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Creeds and Rituals – Does Truth Matter?

An experience recently has led me to ask, “Does truth matter?”. The question seems almost redundant since there is hardly anyone who would deny that truth matters; but claiming to believe something and believing it are two different things.  One of the greatest evidences that truth matters to someone is that person’s willingness to act on it.  My recent experience has led me to think that one of the reasons people do not seem to act on truth is that it is easier to simply follow creeds and rituals, norms and customs.  It is not so much that they do not care about truth or that they are unable to discern between truth and error.  They just don’t think about it.  It is easier to just drift along with the tide.  In church settings, creeds and rituals help to foster that attitude of just going along without giving serious thought, because after all, those matters have been thought out by others already. Right?  Is that a good enough basis to just go along?  Let’s see.

Here is my experience: I was at an Anglican church at an anniversary church service to commemorate the founding of an institution.  The service included a communion ritual. The Leader read certain words and the Congregants were expected to respond by reading the words projected on a screen.  To my surprise, the Congregants read without hesitation words indicating that the bread and wine were transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ.  It seemed like a Roman Catholic Mass rather than a Protestant Communion.

Transubstantiation and Mysticism

The shock came from my recollection that one of the main issues that ignited John Wycliffe, who is considered the Morning Star of the Reformation, in his opposition to the Church of Rome, was the issue of transubstantiation.  One of the significant differences between the Roman Catholic Mass and the Protestant Communion was that the Catholics believed in transubstantiation, whereas the Protestants didn’t.  Transubstantiation is the belief that the priests can convert the bread and wine to the literal body and blood of Christ by the pronouncements that they make over those substances.  The Protestant belief, originally embraced by Anglicans, was that the bread and wine are only symbols of the body and blood of Christ; they do not become the literal body and blood of Christ.  But here, in a supposedly Protestant church, the Roman Catholic belief was being recited effortlessly.  What was the reason?  The Roman Catholic belief had been incorporated into a Creed and a Ritual.

The case of the bread and wine being transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ illustrates the nature of mysticism.  Mysticism takes us away from the realm of reality because it is incompatible with the literal reality that we know.  To our real senses, the bread remains bread and the wine remains wine.  No chemical test will show any difference before and after the priest makes pronouncements over them.  Yet mysticism says a literal transformation would have taken place.  It defies logic and common sense.  But persons are told, never mind, it’s a mystery.  You’ll never be able to understand it from a literal point of view.   Creeds and rituals pave the way for mysticism; and mysticism destroys faith that is based on reality.

Mystical Beliefs Rejected

Today, the lure of mysticism has led many to lose faith in the reality of many aspects of Christian faith.  The prophet to the remnant church wrote in 1904 that for 50 years every effort was being made to overthrow the faith that was delivered to the movement that God raised up in 1844 – “For the past 50 years every phase of heresy has been brought to bear upon us… Messages of every order and kind have been urged upon Seventh-day Adventists, to take the place of the truth which, point by point, has been sought out by prayer, study, and testified to by the miracle-working power of the Lord.” (Ellen G. White, Special Testimonies, Series B #2, p. 59).  Among the mystical beliefs that were rejected by the early pioneers of the remnant church was transubstantiation; and thankfully, the Movement still rejects it as unscriptural.  But there are other mystical beliefs that are constantly being urged upon the faithful from Roman Catholicism and apostate Protestantism.  Among them are the following:

