Tag Archives: Christ

The High Cost of the Cross

1 Mar
Introduction
After his disastrous defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon, so the story goes, met with some of his leading generals to analyze the battle’s flawed strategies. In the course of their discussions, the little general pointed at England on the colored map before them and said bitterly, “Except for that red spot I would be master of the world.” Satan could say the same thing today except he would point to a cross on a hill outside the walls of Old Jerusalem. Aren’t you thankful for that red spot of Calvary that rescued this world from the control of our great enemy?

That was the place, the time, and the con- test that settled the destiny of planet earth. Satan has been a defeated foe ever since. There it was that he met his Waterloo and suffered a decisive defeat from which he will never fully recover.

How few of us understand the real meaning of Christ’s suffering and death on that cross. We have only a dim comprehension of the conflict He passed through and the kind of agonizing death He experienced. Could our eyes be opened to grasp the true significance of His sacrifice, there would be no more miserable collaborating with Satan. Our weakness would be turned into courage and victory.

The Bible writers struggled to explain, in human language, the mysterious incarnation and atoning death of the Son of God. Often we weep under the power of their inspired testimony. We get glimpses that boggle our minds, but still, we are only scratching the surface of a subject which will continue unfolding for all eternity.

Paul wrote, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5-8. These sublime words describe the condescension of Jesus from the throne to the manger and then to the cross.

From the Highest to the Lowest!
There is not an illustration in all the vast reaches of time or space that could properly portray what Jesus did. Sometimes we try to fabricate imaginary circumstances to convey the idea of His sacrifice. A diseased pack of wild dogs is described, covered with many scabs and running sores. It is postulated that if one human being would only submit to become one of the dogs, the entire pack could be saved from imminent death. Could anyone be found who would voluntarily lay aside his human condition, and suffer the unspeakable indignity of turning into a dog? Dramatic as it may sound, that is a feeble illustration of the humiliation of the divine Son of God. We cannot grasp the glory and position from which He separated when He emptied Himself and came into the condemned, dying family of Adam.

This is why it is so difficult for Christians to grasp the atonement. Why do so many treat casually the events of the cross? Surely because they do not understand what their salvation cost the Son of God. It is only when we know the cost of something that we begin to appreciate it. We value most highly that which requires the greatest investment.

All of us have encountered people who display a mystifying indifference toward the sacrifice of Christ. At the end of one of my crusades I visited a businessman who had attended every night but who had made no commitment. We had developed a warm friendship during the four-week series, so I felt bold to ask him why he had made no decision for Christ. His vague answer indicated to me that he had no understanding of the seriousness of accepting the gift of salvation. He had never made any kind of response to the gospel and, under my gentle questioning, confessed that he had no assurance of being saved. Finally, I asked him point blank, “Do you mean, Sam, that if you died tonight you would have no hope of eternal life?” He answered, “No, I have never made any kind of profession of Christianity.”

Shocked by his obvious unconcern I gathered the courage to ask this question: “Sam, suppose that you could pick up $10,000 tomorrow morning from your banker in exchange for a paper containing the signatures of ten men in this city. Would you be willing to drive around the city tonight and get those signatures?” He answered, “Of course I would.”

Would you run any risk of losing one of those signatures on the paper?” I asked. “Absolutely not,” Sam replied, “I know a good thing when I see it.”

The truth was that Sam did not recognize a good thing when he saw it, and I felt constrained to tell him so in the kindest way that my outraged spirit could manage. I said, “Sam, you would not take the least chance of losing $10,000 between now and tomorrow morning; yet you have stated that you do risk losing eternal life if you die tonight. You place more value on the money than you do on eternal life. Your appraisals are wrong. You don’t have the faintest idea what it cost to provide for your salvation, or you wouldn’t value it so lightly.”

It was easy to see why my friend was so noncommittal toward the cross of Christ. Even though he had been around Christians all his life and had heard hundreds of sermons, he held the typical “martyr” view of the death of Jesus. It is simply not true that He died just like all the thousands of others who were crucified on crosses around the wall of Jerusalem. There can be no comparison. Christ did not die because of the nails, spear, or physical abuse. No amount of blows or pain could have produced the agonies of the cross. Others were enduring the same torture of the flesh, but none died from the same causes which took the life of the Son of God. His death was different. How was it different?

What kind of death did He suffer? The Bible says that “he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Hebrews 2:9. Think of that for a moment. He died my death, and yours, and every other person’s. How could that be? Will we not have to suffer our own death-experience at the end of our days? Yes, we will. And therein lies the mystery and the wonder of what He did for us. He did not take our place in passing through the first death. He experienced the second death for every soul who has ever been born.

Christ Died the Second Death
It is so important that we distinguish between the first and second deaths. Only then will we be able to understand why God the Father turned away from His Son on the cross. Angels were not permitted to minister to Him. Jesus had to be treated as though He were guilty of every terrible sin which has ever been committed. Under the weight of that condemnation and guilt, He sweat great drops of blood and fell fainting to the ground in the Garden. On Golgotha’s Hill, shut off from the approving presence of His Father, He cried in torment, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46.

Do you begin to see what Sam overlooked? He did not sense the real suffering of the cross and, therefore, had no true understanding of the cost of salvation. We shall attempt to expose some of those “hidden costs” which Sam did not recognize and which many today do not properly appraise.

Paul wrote, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Romans 5:12. Several fundamental questions are raised by these words of Paul. If only one man sinned, why did all have to die? Do people have to pay the penalty for other men’s sins? When Adam was in the Garden of Eden, he represented every person who would ever be born. As the head of the race he stood before God as though he were every man. You and I were there, represented by the genes and chromosomes which later produced the hereditary pattern of Adam’s children. As partakers of his body and mind, all his descendants had to be affected by what affected him. He is our father, and there are laws of heredity which reproduce the genetic pattern from age to age.

What happened to Adam which also affected his children? God placed him on probation in that original paradise. The test was simple and direct: obey and live, disobey and die. We remember so well the story of the tree in the midst of the Garden. God said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Genesis 2:17. His continued existence in the perfect atmosphere of Eden depended upon obedience. Adam’s happy future was conditional upon staying away from the forbidden tree, but he did not meet the condition.

No provision had been made to remove the penalty or to lighten it. The issue was clear-cut: obey and live, disobey and die. At the age of 930 the sentence was fully carried out, and Adam died and was buried.

All of Adam’s children were born after his nature had become depraved through sin. They could inherit only what their father had to give, so they were born with a sinful, fallen nature. Please note that they did not inherit the guilt of their father, but only his weakened, sin-loving nature. There is no such thing as original sin, in the sense that Adam’s descendants were accountable for his sin. It is true that they also were subject to death just like Adam, but their death was not the punishment for Adam’s sin. They died because they had received a mortal nature through the laws of heredity. Their death resulted from the degenerated constitution which Adam transmitted to his offspring. Only Adam’s death was the punishment for his sin.

From the moment sin became a fixed fact, every human being who would live became subject to the first death. In fact, if God had not intervened, it would have been an eternal death. Adam’s probation ended when he sinned. As far as that first offer of life was concerned, it was finished. He had forfeited all hope of life under the proposal God had made. Now only death awaited him-a hopeless, final death. And if God had done nothing more, that’s the way it would have ended-for Adam and all of his descendants.

A Second Probation Provided
But immediately after Adam sinned and before the sentence was fully executed, God introduced the plan of salvation through the seed of the woman and gave Adam a new trial (Genesis 3:15). This second probation was conditioned upon acceptance of a Saviour who would bear man’s penalty through His own substitutionary death. A new hope was set before Adam and all his posterity through this second arrangement, but it did not alter the consequences of failing the first probation.

That brings us to a very crucial question. How could God uphold His integrity by carrying out the penalty of the first failure, and still hold out the offer of a new life to everyone through another probation? God met that puzzling dilemma in such a simple way that we are amazed. He would let men live their limited life span and then die, regardless of whether they did good or evil. That first death would take care of the Adamic consequences of failing the first test. Then, let all men be raised from that first death, into which they fell through no fault of their own, and let them stand before God to answer for their own personal sins, for which they are responsible. Then their destiny would be determined on the basis of the second probation (between birth and the first death), and how they met the conditions of salvation through Christ.

If they are found guilty of personally failing the second test they will suffer the same penalty that Adam faced-death. In this case, however, there will be no further probation extended, and their death will be the second death-final, eternal extinction.

Now we can better understand the words of Paul, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22. The plan of salvation involves a resurrection of all men from the first death, so that they can be placed beyond the effects of Adam’s sin. This is necessary so that they can be judged on the basis of their personal actions and choices. Adam died because he ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, not because of anything he did after that. But if, after the judgment, Adam is found worthy of the second death, it will not be because he ate the fruit, but because of other sins committed after that experience which were not confessed and forgiven.

Some may charge God with being arbitrary and cruel to bring the wicked back to life again only to destroy them in the lake of fire. Why not just let them remain under the power of the first death? That would not meet the conditions required by the second probation. The first death is not the punishment for sin for any of Adam’s posterity. Justice requires that each individual be held accountable only for meeting the conditions of his own salvation. Without a resurrection no such judgment could be made, and no just retribution could be given. It is no wanton act on God’s part, but a fulfillment of the standards of divine justice.

The Second Adam Meets the Test
With that understanding of the first and second deaths we are prepared to examine the roles of the first and second Adams. Just as the entire human race was represented by Adam in the Garden of Eden, so every man would be represented by Jesus, the second Adam. “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Romans 5:18, 19.

As we have seen, whatever happened to the first Adam affected all those whom he represented. Now we are told by Paul that the experience of the second Adam will directly affect all men. Jesus, the Creator, was incorporated into humanity, and stood before God as though He were every man. This is why Paul wrote, “I am crucified with Christ.” Galatians 2:20. “We are buried with him by baptism.” Romans 6:4. “As Christ was raised up, … even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4. The life of man is deeply associated with the events of Christ’s life.

Because Jesus came to redeem the failure of the first Adam, He had to do it in the same flesh that mankind possessed when He was born. “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren.” He- brews 2:17. Had He possessed any supernatural advantage over His brethren in conquering sin Jesus would have given support to Satan’s charge of injustice. God had been accused of requiring an obedience that was unreasonable and even impossible. Christ came to disprove the devil’s false accusation by meeting the requirements of God in the same human nature that any man may obtain through faith in the Father.

It was that perfect victory of Christ over sin and death which provides the basis of all salvation. All the descendants of Adam lay under the influence of his weakness and failure, making it impossible for any of them to obey the law. In that dying, condemned family of Adam they were doomed to perpetual struggle and defeat. But the victory of the second Adam opened a door of escape for the family of the first Adam.

Changing Families
The first Adam passed on the results of his sinful experience through physical birth-weakness, sin, and death. The second Adam passed on the results of His sinless experience through spiritual birth-partaking of the divine nature, victory, and eternal life. All the effects of the first Adam’s failure are completely counteracted by the second Adam. Please don’t miss the point that one can join the new family only through a spiritual birth. Through faith in Christ a new creation takes place, lifting man out of the hopeless, carnal state of the family of Adam. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

The change of families constitutes one of the least understood blessings of the Christian experience. It is not a theoretical or mystical transaction with no practical results. Just as the transformation of nature is dramatically real, so the privileges of the new family are also real. One of the hardest things for the newborn Christian to accept is the total change of position, authority, and ownership under the new family arrangement. They are now eligible for all the riches and advantages of the children of God.

Incredible promises are included in this new spiritual relationship. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” Romans 8:16, 17. It is easy to understand why the human mind boggles at this concept. We tend to probe for hidden reservations and secret meanings in verses like these. A joint-heir is one who holds equal rights to all the family estate. We ask ourselves how it is possible to become sudden heirs of such unlimited wealth. From abject poverty we now hold title to the universe! The holdings of God include galaxies and island universes in space. By faith we try to grasp hold of the reality: Jesus and I share and share alike in all the spiritual riches of the Father. Whatever He gets, we also receive. Paul describes the boundless resources of the Spirit-filled life in these words: “That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” Ephesians 3:19. Who can comprehend such language? The great, loving God who made us, and who gave up His only Son to die for us, now wants us to have everything His Son has, and also everything that He has!

Along with the staggering assets of a King, we also actually inherit the family name and the family resemblance. We even begin to look like our new Father and Elder Brother. “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” Colossians 3:10. In the beginning Adam was made in the image of God, and was called a “son of God.” In Genesis we read, “In the likeness of God made he him. … And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years and begat a son in his own likeness.” Genesis 5:1-3.

Like father, like son. Adam looked like God, but the resemblance was lost through sin. So Adam’s son did not look like God; he looked like Adam. But under the new birth, man begins to lose his Adamic features and to look like the One who created him-Jesus. Is this resemblance real or imagined? Does God create only an illusion to make it seem that man is being restored to the divine image, or does He powerfully provide for the change to take place? There is a theological debate as to whether God’s righteousness is only accounted to man or whether it is truly imparted as well. Those who feel that man is only accounted righteous, do not believe that he can really overcome sin and live a holy life, even in Christ. But Paul’s words are clear, “By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Romans 5:19.

Along with the family likeness this new spiritual birth brings deliverance from the sec- ond death, which was inevitable under the Adamic nature. Christ did not change the first death penalty for Adam’s failure under the first probation, but He did abolish the second death for all those who received Him under the second probation. This was made possible only because He submitted to suffer the horrible penalty of the second death in place of man. He became sin for us, and voluntarily accepted the punishment which sin demands. On the cross, with no ray of hope from the Father, Jesus was enveloped in the darkness of a billion lost souls. He tasted death for every man. Hebrews 2:9.

Abraham’s Fiery Crucible
Was it easy for Jesus to have such an experience? Was it easy for the Father to withdraw from His beloved Son and treat Him as though He was guilty of the most atrocious blasphemy and crime? Only one man in the world has come near to understanding the intense suffering of the Father and the Son in that situation. That man, Abraham, gave up his only son also, and became the first human to share the agony of the cross.

Paul wrote that “the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham.” Galatians 3:8. Jesus also recognized that Abraham had special revelations on the atonement. He said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad.” John 8:56.

To understand how this Old Testament patriarch had such prophetic insight into the work of the Messiah, we must go back to his experience on Mount Moriah. Because he had initially failed to believe that God could give him a son from Sarah’s dead womb, Abraham was subjected to another test concerning life from the dead. God told him to slay his only son Isaac on an altar. The account of that lonely journey to Mount Moriah is one of the most moving stories in the sacred Word.

Abraham had no doubt about the validity of the order. He was a friend of God and had learned to recognize His voice. There was no way for Abraham to comprehend the reason for this bizarre command. The promise had been confirmed repeatedly that Isaac was the seed through whom the Messiah would come. Now he was asked to take the life of that child of his old age through whom the world would be blessed and redeemed. How could the Saviour come through Isaac if he was slain on the altar?

By the time father and son reached the base of the mountain Abraham’s faith had resolutely claimed God’s resurrection power. He said to the servants, “I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” Genesis 22:5. This time there was no weak faltering over the seeming impossibility of the promise. No resurrection from the dead had ever occurred, but Abraham believed that God would fulfill His promise concerning Isaac’s seed.

As Abraham lifted the knife over his submissive son, he was meeting the most severe test ever faced by a human being. It would have been terrible enough to take his son’s life, but with one stroke of the knife he was about to destroy the only hope of salvation for himself and every person who would be born. No one except Jesus would ever hold the destiny of a world in his hand as Abraham did in that moment. It was more than the test of fatherly affection. By killing Isaac, Abraham was depriving the world of a Saviour. The knife was at his own throat also. God’s unfailing word had assured him that no Messiah could be born without Isaac. Do you begin to see into the fiery crucible of Abraham’s test? No wonder Jesus spoke of Abraham being able to see His day.

Even though his hand was stayed and God provided another sacrifice, Abraham really did give up his son that day. He experienced all the pain, heartbreak, and horror that attends the death of an only child. Holding the power to save His son’s life, he would not exercise it. God intervened only after it was fully apparent that Abraham would not hesitate to offer up Isaac. Thank God for the faith of Abraham and for the equal faith and submission of his beloved son. No one can miss the impact of that very moving, human story. It brings the love and sacrifice of the atonement within the understanding of every child of Adam. Now we can grasp a little better how the Father and His only begotten Son suffered at the cross. The cost of our redemption becomes clearer.

How the Cross Provides Forgiveness
But now we must consider another aspect of this heavenly drama which will fur- ther illuminate God’s love and sacrifice. How does the death of one man, the second Adam, provide forgiveness for all who have sinned? The Bible says, “Without shedding of blood is no remission (of sins).” Hebrews 9:22. Remission, of course, means forgiveness. The question is, How does Christ’s death make it possible for Him to forgive sin? This brings us to the crux of all we have learned so far. It was necessary for Jesus to suffer the second death in order to acquire the power to forgive.

The germ of all forgiveness is rooted in an act of substitution. Whoever forgives another person must actually substitute himself for the one he forgives, and be willing to suffer the consequences of the wrong done. For example, if I forgive someone a debt, I must be prepared to suffer the loss of the amount. If I forgive a blow, I must be willing to suffer the pain of it, without requiring the one who gave it to be punished.

Justice requires that every offender be recompensed in proportion to what he did: an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. The one who gives a blow must also suffer an equal blow in return. Forgiveness, though, relieves the offender from receiving what he legally deserves. The forgiver accepts the consequence himself in order that the guilty one can go free without punishment. Thus there is clearly a substitution of the innocent for the guilty in every act of forgiveness.

As a further demonstration let us imagine that a murdered man could forgive his murderer from beyond the grave. He would, in effect, be consenting to his own death in order that the killer would not be punished. By accepting the results of the offense against him, he allows his own death to satisfy the penalty which could be legally laid upon the murderer.

This illustration brings us very close to the heart of the atonement. We are dealing here with the readjustment of a jarred relationship. That is what atonement really is. Two parties are always involved, the wronged and the wrongdoer. In this case it is God, the wronged, and man, the one who sins against Him. Justice demands an adequate expiation of the sin. Only two courses are possible: either justice will exact the prescribed penalty, or there must be forgiveness from the offended one. If forgiveness is extended, the forgiver will have to accept the consequences of the sin, and suffer it in place of the guilty. The penalty for sin is death. So in order to grant forgiveness to the sinner, Jesus must be willing to bear in His own body the same punishment that the broken law would demand of the sinner.

The punishment for sin is not the first death, but the second death. That is why the protracted agony of Jesus on the cross was totally unlike any other death. Thousands of criminals were crucified in the same physical way that Christ was nailed to the cross, but they suffered only the bodily pain of the first death. He experienced the awful condemnation and separation from God that the vilest of sinners will feel in the lake of fire. His sensitive nature was traumatized by sharing vicariously the guilt of foul rapes, murders, and atrocities. He became sin in order to allow the full wrath of the law to fall upon Him in exactly the same way it would fall upon the lost.

In no other way can we explain the mysterious anguish of spirit which surrounded our Saviour in His closing hours of life. From the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus bore the accumulated sins of mankind on His breaking heart. Not one ray of light was permitted to penetrate the blanket of total alienation from His Father in heaven. In order to take the place of guilty sinners and to provide forgiveness there could be no difference in their penalty and His penalty.

Let no one suggest that the Father did not suffer equally with His Son. The divine forbearance of God in allowing wicked men to torture His Son to death is the ultimate proof that He loves us with the same love that He loved Jesus. The choice He faced was very simple. He could spare the Son or He could spare us. There was no other choice. The law had been broken-the law which was holy and perfect. As a reflection of His character it could not be changed or destroyed. The penalty had to be paid. The Father loved those who had broken His law, but He also loved His Son.

Look again at the scene around that cross. God looked upon those wicked men as they spat upon Jesus and hit Him in the face with their fists. They were unworthy to touch the hem of His garment, but they were mauling Him to death. He held the power in His hand to smite those little men into oblivion. He could save His Son from cruel taunts and blows, but if He intervened not one human being would ever live again. Adam, Abraham Joseph, Daniel, and every other child of Adam would be lost for eternity. Their resurrection depended wholly upon the death and resurrection of His Beloved Son. In His omniscience God must have remembered every individual face and name, even of those who had not yet been born.

In that moment God thought about you and me. Even though He saw all our miserable failures He still wanted us to be with Him for eternity. He knew the great majority would not accept the offer of eternal life with Him, even though it would be provided at such a fearful cost. But He also knew that a few would love Him and gladly receive the substitutionary death of His Son in their behalf. So God turned away from His Son, and allowed Him to be crushed to death under the weight of sins He did not commit. Even the sun hid its face from the terrible scene, and the earth shuddered in protest. “It is finished,” Jesus cried, and yielded up His life. John 19:30.

Was the Price Too High?
The price of redemption had been paid. Was it too high? For multiplied millions it was an empty investment, a wasted sacrifice. They would lightly esteem the entire transaction and reject it out of hand. But what about you? Now that you see a little clearer what it cost, do you find yourself responding to the investment He made in your salvation?

So far we have focused upon the enormous scope of the atonement – how it provided for every man, woman, and child who has ever lived. This emphasis should not obscure the terribly personal aspect of what He did. The quality of that love which brought Jesus to His death on the cross was such that He would have made the same sacrifice for even one soul. I need to remind myself every day that God not only “so loved the world,” but He so loved me, that He gave His Son. The genius of the entire plan of salvation revolved around the application of His death to individuals.

Christ’s love for people is repeatedly dramatized in the Bible. We see it in His time-consuming, one-person interviews. Some of His most significant spiritual discourses were delivered to single individuals. We see it also in the dangerous voyage He made across the sea to deliver the Gadarene demoniac. It occupied fully two days of His precious time to cross that stormy water and return. Only one man was directly contacted during that unpleasant excursion, but that man, later, turned the whole countryside toward the Saviour.

