosperity of the wicked seemed so great to David that he was tempted to lose his way. He said, when he thought about these things, that “it was too painful for” him. (Psalm 73:16) Then David said, “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end” (v. 17). In the sanctuary David saw and smelt the fat burning upon the altar. David knew that the fat represented sin and, though the wicked seemed to prosper for a time, that in the end they would be as smoke. He was able to assess the problem, and God helped him to understand the answer.
In Psalm 119:78, we read how David mediated upon the precepts of God, when he suffered wrong without a cause:
Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without a cause: but I will meditate in thy precepts. (Psalm 119:78)
As we mediate upon the powerful word of God (Hebrews 4:12), we find strength to deal with all the adversity that Satan can throw at us, for we are promised:
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
No matter how difficult the trial and the suffering it may bring, we will be victorious in and through Jesus, as we learn to trust in God. It is not a sin to be under stress, but it is a sin when we fail to exercise the measure of faith that God has given to each believer. Paul eloquently noted:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Sometimes Paul is misquoted to say that all things that happen are good. That is not correct. Bad things happen, and sometimes very bad things happen to Christians. What Paul is saying, though, is that God will make something good from all good things and even from bad things.
We remember David Livingstone as one of Christendom’s greatest missionaries to Africa. Not only did he bring the gospel to the natives of this vast continent, but he also lived it - something that gave him great favor in the hearts of the people. After God called him to go deeper into the jungle to take the message of Jesus Christ to those who had never heard it, Livingstone encountered a remote tribe of the Congo. He learned that according to custom, he was to call for an audience with the tribal chief before entering the village. Failure to comply with this custom could have cost him his life. Livingstone had to wait outside the village, with all his possessions lined up next to him. The chief, as a sign of acceptance, would take whatever he desired from among the missionary’s possessions. To complete the exchange, the chief would give the guest something of his own. Then and only then would Livingstone be authorized to enter and share the gospel. The scene resembled an orderly garage sale. Livingstone had set out his Bible, writing pad, clothes, shoes, blanket — and his goat. Livingstone suffered from a weak stomach that required him to drink goat’s milk. The local drinking water was often questionable, so this was his answer to survival. Often Livingstone had asked God to heal his infirmity, but it seemed his lot to drink goat’s milk every morning. After what seemed like an eternity to Livingstone, the chief emerged from his tent and made his way slowly towards the man of God about whom he had heard so much. Ornately attired in ivory and gold, the chief was followed closely by his advisers and priests. He surveyed the possessions of the missionary, while Livingstone silently prayed, Lord, let him take anything he wants except my goat! You know I need its milk for my very survival. Lord, blind his eyes to the goat! The chief promptly walked over to the goat and pointed at it, and one of his advisors whisked the animal away. Livingstone stood stunned, as if his life had abruptly come to a halt. A few moments later, the man who took his goat returned. In exchange, he handed Livingstone a stick, and left. “A stick?!” the man of God cried. “Ridiculous! Here he takes my life’s sustenance, and in return I get an old stick!” A man standing close by, seeing Livingstone’s confusion, quickly spoke. “Oh no! That is not a stick. My friend, that is the chief’s very own scepter. With it, you will gain entry to every tribe and village in the interior. You have been given safe passage and great authority as a gift from the king!” Then Livingstone realized what God had done. Form that time forward, God’s Word spread to uncounted thousands of native people. And, as a side note, Livingstone’s stomach ailment was healed, too. (Wayne Cordeiro,
Doing Church As A Team, pp. 144–146)
Besides having the various tribes open to him, Livingstone was learning the lesson of trust that we all must learn. “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Psalm 62:8).
So, we are to assess matters and look for the blessing of God in each case but as we do this, we need to seek the Lord in prayer. Here, as in all else, Jesus is our example:
As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared. (Hebrews 5:6, 7)
As Christ offered up prayers and supplications, even with strong crying and tears, we must, at times, do the same.
The Bible has many illustrations of those who prayed in their distresses, and God heard them. Jacob pled before meeting Esau (Genesis 32). During the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, Moses pled for the people so that “one man” i.e., Korah, who had misled all the rest of the camp, would not cause them to be destroyed (Numbers 16:22). Jonah, in distress in the belly of a great fish, cried out to God (Jonah 2:1). Jarius pled with the Lord for his daughter (Mark 5:22, 23).
