Apostasy! What Is It?
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Image © Stan Myers from GoodSalt.com

Image © Stan Myers from GoodSalt.com

One Friday morning, I was helping in getting a friend’s house “presentable” by pulling weeds in a flower bed when I found in my hands, not a clump of ugly weeds but, instead, a beautiful begonia! I had snapped it at the root, and there was no way I could now save it. In my mind I could hear Jesus telling me,

“See why I don’t let you go pulling weeds in my church? You can’t tell a beautiful begonia from a weed. There is no way I am going to let you destroy a totally innocent member of My church, just because you think they are a heretic. I will do My own weeding thank you. I can tell a weed from a begonia. Obviously you can’t.”

I have become concerned lately how easily some in the church judge others, and use the word “apostasy” in Adventist circles during disagreements. That is a strong word! It is a bit like us doing our own weeding when that has been reserved as God’s role. Apostasy is defined as “a total desertion of or departure from one’s religionprinciples, party, cause.” 1 In Christian circles, it carries an even stronger connotation of not being a Christian at all. Even Jesus, who could read hearts did not accuse anyone in the Bible of being an apostate or heretic. So so why do some of His professed followers do that?

It is not apostasy to accept a doctrine widely accepted by other Christian denominations.  Remember, the Seventh-day Adventist Church grew out of many denominations. Our church’s founders agreed with a great many doctrines that were first held in other churches. Rachel Oakes, a Seventh-day Baptist introduced the Sabbath. It was adopted by the group because they found the practice to be biblical. Baptism by immersion likewise was accepted from the Baptists, but immortality of the soul was rejected. Our system of governance is largely based on the Methodist model. Doctrines were accepted or rejected on a biblical basis and not on whether they were believed by other churches or not.

Our mandate is clearly described in 1 Thessalonians 5:21

“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”

Good doctrine is determined by the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16) and not by which denominations believe or don’t believe it. 

Opposition to some doctrines seem to be based on the idea that our purpose is to disagree with the teachings of other churches. But the purpose of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not to disagree with everybody else. For example, the doctrine of the trinity is held in common with most Christian denominations. Indeed it was the Catholics who first used the term trinity to describe the mystery of the Godhead as we understand it. The Seventh-day Adventist Church accepts this doctrine, not on the basis of who believes it but the fact that it is supported by strong Biblical evidence.

In fact we hold many of our beliefs and practices in common with the Catholic church. We do not stop praying for our loved ones in hospitals because Catholics do it. And we do not stop honoring Christ because Catholics do it.

Good doctrine is not determined by what our pioneers taught.

Just because our pioneers believed something at one time, does not make it right. We need to remember that our pioneers came from various backgrounds and brought their beliefs with them, and it took some time for them to study the Bible together and come to a unified understanding of what the Bible really teaches. If we determine good doctrine on the basis of pioneer beliefs, we are making idols of our pioneers. And we are likely to adopt some views that our church later found to be unsupported by the Bible.

It helps to remember that “All that’s old is not gold. All that’s new is not true!”

Basing our teachings only on what our pioneers believed would be basing our teachings on traditions of the past, just as the Pharisees did. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus did not do away with the teachings of Moses, but He brought greater insight and light to such teachings as murder and adultery than Moses had. Jesus replaced traditions in the church with simple Scripture. While it was not Jesus’ aim to do away with the church of His day, it was His aim to get it back on track with the Word of God.

Luther did not intend to destroy the church, but to get it back on track with the Word of God, as Jesus did. Jesus taught the church of His day to worship God instead of Moses. Luther taught the church of his day to worship God instead of dead saints.

I believe that God wants His last-day remnant church to worship Him (First angel’s message) instead of the Adventist pioneers, and test truth by Scripture rather than the beliefs of our pioneers.

Paul commended the Bereans for being “more noble” than the people of Thessalonica, because they “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11)

I pray that in our discussions we will take the “more noble” approach of the Bereans and heed Paul’s counsel to the Thessalonians to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (Thess 5:21)


 

  1. Definition of Apostasy from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/apostasy
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Apostasy! What Is It? — 24 Comments

  1. William, You challenge us to faithfulness in study, including being open to the knowledge of God as revealed to Abraham from Ur of the Chaldeas, to Melchizedek the Sidonian King, to Ruth the Moabite widow, to Apostle Luke the Greek Physician, and even to Cornelius the Roman Captain. Does that mean you will have a Baptist Pastor teach our brethren about salvation by faith (like Martin Luther the Reformer?), and a Catholic teach us about reverence in the Sanctuary? What say you? Open to hope.

    Like(7)
    • Hurford,

      You bring up some good questions. Obviously we are not the only people with some truth. If so we would not even be here because our church was formed by collecting truth from other churches. Sometimes I fear we throw the baby out with the bath water which is a mistake.

