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Sarah’s Covenant or Hagar’s? — 83 Comments

  1. Hello Stephen, I appreciate your article and what you have to say but I do have a question. You seem to lean toward a total “hands off” approach to known sin. The problem that I see in going to extremes on this is that without proper restraint the church would go wild.

    I am thinking of situations such as the one in Corinth where a man was living with his father’s wife. Is it proper for a church to ignore such things on the basis that they are not to Judge? Where do we draw the line?

    • Thanks for your input, Tyler. Perhaps a clarification may help. What I advocate is not "hands off" but instead I take a position on who's hands should be dealing with sin. As human beings we have been woefully inept at dealing with sin. We cannot even root it out of our own lives. God is the only one capable of handling this problem. Therefore, His hands and not ours should be dealing with it. The question is, do we have enough faith to trust Him completely to accomplish this without our getting in and mucking things up? We all have a tendency to push God out of the driver's seat and take the steering wheel ourselves.

    • Ok, Stephen, I agree but was Paul justified in what he did? And can we be justified and just stand by while sin is flagrantly being pursued in the church without saying anything? I mean we could just look the other way but then wouldn't we be putting our stamp of approval on the matter?

      It seems to me that you are right in saying that we shouldn't be fruit inspectors, we should keep our noses to ourselves. But when sin hits us in the face and puts a huge stain on the church don't we have the responsibility to engage in proper correction, "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted" (Gal 6:1 NKJV).

      • Thank you for bringing this up, Tyler. Theologically, we are never justified by what we do, not even Paul.

        In regards to Galatians 6:1, it is interesting that Paul uses the words "restore" and "gentleness" not "judge" or "firmness." An interesting passage from Ellen White seems to support this point:

        "No one has ever been reclaimed from a wrong position by censure and reproach; but many have thus been driven from Christ and led to seal their hearts against conviction." Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, pg 129. This book was published in 1896, long after the 1888 General Conference re Righteousness by Faith, and I believe reflects Ellen White's growth in understanding in this area.

      • Hello again Stephen, First a correction in understanding which I think is my fault not yours. I really wasn't using the word "justified" in the theological sense but in the common everyday usage of the term such as, "They are justifying their cause." So when I spoke of Paul being justified I was thinking of how the church would look at what he did.

        Since you quoted Ellen White in you rebuttal I feel that I am "justified" in doing the same. The quotation I have chosen is from a section in the book Gospel Workers which is on the subject of church discipline. The book is a good source which was originally written in 1892 and revised and enlarged in 1915. Before printing Ellen White reviewed the whole book and as stated in her biography she was reading it more than a month and a half before her accident. In it she devotes a section of a little over 3 pages to the subject of church discipline (GW 498-502). As you might expect she is very careful in pointing out the necessity of love and the necessity of an eye toward redemption of the individual but she also says that we are not to neglect the job of dealing with sin. Her main concern seems to be for us to do it correctly with the right attitude based on Christ's instruction in Mat 18:15-17.

        I realize that there could be collateral damage but I don't know if it could be any worse than what happens when sin is allowed to run unimpeded and the entire church becomes corrupt and essentially trashes Christ and all that He stands for.

        I think we need to be in the middle of the road on this issue which means that we don't become busybodies trying to find all the faults in everyone life neither are we to allow sin, especially bold open sin, to go unchecked. To do either of these things would eventually destroy the church.

        • Thanks for your insights, Tyler. You are right that balance is important in everything. I do have some questions for you.

          What do you mean by church? Are you talking about a building ,an organization, people who happen to meet together with a common liturgy, or those who have the Holy Spirit dwelling in their hearts? The believers in the early church were referred to as the latter ("pneumatikoi" in the Greek).

          It seems that understanding what constitutes a church would contribute to understanding the other issues. For instance it might affect very much whether or not God's church can indeed be destroyed. God may not be as committed as we might be when it comes to preserving buildings or even certain types of gatherings. He may be very committed to preserving those who are filled with His Spirit. What do you think?

        • Stephen, Yes a church can be destroyed and I am not talking about a building but spiritually. There is always some kind of a remnant but I don't think something less than 10% of what once was can be called anything but destroyed any more than a bombed out town that has less than that amount left can be considered still standing. In other words if a house burns down usually there is something left, a wall or two or perhaps some flooring, but because it is unusable as a house we consider it destroyed and clean up what remains.

          Another thing that I am wondering about is if Paul was in total disagreement with the Holy Spirit when he passed judgment on the man that had his father's wife.

          By the way I'm curious, did you read the reference in Gospel Workers which is a message to the Laodicean church?

  2. Stephen, I understand the grace behind your answer. Please tell me though, other than as outlined in the church manual, how do you understand that the church should handle open, flagrant sin? Churches have experienced fraud, immorality, spiritual and financial abuse and pastoral sexual misconduct (one experienced it all at once!) How would you scripturally deal with this issue, if it happened where you worship?

    • Thanks for your questions, Vicky. There are several scriptures that attempt to deal with the issues you raise. Ulrike has listed some of the most pertinent. Thank you, Ulrike.

      In practice, I have found that the counsel in Matthew 18 usually does more to prevent confrontation than to encourage it. Many were willing to come to me and say, "Pastor, what are you going to do about this?" However, few were willing to go to the person alone as the first step. Those that were usually had more severe problems themselves.

      All that being said, I wonder if the case for these instructions is not the same as when Jesus was asked about the rules concerning divorce in Matthew 19. He revealed that the rules had been established not to protect society or the church but because of the hardness of their hearts. I find it interesting that this "hard heart" speech came just after the extensive talk about compassion in Matthew 18.

      It is tempting for us to want to root all the evil out of the church and feel we are doing God's will when we are doing it. But Jesus said that the wheat and the tares are to grow together until the harvest. (See Matthew 13:24-30) As much as the workers wanted to remove the tares, they were told, "No."

      I have found from personal experience that weeding out a tare through church discipline almost never weeds out only the individual in question. Instead it creates doubts in the minds of others as to the motives of those doing the disciplining. This is the same reason that God did not simply destroy the Devil when he first rebelled. If left in our hands, we probably would have sent him off to be stoned, no ifs, ands, or buts.

      If we are trying to create a society of saints through church discipline, it will never happen. In spite of all the church discipline through thousands of years, people both in and out of the church still defraud and do other immoral deeds. All of King Hezekiah's faithfulness could not prevent a Manasseh, and all of King Josiah's faithfulness could not prevent the Babylonian captivity. But the overwhelming message of the prophets is that God is still in control even when we think things are the most out of control.

      • Stephen, I would like to add to the question Inge asked. Should a pedophile be allowed to teach in one of our grade schools? Or what about a pastor who decides that marriage vows are totally irrelevant and the Sabbath is no longer binding. Should an SDA church feel compelled to keep him as their pastor?

      • Pastor, I have been following the discussions and I can't help agreeing with you on most of the points you've raised. I do believe that as a body of believers that we are in most cases too hash with our dealings with misconduct among our various churches. We create more hurt and "bleeding" than we bring about healing and restoration. What happen to tending the lambs with love? Is it a thing of the past or is it out of the window - the baby and the bathwater metaphoric statement

        • Hi, Garfield. Happy Sabbath to you. Thanks for your comment. Maybe things would be more loving if the only "bleeding" in church was the blood of Christ.

    • Stephen, Vicky asked a question dealing with flagrant, open sin. In your reply you mentioned a problem "from personal experience" in attempting to "weed out a tare."

      Just for clarification, do you consider people involved in "fraud, immorality, spiritual and financial abuse and pastoral sexual misconduct" tares that the church should not attempt to weed out?

      • Tyler. I guess we may have a disagreement here. I do not believe God's church can be destroyed. I feel if that were the case then God would be proven to be totally unable to sustain and protect his church. That would seem to be in disagreement with Christ's statement about the church in Matthew 16:18.

        I feel that the Biblical reference adequately makes the point, but there is also Ellen White's statement in "Unlikely Leaders" pg 7: "Feeble and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object that God regards above all others. It is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to reveal His power to transform hearts."

        "Earthly kingdoms rule by physical power, but Christ banishes every instrument of force from His kingdom."

        • I can not find any place Tyler said that "God's church can be destroyed."

          Tyler wrote, "A church can be destroyed." I would take that to be a local congregation, and I know that a congregation may be destroyed by letting sin (especially in leaders) flourish unchecked.

          Furthermore, refusing to get involved when blatant sin is evident in the church is neither loving nor kind. Those who look the other way enable the child molester and the abusive pastor. Thus they contribute to the suffering of the victims, and God will hold them responsible. Furthermore it is not kind to the perpetrators who need serious help.

          The situations Vicky brought up are not hypothetical. They come up regularly -- not just in other churches, but in the Seventh-day Adventist church. Too often they are overlooked, and the perpetrators are protected.

          There is a time to overlook (but not of such evils), and there is a time to act decisively to root out evil.

          The message of Paul in 1 Cor. 5 seems pretty clear: The church has a responsibility to "put away from yourselves that wicked person." (1 Cor. 5:13)

          Love and law are not opposed to each other in the government of God. Neither are love and discipline opposed to each other in the home or in the church. They are two sides of the same coin. Without love, there is no genuine discipline, and there is no genuine love without discipline.

          Church discipline, conducted under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is in no way related to earthly power.

  3. Vicky asked

    Churches have experienced fraud, immorality, spiritual and financial abuse and pastoral sexual misconduct ... How would you scripturally deal with this issue, if it happened where you worship?

    While we are not to stand as judges over people, looking for flaws, etc. but rather look for the good in people in love and encouragement,
    scripture tells us that open, flagrant sin is to be dealt with.

    The following is from scripture:

    Matthew 18:15 Moreover if a brother shall sin against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone: if he shall hear you, you have gained a brother.
    18:16 But if he will not hear [you, then] take with you one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
    18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto you as a heathen man and a publican.

    1 Corinthians 5

    Immorality Defiles the Church
    1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. 3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
    6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.

    Immorality Must Be Judged

    9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.
    12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”

    • Thank you, Ulrike. I believe that when Paul told the Corinthians that their boasting was not good, he was referring to the self-congratulation of their extreme tolerance of evil.

      I can understand the sentiments behind Stephen's words. The straight testimony of the True Witness indicates that we Laodiceans are in a deplorable spiritual condition, and don't know it. In this condition, how likely is it that we could carry out church discipline in the right way and spirit? Are we not in danger of bringing in the rudimentary principles of the world -- that is, of using church discipline as a means of trying to force people into line?

      Nevertheless, it seems to me that opposing church discipline in principle is not only unbiblical, but it throws out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.

  4. Thanks Stephen for a wonderful article, and I have copied it for further reference. You have given me greater insight into the differences of the two covenants. Are the covenants and the promise the same thing, but often I hear mention of covenant promises. Are we talking about one and the same thing here.
    I do believe that the Promise by God is the same, it was His ideal when he created man and place him in the Garden of Eden. It was this promise he gave to Adam and Eve after their sin. It was this promise he repeated to Abraham and run as a thread throughout all of scriptures and it was this promised that was finally fulfilled in the New Jerusalem and announced for all heaven in Rev. 21:3. If then the Promise is one, the the Covenant which is two must be the means by which the promise is fulfilled, then Hagar's represent man's attempt to do so, and Sarah's is God's fulfilled in us

    • Samuel, I too feel that Stephen's article was very good. I do think, however, that it is important for us to remember that the expulsion of sin is still the act of the soul itself -- empowered by the Spirit of God.

      I believe that the real issue with the covenants is as Paul said, between seeking to be justified through our own efforts in obeying the law, on the one hand, and believing and claiming the promises of God, on the other. Even the one born again by believing God's promises has plenty to do in denying self and co-operating with God's work in the soul. I don't think that effort (or the lack thereof) is the issue here.