We are told in James 5:13: “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.” The affliction spoken of here is not physical sickness; that is covered in verse 14. The Greek word translated
afflicted is κακοπαθεῖ (kakopathei), from κακοπαθέω (kakŏpathĕō), and it means to suffer evil or to endure hardship. When we are afflicted and under stress, prayer has a calming effect upon the soul.
After we have assessed the matter and have taken it to the Lord in prayer and in faith, we are to never give up but to continue to do what is right. Job’s example is clear. Though he lost all he had, his testimony was still loud and clear:
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. (Job 1:20–22)
When tragedy strikes and we are suffering, our first reaction is to not want to be modern-day Jobs, but we must remember that with the trial comes the privilege of giving glory to God and of upholding his character to the universe. Paul, who spoke from experience and not from a far-off position, noted to the Ephesians:
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called. (Ephesians 4:1)
Paul also wrote to the church at Philippi:
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ. (Philippians 1:27)
The cocoon of the emperor moth is flask-shaped. In order for the perfect insect to appear, it must force its way through the neck of the cocoon in hours of intense struggling. It is believed that the pressure to which the moth’s body is subjected is a provision of God for forcing liquid into the vessels of the wings.
A person was witnessing this struggle once and, out of pity, took scissors and snipped the confining threads to make the exit easier, but the moth’s wings never developed. It spent its brief span of life crawling instead of flying through the air on rainbow wings.
Look not with false pity on God’s children who suffer. Humanity is inclined to be shortsighted. God would have us inspire their courage in the midst of it by remembering his love, and then looking for the glory to come out of it.
When Abraham was first commanded to offer Isaac upon an altar, I doubt he could see any good or any blessing in it. But with spiritual insight that only heaven could provide, we read this about Abraham and his experience:
Upon the altar of sacrifice he laid the son of promise, the son in whom his hopes were centered. Then as he waited beside the altar with knife upraised to obey God, he heard a voice from heaven saying, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from Me.” Genesis 22:12. This terrible ordeal was imposed upon Abraham that he might see the day of Christ, and realize the great love of God for the world, so great that to raise it from its degradation, He gave His only-begotten Son to a most shameful death.
Abraham learned of God the greatest lesson ever given to mortal. His prayer that he might see Christ before he should die was answered. He saw Christ; he saw all that mortal can see, and live. By making an entire surrender, he was able to understand the vision of Christ, which had been given him. He was shown that in giving His only-begotten Son to save sinners from eternal ruin, God was making a greater and more wonderful sacrifice than ever man could make. (White,
The Desire of Ages, p. 469)
Abraham had the challenge of dealing with the emotions of suffering for three days as he journeyed to Moriah. Not only did he believe his son would have to die, he knew it would be by his own hand. It is terrible to watch your son die. I know. It is terrible to see your son in a life-taking motorcycle accident, like Tristan’s mother. That is terrible, and there is no diminishing that! Yet beyond this suffering is the great God of heaven giving his Son to die for lost humanity. The next time you are tempted to think that God does not see you in your suffering, remember he is there with you just and even more so than when his Son died for us. It was the withdrawing of the Father’s person that caused the anguished cry from Jesus, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46)?
Jesus has overcome so that we can overcome. He came all the way to bottom, and that includes his sufferings, so he could save from the bottom up. He was divine, but he was truly human, too, and he had the same kind of emotions to which we are subject.
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. (Hebrews 2:14–18)
— A FAVOR FROM THE CZAR
(This installment is chapter 10 of
Escape from Siberian Exile by John Godfrey Jacques, published by Pacific Press in 1921.)
WHEN we had been two weeks on the island, the chief of the guard came to us with an official document—the czar’s reply to the petition we had sent to the czarina when we were at Kursk.
Six months had passed since the sending of our petition, and I had forgotten the incident. Not till some hours later did I recall it. The experiences of those months had tended to erase many things from my memory.
Our request had been that we be stationed in Ufa, the westernmost district to which exiles were sent. The czar’s response was to the effect that if we still wished to go there, the Narym officials should see that we were taken.
