Unity and Disagreement


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This chapter addresses these questions, "How do we achieve unity and agreement?", "How do we handle disagreement?" Issues and controversies in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination result in a lack of unity and disagreement.
1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
Psalms 133:1

It is a beautiful thing to keep peace in the house of God and find unity in the spirit of truth.

3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:3

I am becoming increasingly concerned over the conflict within our denomination over the Law of Moses, the feasts, and the statutes. I have spent much time in studying the issues to seek to learn how to resolve this conflict in my own life.

This conflict is not new. It started even in the early church. A careful study of Acts 15 and Galatians is important for you to understand the issues. This is a summary of the issues.

The initial disagreement was over a statute, which was specific to the eating of the Passover lamb. Circumcision was required of anyone, even adults, who ate of the sacrificial lamb.

43 And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof:
44 But every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.
45 A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof.
46 In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.
47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it.
48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
49 One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.
Exodus 12:43-49
According to the Jewish tradition, because of this statute, those who were converted to God as adults were required to be circumcised to be saved. Notice the subtle switch from the topic of eating the Passover Lamb to the topic of being saved.
1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
Acts 15:1-2
It is important to note, since the Passover lamb was no longer sacrificed, the statute no longer applied. Adults are no longer circumcised. There is a statute, which says the children of believing parents are to be circumcised on the eighth day after birth. I believe this still applies.
3 And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.
Leviticus 12:3

There were other specific times when God ordered the circumcision of adults. The practice of circumcision caused a conflict even for Moses and his wife.

24 And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.
25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.
26 So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.
Exodus 4:24-26

It is also interesting to note the question in Acts was taken to the church elders for discussion and guidance. Even there it was only by the power of the Holy Spirit the issue was resolved. This is the same counsel I find in the Spirit of Prophecy concerning dissension in the church. Failure to follow this counsel led to serious public contention, which was not resolved even by the General Conference of 1888.

It is a difficult thing to resolve conflicts where the truth of God's Word is in question. It is possible that even the "elders of the church" may be wrong after coming out of millenia of apostasy and error. This is one of many quotes to be considered. The entire chapter needs to be carefully studied for insight and guidance from the Holy Spirit.

While Jesus made it plain that He was under no obligation to pay the tribute, He entered into no controversy with the Jews in regard to the matter; for they would have misinterpreted His words, and turned them against Him. Lest He should give offense by withholding the tribute, He did that which He could not justly be required to do. This lesson would be of great value to His disciples. Marked changes were soon to take place in their relation to the temple service, and Christ taught them not to place themselves needlessly in antagonism to established order. So far as possible, they were to avoid giving occasion for misinterpretation of their faith. While Christians are not to sacrifice one principle of truth, they should avoid controversy whenever it is possible to do so. {DA 434.4}

The initial dispute over circumcision of adults in the early church was expanded to include all the statutes. Apparently, the statutes were not emphasized in the initial teaching of the Gospel. This is consistent with understanding growth comes in stages.

5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
Acts 15:5

The council recognized the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which showed the circumcision of adults ended with the sacrificing of the symbolic Passover Lamb. The Passover Lamb was symbolic of the Son of God who was the true Lamb of God. After the true sacrifice of the Lamb of God, the purpose of the animal sacrifices was completed.

The council directed the early presentation of critical statutes, which continues even today.

20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
Acts 15:20
The council recognized the full teaching of the statutes was available on an ongoing basis. As the laws recorded by Moses were learned, they would be followed.
21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
Acts 15:21

The Christian walk is a continuing growth into all truth. Those who are farther along in their walk must not be critical of those who have not advanced as far. Those who are indeed farther along in their walk will carefully nurture the growth and strengthening of the foundational faith of their brethren. They will not do the work of Satan to destroy and tear down the church with dissension and discord.

The Spirit of Prophecy clearly describes that even the Savior avoided non-critical issues in His presentations to avoid exciting dissension. Consider carefully the words of the Savior.

12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
John 16:12

I believe the Seventh-day Adventist denomination follows the Word of God closer than any other. God has blessed the denomination greatly with the Spirit of Prophecy. The denomination is not perfect. None of us are perfect but God accepts us as we are. There is no better place for us to be in the body of Christ. As long as the denomination carries the name Seventh-day Adventist it cannot turn its back on the weekly Sabbath. The weekly Sabbath is clearly identified by Revelation and the Spirit of Prophecy as a testing truth for the end of time.

The Spirit of Prophecy points to the importance of the statutes but it appears this is not yet a testing truth for this time. Those who know and understand do well to follow their conscience but they need to beware of how they present this truth to others. Criticism, judgment, and argument do not serve the cause of God.

God will provide Himself a prophet to call out a reformation and revival in the denomination and in the world.

4 Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
5 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Malachi 4:4-6

Search your heart. The Savior says: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone." Has the Holy Spirit called you to be a prophet of God? Has Satan recruited you to be an agent of dissension?

Unity in Truth

I have been hearing a lot of talk lately from different people about how important unity is in the denomination. Some of these peole are in leadership positions. What they say is on the surface very true.