      However, the true believer has his or her eyes fixed firmly on Jesus, and is relying wholly on His merits for justification and His power and righteousness for sanctification. It is, after all, a supernatural work that we need.

    • Thank you, Dariy. I write an article or two per week. While they are not all published here, I am glad if those that are have been a blessing to you.

      I have also begun working on a series on Daniel and Revelation called "The Prophetic Fires of Faith" where I approach the traditional prophetic understandings from a fresh progressive perspective. Perhaps some of those articles will find their way here as well.

    • Hi, Dariy

      I just wanted to correct what I told you. "The Prophetic Fires of Faith" was a working title only. We have decided to change the title to "Daniel, John, and the Church" as it also deals heavily with ecclesiology. The first chapter will be published in the next couple of days. God bless.

  5. It is very clear that the justification is only by faith, but on the same time dealing with practical issues (e.g. discipline toward the others) it is possible that any of use to become harsh and legalistic in one side, or indulgent and excessively tolerant in the other side. I guess that a "middle" approach would be the best, but to do these you will surely need the senses of a pilot that comes by experience, commitment and Holy Spirit.

  6. Perhaps, I should address a point raised by others here. the question has been raised "What if so and so commits an open sin?" This reminds me of when I was a conscientious objector in the military. I was constantly asked what if someone were trying to kill your patients? (I was a medic.) Or what if someone broke into your house and attacked your family? The fact of the matter is that we can come up with all sorts of hypothetical situations to justify a policy of aggression toward one another.

    Perhaps this is the real fault line between righteousness by faith or righteousness by faith plus works. Most will choose the latter because they simply cannot believe that God's work can succeed without their making it so by some forceful effort on their part.

    I like how Ellen White put it: "The faith that works by love, and purifies the soul, produces the fruit of humility, patience, forbearance, long suffering, peace, joy, and willing obedience." The Beginning of the End, pg 320

    "Willing obedience" is the key. This only comes through the indwelling presence of the Spirit and cannot be compelled by definition.

  7. Thank you Stephen for daring to stand up for something over and above traditional thinking and teaching!

    Isn't that, when based upon our Creator's and Redeemer's direct guidance, the very essence of what it means to be a child of Sarah and a true son of God according to the promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?!

    In contradistinction, it is only too easy to be, to remain, a slave to tradition, to traditional thinking and being, a slave to doing what the Jones do, isn't it? And I mean that even when the Jones are good old traditional Seventh-day Adventists...

    It is only too easy to come under the censorship of good old SDA congregations or leaders for daring to stand alone upon an obvious Scripture truth discovered by an avid and in depth Scripture study previously not taught or discovered by one's peers, and to become, in consequence thereof, persecuted, shunned, or avoided accordingly...

    Re the Covenant with Hagar, I've come to realize also that the Hebrew word commonly used for 'family' (mishpasha) is a word that may be understood (from a personal study of its roots) to give reference to the offspring of a slave mistress, that is, such as Hagar was.

    In contradistinction there is also another Hebrew word meaning 'family,' but I have never ever seen or heard that word being used for that purpose by any other than myself. That Hebrew word is 'aleph,' a word which have a number of apparently very different translations, all of which words may, however, be commonly perceived as having, as a least common denominator, the meaning of associating things belonging somehow together.

    Upon considering this, to me, very striking difference in usage of two Hebrew [apparent] synonyms, I find an important lesson. Something valuable to ponder... Something for me to be attentive to... As in the still small voice of God.

    For instance: Could it be that most of us, perhaps even all of us, are truly in the category of being sons and daughters of the slave mistress, that is, under the Hagar covenant? Is it possible that we are all blind to each our own true identity as perceived in the eyes of truth, and in the eyes of the God of truth?

    To be a little more specific, when asked, by anyone whom we look upon as an authority, to show proof of our identity, what ID do we claim as ours? Who is the creator and owner of the ID document we identify with? Are we truly able to distinguish between the State and the Church? As in the State and the Church being One? And to what extent are each of us allowing ourselves to be bound by all that which characterizes our present day States? I am thinking in terms of how much of our time, of our efforts, of our thoughts, of our money, of our focus in life, is being spent outside of those families, outside of those homes, that the Creator is blessing each of us with. How much of those blessings of God are we accepting... How much of those blessings are we squandering in favor of other "more important" pursuits?

    Or isn't it true that the 'aleph,' that truly free family of God, being created and truly reflecting the true image of God, as in "male and female created [We] them," remains only too much of a never realized dream in most of our lives?

    Thus, what else is it that we are doing, that we "shalt not..." do? I mean besides not working on God's true Seventh Day Sabbath? What similar blessings of "thou shalt not..." may be found in the remaining nine of the Ten Commandments? What else is it, in each our lives today, that there is no need of doing? What have we thus far been missing out on? What are those "sins" of ours that we claim to be continually committing? Though rarely if ever identifying?! Where are we "missing the mark?" In what sense are we "missing the point?"

    In what sense, and to what extent, am I not recognizing that I am identifying "another god," another power, another authority, another government, with the One and only Creator of Heaven and Earth and of all Living Beings? But are they truly One? Do they have the same Creator? Did they originate at the very same point in time?

    Is my family truly a 'mishpasha?' or is my family an 'aleph?' Do I understand the truth inherent in the very words I am taught to use in my daily language?

    Consider it! Selah!

    Shabbat Shalom,

    Andy (c)

    • Thanks for your input, Andy. While I think you have some profound insights, I want to restate that we need to be careful about turning our faith into a "checklist" faith for either ourselves or others. The Sabbath, and by extension the Ten Commandments also, is a beautiful expression of the love between ourselves and our Creator. May we never let it simply become something we do, or a tool for compelling others.

      • Yes, Stephen, I couldn't agree with you more! Absolutely!

        I believe the answer, perhaps even to most of the above apparently very difficult questions that have been brought up, is to be found in the following question(s):

        What part responsibility do I have for this or that? To what extent is there a need for me "to be still" and to cease contributing to, and to give of my God given powers in support of, this or that?

        Or isn't there untold power in that which is known by the term "passive resistance?" That is, in neither resisting nor assisting, even to the very least extent, towards such destruction as we may each from time to time become aware of as we each become more and more attentive to that still small voice of the God of Truth?

        I am thinking of Jesus' words, per Matt 5:39 KJV, "But I say to you, That ye resist not evil..."

        Suppose those Jews, and others among us that stood up for the truth at the time, when they were being led to the chattel wagons destined for Auschwitz, would have simply laid down on the ground, gently and kindly saying to the SS Waffe, "I will not resist you, nor will I assist you, in your crimes against me and my family. I will not move even one muscle of my God given body towards that end. To move me anywhere at all, you'll have to spend of your own energy entirely. You will have to carry me every bit of the way..." How many would then have been saved from those terrible crimes made possible by each one contributing even one iota of their God given powers?

        To what extent is this same method applicable in each our own society, in each our own peer group, in each our own congregation?

        To what extent am I providing support of such things as I perceive as sinful in the lives of others? For instance, by being part of the audience, by being a member, by spending my time, my effort, or my means generally? Where and when would I contribute more to a better world by "being still," "by doing nothing whatsoever," by making myself an absentee or a more or less temporary outsider?

        To what extent am I empowered by my Creator to take 100% control? Over my own being? Over that which belong to another being? Over that which is beyond the boundaries rightfully belonging to me alone?

        There is tremendous power in those words of God, "Thou shalt not...," isn't there?!!!

        Blessings and Sabbath peace to each our family and home,

        Andy ©

      • Hello Andy, I wonder if you really understand the extent to which you are taking things. If we do what you and Stephen are suggesting then it is quite permissible to have orgies in the church and temple prostitutes just like the pagans did in their cultic practices. We could even bring physical idols and icons in, and with a hard rock band singing those songs loaded with four letter words we could all have a good riotous time. And no one better say anything against it, never, because that is up to God to take care of.

        Don’t either of you ever remember what happened to Israel to whom God sent prophet after prophet in warning up until they were finally conquered by the Babylonians? Do you not hear the denunciations of Jesus at the sins of the Pharisees? Even the woman caught in adultery was told “go sin no more.”

        Don’t you hear what Paul, Peter, James, and John tell their churches? And now Ellen White tells ours,

        “’But if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.’ If he will not heed the voice of the church, if he refuses all the efforts made to reclaim him, upon the church rests the responsibility of separating him from fellowship. His name should then be stricken from the books.

        "No church officer should advise, no committee should recommend, nor should any church vote, that the name of a wrong-doer shall be removed from the church books, until the instruction given by Christ has been faithfully followed. When this has been done, the church has cleared herself before God. The evil must then be made to appear as it is, and must be removed, that it may not become more and more widespread. The health and purity of the church must be preserved, that she may stand before God unsullied, clad in the robes of Christ's righteousness” (GW 500.4-501.1).

        Oh my, we should all close our ears to such nonsense.

        As a test of your theory I suggest that tonight when you are at the dinner table with a plate of food in front of you that, instead of eating using your own hands, that you instead pray to God, “O Lord I am so hungry but I am not allowed to do anything on my own so would You please feed me. I will patiently wait on you for this to happen. Amen.”

        I was raised in a family that didn’t know what discipline was and because of that I did whatever I wanted to do. On top of that the public school I attended was one of many that was under experimentation and because of that it had a policy of never forcing any one of its students to read. So I didn’t! To this day I suffer from that regimen. I am a very slow reader; in fact I don’t like reading at all. I have a terrible time in college especially where there is a lot of reading and usually have trouble keeping up. Did the hands-off approach help me? Not on your life. As human beings bent toward sin, we need discipline or else the same thing that happened to me will happen to everyone in the church.

        I appreciate what you are saying to a point because we often don’t follow the guidance we are given but properly administered discipline works!

        • Thanks Tyler for sharing your take of my above posts! Feedback is always valuable and without feedback I'd be entirely unable to correct either my own errors of thought, my own lack of clarity, or whatever basis I might have given you for misunderstanding or misapplying the points I am making...

          If I was still identifying myself as being one of the members of such an ungodly congregation as you and others above are describing, my first step, as I understand Jesus' instructions per Matt 18, would be to confront the responsible actors privately - while doing my very best in correcting any errors of perception of my own re the situation at hand - until I'd recognize the futility of so doing without going to step two, bringing in one or two people, witnesses, who'd be more likely than I to effectively bring home God's message of correcting each our ways as the particulars may require for each of us. Failing that second step would be the time for introducing step number three, bringing the matter before the whole congregation to the best of our ability of heeding God's instructions re how to correct the situation most effectively while working towards the desired outcome.

          If at this point I find no willingness to correct what's wrong, I would recognize that I can no longer identify with being part of that certain congregation, or with that certain activity, and, well, that would be the time for me to excommunicate myself from that congregation, and/or to cease contributing anything at all that would make me a part of such ungodly actions. Yes, I am certainly responsible for my part, my portion, in contributing any power whatsoever towards that certain congregation or to any particular activity...

          When, at that point, I recognize that I cannot conscientiously identify with being a part of such a congregation or with any certain activity, I would have to face the reality of myself being foreign to that congregation or to that certain activity, and vice versa, that is, those things being foreign to me...

          Now, that would be the time for me to "be still" and to do nothing more... That is, I have no right to trespass upon the boundaries of any party of which I am not a member. Such parties or activities, are then effectively foreign to me and they do have the right to carry on whatever self-destructive activity that they may choose, so long as they do not trespass upon the boundaries of mine that God has truly given me to defend in accord with His ongoing instructions.

          It may well be, that, from that point in time, I would still be called upon to confront individual members of such a congregation re each their own portion of responsibility towards the whole until I either win them or loose them along that same route of corrective action outlined per Matthew 18.

          . . . . .

          Hopefully this will help providing a better understanding of what I perceive as the time and place to be still and to do nothing...

          That is, the proper setting of that which I described in my second post above...