Transfer to the city of Ufa, or to that vicinity, would be a great concession; but the district of that name is large, and some parts of it would be, even more objectionable than the place where we were. However, we signified our desire to be transferred, and looked forward hopefully to improved conditions.
Then followed weeks and months of suspense before anything further developed in reference to the matter. Each time that we heard the signal of an approaching boat, we expectantly looked for orders for our transfer. Repeated disappointments became very disheartening.
In a little open space in the forest, not far from the settlement, stood a solitary tree, beside one that had fallen. To the seclusion of this spot we often went, and there found courage and comfort in prayer. This quiet retreat became very hallowed to us.
The physical discomforts we endured were not so distressing as the lack of freedom, and the loneliness, among the drunken settlers and the still more depraved exiles. We could not so much as go across the river for a half hour without leave from the guard; and we were never allowed to go by ourselves. Yet we were very grateful that we two were permitted to remain together.
When, at intervals of several weeks, a small steamer touched at the island, bringing us intelligence from the distant world—perchance a letter from home—we were almost overwhelmed with emotion.
Even so far north as we were, the heat is sometimes extreme in summer, and the humidity very oppressive. As we could hardly sleep indoors now, we constructed a small sleeping tent of two sheets, supplemented with thin cotton cloth that we bought for the purpose.
A few bricks formed our cooking range, and the ground answered as chairs and table. Our principal food was fish; but we varied this by the manner of cooking it. At first, we fried it, European style. Afterwards we tried boiling it. Next we adopted the Siberian method, that of baking.
Then we devised a plan for smoking it. By digging in the side of the river bank, we improvised a smokehouse, cutting a chimney through from the surface. The fish that we smoked there was much coveted by the people of the island, who wished us to sell some to them; and we were glad to eke out thus our very scant funds. This enabled us to purchase a little flour, also wild berries that the Ostyaks brought into the settlement for sale; and of the two, we made vareniki—a sort of dumpling dear to the palate of a Russian. When a boat came up from the south, we could even give ourselves so rare a treat as a morsel of vegetables.
When we had tired of fish however cooked, we resorted to the natives’ custom of salting and drying it. We could eat the dried fish for a longer time and with better relish than that prepared in any other way.
The summer in northern Siberia ends with July, and we did not mourn its close. The cold air of August served us a good turn, in that it did away with the insects.
There are in this part of Siberia remnants of a barbarous tribe called the Tungus, who, unlike the Ostyaks and other tribes, have not yet become at all civilized, but live their nomadic life in the forest.
Often a fire built by some of the Tungus, to roast their bear meat or other game, is left when they move on; and thus forest fires are started, which destroy great amounts of standing timber. The heaviest loss from these fires, to the little Russian settlements, is that of the pine nuts, almost their only source of income. Such fires may rage from springtime till the coming of the autumn snows. No effort is made to check them, except when they endanger a village.
Cherry vareniki (Photo courtesy of Rudolf Simon)
Khanty family (Photo courtesy of Merja Salo)
Khanty (in older literature: Ostyaks) are an indigenous people calling themselves
Khanti, Khande, Kantek (Khanty), living in Khanty–Mansi Autonomous Okrug,
a region historically known as “Yugra” in Russia, together with the Mansi.
Khanty children in front of a reindeer sledge
(Photo courtesy of Irina Kazanskaya
August brought a forest fire to our district —grand, but appalling. The whole region was shrouded in semi-darkness. For a number of days, boats could not make their way on the river. Birds beat about helplessly, unable to find food or home. Wild creatures of Drying Bear Skins the wood swam the river to the island, to escape the fire; and fear made them almost as tame as domestic animals.
So choked were we by the smoke, that we wondered whether we should not be smothered to death. But a change in the wind drove the smoke away from us; and river, forest, and sky again appeared, a bright, new world.
That August brought darkness of another sort to me—darkness such as I had never known before. In a Christian home and a Christian school, I had been instructed in the principles of our faith; and for three or four years, I had been a teacher of these same principles, which I believed implicitly.