33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
I Corinthians 14:33

The problem is that many times the context of their remarks sounds suspiciously like:

"You should not be disagreeing with me because that causes confusion and a lack of unity."

When we carefully examine the words of the Savior we find an important distinction. His powerful prayer for us all in John Chapter 17 dwells on this subject. Please read and reread this chapter with prayer and meditation. As I read it now, contemplating this subject, I am filled with awe, pain, and tears. We are to be one in the Word and in Truth. Not according to any man's way but God's way only.

11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
John 17:11
17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
John 17:17

Paul also spoke eloquently in Ephesians chapter 4 on the importance of unity emphasizing that we are united on truth.

1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
Ephesians 4:1-15

A related topic is when people start talking about a lack of love in the church. This usually comes from people who are not in charge and are often having problems. What they say is on the surface very true. Love, tolerance and acceptance in the church is very important.

34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
John 13:34

The problem is that many times the context of the remarks sounds suspiciously like:

"You should love and accept me and my bad behavior no matter what I do."

We must not accept obvious bad behavior. Paul spoke some very harsh and difficult words.

9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
I Corinthians 5:9-12

But there must be a balance. Remember, Love sinners, hate sin.

2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
Ephesians 4:2
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
Ephesians 4:15

These are such difficult topics that I shrink from approaching them but my observation is that the need is so great that I must. There is so much that needs to be said and I don't have all the answers. This much should get you to thinking and more importantly praying, reading, and studying.

Have you found the right balance in your life?

Control

This is a newsletter reader's comments on this topic:

“I do observe that those in the organizational structure of many different denominations (especially SDA) often quote (or misquote) about the importance of "Unity"; the underlying motive seems to be the wish to control and fear if they cannot control. However, it also is a reaction to things that seem out-of-control, such as loss of members, others involved in ministries (that God is blessing) outside of denomination structure, or "sin". So, the motive for stressing "unity" seems to be a mixed and complicated one, with sometimes seemingly "good" motives, other times not.

“I come back to what I understand to be the foundation of our walk with God in the very beginning of time. God's original plan was for us to each have a personal walk with Him. With sin, that walk first changed to became that the heads of each family were to have an altar of prayer (with the lamb, etc as offering). Still personal in small family groups or clans or tribes. Some of this is still evident today in some tribes. Then, as sin abounded, it became more organized, but still led by God, in His directions to the Israelites to build a sanctuary patterned after the one in Heaven. You can take this analogy the rest of the way as I know you have studied much about it from this point onward.

“I also come back to what I was taught from an early age in terms of some of the foundations of the SDA denomination and the constitution of this country: The idea of personal choice, personal accountability, free-will (through the sacrifice of Yeshua--I use the name Jesus, but here use the name you prefer and believe in). The organization or organizations (be they sacred or secular) are or have been used by God to a point, but in the end times (today), they become (and are) enmeshed with sin to the point of confusion. Only those who have come back to the original, God-designed, heart and personal walk with God (the way it was in Eden) will truly hear Him say "Come Out of her my people." Even if a denomination structure is led by God and not fully caught up in Babylon, I personally must come back to the original design. Praise God if I am able to participate in a denomination body or organization that still has light in it. But even with that blessing, I must have my walk with Him strong enough to not participate in darkness (within the organization) and to not rely upon any body or structure to do what must occur inside my own heart walk with God. I must know truth for myself.

“On the issue of "sin" and how to respond to "sinners" or "love" sinners: when I read the New Testament in it's historical and cultural context, it seems to me that most organized churches err in many directions and are severely lacking in their ability to both love "sinners" and also in knowing how to hold people accountable in God's way. I have gained much in this area by studying the chapter "Helping the tempted" in the book Ministry of Healing by EGW. It also seems to me that at times outside groups (such as 12-step groups) have a more practical understanding of some issues in this area than any church organization. (But there is darkness and confusion in those groups also). Once again, I can only read what is described in the Bible, EGW, etc and by God's grace be to others what He calls me to be in drawing them to Him. I wish with all my heart that the church body would truly model God's love as well as accountability in this area. But, they often do not. I am grateful for when God is able to use me in this area. That is enough, to be humble in that and used by Him, and to avoid judging or criticizing those who either don't love sinners or who err by doing more harm than good in what they think is accountability or judgment. (the sad truth is, that most church members--be they conservative or liberal--do not want to reach the lost). I have often felt negative about the wrongs the organized body of Christ has done in this area. So, in this I must personally pray to keep that personal walk with God, pray for those who do more harm than good, and pray to not be resentful about what I see in the organization.”


The issue of attempts at unity resulting in actions to exercise control is an important observation. In the previous section I addressed these subjects with quotes from the Bible. In this section I highlight this excellent quote in the words of Ellen White.