          Remember also: It is for me to recognize that I must never cease from actively resisting my own temptations to be part responsible in any wrong doing! But I must cease from trespassing upon any and all such boundaries as do not belong to me!

          I must cease from using force, violence, or coercion, yes, even resistance, in order to control that which God has never given me to control...

          Indeed, that which may seem to me to be happening on the other side of such boundaries of others is not for me to judge. Why? Simply because I am very likely not privy to all the necessary inside information that would make me able to properly judge and control such a situation!

          Which situation is not mine to control anyways!

          Think about this: Any a judgment of mine re something which belongs to the privacy of another is necessarily based on hearsay, that is, based upon gossip. By taking action based on gossip I would effectively make myself one with the Traducer, that is, I would make myself one with Satan, the Master Deceiver... while deceiving first of all myself!

          Remember: From the very beginning, God gave each one of mankind the freedom to make the wrong choice... and to suffer the consequences accordingly.

          Yet, remember Cain and Abel! Each of us do have a certain and defined responsibility for each our brother...

          We are to do our best in freely offering whatever help we might be able to contribute towards helping each other in approaching ever closer to our Creator, but we must also learn to accept each our brother's or sister's unwillingness to accept such offers of ours that they do not wish!

          And, of course, as always, there are limits and boundaries based upon time constraints... And based upon each our God given ability!

          We must each learn to better recognize our own limitations and boundaries!

          Hope that helps...

          May the peace that passes all understanding rest over each our family and over each our home,

          Andy ©

        • Andy, thank you for trying to clarify your position but now I am further confused by what you state. You said, “If I was still identifying myself as being one of the members of such an ungodly congregation as you and others above are describing.” If the entire congregation was out of line then the only thing you could do, as I see it, is to first take the matter up with those who are the “responsible actors,” the leaders of the error. If that fails and the entire congregation is in error you probably wouldn’t have any unbiased people left to act as witnesses but you could take the matter up before the congregation as a whole hoping they would see the light. If that fails then I would think you could do one of two things, either withdraw entirely from that congregation, shaking the dust off your feet, or do as many of the reformers did and that is to work with the congregation on the matter until they finally get tired of you and boot you out the door. In either case your dealing with them would be at an end and I agree that it would then be time to rest in Christ.

          There are other scenarios though. Suppose that the “responsible actors” are in the minority and the majority doesn’t side with them. Then I believe the steps outlined in Mat 18 should be followed making sure you as the active counselor have the right attitude and do it within the environment of prayer under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. If by the end of step three they are unmoved and are obviously hardened in their way then I believe the church has the responsibility and duty to excommunicate.

          A third scenario is that I am the one who is wrong and everybody else is right. If someone confronts me with the error then I see only three choices I could make. I could accept the counsel before the end of step three and repent or I could gracefully back out of the church if I was unwilling to change as a self imposed excommunication or I could stubbornly choose to fight the counsel and probably eventually face excommunication.

          This is how I see it.

        • Thanks Tyler! My take on your last entry is that we are seeing things very much from a similar point of view and in the same light, that is, that which you are saying that you could or would do, as you see it, is very much the same that I would do, and very much the same as that which is the intention behind my above entries...

          The only words of yours that I do not feel that I am fully able to make sense out of are these: "but now I am further confused by what you state. You said..." Perhaps the reason for that confusion of yours is merely an excellent example illustrating each our total inability to correctly see or perceive that reality which each of us have experienced, or are experiencing, each within our own separate boundaries of existence? Thus once again the importance of never attempting to force each our own solution, or judgment, upon that which is outside the boundaries that God is providing each of us from time to time... even when that which we believe that we are seeing on the other side of the fence is ever so ungodly...

          It is good to be able to safely rest in God's instructions to us, that is, as here, in terms of "being still..." and to leave all the rest in His hands!

          I would add two things, one, I don't believe there is ever a time to skip any of the steps of Matt 18. For instance, re your first scenario, if I am the only one with a different value system, I should still seek the situation with the one or two witnesses... Suppose I am the one in error, unbeknownst to me of course, then why put myself to shame while confusing, and taking the time of, the whole congregation, when it would take only a few of them to help set me straight and to see my own misconceptions?

          Two, I believe that it is always ever so important always to remember that the only basis for anyone ever using force against anyone, including even against one self,
          is none other than a confirmed understanding, by and from each party, that all involved belong under the same ownership or trusteeship, and thus under the same set of laws and rules. In other words, in whatever setting we operate, we must always make certain that our actions are confined within the boundaries which belong to us. That, of course, apply equally to that which pertain to the boundaries of each of our congregation. Certainly church membership is a thing within the boundaries of each particular church, and thus each congregations's right and responsibility to excommunicate any given member to whatever extent the head of a congregation may choose... But for any church ever to use any other means towards the objective of forcing, or coercing, their will upon the private life of any man, woman, child, or family, perhaps with the intent of "protecting" them from one another, is nothing short of a trespass upon boundaries belonging to another, that is, a sin against the law of our Maker...

          The church, each our congregation, must not become a tool in the hands of the Traducer, that is, a tool in the hands of the Gossip mongers among us, that is, a tool in the hands of Satan! Or isn't that obvious? Yet it happens... ever so often... and much too commonly, doesn't it?

          May the peace of our Savior and Redeemer rest over each our families, over each our homes, and over each our congregations where ever we be,

          Andy ©

        • Good morning Andy, at least in my time zone. I think you are probably quite right in that we generally agree. You do, however, have a few questions that I would like to respond to.

          You said, “Perhaps the reason for that confusion of yours is merely an excellent example illustrating each our total inability to correctly see or perceive that reality which each of us have experienced, or are experiencing, each within our own separate boundaries of existence?” I suppose that the best answer I can give is that I find your wording and sentence structure difficult to follow. I have to read your comments two or three times before I am able to make complete sense out of what you are saying, and sometimes even that doesn’t work.

          You also said, “I would add two things, one, I don’t believe there is ever a time to skip any of the steps of Matt 18. For instance, re your first scenario, if I am the only one with a different value system, I should still seek the situation with the one or two witnesses…“ I agree but the situation in a church could be such that Mat 18 might have to be applied a bit differently. In the example I used where the entire church went off the deep end; the job of finding at least two relatively unbiased witnesses within that church would be difficult to say the least. That sort of a thing would force a person to modify how he was to apply Christ’s instruction on discipline. For instance he could find a couple of people from another church or he could go to the conference office which I think should be a last resort since it would raise resentment and probably hinder any further progress.

          I think we should remember that quite often Jesus gives us a template to follow rather than a strict formula to be adhered to word for word. A good example is the instruction Jesus gives on prayer, “In this manner, therefore, pray: . . .” (Mat 6:9 NKJV). He is not telling us to repeat His words like a recording but to incorporate the essential elements of His prayer. Therefore, the principle that He tells us to use is to keep complaints as local as possible by starting with a one-on-one approach. As resistance grows, the boundaries should progressively expand to include other people until it becomes the entire church.

          I once saw a news clip concerning Lee Iacocca, CEO of Chrysler 1979 -1992, where one of his supervisors under him openly and publicly chewed out an employee in his presence. If I was Mr. Iacocca I would have corralled that supervisor, taken him into my office and calmly told him that he was immediately demoted to a non-supervisory position because he didn’t know how to handle the people under him. He violated every principle of corrective procedure in dealing with relational problems. It is that kind of a thing that Jesus wants us to avoid in the interest of redemption. In a sense it is like, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you” (Mat 20:25-26 NKJV).

          You said, “Two, I believe that it is always ever so important always to remember that the only basis for anyone ever using force against anyone, including even against one self is none other than a confirmed understanding, by and from each party, that all involved belong under the same ownership or trusteeship, and thus under the same set of laws and rules.” To which you added in explanation, “In other words, in whatever setting we operate, we must always make certain that our actions are confined within the boundaries which belong to us.” I take it that you mean keep your nose to yourself. While that is certainly something we should do it doesn’t always solve congregational problems. There is a time to stand up for what is right and you can’t do that by being silent.

          May God bless you.

        • I am not sure about your time zone, but I believe we are very much on the same page... even where at times we perceive different things behinds the words we each are seeing before us. For isn't it true that what ever we perceive with each our eyes and with each our ears, each our understanding of that which we perceive will necessarily be filtered by, and understood in terms of, each our always quite unique, distinct, and different, past experiences in life?

          Well, I suppose that long and complicated sentence of mine may serve as a good example of that which you are describing re my words and sentences... and which words and sentences even I myself from time to time have to struggle with before I understand... that is, once I have allowed a little bit of time to pass, such that I become more aware of those additional thoughts and concepts of mine that were present at the time of writing but which never yet were put into words... Thus, from time to time, I do find it necessary to edit my own writing for improved clarity... ;,)

          Just one little thing... this time... for clarification of my words as intended: No, I did not intend that narrow limitation of my word "us" which I perceive in your words:

          " "...which belong to us.” I take it that you mean keep your nose to yourself. While that is certainly something we should do it doesn’t always solve congregational problems. There is a time to stand up for what is right and you can’t do that by being silent. "

          No, on the contrary, I fully agree with your contention... That is, my word "us" is a reference, in this setting, to whatever church or congregation I or you happen to identify each our self with presently...

          So long as I perceive myself as part of a body I have a responsibility to send appropriate feedback to the head of said body or to such a center within that body as I perceive as being the most appropriate recipient of my feedback. If I do not return proper feedback I am as good as dead and I am more likely to be more like a toxic byproduct or even like a cancerous growth that's out of control...

          Not until after I have effectively exited out of whatever body I used to be part of does the need for that species of feedback cease... Which is by no means the same as saying that there is not now an urgent need for another species of feedback, for communication, for love... Though on a different level, and of a somewhat different nature... I am thinking of the difference between the feedback from an unborn baby to its mother in comparison to the feedback from a newborn baby to both of its parents...

          ...And the body of the mother represent each our church or congregation, whereas the baby, before and after delivery, represents I or you relative to each our congregation, church, or whichever peer group we each happen to be part of from time to time...

          Blessings, yes!

          Andy ©

  8. Christian, I am assuming you are referring to my comments. The one who wrote the article is Stephen Terry who also makes several comments.

    I would also like to say that I am not an Elder, just one of the many out in the congregation. But thank you for the compliment anyway.

  9. Mr. Steven, thank you for your presentation. In the 4th paragraph of the original essay, you wrote: 'When we make one [covenant] old and the other new, we imply that God made a covenant that man could never keep and then realizing His mistake, He made a new one.[... ] If He is flawed, has made mistakes, then He is less than perfect and by definition not God.'

    I do believe that God does not change (Malachi 3:6). However, I feel concerned that we might be putting limits to what God can and cannot do, that we may be attributing to God feelings that are our own (phenomenology). If God is the Almighty, His Wisdom should be able whatever He deems appropriate at any given time. Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Exodus 32:14 seem to indicate the possibility that God sometimes takes a course of action different from a previous one. After all, who, on earth, can claim a full knowledge of the Lord?

    Please advise but without any edge of defensiveness.

    • Thanks for your input DW. You are quite correct that God is beyond our understanding. I attempted to illustrate this with Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. These lives illustrate that in some areas we may find ourselves actually working against God while fully convinced we are doing His will.

      Perhaps it is less likely that God changes than that our perception of Him changes as we mature both corporately and individually. In that instance, past perceptions may hinder our growth if we insist that God works in no other way than we have known in the past.

      The interesting thing is that we may be both right and wrong at the same time. God does not change so He is the God we have known, but our perceptions change so He may no longer seem the same.

      In the introduction to "The Great Controversy," Ellen White lays to rest the concept of God as a source of verbal inspiration dictating word for word what should go into the Bible. Instead, each Bible writer wrote from a unique perspective. This is one of the great benefits of the Bible. It gives us in one source many different perspectives. When we combine study of those perspectives with personal outreach to God, we can get a much fuller picture than a single perspective can provide. However, we must still humbly admit that it is an incomplete picture at best - adequate for salvation but inadequate for fully understanding God.