But now a procession of strange questions ran through my mind: Why need I suffer banishment, with all, its attendant misery, when many good people so shaped their course as not to bring upon themselves such consequences? Instead of persisting in evangelistic work, why could I not give my energies to other employment, in which I would avoid the hardships I now had to meet? Was it possible that our opponents were in the right, after all, and that we were not warranted in our interpretation of the Scriptures?
Though I could repeat from memory abundant Bible texts in support of our faith, yet I was impelled to study them anew from the printed Word, to see if I was after all mistaken. My mind was so harassed, I could not eat or sleep, but hid away in the forest, and there studied and prayed.
The Sabbath had always been a delight to me; and with its return at the close of that week of turmoil, there came such peace and happiness as I had never before known. That penal island seemed a glorified spot. A celestial presence was as real to me as if it had been visible.
Before we were transferred to that station, our minister in Tomsk had written that he intended to visit us; but our being sent farther away prevented the carrying out of his plan. This was a grievous disappointment for us. Now our minds turned to a visit from some one else outside the settlement as a relief from the monotony of our surroundings.
As we were having our morning Bible study together on Sabbath, we espied two strangers passing; and their appearance was so unlike that of the settlers and exiles about us, that we hastened out to meet them. They went inside with us, and we learned that they were connected with a government camp some twenty miles away, where a company of men were getting out railroad ties.
These two had had occasion to go by canoe from their camp to the nearest steamer landing, and on the return trip, had lost their way in the dense smoke, and unintentionally reached our island. They were Mennonites, and as such, were exempt from the bearing of arms, but not from noncombatant military duty. Hence it was that they were serving their country in this far section of the earth.
They joined us in our Scripture reading, singing, and prayer. One of the two was a minister, and he was accustomed to conduct religious meetings in their camp. We gave them a small volume of Bible readings that we had, and explained to them some of the distinctive doctrines of our church. When we parted, it was as friends in Christ. A few weeks later, we learned that the minister was presenting to his congregation the subjects we had studied together, and others that were treated in the volume of Bible readings we gave him.
Thus was the smoke of the forest fire made the bearer of a message of cheer to us, and a message of Bible truth from us.
2016 WV Camp Meeting Schedule, June 14–18
WV Camp Meeting
The Final Atonement: June 14–18
As we have noted the last few months, the West Virginia camp meeting will be held at Smyrna, Tuesday, June 14 through Sabbath, June 18.
Through the years we have focused on some very important topics, but I do not think that we have ever had a more important topic than this camp meeting’s theme:
The Final Atonement.
Please make efforts to attend these meetings, if at all possible, for the subject matter is of the greatest importance. While we are planning to broadcast these meetings (see our website, www.smyra.org, for details), it will not be the same as you being here and being able to interact with the presenters and with others. As usual, we will also have communion, and we do not want you to miss this spiritually important part of the Christian life.
Let all who possibly can, attend these yearly gatherings. All should feel that God requires this of them. If they do not avail themselves of the privileges which He has provided that they may become strong in Him and in the power of His grace, they will grow weaker and weaker, and have less and less desire to consecrate all to God. Come, brethren and sisters, to these sacred convocation meetings, to find Jesus. He will come up to the feast. He will be present, and He will do for you that which you most need to have done. Your farms should not be considered of greater value than the higher interests of the soul. All the treasures which you possess, be they ever so valuable, would not be rich enough to buy you peace and hope, which would be infinite gain, if it cost you all you have and the toils and sufferings of a lifetime. A strong, clear sense of eternal things, and a heart willing to yield all to Christ, are blessings of more value than all the riches and pleasures and glories of this world. (Ellen G. White,
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 575)
Paths is a free monthly newsletter/study-paper published by Smyrna Gospel Ministries, 750 Smyrna Road, Welch, WV 24801–9606 U. S. A. The paper is dedicated to the propagation and restoration of the principles of truth that God gave to the early Seventh-day Adventist pioneers.
Duplication is not only permitted, but strongly encouraged.
This issue, with other gospel literature we publish, can be found at our website. The url is: http://www.smyrna.org. Phone: (304) 732–9204. Fax: (304) 732–7322.
Editor Allen Stump—email@example.com
Associate Editor Onycha Holt—firstname.lastname@example.org