We must watch Jesus relate to Nicodemus, the leper, the harlot, and the despised tax-assessor before we can understand the value of a single soul. He took time with people regardless of their position or possessions. The woman of Samaria was just another shameless community “character” when Christ took the opportunity to engage her in a conversation that turned her life upside down.

Undoubtedly Jesus looked at each person as a candidate for eternal life. How else can we explain His association with Simon, Zacchaeus, and Mary Magdalene? He saw in every soul the glorious potential of reflecting His own holy character for both time and eternity. He saw there the reason for His incarnation. Each soul was the one He had come to redeem. Those were the faces which came into His mind as He hung on the cross, strengthening Him to drain the cup of His suffering.

One of the most astounding statements in the Bible about the atonement is found in He- brews 12:2, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

How could that terrible experience on the cross have any joy connected with it? We are assured that some joyful motive girded Him for the shame and humiliation of the crucifixion. What was “the joy that was set before him”? Here lies the secret of His self-abnegation. He did it in the strength of the anticipated joy of opening wide the gates of Paradise to welcome us into His never-ending kingdom. It was love for us, and the desire to be with us for eternity which led Him to endure the unendurable. Here is a positive assurance that He was thinking of you and me as He bore the wrenching cruelties of the cross.

Is one soul worth such an infinite price? In the light of eternity the answer is Yes. Consider the amazing fact that one redeemed soul will outlive all the combined years of earth’s total population. Eventually, in eternity, the life of that one person will outstrip by a million times all the life spans of all the inhabitants of this world put together. In this sense, one saved person represents more life, more accomplishment, and greater fulfillment than all the lost people combined. Jesus must have recognized that truth every time He looked into the face of a man, woman, or child. In even the most degraded human being He saw a life that could memorialize His love for longer than time had been computed.

With these glimpses into the real costs of Calvary, how could anyone lightly esteem His mission to planet earth? You can be that soul who will bear an everlasting witness to the love and grace of our Saviour. Never has so much been provided for so little. By a single step of faith we may exchange the deadly birthrights of the first Adam for the unsearchable riches of the second Adam. In a moment of surrender and acceptance we begin to share the life He deserved, because He was willing to bear the guilt, condemnation, and death we deserved. What an exchange! It will be the exhaustless theme of our study for all eternity. And as ages roll by, we will continue to get new, thrilling insights into the nature of His atoning love and sacrifice. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” Hebrews 2:3. So great? So very great! There is no answer to the question because there is no escape. Accept that salvation now that costs so much to provide. Don’t neglect it another moment.

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Prophecies Fulfilled.

29 Jan

When the time passed at which the Lord’s coming was first
expected,—in the spring of 1844,—those who had looked in faith
for His appearing were for a season involved in doubt and uncertainty.
While the world regarded them as having been utterly
defeated, and proved to have been cherishing a delusion, their
source of consolation was still the word of God. Many continued
to search the Scriptures, examining anew the evidences of their
faith, and carefully studying the prophecies to obtain further
light. The Bible testimony in support of their position seemed
clear and conclusive. Signs which could not be mistaken pointed
to the coming of Christ as near. The special blessing of the Lord,
both in the conversion of sinners and the revival of spiritual life
among Christians, had testified that the message was of Heaven.
And though the believers could not explain their disappointment,
they felt assured that God had led them in their past experience.
Interwoven with prophecies which they had regarded as applying
to the time of the second advent, was instruction specially
adapted to their state of uncertainty and suspense, and encouraging
them to wait patiently in the faith that what was now dark to
[392] their understanding would in due time be made plain.
Among these prophecies was that of Hab. 2:1-4: “I will stand
upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see
what He will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am
reproved. And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision,
22. Prophecies Fulfilled. 407
and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall
speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will
surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, his soul which is lifted up
is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.”
As early as 1842, the direction given in this prophecy, to
“write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run
that readeth it,” had suggested to Charles Fitch the preparation
of a prophetic chart to illustrate the visions of Daniel and the
Revelation. The publication of this chart was regarded as a fulfilment
of the command given by Habakkuk. No one, however,
then noticed that an apparent delay in the accomplishment of the
vision—a tarrying time—is presented in the same prophecy. After
the disappointment, this scripture appeared very significant:
“The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall
speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will
surely come, it will not tarry…. The just shall live by his faith.”
A portion of Ezekiel’s prophecy also was a source of strength
and comfort to believers: “The word of the Lord came unto me,
saying, Son of man, what is that proverb that ye have in the
land of Israel, saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision
faileth? Tell them therefore, Thus saith the Lord God, … The
days are at hand, and the effect of every vision…. I will speak,
and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no
more prolonged.” “They of the house of Israel say, The vision
that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of
the times that are far off. Therefore say unto them, Thus saith
the Lord God: There shall none of My words be prolonged any [393]
more, but the word which I have spoken shall be done.”645
The waiting ones rejoiced, believing that He who knows the
end from the beginning had looked down through the ages,
and foreseeing their disappointment, had given them words of
645 Eze. 12:21-25, 27, 28.
408 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
courage and hope. Had it not been for such portions of Scripture,
admonishing them to wait with patience, and to hold fast their
confidence in God’s word, their faith would have failed in that
trying hour.
The parable of the ten virgins of Matthew 25 also illustrates
the experience of the Adventist people. In Matthew 24, in
answer to the question of His disciples concerning the sign of
His coming and of the end of the world, Christ had pointed out
some of the most important events in the history of the world
and of the church from His first to His second advent; namely,
the destruction of Jerusalem, the great tribulation of the church
under the pagan and papal persecutions, the darkening of the sun
and moon, and the falling of the stars. After this He spoke of
His coming in His kingdom, and related the parable describing
the two classes of servants who look for His appearing. Chapter
25 opens with the words, “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be
likened unto ten virgins.” Here is brought to view the church
living in the last days, the same that is pointed out in the close of
chapter 24. In this parable their experience is illustrated by the
incidents of an Eastern marriage.
“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins,
which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that
were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: but
the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the
bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight
there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out
to meet him.”
The coming of Christ, as announced by the first angel’s mes-
[394] sage, was understood to be represented by the coming of the
bridegroom. The wide-spread reformation under the proclamation
of His soon coming, answered to the going forth of the
virgins. In this parable, as in that of Matthew 24, two classes are
represented. All had taken their lamps, the Bible, and by its light
22. Prophecies Fulfilled. 409
had gone forth to meet the Bridegroom. But while “they that
were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them,” “the
wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.” The latter class
had received the grace of God, the regenerating, enlightening
power of the Holy Spirit, which renders His word a lamp to
the feet and a light to the path. In the fear of God they had
studied the Scriptures to learn the truth, and had earnestly sought
for purity of heart and life. These had a personal experience, a
faith in God and in His word, which could not be overthrown by
disappointment and delay. Others “took their lamps, and took
no oil with them.” They had moved from impulse. Their fears
had been excited by the solemn message, but they had depended
upon the faith of their brethren, satisfied with the flickering light
of good emotions, without a thorough understanding of the truth,
or a genuine work of grace in the heart. These had gone forth to
meet the Lord, full of hope in the prospect of immediate reward;
but they were not prepared for delay and disappointment. When
trials came, their faith failed, and their lights burned dim.
“While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.”
By the tarrying of the bridegroom is represented the passing of
the time when the Lord was expected, the disappointment, and
the seeming delay. In this time of uncertainty, the interest of
the superficial and half-hearted soon began to waver, and their
efforts to relax; but those whose faith was based on a personal
knowledge of the Bible, had a rock beneath their feet, which
the waves of disappointment could not wash away. “They all
slumbered and slept;” one class in unconcern and abandonment
of their faith, the other class patiently waiting till clearer light [395]
should be given. Yet in the night of trial the latter seemed to lose,
to some extent, their zeal and devotion. The half-hearted and
superficial could no longer lean upon the faith of their brethren.
Each must stand or fall for himself.
About this time, fanaticism began to appear. Some who had
professed to be zealous believers in the message, rejected the
410 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
word of God as the one infallible guide, and claiming to be led
by the Spirit, gave themselves up to the control of their own
feelings, impressions, and imaginations. There were some who
manifested a blind and bigoted zeal, denouncing all who would
not sanction their course. Their fanatical ideas and exercises met
with no sympathy from the great body of Adventists; yet they
served to bring reproach upon the cause of truth.
Satan was seeking by this means to oppose and destroy the
work of God. The people had been greatly stirred by the Advent
Movement, thousands of sinners had been converted, and
faithful men were giving themselves to the work of proclaiming
the truth, even in the tarrying time. The prince of evil was
losing his subjects; and in order to bring reproach upon the cause
of God, he sought to deceive some who professed the faith,
and to drive them to extremes. Then his agents stood ready to
seize upon every error, every failure, every unbecoming act, and
hold it up before the people in the most exaggerated light, to
render Adventists and their faith odious. Thus the greater the
number whom he could crowd in to make a profession of faith
in the second advent while his power controlled their hearts, the
greater advantage would he gain by calling attention to them as
representatives of the whole body of believers.
Satan is “the accuser of the brethren,” and it is his spirit that
inspires men to watch for the errors and defects of the Lord’s
people, and to hold them up to notice, while their good deeds are
passed by without a mention. He is always active when God is
at work for the salvation of souls. When the sons of God come
[396] to present themselves before the Lord, Satan comes also among
them. In every revival he is ready to bring in those who are
unsanctified in heart and unbalanced in mind. When these have
accepted some points of truth, and gained a place with believers,
he works through them to introduce theories that will deceive the
unwary. No man is proved to be a true Christian because he is
found in company with the children of God, even in the house
22. Prophecies Fulfilled. 411
of worship and around the table of the Lord. Satan is frequently
there upon the most solemn occasions, in the form of those whom
he can use as his agents.
The prince of evil contests every inch of ground over which
God’s people advance in their journey toward the heavenly city.
In all the history of the church, no reformation has been carried
forward without encountering serious obstacles. Thus it was in
Paul’s day. Wherever the apostle raised up a church, there were
some who professed to receive the faith, but who brought in
heresies, that, if received, would eventually crowd out the love
of the truth. Luther also suffered great perplexity and distress
from the course of fanatical persons who claimed that God had
spoken directly through them, and who therefore set their own
ideas and opinions above the testimony of the Scriptures. Many
who were lacking in faith and experience, but who had considerable
self-sufficiency, and who loved to hear and tell some new
thing, were beguiled by the pretensions of the new teachers, and
they joined the agents of Satan in their work of tearing down
what God had moved Luther to build up. And the Wesleys,
and others who blessed the world by their influence and their
faith, encountered at every step the wiles of Satan in pushing
overzealous, unbalanced, and unsanctified ones into fanaticism
of every grade.
William Miller had no sympathy with those influences that
led to fanaticism. He declared, with Luther, that every spirit
should be tested by the word of God. “The devil,” said Miller,
“has great power over the minds of some at the present day. And
how shall we know what manner of spirit they are of? The [397]
Bible answers: ‘By their fruits ye shall know them.’… There are
many spirits gone out into the world; and we are commanded to
try the spirits. The spirit that does not cause us to live soberly,
righteously, and godly, in this present world, is not the Spirit of
Christ. I am more and more convinced that Satan has much to
do in these wild movements…. Many among us, who pretend
412 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
to be wholly sanctified, are following the traditions of men, and
apparently are as ignorant of truth as others who make no such
pretensions.”646 “The spirit of error will lead us from the truth;
and the Spirit of God will lead us into truth. But, say you, a man
may be in an error, and think he has the truth. What then? We
answer, The Spirit and word agree. If a man judges himself by
the word of God, and finds a perfect harmony through the whole
word, then he must believe he has the truth; but if he finds the
spirit by which he is led does not harmonize with the whole tenor
of God’s law or book, then let him walk carefully, lest he be
caught in the snare of the devil.”647 “I have often obtained more
evidence of inward piety from a kindling eye, a wet cheek, and a
choked utterance, than from all the noise in Christendom.”648
In the days of the Reformation its enemies charged all the
evils of fanaticism upon the very ones who were laboring most
earnestly against it. A similar course was pursued by the opposers
of the Advent Movement. And not content with misrepresenting
and exaggerating the errors of extremists and fanatics, they circulated
unfavorable reports that had not the slightest semblance
of truth. These persons were actuated by prejudice and hatred.
Their peace was disturbed by the proclamation of Christ at the
door. They feared it might be true, yet hoped it was not, and this
[398] was the secret of their warfare against Adventists and their faith.
The fact that a few fanatics worked their way into the ranks of
Adventists is no more a reason to decide that the movement was
not of God, than was the presence of fanatics and deceivers in
the church in Paul’s or Luther’s day a sufficient excuse for condemning
their work. Let the people of God arouse out of sleep,
and begin in earnest the work of repentance and reformation; let
them search the Scriptures to learn the truth as it is in Jesus; let
646 Bliss, “Memoirs of Wm. Miller,” pp. 236, 237, 282.
647 The Advent Herald and Signs of the Times Reporter, Vol. VIII, No. 23 (Jan.
15, 1845).
648 Ibid.
22. Prophecies Fulfilled. 413
them make an entire consecration to God, and evidence will not
be wanting that Satan is still active and vigilant. With all possible
deception he will manifest his power, calling to his aid all the
fallen angels of his realm.
It was not the proclamation of the second advent that created
fanaticism and division. These appeared in the summer of 1844,
when Adventists were in a state of doubt and perplexity concerning
their real position. The preaching of the first angel’s message
and of the “midnight cry” tended directly to repress fanaticism
and dissension. Those who participated in these solemn movements
were in harmony; their hearts were filled with love for
one another, and for Jesus, whom they expected soon to see. The
one faith, the one blessed hope, lifted them above the control of
any human influence, and proved a shield against the assaults of
Satan.
“While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom
cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose,
and trimmed their lamps.”649 In the summer of 1844, midway
between the time when it had been first thought that the 2300
days would end, and the autumn of the same year, to which it
was afterward found that they extended, the message was proclaimed
in the very words of Scripture, “Behold, the Bridegroom
cometh!”
That which led to this movement was the discovery that the
decree of Artaxerxes for the restoration of Jerusalem, which
formed the starting-point for the period of the 2300 days, went
into effect in the autumn of the year B.C. 457, and not at the [399]
beginning of the year, as had been formerly believed. Reckoning
from the autumn of 457, the 2300 years terminate in the autumn
of 1844.650
649 Matt. 25:5-7.
650 See Appendix.
414 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
Arguments drawn from the Old Testament types also pointed
to the autumn as the time when the event represented by the
“cleansing of the sanctuary” must take place. This was made
very clear as attention was given to the manner in which the
types relating to the first advent of Christ had been fulfilled.
The slaying of the Passover lamb was a shadow of the death
of Christ. Says Paul, “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.”651
The sheaf of first-fruits, which at the time of the Passover was
waved before the Lord, was typical of the resurrection of Christ.
Paul says, in speaking of the resurrection of the Lord, and of all
His people, “Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s
at His coming.”652 Like the wave-sheaf, which was the first ripe
grain gathered before the harvest, Christ is the first-fruits of that
immortal harvest of redeemed ones that at the future resurrection
shall be gathered into the garner of God.
These types were fulfilled, not only as to the event, but as to
the time. On the fourteenth day of the first Jewish month, the very
day and month on which, for fifteen long centuries, the Passover
lamb had been slain, Christ, having eaten the Passover with His
disciples, instituted that feast which was to commemorate His
own death as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of
the world.” That same night He was taken by wicked hands, to
be crucified and slain. And as the antitype of the wave-sheaf,
our Lord was raised from the dead on the third day, “the firstfruits
of them that slept,”653 a sample of all the resurrected just,
whose “vile body” shall be changed, and “fashioned like unto
His glorious body.”654
In like manner, the types which relate to the second advent
[400] must be fulfilled at the time pointed out in the symbolic service.
Under the Mosaic system, the cleansing of the sanctuary, or
651 1 Cor. 5:7.
652 1 Cor. 15:23, 20.
653 Ibid.
654 Phil. 3:21.
22. Prophecies Fulfilled. 415
the great day of atonement, occurred on the tenth day of the
seventh Jewish month,655 when the high priest, having made an
atonement for all Israel, and thus removed their sins from the
sanctuary, came forth and blessed the people. So it was believed
that Christ, our great High Priest, would appear to purify the earth
by the destruction of sin and sinners, and to bless His waiting
people with immortality. The tenth day of the seventh month,
the great day of atonement, the time of the cleansing of the
sanctuary, which in the year 1844 fell upon the twenty-second
of October, was regarded as the time of the Lord’s coming. This
was in harmony with the proofs already presented, that the 2300
days would terminate in the autumn, and the conclusion seemed
irresistible.
In the parable of Matthew 25 the time of waiting and slumber
is followed by the coming of the bridegroom. This was in accordance
with the arguments just presented, both from prophecy
and from the types. They carried strong conviction of their
truthfulness; and the “midnight cry” was heralded by thousands
of believers.
Like a tidal wave the movement swept over the land. Fromcity
to city, from village to village, and into remote country places
it went, until the waiting people of God were fully aroused.
Fanaticism disappeared before this proclamation, like early frost
before the rising sun. Believers saw their doubt and perplexity
removed, and hope and courage animated their hearts. The work
was free from those extremes which are ever manifested when
there is human excitement without the controlling influence of
the word and Spirit of God. It was similar in character to those
seasons of humiliation and returning unto the Lord which among
ancient Israel followed messages of reproof from His servants. It
bore the characteristics that mark the work of God in every age.
There was little ecstatic joy, but rather deep searching of heart,
655 Lev. 16:29-34.
416 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
[401] confession of sin, and forsaking of the world. A preparation to
meet the Lord was the burden of agonizing spirits. There was
persevering prayer, and unreserved consecration to God.
Said Miller, in describing that work: “There is no great expression
of joy: that is, as it were, suppressed for a future
occasion, when all heaven and earth will rejoice together with
joy unspeakable and full of glory. There is no shouting: that, too,
is reserved for the shout from heaven. The singers are silent: they
are waiting to join the angelic hosts, the choir from heaven….
There is no clashing of sentiments: all are of one heart and of
one mind.”656
Another who participated in the movement testified: “It
produced everywhere the most deep searching of heart and humiliation
of soul before the God of high heaven. It caused a
weaning of affections from the things of this world, a healing of
controversies and animosities, a confession of wrongs, a breaking
down before God, and penitent, broken-hearted supplications to
Him for pardon and acceptance. It caused self-abasement and
prostration of soul, such as we never before witnessed. As God
by Joel commanded, when the great day of God should be at
hand, it produced a rending of hearts and not of garments, and a
turning unto the Lord with fasting, and weeping, and mourning.
As God said by Zechariah, a spirit of grace and supplication was
poured out upon His children; they looked to Him whom they
had pierced, there was a great mourning in the land, … and
those who were looking for the Lord afflicted their souls before
Him.”657
Of all the great religious movements since the days of the
apostles, none have been more free from human imperfection
and the wiles of Satan than was that of the autumn of 1844.
Even now, after the lapse of many years, all who shared in that
movement and who have stood firm upon the platform of truth,
656 Bliss, “Memoirs of Wm. Miller,” pp. 270, 271.
657 Bliss, in the Advent Shield and Review, Vol. I, p. 271 (Jan., 1845).
22. Prophecies Fulfilled. 417
still feel the holy influence of that blessed work, and bear witness
that it was of God. [402]
At the call, “The Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him,”
the waiting ones “arose and trimmed their lamps;” they studied
the word of God with an intensity of interest before unknown.
Angels were sent from heaven to arouse those who had become
discouraged, and prepare them to receive the message. The work
did not stand in the wisdom and learning of men, but in the power
of God. It was not the most talented, but the most humble and
devoted, who were the first to hear and obey the call. Farmers
left their crops standing in the fields, mechanics laid down their
tools, and with tears and rejoicing went out to give the warning.
Those who had formerly led in the cause were among the last
to join in this movement. The churches in general closed their
doors against this message, and a large company of those who
received it withdrew from their connection. In the providence of
God, this proclamation united with the second angel’s message,
and gave power to that work.
The message, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh!” was not so
much a matter of argument, though the Scripture proof was clear
and conclusive. There went with it an impelling power that
moved the soul. There was no doubt, no questioning. Upon the
occasion of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the people
who were assembled from all parts of the land to keep the feast,
flocked to the Mount of Olives, and as they joined the throng that
were escorting Jesus, they caught the inspiration of the hour, and
helped to swell the shout, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name
of the Lord!”658 In like manner did unbelievers who flocked
to the Adventist meetings—some from curiosity, some merely
to ridicule—feel the convincing power attending the message,
“Behold, the Bridegroom cometh!”
At that time there was faith that brought answers to
658 Matt. 21:9.
418 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
prayer,—faith that had respect to the recompense of reward.
Like showers of rain upon the thirsty earth, the Spirit of grace
[403] descended upon the earnest seekers. Those who expected soon
to stand face to face with their Redeemer, felt a solemn joy that
was unutterable. The softening, subduing power of the Holy
Spirit melted the heart, as His blessing was bestowed in rich
measure upon the faithful, believing ones.
Carefully and solemnly those who received the message came
up to the time when they hoped to meet their Lord. Every morning
they felt that it was their first duty to secure the evidence
of their acceptance with God. Their hearts were closely united,
and they prayed much with and for one another. They often met
together in secluded places to commune with God, and the voice
of intercession ascended to heaven from the fields and groves.
The assurance of the Saviour’s approval was more necessary to
them than their daily food; and if a cloud darkened their minds,
they did not rest until it was swept away. As they felt the witness
of pardoning grace, they longed to behold Him whom their souls
loved.
But again they were destined to disappointment. The time
of expectation passed, and their Saviour did not appear. With
unwavering confidence they had looked forward to His coming,
and now they felt as did Mary, when, coming to the Saviour’s
tomb and finding it empty, she exclaimed with weeping, “They
have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid
Him.”659
A feeling of awe, a fear that the message might be true, had
for a time served as a restraint upon the unbelieving world. After
the passing of the time, this did not at once disappear; at first
they dared not triumph over the disappointed ones; but as no
tokens of God’s wrath were seen, they recovered from their fears,
and resumed their reproach and ridicule. A large class who
659 John 20:13.
22. Prophecies Fulfilled. 419
had professed to believe in the Lord’s soon coming, renounced
their faith. Some who had been very confident were so deeply
wounded in their pride that they felt like fleeing from the world.
Like Jonah, they complained of God, and chose death rather than
life. [404]
Those who had based their faith upon the opinions of others,
and not upon the word of God, were now as ready again to
change their views. The scoffers won the weak and cowardly
to their ranks, and all these united in declaring that there could
be no more fears or expectations now. The time had passed, the
Lord had not come, and the world might remain the same for
thousands of years.
The earnest, sincere believers had given up all for Christ, and
had shared His presence as never before. They had, as they
believed, given their last warning to the world; and expecting
soon to be received into the society of their divine Master and the
heavenly angels, they had, to a great extent, withdrawn from the
society of those who did not receive the message. With intense
desire they had prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus, and come quickly.”
But He had not come. And now to take up again the heavy
burden of life’s cares and perplexities, and to endure the taunts
and sneers of a scoffing world, was a terrible trial of faith and
patience.
Yet this disappointment was not so great as was that experienced
by the disciples at the time of Christ’s first advent. When
Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, His followers believed
that He was about to ascend the throne of David, and deliver
Israel from her oppressors. With high hopes and joyful anticipations
they vied with one another in showing honor to their
King. Many spread their outer garments as a carpet in His path,
or strewed before Him the leafy branches of the palm. In their
enthusiastic joy they united in the glad acclaim, “Hosanna to the
Son of David!” When the Pharisees, disturbed and angered by
this outburst of rejoicing, wished Jesus to rebuke His disciples,
420 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
He replied, “If these should hold their peace, the stones would
immediately cry out.”660 Prophecy must be fulfilled. The disciples
were accomplishing the purpose of God; yet they were
doomed to a bitter disappointment. But a few days had passed
ere they witnessed the Saviour’s agonizing death, and laid Him
in the tomb. Their expectations had not been realized in a single
[405] particular, and their hopes died with Jesus. Not till their Lord
had come forth triumphant from the grave could they perceive
that all had been foretold by prophecy, and “that Christ must
needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead.”661
Five hundred years before, the Lord had declared by the
prophet Zechariah, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout,
O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He
is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and
upon a colt the foal of an ass.”662 Had the disciples realized that
Christ was going to judgment and to death, they could not have
fulfilled this prophecy.
In like manner, Miller and his associates fulfilled prophecy,
and gave a message which Inspiration had foretold should be
given to the world, but which they could not have given had
they fully understood the prophecies pointing out their disappointment,
and presenting another message to be preached to
all nations before the Lord should come. The first and second
angels’ messages were given at the right time, and accomplished
the work which God designed to accomplish by them.
The world had been looking on, expecting that if the time
passed and Christ did not appear, the whole system of Adventism
would be given up. But while many, under strong temptation,
yielded their faith, there were some who stood firm. The fruits of
the Advent Movement, the spirit of humility and heart-searching,
of renouncing of the world and reformation of life, which had at-
660 Luke 19:40.
661 Acts 17:3.
662 Zech. 9:9.
22. Prophecies Fulfilled. 421
tended the work, testified that it was of God. They dared not deny
that the power of the Holy Spirit had witnessed to the preaching
of the second advent, and they could detect no error in their
reckoning of the prophetic periods. The ablest of their opponents
had not succeeded in overthrowing their system of prophetic
interpretation. They could not consent, without Bible evidence,
to renounce positions which had been reached through earnest,
prayerful study of the Scriptures, by minds enlightened by the
Spirit of God, and hearts burning with its living power; positions [406]
which had withstood the most searching criticisms and the most
bitter opposition of popular religious teachers and worldly-wise
men, and which had stood firm against the combined forces of
learning and eloquence, and the taunts and revilings alike of the
honorable and the base.
True, there had been a failure as to the expected event, but
even this could not shake their faith in the word of God. When
Jonah proclaimed in the streets of Nineveh that within forty days
the city would be overthrown, the Lord accepted the humiliation
of the Ninevites, and extended their period of probation; yet the
message of Jonah was sent of God, and Nineveh was tested according
to His will. Adventists believed that in like manner God
had led them to give the warning of the judgment. “It has,” they
declared, “tested the hearts of all who heard it, and awakened a
love for the Lord’s appearing; or it has called forth a hatred, more
or less perceivable, but known to God, of His coming. It has
drawn a line, … so that those who will examine their own hearts,
may know on which side of it they would have been found, had
the Lord then come—whether they would have exclaimed, ‘Lo!
this is our God, we have waited for Him, and He will save us;’
or whether they would have called to the rocks and mountains to
fall on them to hide them from the face of Him that sitteth on
the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. God thus, as we
believe, has tested His people, has tried their faith, has proved
them, and seen whether they would shrink, in the hour of trial,
422 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
from the position in which He might see fit to place them; and
whether they would relinquish this world and rely with implicit
confidence in the word of God.”663
The feelings of those who still believed that God had led them
in their past experience, are expressed in the words of William
[407] Miller: “Were I to live my life over again, with the same
evidence that I then had, to be honest with God and man I should
have to do as I have done.” “I hope that I have cleansed my
garments from the blood of souls. I feel that, as far as it was in my
power, I have freed myself from all guilt in their condemnation.”
“Although I have been twice disappointed,” wrote this man of
God, “I am not yet cast down or discouraged…. My hope in the
coming of Christ is as strong as ever. I have done only what,
after years of solemn consideration, I felt it my solemn duty
to do. If I have erred, it has been on the side of charity, love
to my fellow-men, and conviction of duty to God.” “One thing
I do know, I have preached nothing but what I believed; and
God has been with me; His power has been manifested in the
work, and much good has been effected.” “Many thousands, to
all human appearance, have been made to study the Scriptures
by the preaching of the time; and by that means, through faith
and the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, have been reconciled
to God.”664 “I have never courted the smiles of the proud, nor
quailed when the world frowned. I shall not now purchase their
favor, nor shall I go beyond duty to tempt their hate. I shall never
seek my life at their hands, nor shrink, I hope, from losing it, if
God in His good providence so orders.”665
God did not forsake His people; His Spirit still abode with
those who did not rashly deny the light which they had received,
and denounce the Advent Movement. In the Epistle to
663 The Advent Herald and Signs of the Times Reporter, Vol. VIII, No. 14
(Nov. 13, 1844).
664 Bliss, “Memoirs of Wm. Miller,” pp. 256, 255, 277, 280, 281.
665 White, J., “Life of Wm. Miller,” p. 315.
22. Prophecies Fulfilled. 423
the Hebrews are words of encouragement and warning for the
tried, waiting ones at this crisis: “Cast not away therefore your
confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have
need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye
might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He that shall
come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by
faith: but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure
in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; [408]
but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”666
That this admonition is addressed to the church in the last days
is evident from the words pointing to the nearness of the Lord’s
coming: “For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come,
and will not tarry.” And it is plainly implied that there would be
a seeming delay, and that the Lord would appear to tarry. The
instruction here given is especially adapted to the experience
of Adventists at this time. The people here addressed were in
danger of making shipwreck of faith. They had done the will of
God in following the guidance of His Spirit and His word; yet
they could not understand His purpose in their past experience,
nor could they discern the pathway before them, and they were
tempted to doubt whether God had indeed been leading them. At
this time the words were applicable, “Now the just shall live by
faith.” As the bright light of the “midnight cry” had shone upon
their pathway, and they had seen the prophecies unsealed, and
the rapidly fulfilling signs telling that the coming of Christ was
near, they had walked, as it were, by sight. But now, bowed down
by disappointed hopes, they could stand only by faith in God and
in His word. The scoffing world were saying: “You have been
deceived. Give up your faith, and say that the Advent Movement
was of Satan.” But God’s word declared, “If any man draw back,
My soul shall have no pleasure in him.” To renounce their faith
now, and deny the power of the Holy Spirit which had attended
666 Heb. 10:35-39.
424 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
the message, would be drawing back toward perdition. They
were encouraged to steadfastness by the words of Paul, “Cast not
away therefore your confidence;” “ye have need of patience,”
“for yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will
not tarry.” Their only safe course was to cherish the light which
they had already received of God, hold fast to His promises, and
continue to search the Scriptures, and patiently wait and watch
to receive further light.