  10. First, I wish to say that I definitely enjoyed the original article. It was a fresh perspective when the discussions often get so "heady" that we forget what we are talking about. It was a simple breakdown of what has become a convoluted subject.

    On the question that I posted, and I do understand what you said about trusting God to work things out .... where these things I mentioned happened, they called not dealing with it "love": a building program came to a full halt; the church was sued; innocent people where slandered and maligned and for all intents and purposes, expelled; marriages ended due to pastoral sexual abuse - children were hurt in this exchange; other immorality followed on the heels of their "hero" examples (men did what was right in their own eyes); the church savings was depleted; one half of the small congregation left so as not to support the financial corruption; all newly baptized believers left; 2/3 of the 1/2 that remained left attendance and some left the faith and that portion that remained are still bewildered, years later - all of it done in the "name of Jesus with the love of God - being still" with the expectation that God would bless - and no one tried to "root it out" because so many were in favor of the corruption. The handful that understood what was happening gave a warning cry and were persecuted. A church following the covenant of Hagar - the tare mentality, if you will!

    Even living as "free" family, as Andy suggested, in order to be "free" Sara and Abraham put the bondwoman "out". Yes, we need to be loving and patient in dealing with one another, understanding that we cannot presume upon God's grace and offer up our own "checklists" based upon our understanding or right vs. wrong and our woundings, etc. Learning to "be still" is the work of sanctification, a lifetime work, but if we are to warn a world and are giving an uncertain sound, how will the world know that the war is on and the end is near? We are running out of time...even as we get understanding of the line in the sand between presumption and real faith. This doesn't need to be posted in its' entirety, but I would appreciate your direct reply.

    • Hi, Vicky

      I sense from the amount of detail you provided that this was a situation that was very personal to you and had a direct bearing on your own experience. You have my deepest condolences regarding your experience. The only comfort I can offer for that experience is found in Isaiah 61:3. God will surely give you "beauty for the ashes" of your experience.

      Jesus foretold these things in Matthew 24. He said "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold," in verse 12. You have certainly experienced that wickedness. But Jesus went on to say in the next verse "but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved." In other words, the one who continues to love, who remains steadfast in love, is the one who will find salvation. I pray that this will be your experience.

      God has not given me authority over your situation or anyone else's on this website. While there is great temptation to assume that authority and tell you exactly what you should do regarding the evil in the church, I would be usurping the place of Christ in your life and heart.

      If God has revealed to you that church discipline would have been the righteous path to follow then you most certainly must follow His leading. If He has shown you a better way instead, then you must follow that.

      What I have written is only words. those who see light in them may find them helpful in their walk with Jesus. Those who do not are in no way compelled by me to do anything they either do not agree with or do not understand. I believe the only thing that should compel the Christian is the Spirit of God. I pray that He compels each of us.

    • Vicky, I really appreciate your thoughtful comment.

      I also appreciate Stephen's emphasis on "being still." It's something we are not very good at in western society, where I live.

      There is a time to be still -- when we are falsely accused or maligned (cf Jesus in His trial), when God's promise seems long in coming (cf Abraham's promised son), when we are threatened for doing God's will (as Elijah was). We also need to spend some time being still in our personal devotions, so we can hear God speak. We need to be "still" regarding our own salvation, and trust Jesus to take care of it, while we submit to Him.

      These times of stillness are needed preparation for times to act. As Jesus spent his time between the mountains (stillness in prayer) and the multitude (active service), so must we. If we are not actively engaged in giving God's message to a dying world, we are not connected to the Savior who wants to save as many as will respond. He depends on our hands, our feet, our voices to demonstrate and tell His message. By inaction we place ourselves on the side of the rebellion.

      The Bible is full of paradoxes. One of them is that we find strength in being still. In Isa. 30:15 we read:

      “ In returning and rest
      you shall be saved;
      In quietness and confidence
      shall be your strength.”

      The strength that we gain from stillness must be exercised in behalf of the abused, mistreated and the ignored. It must be put to use to confront the abusers of God's people and His grace, recognizing that God has given the discipline of His body, the church, into the hands of its members. (See 2 Cor. 5; Matt 18:15-12) Being still when God has told us to act is disobedience, which is a sign of separation from Christ. It is neither loving nor kind.

      • Thank you, Inge, for your comments. I also appreciate what Tyler and others have had to say. My feeling is that what is being lost sight of here is the authority of Scripture. God's Spirit will never guide contrary to the word which He has inspired.

        Just taking the entire Bible as it reads, allowing God to speak to us through it, and letting it alone form our beliefs and practices may seem to some a rather humble (and unoriginal) approach to religion -- perhaps even a rather narrow path of life -- but it is the path of true wisdom. Wasn't it Jesus who actually thanked the Father for hiding the things that matter from the wise and prudent, and for revealing them to babes?

  11. Maybe we try to complicate the obvious.

    A "covenant of works" can be understood from two perspectives. "Works of the law" apart from Christ is a negative "Covenant of works". This is Paul's point concerning the Judiazers who want to add the ceremonial law to the Christian experience.

    But all true believers enter into a "covenant of works" in our relationship with Jesus. "If you love me, keep my commandments" and our response is "all the Lord has said, we will do and be obedient."

    To assume a true believer does not enter into a "covenant of works" in our relationship with Jesus will lead us to a non-biblical experience.

    So we need to distinguish between a "covenant of works" that an unbeliever would enter into, vs. a "covenant of works" a true believer accepts and enters into with Jesus.

    Paul and the bible are not really that difficult if we will simplify the obvious.

    Bill Sorensen

    • Hi, Bill. I was wondering when you were going to weigh in here. I hope you are having a great Sabbath.

      I would like to respectfully suggest that there is only one true covenant and that has always been so. As I said in the article that "covenant of works" is identified with Hagar and is a man-made checklist of obedience.

      We may disagree on this or it may only be a question of semantics, but I feel the only true covenant is Sarah's and is the "covenant of faith." Now to someone who is works oriented, they may see only the obedience sprouting from that covenant and say "Aha! A covenant of works!" But this is perhaps because man looks on everything from the outward perspective rather than upon the heart.

      Looking upon the heart will reveal that instead of a relationship based on obedience, it is a relationship based on faith brought alive by love. It is like this. A man who says I must please my wife, does not love his wife. He only loves peace and quiet. But a man who loves his wife will never feel that he must please his wife. Instead, his love will produce the peaceful relationship. The end result may appear to be the same, but the motivation is entirely different.

      • Quoting Stephen Terry:
        A man who says I must please my wife, does not love his wife. He only loves peace and quiet. But a man who loves his wife will never feel that he must please his wife. Instead, his love will produce the peaceful relationship.

        When we went to a marriage seminar they stressed that "Love is a decision", it's not some automatic, self perpetuating emotion. Love is an action that if you don't use it you lose it.

        Yes, even when a person dearly loves their spouse, they still have to make the decision to please them.

        There must be active decisions to keep the courtship alive. Active decisions to show love even when your spouse has made you angry and you don't feel like reponding in a loving way. Or you are stressed out, or whatever reason you just don't feel like being loving at the moment -- think -- love is a decision, a commitment.

        If active decisions to please each other aren't made, love, even if it started out as seemingly invincable, begins to dwindle till finally the couple are hit with the realization that love no longer exists between them.

        The same in our relationship with God. Yes, love is the foundation of a true relationship with God, without that relationship everything else is vain. But if we don't actively thirst and seek for Christ and His righteousness, even when we don't feel like it, and daily place our will under His will in humble, loving obedience, we will lose that love and drift out into a lukewarm condition.

        We sing the song--
        I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back. The cross before me, the world behind me, no turning back...

        • Thank you Ulrike!

          I find those words, those considerations of yours, very wise, and very worthy of much thought...

          What could ever be of higher priority than that which the Creator, Elohim, created into Their/His image, "male and female created He them?!!!"

          What could ever be of higher priority than that image of God that He is creating from day to day in each our personal family relationship, be such a relationship ever so flawed or ever so fragmented?

          Why would anyone ever wish to smash that, for each of us very intimate, mirror image of God Himself to bits and pieces?

          And, on another plane, What could be of more importance than each our relationship to God's own church, that family of God which God alone is able to identify and number?

          And which family of God may be totally foreign to such ungodly congregations as I am referencing in my post in response to Tyler Cluthe above...

          May the peace of the God of true and lasting love rest over each our families and homes,

          Andy ©

  12. Stephen said.......

    "Looking upon the heart will reveal that instead of a relationship based on obedience, it is a relationship based on faith brought alive by love."

    For me, of course, this is a "false dilemma". Trying to play off faith against covenant conditions. The whole bible is about covenant conditions. The new covenant does not negate covenant conditions. It only inspires us and motivates us so we can fulfill these conditions.

    It is popular to attack and downplay a "check list religion" as being non-biblical for a new covenant faith.

    Every covenant has a stated list of conditions that both parties bind themselves to obey. So, as Ulrike points out, love goes far beyond human emotion so that we only do what we feel like doing.

    If you read her post, the final conclusion of what she has stated is this, "If you only obey Jesus because you feel like it and want to, there is no cross in the Christian experience."

    So we must ask, "Is modern Adventism presenting a crossless religion?" In my evaluation, the answer is "yes". So I would say, we must obey God because we have to, coupled with the fact we want to.

    It is not one or the other. Fear and assurance work together to make up a complete motive for Christian service. I think Ulrike's explanation of a marriage covenant is a viable and parallel explanation of our union and and covenant with Jesus.

    Love has boundries set and described by God. And we don't know what love is, unless we listen to how God explains and describes love. All Christians are under the law of God as a rule of life. And they must focus on the law to know what God's will is and do it.

    Otherwise, God's law is not "commandments" but simply natural law happenings based on love. Sanctification is far more than a "Christian happening" without any concerted effort on the part of the believer to obey God and do His will.

    John Henry Newman gave up the Protestant faith and joined the Catholic church. He eventually became a Cardinal in the church. His reason was this.

    He could see no bridge from justification by "faith alone" to Christian ethics. He failed to consider all the historic Protestant confessions of faith that embraces what is know as "the 3rd use of the law". Namely, while the law functions a a "schoolmaster" to bring us to Christ, (2nd use of the law) it continues to function as a rule of life and all are "under the law" to obey it.

    This should be rather easy to see why. If the law does not continue to function as a rule of life, neither can it continue to function as a "schoolmaster".

    And this is why the law in Galations is only and solely the ceremonial law in its historical meaning and application as Paul writes to the church. He speaks of a law that has been "added" and is now "subtracted".

    This can never be the moral law.

    Bill Sorensen

    • Ulrike, I see the difference between legalism and faith to be one of motivation.

      Legalism keeps the law in order to be saved.

      Faith keeps the law out of love for the Savior who has saved us.

      The two may look the same on the outside. Sometimes only God knows the difference. But often legalism reveals itself in a fault-finding negative spirit and/or a boastful spirit.

      When we recognize we are saved by the grace of God, we have nothing to boast about and no reason to feel we are better than the next person, because it is all a work of God.

  13. As this Sabbath draws to a close, I want to thank everyone for their comments. I pray that we all continue in love. Whether we speak from the viewpoint of the conservative, the liberal or from any point in between, may we remember the love of God in our discourse. It can be tempting to think that God is on our side and views everything from our perspective.

    If we can use a vegetarian illustration, the church is much like a salad. Because a crouton is not a piece of lettuce, because an olive is nothing like a piece of celery does not mean that they are not all necessary to the salad.

    In the words of Mahatma Ghandi, “The golden rule of conduct is mutual toleration, seeing that we will never all think alike, and we shall always see Truth in fragment and from different points of vision.” May we appreciate one another for what God has called each of us to be.

    • Stephen, I agree as far as diversity in unity goes as long as we don't become syncretistic as the church of the middle ages did and compromise on everything.