Testimonies for the Church Volume Six (1901)

Present Truth with Gentleness

The truth should be presented with divine tact, gentleness, and tenderness. It should come from a heart that has been softened and made sympathetic. We need to have close communion with God, lest self rise up, as it did in Jehu, and we pour forth a torrent of words that are unbefitting, that are not as dew or as the still showers that revive the withering plants. Let our words be gentle as we seek to win souls. God will be wisdom to him who seeks for wisdom from a divine source. We are to seek opportunities on every hand, we are to watch unto prayer, and be ready always to give a reason for the hope that is in us, with meekness and fear. Lest we shall impress unfavorably one soul for whom Christ died we should keep our hearts uplifted to God, so that when the opportunity presents itself, we may have the right word to speak at the right time. If you thus undertake work for God, the Spirit of God will be your helper. The Holy Spirit will apply the word spoken in love for the soul. The truth will have quickening power when spoken under the influence of the grace of Christ. {6T 400.1}

God's plan is first to get at the heart. Speak the truth, and let Him carry forward the reformatory power and principle. Make no reference to what opponents say, but let the truth alone be advanced. The truth can cut to the quick. Plainly unfold the word in all its impressiveness. {6T 400.2}

As trials thicken around us, both separation and unity will be seen in our ranks. Some who are now ready to take up weapons of warfare will in times of real peril make it manifest that they have not built upon the solid rock; they will yield to temptation. Those who have had great light and precious privileges, but have not improved them, will, under one pretext or another, go out from us. Not having received the love of the truth, they will be taken in the delusions of the enemy; they will give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, and will depart from the faith. But, on the other hand, when the storm of persecution really breaks upon us, the true sheep will hear the true Shepherd's voice. Self-denying efforts will be put forth to save the lost, and many who have strayed from the fold will come back to follow the great Shepherd. The people of God will draw together and present to the enemy a united front. In view of the common peril, strife for supremacy will cease; there will be no disputing as to who shall be accounted greatest. No one of the true believers will say: "I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas." The testimony of one and all will be: "I cleave unto Christ; I rejoice in Him as my personal Saviour." {6T 400.3}

Thus will the truth be brought into practical life, and thus will be answered the prayer of Christ, uttered just before His humiliation and death: "That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me." John 17:21. The love of Christ, the love of our brethren, will testify to the world that we have been with Jesus and learned of Him. Then will the message of the third angel swell to a loud cry, and the whole earth will be lightened with the glory of the Lord. {6T 401.1}

Our convictions need daily to be reinforced by humble, sincere prayer and reading of the word. While we each have an individuality, while we each should hold our convictions firmly, we must hold them as God's truth and in the strength which God imparts. If we do not, they will be wrung from our grasp. {6T 401.2}

Stay With The Ship

I have done research and reading about splinter groups from the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. I have seen how the current controversies cause people to leave the denomination sometimes to form their own groups. It is tempting to break away from the denomination when personal beliefs diverge from what is taught by many leaders in the denomination.

In my thoughts about this topic I am impressed by this quote from EGW.

Dear Brother M: I had an impressive dream last night. I thought that you were on a strong vessel, sailing on very rough waters. Sometimes the waves beat over the top, and you were drenched with water. You said: "I shall get off; this vessel is going down." "No," said one who appeared to be the captain, "this vessel sails into the harbor. She will never go down." But you answered: "I shall be washed overboard. As I am neither captain or mate, who cares? I shall take my chances on that vessel you see yonder." Said the captain: "I shall not let you go there, for I know that vessel will strike the rocks before she reaches the harbor." You straightened yourself up, and said with great positiveness: "This vessel will become a wreck; I can see it just as plain as can be." The captain looked upon you with piercing eye, and said firmly: "I shall not permit you to lose your life by taking that boat. The timbers of her framework are worm-eaten, and she is a deceptive craft. If you had more knowledge you could discern between the spurious and the genuine, the holy and that appointed to utter ruin." {5T 571.3}

These similar words are also valuable to consider.

You seemed to be sitting in a boat in a shadow, and Elder Canright was turning the light down lower and lower. {1888 33.2}

And then someone said, "We have had enough of this. All this is as the shadow of night; it is the work of Satan." {1888 33.3}

Next he started up uneasy, groaning, and seemed to be like a man paralyzed, and declared he would leave the boat. He saw one that was sailing faster, and all on board apparently were happy. [There was] music and singing. He said, "I am going into that boat. I think this boat will go to pieces." {1888 33.4}

The Captain stood firmly and said, "I know every piece of timber in the ship, and it will outride every storm. But that boat has worm-eaten and decaying timbers. It will not endure the tempest." {1888 33.5}

I thought he said, "I am going on that boat if I perish with it." {1888 34.1}

There is a strong tendency of people who learn of the new light on God's Law to pull away from the denomination because so much is preached against new light. I too have been greatly troubled by this but it is very clear to me that this is a mistake.

I remind myself that after very careful study it is clear that nothing in the fundamental beliefs of the denomination is against the new light on God's Law. Yes, there are many books from lofty General Conference offices and personnel which do speak against the new light on God's Law.

In the final analysis, the belief in the weekly Sabbath is inextricably tied to the yearly Sabbaths. As long as the organization has the name Seventh-day Adventist they can never turn their back on the weekly Sabbath. I believe that this was a direct leading of God to bind the denomination to this belief.