A Great Religious Awakening.

27 Jan

A great religious awakening under the proclamation of Christ’s
soon coming, is foretold in the prophecy of the first angel’s message
of Revelation 14. An angel is seen flying “in the midst of
heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that
dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue,
and people.” “With a loud voice” he proclaims the message,
“Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment
20. A Great Religious Awakening. 369
is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the
sea, and the fountains of waters.”590
The fact that an angel is said to be the herald of this warning,
is significant. By the purity, the glory, and the power of the heavenly
messenger, divine wisdom has been pleased to represent the
exalted character of the work to be accomplished by the message,
and the power and glory that were to attend it. And the angel’s
flight “in the midst of heaven,” the “loud voice” with which
the warning is uttered, and its promulgation to all “that dwell
on the earth,”—“to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and
people,”—give evidence of the rapidity and world-wide extent
of the movement.
The message itself sheds light as to the time when this movement
is to take place. It is declared to be a part of the “everlasting
gospel;” and it announces the opening of the judgment. The [356]
message of salvation has been preached in all ages; but this
message is a part of the gospel which could be proclaimed only
in the last days, for only then would it be true that the hour
of judgment had come. The prophecies present a succession
of events leading down to the opening of the judgment. This
is especially true of the book of Daniel. But that part of his
prophecy which related to the last days, Daniel was bidden to
close up and seal “to the time of the end.” Not till we reach this
time could a message concerning the judgment be proclaimed,
based on a fulfilment of these prophecies. But at the time of the
end, says the prophet, “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge
shall be increased.”591
The apostle Paul warned the church not to look for the coming
of Christ in his day. “That day shall not come,” he says,
“except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be
revealed.”592 Not till after the great apostasy, and the long period
590 Rev. 14:6, 7.
591 Dan. 12:4.
592 2 Thess. 2:3.
370 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
of the reign of the “man of sin,” can we look for the advent of
our Lord. The “man of sin,” which is also styled the “mystery of
iniquity,” the “son of perdition,” and “that wicked,” represents
the papacy, which, as foretold in prophecy, was to maintain its
supremacy for 1260 years. This period ended in 1798. The
coming of Christ could not take place before that time. Paul
covers with his caution the whole of the Christian dispensation
down to the year 1798. It is this side of that time that the message
of Christ’s second coming is to be proclaimed.
No such message has ever been given in past ages. Paul, as we
have seen, did not preach it; he pointed his brethren into the then
far-distant future for the coming of the Lord. The Reformers did
not proclaim it. Martin Luther placed the judgment about three
hundred years in the future from his day. But since 1798 the
book of Daniel has been unsealed, knowledge of the prophecies
has increased, and many have proclaimed the solemn message of
[357] the judgment near.
Like the great Reformation of the sixteenth century, the Advent
Movement appeared in different countries of Christendom
at the same time. In both Europe and America, men of faith and
prayer were led to the study of the prophecies, and tracing down
the inspired record, they saw convincing evidence that the end
of all things was at hand. In different lands there were isolated
bodies of Christians who, solely by the study of the Scriptures,
arrived at the belief that the Saviour’s advent was near.
In 1821, three years after Miller had arrived at his exposition
of the prophecies pointing to the time of the judgment, Dr.
Joseph Wolff, “the missionary to the world,” began to proclaim
the Lord’s soon coming. Wolff was born in Germany, of Hebrew
parentage, his father being a Jewish rabbi. While very young, he
was convinced of the truth of the Christian religion. Of an active,
inquiring mind, he had been an eager listener to the conversations
that took place in his father’s house, as devout Hebrews daily
assembled to recount the hopes and anticipations of their people,
20. A Great Religious Awakening. 371
the glory of the coming Messiah, and the restoration of Israel.
One day hearing Jesus of Nazareth mentioned, the boy inquired
who He was. “A Jew of the greatest talent,” was the answer; “but
as He pretended to be the Messiah, the Jewish tribunal sentenced
Him to death.” “Why,” rejoined the questioner, “is Jerusalem destroyed,
and why are we in captivity?” “Alas, alas!” answered his
father, “because the Jews murdered the prophets.” The thought
was at once suggested to the child, “Perhaps Jesus was also a
prophet, and the Jews killed Him when He was innocent.”593 So
strong was this feeling, that though forbidden to enter a Christian
church, he would often linger outside to listen to the preaching.
When only seven years old, he was boasting to an aged Christian
neighbor of the future triumph of Israel at the advent of the
Messiah, when the old man said kindly, “Dear boy, I will tell you
who the real Messiah was: He was Jesus of Nazareth, … whom [358]
your ancestors have crucified, as they did the prophets of old. Go
home and read the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, and you will be
convinced that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”594 Conviction at
once fastened upon him. He went home and read the scripture,
wondering to see how perfectly it had been fulfilled in Jesus of
Nazareth. Were the words of the Christian true? The boy asked
of his father an explanation of the prophecy, but was met with a
silence so stern that he never again dared to refer to the subject.
This, however, only increased his desire to know more of the
Christian religion.
The knowledge he sought was studiously kept from him in
his Jewish home; but when only eleven years old, he left his
father’s house, and went out into the world to gain for himself an
education, to choose his religion and his life-work. He found a
home for a time with kinsmen, but was soon driven from them
as an apostate, and alone and penniless he had to make his own
way among strangers. He went from place to place, studying dili-
593 “Travels and Adventures of the Rev. Joseph Wolff.” Vol. I, p. 6 (ed. 1860).
594 “Travels and Adventures of the Rev. Joseph Wolff,” Vol. I, p. 7.
372 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
gently, and maintaining himself by teaching Hebrew. Through
the influence of a Catholic instructor, he was led to accept the
Romish faith, and formed the purpose of becoming a missionary
to his own people. With this object he went, a few years later,
to pursue his studies in the College of the Propaganda at Rome.
Here his habit of independent thought and candid speech brought
upon him the imputation of heresy. He openly attacked the abuses
of the church, and urged the necessity of reform. Though at first
treated with special favor by the papal dignitaries, he was after a
time removed from Rome. Under the surveillance of the church
he went from place to place, until it became evident that he could
never be brought to submit to the bondage of Romanism. He was
declared to be incorrigible, and was left at liberty to go where
he pleased. He now made his way to England, and professing
the Protestant faith, united with the English Church. After two
[359] years’ study he set out, in 1821, upon his mission. While Wolff
accepted the great truth of Christ’s first advent as “a man of
sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” he saw that the prophecies
bring to view with equal clearness His second advent with power
and glory. And while he sought to lead his people to Jesus of
Nazareth as the Promised One, and to point them to His first
coming in humiliation as a sacrifice for the sins of men, he taught
them also of His second coming as a king and deliverer.
“Jesus of Nazareth, the true Messiah,” he said, “whose hands
and feet were pierced, who was brought like a lamb to the slaughter,
who was the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, who
after the scepter was taken from Judah, and the legislative power
from between his feet, came the first time; shall come the
second time in the clouds of heaven, and with the trump of the
Archangel,”595 “and shall stand upon the Mount of Olives; and
that dominion, once consigned to Adam over the creation, and
forfeited by him (Gen. 1:26; 3:17), shall be given to Jesus. He
595 Wolff, “Researches and Missionary Labors,” p. 62 (ed. 1835).
20. A Great Religious Awakening. 373
shall be king over all the earth. The groanings and lamentations
of the creation shall cease, but songs of praises and thanksgivings
shall be heard…. When Jesus comes in the glory of His Father,
with the holy angels, … the dead believers shall rise first. 1 Thess.
4:16; 1 Cor. 15: 23. This is what we Christians call the first
resurrection. Then the animal kingdom shall change its nature
(Isa. 11:6-9), and be subdued unto Jesus. Psalm 8. Universal
peace shall prevail.”596 “The Lord again shall look down upon
the earth, and say, ‘Behold, it is very good.’ ”597
Wolff believed the coming of the Lord to be at hand, his
interpretation of the prophetic periods placing the great consummation
within a very few years of the time pointed out by Miller.
To those who urged from the scripture, “Of that day and hour
knoweth no man,” that men are to know nothing concerning the
nearness of the advent, Wolff replied: “Did our Lord say that that
day and hour should never be known? Did He not give us signs
of the times, in order that we may know at least the approach [360]
of His coming, as one knows the approach of the summer by
the fig-tree putting forth its leaves? Matt. 24:32. Are we never
to know that period, whilst He Himself exhorteth us not only to
read Daniel the prophet, but to understand it? and in that very
Daniel, where it is said that the words were shut up to the time
of the end (which was the case in his time), and that ‘many shall
run to and fro’ (a Hebrew expression for observing and thinking
upon the time), ‘and knowledge’ (regarding that time) ‘shall be
increased.’ Dan. 12:4. Besides this, our Lord does not intend to
say by this, that the approach of the time shall not be known,
but that the exact ‘day and hour knoweth no man.’ Enough, He
does say, shall be known by the signs of the times, to induce us
to prepare for His coming, as Noah prepared the ark.”598
Concerning the popular system of interpreting, or misinter-
596 “Journal of the Rev. Joseph Wolff,” pp. 378, 379 (ed. 1839).
597 Idem, p. 294.
598 Wolff, “Researches and Missionary Labors,” pp. 404, 405.
374 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
preting, the Scriptures, Wolff wrote: “The greater part of the
Christian church have swerved from the plain sense of Scripture,
and have turned to the phantomizing system of the Buddhists,
who believe that the future happiness of mankind will consist
in moving about in the air, and suppose that when they are
reading Jews, they must understand Gentiles; and when they
read Jerusalem, they must understand the church; and if it is
said earth, it means sky; and for the coming of the Lord they
must understand the progress of the missionary societies; and
going up to the mountain of the Lord’s house, signifies a grand
class-meeting of Methodists.”599
During the twenty-four years from 1821 to 1845, Wolff traveled
extensively: in Africa, visiting Egypt and Abyssinia; in
Asia, traversing Palestine, Syria, Persia, Bokhara, and India. He
also visited the United States, on the journey thither preaching
on the island of St. Helena. He arrived in New York in August,
1837; and after speaking in that city, he preached in Philadelphia
and Baltimore, and finally proceeded to Washington. Here, he
says, “on a motion brought forward by the ex-president, John
[361] Quincy Adams, in one of the houses of Congress, the House
unanimously granted to me the use of the Congress Hall for
a lecture, which I delivered on a Saturday, honored with the
presence of all the members of Congress, and also of the bishop
of Virginia, and of the clergy and citizens of Washington. The
same honor was granted to me by the members of the government
of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, in whose presence I delivered
lectures on my researches in Asia, and also on the personal reign
of Jesus Christ.”600
Dr. Wolff traveled in the most barbarous countries, without
the protection of any European authority, enduring many hardships,
and surrounded with countless perils. He was bastinadoed
and starved, sold as a slave, and three times condemned to death.
599 “Journal of the Rev. Joseph Wolff,” p. 96.
600 “Journal of the Rev. Joseph Wolff,” pp. 398, 399.
20. A Great Religious Awakening. 375
He was beset by robbers, and sometimes nearly perished from
thirst. Once he was stripped of all that he possessed, and left to
travel hundreds of miles on foot through the mountains, the snow
beating in his face, and his naked feet benumbed by contact with
the frozen ground.
When warned against going unarmed among savage and hostile
tribes, he declared himself “provided with arms,”—“prayer,
zeal for Christ, and confidence in His help.” “I am also,” he said,
“provided with the love of God and my neighbor in my heart, and
the Bible is in my hand.”601 The Bible in Hebrew and English he
carried with him wherever he went. Of one of his later journeys
he says, “I … kept the Bible open in my hand. I felt my power
was in the book, and that its might would sustain me.”602
Thus he persevered in his labors until the message of the
judgment had been carried to a large part of the habitable globe.
Among Jews, Turks, Parsees, Hindoos, and many other nationalities
and races, he distributed the word of God in these various
tongues, and everywhere heralded the approaching reign of the
Messiah.
In his travels in Bokhara he found the doctrine of the Lord’s
soon coming held by a remote and isolated people. The Arabs [362]
of Yemen, he says, “are in possession of a book called ‘Seera,’
which gives notice of the second coming of Christ and His reign
in glory; and they expect great events to take place in the year
1840.”603 “In Yemen … I spent six days with the children of
Rechab. They drink no wine, plant no vineyard, sow no seed,
and live in tents, and remember good old Jonadab, the son of
Rechab; and I found in their company children of Israel, of the
tribe of Dan, … who expect, with the children of Rechab, the
speedy arrival of the Messiah in the clouds of heaven.”604
601 Adams, W. H. D., “In Perils Oft,” p. 192.
602 Idem, p. 201.
603 “Journal of the Rev. Joseph Wolff,” p. 377.
604 Idem, p. 389.
376 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
A similar belief was found by another missionary to exist in
Tartary. A Tartar priest put the question to the missionary, as to
when Christ would come the second time. When the missionary
answered that he knew nothing about it, the priest seemed greatly
surprised at such ignorance in one who professed to be a Bible
teacher, and stated his own belief, founded on prophecy, that
Christ would come about 1844.
As early as 1826 the advent message began to be preached in
England. The movement here did not take so definite a form as in
America; the exact time of the advent was not so generally taught,
but the great truth of Christ’s soon coming in power and glory was
extensively proclaimed. And this not among the dissenters and
non-conformists only. Mourant Brock, an English writer, states
that about seven hundred ministers of the Church of England
were engaged in preaching this “gospel of the kingdom.” The
message pointing to 1844 as the time of the Lord’s coming was
also given in Great Britain. Advent publications from the United
States were widely circulated. Books and journals were republished
in England. And in 1842, Robert Winter, an Englishman
by birth, who had received the advent faith in America, returned
to his native country to herald the coming of the Lord. Many
united with him in the work, and the message of the judgment
[363] was proclaimed in various parts of England.
In South America, in the midst of barbarism and priestcraft,
Lacunza, a Spaniard and a Jesuit, found his way to the Scriptures,
and thus received the truth of Christ’s speedy return. Impelled to
give the warning, yet desiring to escape the censures of Rome,
he published his views under the assumed name of “Rabbi Ben-
Israel,” representing himself as a converted Jew. Lacunza lived
in the eighteenth century, but it was about 1825 that his book,
having found its way to London, was translated into the English
language. Its publication served to deepen the interest already
awakening in England in the subject of the second advent.
In Germany the doctrine had been taught in the eighteenth
20. A Great Religious Awakening. 377
century by Bengel, a minister in the Lutheran Church, and a
celebrated biblical scholar and critic. Upon completing his education,
Bengel had “devoted himself to the study of theology,
to which the grave and religious tone of his mind, deepened
and strengthened by his early training and discipline, naturally
inclined him. Like other young men of thoughtful character,
before and since, he had to struggle with doubts and difficulties
of a religious nature, and he alludes, with much feeling, to the
‘many arrows which pierced his poor heart, and made his youth
hard to bear.’ ”605 Becoming a member of the consistory of
Würtemberg, he advocated the cause of religious liberty. “While
maintaining the rights and privileges of the church, he was an
advocate for all reasonable freedom being accorded to those who
felt themselves bound, on grounds of conscience, to withdraw
from her communion.”606 The good effects of this policy are still
felt in his native province.
It was while preparing a sermon from Revelation 21 for “Advent
Sunday” that the light of Christ’s second coming broke in
upon Bengel’s mind. The prophecies of the Revelation unfolded
to his understanding as never before. Overwhelmed with a sense
of the stupendous importance and surpassing glory of the scenes
presented by the prophet, he was forced to turn for a time from
the contemplation of the subject. In the pulpit it again presented [364]
itself to him with all its vividness and power. From that time he
devoted himself to the study of the prophecies, especially those
of the Apocalypse, and soon arrived at the belief that they pointed
to the coming of Christ as near. The date which he fixed upon as
the time of the second advent was within a very few years of that
afterward held by Miller.
Bengel’s writings have been spread throughout Christendom.
His views of prophecy were quite generally received in his own
state of Würtemberg, and to some extent in other parts of Ger-
605 Encyclopædia Britannica, art. Bengel (ninth edition).
606 Ibid.
378 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
many. The movement continued after his death, and the advent
message was heard in Germany at the same time that it was
attracting attention in other lands. At an early date some of the
believers went to Russia, and there formed colonies, and the faith
of Christ’s soon coming is still held by the German churches of
that country.
The light shone also in France and Switzerland. At Geneva,
where Farel and Calvin had spread the truths of the Reformation,
Gaussen preached the message of the second advent. While a student
at school, Gaussen had encountered that spirit of rationalism
which pervaded all Europe during the latter part of the eighteenth
and the opening of the nineteenth century; and when he entered
the ministry he was not only ignorant of true faith, but inclined to
skepticism. In his youth he had become interested in the study of
prophecy. After reading Rollin’s “Ancient History,” his attention
was called to the second chapter of Daniel, and he was struck
with the wonderful exactness with which the prophecy had been
fulfilled, as seen in the historian’s record. Here was a testimony
to the inspiration of the Scriptures, which served as an anchor
to him amid the perils of later years. He could not rest satisfied
with the teachings of rationalism, and in studying the Bible and