      Several years ago I was studying with a young woman where I worked. She invited me to her Methodist AME church one Sunday where she was singing in her choir. I went, and they had a lady guest speaker that Sunday. She preached what I would call one of the best Adventist sermons I have ever heard on justification and Sanctification, even though she was not even Adventist but Methodist AME. She spoke about how the first part of Ephesians is about Me in Jesus, which is justification, and then how the last part of Ephesians was about Jesus in me which is sanctification. It was a good solid Biblical sermon and I learned a lot that day!

      Like(2)
  2. Interesting how it was the black horse in Revelation 6 that carried the balances, and it seems the main purpose of the medieval church was to judge their fellow man, condemning them as heretics, while the commission had nothing in it about that. The pure church was bringing salvation to their fellow man while the corrupt church was condemning and executing all who didn't fall in line with their ideas.

    Pull weeds or sow seeds?

    Like(5)
  3. That's very true...it's a very rough journey with all the roadblocks the devil sets.Gods way is the best.Blessed Sabbath

    Like(2)
  4. I agree whole heartedly with Williams remarks. We are just beginning our camp meeting and Elder Henry Wright is the speaker for the Sabbath services Friday and Sabbath morning and evening and his sermons center around the lost sheep,the lost coin, and the two lost brothers. The subject is dicipleship among the church members. Are we as concerned about those that we do not agree with because of some scriptural passages that we understand differently, or is winning an argument more important. Jesus gave His life for all of us and He will determine who is the beneficary of that gift. Your illustration of weeding the garden is most apropos. All the lost things In Jesus' parables had one thing in common, the lost were being sought by someone that was very concerned. That typifies Jesus. Matt 10:24,the disciple is not above the master". As disciples of Christ our care for others should be patterned after the Master.

    Like(7)
    • Paul, my prayer with you to our Father for a rich blessing on God's people.
      Questions: Was it just someone who was concerned, or was it the owner himself/herelf, which seems to narrow the concept of the searcher?
      My impression is that camp meeting is just for the holy. In your camp meeting, were any weeds invited to listen to that great preacher, or perhaps a coin or two?
      So what do you do with the interpretations that differ? Do we go Osteen style? He draws the largest and a very focused audience.
      Blessings.

      Like(0)
  5. I recently witnessed my church of five years, make a point to take a member off the church roll. I grew up more towards the lessons of the wheat and tares parable where the Master lets them grow together, to be separated at the harvest. I had a few questions/challenges and then backed off to ponder the situation. I am encouraged to bring this up again, I just gotta say more about seeds and weeds and the Master's directions.

    I'd like y'all's thoughts on what should get someone's membership in a church to be revoked.

    Like(1)
    • What should get someone's membership in a church to be revoked? The SDA church has worked on this for a long time. The result of that work is published in our Church Manual. Chapter 7, on "Discipline", includes much good counsel for the process, as well as reasons for discipline (page 61). In my experience, we, as a church, have been lax in applying the counsel we have for church discipline, and when we have followed any of it, we have seldom followed all of it. That can lead to problems just as big as the problem of the member in question.

      Like(2)
  6. I totally agree that we do not have the moral authority to judge others in the church. The church is a microcosm of heaven where people from all religions, beliefs and walks of life will converge at the invitation of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. At the same token, I believe in a unified Bible-based church whose doctrines and beliefs stem directly from scriptures, not from the invention of us humans. Lately, I have noticed that there some Adventists who want to introduce doctrines that are not only against all that we as a church believe, but those doctrines are not based on scriptures. Such doctrines should be rejected outright, and not encouraged at all. It is one thing to judge a person,but a different thing to judge an idea. If we accept all kinds of heretic teachings to filter into the church, then we as a body of Christ loose our mission to teach and bring people to His fold.

    As a body with millions of people from all over the world, we cannot expect that we will all interpret the Bible in the same way. Moreover, our cultural beliefs might affect the way we worship or approach the throne of God. However, we have to be very diligent in searching the scriptures daily so that we can continue to affirm our faith.

    Like(16)
  7. Amazing example of the finite nature of man in wisdom,discretion and insight. If we are able to know heretics and determine their fate, we would have taken God's role. I pray that love drives us to lovingly seek the good in others and not make others in our own images.

    Like(6)
  8. Thank you everyone for your comments and for joining our discussion.

    Judy, Jesus gave us an example in Matthew 18 of how to do deal with open and rebellious sinful behavior. It is a very grievous task that must be done by the church. I am glad you bring up the topic of behavior, because open sinful behavior is quite different from just having a different opinion about a Sabbath School topic, or exactly what you can and can't do on the Sabbath, or having a different opinion on the 144,000. Having an opinion on a topic is one thing, open sinful behavior is another and must be dealt with in the guidelines Jesus gave.