It is sad to note that there are many trying to slyly change the organization. Have you noticed that the "Seventh-day Adventist Book and Bible" has become the "Adventist Book Center". "Seventh-day Adventist World Services" has become "Adventist Disaster Relief". There are many other examples of this trend. Do you think this is a coincidence?

The day may come (the shaking?) when the organization will disappear or change so much that it will not be possible to work within the organization. Until then I will do my best to stay with the ship without sacrificing one word of the truth.

While studying this subject the words of Paul while in the storm at sea seemed appropriate.

31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.
Acts 27:31

Are you going to stay with the ship?

Controversy

Recent discussions, events, and research for newsletter topics have made clear to me there are some serious issues to be addressed on the subjects of controversy, confrontation, and unity. Unity has different types of concerns in the denomination and in the body of Messiah which is the True Church.

5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Romans 12:5

"Unity" in the body is love and acceptance of different understandings at different levels of development, without confrontation and arguments leading to controversy, with healthy discussion and investigation.

The denomination tends to see "Unity" as everyone having the same belief and not questioning the official position. Unfortunately, the denomination tends to be concerned about preserving the organization, it's control, and it's authority a little bit more than preserving Biblical truth. But God has reminded us, because He is the Authority who sets all other authorities in their place, we must respect their purpose.

1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,
2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.
3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,
Titus 3:1-4

It is extremely important that those who disagree with what the denomination is teaching be very careful to maintain a proper attitude.

God accepts us as he accepts others, and as he accepts the denomination. None of us are perfect. The example of the Messiah is to show the love of God. Patience, understanding and tolerance are what we should manifest. I am not talking about tolerance of sin. I am talking about tolerance of ignorance and misunderstanding.

30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Acts 17:30

When an individual has been taught a lie for many years by people they respect, who were also taught a lie, it will take a long time for them to understand and accept the truth. We need to have patience and love for others who struggle as we have also struggled.

12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
I Timothy 1:12-15

We need to show the love of God to those who are ignoring His law. We are to avoid controversy, attacks, and criticism. We are not to confront those who are teaching error in an attitude of criticism.

But gradually a change came. The believers began to look for defects in others. Dwelling upon mistakes, giving place to unkind criticism, they lost sight of the Saviour and His love. They became more strict in regard to outward ceremonies, more particular about the theory than the practice of the faith. In their zeal to condemn others, they overlooked their own errors. They lost the brotherly love that Christ had enjoined, and, saddest of all, they were unconscious of their loss. They did not realize that happiness and joy were going out of their lives and that, having shut the love of God out of their hearts, they would soon walk in darkness. {AA 548.1}

I have often felt the sting of criticism, individually and as part of a group, which said, I am not a "Happy Christian". I make these observations. Mirth is not happiness. Frivolity is not joy. Apathy is not peace. Seriousness is not sadness. Concern is not sorrow. Repugnance is not insecurity.

As a witness for Christ, John entered into no controversy, no wearisome contention. He declared what he knew, what he had seen and heard. He had been intimately associated with Christ, had listened to His teachings, had witnessed His mighty miracles. Few could see the beauties of Christ's character as John saw them. For him the darkness had passed away; on him the true light was shining. His testimony in regard to the Saviour's life and death was clear and forcible. Out of the abundance of a heart overflowing with love for the Saviour he spoke; and no power could stay his words. {AA 555.2}

Consider carefully the reminders that the Messiah avoided controversy.

From the time when the parents of Jesus found Him in the temple, His course of action was a mystery to them. He would not enter into controversy, yet His example was a constant lesson. {DA 89.6}
Though Jesus recognized Satan from the beginning, He was not provoked to enter into controversy with him. Strengthened with the memory of the voice from heaven, He rested in His Father's love. He would not parley with temptation. {DA 119.3}
While Jesus made it plain that He was under no obligation to pay the tribute, He entered into no controversy with the Jews in regard to the matter; for they would have misinterpreted His words, and turned them against Him. Lest He should give offense by withholding the tribute, He did that which He could not justly be required to do. This lesson would be of great value to His disciples. Marked changes were soon to take place in their relation to the temple service, and Christ taught them not to place themselves needlessly in antagonism to established order. So far as possible, they were to avoid giving occasion for misinterpretation of their faith. While Christians are not to sacrifice one principle of truth, they should avoid controversy whenever it is possible to do so. {DA 434.4}

We need to lean very heavily on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to know when to speak and when to remain silent. Our own personal practice and example is the best witness. The time and place for action and the results are in God's hands not yours or mine.

Paul was also misunderstood as Peter himself acknowledged. Today those who don't want to do all of what God says still try to make it look like Paul disagreed with God. Silly isn't it? It would be funny if the results were not so disastrous. God is in charge and He has everything under control. Follow Him and He will judge the results.

Be patient and kind to each other and to those in the denomination who see things differently. Never forget how patient and kind He is to us in our weakness.

We must always be charitable and understanding in our discussion of difficult issues to be sure we have and demonstrate the love and compassion of our Savior. We may share what we believe but understanding and conviction comes from the Holy Spirit. We make a great mistake when we take upon ourselves the work of the Holy Spirit and try to convict others of what we see as truth.