searching for clearer light he was, after a time, led to a positive
faith.
As he pursued his investigation of the prophecies, he arrived
at the belief that the coming of the Lord was at hand. Impressed
[365] with the solemnity and importance of this great truth, he desired
to bring it before the people; but the popular belief that the
prophecies of Daniel are mysteries and cannot be understood,
was a serious obstacle in his way. He finally determined—as
Farel had done before him in evangelizing Geneva—to begin
with the children, through whom he hoped to interest the parents.
“I desire this to be understood,” he afterward said, speaking
of his object in this undertaking, “it is not because of its small
importance, but on the contrary because of its great value, that I
20. A Great Religious Awakening. 379
wished to present it in this familiar form, and that I addressed it
to the children. I desired to be heard, and I feared that I would not
be if I addressed myself to the grown people first.” “I determined
therefore to go to the youngest. I gather an audience of children;
if the group enlarges, if it is seen that they listen, are pleased,
interested, that they understand and explain the subject, I am sure
to have a second circle soon, and in their turn, grown people will
see that it is worth their while to sit down and study. When this
is done, the cause is gained.”607
The effort was successful. As he addressed the children, older
persons came to listen. The galleries of his church were filled
with attentive hearers. Among them were men of rank and
learning, and strangers and foreigners visiting Geneva; and thus
the message was carried to other parts.
Encouraged by this success, Gaussen published his lessons,
with the hope of promoting the study of the prophetic books in
the churches of the French-speaking people. “To publish instruction
given to the children,” says Gaussen, “is to say to adults,
who too often neglect such books under the false pretense that
they are obscure, ‘How can they be obscure, since your children
understand them?’ ” “I had a great desire,” he adds, “to render a
knowledge of the prophecies popular in our flocks, if possible.”
“There is no study, indeed, which it seems to me answers the
needs of the time better.” “It is by this that we are to prepare for
the tribulation near at hand, and watch and wait for Jesus Christ.” [366]
Though one of the most distinguished and beloved of preachers
in the French language, Gaussen was after a time suspended
from the ministry, his principal offense being that instead of the
church’s catechism, a tame and rationalistic manual, almost destitute
of positive faith, he had used the Bible in giving instruction to
the youth. He afterward became teacher in a theological school,
while on Sunday he continued his work as catechist, addressing
607 Gaussen, L., “Daniel the Prophet,” Vol. II, Preface.
380 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
the children, and instructing them in the Scriptures. His works
on prophecy also excited much interest. From the professor’s
chair, through the press, and in his favorite occupation as teacher
of children, he continued for many years to exert an extensive
influence, and was instrumental in calling the attention of many
to the study of the prophecies which showed that the coming of
the Lord was near.
In Scandinavia also the advent message was proclaimed, and
a wide-spread interest was kindled. Many were roused from
their careless security, to confess and forsake their sins, and
seek pardon in the name of Christ. But the clergy of the state
church opposed the movement, and through their influence some
who preached the message were thrown into prison. In many
places where the preachers of the Lord’s soon coming were thus
silenced, God was pleased to send the message, in a miraculous
manner, through little children. As they were under age, the law
of the state could not restrain them, and they were permitted to
speak unmolested.
The movement was chiefly among the lower class, and it was
in the humble dwellings of the laborers that the people assembled
to hear the warning. The child-preachers themselves were
mostly poor cottagers. Some of them were not more than six or
eight years of age; and while their lives testified that they loved
the Saviour, and were trying to live in obedience to God’s holy
requirements, they ordinarily manifested only the intelligence
and ability usually seen in children of that age. When standing
before the people, however, it was evident that they were moved
[367] by an influence beyond their own natural gifts. Tone and manner
changed, and with solemn power they gave the warning of the
judgment, employing the very words of Scripture, “Fear God,
and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come.”
They reproved the sins of the people, not only condemning immorality
and vice, but rebuking worldliness and backsliding, and
warning their hearers to make haste to flee from the wrath to
20. A Great Religious Awakening. 381
come.
The people heard with trembling. The convicting Spirit of
God spoke to their hearts. Many were led to search the Scriptures
with new and deeper interest, the intemperate and immoral
were reformed, others abandoned their dishonest practices, and a
work was done so marked that even ministers of the state church
were forced to acknowledge that the hand of God was in the
movement.
It was God’s will that the tidings of the Saviour’s coming
should be given in the Scandinavian countries; and when the
voices of His servants were silenced, He put His Spirit upon the
children, that the work might be accomplished. When Jesus drew
near to Jerusalem attended by the rejoicing multitudes that, with
shouts of triumph and the waving of palm branches, heralded
Him as the Son of David, the jealous Pharisees called upon
Him to silence them; but Jesus answered that all this was in
fulfilment of prophecy, and if these should hold their peace, the
very stones would cry out. The people, intimidated by the threats
of the priests and rulers, ceased their joyful proclamation as they
entered the gates of Jerusalem; but the children in the temple
courts afterward took up the refrain, and waving their branches
of palm, they cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”608 When the
Pharisees, sorely displeased, said unto Him, “Hearest Thou what
these say?” Jesus answered, “Yea; have ye never read, Out of the
mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise?” As
God wrought through children at the time of Christ’s first advent,
so He wrought through them in giving the message of His second [368]
advent. God’s word must be fulfilled, that the proclamation of
the Saviour’s coming should be given to all peoples, tongues, and
nations.
To William Miller and his co-laborers it was given to preach
the warning in America. This country became the center of the
608 Matt. 21:8-16.
382 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
great Advent Movement. It was here that the prophecy of the
first angel’s message had its most direct fulfilment. The writings
of Miller and his associates were carried to distant lands. Wherever
missionaries had penetrated in all the world, were sent the
glad tidings of Christ’s speedy return. Far and wide spread the
message of the everlasting gospel, “Fear God, and give glory to
Him; for the hour of His judgment is come.”
The testimony of the prophecies which seemed to point to the
coming of Christ in the spring of 1844, took deep hold of the
minds of the people. As the message went from State to State,
there was everywhere awakened wide-spread interest. Many
were convinced that the arguments from the prophetic periods
were correct, and sacrificing their pride of opinion, they joyfully
received the truth. Some ministers laid aside their sectarian views
and feelings, left their salaries and their churches, and united in
proclaiming the coming of Jesus. There were comparatively few
ministers, however, who would accept this message; therefore
it was largely committed to humble laymen. Farmers left their
fields, mechanics their tools, traders their merchandise, professional
men their positions; and yet the number of workers was
small in comparison with the work to be accomplished. The
condition of an ungodly church and a world lying in wickedness,
burdened the souls of the true watchmen, and they willingly
endured toil, privation, and suffering, that they might call men
to repentance unto salvation. Though opposed by Satan, the
work went steadily forward, and the advent truth was accepted
[369] by many thousands.
Everywhere the searching testimony was heard, warning sinners,
both worldlings and church-members, to flee from the
wrath to come. Like John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ,
the preachers laid the axe at the root of the tree, and urged all
to bring forth fruit meet for repentance. Their stirring appeals
were in marked contrast to the assurances of peace and safety
that were heard from popular pulpits; and wherever the message
20. A Great Religious Awakening. 383
was given, it moved the people. The simple, direct testimony of
the Scriptures, set home by the power of the Holy Spirit, brought
a weight of conviction which few were able wholly to resist.
Professors of religion were roused from their false security. They
saw their backslidings, their worldliness and unbelief, their pride
and selfishness. Many sought the Lord with repentance and
humiliation. The affections that had so long clung to earthly
things they now fixed upon heaven. The Spirit of God rested
upon them, and with hearts softened and subdued they joined to
sound the cry, “Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of
His judgment is come.”
Sinners inquired with weeping, “What must I do to be saved?”
Those whose lives had been marked with dishonesty were anxious
to make restitution. All who found peace in Christ longed to
see others share the blessing. The hearts of parents were turned
to their children, and the hearts of children to their parents. The
barriers of pride and reserve were swept away. Heartfelt confessions
were made, and the members of the household labored for
the salvation of those who were nearest and dearest. Often was
heard the sound of earnest intercession. Everywhere were souls
in deep anguish, pleading with God. Many wrestled all night in
prayer for the assurance that their own sins were pardoned, or for
the conversion of their relatives or neighbors.
All classes flocked to the Adventist meetings. Rich and poor,
high and low, were, from various causes, anxious to hear for
themselves the doctrine of the second advent. The Lord held the
spirit of opposition in check while His servants explained the [370]
reasons of their faith. Sometimes the instrument was feeble; but
the Spirit of God gave power to His truth. The presence of holy
angels was felt in these assemblies, and many were daily added
to the believers. As the evidences of Christ’s soon coming were
repeated, vast crowds listened in breathless silence to the solemn
words. Heaven and earth seemed to approach each other. The
power of God was felt upon old and young and middle-aged.
384 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
Men sought their homes with praises upon their lips, and the glad
sound rang out upon the still night air. None who attended those
meetings can ever forget those scenes of deepest interest.
The proclamation of a definite time for Christ’s coming called
forth great opposition from many of all classes, from the minister
in the pulpit down to the most reckless, Heaven-daring sinner.
The words of prophecy were fulfilled: “There shall come in
the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying,
‘Where is the promise of His coming?’ for since the fathers fell
asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the
creation.”609 Many who professed to love the Saviour, declared
that they had no opposition to the doctrine of the second advent;
they merely objected to the definite time. But God’s all-seeing
eye read their hearts. They did not wish to hear of Christ’s
coming to judge the world in righteousness. They had been
unfaithful servants, their works would not bear the inspection
of the heart-searching God, and they feared to meet their Lord.
Like the Jews at the time of Christ’s first advent, they were not
prepared to welcome Jesus. They not only refused to listen to the
plain arguments from the Bible, but ridiculed those who were
looking for the Lord. Satan and his angels exulted, and flung the
taunt in the face of Christ and holy angels, that His professed
people had so little love for Him that they did not desire His
appearing.
“No man knoweth the day nor the hour,” was the argument
most often brought forward by rejecters of the advent faith. The
[371] scripture is, “Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not
the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”610 A clear and harmonious
explanation of this text was given by those who were
looking for the Lord, and the wrong use made of it by their
opponents was clearly shown. The words were spoken by Christ
in that memorable conversation with His disciples upon Olivet,
609 2 Peter 3:3, 4.
610 Matt. 24:36, 3, 33, 42-51.
20. A Great Religious Awakening. 385
after He had for the last time departed from the temple. The
disciples had asked the question, “What shall be the sign of Thy
coming, and of the end of the world?” Jesus gave them signs,
and said, “When ye shall see all these things, know that it is
near, even at the doors.”611 One saying of the Saviour must not
be made to destroy another. Though no man knoweth the day
nor the hour of His coming, we are instructed and required to
know when it is near. We are further taught that to disregard His
warning, and refuse or neglect to know when His advent is near,
will be as fatal for us as it was for those who lived in the days of
Noah not to know when the flood was coming. And the parable
in the same chapter, contrasting the faithful and the unfaithful
servant, and giving the doom of him who said in his heart,
“My Lord delayeth His coming,” shows in what light Christ will
regard and reward those whom He finds watching, and teaching
His coming, and those denying it. “Watch therefore,” He says;
“blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when He cometh shall
find so doing.”612 “If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come
on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come
upon thee.”613
Paul speaks of a class to whom the Lord’s appearing will come
unawares. “The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the
night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden
destruction cometh upon them, … and they shall not escape.” But
He adds, to those who have given heed to the Saviour’s warning,
“Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake
you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of
the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.”614 [372]
Thus it was shown that Scripture gives no warrant for men to
remain in ignorance concerning the nearness of Christ’s coming.
611 Ibid.
612 Ibid.
613 Rev. 3:3.
614 1 Thess. 5:2-5.
386 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
But those who desired only an excuse to reject the truth closed
their ears to this explanation; and the words, “No man knoweth
the day nor the hour,” continued to be echoed by the bold scoffer,
and even by the professed minister of Christ. As the people
were roused, and began to inquire the way of salvation, religious
teachers stepped in between them and the truth, seeking to quiet
their fears by falsely interpreting the word of God. Unfaithful
watchmen united in the work of the great deceiver, crying, Peace,
peace, when God had not spoken peace. Like the Pharisees in
Christ’s day, many refused to enter the kingdom of heaven themselves,
and those who were entering in, they hindered. The blood
of these souls will be required at their hand.
The most humble and devoted in the churches were usually
the first to receive the message. Those who studied the Bible
for themselves could not but see the unscriptural character of the
popular views of prophecy; and wherever the people were not
controlled by the influence of the clergy, wherever they would
search the word of God for themselves, the advent doctrine
needed only to be compared with the Scriptures to establish its
divine authority.
Many were persecuted by their unbelieving brethren. In order
to retain their position in the church, some consented to be silent
in regard to their hope; but others felt that loyalty to God forbade
them thus to hide the truths which He had committed to their
trust. Not a few were cut off from the fellowship of the church
for no other reason than expressing their belief in the coming
of Christ. Very precious to those who bore this trial of their
faith were the words of the prophet, “Your brethren that hated
you, that cast you out for My name’s sake, said, Let the Lord
be glorified: but He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be
[373] ashamed.”615
Angels of God were watching with the deepest interest the
615 Isa. 66:5.
20. A Great Religious Awakening. 387
result of the warning. When there was a general rejection of the
message by the churches, angels turned away in sadness. But
there were many who had not yet been tested in regard to the
advent truth. Many were misled by husbands, wives, parents, or
children, and were made to believe it a sin even to listen to such
heresies as were taught by the Adventists. Angels were bidden
to keep faithful watch over these souls; for another light was yet
to shine upon them from the throne of God.
With unspeakable desire those who had received the message
watched for the coming of their Saviour. The time when they
expected to meet Him was at hand. They approached this hour
with a calm solemnity. They rested in sweet communion with
God, an earnest of the peace that was to be theirs in the bright
hereafter. None who experienced this hope and trust can forget
those precious hours of waiting. For some weeks preceding the
time, worldly business was for the most part laid aside. The
sincere believers carefully examined every thought and emotion
of their hearts as if upon their death-beds and in a few hours to
close their eyes upon earthly scenes. There was no making of
“ascension robes;”616 but all felt the need of internal evidence
that they were prepared to meet the Saviour; their white robes
were purity of soul,—characters cleansed from sin by the atoning
blood of Christ. Would that there was still with the professed people
of God the same spirit of heart-searching, the same earnest,
determined faith. Had they continued thus to humble themselves
before the Lord, and press their petitions at the mercy-seat, they
would be in possession of a far richer experience than they now
have. There is too little prayer, too little real conviction of sin,
and the lack of living faith leaves many destitute of the grace so
richly provided by our Redeemer.
God designed to prove His people. His hand covered a mistake
in the reckoning of the prophetic periods. Adventists did not [374]
616 See Appendix.
388 The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan
discover the error, nor was it discovered by the most learned of
their opponents. The latter said: “Your reckoning of the prophetic
periods is correct. Some great event is about to take place; but it
is not what Mr. Miller predicts; it is the conversion of the world,
and not the second advent of Christ.”617
The time of expectation passed, and Christ did not appear for
the deliverance of His people. Those who with sincere faith and
love had looked for their Saviour, experienced a bitter disappointment.
Yet the purposes of God were being accomplished:
He was testing the hearts of those who professed to be waiting
for His appearing. There were among them many who had been
actuated by no higher motive than fear. Their profession of faith
had not affected their hearts or their lives. When the expected
event failed to take place, these persons declared that they were
not disappointed; they had never believed that Christ would
come. They were among the first to ridicule the sorrow of the
true believers.
But Jesus and all the heavenly host looked with love and sympathy
upon the tried and faithful yet disappointed ones. Could
the veil separating the visible from the invisible world have been
swept back, angels would have been seen drawing near to these
steadfast souls, and shielding them from the shafts of Satan.