      • we need to put the right perspective to the issues that confront us as a church, call a spade a spade and not a wheelbarrow. No matter how we turn we are all sinners, be careful how judgement is carried out as we will all meet at the judgement seat of God. There has to be a level of tolerance however, let the Bible and the Bible only be our guide - let the Holy Spirit lead.

        love is the key - "by this shall all men know you are my disciples if you have love one for the other" - Christ's own words.

        Let us win each other with and in love. Let those who are strong support them that are weak. Encouragement is important to each of us in this sin sick world as we all journey on the road to the CITY of God - hold my hand as I hold another's and if I slip help back to my feet. Today I need you and maybe just maybe tomorrow well you may have need of me

  14. Bill, in the light of the discussion on Galatians, I have not seen you explain what righteousness by faith means to you.

    As you probably know the 1888 General Conferences session focused particularly on the message of righteousness by faith, based on Galatians. What do you understand this message to be?

  15. Inge said......

    "Ulrike, I see the difference between legalism and faith to be one of motivation.

    Legalism keeps the law in order to be saved."

    And then in a post to me she asked....

    "Bill, in the light of the discussion on Galatians, I have not seen you explain what righteousness by faith means to you.

    As you probably know the 1888 General Conferences session focused particularly on the message of righteousness by faith, based on Galatians. What do you understand this message to be?"

    First of all, Inge, your statement to Ulrike is not althogether true.

    Keeping the law to be saved is not legalism ipso facto. Legalism is keeping the law to merit heaven and be saved. There is a world of difference between keeping the moral law to have a viable relationship with Christ, and thus to "be saved", from trying to keep the law to merit heaven and earn the favor of God.

    There are two aspects to redemption, one is legal and the other is moral. What the ceremonial law typifies, is the legal and meritorious aspects of redemption, and helps us understand what God does without our help in the salvation equation.

    Namely, Jesus died for our sins and presents Himself to the Father as the "second Adam" and thus provides a way that any and all sinners can have free access to God. This we believe by "faith alone" since we add nothing to what Jesus has done in this context.

    But this is only one aspect of redemption. In light of this "gospel" man is now liberated to decide if he will continue in sin or accept the provision God has made.

    The moral obligations to "be saved" are to enter into a covenant relationship with Jesus which requires not only faith (alone) but repentance and obedience to the law of God. So, sanctification and the human element and response to God is not "faith alone" but faith and works. Again "faith alone" can only be applicable to what the ceremonial law typifies.

    And so Paul says, "We are justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law." The context is obvious. He means apart from the ceremonial law. Paul is not dealing with the moral implications of salvation in his conflict with the Judaizers. So Paul is saying, "If you add any part of the ceremonial law as a necessity for salvation, you must add all the ceremonial law and not just part of it, namely, circumcision.

    This is the whole of Paul's discourse to the Galatian church. And so he says, there is a law that has been "added because of transgression" and is now "subtracted" since what it typifes has become a reality.

    This does not deny that the moral law can and will work as a "schoolmaster" to lead us to Christ. But in the context, Paul can not be dealing with this issue and if he was, here is what he is saying, "The moral law was added, and is now subtracted."

    The authors of our lessons this quarter, fall all over themselves trying to explain how the law in Galatians is the moral law, and then try to explain how the law was not done away with at the cross. Even trying to claim God's covenant with Abraham was not really a covenant, but a promise. All in an effort to negate and explain how "obey and live" is not a new covenant exhortation for the believer to do, but rather, it is something God has done, and that somehow, God writing the law on our heart releases us from the covenant of "obey and live".

    This convolutes what the ceremonial law typifies and how the moral law functions in the salvation process.
    Is the Christian community subject to the ceremonial law as a requirement to demonstrate faith? No. Faith by way of the ceremonial law has been negated and done away at the cross. But we must not try to apply the moral law in the same context.

    And as a side note, there is a vast difference between eliminating a false idea that may be attached to the moral law and doing away with the moral law itself.

    When Rome claimed merit for the works of believers, the Reformers, especially Luther, pointed to Galatians and rightly imposed a broader application than Paul had originally intended. Paul would never disagree with Luther's application. None the less, he would have said, "This was not my original intent." And the reason should be obvious.

    That law that was "added" in Paul's application is now "subtracted" and this could never be the moral law. Even if there is a valid moral law application that goes beyond Paul's original intent.

    Bill Sorensen

  16. Inge Anderson says:
    December 3, 2011 at 7:27 pm
    Bill, in the light of the discussion on Galatians, I have not seen you explain what righteousness by faith means to you.

    As you probably know the 1888 General Conferences session focused particularly on the message of righteousness by faith, based on Galatians. What do you understand this message to be?"

    Inge, the problems surrounding 1888 were far more comprehensive than the law in Galatians. The law in Galatians was only one issue and according to EGW a minor one.

    She was far more interested in having people read and study their bible and learn what the bible says and formulate their thinking and theology by the bible.

    When it comes to Galatians, we quickly run to EGW and quote EGW. Then assume she is articulating exactly and precisely what Paul is saying and what he means.

    She is not. She is imposing a broader meaning on Paul than he originally intended. And her meaning is not wrong. It is just not what Paul is saying. And if you impose a more comprehensive meaning, you must be careful not to assume every situation the original letter refers to will necessarily fit a new and more comprehensive meaning. It is easy to convolute the bible by doing this.

    As for "righteousness by faith alone". It is not my obedience to law that is the result of my faith in Christ.
    This is often the SDA understanding, but it is not reformational.

    "Righteousness by faith alone" refers only and exclusively to what Christ did without me, and is willing to impute it to me when I believe and accept Him. That is, His life and death 2000 years ago.

    My response is not "righteousness by faith alone". My response is "righteousness by faith and works."

    My response is the moral influence of the cross under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He can change no one except by way of the moral influence of the cross.

    "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

    You must change yourself. God can only do it by persuasion and the influence of love. There is no "hocus-pocus" in God's way of working in and on the life of a human being.

    It is the human agent who obeys the law in the context of sanctification. Not Christ.

    Bill Sorensen

    • Bill, I acknowledge that everyone has the right to his or her own influence. I realize that your views are sincerely held, and I believe that you mean well, though I find myself unable to agree with you on a number of points.

      However, in your latest post, there is one point on which I cannot remain silent. You said:

      "You must change yourself. God can only do it by persuasion and the influence of love. There is no 'hocus-pocus' in God’s way of working in and on the life of a human being.

      "It is the human agent who obeys the law in the context of sanctification. Not Christ."

      If by "hocus-pocus" you mean supernatural power, I am afraid that you could not be more mistaken. Yes, it is the act of the soul itself to expel sin. We ourselves must put forth effort as if everything depended on it. At the same time, however, we must remember that we have no power to do anything at all without supernatural divine aid and power. Without this miraculous intervention, no amount of persuasion and influence, as vitally important as they are, will ever accomplish anything.

      My understanding is that we must unite human effort with divine power. If I have misunderstood your intent, I am sincerely sorry.

      • R.G.,

        I don’t know about you, but to me each our ability to hear that still small voice of God… and to recognize it for what it is… is truly a miraculous and super natural thing. No less so than is every flower of the field and every newborn baby. The only reason we do not always consider those more commonplace things miraculous and super natural is that we’ve begun to take those things for granted, or don’t you agree with that?

        In other words, when any of us is, as you say, putting "forth effort as if everything depended on it... we must remember that we have no power to do anything at all without supernatural divine aid and power. Without this miraculous intervention, no amount of persuasion and influence, as vitally important as they are, will ever accomplish anything."

        May the peace of the Creator of Life, the Creator of all those truly super natural things, rest over each our family and over each our home,

        Andy ©

        • Yes, Andy, I do agree. However, unlike the supernatural aspects of nature, the supernatural element in true religion must be appreciated in order for us to receive the benefits. God makes the rain fall on the just and on the unjust. His Spirit also reaches out to everyone, seeking a response. As I see it, only our perverse will, our pride and self-sufficiency can prevent Him from saving our souls from sin.

          Blessings to you.

      • PS. To me every word that God is talking to any of us, whether through the Bible or in any other way, is the essence of the word 'grace,' as that word, 'grace' is used in the Bible.

        I love the Hebrew version of Genesis 6:8, which as I see it, literally reads as follows: "And Noah looked into the eyes of Yahweh and saw the mirror image of himself [The Hebrew word 'grace' is the same as the Hebrew name 'Noah' in reverse.]"

        That is, the still small voice of God spoke to Noah when Noah was willing to perceive himself in the light of truth and as he really was. And then to heed God's calling...

  17. "It is the human agent who obeys the law in the context of sanctification. Not Christ."

    Bill Sorensen

    I made this statement in light of the spiritualistic mysticism that many embrace. They assume that if they believe, God will somehow get inside them and keep the law for them.

    To know what the Holy Spirit will do is important, but to know what the Holy Spirit will not do is equally important. If we misunderstand what the Holy Spirit will do or not do, we have no way of comprehending the human factor in salvation.

    So, yes, the Holy Spirit does several things according to the bible. He enlightens, He empowers, He energizes, and motivates. But He does not do the obeying. He works by moral influence through the word of God, and as Paul says, "The love of Christ constraineth me."

    If God can not win us through a revelation of His love, He has no other power or way to influence us to change our mind. So, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

    Truth is power. And the Holy Spirit makes the word of God a "living truth". Truth becomes dynamic by way of the Holy Spirits enlightenment.

    EGW makes plain what the Holy Spirit will do, and will not do in this comment.....

    "While these youth were working out their own salvation, God was working in them to will and to do of His good pleasure. Here are revealed the conditions of success. To make God's grace our own, we must act our part. The Lord does not propose to perform for us either the willing or the doing. His grace is given to work in us to will and to do, but never as a substitute for our effort. Our souls are to be aroused to co-operate. The Holy Spirit works in us, that we may work out our own salvation. This is the practical lesson the Holy Spirit is striving to teach us. "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." {MYP 147.2}

    The word "repent" means to "change mind." It is the human agent that repents. God does not repent for you. But God is credited with the change of mind, because He alone can influence us to do it.

    Like Satan changed Adam's mind and influenced him to disbelieve God, even so, God changed Adam's mind back by a revelation of the cross. We can clearly distinguish what God does and how He does it, from what man does in response to the love of God.

    Even under the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit, many will still not "change their mind" no matter how much God works to persuade them otherwise. It is the human agent who chooses to believe or not. God can not force anyone to change their mind. They must do this of their own free will and own accord.

    A misunderstanding on this point will cause a misunderstand of the atonement and its purpose as well as how it functions in leading the sinner to repent and keep the law of God.

    Bill Sorensen

    • @ Bill Sorensen:

      I'd just like to address what seems to be a major misunderstanding. We differ not on the importance of the law and obedience. My post on the law ought to have settled that. We agree also that both the old and the new covenant were based on the same law.

      With that in mind, I want to say again that the attitude we have towards obedience makes all the difference: Do we have the attitude of the elder son in the parable that Christ told? The elder son did his father's will with the attitude of a servant or slave. He did not share His father's values and was upset when the Father's heart was overflowing with joy at the return of the younger son. In Stephen's words, the elder son rendered a checklist obedience. In the parable, he remains outside the father's house, even though he was obedient. We are left to wonder whether the elder son ever entered the father's house.

      I believe the parable speaks as much to law-keeping Adventists today as it spoke to the law-keeping Jews of Christ's day.

      The question is whether we share the Father's heart of love. Such love as the Father has cannot be manufactured. And it is only that love that truly fulfills the commandments whose foundational principle is love.

      I can say it no better than Ellen White has said it:

      Love is of God. The unconsecrated heart cannot originate or produce it. It is found only in the heart where Jesus reigns. "We love, because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19, R.V. In the heart renewed by divine grace, love is the principle of action. It modifies the character, governs the impulses, controls the passions, subdues enmity, and ennobles the affections. This love, cherished in the soul, sweetens the life and sheds a refining influence on all around.