  1. The Trinity, which makes God’s love in giving His only begotten Son senseless.  If God is three in one – a unity of three coequals in age and power, then one could never be the son of any of the others, except in a sense of role-play or make-believe.  The extent of God’s love is manifested in the fact that He gave His only begotten Son – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16); “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32); “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9).
  2. The death of Christ as an atonement, which makes Christ’s intercession senseless.  It is Christ, in His capacity as our High Priest, who intercedes or makes atonement based on the merits or arguments that the sacrifice provides.  The sacrifice itself is not the atonement – “And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty; Or if his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge: then he shall bring his offering…And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay the sin offering…and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.” (Lev. 4:27-31).  But if the sacrifice itself is the atonement, then there is no need for a priest.  It was part of the doing of the Little Horn power to remove Christ’s mediation in the heavenly sanctuary on our behalf from the minds of people and cast it to the ground – “Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily [sacrifice] was taken away, and the place of the sanctuary was cast down.” (Dan. 8:11). [Note: the word “sacrifice” was supplied by the translators – “ministration” is more appropriate, since Christ was offered only once (Heb. 9:28) – there is no “daily sacrifice” of Christ except in the Roman Catholic mass, which is counterfeit.]
  3. The righteousness of Christ as a gift that someone simply receives, which makes repentance senseless.  Righteousness is a state of character that is formed based on what one believes.  One can be declared righteous based on what one believes, since one’s belief is an indication of the state of one’s heart and mind, which determines one’s actions and motives.  If you have the righteousness of Christ, it means you are righteous as Christ is, and no action of yours can be regarded as sinful unless Christ is sinful; so, the need to repent does not arise, since Christ is sinless.  But the truth is that righteousness is based on believing Christ, which leads us to repent of our sins and practice righteousness.  It is not something that someone can just give to you and you have it – “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” (1 John 3:7); “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” (1 John 3:10); “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11, 12); “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1); “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.” (Acts 8:22); “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30).
  4. Someone living inside of you, which makes the idea of personal accountability senseless.  Christ dwelling in you, as opposed to sin dwelling in you, is easily understood as a reference to the mind and character that you have, whether it is Christlike or sinful.  But to treat Christ as being inside of us personally makes Him the driver who is responsible for what we do, sin and all.  Christ does not take charge of people’s lives and then hold them accountable for what is done in their lives.  Everyone must give account of himself before God for all actions that are done in his body as those actions are his, and not someone else’s acting through him – “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” (Matt. 12:36); “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Rom. 14:12); “Who will render to every man according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:6); “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” (Matt. 16:27); “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).

Bible Foundation of Faith

We are reminded that the faith of the pioneers was firmly laid – “Many of our people do not realize how firmly the foundation of our faith has been laid. My husband, Elder Joseph Bates, Father Pierce, Elder Hiram Edson, and others who were keen, noble, and true, were among those who, after the passing of the time in 1844, searched for the truth as for hidden treasure… When they came to the point in their study where they said, ‘We can do nothing more,’ the Spirit of the Lord would come upon me, I would be taken off in vision, and a clear explanation of the passages we had been studying would be given me, with instruction as to how we were to labor and teach effectively. Thus light was given that helped us to understand the scriptures in regard to Christ, His mission, and His priesthood. A line of truth extending from that time to the time when we shall enter the city of God, was made plain to me, and I gave to others the instruction that the Lord had given me.” (Ellen G. White, Selected Messages Vol. 1, p. 206.)

So, does truth matter? Do we simply go to church and repeat creeds and rituals without thinking about the sense of what we are saying or doing?  In order to maintain a form of faith, many find it easier to do that.  Otherwise, they will give up faith that seems to make no sense.  Can one keep faith and still make sense?  If it is a faith that is based on mysticism, the answer is no.  But a faith that is based on reality will make sense.  Biblical faith is based on reality and does make sense.  If our faith is going to be strong enough to stand in the last days, we must give up mysticism and be real.

For the early pioneers, the Bible was their only creed.  They recognized the need to study the scriptures for themselves and seek to understand.  The disappointment of 1844 was still fresh in their minds and so they were mindful of their fallibility.  The disappointment might have been a blessing, because they recognized that popular opinion was not always right – it had led to their disappointment, thinking, like others that the earth was the sanctuary; only to realize after the disappointment that the Bible taught no such thing.  They recognized that the moment they set up a creed, there would be a tendency for blind submission without intelligent thought and understanding.  So, they avoided it.

Once creeds and rituals are established, they tend to perpetuate themselves.  Institutions that operate based on creeds and rituals are often impervious to change.  One may well ask, what if the Church of Rome had taken stock of itself, when John Wycliffe challenged the doctrine of transubstantiation or Martin Luther questioned the sale of Indulgences, and had simply discontinued those beliefs and practices?  Would there have been a need for open protest?  Perhaps not.  Instead, they condemned the messengers.  The result was that Wycliffe, Luther and others were forced to break away.  Quite differently, when Rachel Oakes Preston challenged the Adventists about their keeping Sunday rather than the Seventh day Sabbath, Frederick Wheeler, then William Farnsworth and others such as Joseph Bates accepted the Sabbath truth and the Adventists became sabbath-keepers.  What was different?  One body had relied on creeds and tradition while the other, fresh from a major disappointment, knew that their only safeguard was in studying the scriptures.   May the commitment and the example of the pioneers in maintaining the scriptures as their creed still inspire the modern movement.