Reasonable

An interesting problem arises when there is a disagreement about what is reasonable. This is an excerpt from an email exchange at the end of a long and painstaking discussion of the "Chosen People". This discussion, which often degenerated into confrontation, illustrates these points. We join the conversation with a statement made to me.

_____

...

I think these are reasonable questions to ask and do not believe that I have asked them in a confrontational manor.

_____

I responded:

These are reasonable questions, if asked at the beginning of a discussion. It is confrontational because you continue the same questions or variants long after the discussion is past. I have answered these questions already. These questions are stated in a derogatory and misleading way to attempt to force my compliance to your understanding.

I understand your position but I do not agree. If your questions are honest, you do not understand mine. You clearly disagree. It is long past time to accept each other with our understanding. Or you can choose to do as some have done and condemn me as deluded. In that case, you do something which God does not do.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
John 3:17
11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
John 8:11

I accept you as my brother in the love of the Messiah. I do not condemn your understanding but I do not agree. Your future is in the hands of the Holy Spirit and you. I do not set myself up to take the place of the Holy Spirit to lead you to truth. I am certainly not egotistical enough to expect you to share my understanding.

One LAST time, I will give a reworded answer to match your reworded questions. I will speak of underlying principles. If you do not see how it applies to your question, it is beyond my control or concern. Enough is enough.

There are three distinct concepts. 1. The Law of God as recorded by Moses which does not change, though it can increase in specific guidance adapted to our deteriorating condition and increasing sin. 2. The people of God who can choose to obey or disobey. 3. The Everlasting covenant which is based on obedience and also adapts. When individuals or groups obey they remain within the full extent of the covenant. When they do not obey through long term, deep seated apostasy, they reject the covenant and are no longer under its terms.

You claim the Jewish people receive the full benefit of the covenant without obedience to its precepts and in spite of rejecting the author of the covenant. Ridiculous.

Enough!

_____

Does Satan tempt you to dispute and controversy? Is your motivation to share truth in love with those who are ready and willing to listen?

Focus on Truth

This world is filled with so much disagreement, deception, and discord. Unfortunately, the denomination is often the same way to a somewhat lesser extent. When and where will we find peace and unity? The subject of "Unity in Truth" is a subject of considerable concern to me. I am surrounded by so much controversy, it can be discouraging. There is so much deception, confusion, apathy, and ignorance.

How will we find unity? I believe it will be by focusing on truth. I find myself returning to this subject with these additional instructive quotes on how and when we will find unity in truth.


Jesus prayed that his followers might be one; but we are not to sacrifice the truth in order to secure this union, for we are to be sanctified through the truth. Here is the foundation of all true peace. Human wisdom would change all this, pronouncing this basis too narrow. Men would try to effect unity through concession to popular opinion, through compromise with the world, a sacrifice of vital godliness. But truth is God's basis for the unity of his people. {RH, April 12, 1892 par. 19} {OHC 329.3}

"Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth." How can the truth be laid out before our people that they will every one arouse from the lethargy which has been upon them, and come to a realization of the times in which we are living? How shall we present the need of greater zeal and more determined earnestness in searching the Scriptures, so that they may dig in the mines of truth and bring forth the treasures of God's word? It is not safe for us as reformers to repeat the history of the Reformers in every particular; for after those to whom God gave light advanced to a certain knowledge, many of them ceased to be reformers. We must not for a moment think that there is no more light and truth to be given us, and become careless, and let the sanctifying power of the truth leak out of our hearts by our attitude of satisfaction in what we have already attained. We are not to fold our hands in complacency, and say, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." {RH, August 7, 1894 par. 1}

It is a fact that we have the truth, and we must hold with tenacity to the positions that cannot be shaken; but we must not look with suspicion upon any new light which God may send, and say, Really, we cannot see that we need any more light than the old truth which we have hitherto received, and in which we are settled. While we hold to this position, the testimony of the True Witness applies to our cases its rebuke, "And knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Those who feel rich and increased with goods and in need of nothing, are in a condition of blindness as to their true condition before God, and they know it not. But the True Witness declares, "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see." {RH, August 7, 1894 par. 2}


We must not for a moment think that there is no more light, no more truth to be given us. We are in danger of becoming careless, by our indifference losing the sanctifying power of truth, and composing ourselves with the thought, "I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." [REV. 3:17.] While we must hold fast to the truths which we have already received, we must not look with suspicion upon any new light that God may send. {GW92 390.1} {GW 310.4}

It has been shown me that there is a fault with us, of honoring the human, flattering men, accepting their ideas, their judgment, as the voice of God, and advocating their cause. Many have such confidence in those whom they have been accustomed to regard as leaders, that they seem incapable of discerning when these persons are in error, and they are ready to cling to and defend erroneous positions, because others do so. This spirit is displeasing to God, and is dangerous to all who indulge in it; for if leading men allow themselves to be controlled by prejudice, evil surmisings, or envy, those who look to them for an example are led astray. Brethren, trust not in man; look to God; trust in his infallible wisdom. Shun as a sin the practice, so common even among Seventh-day Adventists, of becoming the echo of any man, whatever his position. Listen to the voice of the True Shepherd, and you will never be led astray. {GW92 390.2}