      There are two errors against which the children of God--particularly those who have just come to trust in His grace--especially need to guard. The first, already dwelt upon, is that of looking to their own works, trusting to anything they can do, to bring themselves into harmony with God. He who is trying to become holy by his own works in keeping the law, is attempting an impossibility. All that man can do without Christ is polluted with selfishness and sin. It is the grace of Christ alone, through faith, that can make us holy.

      The opposite and no less dangerous error is that belief in Christ releases men from keeping the law of God; that since by faith alone we become partakers of the grace of Christ, our works have nothing to do with our redemption.

      But notice here that obedience is not a mere outward compliance, but the service of love. The law of God is an expression of His very nature; it is an embodiment of the great principle of love, and hence is the foundation of His government in heaven and earth. If our hearts are renewed in the likeness of God, if the divine love is implanted in the soul, will not the law of God be carried out in the life? When the principle of love is implanted in the heart, when man is renewed after the image of Him that created him, the new-covenant promise is fulfilled, "I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them." Hebrews 10:16. And if the law is written in the heart, will it not shape the life? Obedience--the service and allegiance of love--is the true sign of discipleship. Thus the scripture says, "This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments." "He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." 1 John 5:3; 2:4. Instead of releasing man from obedience, it is faith, and faith only, that makes us partakers of the grace of Christ, which enables us to render obedience.

      We do not earn salvation by our obedience; for salvation is the free gift of God, to be received by faith. But obedience is the fruit of faith.Steps to Christ, pp. 59-61

  18. From the New King James Version:

    II Corinthians 3:5
    "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God."

    John 6:44
    "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him."

    Jeremiah 32:39
    "I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever."

    James 1:16-18
    "Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures."

    Ephesians 2:10
    "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."

    Isaiah 26:12
    "LORD, You will establish peace for us, for You have also done all our works in us."

    From Steps to Christ, pages 44 & 45:

    "There are those who profess to serve God, while they rely upon their own efforts to obey His law, to form a right character, and secure salvation. Their hearts are not moved by any deep sense of the love of Christ, but they seek to perform the duties of the Christian life as that which God requires of them in order to gain heaven. Such religion is worth nothing. When Christ dwells in the heart, the soul will be so filled with His love, with the joy of communion with Him, that it will cleave to Him; and in the contemplation of Him, self will be forgotten. Love to Christ will be the spring of action. Those who feel the constraining love of God, do not ask how little may be given to meet the requirements of God; they do not ask for the lowest standard, but aim at perfect conformity to the will of their Redeemer. With earnest desire they yield all and manifest an interest proportionate to the value of the object which they seek. A profession of Christ without this deep love is mere talk, dry formality, and heavy drudgery."

    Not to contradict the quotations cited earlier, I hope that these may help to fill out the picture further.

    God bless!

    • Thank you, R.G. After 60 comments we have finally come round to the point of the article in the quote from "Steps to Christ" you shared. A checklist theology is indeed a theology of minimum requirements. Once I reach the minimum level to check it off, I do so. But the presence of the indwelling Christ, which some consider "supernaturalism," will cause the person to exceed those minimalist claims of the law by orders of magnitude. For them the law is meaningless except to say to themselves, "Why would I want to stop at that level?"

      • Thank you, Stephen. By meaningless, I suppose that you are referring to the bare letter of the law being wholly inadequate. If so, I agree. However, if one were to understand the spirituality (the deeper meaning) of the law, then I believe that it need never lose its significance.

      • Thanks Stephen,

        You've put it very succinctly and to the point!

        To me this is a very vital item that in many and very important aspects I believe we've been missing as a matter of policy within very many of our SDA Church activities and institutions. Let me briefly illustrate:

        Vance Farrell, in his wonderful book, The Broken Blueprint, has made it very clear why so many of our SDA institutions world wide have come to an end during the last few decades. That is, by seeking Government approval for our schools, for our hospitals, for our sanitariums, and what have you...

        If you think about that just a little bit, in the setting of the point you are making in your last above post, you should soon realize, that, in order to receive Government approval, certain minimum Government policies, that is, the law as it applies in each such setting, will have to be met on a regular basis. Very soon meeting those minimum requirements of the law become the prime objective of those institutions. No longer is there either time nor money available for those much higher ideals that are defined by our Maker Himself, that is, by means of the dreams, visions, commitment, and love expressed by each individual co-worker. No longer is it feasible, or even possible, to deliver the very best results that love and true dedication to the overall goal can produce. No longer does it seem possible, for most, to realize, to the best of each one's desire and ability, that which God alone is asking each one to do from the beginning and onwards.

        To me this is a very real problem, most especially in all of our hospitals, consider e.g. the results of ACHC; and in all of our educational institutions...

        May we, each of us, henceforth open each our eyes to the reality of this problem... and then do each our best to return always, and without compromise, towards a position such that we are no longer being subject to such laws and policies of men as our Creator has warned us never to enter into.

        To sum up, and... To tie this back to the topic of this particular Sabbath School study, shouldn't each of us stand up always for such as will bring each and all of us eventually out of the covenant of Hagar and into the covenant of Sarah?

        And isn't it true that these are things that may truly be accomplished right here and right now - for each of us, and in each our setting? But only to the extent that each of us have the confidence, the conviction, and the determination, that is necessary to in order to accept God's specific calling, that is, as that specific calling applies under the general calling being given each of us per Revelation 18:4, for what it is...

        And... This too, is where the above discussed principles of Matthew 18 comes in, as very much of a necessary ingredient for progress... and for success!

        Consider it! Selah!

        Andy ©

        • Hi, Andy. You are right that you wandered a little far from the topic of this thread. I do appreciate your attempt to bring your comment back on topic toward the end. I also appreciate your attempt to extrapolate real world applications from the principles we have been discussing. God bless.

  19. Part of what we are dealing with in the covenants is how to distinguish various covenants, their functions and who made them.

    There one unconditional covenant, and that is the covenant between Jesus and His Father. It was agreed that if and when man should sin, Jesus would become the Substitute and Surety for man and bear his sin. Jesus would become the second Adam and demonstrate a perfect life of obedience. In doing this, He would merit and earn salvation for the human family. This is neither the old or new covenant.

    The old and new covenant relate to man and man's response to the gospel typified by the ceremonial law in the old covenant. It is a moral law response based on love and obedience that God gives us the ability to do and perform. This is not a one way covenant. Even though God states and names the terms of this covenant, man must accept the conditions and agree to do them.

    This covenant between God and man is based on the covenant between Jesus and the Father. We can not fulfill the conditions of this covenant. If we could, we could merit and earn heaven. It is helpful and necessary to explain in what way no one can be justified by obedience to the law just as Paul and the bible teach us. We can not pay for our sins. We can not earn or merit the favor of God by keeping the commandments. It is important to know this.

    None the less, it is equally important to know in what way we are justified by obedience to the law in a moral and family relationship to God. For over 3 decades the church has bent over backwards to explain and affirm how we are "not justified by the law" and ignored or denied in what way we "are justified by the law".

    This has gone on to the point where today it is assumed by many if not most, that there is no bible doctrine of justification by obedience to the law.

    God's purpose is to restore man to a relationship where we can be justified by obedience to the law. Not in the sense Rome would teach it. For Rome would have us believe we can merit and earn heaven by obedience to the law, and this is false. But just because we can not earn and merit heaven by obedience, does not mean we are not morally justified by keeping the moral law.

    When we fail to distinguish between the justification typified by the ceremonial law that Jesus has accomplished for us, from the justification of a family member of the kingdom of God, we can not possibly understand nor explain the bible.

    The book of James becomes a real enigma if we can not see the parallel and contrast between James and Paul. And this statement by EGW is beyond the comprehension of those who fail to see the difference.

    " When the judgment shall sit, and the books shall be opened, and every man shall be judged according to the things written in the books, then the tables of stone, hidden by God until that day, will be presented before the world as the standard of righteousness. Then men and women will see that the prerequisite of their salvation is obedience to the perfect law of God. None will find excuse for sin. By the righteous principles of that law, men will receive their sentence of life or of death." {1SM 225.2}

    And this one.....

    "Sinners are committed for trial. They must answer the charge of transgressing God's law. Their only hope is to accept Jesus Christ, their Substitute. He has redeemed the fallen race from the curse of the law, having been made sin,--a curse,--for them. Nothing but the grace of Christ is sufficient to free the transgressor from bondage. Through His grace those who are obedient to God's commandments are made free. If sinners repent their pardon is procured through the merits of Christ. Those who understand this matter in its true bearing will more fully comprehend the glorious, wondrous plan of salvation. They will not desire to argue just what is meant by Christ being our righteousness, nor will they desire to try to explain questions that do not in any way make more plain the terms of salvation. It is not essential to understand the precise particulars in regard to the relation of the two laws. It is of far greater consequence that we know whether we are justified or condemned by the holy precepts of God's law. {WB, September 9, 1902 par. 6}

    What the ceremonial law typifies and its function in relation to the moral law work together to make up a complete whole. What the ceremonial law typifies is by "faith alone". But faith alone can in no way explain all the implications of how the moral law is applied and defined. The moral law is always by "faith and works" for it includes man and man's response.

    Unless we wake up to the parallel and contrast between the covenant between Jesus and His Father, and the covenant between Jesus and His people, we are doomed to ongoing confusion concerning all the implications of salvation in definition and application.

    Bill Sorensen

  20. I am strenghtened greatly by these comments, i just want to add, i can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, our victories, our joys even our salvation is gained through a relationship with Christ... Its a partnership, humanity working with divinity. on the other hand, the matter of church discipline... The church is damaged because of the Achan's and the work hindered, we compromise sin to the extent that it seems anything is allowed. We need leaders who are led by the spirit of God to deal with the sin problem, Ellen white is used to support almost any stand these days.
    The greatest need in the church is a relationship with our savior.

    • Thank you for your insights, Dexter. I agree wholeheartedly. It's an interesting observation that Ellen White is used to support almost any stand, these days. I believe this is true, not only of her, but of Paul and the other Bible writers. I feel that it is of vital importance that we do not allow this to shake or undermine our confidence, either in the Bible or in the writings of sister White (which are, after all, the testimony of Jesus). In either case, I believe that the important things to remember are to maintain the humble spirit of the learner, to maintain the obedient spirit of the disciple, and to read everything on the subject -- so as to pick up on both poles of truth, prayerfully resolve any paradoxes, and arrive at a correctly balanced view.

      May God bless in all that you do.

    • Dexter, What specifically are you thinking of when referencing "the Achan's?"

      And also, when talking about "church discipline," well, it seems to me that that tool is hardly ever used for the purposes it should be used, only for pressuring such ones among our members, and among our pastors, that dare to take a stand for that which God is truly calling them to do, to stop doing just that and to get in line with the majority... That is, church discipline is a tool being generally abused for applying such peer pressure as will in effect be nothing less than that persecution of God's own People which churches throughout history are so well known for...

      To frame that same problem just a bit differently: Just like so many other churches, our beloved Adventist societies too are only too often trapping themselves into various species of abuses of our faith and of our religion, or isn't that true?

      What we do need much more of, is improving upon that reality which should be... (but isn't necessarily existing) and which our church is so very often claiming, that is, that we are truly a Bible believing people that keep on studying the Holy Scriptures to the point that we are a church that are closer to the truth of God than any other church body... [Edited out website address, See comment guidelines]

      But where can I find even one internet forum, or any other forum, even one Sabbath School study group, where that is true and where the principles outlined in Ellen White's book, Counsels on Sabbath School Work [edited out link to website] are truly being followed??? I truly believe there is a need among all of us to study and to heed the advise, that is, the guidance, that God is so gracefully providing for us in that book!

      Sola scriptura! The Bible and the Bible only!... Has that become only too much of an empty phrase often repeated among us?