“The Sower Went Forth to Sow”

25 Jan

The Sower and the Seed
By the parable of the sower, Christ illustrates the things of the kingdom of heaven, and the work
of the great Husbandman for His people. Like a sower in the field, He came to scatter the heavenly
grain of truth. And His parable teaching itself was the seed with which the most precious truths of His
grace were sown. Because of its simplicity the parable of the sower has not been valued as it should be.
From the natural seed cast into the soil, Christ desires to lead our minds to the gospel seed, the sowing
of which results in bringing man back to his loyalty to God. He who gave the parable of the tiny seed is
the Sovereign of heaven, and the same laws that govern earthly seed sowing govern the sowing of the
seeds of truth. {COL 33.1}
By the Sea of Galilee a company had gathered to see and hear Jesus–an eager, expectant throng.
The sick were there, lying on their mats, waiting to present their
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cases before Him. It was Christ’s God-given right to heal the woes of a sinful race, and He now
rebuked disease, and diffused around Him life and health and peace. {COL 33.2}
As the crowd continued to increase, the people pressed close about Christ until there was no room
to receive them. Then, speaking a word to the men in their fishing boats, He stepped into the boat that
was waiting to take Him across the lake, and bidding His disciples push off a little from the land, He
spoke to the multitude upon the shore. {COL 34.1}
Beside the sea lay the beautiful plain of Gennesaret, beyond rose the hills, and upon hillside and plain
both sowers and reapers were busy, the one casting seed and the other harvesting the early grain.
Looking upon the scene, Christ said– {COL 34.2}
“Behold, the sower went forth to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the
birds came and devoured them” (R.V.); “some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth;
and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was up, they
were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and
the thorns sprung up, and choked them: but other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an
hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.” {COL 34.3}
Christ’s mission was not understood by the people of His time. The manner of His coming was not in
accordance with their expectations. The Lord Jesus was the foundation of the whole Jewish economy.
Its imposing services were of divine appointment. They were designed to teach the people that at the
time appointed One would come to whom those ceremonies pointed. But the Jews had exalted the
forms and ceremonies and had lost sight of their object. The traditions, maxims, and enactments of men
hid from them the lessons which God intended to
35
convey. These maxims and traditions became an obstacle to their understanding and practice of true
religion. And when the Reality came, in the person of Christ, they did not recognize in Him the fulfillment
of all their types, the substance of all their shadows. They rejected the antitype, and clung to their types
and useless ceremonies. The Son of God had come, but they continued to ask for a sign. The message,
“Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” they answered by demands for a miracle. Matt. 3:2.
The gospel of Christ was a stumbling block to them because they demanded signs instead of a Saviour.
They expected the Messiah to prove His claims by mighty deeds of conquest, to establish His empire on
the ruins of earthly kingdoms. This expectation Christ answered in the parable of the sower. Not by
force of arms, not by violent interpositions, was the kingdom of God to prevail, but by the implanting of
a new principle in the hearts of men. {COL 34.4}
“He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man.” Matt. 13:37. Christ had come, not as a king, but
as a sower; not for the overthrow of kingdoms, but for the scattering of seed; not to point His followers
to earthly triumphs and national greatness, but to a harvest to be gathered after patient toil and through
losses and disappointments. {COL 35.1}
The Pharisees perceived the meaning of Christ’s parable, but to them its lesson was unwelcome.
They affected not to understand it. To the multitude it involved in still greater mystery the purpose of the
new teacher, whose words had so strangely moved their hearts and so bitterly disappointed their
ambitions. The disciples themselves had not understood the parable, but their interest was awakened.
They came to Jesus privately and asked for an explanation. {COL 35.2}
This was the desire which Christ wished to arouse, that He might give them more definite instruction.
He
36
explained the parable to them, as He will make plain His word to all who seek Him in sincerity of heart.
Those who study the word of God with hearts open to the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, will not
remain in darkness as to the meaning of the word. “If any man willeth to do His will,” Christ said, “he
shall know of the teaching whether it be of God, or whether I speak from Myself.” John 7:17, R.V. All
who come to Christ for a clearer knowledge of the truth will receive it. He will unfold to them the
mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, and these mysteries will be understood by the heart that longs to
know the truth. A heavenly light will shine into the soul temple, and will be revealed to others as the
bright shining of a lamp on a dark path. {COL 35.3}
“The sower went forth to sow” (R.V.). In the East the state of affairs was so unsettled, and there was
so great danger from violence that the people dwelt chiefly in walled towns, and the husbandmen went
forth daily to their labor outside the walls. So Christ, the heavenly Sower, went forth to sow. He left His
home of security and peace, left the glory that He had with the Father before the world was, left His
position upon the throne of the universe. He went forth, a suffering, tempted man; went forth in solitude,
to sow in tears, to water with His blood, the seed of life for a world lost. {COL 36.1}
His servants in like manner must go forth to sow. When called to become a sower of the seed of
truth, Abraham was bidden, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s
house, unto a land that I will show thee.” Gen. 12:1. “And he went out, not knowing whither he went.”
Heb. 11:8. So to the apostle Paul, praying in the temple at Jerusalem, came the message from God,
“Depart; for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.” Acts 22:21. So those who are called
37
to unite with Christ must leave all, in order to follow Him. Old associations must be broken up, plans of
life relinquished, earthly hopes surrendered. In toil and tears, in solitude, and through sacrifice, must the
seed be sown. {COL 36.2}
“The sower soweth the word.” Christ came to sow the world with truth. Ever since the fall of man,
Satan has been sowing the seeds of error. It was by a lie that he first gained control over men, and thus
he still works to overthrow God’s kingdom in the earth and to bring men
38
under his power. A sower from a higher world, Christ came to sow the seeds of truth. He who had
stood in the councils of God, who had dwelt in the innermost sanctuary of the Eternal, could bring to
men the pure principles of truth. Ever since the fall of man, Christ had been the Revealer of truth to the
world. By Him the incorruptible seed, “the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever,” is
communicated to men. 1 Peter 1:23. In that first promise spoken to our fallen race in Eden, Christ was
sowing the gospel seed. But it is to His personal ministry among men and to the work which He thus
established that the parable of the sower especially applies. {COL 37.1}
The word of God is the seed. Every seed has in itself a germinating principle. In it the life of the plant
is enfolded. So there is life in God’s word. Christ says, “The words that I speak unto you, they are
Spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63. “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath
everlasting life.” John 5:24. In every command and in every promise of the word of God is the power,
the very life of God, by which the command may be fulfilled and the promise realized. He who by faith
receives the word is receiving the very life and character of God. {COL 38.1}
Every seed brings forth fruit after its kind. Sow the seed under right conditions, and it will develop its
own life in the plant. Receive into the soul by faith the incorruptible seed of the word, and it will bring
forth a character and a life after the similitude of the character and the life of God. {COL 38.2}
The teachers of Israel were not sowing the seed of the word of God. Christ’s work as a teacher of
truth was in marked contrast to that of the rabbis of His time. They dwelt upon traditions, upon human
theories and speculations. Often that which man had taught and written about
39
the word, they put in place of the word itself. Their teaching had no power to quicken the soul. The
subject of Christ’s teaching and preaching was the word of God. He met questioners with a plain, “It is
written.” “What saith the Scriptures?” “How readest thou?” At every opportunity, when an interest was
awakened by either friend or foe, He sowed the seed of the word. He who is the Way, the Truth, and
the Life, Himself the living Word, points to the Scriptures, saying, “They are they which testify of Me.”
And “beginning at Moses and all the prophets,” He opened to His disciples “in all the Scriptures the
things concerning Himself.” John 5:39; Luke 24:27. {COL 38.3}
Christ’s servants are to do the same work. In our day, as of old, the vital truths of God’s word are
set aside for human theories and speculations. Many professed ministers of the gospel do not accept the
whole Bible as the inspired word. One wise man rejects one portion; another questions another part.
They set up their judgment as superior to the word; and the Scripture which they do teach rests upon
their own authority. Its divine authenticity is destroyed. Thus the seeds of infidelity are sown broadcast;
for the people become confused and know not what to believe. There are many beliefs that the mind
has no right to entertain. In the days of Christ the rabbis put a forced, mystical construction upon many
portions of Scripture. Because the plain teaching of God’s word condemned their practices, they tried to
destroy its force. The same thing is done today. The word of God is made to appear mysterious and
obscure in order to excuse transgression of His law. Christ rebuked these practices in His day. He
taught that the word of God was to be understood by all. He pointed to the Scriptures as of
unquestionable authority, and we should do the same. The Bible is to be presented as the word of the
infinite God, as
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the end of all controversy and the foundation of all faith. {COL 39.1}
The Bible has been robbed of its power, and the results are seen in a lowering of the tone of spiritual
life. In the sermons from many pulpits of today there is not that divine manifestation which awakens the
conscience and brings life to the soul. The hearers can not say, “Did not our heart burn within us, while
He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” Luke 24:32. There are many
who are crying out for the living God, longing for the divine presence. Philosophical theories or literary
essays, however brilliant, cannot satisfy the heart. The assertions and inventions of men are of no value.
Let the word of God speak to the people. Let those who have heard only traditions and human theories
and maxims hear the voice of Him whose word can renew the soul unto everlasting life. {COL 40.1}
Christ’s favorite theme was the paternal tenderness and abundant grace of God; He dwelt much
upon the holiness of His character and His law; He presented Himself to the people as the Way, the
Truth, and the Life. Let these be the themes of Christ’s ministers. Present the truth as it is in Jesus. Make
plain the requirements of the law and the gospel. Tell the people of Christ’s life of self-denial and
sacrifice; of His humiliation and death; of His resurrection and ascension; of His intercession for them in
the courts of God; of His promise, “I will come again, and receive you unto Myself.” John 14:3. {COL
40.2}
Instead of discussing erroneous theories, or seeking to combat the opponents of the gospel, follow
the example of Christ. Let fresh truths from God’s treasure house flash into life. “Preach the word.”
“Sow beside all waters.” “Be instant in season, out of season.” “He that hath My word, let him speak
My word faithfully. What is the chaff
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to the wheat? saith the Lord.” “Every word of God is pure. . . . Add thou not unto His words, lest He
reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” 2 Tim. 4:2; Isa. 32:20; Jer. 23:28; Prov. 30:5, 6. {COL 40.3}
“The sower soweth the word.” Here is presented the great principle which should underlie all
educational work. “The seed is the word of God.” But in too many schools of our day God’s word is set
aside. Other subjects occupy the mind. The study of infidel authors holds a large place in the educational
system. Skeptical sentiments are interwoven in the matter placed in school books. Scientific research
becomes misleading, because its discoveries are misinterpreted and perverted. The word of God is
compared with the supposed teachings of science, and is made to appear uncertain and untrustworthy.
Thus the seeds of doubt are planted in the minds of the youth, and in time of temptation they spring up.
When faith in God’s word is lost, the soul has no guide, no safeguard. The youth are drawn into paths
which lead away from God and from everlasting life. {COL 41.1}
To this cause may in great degree be attributed the widespread iniquity in our world today. When the
word of God is set aside, its power to restrain the evil passions of the natural heart is rejected. Men sow
to the flesh, and of the flesh they reap corruption. {COL 41.2}
And here, too, is the great cause of mental weakness and inefficiency. In turning from God’s word to
feed on the writings of uninspired men, the mind becomes dwarfed and cheapened. It is not brought in
contact with deep, broad principles of eternal truth. The understanding adapts itself to the
comprehension of the things with which it is familiar, and in this devotion to finite things it is weakened,
its power is contracted, and after a time it becomes unable to expand. {COL 41.3}
All this is false education. The work of every teacher
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should be to fasten the mind of the youth upon the grand truths of the word of Inspiration. This is the
education essential for this life and for the life to come. {COL 41.4}
And let it not be thought that this will prevent the study of the sciences, or cause a lower standard in
education. The knowledge of God is as high as heaven and as broad as the universe. There is nothing so
ennobling and invigorating as a study of the great themes which concern our eternal life. Let the youth
seek to grasp these God-given truths, and their minds will expand and grow strong in the effort. It will
bring every student who is a doer of the word into a broader field of thought, and secure for him a
wealth of knowledge that is imperishable. {COL 42.1}
The education to be secured by searching the Scriptures is an experimental knowledge of the plan of
salvation.
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Such an education will restore the image of God in the soul. It will strengthen and fortify the mind against
temptation, and fit the learner to become a co-worker with Christ in His mission of mercy to the world.
It will make him a member of the heavenly family; and prepare him to share the inheritance of the saints
in light. {COL 42.2}
But the teacher of sacred truth can impart only that which he himself knows by experience. “The
sower sowed his seed.” Christ taught the truth because He was the truth. His own thought, His
character, His life-experience, were embodied in His teaching. So with His servants: those who would
teach the word are to make it their own by a personal experience. They must know what it is to have
Christ made unto them wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. In presenting the
word of God to others, they are not to make it a suppose-so or a may-be. They should declare with the
apostle Peter, “We have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the
power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of His majesty.” 2 Peter 1:16.
Every minister of Christ and every teacher should be able to say with the beloved John, “The life was
manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life which was with
the Father, and was manifested unto us.” 1 John 1:2. {COL 43.1}
The Soil–by the Wayside
That with which the parable of the sower chiefly deals is the effect produced on the growth of
the seed by the soil into which it is cast. By this parable Christ was virtually saying to His hearers, It is
not safe for you to stand as critics of My work, or to indulge disappointment because it does not meet
your ideas. The question of
44
greatest importance to you is, How do you treat My message? Upon your reception or rejection of it
your eternal destiny depends. {COL 43.2}
Explaining the seed that fell by the wayside, He said, “When any one heareth the word of the
kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was
sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the wayside.” {COL 44.1}
The seed sown by the wayside represents the word of God as it falls upon the heart of an inattentive
hearer. Like the hard-beaten path, trodden down by the feet of men and beasts, is the heart that
becomes a highway for the world’s traffic, its pleasures and sins. Absorbed in selfish aims and sinful
indulgences, the soul is “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Heb. 3:13. The spiritual faculties are
paralyzed. Men hear the word, but understand it not. They do not discern that it applies to themselves.
They do not realize their need or their danger. They do not perceive the love of Christ, and they pass by
the message of His grace as something that does not concern them. {COL 44.2}
As the birds are ready to catch up the seed from the wayside, so Satan is ready to catch away the
seeds of divine truth from the soul. He fears that the word of God may awaken the careless, and take
effect upon the hardened heart. Satan and his angels are in the assemblies where the gospel is preached.
While angels of heaven endeavor to impress hearts with the word of God, the enemy is on the alert to
make the word of no effect. With an earnestness equaled only by his malice, he tries to thwart the work
of the Spirit of God. While Christ is drawing the soul by His love, Satan tries to turn away the attention
of the one who is moved to seek the Saviour. He engages the mind with worldly schemes. He excites
45
criticism, or insinuates doubt and unbelief. The speaker’s choice of language or his manner may not
please the hearers, and they dwell upon these defects. Thus the truth they need, and which God has
graciously sent them, makes no lasting impression. {COL 44.3}
Satan has many helpers. Many who profess to be Christians are aiding the tempter to catch away the
seeds of truth from other hearts. Many who listen to the preaching of the word of God make it the
subject of criticism at home. They sit in judgment on the sermon as they would on the words of a
lecturer or a political speaker. The message that should be regarded as the word of the Lord to them is
dwelt upon with trifling or sarcastic comment. The minister’s character, motives, and actions, and the
conduct of fellow members of the church, are freely discussed. Severe judgment is pronounced, gossip
or slander repeated, and this in the hearing of the unconverted. Often these things are spoken by parents
46
in the hearing of their own children. Thus are destroyed respect for God’s messengers, and reverence
for their message. And many are taught to regard lightly God’s word itself. {COL 45.1}
Thus in the homes of professed Christians many youth are educated to be infidels. And the parents
question why their children are so little interested in the gospel, and so ready to doubt the truth of the
Bible. They wonder that it is so difficult to reach them with moral and religious influences. They do not
see that their own example has hardened the hearts of their children. The good seed finds no place to
take root, and Satan catches it away. {COL 46.1}
In Stony Places
“He that receiveth the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon
with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while; for when tribulation or
persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.” {COL 46.2}
The seed sown upon stony ground finds little depth of soil. The plant springs up quickly, but the root
cannot penetrate the rock to find nutriment to sustain its growth, and it soon perishes. Many who make
a profession of religion are stony-ground hearers. Like the rock underlying the layer of earth, the
selfishness of the natural heart underlies the soil of their good desires and aspirations. The love of self is
not subdued. They have not seen the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the heart has not been humbled
under a sense of its guilt. This class may be easily convinced, and appear to be bright converts, but they
have only a superficial religion. {COL 46.3}
It is not because men receive the word immediately, nor because they rejoice in it, that they fall
away. As soon
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as Matthew heard the Saviour’s call, immediately he rose up, left all, and followed Him. As soon as the
divine word comes to our hearts, God desires us to receive it; and it is right to accept it with joy. “Joy
shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.” Luke 15:7. And there is joy in the soul that believes
on Christ. But those who in the parable are said to receive the word immediately, do not count the cost.
They do not consider what the word of God requires of them. They do not bring it face to face with all
their habits of life, and yield themselves fully to its control. {COL 46.4}
The roots of the plant strike down deep into the soil, and hidden from sight nourish the life of the
plant. So with the Christian; it is by the invisible union of the soul with Christ, through faith, that the
spiritual life is nourished. But the stony-ground hearers depend upon self instead of Christ. They trust in
their good works and good impulses, and are strong in their own righteousness. They are not strong in
the Lord, and in the power of His might. Such a one “hath not root in himself”; for he is not connected
with Christ. {COL 47.1}
The hot summer sun, that strengthens and ripens the hardy grain, destroys that which has no depth of
root. So he who “hath not root in himself,” “dureth for a while”; but “when tribulation or persecution
ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.” Many receive the gospel as a way of escape
from suffering, rather than as a deliverance from sin. They rejoice for a season, for they think that
religion will free them from difficulty and trial. While life moves smoothly with them, they may appear to
be consistent Christians. But they faint beneath the fiery test of temptation. They cannot bear reproach
for Christ’s sake. When the word of God points out some cherished sin, or requires self-denial or
sacrifice, they are offended. It
48
would cost them too much effort to make a radical change in their life. They look at the present
inconvenience and trial, and forget the eternal realities. Like the disciples who left Jesus, they are ready
to say, “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” John 6:60. {COL 47.2}
There are very many who claim to serve God, but who have no experimental knowledge of Him.
Their desire to do His will is based upon their own inclination, not upon the deep conviction of the Holy
Spirit. Their conduct is not brought into harmony with the law of God. They profess to accept Christ as
their Saviour, but they do not believe that He will give them power to overcome their sins. They have
not a personal relation with a living Saviour, and their characters reveal defects both hereditary and
cultivated. {COL 48.1}
It is one thing to assent in a general way to the agency of the Holy Spirit, and another thing to accept
His work as a reprover calling to repentance. Many feel a sense of estrangement from God, a realization
of their bondage to self and sin; they make efforts for reform; but they do not crucify self. They do not
give themselves entirely into the hands of Christ, seeking for divine power to do His will. They are not
willing to be molded after the divine similitude. In a general way they acknowledge their imperfections,
but they do not give up their particular sins. With each wrong act the old selfish nature is gaining
strength. {COL 48.2}
The only hope for these souls is to realize in themselves the truth of Christ’s words to Nicodemus,
“Ye must be born again.” “Except a man be born from above, he can not see the kingdom of God.”
John 3:7, 3, margin. {COL 48.3}
True holiness is wholeness in the service of God. This is the condition of true Christian living. Christ
asks for an
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unreserved consecration, for undivided service. He demands the heart, the mind, the soul, the strength.
Self is not to be cherished. He who lives to himself is not a Christian. {COL 48.4}
Love must be the principle of action. Love is the underlying principle of God’s government in heaven
and earth, and it must be the foundation of the Christian’s character. This alone can make and keep him
steadfast. This alone can enable him to withstand trial and temptation. {COL 49.1}
And love will be revealed in sacrifice. The plan of redemption was laid in sacrifice–a sacrifice so
broad and deep and high that it is immeasurable. Christ gave all for us, and those who receive Christ will
be ready to sacrifice all for the sake of their Redeemer. The thought of His honor and glory will come
before anything else. {COL 49.2}
If we love Jesus, we shall love to live for Him, to present our thank offerings to Him, to labor for
Him. The very labor will be light. For His sake we shall covet
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pain and toil and sacrifice. We shall sympathize with His longing for the salvation of men. We shall feel
the same tender craving for souls that He has felt. {COL 49.3}
This is the religion of Christ. Anything short of it is a deception. No mere theory of truth or
profession of discipleship will save any soul. We do not belong to Christ unless we are His wholly. It is
by halfheartedness in the Christian life that men become feeble in purpose and changeable in desire. The
effort to serve both self and Christ makes one a stony-ground hearer, and he will not endure when the
test comes upon him. {COL 50.1}
Among Thorns
“He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this
world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.” {COL 50.2}
The gospel seed often falls among thorns and noxious weeds; and if there is not a moral
transformation in the human heart, if old habits and practices and the former life of sin are not left
behind, if the attributes of Satan are not expelled from the soul, the wheat crop will be choked. The
thorns will come to be the crop, and will kill out the wheat. {COL 50.3}
Grace can thrive only in the heart that is being constantly prepared for the precious seeds of truth.
The thorns of sin will grow in any soil; they need no cultivation; but grace must be carefully cultivated.
The briers and thorns are always ready to spring up, and the work of purification must advance
continually. If the heart is not kept under the control of God, if the Holy Spirit does not work
unceasingly to refine and ennoble the character, the old habits will reveal themselves in the life. Men may
profess to believe the gospel; but unless they are sanctified
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by the gospel their profession is of no avail. If they do not gain the victory over sin, then sin is gaining the
victory over them. The thorns that have been cut off but not uprooted grow apace, until the soul is
overspread with them. {COL 50.4}
Christ specified the things that are dangerous to the soul. As recorded by Mark He mentions the
cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things. Luke specifies the cares,
riches, and pleasures of this life. These are what choke the word, the growing spiritual seed. The soul
ceases to draw nourishment from Christ, and spirituality dies out of the heart. {COL 51.1}
“The cares of this world.” No class is free from the temptation to worldly care. To the poor, toil and
deprivation and the fear of want bring perplexities and burdens. To the rich come fear of loss and a
multitude of anxious cares. Many of Christ’s followers forget the lesson He has bidden us learn from the
flowers of the field. They do not trust to His constant care. Christ cannot carry their burden, because
they do not cast it upon Him. Therefore the cares of life, which should drive them to the Saviour for help
and comfort, separate them from Him. {COL 51.2}
Many who might be fruitful in God’s service become bent on acquiring wealth. Their whole energy is
absorbed in business enterprises, and they feel obliged to neglect things of a spiritual nature. Thus they
separate themselves from God. We are enjoined in the Scriptures to be “not slothful in business.” Rom.
12:11. We are to labor that we may impart to him who needs. Christians must work, they must engage
in business, and they can do this without committing sin. But many become so absorbed in business that
they have no time for prayer, no time for the study of the Bible, no time to seek and serve God. At times
the longings of the soul go out for holiness and heaven; but there
52
is no time to turn aside from the din of the world to listen to the majestic and authoritative utterances of
the Spirit of God. The things of eternity are made subordinate, the things of the world supreme. It is
impossible for the seed of the word to bring forth fruit; for the life of the soul is given to nourish the
thorns of worldliness. {COL 51.3}
And many who are working with a very different purpose, fall into a like error. They are working for
others’ good; their duties are pressing, their responsibilities are many, and they allow their labor to
crowd out devotion. Communion with God through prayer and a study of His word is neglected. They
forget that Christ has said, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5. They walk apart from Christ,
their life is not pervaded by His grace, and the characteristics of self are revealed. Their service is
marred by desire for supremacy, and the harsh, unlovely traits of the unsubdued heart. Here is one of
the chief secrets of failure in Christian work. This is why its results are often so meager. {COL 52.1}
“The deceitfulness of riches.” The love of riches has an infatuating, deceptive power. Too often those
who possess worldly treasure forget that it is God who gives them power to get wealth. They say, “My
power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.” Deut. 8:17. Their riches, instead of
awakening gratitude to God, lead to the exaltation of self. They lose the sense of their dependence upon
God and their obligation to their fellow men. Instead of regarding wealth as a talent to be employed for
the glory of God and the uplifting of humanity, they look upon it as a means of serving themselves.
Instead of developing in man the attributes of God, riches thus used are developing in him the attributes
of Satan. The seed of the word is choked with thorns.
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{COL 52.2}
“And pleasures of this life.” There is danger in amusement that is sought merely for self-gratification.
All habits of indulgence that weaken the physical powers, that becloud the mind, or that benumb the
spiritual perceptions, are “fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” 1 Peter 2:11. {COL 53.1}
“And the lusts of other things.” These are not necessarily things sinful in themselves, but something
that is made first instead of the kingdom of God. Whatever attracts the mind from God, whatever draws
the affections away from Christ, is an enemy to the soul.