Jesus prayed for his disciples, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us." [JOHN 17:21.] Just before, he said, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." [JOHN 17:17.] And he had given them the promise, "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth." [JOHN 16:13.] Through the Holy Spirit, Christ will open more clearly to those who will believe on him that which he has inspired holy men to write concerning the truth. And it is thus that the unity for which Christ prayed is to be effected. We are to receive sanctification through obedience to the word and the Spirit of truth. {GW92 391.1}

We cannot surrender the truth in order to accomplish this union; for the very means by which it is to be gained is sanctification through the truth. Human wisdom would change all this, thinking this basis of union too narrow. Men would effect a union through conformity to popular opinions, through a compromise with the world. But truth is God's basis for the unity of his people. {GW92 391.2}


Is there a love and powerful desire for the sanctifying and unifying power of all truth in your heart?

Disagreement

Disagreement is a somewhat never-ending constant when you keep all of God's Law and witness to your belief. These are some comments from the LinkedIn discussion introduced with the question:

Is the Seventh-day Adventist church no longer a movement, but simply a denomination that is stuck in it's ways?

There has been extensive editing to shorten and focus the presentation.


jesse roquios • To the question Frank started, I think so.

Try asking any pastor any topic that is not within the fundamental belief, most probably you will get a sermon but doesn't really answer your question, e.g. the feasts.

I had a very interesting session with one of our younger pastors here where we discussed the feasts and why we don't observe it. The usual answer of we are under the new covenant and not under the law was the response. I pointed out that communion service actually originated from Christ's observance of the passover.

Why we join in celebrating christmas every 25th of December when we don't believe on it to the extent that we have christmas cantatas, is another aspect I think that has been taken for granted.

My observation is instead of spreading the gospel. not only us but other denominations as well, the idea of indoctrination is practiced believing that what we believe in( our doctrine) is the truth. The idea of conversion has taken over the spirit of witnessing.


Frank T. Clark • Jesse, It is interesting to compare the similarity of responses when you ask SDA pastors about the feasts and the response of a typical Sunday pastor when you ask them about the Sabbath.

It is also amusing to hear SDA pastors criticize Sunday pastors for picking and choosing which commandments they ignore. Then you realize SDA pastors pick and choose which of God's statutes they ignore (Leviticus 23).

(Now I am going to really get in trouble.)

Then you hear a feast-keeping SDA pastor explaining why they don't observe God's command to wear tassels (Numbers 15:37-41) or why they shave (Leviticus 21:5).

When you truly love God and submit to everything He asks us to do you no longer need to offer explanations or excuses. Then we will really have a movement!


Daniel Murray • Having studied and considered the position on feast days, I have come to the conclusion that they are not to be kept post the death of Christ.

My reasoning for this is simple: God has promised to write His law in our hearts and minds, and in so doing we will obey His law. There's a process that we need to go through to allow the law to be written there, which is essentially the putting away of sin. But the simple fact is that God's law will be in our hearts.

So here's the thing. Why does Paul go to great lengths to explain salvation by grace alone? If we are saved by faith, what can keeping the feasts do for us that the power of Christ can't?

The outward attempts of righteousness were condemned by Christ, yet here people are saying those same events should be kept today. This makes no sense in the overall plan of redemption. Christ has redeemed us from the power of sin; victory is there for us if only we believe in the power of Christ. Any outward works of righteousness that do not lead to the righteousness of Christ being imputed to us are, in my opinion, exactly that - works of our own righteousness.

And we all know that our righteousness is as filthy rags.

I'm not saying the feasts aren't important to understand; they are. But when we accept the love God has for us and realise that He expects nothing more of us than to allow His Spirit into our hearts so that He can create a clean heart and a right spirit within us (which inevitably involves the writing of God's law in our heart), all other acts are of no effect. Why be judged in meat and drink and in new moons and sabbaths when all such things do not in any way present us more favourably to God?


Robin Willison • Just to continue the previous line of thought, as Frank says, people who believe the 10 Commandments have been done away with think they are a burden and we have been set free from trying to bear a burden to be saved by the blood of Christ. The same argument is made about the feast days. The argument is that they are a burden and we have been set free from that burden by the blood of Christ who fulfilled all OT requirements.

I think that the difference with which we perceive the laws of the OT is over how we see the Law of God in general. If any law is a burdensome restriction it is because our carnal nature does not want to be restricted by doing what we are told. On the other side, if we truly love our Lord we want to glorify Him in every way. Then we see the 10 commandments not as burdensome restrictions but as promises, as God telling us the dimensions of what it means to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and how to love our neighbour as ourselves. We will also see that the OT feast days are not a burdensome restriction but are designed to keep the plan of salvation ever fresh in our minds and what our Lord has done for us. Each one has a special application to God's last people as Christ became our Passover Lamb, the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost etc. Then we will desire to know more about how Christians can keep these days in order to learn more about the sacrifice made for us and God;s plan for the final cessation of sin in the universe.