      Could it be that we are, in more ways than one, being the sons and daughters of Hagar, the slave mistress of Abraham, that is, by being slaves of tradition, albeit "Seventh-day Adventist" tradition, by making all too many assumptions re the faith we claim that we have?... But which faith and conviction was much more truly the faith and conviction of our pioneers... the ones before us that truly did study their Bibles for the purpose of finding ever more light than that which thus far they had come to see and understand...

      How could we, I and you, each one among us, turn that around such that there would be more of a reality to a claim of ours that we are the sons and the daughters of Sarah, the People of the Promises of God?

      Consider it! Selah!

      Andy ©

      • now i feel like i am apart of this study... OK, Andy, when i speak of 'Achan,s' i was thinking of the damage that known sin does to the local congregation! "I saw that the Israel of God must arise and renew their strength and keep their covenant with Him.Covetousness, selfishness, and love of the world are all through the ranks of Sabbath-keepers... unless it is rooted out their destruction will be as sure as Achan's...(1.t.40) also Ms White continues 'they may know that the church is burdened, as Achan knew that Israel was made weak before thier enemies because of his guilt..... Gods displeasure is upon his people and He will not manifest His power in the midst of them while sin exist among them and are fostered by those in responsible position. (3 t. 270.) i am still on church discipline...
        So what part do we as leaders play in protecting the purity of the church, what role did Phineas play, what role did Nathan play..
        Andy do you see the point i am making, maybe i am wrong but when i read '3 T 265' i know beyond the shadow of a doubt that when we are found in sin we should make decided effort to put sin from among us... the sin must be removed b4 God's Spirit can come in.

        • Thank you Dexter for adding value to that which is inherent in "Achan's sin." That which you wrote makes a whole lot of sense to me. A true waker upper!

          Yes, we do need to remove known sin or we won't be able to keep growing in grace, meaning also that we stagnate and are unable to receive more blessings of God in the direction of travel where those known sins are holding us back...

          Naturally, that apply to each and every one among us in each our lives, but it also apply to each our congregation as a whole as well as to each of the members of those congregations who are likewise being held back by those sins whatever such sins may be...

          Nonetheless, never forget that none of us are being forced to, or need to, be held back by the sins of any other. That too is voluntary! Yet it is very easy and very tempting for most to be satisfied by doing no better than the Joneses do!

          To me, along time ago, I came to realize the great relief inherent in recognizing that I do not need to convince anyone, least of all the public media, of the errors inherent in their teaching, before... That is, there is no need for me to be held back in my own pursuit and in that which means that I am allowing the Holy Spirit to purify me, my thoughts, and my life... I am free to keep walking ever onwards upon my particular walk along the path of life while being taught for evermore more out of all that which my Savior is willing to teach me...

          Indeed, it may be that, by not being willing to let go of all those others, beloved though they may be... and remain..., I myself might be the Achan keeping on wallowing in known sin...

          Quite possibly I myself might need to have my own life purified, even for some time, before I can effectively serve as a teacher unto any other re any particular sin that all of us are in the habit of committing... If I attempt to point out such known sins as I perceive in the life of others among my family and friends while likely being blind to the beam in my own eye, am I not then being likely to be perceived as a hypocrite and as one better described as pointing that proverbial finger to others while forgetting the three finger pointing back to myself? (Cf. Matt 7:3-5; Luke 6:41-42.) How then can I ever expect to create anything but disgust among my neighbors towards that which I honestly believe is, and which may truly be, God's true calling to me and to all those around me?!

          Your point re Achan is well taken! A most important point indeed as far as I am concerned!

          Thank you Dexter for sharing that concept and for thus underscoring the importance of Achan's sins, as those sins remain in our midst even here and even now in us, in me...

          Just one more thing though, who is a leader, who are the leaders, among us? Those popularly elected by each our church? Or, those among us daring to stand up for that which God alone is calling each one among us to do?

          Consider it! Selah! And…

          May the peace of our Savior rest over each our families and homes,

          Andy ©

  21. In response to Bill Sorensen's comment, December 3, 2011 at 6:46 am.
    Bill says all true believers enter into a “covenant of works” in their relationship with Jesus. He uses His words, “If you love Me keep My commandments” to support the idea of a covenant of works. Then he writes that our response (as true believers should be) “all the Lord has said, we will do and be obedient.”

    This looks okay, even, an excellent response! That is, at first glance. For us to say this in response to Jesus is to repeat exactly the response that the children of Israel gave to God when He spoke His covenant to them on mount Sinai. God said they were good words but empty words because their heart was not in accord with their words. God explained it in these words to Moses,

    “The Lord heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me, 'I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all they have spoken. O that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear ( reverence ) Me and keep all My commandments always, that it might be well with them and with their sons forever!” Deut.5:28-29.

    The fly in the ointment was their fear not love for God and their self-confident promise of obedience. God allowed Moses to go ahead with the making of covenant based on the empty promises. God knew that they would callously break the covenant within weeks. What is important for us today, as we look at their failure, is to realize that we to can turn God's Covenant of Grace into Old Covenant by a self confident promise, “All that the Lord has said, we will do and be obedient.” We are no better than they. Even just saying the words sets us on the path of legalism. Do-it-yourself obedience.

    Now let's turn our minds back to Jesus' words, “If you love Me keep My commandments.” Notice Jesus did not say, “Don't break My commandments!” He said, “ If you love Me ...” If you look at the covenant God spoke on Sinai, He invited them to accept Him as their benevolent Protector by appealing to them, “I Am the Lord your God that brought you up out of the land of Egypt (These words should have brought up all the scenes of deliverance and of all of God's provisions for them along the way). The ten commandments were actually positive promises: “If you will take Me as your God, your Husband, I will help you with your sin problem. You shall become a kingdom of priest to Me.” Exodus 19:5-7.

    God always appeals to our hearts as well as to our minds. If you love Me, then I can enable your obedience. There is no true obedience but that which comes of God's grace through faith which works by love. We have a choice, we can be like the rich young ruler who was a very thorough commandment keeper but refused Jesus' loving invitation to enter the service of love, or we can, like the apostle Paul, die to self that Christ might live in us.

    True believers in Christ do not enter a covenant of works; they enter into the Covenant of God's grace received by faith. Then and only then can they grow into the image of Christ.

    Self-confidence plunged man into sin, and all our promises are as ropes of sand. Only in Christ's strength, coupled with our acknowledgement of weakness, shall we become overcomers. Love is the fulfilling of the law.

  22. Andy concuded......

    "Love is the fulfilling of the law."

    And I would ask, "How is this different than "the fulfilling of the law is love?"

    Why do people hate the idea of works? Probably because we inherently hate and fear the idea of judgment and accountability for our actions.

    So, we hope that somehow "grace and faith" will deliver us from a "works oriented religion".

    We just as well confront the fact that any and all covenants require commitment and action. A joint agreement. If Jesus said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" it is no different than if He had said, "If ye love me, stop sinning."

    I think we like mystical definitions and ideas instead of clear concrete definitive statement of what a biblical relationship with Jesus is all about.

    Love is the motive, and love includes fear and every other concept the bible states that motivates the sinner to not only accept Jesus, but to retain and maintain the love relationship. Fear of God is not contrary to love.

    So, Solomon says, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter, fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."

    Notice, this is "the conclusion" of a mature Christian experience. And we re-affirm this truth when we state, "Fear God and give glory to Him for the hour of His judgment is come."

    I might add, we could wish that Adam and Eve would have had a little more "fear" of God's judgment and we would not be in the situation we are in today.

    The devil no doubt seperated fear from love and convinced Eve God would never destroy what He had created and therefore obedience was not really necessary and certainly no need to "fear God".

    I personally reject this modern idea that if we are mature believers, we need not fear God. I don't believe the bible supports this idea.

    I don't think EGW does either, for she said, "We have a heaven to win and a hell to shun."

    Bill Sorensen

    • Hi, Bill

      You have hit upon an important point when you wrote: "I think we like mystical definitions and ideas instead of clear concrete definitive statement of what a biblical relationship with Jesus is all about."

      You see, it has long been scientifically understood that people are either abstract or concrete thinkers. For instance, when I say chair, some people (the abstract thinkers) immediately visualize a picture of a chair in their minds. Concrete thinkers instead of a picture first see the word "chair" in their minds.

      Because of this, perhaps God uses the appropriate language and means to reach each according to their mental orientation. If God created us this way, then it would make sense for Him to reach each of us differently. This would go a long way toward explaining why there are "liberals" and "conservatives." The only other explanation for these differences would seem to be that God created some to be lost and some to be saved. That is predestination. Calvinists would have no problem with this, but is that the direction we want to go? Or can we recognize the difference and embrace it by finding unity in a diversity of abilities to relate to God?

  23. Stephen, I doubt not that God uses many and various "means of grace" to communicate Himself, His will, and His kingdom to the human mind.

    Sometimes, it is law and gospel in their unity as a whole, and sometimes it is law vs. gospel, and/or gospel vs. law. This will often depend on a person's life experience and how they have viewed God and/or been taught to view God in the past.

    I am not insensitive to those who may have had a rather warped view of God and His justice. Being raised a SDA, I often had more than a few misunderstanding of God's justice and how we should relate to it. And this problem is always a challege, no matter what level of understanding of the gospel we may have come to know and appropriate.

    None the less, if there is always a problem with "legalism" and a misunderstanding of the law and its application, it is no less a problem and factor in understanding God's grace and how it is applied in our biblical realtionship to Him by way of Christ.

    So, one has well said, "If legalism has destroyed it thousnds, antinomianism has destroyed its tens of thousands." And Luther commented on this problem when he said, "The Christian community is like a drunken German peasant, you push him up on one side of his donkey, and he falls off the other."

    I think the illustration is obvious. You teach people the gospel and the dangers of legalism, they soon use the gospel to embrace an anti-law concept.

    According to EGW, the final apostacy is an anti-law concept that eventually leads to Universalism. That is, everyone is going to heaven eventually. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure our how such an idea can be taught and supported. You simply have to warp the bible gospel from its true biblical application and re-apply it in a way that negates the true function of the law. And Satan will do it in such a subtle way, that it apparently has some element of credibility that seems biblically acceptable and in harmony with scripture.

    In my opinion, we are so far past the issues of legalism that had some danger for the church in 1888, and are now in the process of an anti-law emphasis, that legalism is the least of our worries in modern Adventism.

    I am sure that most would consider my view a minimulist view. That few would believe my evaluation has any real credibility and that "the church" is moving in the right direction in its explanation of law and gospel. I also believe that much of what and how the issues are presented and discussed is often "word games" that obscure the obvious.

    Isn't this how the devil worked on Eve in the garden?
    So he may have said to Eve, "Are you really sure you understand exactly what God said and meant when He forbid you to eat of this tree?" "Maybe you misunderstood God's intent."

    And finally, "You won't really (surely) die." The master of "word games". So today, I think we also obscure the clear declarations of the bible with mystical and spiritual "word games." And some will now say...

    "Well, 'wrath' in the bible doesn't really mean wrath as we understand the word." And

    "Fear is not really fear, but some obscure meaning that we must "ask the experts" what it means.

    And "covenant" doesn't mean contract.

    And "obey " doesn't mean obey, it means "have faith".

    And love is not defined as law, but some mystical feeling you experience "by faith".

    So, Stephen, I conclude the "final deception" has infiltrated the church through subtle arguments and influences by a false application of the gospel. And I am not totally alone, am I?

    Bill Sorensen

    • "People" do not "hate works." They, or should I say we, just want works that are genuine, works that God can accept.

      When Jesus evaluates the Laodicean church, He finds it short on faith and love (that is gold tried in the fire,) short on Spiritual understanding (that is eyes salve) and short on spiritual clothing (that is the righteousness of Christ). After the shortcomings and their cures Jesus comes right to the point, "I'm knocking at your heart's door. Let Me come in."