    Like(8)
  9. Sometimes God places responsibilities on His people to pull the weed. The church of God cannot have falsehood within its realm. It is tough to know the balance, that is why Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit who discerns the intent of the heart. While it is impossible for man to know the heart of another, their fruits (actions) often reveal where their heart is. In today's church so much is preached toward the tolerance of one another in their sins. To me we have missed the boat. We are called to be overcomers and sometimes that means others will see something we are blind to and be prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak truthfully to us. So in your analogy of the weeding, God may be asking you at times to pull the weed before it chokes the good plant through the avenue of church discipline. Just a thought.

    Like(5)
    • It seems that tares are similar to wheat and only discerned properly near the time of harvest. They will be the "good" members that prove to be something else in the end. However, rocks and invasive weeds are clearly of a different nature, and the church is given a proper method for making sure no mistake is made when discipline must be exercised. Many are brought to safety when properly disciplined, while the persistent will reveal themselves. In every case, restoration, not removal, must be the motive from the beginning. (Gal 6:1)

      Like(3)
  10. Jeff I totally agree with you about dealing with open sin. My post here is more about different opinions and beliefs than sin. Please keep in mind that some people who preach more liberal are actually more conservative and vice verse. Not that one extreme is better than the other, I am just saying, your beliefs don't make you good or bad. It is your behavior, not your beliefs that determine your character. This quote from Christ Object Lessons, page 71 explains where I am coming from in this post.

    "Christ's servants are grieved as they see true and false believers mingled in the church. They long to do something to cleanse the church. Like the servants of the householder, they are ready to uproot the tares. But Christ says to them, "Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest."
    Christ has plainly taught that those who persist in open sin must be separated from the church, but He has not committed to us the work of judging character and motive. He knows our nature too well to entrust this work to us. Should we try to uproot from the church those whom we suppose to be spurious Christians, we should be sure to make mistakes. Often we regard as hopeless subjects the very ones whom Christ is drawing to Himself."

    Like(14)
  11. It will be wise to take a deep study about the tabernacle before commenting to the topic of apostacy. Proselyte Jews, Christians and present denominations(names) were unknown during Biblical times. The term apostacy could be a term that came after the establishment of the now denominations, but Biblically Satan/The Devil/that old serpent was the first one to apostice

    Like(1)
  12. excellent article! I loved it when you said, "I believe that God wants His last-day remnant church to worship Him (First angel’s message) instead of the Adventist pioneers, and test truth by Scripture rather than the beliefs of our pioneers."

    That is a great point. For a long time, I have been unimpressed by those who claim to be "historic Adventists." I don't want to be a historic Adventist, I want to be a Biblical Adventist! Great stuff dude.

    Like(3)
    • The general application of the presentation is very great and excellent. I however think there are certain specifics like in the case of Jeff Peterson's comment above where it might have limitations.

      Like(1)
  13. The various comments made as it relates to weed pulling is a perfect example of how we can miss the point of discussion entirely. William is
    Talking about ideas,and we have jumped all the way to behavior. Our
    Thought processes at times can be the problem.

    Like(5)
  14. Good, we are not to judge because judgment is exclusive duty of the father, but then when a member or members came up with some doctrine(s) which are not the practice though have bible texts to support are you advising us/me to accept it? E.g woman ordination because its gaining ground in the other denomination and because we believe in equality before God? Pls i need to get your point right. Thanks

    Like(1)
  15. William,
    I could not agree with you more. Each generation is given the light for it's time. Light that builds on the last light and becomes brighter to illuminate more truth. Jesus once said that he would love to be able to tell his friends more but they just couldn't handle it. I am convinced that we as Adventists have been exposed to professional mental gymnastics. We say a lot of things that don't make sense because of the cultural miasma that surrounds us. We need to "come let us reason". For example, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only son..." Could their be a better statement of love in the Bible than that? We NEED LOVE. Yet the lesson turns right around on Sunday and says at the bottom of the page,"If God gave you what you deserved, what would it be...?" I am going to step out on a limb here and say, "Jesus". That's what I deserve. I deserve Jesus. Why? Because God gave Him to me because, obviously, I deserve it and need it. I am His child. Wouldn't He want the best for His child? Let's stop all of the mental gymnastics and come and reason as a generation that is not stagnant in cliches.

    Like(1)
  16. Apostasy is rebellion against 'thus saith The LORD'; against God. Let's accept that God Himself gave and gives 'meat in due season'. This is why what we call our fundamental beliefs did not come at the same time by the same human instrumentalities in the hand of God. Rather God in His own wisdom dispensed the golden Truth at different times. The SDA Church has embraced all doctrines on a progressive scale; hence its uniqueness. The danger of exalting personalities is depicted by the GC rejecting the doctrine of 'Righteousness by Faith' in 1888 because it did not come through EGW who was still alive then. But when consulted she confirmed it to be God-given.

    Like(2)

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