We dont observe feast days to develop merit before God. Daniel says 'when we accept the love God has for us and realise that He expects nothing more of us than to allow His Spirit into our hearts.' When we have done this, we want to learn as much about Him as He has revealed to us and as the Holy Spirit wants to lead us into, and He has much to teach us through the feast days as He also wants to teach us through the weekly sabbath which is listed in the list of feast days in Leviticus 23.


Patrick Stevenson • Good comment Daniel. I have no problem with those who wish to observe/celebrate the feast days God gave to Israel so that as a nation they would be a continual witness and gospel pedagog to the other nations of earth. Certainly more biblically consistent than Christmas and Easter, which are adaptations of Pagan feasts. I would have a problem with someone attempting to "guilt" others into the practice of these things. I believe you are correct to observe that Christ has fully become the end of those shadows and is the reality of them. But if you want to organize your life around them for the pedagogical value of it, go for it! ((:


Frank T. Clark • Daniel, I hesitate to respond to your questions after reading Patrick's comment "I would have a problem with someone attempting to "guilt" others into the practice of these things." I hope my attempts to share my great love for our Savior are not perceived as "guilt".

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
John 14:15

"Why does Paul go to great lengths to explain salvation by grace alone?"

Because salvation is by the grace of God alone. What do you do after you are already saved? You follow in obedience to cooperate with the working out of His salvation in your life.

12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
Philippians 2:12

"If we are saved by faith, what can keeping the feasts do for us that the power of Christ can't?"

It can transform us.

2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Romans+12:2

"But when we accept the love God has for us and realise that He expects nothing more of us than to allow His Spirit into our hearts so that He can create a clean heart and a right spirit within us (which inevitably involves the writing of God's law in our heart), all other acts are of no effect."

This was not a question but my response is this, my act of obedience in response to His love has the effect of transforming my heart and soul. I already quoted the verse in John 14:15 of what our Savior also expects when we allow His Spirit into our hearts.

Jesse, Robin, Do you notice any similarity of Daniel's comment about the feasts to a typical Sunday pastor's comments about the Sabbath? Its all about grace and not the law...

I apologize if I have offended anyone or caused them to feel "guilt" because my love for our Savior has led me to complete obedience to His Law and a willingness to witness to His transforming power by the guidance of His Law of Love.


Daniel Murray • Ah, but Frank, you've missed the fundamental issue. Not once did I say it was all grace and no law. Rather, it's all grace and all law; God's laws written in our hearts! And if they are written in our hearts we will obey them because they become natural to the converted.

Keeping the feasts is in no way related to this! And none of the verses that you have quoted prove what you are saying anymore than they disprove what I am saying.

Be very careful about 'pushing' feast days onto people - this is not supported by scriptural evidence nor is it Seventh-Day Adventist in nature.

Strong words, perhaps, but someone needs to state this for the record.


Patrick Stevenson • I haven't noticed anyone on this discussion "guilting" anyone. My comment re anyone attempting to drive others to keep the feast day by arguments of guilt were hypothetical. The huge difference between the SDA pastor who argues for the seventh-day Sabbath, but not for the feast days is that the feast days were all a "shadow" of things to come, ie the life, ministry, sacrificial death, resurrection and heavenly ministry of Chirst. The 7th day Sabbath is without fail invoked as a celebration of the past mighty acts of deliverance by God, starting with creation when Christ the creator brought forth the created order from "chaos" (rough equivalent of the Hebrew of Genesis). The feasts pointed forward to things to come, the 7th day sabbath celebrates the mighty acts of God in the past. (Of course, in celebrating what God has done in the past we also look forward to what He will do in the future...like writing His law on our hearts!)


F. Pietravalle • Robin, here is something from the pen of inspiration, that supports you statement:

The great sin of God's ancient people was their disregard of the commandments of the Lord, and especially their disregard of the day that God had sanctified and blessed. Because of their disregard of his commandments and ordinances, the Lord removed his defense from them, and permitted their enemies to afflict them and scatter them. Has the Lord changed? Did his holy commandments need to be amended? -- Not at all. He says, "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that has gone out of my lips." Has, then, the Majesty of heaven, the Governor of the universe, no law?-- Only Satan's sophistry could induce men to entertain such a thought. {ST, October 2, 1893 par. 6}


Frank T. Clark • Daniel, We will have to agree to disagree because I believe it is supported by scriptural evidence and I am first a follower of the Bible and only secondly a Seventh-day Adventist. Strong words, perhaps, but someone needs to state this for the record.

Patrick, I am glad to hear your comment about "guilt" was hypothetical. I know I have a tendency to sound critical and though I try hard to not to be I don't know if I am successful. Though I do know there are some who are clearly far more critical than I and are easy to recognize as going too far.


jesse roquios • Yes Frank, I pointed that matter that it is the same reasoning the protestants are using for not keeping the Sabbath.

Yes salvation is by grace through faith, not keeping the sabbath or the feasts or doing good works or paying tithes faithfully. But, because of your faith you will keep the commandments do good works, pay tithes you will have grace----salvation, as simple as that I think.