{COL 53.2}
When the mind is youthful and vigorous and susceptible of rapid development, there is great
temptation to be ambitious for self, to serve self. If worldly schemes are successful, there is an inclination
to continue in a line that deadens conscience, and prevents a correct estimate as to what constitutes real
excellence of character. When circumstances favor this development, growth will be seen in a direction
prohibited by the word of God. {COL 53.3}
In this formative period of their children’s life, the responsibility of parents is very great. It should be
their study to surround the youth with right influences, influences that will give them correct views of life
and its true success. Instead of this, how many parents make it their first object to secure for their
children worldly prosperity. All their associations are chosen with reference to this object. Many parents
make their home in some large city, and introduce their children into fashionable society. They surround
them with influences that encourage worldliness and pride. In this atmosphere the mind and soul are
dwarfed. The high and noble aims of life are lost sight of. The privilege of being sons of God, heirs of
eternity, is bartered for worldly gain.
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{COL 53.4}
Many parents seek to promote the happiness of their children by gratifying their love of amusement.
They allow them to engage in sports, and to attend parties of pleasure, and provide them with money to
use freely in display and self-gratification. The more the desire for pleasure is indulged, the stronger it
becomes. The interest of these youth is more and more absorbed in amusement, until they come to look
upon it as the great object of life. They form habits of idleness and self-indulgence that make it almost
impossible for them ever to become steadfast Christians. {COL 54.1}
Even the church, which should be the pillar and ground of the truth, is found encouraging the selfish
love of pleasure. When money is to be raised for religious purposes, to what means do many churches
resort? To bazaars, suppers, fancy fairs, even to lotteries, and like devices. Often the place set apart for
God’s worship is desecrated by feasting and drinking, buying, selling, and merrymaking. Respect for the
house of God and reverence for His worship are lessened in the minds of the youth. The barriers of
self-restraint are weakened. Selfishness, appetite, the love of display, are appealed to, and they
strengthen as they are indulged. {COL 54.2}
The pursuit of pleasure and amusement centers in the cities. Many parents who choose a city home
for their children, thinking to give them greater advantages, meet with disappointment, and too late
repent their terrible mistake. The cities of today are fast becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah. The
many holidays encourage idleness. The exciting sports–theatergoing, horse racing, gambling,
liquor-drinking, and reveling–stimulate every passion to intense activity. The youth are swept away by
the popular current. Those who learn to love amusement for its own
55
sake open the door to a flood of temptations. They give themselves up to social gaiety and thoughtless
mirth, and their intercourse with pleasure lovers has an intoxicating effect upon the mind. They are led on
from one form of dissipation to another, until they lose both the desire and the capacity for a life of
usefulness. Their religious aspirations are chilled; their spiritual life is darkened. All the nobler faculties of
the soul, all that link man with the spiritual world, are debased. {COL 54.3}
It is true that some may see their folly and repent. God may pardon them. But they have wounded
their own souls, and brought upon themselves a lifelong peril. The power of discernment, which ought
ever to be kept keen and sensitive to distinguish between right and wrong, is in a great measure
destroyed. They are not quick to recognize the guiding voice of the Holy Spirit, or to discern the devices
of Satan. Too often in time of danger they fall under temptation, and are led away from God. The end of
their pleasure-loving life is ruin for this world and for the world to come. {COL 55.1}
Cares, riches, pleasures, all are used by Satan in playing the game of life for the human soul. The
warning is given, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world,
the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the
eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” 1 John 2:15, 16. He who reads the
hearts of men as an open book says, “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be
overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness and cares of this life.” Luke 21:34. And the apostle Paul by
the Holy Spirit writes, “They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and
hurtful lusts, which
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drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil; which, while some
coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 1
Tim. 6:9, 10. {COL 55.2}
Preparation of the Soil
Throughout the parable of the sower, Christ represents the different results of the sowing as
depending upon the soil. In every case the sower and the seed are the same. Thus He teaches that if the
word of God fails of accomplishing its work in our hearts and lives, the reason is to be found in
ourselves. But the result is not beyond our control. True, we cannot change ourselves; but the power of
choice is ours, and it rests with us to determine what we will become. The wayside, the stony-ground,
the thorny-ground hearers need not remain such. The Spirit of God is ever seeking to break the spell of
infatuation that holds men absorbed in worldly things, and to awaken a desire for the imperishable
treasure. It is by resisting the Spirit that men become inattentive to or neglectful of God’s word. They are
themselves responsible for the hardness of heart that prevents the good seed from taking root, and for
the evil growths that check its development. {COL 56.1}
The garden of the heart must be cultivated. The soil must be broken up by deep repentance for sin.
Poisonous, Satanic plants must be uprooted. The soil once overgrown by thorns can be reclaimed only
by diligent labor. So the evil tendencies of the natural heart can be overcome only by earnest effort in
the name and strength of Jesus. The Lord bids us by His prophet, “Break up your fallow ground, and
sow not among thorns.” “Sow to yourselves in righteousness; reap in mercy.” Jer. 4:3; Hosea 10:12.
This work He desires to accomplish for us, and He asks us to co-operate with Him.
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{COL 56.2}
The sowers of the seed have a work to do in preparing hearts to receive the gospel. In the ministry
of the word there is too much sermonizing, and too little of real heart-to-heart work. There is need of
personal labor for the souls of the lost. In Christlike sympathy we should come close to men individually,
and seek to awaken their interest in the great things of eternal life. Their hearts may be as hard as the
beaten highway, and apparently it may be a useless effort to present the Saviour to them; but while logic
may fail to move, and argument be powerless to convince, the love of Christ, revealed in personal
ministry, may soften the stony heart, so that the seed of truth can take root. {COL 57.1}
So the sowers have something to do that the seed may not be choked with thorns or perish because
of shallowness of soil. At the very outset of the Christian life every
58
believer should be taught its foundation principles. He should be taught that he is not merely to be saved
by Christ’s sacrifice, but that he is to make the life of Christ his life and the character of Christ his
character. Let all be taught that they are to bear burdens and to deny natural inclination. Let them learn
the blessedness of working for Christ, following Him in self-denial, and enduring hardness as good
soldiers. Let them learn to trust His love and to cast on Him their cares. Let them taste the joy of
winning souls for Him. In their love and interest for the lost, they will lose sight of self. The pleasures of
the world will lose their power to attract and its burdens to dishearten. The plowshare of truth will do its
work. It will break up the fallow ground. It will not merely cut off the tops of the thorns, but will take
them out by the roots. {COL 57.2}
In Good Ground
The sower is not always to meet with disappointment. Of the seed that fell into good ground the
Saviour said, This “is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and
bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” “That on the good ground are they,
which, in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”
{COL 58.1}
The “honest and good heart” of which the parable speaks, is not a heart without sin; for the gospel is
to be preached to the lost. Christ said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Mark 2:17. He has an honest heart who yields to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. He confesses his
guilt, and feels his need of the mercy and love of God. He has a sincere desire to know the truth, that he
may obey it. The good heart is a believing
59
heart, one that has faith in the word of God. Without faith it is impossible to receive the word. “He that
cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”
Heb. 11:6. {COL 58.2}
This “is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it.” The Pharisees of Christ’s day closed their
eyes lest they should see, and their ears lest they should hear; therefore the truth could not reach their
hearts. They were to suffer retribution for their willful ignorance and self-imposed blindness. But Christ
taught His disciples that they were to open their minds to instruction, and be ready to believe. He
pronounced a blessing upon them because they saw and heard with eyes and ears that believed. {COL
59.1}
The good-ground hearer receives the word “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of
God.” 1 Thess. 2:13. Only he who receives the Scriptures as the voice of God speaking to himself is a
true learner. He trembles at the word; for to him it is a living reality. He opens his understanding and his
heart to receive it. Such hearers were Cornelius and his friends, who said to the apostle Peter, “Now
therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.” Acts
10:33. {COL 59.2}
A knowledge of the truth depends not so much upon strength of intellect as upon pureness of
purpose, the simplicity of an earnest, dependent faith. To those who in humility of heart seek for divine
guidance, angels of God draw near. The Holy Spirit is given to open to them the rich treasures of the
truth. {COL 59.3}
The good-ground hearers, having heard the word, keep it. Satan with all his agencies of evil is not
able to catch it away. {COL 59.4}
Merely to hear or to read the word is not enough. He who desires to be profited by the Scriptures
must meditate
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upon the truth that has been presented to him. By earnest attention and prayerful thought he must learn
the meaning of the words of truth, and drink deep of the spirit of the holy oracles. {COL 59.5}
God bids us fill the mind with great thoughts, pure thoughts. He desires us to meditate upon His love
and mercy, to study His wonderful work in the great plan of redemption. Then clearer and still clearer
will be our perception of truth, higher, holier, our desire for purity of heart and clearness of thought. The
soul dwelling in the pure atmosphere of holy thought will be transformed by communion with God
through the study of Scriptures. {COL 60.1}
“And bring forth fruit.” Those who, having heard the word, keep it, will bring forth fruit in obedience.
The word of God, received into the soul, will be manifest in good works. Its results will be seen in a
Christlike character and life. Christ said of Himself, “I delight to do Thy will, O My God; yea, Thy law is
within My heart.” Ps. 40:8. “I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me.”
John 5:30. And the Scripture says, “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even
as He walked.” 1 John 2:6. {COL 60.2}
The word of God often comes in collision with man’s hereditary and cultivated traits of character and
his habits of life. But the good-ground hearer, in receiving the word, accepts all its conditions and
requirements. His habits, customs, and practices are brought into submission to God’s word. In his view
the commands of finite, erring man sink into insignificance beside the word of the infinite God. With the
whole heart, with undivided purpose, he is seeking the life eternal, and at the cost of loss, persecution,
or death itself, he will obey the truth. {COL 60.3}
And he brings forth fruit “with patience.” None who receive God’s word are exempt from difficulty
and trial; but
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when affliction comes, the true Christian does not become restless, distrustful, or despondent. Though
we can not see the definite outcome of affairs, or discern the purpose of God’s providences, we are not
to cast away our confidence. Remembering the tender mercies of the Lord, we should cast our care
upon Him, and with patience wait for His salvation. {COL 60.4}
Through conflict the spiritual life is strengthened. Trials well borne will develop steadfastness of
character and precious spiritual graces. The perfect fruit of faith, meekness, and love often matures best
amid storm clouds and darkness. {COL 61.1}
“The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he
receive the early and latter rain.” James 5:7. So the Christian is to wait with patience for the fruition in his
life of the word of God. Often when we pray for the graces of the Spirit, God works to answer our
prayers by placing us in circumstances to develop these fruits; but we do not understand His purpose,
and wonder, and are dismayed. Yet none can develop these graces except through the process of
growth and fruit bearing. Our part is to receive God’s word and to hold it fast, yielding ourselves fully to
its control, and its purpose in us will be accomplished. {COL 61.2}
“If a man love Me,” Christ said, “he will keep My words; and My Father will love him, and we will
come unto him, and make our abode with him.” John 14:23. The spell of a stronger, a perfect mind will
be over us; for we have a living connection with the source of all-enduring strength. In our divine life we
shall be brought into captivity to Jesus Christ. We shall no longer live the common life of selfishness, but
Christ will live in us. His character will be reproduced in our nature. Thus shall we bring forth the fruits
of the Holy Spirit–“some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.” {COL 61.3}

Teaching in Parables

24 Jan

In Christ’s parable teaching the same principle is seen as in His own mission to the world. That we
might become acquainted with His divine character and life, Christ took our nature and dwelt among us.
Divinity was revealed in humanity; the invisible glory in the visible human form. Men could learn of the
unknown through the known; heavenly things were revealed through the earthly; God was made
manifest in the likeness of men. So it was in Christ’s teaching: the unknown was illustrated by the known;
divine truths by earthly things with which the people were most familiar. {COL 17.1}
The Scripture says, “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; . . . that it might be
fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things
which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.” Matt. 13:34, 35. Natural things were
the medium for the spiritual; the things of nature and the life-experience of His hearers were connected
with the truths of the written word. Leading thus from the natural to the spiritual kingdom, Christ’s
parables
18
are links in the chain of truth that unites man with God, and earth with heaven. {COL 17.2}
In His teaching from nature, Christ was speaking of the things which His own hands had made, and
which had qualities and powers that He Himself had imparted. In their original perfection all created
things were an expression of the thought of God. To Adam and Eve in their Eden home nature was full
of the knowledge of God, teeming with divine instruction. Wisdom spoke to the eye and was received
into the heart; for they communed with God in His created works. As soon as the holy pair transgressed
the law of the Most High, the brightness from the face of God departed from the face of nature. The
earth is now marred and defiled by sin. Yet even in its blighted state much that is beautiful remains.
God’s object lessons are not obliterated; rightly understood, nature speaks of her Creator. {COL 18.1}
In the days of Christ these lessons had been lost sight of. Men had well-nigh ceased to discern God
in His works. The sinfulness of humanity had cast a pall over the fair face of creation; and instead of
manifesting God, His works became a barrier that concealed Him. Men “worshiped and served the
creature more than the Creator.” Thus the heathen “became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish
heart was darkened.” Rom. 1:25, 21. So in Israel, man’s teaching had been put in the place of God’s.
Not only the things of nature, but the sacrificial service and the Scriptures themselves–all given to reveal
God–were so perverted that they became the means of concealing Him. {COL 18.2}
Christ sought to remove that which obscured the truth. The veil that sin has cast over the face of
nature, He came
19
to draw aside, bringing to view the spiritual glory that all things were created to reflect. His words
placed the teachings of nature as well as of the Bible in a new aspect, and made them a new revelation.
{COL 18.3}
Jesus plucked the beautiful lily, and placed it in the hands of children and youth; and as they looked
into His own youthful face, fresh with the sunlight of His Father’s countenance, He gave the lesson,
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow [in the simplicity of natural beauty]; they toil not, neither
do they spin; and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of
these.” Then followed the sweet assurance and the important lesson, “Wherefore, if God so clothe the
grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe
you, O ye of little faith?” {COL 19.1}
In the sermon on the mount these words were spoken to others besides children and youth. They
were spoken to the multitude, among whom were men and women full of worries and perplexities, and
sore with disappointment and sorrow. Jesus continued: “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall
we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (for after all these things do the
Gentiles seek:) for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” Then spreading
out His hands to the surrounding multitude, He said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His
righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matt. 6:28-33. {COL 19.2}
Thus Christ interpreted the message which He Himself had given to the lilies and the grass of the
field. He desires us to read it in every lily and every spire of grass. His words are full of assurance, and
tend to confirm trust in God.
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{COL 19.3}
So wide was Christ’s view of truth, so extended His teaching, that every phase of nature was
employed in illustrating truth. The scenes upon which the eye daily rests were all connected with some
spiritual truth, so that nature is clothed with the parables of the Master. {COL 20.1}
In the earlier part of His ministry, Christ had spoken to the people in words so plain that all His
hearers might have grasped truths which would make them wise unto salvation. But in many hearts the
truth had taken no root, and it had been quickly caught away. “Therefore speak I to them in parables.”
He said; “because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. . . . For
this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed.”
Matt. 13:13-15. {COL 20.2}
Jesus desired to awaken inquiry. He sought to arouse
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the careless, and impress truth upon the heart. Parable teaching was popular, and commanded the
respect and attention, not only of the Jews, but of the people of other nations. No more effective
method of instruction could He have employed. If His hearers had desired a knowledge of divine things,
they might have understood His words; for He was always willing to explain them to the honest inquirer.
{COL 20.3}
Again, Christ had truths to present which the people were unprepared to accept or even to
understand. For this reason also He taught them in parables. By connecting His teaching with the scenes
of life, experience, or nature, He secured their attention and impressed their hearts. Afterward, as they
looked upon the objects that illustrated His lessons, they recalled the words of the divine Teacher. To
minds that were open to the Holy Spirit, the significance of the Saviour’s teaching unfolded more and
more. Mysteries grew clear, and that which had been hard to grasp became evident. {COL 21.1}
Jesus sought an avenue to every heart. By using a variety of illustrations, He not only presented truth
in its different phases, but appealed to the different hearers. Their interest was aroused by figures drawn
from the surroundings of their daily life. None who listened to the
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Saviour could feel that they were neglected or forgotten. The humblest, the most sinful, heard in His
teaching a voice that spoke to them in sympathy and tenderness. {COL 21.2}
And He had another reason for teaching in parables. Among the multitudes that gathered about Him,
there were priests and rabbis, scribes and elders, Herodians and rulers, world-loving, bigoted,
ambitious men, who desired above all things to find some accusation against Him. Their spies followed
His steps day after day, to catch from His lips something that would cause His condemnation, and
forever silence the One who seemed to draw the world after Him. The Saviour understood the
character of these men, and He presented truth in such a way that they could find nothing by which to
bring His case before the Sanhedrim. In parables He rebuked the hypocrisy and wicked works of those
who occupied high positions, and in figurative language clothed truth of so cutting a character that had it
been spoken in direct denunciation, they would not have listened to His words, and would speedily have
put an end to His ministry. But while He evaded the spies, He made truth so clear that error was
manifested, and the honest in heart were profited by His lessons. Divine wisdom, infinite grace, were
made plain by the things of God’s creation. Through nature and the experiences of life, men were taught
of God. “The invisible things of Him since the creation of the world,” were “perceived through the things
that are made, even His everlasting power and divinity.” Rom. 1:20, R. V. {COL 22.1}
In the Saviour’s parable teaching is an indication of what constitutes the true “higher education.”
Christ might have opened to men the deepest truths of science. He might have unlocked mysteries which
have required many centuries of toil and study to penetrate. He might have made suggestions in scientific
lines that would have
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afforded food for thought and stimulus for invention to the close of time. But He did not do this. He said
nothing to gratify curiosity, or to satisfy man’s ambition by opening doors to worldly greatness. In all His
teaching, Christ brought the mind of man in contact with the Infinite Mind. He did not direct the people
to study men’s theories about God, His word, or His works. He taught them to behold Him as
manifested in His works, in His word, and by His providences. {COL 22.2}
Christ did not deal in abstract theories, but in that which is essential to the development of character,
that which will enlarge man’s capacity for knowing God, and increase his efficiency to do good. He
spoke to men of those truths that relate to the conduct of life, and that take hold upon eternity. {COL
23.1}
It was Christ who directed the education of Israel. Concerning the commandments and ordinances
of the Lord He said, “Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou
sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest
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down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be
as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy
gates.” Deut. 6:7-9. In His own teaching, Jesus showed how this command is to be fulfilled–how the
laws and principles of God’s kingdom can be so presented as to reveal their beauty and preciousness.
When the Lord was training Israel to be the special representatives of Himself, He gave them homes
among the hills and valleys. In their home life and their religious service they were brought in constant
contact with nature and with the word of God. So Christ taught His disciples by the lake, on the
mountainside, in the fields and groves, where they could look upon the things of nature by which He
illustrated His teachings. And as they learned of Christ, they put their knowledge to use by co-operating
with Him in His work. {COL 23.2}
So through the creation we are to become acquainted with the Creator. The book of nature is a
great lesson book, which in connection with the Scriptures we are to use in teaching others of His
character, and guiding lost sheep back to the fold of God. As the works of God are studied, the Holy
Spirit flashes conviction into the mind. It is not the conviction that logical reasoning produces; but unless
the mind has become too dark to know God, the eye too dim to see Him, the ear too dull to hear His
voice, a deeper meaning is grasped, and the sublime, spiritual truths of the written word are impressed
on the heart. {COL 24.1}
In these lessons direct from nature, there is a simplicity and purity that makes them of the highest
value. All need the teaching to be derived from this source. In itself the beauty of nature leads the soul
away from sin and worldly attractions, and toward purity, peace, and God.
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Too often the minds of students are occupied with men’s theories and speculations, falsely called science
and philosophy. They need to be brought into close contact with nature. Let them learn that creation and
Christianity have one God. Let them be taught to see the harmony of the natural with the spiritual. Let
everything which their eyes see or their hands handle be made a lesson in character building. Thus the
mental powers will be strengthened, the character developed, the whole life ennobled. {COL 24.2}
Christ’s purpose in parable teaching was in direct line with the purpose of the Sabbath. God gave to
men the memorial of His creative power, that they might discern Him in the works of His hand. The
Sabbath bids us behold in His created works the glory of the Creator. And
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it was because He desired us to do this that Jesus bound up His precious lessons with the beauty of
natural things. On the holy rest day, above all other days, we should study the messages that God has
written for us in nature. We should study the Saviour’s parables where He spoke them, in the fields and
groves, under the open sky, among the grass and flowers. As we come close to the heart of nature,
Christ makes His presence real to us, and speaks to our hearts of His peace and love. {COL 25.1}
And Christ has linked His teaching, not only with the day of rest, but with the week of toil. He has
wisdom for him who drives the plow and sows the seed. In the plowing and sowing, the tilling and
reaping, He teaches us to see an illustration of His work of grace in the heart. So in every line of useful
labor and every association of life, He desires us to find a lesson of divine truth. Then our daily toil will
no longer absorb our attention and lead
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us to forget God; it will continually remind us of our Creator and Redeemer. The thought of God will run
like a thread of gold through all our homely cares and occupations. For us the glory of His face will
again rest upon the face of nature. We shall ever be learning new lessons of heavenly truth, and growing
into the image of His purity. Thus shall we “be taught of the Lord”; and in the lot wherein we are called,
we shall “abide with God.” Isa. 54:13; 1 Cor. 7:24. {COL 26.1}

Life in the Spirit.