Today, we have statements of belief.  We do not call them creeds; but do we just drift along with them with the view that they have all been worked out already?  And are we mindful when subtle changes are made to them?  One remembers when the introit for worship was followed by the song “Bless the Lord, Oh my Soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name” until someone came and said, let’s use instead, the invocation, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost”, then gradually it shifted to an invocation to the Holy Spirit.  Has anyone asked whether those invocations are scriptural? Or do people just drift along?

We have been admonished that we should be able to give a reason at all times to anyone who asks about the faith we hold – “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15).  In order to stand in the last days we must be sealed – “Just as soon as the people of God are sealed in their foreheads – it is not a seal or mark that can be seen, but a settling into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually, so they cannot be moved – just as soon as God’s people are sealed and prepared for the shaking, it will come.” (Ellen G. White, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 1161).

“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).

For further information, please visit Patience of the Saints at http://thecommandmentsofgodandthefaithofjesus.com/

Questions and comments may be sent by e-mail to: commandmentsofgodandfaithofjesus@yahoo.com

Follow on Twitter @JaZerubbabel

 

Unity upon a false premise

In unity, there is strength.  However, the only unity that will last is that which is built on the truth.  From the moment Lucifer rebelled against God in heaven, there has been a constant conflict between truth and error.  The conflict was spread to this earth when Lucifer who, by then, had become Satan – the Devil – led Eve to doubt God’s word and through Eve led Adam to disobey God’s explicit instruction.  The conflict continues today and will ultimately give rise to a grand unity of Satan, “the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies”, who will be gathered together to make war against Christ and His people (Rev. 19:19; see also Rev. 16:13, 14).  The entire world will turn against the true followers of Christ, as Christ said to His disciples, “ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.” (Matt. 24:9).  But Christ will return and destroy the world confederation and deliver His people (Rev. 19:11-21).  Our only safeguard is to know the truth and follow it.

 

The Basis of the WCC

The following is taken from the official website of the World council of Churches:

“The WCC’s 1948 inaugural assembly declared: “The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which accept our Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour”. Soon this formulation gave rise to questions, and requests for a clearer definition of the Christ-centredness of the churches’ common calling, a more explicit expression of the Trinitarian faith and a specific reference to the holy scriptures. The result was the re-formulation, adopted by the Third Assembly (New Delhi 1961), which still stands:

“a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.””

(https://www.oikoumene.org/en/about-us/self-understanding-vision/basis” retrieved July 21, 2019 – the official website of the World Council of Churches).

 

The Episcopal Church

The following is taken from the official website of the Episcopal Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers:

“The Episcopal Church is one of the 147 founding churches of the World Council of Churches (1948).  The WCC has roots that reach back to the beginning of the modern ecumenical movement and to the conviction, which took hold at several places during the late nineteenth century, that something must be done to heal the divisions which have hampered witness to the Christian faith.

Today there are 349 member churches.  They live in very different political, economic, and social conditions.  Many of them – Anglican, Orthodox, Baptist, Reformed, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, Old Catholic, etc. – have a long history.  But member churches also include “younger” Pentecostal bodies, independent churches in Africa, and united churches.  The Roman Catholic Church is not a member but it cooperates with the WCC through a Joint Working Group, several programs, and membership in the Commission on Faith and Order, and has delegated observers at major meetings.

Membership is open to any church which is able to accept the WCC “Basis”, provided its signs of ecclesial character meet standards acceptable to two-thirds of the churches already in membership.  The “Basis” declares:  “The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the Scriptures and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit”.”

(https://www.edeio.org/world-council-of-churches-wcc.html, retrieved July 21, 2019 – the official website of the Episcopal Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers (EDEIO) website).

 

Seventh-day Adventist Church

The following is taken from the official website of the world Council of Churches:

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a denomination of conservative evangelical Christians. The church arose out of the eschatological expectations of the middle nineteenth century (epitomized by the Millerite Movement), but was only formally organized in 1863. The Millerites had set October 22, 1844, for the return of Christ. With the failure of this date, the movement fell into disarray. One of the small Adventist groups adopted the Seventh-day Sabbath, reinterpreted the events of 1844, and became, in due course, the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The roots of Adventism, however, go back much further – to the Reformation and the church of the New Testament.

Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as the inspired word of God. In essence, the Bible is their only creed, though they do have a statement of 28 Fundamental Beliefs, which is subject to revision at any General Conference World Session, as new light is received or better language is found, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. These beliefs include the Trinity, believers’ baptism, spiritual gifts, death as an unconscious state until the resurrection, and the New Earth as the home of the redeemed after the millennium. SDAs are creationists and believe that man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of the Biblical creation week. With the entry of sin, God’s plan of salvation was put into effect. In Christ’s life of perfect obedience to God’s will, his suffering, death and resurrection, God provided the only means of atonement for human sin, so that those who by faith accept the gift of salvation may have eternal life. Since the very beginning, Seventh-day Adventists have been consistent advocates of religious freedom for all, and have taken a lead in its international promotion, including at the UN.

Global mission and evangelism are essential elements of the SDA ethos. The church is intent on sharing the good news of justification, righteousness by faith, salvation through Jesus Christ, and his imminent return. As a result, the SDA Church is probably the most widespread Protestant denomination, with work in over 200 countries. Though cradled in North America, less than 8 percent of her membership today resides there, and there is considerable growth in various parts of the world. Adventists wish to live lives of service to God and humankind. To help achieve this goal the church owns and operates many institutions: over 6,000 schools (from kindergarten to university), 720 hospitals and health-care facilities, publishing houses, and health food factories. Media centres (worldwide satellite TV and radio) have been established in recent decades. Adventists believe in a healthy lifestyle, which includes a good diet (many Adventists are vegetarians) and abstention from harmful drugs, including alcohol and tobacco products. Adventists also promote public health. The church operates the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), which is well-known internationally for its work on behalf of disaster victims and third world development projects.

The SDA church sees herself not as a federation of local or national churches, but as one world church. There is an effective form of representative government. The church’s polity provides for four key organizational levels: 1) the local church, a united body of individual believers, 2) the Conference, a united body of local churches, 3) the Union Conference, the united body of several conferences (a larger territory, often a nation), 4) the General Conference, the worldwide body whose constituent units are the approximately 100 Unions. The General Conference operates through its 13 Divisions (branch offices).

Seventh-day Adventists “recognize those agencies that lift up Christ before men as a part of the divine plan for the evangelization of the world” (General Conference Working Policy, 075). They enter into fellowship with other Christians and practice open communion. They believe that in a certain sense they are a prophetic movement with a time of the end message centering on the “eternal gospel” to give to the world. While they welcome opportunities to dialogue and reach better understanding, they have not formally joined the organized ecumenical movement by becoming members of councils of churches. They do, however, in many cases have observer, consultant, or advisor status. Adventists wish to preserve and protect their unique identity and give life to their God-given evangelistic and service mission.

The office of the general conference is located in Silver Spring, USA. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is comprised of 14 million baptized believers, representing with children a fellowship of some 25 million Adventists.

 

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is not a member of the World Council of Churches.

Websites

(https://www.oikoumene.org/en/church-families/seventh-day-adventist-church, retrieved July 21, 2019 – the official website of the World Council of Churches).

 

The Catholic church

The following is taken from the official website of the World Council of Churches:

“Catholics believe that the church was founded by Jesus Christ as part of the Father’s plan for the salvation of the world. Christ’s proclamation and inauguration of the kingdom of God led to the gathering of disciples. His death, resurrection and sending of the Holy Spirit definitively established the church, with which he promised to remain until the end of time (cf. Matt. 28:20). Jesus entrusted to this community the mission of preaching the gospel and of “making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).

Because the church is, in God’s hands, a means of bringing about the communion of all those who, with the help of God’s grace, would accept the proclamation of the good news, the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) taught that “the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race”. (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, paragraph 1). This constitution goes on to affirm that the whole community has an active role to play in proclaiming and handing on God’s word, in worshipping and celebrating the sacraments and in serving the mission Jesus entrusted to it……

According to the Vatican’s Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae of 2005, the Catholic Church numbered 1,085,557,000 persons, or 17.2 percent of the world’s population. Of these, 13.2 percent of Catholics live in Africa, 49.8 percent in North and South America; 10.5 percent in Asia, 25.7 percent in Europe and 0.8 percent in Oceania.