      We are today as a church in the same spiritual condition as Jews, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the scribes and the lawyers were when Jesus came knocking at their door. He came to His own and they received Him not. They could not not accept Jesus' demonstration of righteousness then. They were the world's experts in calling for obedience to the Torah, the Ten Commandments and the associated statutes. They thought of Him as an antinomian, a destroyer of the law and the prophets, when in fact His righteousness exceeded theirs beyond compare.

      The young pharisee, Saul, who excelled them all in commandment keeping, bought into the idea that Jesus and His followers after Him were destroying the law and the prophets, and thus were enemies to their religion and their God. So he persecuted and killed them with all his might.

      When Jesus reined Saul in, converting him into Paul the Apostle, Paul gave the following evaluation of his former compulsion to be obedient to God's law and the faith of his fathers: "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9. and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith." (Phil. 3:7-9)

      All of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. Paul learned this and so should we. I love the righteous works of God. He offers them to me in exchange for my feeble failing attempts. I've learned that God is correct -- I cannot put my trust in my own attempts to gain righteousness through keeping the law. What Bill Sorensen labeled as 'hocus pocus' I have found to be the divine miracle of transformation, being changed into His image. It's a work in progress. This is far superior to anything human will and effort can concoct.

      Jesus relied completely on His Father for the works He accomplished, I think we should follow His example rather than the Pharisees.'

  24. Thank you so much, Andy! To my mind, it couldn't be much clearer than that.

    Bill Sorensen said:

    "In my opinion, we are so far past the issues of legalism that had some danger for the church in 1888, and are now in the process of an anti-law emphasis, that legalism is the least of our worries in modern Adventism."

    With all due respect, I must beg to differ. I feel that we are entering upon the last of the last days. Is this not the time when Satan pulls out all the stops, and we must expect to see every wind of doctrine blowing through the church? If so, then I am probably seeing things correctly when I perceive extreme views and positions being promoted from both sides -- often in the most subtle manner.

    At this time, I believe it is imperative that we maintain the correct (i.e. truly Scriptural) balance in our views. If we are only able to see the errors of one side, isn't it time to consider the possibility that we ourselves may be in error on the other side?

    May the Holy Spirit enlighten our understanding as we humbly seek for truth.

    • Thanks R.G.!

      But consider also this aspect... There is cause and there is consequence... Then there are secondary and tertiary consequences as a result of the first consequence...

      If antinomianism, as Bill may correctly be claiming, is truly overshadowing the primary problem of legalism... To effectively correct the problem, we need to be able, and willing, to examine and to perceive the whole picture, and to identify the root causes, not just the primary consequences. If we satisfy ourselves with removing merely the primary consequences, well, how can the result be anything but a new line of secondary and tertiary consequences?

      I agree with you that legalism, as incorrectly understood and taught, is equally, or even more, important to recognize and to correct than is that truly much greater problem and sin of antinomianism. Yet, so long as we fail to look at, analyze, perceive, and correct the errors of antinomianism among us, how can we ever hope to be able to perceive the evil consequences of the erroneous concepts of legalism?


      Now, re false concepts of ‘legalism,’ one apparently almost completely forgotten aspect of Paul's teaching re trusting upon the law for our Salvation - one most essential aspect I believe - is this:

      Suppose I or you are being offered a treasure of immense value by and through a will in which I or you are being named... That is, suppose the law inherent in that will is offering to me or you that treasure... What if I do not accept and actually begin using, in my very own life here and now, that treasure? What if I just leave it in storage, in a bank valve... What good is it - that will, that law - going to be to me or mine? If the nature, and the real time content, of that treasure, is nothing less than the salvation of God, then what good does it do me or you to keep claiming that we have been saved, that we are being saved by faith, saved by the will, by the law, that we have indeed been granted?

      Isn't there a true need to make a reality of beginning to actually use and apply that most valuable inheritance? Isn't there a true need for accepting and applying, in each our lives, that cleansing day to day action in the here and now?

      Thus legalism, in the true sense of the word, is more of an error when thinking of it in terms of what I or you may be doing or not doing... That is, when Paul is actually referring to the error of relying upon the law - the will; the inheritance we have in Jesus - to do something for us! That is, while we, I and you, are required to do nothing at all towards accepting and applying the teaching and the example provided for us in the life and beingness of Jesus, of the Messiah, in each our own life...

      Consider it! Selah!

      • I appreciate your thought, Andy, that we need to consider the whole picture and deal with the root causes. As for me, I am beginning to see legalism and antinomianism as two sides of the same coin. Just food for thought...

  25. Andy wrote: "Jesus relied completely on His Father for the works He accomplished, I think we should follow His example rather than the Pharisees."

    That is very true and is the very essence of living in "newness of life".
    However it does not contradict what Bill is trying to say and what some others have said about the "two ditches" or getting on the horse from one side and falling off the other side. Moving from legalism, accepting grace, but then falling into antinomism.

    demonstrating the results of falling in BOTH ditches.

    1st destruction.
    The historical background shows us that about 100 years before Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian armies, good king Josiah had reinstated all the temple services, cleansed the country of idols and encouraged everyone to worship the true God. Amazingly the temple services continued to operate right up till the end. Josiah's sons and grandson, who reigned after him continued to support the services. From all outward appearances Israel was worshiping God. So what's wrong here?

    The prophets of the time reveal that while there was worship in the temple, just about anything else was acceptable as well. Ezekiel 8 shows they were worshiping, but it was not true worship. Jeremiah 7:8-10 sums up the attitude of the people:
    "Behold, you trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know; And then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?"

    The had fallen into the antinomism ditch. This ditch is the "only believe and you will be saved, it doesn't matter that much what you do" --ditch. Israel didn't get away with it, and neither will we. Let no one deceive themselves with the belief that they will be accounted holy while willfully violating one of God's requirements. The commission of a known sin silences the voice of the Holy Spirit and separates the soul from God.

    In the 2nd destruction we find Israel had fallen into the other ditch.

    Once again we see the Israelites engaged in religious activities revolving around their temple. They believe in God and they believe in obedience. In fact they believe in obedience so strongly that they carefully outlined to the minutest detail how obedience is to be carried out. Yet God rejects them. Why?

    Romans 9 and 10 tell us why: (Romans 9:31-32, 10:3)
    But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone; For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

    This is the opposite ditch Christians can fall into. It is just as dangerous as the other ditch. The devil doesn't care which ditch he gets us to fall into, as long as he can keep us from fully surrendering our lives to Christ and walking with Him.

  26. Hi Ulrike,
    I do not have a problem with your post about the two ditches. They are always there. However, I was quite a cowboy in my younger days. I got on my horse from the correct side and stayed on till the job was done. I was never tempted to fall off on either side. To fall off is not the object of the ride.

    Now if I had forgotten the reason why I was on the horse, I might well have gotten distracted by what was passing by and perhaps would have fallen off. I guess I enjoyed what I was doing too much to become distracted. Is there a lesson here?

    It is not inevitable that having started right you are going to fall off the other side. It is the same as driving a tractor or a car. If you stay focused on what you are doing or where you want to end up, all will go well. If you focus on the ditch, you eventually will end up in it.

    We believe we belong to the remnant church with the greatest message to give to the world. Let's get back on the horse, ignoring both ditches, and follow Jesus into battle as He goes forth conquering and to conquer. If we concentrate on the gospel commission He promises to be there with us.

    There's a little verse that goes like this:

    Two men looked out of the self-same bars.
    One saw mud; the other saw stars.

    It reminds us that we have a choice of where to focus. That does not mean we have to be blind to what is going on. But the worse things are, the more we need to keep our focus on our mission and on our Leader.

    I could tell of horror stories of some things I've seen in he church. On the other hand I see many encouraging things. Right now I am encouraged in my sense that this gospel is soon to be preached to everyone. Tthe whole earth is to be filled with His glory as His people clad in HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS bear testimony to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

    Yes there will be an urgency to the message, for it is given in the context of the imminent close of the hour of God's judgment. Let us not miss the fact that it is the Lamb who leads the 144,000 in giving the three angels' messages. The everlasting gospel is paramount right to the end.

    May God help us to get on the horse on the right side and stay there, not being distracted by what is going on on either side of us. Follow our Leader.

    • Thanks A.A.!

      I love your firsthand witness story re being a true cowboy! Thanks!

      I agree with you re where our focus must be, and re the importance of not failing to recognize where the problems, the ditches, are.

      From time to time, and over and over again, I find myself being accused, in Sabbath School, in this forum, and elsewhere, of not staying close enough to the focus of the study...

      [Most of paragraph edited out See comment guidelines] Now, I must hasten to add my appreciation to Stephen for not himself thus far having given me cause for such concerns. Thanks Stephen!

      Now, if I am that cowboy on that horse of yours, suppose I just keep riding along while focusing upon the stars above and in front of me, while ignoring the heroes that have fallen off their horses and who are caught in the mud, am I not then likely to have my horse step upon those heroes and to injure them even more, or even to kill them? Isn’t there something of lasting value in the idea of perceiving the reflections of those stars above me in the eyes of those poor injured peers of mine, that is, to the effect that I might be to them rather one serving in the capacity of that Samaritan of whom Jesus spoke in his parable? Cf. Luke 10:30-37. Or doesn’t that apply even here and now in this very Sabbath School forum?

      And, once again, thank you Dexter for having brought up the light inherent in that muddy story re Achan’s sin!

      Consider it! Selah!

      • Andy, I had to chuckle at your attempt to make Andy A's analogy "walk on all fours."

        You really bring up a different subject, because those who are in the ditches, according to the analogy, do not see themselves as injured or suffering. These are wide ditches turning into roads to destinations other than the New Jerusalem. What I've noticed is that such ditch riders are usually quite certain that they are on the road and that everyone else is in the ditch. 😉 In fact, they become incensed when any help is offered.

        Is it then not best just to stay on the road, focusing on our Guide in front of us - the One who has promised to lead us to His Kingdom? According to your stretching of the analogy, we are not likely to step on those in the ditches if we actually stay on the road, are we?

        Another relevant thought is this: We become like the object of our focus. Focusing on Christ, we become more like Him. The corollary to that would mean that focusing on the evils around us, we become more evil. Or?? (See 2 Cor. 3:18)

        • Thanks Inge, your points are well taken!

          I agree with you re those wayward heroes in the ditches not seeing themselves as injured or suffering. Indeed, as you say, in their own eyes such are still riding upon their own horses proudly galloping ahead on a dead end road that they believe is destined for heaven and the New Jerusalem. Such riders are very apt to shoot down even such as are indeed the true disciples of Jesus, just as did Saul before his conversion, and just as did the Pharisees and the Chief Priests in re to Jesus himself.

          But never forget, that blindness, that disorientation as to time, place, and person, is very much a problem that we are all suffering from, even as unawares as we are of our own suffering! And that does not exclude either me or you! Just as it rarely if ever bothers anyone with Alzheimer’s disease…

          It behooves all of us to be more humble, to stop shooting down each other, to stop excommunicating others for not seeing things in the same light and from the same angle as we do...

          It behooves each of us to begin looking for the light of God in the eyes of those others whom we may perceive as being in the ditches... very possibly those could be among the true disciples... and, regardless of whether or not they are, God may still be able to use them as His instruments and as His messengers to me, to you, or to others. That is, if we are willing to listen for that small voice of God, and if we are willing to perceive the reflection of Jesus' eyes in those true heroes of God that are indeed being shot at and which are indeed finding and correctly perceiving themselves in the mud, not in the ditches, but in the middle of that one Way towards the New Jerusalem...

          Consider it! Selah!

          May the peace of our Savior rest over each of our families and over each our homes... to the end that we may each begin looking for those rays of light in each other's eyes that may represent nothing less than a message from a tiny, very distant, star in heaven, yes, perhaps even that New Jerusalem...


          Andy ©


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