Daniel Murray • Frank, there is no such thing as agreeing to disagree. There is only one truth - and in reality we should get together to study the Bible together in the presence of the Holy Spirit. We don't have that opportunity, so I think it best I drop out of this conversation. Not defeated, but hopefully having stated clearly that the readers of this page must look deeper into the Word of God than simply take your word on things. And that's not meant in a disrespectful way - the same applies to all erring mortals, myself included!

But there is only one truth, and the Spirit will teach us that truth. We must first be willing to lay aside all preconceived notions and study the Word as a child. Only then will we see the truth as it is in Christ. This is promised in the Bible, so I am confident that the Spirit will teach me if I am genuinely willing to learn. He will teach us all if we are genuinely willing to learn.

I don't believe in the new theology of the SDA organisation, I believe in the original doctrines that founded God's Church for the end of time. We do not need to be SDA to be saved, Revelation 14:12 "Here is the patience of the saints, here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." If we are faithful we will be saved, regardless of the 'church' we grew up in.

The Bible can be no clearer on the character of those who will be saved. My sincere hope is that we are all saved. Is keeping the feast days a salvation issue? You decide. For me, I will be saved if I fully submit my life to Christ. Not that it is about being saved, but about loving Christ.


jesse roquios • Daniel, hope you reconsider not to drop out of this discussion. You have very good points which deserve consideration. Let the Holy Spirit work on your witnessing.


Frank T. Clark • Daniel, Agreeing to disagree means that we will accept each other as brothers, the children of God and continue to discuss issues and study, as you mentioned, with the understanding that we do not agree on this issue. We can continue to discuss details of this issue if it is possible to do so without discord or set the issue aside as one that requires the ongoing teaching of the Spirit to reconcile, as you also mentioned.

I agree strongly with your statement we should take the word of no man but investigate the Word:

"... having stated clearly that the readers of this page must look deeper into the Word of God than simply take your word on things."

I have witnessed to my understanding of the Word with some quotes from the Word. You have witnessed to your belief also. I agree strongly the Spirit will draw all true students and followers into agreement on the Word. It will take some time but the Word promises there will be 144k who are in agreement and shortly thereafter there will be a great multitude, then the end will come.

This is agreeing to disagree. I hope you will reconsider whether there is any such thing. We agree about the purpose and end result. We disagree about our current position but continue to work together. I love this quote which puts it all into perspective.

"We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn. God and heaven alone are infallible. Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion, will be disappointed. As long as we hold to our own ideas and opinions with determined persistency, we cannot have the unity for which Christ prayed." {RH, July 26, 1892 par. 7}

Part of an incredible article entitled "Search the Scriptures".


In any of this discussion it is instructive to substitute the word feasts with the word Sabbath.

Do you believe the Spirit will lead us through disagreement?

Agreement

I have expressed many concerns about the unity of the denomination. I have expressed concerns about identifying all truth. I express concerns about disagreement. How do we reach agreement? How do we agree to disagree? How do we show love and unity in the denomination when there are major disagreements over truth?

This subject reached an intense peak recently in a conversation between my son and me. He was feeling a great deal of stress because we have a fundamental disagreement over the applicability of practicing the Law of Moses. I did not immediately understand the reason why he was distressed.

It was finally resolved that there were at least two things bothering him. The first was being troubled that two students of the Bible disagree on what is truth. The second was that he felt I was pressuring him into seeing my point of view. You can see how this directly relates to the two questions posed earlier.

I explained to him that I had long ago accepted the fact that we disagree. Instead of avoiding the subject of the disagreement completely, it was my intent that we could freely discuss related issues in a spirit of sharing and inquiry rather than one person trying to convince the other of a particular viewpoint.

I am increasingly coming to realize that God has a big heart, which embraces all His children even though they have widely divergent ideas about what is truth. God is very patient with his children and gives them the time and space for them to grow. Some will never reach a truth that others believe but each is true to their best understanding. In time the Holy Spirit will lead us all to truth. None of us have all the truth.

Some may never reach all the truth before their time on earth is over. God knows each heart and He will save those who believe in Him and followed the truth as far as He led them. God knows His own and we do not. We can never judge and we should never try.

My sons concern was that we both can't be right. This is true. The time will come when all will agree on the truth. That time is not now. We will continue to study the plan of salvation throughout eternity so it is no surprise there will be some things we will never see clearly here on earth. I believe we will come to agreement on major points but it will probably be only a short time before the end of time.

We are in the time of the end but we are not at the end of time yet. I believe the end of time begins with the Time of Trouble. The beginning of this event is given a clear description.

1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
2 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,
3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
Revelation 7:1-4

I believe the sealing occurs at a Pentecost fulfillment as it did for the apostles.

1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
Acts 2:1-3

I believe Revelation tells us very clearly the Time of Trouble is held until this event. I have detailed more about these events in several of my books.

http://www.SacredCalendar.info/Spring.html#Pentecost

http://www.ThirdElijahMessage.info/PropheticContext.html#Pentecost

I suspect the final events will only last a year, maybe two or three. Then we will be delivered.

Do you have patience, understanding, and love for those with whom we have not yet reached agreement?

(Book Contents) Next: A Brief History of Eternity


Revised 2015-08-21