 

The Catholic Church has never been a member of the World Council of Churches, but is actively participating in the ecumenical movement in different ways. Learn more

Websites

(https://www.oikoumene.org/en/church-families/the-catholic-church, retrieved July21, 2019 – the official website of the World Council of Churches).

 

The Edict of Thessalonica which defines who is a Catholic Christian

The following is taken from Wikipedia:

“The Edict of Thessalonica (also known as Cunctos populos), issued on 27 February AD 380 by three reigning Roman Emperors…

Theodosius I, Gratian, and Valentinian II on 27 February 380.[1] The edict came after Theodosius had been baptized by the bishop Ascholius of Thessalonica upon suffering a severe illness in Thessalonica.[3]

EMPERORS GRATIAN, VALENTINIAN AND THEODOSIUS AUGUSTI. EDICT TO THE PEOPLE OF CONSTANTINOPLE.
It is our desire that all the various nations which are subject to our Clemency and Moderation, should continue to profess that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition, and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title of Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since, in our judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give to their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of the divine condemnation and in the second the punishment of our authority which in accordance with the will of Heaven we shall decide to inflict.
GIVEN IN THESSALONICA ON THE THIRD DAY FROM THE CALENDS OF MARCH, DURING THE FIFTH CONSULATE OF GRATIAN AUGUSTUS AND FIRST OF THEODOSIUS AUGUSTUS[4]

— Codex Theodosianus, xvi.1.2

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edict_of_Thessalonica, retrieved July 21, 2019).

 

The Edict of Thessalonica marked the official definition of who the Catholic Church considered a heretic – namely, one who did not believe in the Trinity.  This was the basis on which persecution was launched on a widespread basis.  It will be observed that as soon as the World Council of Churches adopted as its Basis in 1961, a concept that was in harmony with the definition of Catholic Christian, as defined in the Edict of Thessalonica, within a year, in 1962, the Second Vatican Council was convened, and out of it, the other churches of Christendom were declared to be no longer designated as heretics but rather as separated brethren.

 

Foundation of Seventh-day Adventist Faith

In 1904, Ellen White writes, “For the past 50 years every phase of heresy has been brought to bear upon us… Messages of every order and kind have been urged upon Seventh-day Adventists, to take the place of the truth which, point by point, has been sought out by prayer, study, and testified to by the miracle-working power of the Lord.” (Special Testimonies, Series B #2, p. 59)

Notice that in 1904, the foundation of faith had been firmly established. “Many of our people do not realize how firmly the foundation of our faith has been laid. My husband, Elder Joseph Bates, Father Pierce, Elder Hiram Edson, and others who were keen, noble, and true, were among those who, after the passing of the time in 1844, searched for the truth as for hidden treasure… When they came to the point in their study where they said, ‘We can do nothing more,’ the Spirit of the Lord would come upon me, I would be taken off in vision, and a clear explanation of the passages we had been studying would be given me, with instruction as to how we were to labor and teach effectively. Thus light was given that helped us to understand the scriptures in regard to Christ, His mission, and His priesthood. A line of truth extending from that time to the time when we shall enter the city of God, was made plain to me, and I gave to others the instruction that the Lord had given me.” (1SM 206.4)

 

At that time the Seventh-day Adventist Church officially had a non-Trinitarian statement of Fundamental Principles as was repeatedly published in the Annual Yearbook of the church.  The first Fundamental Principle as was published in the 1889 Yearbook was: “That there is one God, a personal, spiritual being, the creator of all things, omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal; infinite in wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, truth and mercy; unchangeable, and everywhere present by His representative, the Holy Spirit.  Ps. 139:7”. They did not elaborate further on the identity of the Holy spirit.  The second Fundamental Principle identified Jesus Christ as the Son of God.  This was clearly a non-Trinitarian perspective.

 

The Bible gives further clarification regarding the Holy Spirit, called the Comforter.  The Comforter that is sent is a messenger or representative who ministers under Christ’s instructions – “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” (John 16:7); “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).

 

Like the angels of God, the Comforter appeared as a flame of fire and enabled miracles to be done – “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them” (Acts 2:2, 3).; “And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.” (Heb. 1:7); “The angels of God are ever passing from earth to heaven, and from heaven to earth. The miracles of Christ for the afflicted and suffering were wrought by the power of God through the ministration of the angels. And it is through Christ, by the ministration of His heavenly messengers, that every blessing comes from God to us.” (White, Ellen G., The Desire of Ages, p. 143).