13 Jan
By Joe Crews
Introduction
The greatest need of the church today is for a genuine spiritual revival and reformation. This is what true Christians have been praying for through the years – in the family circle, alone in the closet, and with the church body on Sabbath. There is a deep sense of inadequacy when we sit in a home giving a Bible study or stand before an audience where hundreds need to make a decision for Christ. We know that there is no human way to win a soul or convict of Truth. Only the Holy Spirit can really soften hearts for acceptance and stir the soul with conviction. So we pray as we reach out with weak faltering words that the power of God will break forth in that moment of sharing.
Sometimes, of course, we see the answer to those prayers. People are converted, the sick are raised up, and decisions are made for baptism. But why don’t we see it more often? Is this on-again, off-again witness of the Holy Spirit everything we can expect from God? Why doesn’t it happen every time we pray and claim the promises?
There are special seasons when our hearts burn within us, and we leave a prayer meeting rejoicing over the refreshing ministry of the Spirit. But how did God feel about that meeting? Was He able to accomplish His perfect will in that service? When the fullness of God’s power is revealed no one will go out to talk about it in tame, lifeless tones. Like a fire from heaven the Spirit will flash and illuminate from heart to heart until the earth itself will be lighted with the glory of it.
But why are we still waiting for the fulfillment of the promised Spirit in all its Pentecostal power? Probably not one knowledgeable Christian will contend that the fullness of that promise has been realized today. This is not to say that there have not been exciting glimpses and momentary revelations of that blessing which will bring all other blessing in its train. But hungry, longing Christians everywhere concede that we have only scratched the surface of God’s promises.
In fact, there is a general consensus that the church is standing on the threshold of its most unique, predestined mission. The “latter rain” of the Spirit is to provide an explosive entry into the final harvesting phase of the everlasting gospel. And if the exact time of that visitation is not known, there are scores of texts depicting the spiritual consequences of such a breakthrough.  Many believe that the “times of refreshing” have arrived already and that our own lack of faith and preparation has held back the baptism of the Holy Spirit in its final manifestation. When we read the scriptural promises of God’s willingness to work through His committed people there seems to be no doubt that the fault lies with us and not with Him.
The inspired description of our assigned role under the Holy Spirit leaves us almost breathless. Words and phrases are used which seem utterly fanatical and super-exaggerated. Our minds are boggled by the incredible scope of the promises which apply to the people of God right now. We blink our eyes and think there must be a mistake, or else there has to be some secret meaning or hidden reservation in the words. Again and again the Bible uses superlative expressions in defining the victorious experience of believers. God does not say that we can be conquerors; He says we can be “more than conquerors.” He doesn’t merely say we can be saved, but rather “saved to the uttermost.” He will not just cause us to triumph, but “always to triumph.” Do those words truly mean what they say?
I submit to you that God does not multiply euphonic phrases in order to make an impression. There is built-in, self-fulfilling power in every single promise of the Bible. No matter how extreme the text may sound to our ears, whatever is promised shall be precisely fulfilled as soon as we believe. No matter how impossible it may seem to be, we can believe because God says it.
Consider the extravagant nature of the promise in 2 Peter 1:3, 4. “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.” Please notice, first of all, that “divine power” is referring to the Holy Spirit. He has already been sent to continue the work Jesus did while here on the earth. The text does not say that the power “will give,” but “hath given” already. We do not need to look for some possible future supply of power. It is ours now for the asking and claiming. We simply need to possess our possessions!
But what has that divine power of the Holy Spirit already made available to us? The text says, “All things that pertain unto life and godliness.” Doesn’t that stagger your mind? It is like a blank check on the bank of heaven, isn’t it? It is not for material things like houses, cars, and lands, but it absolutely includes anything and everything you might need to live a godly life.
Have you longed for victory over sin, for sanctification, holiness, Christlikeness, purity, and perfection of character? It is included in the “all things” of this verse. And don’t try to reason away the words and make them say something besides what they say.
Faith Brings the Power
I repeat that this is a signed check from God drawn on the mighty, inexhaustible resources of the bank of heaven. God tells us to fill it in as to the amount. It is already signed and certified by Him. What a promise! But you might ask, “How is this check to be processed?” The next verse explains the cashing procedures. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” Verse 4.
There it is! The power is in the promise itself. As soon as we believe it our lives may immediately begin to share in His divine nature. Can there be any higher privilege than to actually participate in the very life of our Lord Jesus? His omnipotence is joined to our finite weakness, and we are empowered to live out the victory He gained when “tempted in all points like as we are tempted.” We do not have to yield to corruptions and lusts of the world; we can “escape” them by claiming the “divine power” of that “divine nature.”
Many professed Christians cannot muster the faith to believe promises like this. They prefer to believe that our fallen natures are just too depraved to ever be totally victorious over sin, even through the power of the gospel. What a tragedy! They have to trust the words of Scripture to mean something besides what they actually say. In essence, they are magnifying the power of Satan over the power of God, and making it impossible to ever fully stop sinning.
Incredible Promises
Now consider with me one of the most extraordinary promises found anywhere in the counsels of God. “That he would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19.
It is that last phrase that we need to examine carefully. How could such a statement be true? I don’t begin to grasp the magnitude of those words. In fact, I seem to be standing on the shore of a vast restless ocean, watching the waves receding into infinity. To be filled with all the fullness of God is one of those unsearchable gems of Truth that we can only accept by faith. We will never be able to understand it, but we can believe it anyway.
What is all the fullness of God? Surely it includes His righteousness, His victory, and His divine nature. We can only begin to comprehend the scope of this promise. Apparently, He wants us to receive and share all that He has. As sons and daughters of God we belong to a royal family, and are fully entitled to participate in all its divine prerogatives.
But now let’s read the grand climax of this pyramid of promises in Ephesians 3. Paul writes, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” Verse 20. And what is that power? The Holy Spirit, of course. When we analyze this verse our amazement increases.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful enough if God just promised to give us all that we asked for? Surely such an open-ended offer could be limited only by our reluctance to ask. But our wonderful, beneficent Father assures us in this text that He is willing to give “above” all that we ask. He must realize that we are too easily satisfied, and would not be bold enough in our petitions. In fact, He not only will exceed “all” our requests for spiritual blessings, but will bestow “abundantly” above all we could ask. But that is not all! In the fervency of His love for us, God promises to do “exceeding abundantly above all” we could ask. What a dramatic parade of powerful adjectives to describe the spiritual riches so easily available to all of us. And you could add twenty or a hundred more colorful words and it would not make the promise any more certain than it now stands.
If you feel that nothing could make this text more fantastic than what we have already observed, take another look. Two more little words in the verse make it the most astonishing in all the Bible – “or think.” Not only will He supply “exceeding abundantly above all” we can ask, but even above all we could imagine in our wildest dreams. Unbelievable! Sometimes we have deep spiritual longings which are too intense to express. We fear it would be presumptuous to even utter the words. Yet, our loving God desires to surpass the most profound reaching out of the soul for spiritual help. We stand awed and ashamed in the light of His extravagant provision for our needs. What a Saviour!
A Taste of Heaven Now
At this point it would seem wise to read the Bible definition of the Spirit’s sealing work upon the soul. One of the shortest and most succinct descriptions is found in Ephesians 1:13, 14. “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance. ” There it is in four simple words! The sealing or filling of the Holy Spirit is the “earnest of our inheritance.” What does that mean? What is our inheritance? And, what is an earnest?
Simply speaking, heaven is our inheritance. That includes eternal life and fellowship with Jesus. This is our reward or inheritance which shall be fully realized when Jesus returns. But, in the meantime we may receive an “earnest” of that inheritance through the filling of the Spirit. An earnest is a down payment which constitutes a guarantee that the full amount will be paid when the job is done.
So, putting it all together, we have an astounding statement that heaven can begin right here on the earth while we wait for Jesus to come. Through the Spirit-filled life we may experience an actual foretaste of the immortal joys and thrills of being in the presence of our Saviour.
Someone may object that such heavenly bliss is reserved only for the redeemed, and that the Bible itself declares that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard; neither hath it entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9. But such fail to take into account the next verse which continues, “But God hath revealed them into us by His Spirit.” Verse 10.
In other words, through the divine anointing of the Holy Spirit we may now begin to experience a measure of that quality of life which is designated in the Bible as “eternal life.” What an exciting concept! Please keep in mind that we are still only talking about an advance deposit on the real thing, and heaven itself will be far in excess of anything we can experience here.
Purpose of the Latter Rain
But what is the purpose of this baptism of the Spirit’s power? We often hear it spoken of as the “times of refreshing,” the anointing, the latter rain, or the promise of the Spirit. The Scripture often uses the Middle Eastern terminology for the seed-sowing and harvesting. Soon after planting, a seasonal rain provided moisture for germination and initial growth. This was called the “early rain.” Later, near the time for harvest, another copious watering was referred to as the “latter rain.” Biblical writers adopted these ex- ressions to describe the visitation of the Holy Spirit upon the church in a dispensational sense. The “early rain” came at Pentecost to give impetus and vigor to the inaugural witness of the gospel. Another such prodigious outpouring is scheduled near the reaping of earth’s final soul harvest, just prior to Christ’s return.
Some may assume that the purpose of such an end-time bestowal of spiritual blessing is to provide victory over sin, preparatory to translation. But this is not the case. The truth is that no one will receive the “latter rain” who does not already have the victory over sin through the “early rain” deployment of power.
On an individual basis each Christian experiences his own Pentecost at the time of conversion. Under the strength of that spiritual baptism, power is available for complete sanctification. As we consider the purpose of the “latter rain” it becomes even more clear why separation from sin is required under the early rain (conversion) ministration.
Jesus enunciated clearly why the Spirit is needed in its fullness. “But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:8.
How interesting that the promised blessing has nothing to do with sensation or personal achievement. It is to qualify believers as witnesses. It is to provide power for them to tell something. A witness, of course, is someone who can personally verify an act or event. No judge would accept the testimony of a witness who had only second or third hand information to share.
What do we have to share from our personal experience which merits the mighty witness of the Spirit of God? I’m afraid that too many of God’s people need something to tell more than they need the power to tell it. They already have all the power they need to tell about their defeat and discouragement.
The Blessing of Abraham
One of the clearest texts in the New Testament gives an exact description of what we are required to know and experience before we can qualify as a Spirit-filled witness. The amazing mandate laid down in this verse identifies the only group who will receive the latter rain. “That the blessing of Abraham may come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3:14.
A careful analysis of this verse reveals that only those who possess the “blessing of Abraham” will receive the “promise of the Spirit.” One thing is given (the blessing of Abraham) in order that we might receive another thing (the promise of the Spirit).
Since this is such a crucial verse we need to study it most carefully. What is the “promise of the Spirit”? We have already determined that it is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in its fullness to empower us for witnessing. But, according to this text, one must first receive the “blessing of Abraham” in order to be baptized with the Spirit. Whatever that “blessing” includes it surely must be the most urgent need of every life. Here is an absolute requirement for every soul who aspires to being filled with the “latter rain” experience.
To understand the blessing of Abraham we must carefully read Romans 4:19-22. “And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about a hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.”
From these words we understand that the blessing of Abraham was righteousness by faith. Can we reduce that phrase to a more simple equation? Consider the promise God made to this aged patriarch and his 90-year-old wife. How could Sarah conceive and bear a son when the Scripture clearly states that her womb was dead? Both of them knew, beyond any question, that they were too old to have any children. It was a physical, biological impossibility for Sarah to become a mother. Yet, God had said she would bear a son!
What did Sarah finally do as doubts continued to assail her concerning the promise? She proposed to Abraham that he take Hagar, her handmaid, and try to have a son by her! If it worked, at least a part of God’s promise would be fulfilled. It seems that Sarah was trying to bail God out of a very embarrassing situation in which He had gotten Himself. Even if she couldn’t produce the child, it just might be that Abraham could be a father, and thus partially salvage the integrity of God.
As we all now recognize, Abraham did have a son by Hagar whose name was Ishmael, but did God ever acknowledge that son as the child of promise? Never. He came back to the old couple and reaffirmed His promise that they would have a baby. And this time they began to believe that if God said it, the miracle would have to take place. In simple, raw faith they stepped out on the promise as though it had already happened. And, by a creative act of God Sarah brought forth the son from whose descendants the Saviour of the world would be born.
Because of his absolute confidence in the Word of God – trusting it to be fulfilled against all odds – Abraham became the “father of the faithful.” God imputed to him credit for right-doing because he counted things that were not, as though they already existed.
This explains the “blessing of Abraham” as far as the patriarch was concerned, but what is it as far as we are concerned? We have learned from Galatians that none of us can receive the baptism of the Spirit unless we first experience the “blessing of Abraham,” or righteousness by faith, also.
How do we meet this precondition for the Holy Spirit baptism? Have we also had some incredible promises made to us? Indeed we have, and some are so extravagant that we struggle, like Sarah, to believe that they mean what they say.
One such promise is found in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What an unrestricted assurance! But how do we know that forgiveness has taken place? Only through faith in the promise. Like Abraham we must accept the Word of God as already accomplished, just because God said so. We refer to that faith transaction by the theological name “justification by faith.” It simply means that through repentance and confession we have been forgiven for all past sins, and have entered the new born-again relationship.
Justification and Sanctification Together
Now the question: Is this experience of justification by faith the same as righteousness by faith? The answer must be no. It is only a part of righteousness by faith, and so the two things are not exactly equivalent. The truth is that we all need more than just forgiveness for the past; we need power for the future also. There are more promises in the Bible, and they apply to victory over sin. For example: “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy.” Jude 24.
What happens when we kneel in faith and claim the power to stop yielding to sin? God places a reservoir of strength in our life, and in that moment we can claim deliverance from any habit of sin. A long theological title has been attached to this experience by the scholars – sanctification. It simply means that God has now entered the life to impart power over the inherited and cultivated tendencies of the fallen nature. Like justification it is also received by faith in the promises.
Now we are ready to put these two faith processes together and get the true definition of righteousness by faith. When justification and sanctification unite to function in an ongoing love relationship with Christ, you see the “blessing of Abraham” in the full sense. Now you really have something to tell! And according to Paul you also qualify to receive the power to tell it.
If you meet someone who has not accepted Christ as Savior you can mightily bear witness to your own personal joy and assurance in Him. You can also give first-person witness to the simple steps which lead from death to life!
On the other hand, if you meet someone who is struggling with a personal weakness or habit, you can powerfully share the secret of claiming victory through the self-fulfilling promises. By experiential involvement in these two prerequisite relationships you are now ready to apply for the final step of Holy Spirit baptism. Please take note that this infilling also is received as “the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3:14. This gives us a clear conception of how and when it is bestowed. It must come by promise, and it has to be by faith.
Immediately we can see that many modern churches have a distorted understanding of this subject. Those groups who demand some physical “evidence” of the baptism are not biblical. Faith and feeling are opposed to each other in this setting. The purpose of this anointing is not for sensation, but for service. To require some sensory or emotional feeling is to negate the explicit designation, “by faith.”
Is this failure to claim the gift of righteousness by faith responsible for the lack of power in the church today? To a very large extent it certainly is true. The Scriptures repeatedly assert that the Holy Spirit cannot dwell with those who are disobedient. “And we are his witnesses of these things and so also is the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.” Acts 5:32.
The Spirit may convict sinners and draw them to repent, but there can be no ministry of witnessing power until the witness is thoroughly furnished with something to tell. And the Bible defines that something as justification and sanctification. Are there some who have received both of these qualifying experiences who still may not be filled with the promised power? Indeed, it is possible that some have not received simply because they have not asked. We are talking about a very special, specific gift which requires total surrender as well as total faith in asking. Let’s review the steps again which head up to this outpouring of power.
The first level of preparation for this divine anointing is to claim the gift of justification. At that time a measure of the Holy Spirit is supplied to the believer which makes it possible to overcome every inherited or acquired weakness. In the strength of that conversion experience (early rain) the second level of preparation is made possible – sanctification. This consists of appropriating the “early rain” power for Christian character perfection, and reflecting the righteousness of Christ fully. Both justification and sanctification are faith transactions.
Level number three involves an exercise of the same kind of faith for sharing with others the beautiful experiences of levels one and two. It consists of actually claiming the promised power to make our words convicting and fruitful. Nothing is more sterile than a testimony devoid of the Spirit of God, and nothing is more humbling than to see what God can do with the halting speech of a sincere, spirit-filled saint.
Recently a young minister friend told me a story that illustrates what God can and will do for us if we are willing to be used of the Spirit. Tony had been converted from Catholicism on the streets of New York, and almost immediately he came under an inescapable conviction to be a minister. With two small children and little money there seemed to be no possibility for Tony to attend college or seminary. Yet the call was so strong upon the tender heart of this newborn youth that he decided to step out in faith.
Before enrolling at a Christian college Tony promised the Lord that he would accept every opportunity to speak in front of an audience. He realized how much he needed the experience of thinking on his feet, and articulating his thoughts to a listening congregation.
Soon after moving his family into the college community, Tony learned that there were many small churches surrounding the campus, and that fledgling ministerial students tried their wings in those country chapels. It wasn’t very long before Tony was approached on a Friday afternoon with an invitation to preach in one of those churches. Although he had only the evening hours to prepare for the Sabbath appointment, Tony remembered his promise to seize every opportunity for speaking. So he accepted the appointment. He did his best to put a sermon outline together as he prayed and studied late into the night. But, alas, he was only able to produce notes for a ten minute message at the most. Hoping against hope that he might be able to pull some more thoughts into his sermon notes during the Sabbath School class study, Tony left early the next morning for the frightening rendezvous. As a very immature young Christian he had almost no previous experience in pulpit speaking and was almost paralyzed with fear that his ten minute sermon would be more humiliating than enlightening.
Arriving at the church, Tony slipped into one of the classrooms, hoping for a chance to blend with the group and study his meager notes during the lesson. But it was not to be. In the class that day was an obstreperous man who was creating turmoil. He constantly disputed points with the hard-pressed lady teacher and seemed to do everything possible to embarrass her. Tony spent much of the class time helping her fend off the man’s distracting and irrelevant attacks against the issues under discussion.
Afterward as he waited to walk onto the platform Tony’s mind was still whirling from the emotional confrontation, and even his brief sermon outline was not very clear in his thinking. With earnest prayer he committed himself to God and stepped up to the podium.
Somehow Tony struggled through the ten minutes of sermon notes, and just as he stood desperately groping for further words a loud anguished cry came from the audience. Looking down the center isle Tony saw that a man had fallen out of his seat at the end of the pew and was crawling on hands and knees toward the front of the church. He was weeping at the top of his voice, and his wife was trying in vain to pull him back toward his seat.
One quick glance identified the man as the relentless debater in the Sabbath School class. By then, between broken sobs, he was pleading that the church pray for him. “Your sermon has spoken to my heart and the Holy Spirit has convicted me of my sins. I’ve been breaking God’s law and now I want to make things right. Please pray for me.”
In a moment the congregation melted into tears also, and the meeting closed on a glorious note of victory as the audience joined hearts and hands to pray for the penitent seeker.
What an encouragement for a young preacher! Tony told me that he could not even remember a word he spoke that day. But God simply added the Holy Spirit to the stammering efforts of a surrendered heart, and a miracle resulted. When Tony returned to that church a year later he found that man serving as the head elder of the congregation.
Do you see now what a difference it makes to be filled with the Spirit? This is God’s will for every one of us and He has made it possible through the beautiful promise of Galatians 3:14. Reach out right now and fasten your faith on the blessing of Abraham. In the strength of that righteousness, imputed and imparted by faith, you may be empowered to speak words that will change lives.