 

We need to know the difference between the spirit of God that fills us (God’s mind, character and power) and the Comforter who is an agent sent to minister to us.  This will serve as an antidote against the alpha of deadly heresies, which promotes the idea that God is personally inside of people and inside other entities – as opposed to being personally in heaven.  It will also preserve us against the omega of deadly heresies that destroys the identity of God by making God a unity of three rather than a sovereign being who presides over the universe and sent His only begotten Son into the world to save us.

 

The angel of Revelation 18 who brings the latter rain outpouring of God’s power does the same type of work that the Comforter came and did in the outpouring of the early rain of God’s power at Pentecost.  We are told by revelation to Ellen G. White that “Angels were sent to aid the mighty angel from heaven” in the outpouring of the latter rain (White, Ellen G., The Story of Redemption, p. 399). We may similarly understand that other angels worked in support of the mission that was carried out by the Comforter in the early rain outpouring.  We are not expected to worship the angel of Revelation 18; neither are we expected to worship the Comforter.  There is no basis in scripture for anyone to place the Comforter or the angel of Revelation 18 as co-equals with the Most High, who sent His only begotten Son into the world.  The Bible says there is: “One God and Father of all, who is above all” (Eph. 4:6).  This is the person that the Bible refers to as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:3).  Further, we worship Jesus, the Son of God because God, the Father, commands us to worship His Son (John 5:23; Heb. 1:6) – and no one else.

 

The issue is not whether or not there is a third person and eventually even a fourth, (the angel of Revelation 18).  The issue is the status of the third being, and also the fourth.  There is one Supreme Being, the Father, who is above all, who has given His Only begotten Son the authority to exercise all His power and has commanded us to honour His Son as we honour Him (John 5:23; 1 Cor. 15:24-28). This authority, He has given to none other.”

 

The Seventh-day Adventist Church was not fully accepted by the other churches while it stuck to the Biblical definition of God, as was held by its pioneers.  Up until 1980, the baptismal vow spoke of God as follows: “I believe in God the Father, in his Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit”.  This was changed to say: “Do you believe there is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three coeternal Persons?” Was something wrong with the first formulation? Certainly not, from a Biblical standpoint.  It was generic and did not even deny the Catholic formulation, even though it did not specifically declare it.  But the second formulation goes beyond what the Bible says and includes some element of speculation as there is nowhere in the Bible that defines God as three in one.  But most specifically, it accords with the Catholic definition as declared in the Edict of Thessalonica and as embraced by the World Council of Churches.

 

Will we hold to the truth without wavering or will we do otherwise in order to be accepted by the world confederation that will ultimately turn against God’s faithful people?  The choice is ours.  But all is not lost.  In 2005, the Seventh-day Adventist Church adopted an alternative form of the Baptismal vow that has only three statements.  This allows the pastor preparing the candidate for baptism to avoid binding the candidate to an unscriptural vow.  We must hold fast to the truth especially at this time, as this will be the measure of our loyalty to God.  This wholehearted commitment to God, above institutional commitment, is the essence of the new covenant experience (see article “Religious Liberty and the New Covenant” at http://thecommandmentsofgodandthefaithofjesus.com/2018/03/18/religious-liberty-new-covenant/.

 

“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).

For further information, please visit Patience of the Saints at http://thecommandmentsofgodandthefaithofjesus.com/

Questions and comments may be sent by e-mail to: commandmentsofgodandfaithofjesus@yahoo.com

Follow on Twitter @JaZerubbabel

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me”

Christians, Muslims and Jews believe in common that there is one true God.  While they all differ in general beliefs, they are all agreed that this one true God is presented in the Old Testament Torah of the Bible.  The New Testament continues the same concept of the one true God and speaks even more specifically about who this one true God is.  The New Testament equally testifies to the divinity of Christ.  How then should we understand the biblical teaching that there is one true God?  Is the one true God three persons, two persons or one person?  And does it matter?  It matters in that a concept of God that is inconsistent with the scriptures is a creation of man – an idol.  Would this not be a violation of the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3)?  Let us see what the Bible says about the one true God.   Judge for yourself.

About the one true God, the Bible says the following, starting with the words of Jesus himself:

“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” – John 17:1-3.