God’s Role for Women in Ministry

9 Dec
By Doug Batchelor
God’s Role for Women in Ministry
After reviewing hundreds of applications, a Fortune 500 company’s search for a new marketing director had been narrowed to just three candidates. The first person called for the final interview was asked just one simple question: “What is two plus two?” Surprised by the inquiry, she wondered if it was a trick question—but in the end, she answered “four.” The CEO thanked her for coming and ushered her out the door. The next candidate received the same question: “What is two plus two?” She thought about it for a moment and replied, “Statistically, it is the number between three and five.” Though more impressed with this answer, the CEO thanked her for coming and ushered her out the door. Finally, the last candidate to be interviewed was also asked, “What is two plus two?” Without pause, she replied, “What do you want it to be?” She was hired on the spot.
In today’s culture, when it comes to marketing, absolute truth is a rare commodity. Morals are more often determined by popularity or political correctness than by the simple truth. This is not how we should approach the Bible’s teachings, no matter how sensitive the lesson to be learned can be.
When you consider that more than 60 percent of all practicing Christians are women, this dynamic between truth and popularity can be especially volatile when exploring the subject of women’s ordination. The question of women’s roles in the church, and whether or not they ought to be pastors and elders, is under serious debate within many churches. Both sides of the argument stir strongly held beliefs—which is why I want to approach this topic not only with great caution but, more important, much prayer and humility.
Laying the Groundwork
A discussion about the Bible, men, and women in this culture leaves the door wide open to impassioned and often false interpretations of biblical lessons, so I want to lay out a foundation of how we should approach this issue together. We must each ask ourselves: What is my view of the Bible? Is it God’s Word, or is it just the thoughts of men? Does it contain errors, and if it does, can we decipher those errors from what is true?
For instance, many who advocate the position that the Bible sees no difference at all between men and women in the church and the family must often discard very pointed remarks from Paul’s letters, sometimes without any textual reason for doing so. Paul, they suggest, made an error—but on what basis do they come to that conclusion?
Another question each Christian must consider is this: If the Bible teaches something that I am uncomfortable with, will I still obey it? That is, are we as individuals the final arbiters of truth? If we consider that we are the authors of truth, we put ourselves on a dangerous path. As Christians, we must resist falling prey to our “instincts,” because the prevailing thoughts and value systems of the world can influence our thinking in unbiblical ways.
Indeed, the most fundamental basis for Christians is that Christ says if we love Him, we will obey Him. We must stand for the truth that God has shown us in His Word. That’s why I have written this booklet based on the following principles:

  1. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
  2. When God’s people have been unfaithful to Him, negative consequences follow.

With these ideals in mind, I firmly believe we can come to a biblical conclusion to just about any doctrinal disagreement between people who love God.

The Family and the Church
At the end of Creation week, God not only established the Sabbath (Genesis 2:18, 21–24) but also the family (Genesis 2:1–3). And in the last days, we will see Satan not only attacking those who remain faithful to the Sabbath, but he will also strike at man’s most intimate relationship—the family. In fact, this battle has already begun.
Any victory by the devil in the war against the family is ultimately reflected in the church. The very survival of both society and the church leans heavily upon the family unit. In this unit, seen not only in God’s Word but also His creation, we find a basic truth: Men are fathers, and women are mothers.
As we shall see later, men and women are without question equal as humans, but they are also entirely unique as creatures. They are not only distinct sexually, but almost every other aspect of their natures is different as well. I believe these differences should be apparent, maintained, and even emphasized in everything, from the way we walk and talk to the way we work and dress. Men should never try to be women, and women should never try to be men.      Now, I am not a male chauvinist. I wash dishes, change diapers, and make beds. In the 1970s, my mother was a leading voice in the women’s liberation movement (now called the feminist movement) in North America. Very articulate and outspoken, she even wrote an entire album of songs dedicated to women’s rights. And like her, I firmly believe that men and women should get equal pay for equal work.
My mother also left the movement because it turned into something else. She saw feminism becoming more about angry women who wanted to be like men rather than attaining the rightful respect for being a woman. And this is the feminism, albeit more refined, that is pushing its agenda into churches with a frightening degree of success today. Of course, I expect this influence in the world. However, when it seeps into the body of Christ disguised as an “improvement,” it often signals a very serious problem.
This movement in our church is partly the result of some Christians, who have an earnest desire to reach the world with the message of salvation, naively trying to increase their influence by adopting popular social philosophy. In an attempt to reverse the injustice against women throughout the ages, they have allowed the feminist movement to push the church beyond voting rights and equal pay into the arena of unisex thinking.
And by substituting a politically correct but biblically inaccurate social philosophy as their guide, they are inadvertently erasing any biblical distinction between men and women. Often when an organization seeks to correct some wrong policy, it overcorrects. I fear this is the case of the church, which has a valid need to create more avenues for women to use their gifts of ministry. However, this need is being translated by some into a problematic desire for women to be ordained as pastors and elders.
When Men Fail to Lead
I should hasten to say that the blame does not lie with just the liberal feminist movement. In fact, the brunt of the blame must fall on indifferent and even lazy men within the church. They are failing to fulfill their roles as strong, loving, and servant-oriented leaders. As a result, women are naturally stepping into the vacuum.
Yet Isaiah 3:1–12 offers a sobering thought about this scenario. “And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. … As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths” (emphasis supplied).
It appears that when men fail to lead as they should, women and children fill the void as a negative consequence. This often comes with bad results, as was the case with Queen Jezebel, who usurped her husband’s authority. (See 1 Kings 18, 19, and 21.) While in power, she severely persecuted God’s prophets. Not long after, her daughter Athaliah took the throne of Judah—a six-year reign marked by bloodshed and confusion (2 Kings 11:1–16).
The Christian author E.G. White wrote, “The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.”1
When men fulfill this mandate, when they are spiritually strong and obedient to God, we find an outpouring of blessings. But when men do not obey God and are not spiritually strong, whether they are weak, lazy, or cowardly, God responds in judgment by allowing an unnatural and unintended role reversal to take place.
We can take this to mean that God has clearly established men to be the rightful leaders in the home, church, and society. The word husband means “house-band,” because men are to be the head of the household and bind their families together in the love of Christ.
God’s Love Equal for Men and Women
We need to be clear about one thing before moving forward. The value of men and the value of women are perfectly equal in the eyes of God. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, emphasis added). The spiritual standing of every human being, regardless of nationality, class, or gender, is the same. The ground at the foot of the cross is level—women matter as much as men. This is abundantly clear from the life and ministry of Jesus and the apostles.
For instance, Jesus taught women directly and was ministered to by them. “Now it came to pass … that He entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house.” (See Luke 10:38–42.) He was also supported financially by women (Luke 8:3), and women were among the first to accept the gospel (Acts 16:14, 15).
Yet the fact that men and women have equal rights and access to salvation does not negate the need for submission to leadership in the home or the church. Indeed, Jesus and the Father are equal, yet Jesus submits to the authority of the Father. “The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3).
Of course, men should be responsible leaders in our home and churches, firm if necessary but always kind. (Colossians 3:19 says, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.” In studying the phrase “be not bitter,” I found the idea to be that a man should not treat his wife harshly, because it will eventually make her bitter.)
Moreover, in America, “equal rights” does not negate the authority or leadership of society’s leaders. You have the same civil rights as a police officer, but you are expected to submit to their authority. Likewise, equality in salvation does not negate the God-established system of male leadership in the home and church. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1, emphasis added).
It is true that for far too long, men have misunderstood the proper role of women in the church, often treating them as second-class Christians. Because of this, many gifted women have been left without an arena in which to use their gifts. Perhaps this is why many Christian women reacted to their unfair status by following the “prevailing winds” of the world, ultimately desiring things that God forbids.
The fact is that the pendulum of the role of women in the church has swung too far in both directions. But where humans have failed, God promises victory, peace, and restoration. That’s why both sides in this debate need to seek wisdom and guidance from God’s Word in order to grow in the unity of the faith.
Finally, in considering women’s roles in the church, remember also the broader idea of ministry itself. There are role distinctions in the church that are not in dispute. (See 1 Corinthians 12.) You don’t hear the argument that a man gifted in teaching is more valuable than a man gifted in encouragement. The nature of a body is that different members perform different roles, yet each member is equal in importance. Different does not mean better or worse.
So as we continue our study, please note that this booklet is not designed to be an exhaustive study on the subject of women’s ordination, neither will it deal with every single argument regarding women as pastors or elders. Rather, it is a simple presentation of “Thus saith the Lord,” which should always be our guide in determining the truth on any issue.
In The Beginning
Let’s begin with Creation. It can be said that God made creatures in the order of their value and complexity. First, He created the base elements of earth, water, and air; then, He made vegetation and light. Next, He made the birds and fish, and then land creatures.
Finally, God made a man and, as the concluding act of Creation, a woman. We can take this to mean that women are the most beautiful and complex creatures on the planet. They even tend to live longer than men and use more of their brains in concert.
Note, God did not create the first man and woman in the same way. He made the man from dust, but He made the woman out of the man (Genesis 2:21, 22). And while God named the man, it was the man who named the woman. “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23; see also Genesis 3:20). So God’s creation process itself suggests a very distinct difference between men and women.
Later, after sin entered the picture, God also established a system of authority to maintain harmony in the family, the church, and society. It is a system in which man would lead. “Unto the woman He said … thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Genesis 3:16). The word rule means “to govern, or have dominion.”
It is important not to rush past this pivotal verse, as some have argued that the passages regarding man’s leadership role reflect the biases of a male-dominant culture. But notice that the command in Genesis 3:16 comes directly from God; it did not come from Moses, King David, Peter, John, or even Paul. It is God’s own voice speaking.
Likewise, it’s been said that we must disregard these passages because they were based on ancient eastern traditions that don’t apply today—after all, there were also laws regarding slavery and polygamy in Bible times. That’s certainly true, but God never directly commanded people to have slaves or multiple wives either. Rather, as Jesus said, it was because of “the hardness of your heart [that Moses] wrote you this precept” (Mark 10:5).
We also need to back up a little and understand that the supporting role of women was established before the fall. (See 1 Corinthians 11:7–9.) Eve was created to be Adam’s “help meet” (Genesis 2:18). Thus from the very dawn of Creation, the role of a woman is to support her husband.
Women In Church
Let’s now dive into a controversial but eye-opening passage that deals with women in a church setting. Paul writes, “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control” (1 Timothy 2:8–15).
Here we discover Paul advising the young Timothy on appropriate church life, offering practical guidelines for structuring the church and choosing its officers, with qualifications for each position.
Paul also addresses women’s attire, requesting that they avoid the appearance of worldliness by dressing modestly and focusing on propriety, because “ostentatious dress, in the ancient world, sometimes could signal a woman’s loose morals and independence from her husband.”2 Of course, these general teachings are widely accepted in principle by most churches, but what Paul writes next often causes a serious stir.
For women, Paul says, their role in worship is to “learn quietly with all submissiveness.” That is, within a worship gathering at the church, a woman should remain quiet. But what does he mean by quiet? Paul clarifies, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man.” So this isn’t an absolute quiet, but rather “quiet” in the sense clearly described—without teaching or exercising authority over men. This understanding is in complete agreement with Paul’s discussionin 1 Corinthians 11, which is a passage that demonstrates women participated in prayer and prophecy in the early church.
The Heart of the Matter
To understand this limitation on the ministry of women a little better, we need to clarify what the word teach actually means. First, it is clear this passage is in regard to spiritual matters within the church. The epistle itself is pastoral in nature, providing instructions for the church and appropriate conduct therein. Therefore, it doesn’t preclude women from occupations that require instruction of or authority over men outside the church structure.
But considering its usage throughout the Scriptures, the term teach is used “to denote the careful transmission of the tradition concerning Jesus Christ and the authoritative proclamation of God’s will to believers in light of that tradition.”3
Therefore, according to Paul, women are not to exert spiritual authority over men. This isn’t limited to the husband and wife relationship, but rather encompasses all male-female relationships in the church.
The same sentiment is echoed in 1?Corinthians 14:34,?35: “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.” In this passage, Paul also tells the women of Corinth to learn in silence. (In this particular incidence, he is addressing the proper evaluation of prophecies.)
Many have argued that though Paul restricts women from teaching men, it was based entirely on cultural traditions that have no place today. However, although it certainly is important to understand the historical and cultural background of every Bible teaching, Paul simply does not leave room for us to disregard this passage in that manner.
Why? After giving the restriction, Paul gives a timeless reason for it. “For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1?Timothy 2:12). Here Paul grounds his teaching directly to the creation of all things, implicitly stating that men and women were created differently and have different roles in the natural, pre-fall conditionof humanity. Therefore, there is no room to say this is a teaching for the Ephesians in their time and place in the world.
The reality is that Paul often writes about the roles and distinctions between men and women among other role distinctions. For example, in Ephesians 5 and 6, he calls on women to submit to their husbands and for servants to submit to their masters. Indeed, this passage follows another in which Paul talks about putting on the “new self” in Christ (Ephesians 4:23, 24). It is the newly converted man who understands the created order and is able to live in submission to God. Thus Paul never abolishes roles; rather, he explains that Christ has abolished any distinction with regard to spiritual position: We are each justified by faith alone and are equally granted the right to be children of God.
Not Just Women
Some suggest that because there are generally more women than men in the church, leadership roles should be divided according to those percentages. But by using this reasoning, it would follow that in a family with three children, kids would be entitled to the largest share of leadership!
On the contrary, authority in church does not come through a popular vote, but rather from the Word of God, which equates the spiritual authority of man over woman with the authority of Christ over man. (See 1 Corinthians 11:3.)
Furthermore, wives should willingly acknowledge the headship of their husbands. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing” (Ephesians 5:23, 24). See also Titus 2:4, 5, and 1 Peter 3:6 for even more about a Bible-centered relationship.
Paul also says pointedly that elders are to be husbands; that is, men: “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2). (Note: The terms bishop and elder are interchangeable.) “[Paul] did not say that just any man could be a bishop, even as in the Old Testament not just any son of Aaron could be a priest. The office has always been limited. The Christian leader Paul spoke of must be ‘blameless’ and married, ‘vigilant, sober, of good behavior,’ etc. There is a long list of requirements that eventually eliminates most men and leaves only a very few eligible.”4 Women aren’t the only ones who are ineligible to be elders and pastors; so are most of the men!
Of course, every Christian, male and female, is called to minister in some capacity, but not in every capacity. “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11, 12).
The Church Role of Women in the Bible
What then is the role of women in Christ’s church? The Bible is very clear that women ought to leap into ministry with both feet! Indeed, one of the greatest weaknesses in the church is the lack of women’s ministries truly focused on Christ and growth in the Word.
Plus, throughout the Bible, women are shown as equal in the nature of their ministry. Several examples include Deborah, who was a judge of Israel (Judges 4:4); Huldah and Anna, who were prophetesses (2 Chronicles 34:22; Luke 2:36); Priscilla, who was active in evangelism (Acts 18:26); and Pheobe, who was a deaconess (Romans 16:1).
Women also played a prominent role in the ministry of Jesus and ministry to Jesus (Matthew 28:1–10; Luke 8:3; 23:49; John 11:1–46; 12:1–8). Further, no spiritual gift is limited to men in the lists in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 12:27–31; Romans 12:3–8; 1 Peter 4:8–11), and women were commanded to edify the body of Christ, which included teaching (Titus 2:4) and prophecy (Acts 2:17, 18; 21:9; 1 Corinthians 11:5).
As you can see, women have an incredibly important role in God’s church throughout the ages. That hasn’t changed. However, even though men and women both serve the Lord in significant ways, we should not conclude that God has intended men and women to function in the same capacity.
Yet just because 1 Timothy 2:12 explicitly teaches that a woman is not to teach a man, women are nevertheless free to teach in many other ways. In fact, women are commanded to explain the gospel to everyone, including lost men (cf. Acts 18:26). Within the church, women may teach women and children. With men in the church, women should discuss spiritual matters in a manner that informs but is not authoritative. This does not mean that a man cannot learn from a woman’s conduct or from a conversation with a woman and apply what he learns to his life. Rather, what it means is that the woman’s purpose in talking with a man is not to instruct him as a leader would.
Of course, Paul’s limitation on women in teaching and exercising authority over men has been challenged in other ways. Some suggest his words in 1 Timothy 2:12, “I do not allow,” are his personal preference, but not something for the church at large. However, this undermines Paul’s apostolic authority; he commonly spoke in the first person in directing the church (1 Timothy 2:1, 8, 9). Others even contend that Paul was simply wrong, but this must be rejected on the grounds of the doctrine of inspiration of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16).
Even though we can conclude that a woman should not assume the office of a pastor or elder within the church, it is clear that women are important to the church and do important things. The woman who fulfills the role God established for her is not inferior in any way to a man; rather, she is acting as a godly woman.
A Powerful Influence in the Church
While it is abundantly clear that women are not to be pastors or elders, because doing so would place them in a leadership role over men (1 Timothy 2:11–14; 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35), there are other things that women can and should do. Their ministry revolves around support, service, and ministry to women and children.
For instance, women can teach other women. “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient totheir own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:3–5). Therefore, mature Christian women are to disciple younger women, teaching them to exercise self-control, to be affectionate to their own husbands, to correct their children wisely, to be restrained in their passions and desires, to be modest, and to be upright in character.
Further, women should minister with the Word to other women. In Acts 21:8–11, Philip the evangelist has four unmarried daughters who minister in this way. While some point to this passage as evidence that women can be pastors, the context shows differently. Paul stayed with Philip and his family and was ministered to, but when God wanted to reveal something to Paul prophetically, He did not use any of Philip’s daughters. He used a male prophet from another city to instruct Paul.
Women can also share the gospel in a private context. For instance, Priscilla and Aquila shared the gospel with Apollos privately. It was a team effort, but it is clear from the passage that Priscilla took part (Acts 18:26). I believe the Bible allows that women can share the gospel with a man in a non-public setting if the opportunity presents itself, as long as: 1) it is done with the husband’s permission; 2) it is done discreetly; and 3) it is done in a way that avoids the appearance of evil.
Women should also be involved in supporting roles in the church and missionary work. Philippians 4:2–4 says, “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.”
Servants of the Church
Even though the Lord has chosen many women to serve as prophets through the ages, He has never hinted that a woman should be ordained as a priest. Pastors and elders, of course, are roughly the New Testament equivalent to the Old Testament priests. Pastors and elders lead out in communion, which is the New Testament equivalent of offering a sacrifice—a role that was performed by a man. And while many priests were prophets, no women prophets were priests. Amram and Jochebed had three children—Miriam, Aaron, and Moses (Exodus 7:1; 5:20). All three were prophets, but only the boys served as priests.
Of course, women have served a vital role in the church from the very beginning, but men were assigned the role of church leadership. The apostles were all men, the churches were started by men, the Scripture was written by men under inspiration, and the churches were led by men. This does not mean that women are less capable of teaching than men; it simply means that God created us this way. Perhaps by spending more of our time understanding God’s purpose in creating this structure, we’ll find lasting satisfaction—rather than trying to find it by bucking against the teachings of God’s Word.
Romans 16:1,?2 says, “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also” (emphasis supplied).
The word translated servant is the Greek word diakonos (dee-ak’-on-os). It literally means “to run on errands; an attendant, a waiter at tables or in other serving duties.” The word in the masculine gender, diakoneo(s) (dee-ak-on-eh’-o), appears in the New Testament about 68 times and is translated as “serve, minister, administer.” Every time but five, the word refers to the office of a deacon that can be held only by men (1 Timothy 3:8–13; Acts 6:1–7). I bring this up because some say that Phebe held the office of a deacon. She did not. She was a servant, a helper around the church, and she succoured (assisted, helped, or was hospitable) to many such as Paul.
In 1 Timothy 5:9,?10, we learn, “Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.” I have turned us to this passage because it gives the qualifications for a widow considered worthyof regular support by the local church. She was to have a history of good works, have been a faithful mother, hospitable to strangers, and willing to serve fellow Christians in humble ways. In short, she was to have a history of diligent labor for the Lord. One such example is Tabitha, or Dorcas, found in Acts 9. She made clothes for many of the believers; she was a woman with a true servant’s heart.
Embracing Our Roles
F. B. Meyer said, “I used to think that God’s gifts were on shelves one above the other and that the taller we grew in Christian character the more easily we could reach them. I now find that God’s gifts are on shelves one beneath the other and that it is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower.” Remember, it was Mary Magdalene—who was content to kneel at Jesus’ feet—who was also honored to be the first to see the Lord after His resurrection and share that good news with others (John 20:17).
Submission is the putting of oneself under the authority of another. It is an act of humility, something that both men and women in our churches should practice much more. Within the church, Paul teaches that women ought to submit to the authority of men in the church. But this must never be an excuse to foster inequality. Christ submitted to the Father, yet He is equal to the Father in worth and essence. Therefore, submission is about order, not value!
At the same time, there is a tremendous problem of ignoring the clear statements of Scripture in respect to the role of women in the church. Christians who sweep aside plain statements of Scripture as outdated traditions or local customs are building on a foundation of shifting sand. Soon every other Bible truth will be in danger of sliding away, so that even the Lord’s Supper, baptism, and marriage will one day be mere ancient traditions that no longer apply to a politically correct world. We should not undermine the Scriptures so easily.
The fact of the Bible is that there is not a single example of a woman being ordained as a priest, pastor, or elder. Indeed, Jesus only ever ordained men. Was He just conforming to the popular customs of the day? Well, the truth is that in His time, most of the pagan religions had women priests. Moreover, the notion that Jesus confined Himself to following the traditions of His day is completely opposite of His teachings. He said, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3). Jesus laid down His life in defense of truth, irrespective of popular trends. We should always be willing to do the same.
When the Lord made woman, it was the crowning act of His creation. So this isn’t about honor or pride or our social standing before humans. It’s about following the plain teaching of the Bible. Interestingly, the Bible uses a woman as a symbol of His precious church. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25). In Scripture, we find the greatest success comes to the church when she humbly embraces her role to serve Christ in saving others.
Before the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the apostles were striving for higher position and arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. The Holy Spirit was poured out on them only after they humbled themselves and resolved to accept the calling God had placed upon them. I know the Lord wants to shower His Spirit upon His people again, but first we must turn away from the politically correct teachings of the world and with the mind of Christ humbly submit to the clear teachings of His Word.
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