Jesus identified His Father as “the only true God” and himself as the “Son” of that only true God.  The question has been answered.  If Jesus cannot settle it, then who else can?  Is that the only place in scripture that this is said? No!  The same thought is expressed elsewhere.  In another instance, almost as if anticipating a question as to whether there is someone else to whom the title ‘only true God’ could also apply, the Apostle Paul says:

“As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.  For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.  Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge” – 1 Cor. 8:4-6.

The Apostle Paul says that “there is none other God but one”, that “there is but one God, the Father” but “there is not in every man that knowledge”.  One would hope that Christians are not among those that the Apostle Paul says do not have that knowledge.  The Bible is clear when it says that there is “One God and Father of all, who is above all” (Eph. 4:6).  He is clearly the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” – 2 Cor. 11:31.  There is only one Person who is above Christ and that is His Father.  The Father of Christ “appointed” Him “heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2), “anointed” Him (Heb.1:9), “sent” Him “into the world” (John 10:36), “raised him from the dead” (Gal. 1:1) and has “highly exalted him” (Phil. 2:9).

No true revelation will contradict what either Jesus or Paul said.

 

Who is Jesus?

 

Jesus himself declares that He is the “only begotten Son” of God (John 3:16).  God Himself also spoke from heaven more than once and said that Jesus Christ is His Son (Matt. 3:17; Mark 9:7). The Bible says that Jesus “hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name” than the angels (Heb. 1:4).  Jesus is so much better than the angels that God commanded angels to worship Jesus, His Son (Heb. 1:4-6).  The Father addresses Jesus as God while indicating at the same time that He is the God of Jesus and the One who “anointed” Him – But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” (Heb. 1:8, 9).  This confirms Jesus’ full divinity while showing that even as God (being divine but not the one true God), Jesus is subject to His Father.

Jesus Christ is the Mediator between us and God and there is no other way to God but through Jesus Christ.  The Bible says: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” – 1 Tim. 2:5.  And Jesus said: “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” – John 14:6.  There ought to be no confusion as to who the one true God is and who Jesus is.

 

Eternity has no break

 

Of God, the Bible further says that He is:

“the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto” – 1 Tim. 6:15, 16.

According to that scripture, the Father is the only one who “hath immortality”.  All who have or will receive eternal life, would have received it from Him.  This means that even the life of Jesus was obtained from His Father.  Jesus himself said this as follows:

“For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” – John 5:26.

Jesus died and was raised from the dead by His Father (Gal.1:1).  The fact that Jesus died means that He has not always existed and is therefore not eternal since eternity has no break.

 

God has no equal

 

God declares of Himself: “I am God, and there is none like me” – Isa. 46:9.  The Bible reveals God as a majestic being who has no equal in heaven or in earth.  Jesus came to earth to reveal Him to us so that we can be reconciled to Him.  Various prophets have gotten a glimpse of Him (His form, not His face – Ex. 33:20-23) and described the majesty of His being.  Among those are Ezekiel (Eze. 1 and Eze. 10); Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy elders of Israel (Ex. 24:9, 10); Daniel (Dan. 7:9-14); and John (Rev. 4 and Rev. 5).  This is the God who says: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” – Ex. 20:3. Therefore we ought not to have a concept of God that places anyone else on equal footing with Him.  That would be idolatry. He is the Creator of whom the Bible says there is none else:

“For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else.” – Isa. 45:18. (See also Isa. 46:5, 9)

 

The Creator sits on the throne

 

In heaven, God sits on the throne and is worshipped as the Creator of all things –

“a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne” (Rev. 4:2);

“The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Rev. 4:10, 11).

Jesus is identified separately as the Lamb who died:

“And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5:7-9).

 

True God or false Christ?

 

It is interesting that Jesus told us who the “only true God” is (John 17:1-3), yet people are saying something else, that God is a Trinity or that God is “Jesus only”.  Paul told us that even “though there be that are called gods” whether in heaven or in earth, but to us there is but one God (1 Cor. 8:5, 6) and he tells us who He is, yet people prefer to go by their own speculation, saying that God is three-in-one or that the Most High is Jesus Christ himself rather than the Father of Jesus Christ.  The Bible tells us that Jesus died, yet people insist that Jesus is co-eternal with the Father as if Jesus never ceased to live at one point.

Are people worshipping a false Christ that they consider to be “like the Most High” as Lucifer sought to be (Isa. 14:14) as opposed to worshipping the Christ who is the Son of God?  Will the true Christ accept from them a designation that belongs only to God, His Father, or will He tell them in that final day that He never knew them, as the Bible says that He will tell many who would have been saying “Lord, Lord” (Matt. 7:22, 23)?

 

“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).

For further information, please visit http://thecommandmentsofgodandthefaithofjesus.com/

Questions and comments may be sent by e-mail to: commandmentsofgodandfaithofjesus@yahoo.com

Follow on Twitter @JaZerubbabel

 

The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts

In the Bible, the term Holy Spirit may refer to the gifts of the Spirit or it may refer to the representative of Christ who dispenses the spiritual gifts.  Christ said that He was going away, and He would send the Comforter, who He calls the Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit).

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” (John 16:7).

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26).

Quite separate from the representative that Jesus would send in His place, the term Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit) is also used to refer to something that Jesus is said to have inside of Him and that He can give us so that we can have it in us in measure.

“For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.” (John 3:34).

“And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Luke 4:1).

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22).

Holy Spirit Poured Out

As gifts, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers at Pentecost, in fulfilment of a promise that God made through the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28, 29). Peter referred to this promise and its fulfilment in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost:

 

“But this is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17, 18);

 

Jesus says that we should ask the Father for the Holy Spirit:

 

“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13).

 

Early Rain and Latter Rain

 

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was like the early rain that gave a kick start to the newly germinated seeds. When the plants are mature, latter rain showers are needed to ripen the crop and prepare them for the harvest.  Based on Joel’s prophecy there would be an Early Rain outpouring of the Holy Spirit and in the last days, a Latter Rain outpouring.

 

“Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.” (Joel 2:23).

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.” (Joel 2:28-31).

The Latter Rain outpouring of the Holy Spirit is described as the work of a Mighty Angel who descends from heaven and causes the earth to be lightened with his glory.

“And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” (Rev. 18:1, 2).

The Latter Rain outpouring of the Holy Spirit is given in the last days at a time when Babylon is taken over by demons and evil spirits.  This final outpouring of the Holy Spirit will empower God’s true and faithful believers to overcome the Devil as Moses was able to overcome the magicians of Egypt.

 

Representative of Christ Dispenses Gifts

 

It is important that we do not confuse the spiritual gifts that we receive in us with the representative of Christ who dispenses the gifts.  Whereas the Comforter dispensed the gifts at Pentecost as the Early Rain, the Mighty Angel of Revelation 18 will dispense the gifts in even greater measure as the Latter Rain.

 

The Comforter is not a third God-being like the Father and the Son.  Like the Mighty Angel of Revelation 18, the Comforter was sent on a mission to dispense spiritual gifts and to comfort the disciples.  He would not speak of himself but would speak only what he hears.

 

“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).

 

If the Comforter who brought the Early Rain was a third God-being, then we have a situation where the Mighty Angel would be dispensing spiritual gifts more extensively in the Latter Rain than the third God-being was allowed to do in the Early Rain.  Would that be signalling that the Mighty Angel is more powerful than this third member of the Godhead, or that he is a fourth member? Or rather, is it suggesting that the Comforter, like the Mighty Angel, is not a Divine Being to be worshipped, but rather, a messenger (angel) carrying out a similar mission?  The latter suggestion is more consistent with scripture.

 

The Adventist Pioneers in their Statement of Fundamental Principles published in the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook 1889 and onward until about 1930 described the Holy Spirit as Christ’s Representative.  This is consistent with scripture.

Conclusion

 

The Holy Spirit is not a third God-being to be worshipped; neither is the Holy Spirit a being that takes up residence inside of us.  The Spirit of Christ that dwells in us in measure are the spiritual gifts of Divine light, love and power, by which we reflect the character of Christ and are empowered to be His witnesses.

 

In conclusion, the term Holy Spirit may refer to the spiritual gifts that we receive and that remain in us or it may refer to Christ’s representative (or messenger – angel) who dispenses the gifts to us.

 

“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).

 

For further information, please visit http://thecommandmentsofgodandthefaithofjesus.com/

 

Questions and comments may be sent by e-mail to: commandmentsofgodandfaithofjesus@yahoo.com

 

Follow on Twitter @JaZerubbabel