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Wednesday: The Apostolic Decree — 20 Comments

  1. When I was baptized more than a few years ago, I remember another couple who were baptized at the same time. They were an unchurched couple who had been through a set of Bible studies with a layperson and then the pastor and there was much rejoicing in the church to see the couple take their stand for Jesus and be baptized. Within a week one of the church members took it upon themselves to educate these folk about the nature of the Godhead and other important "Adventist doctrines" they needed to know in order to be saved. The couple was totally "requirement confused" and within two weeks of their baptism, they stopped coming to church and never returned.

    The requirements that the Council agreed on were surprisingly simple. Gentile converts were required to give up pagan practices, and refrain from sexual immorality, but the requirements the Judaizers thought were essential were not mentioned.

    We could argue about the detail of the requirements, but I want to raise the issue of how we support new converts into the Adventist Church. The couple I mentioned earlier is just an illustration of what happens to many new converts in our church. For one reason or another, they suffer from "requirement confusion" and leave.

    There is no doubt both the Gentile and Adventist converts had/have much to learn after their conversion. Those of us who believe we are part of the family of God should support that learning process, not as masters but as fellow learners growing in grace together, not as requirements in order to be saved.

    • Maurice, what I have seen is similar, but the fault was in their preparation, which was brief and horribly incomplete. Not until they were baptized did they learn of all the "restrictions" the yoke of Jesus brings to those who still love this world. Preparation for baptism should leave no surprises for the newly baptize believer. Many would not proceed if knowing that they cannot bring all of their former life into the new life in Christ. Jesus says; "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me". Few are willing to do this, and if not thoroughly taught beforehand, will certainly balk at the "overwhelming restrictions".

      Convincing anyone that if they are not baptized, they cannot be saved, that the Sabbath is still Saturday and, that the Papal church is anti-christ, is not enough of a foundation for faith to build on.

    • The first principle regarding relationships - spiritual and physical - is that of love as stated in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and as repeated by Jesus in Matthew 22:35-40. The first word in Deuteronomy, one of the Torah books of the Bible, is 'hear'. Hence, for all relationships, whether it be spiritual or physical, it requires that each individual is able to hear and listen. If the couple mentioned in your comment were being taught how to 'hear' and listen to God to build a spiritual relationship with Him now that they were baptized then as a result of the spiritual relationship building process the doctrine of our church would be readily acceptable to the couple to build their physical relationship with the church family. Next, in any relationship we need to understand and know that love includes forgiveness and reconciliation. Question: After the couple left the church did anyone from the church go to find or seek out the couple and ask for forgiveness and help them to reconcile with the church and return to church to continue to receive the blessings God has in store for them when they fellowship with SDA believers? We need to understand and know and repeat Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Matthew 22:35 - 40 that the foundation of our faith is a love relationship with God in order to understand God's commandments and the church's doctrines which are based on God's commandments. Clearly the Apostolic decree being studied in today's lesson is based on God's love for the Gentiles - Jew and Gentile one in Messiah - and that was the message which was being preached to ensure that the preaching of God's Word, which included the decrees, brought unity between Jew and Gentiles becoming one in Messiah. What do you think?

      • Hi Magdalena, You asked:

        After the couple left the church did anyone from the church go to find or seek out the couple and ask for forgiveness and help them to reconcile with the church and return to church to continue to receive the blessings God has in store for them when they fellowship with SDA believers?

        Yes, of course, but the damage was done. They saw the church as confusing and inconsistent and never wanted anything to do with any church again. As a teenager at the time, it shocked me to see the fragility of new faith.

    • Maurice, I enjoy reading your posts. I am hoping you can help me understand a doctrine of the Seventh Day Adventist church. It is my understanding you must adhere to the clean and unclean food laws mentioned in Duet. and Lev. to be baptized and become members of the church. I was raised southern Baptist and several years ago my husband and I went to several seminars put on by a local Adventist church. We even traveled to go to a camp meeting. We both were excited about learning the truths we had studied. The pastor gave us a handout stating what would be required if we wanted to be baptized and become members of the church. One of the many requirements were foods that were not allowed to be eaten. I have read in Genesis 9:3 where God tells Noah every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. He does mention (as the council did) the forbiddence of blood. Jesus states in Matthew 15: 11, 17 and 18 man is not defiled by anything that goes into the mouth but what comes out of it. Further He says that what you put in your mouth goes thru the body and is eliminated. I know the church uses verse 20 to support this requirement but it seems to me He is speaking spiritually about how a person is defiled. Not anything physical can defile you - just your heart (which only He knows). Thank you for any help you can give me.

      • Connie, your question is a pertinent one and it would take a long time to answer it in detail. Here are just a couple of thoughts to consider. I will be a bit radical and say that if you have a vibrant growing relationship with Jesus first, some of these other things fall into place. Joining the church is not the same thing as having a grace-filled relationship with Jesus. Anyone who thinks that fulfilling the "dietary requirements" is something that you have to do in order to be saved is starting on the wrong foot. The verses you quote from Matthew is essentially saying that when we focus on food requirements and forget that our words and actions to one another can be hurtful, discouraging, and even blasphemous, then we have got the wrong idea about our spiritual relationships.

        Having said all that, let me tell you another facet of my own life. I am passionate about living more healthily. I am involved in teaching others about lifestyle living. I even run cooking demonstrations called "Man Cooking". My unchurched friends at these demos are not told this is my religion - it is simply that I want everyone to realize their health potential. They would not listen to me if I said it was a church requirement! Of course, in my own mind, I have the notion that whatever we eat or do, we do to the glory of God, but those words would be misunderstood by my audience. Hopefully, my actions give that message strongly.

        I probably have raised more questions than answers, but I hope that I have given you something to think about.

      • Connie, I have been slowly learning more about the confusion of the eating habits of the SDA religion. Growing up with not eating certain things didn't seem like a hard concept to me, but now that I have a fiance who attends church with me and for the most part abstains from unclean meats I have learned the struggle of someone who hasn't grown up the same as me. He mentions the verses you mention and also brings up Peter's vision. It took me a long time to realize that he had a much stronger relationship with Jesus than most people in my own church do even though he had spent his whole life eating differently. I tend to believe that God/Holy Spirit will do the convincing rather than myself and what I've seen/learned is that God is (and we should be) a little more concerned with how our hearts change and that if we open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit for the guidance on other matters we find the truth ourselves through study of scripture. I don't think food matters should determine whether or not someone should be a part of our community. If they want to join and worship together that should not be hindered. I personally believe that there are certain things that our Creator knows are not great for our body and had grace to share with us to keep our minds and bodies in better condition for his work. I think if you read a little more context behind that story of Noah you'll see even a few verses before that in chapter 8 it mentions Noah taking clean animals to the altar. Even then Noah knew what was clean and unclean (look even further back when the clean animals entered the ark in groups of 7 and the unclean came in pairs). I don't think people should pressure you into thinking that food is a salvation issue, because it's not. I try to remember that God wants our hearts to change and the way we act towards one another and if we trust him with our hearts we may come to trust him with our appetites.
        Like I said even my fiance has not fully come to terms with the "clean eating" aspect of the SDA church, but he doesn't really eat pork or shellfish anymore since we started dating - totally his decision - I think he's starting to realize that giving up certain foods isn't as hard as he thought it would be and that he doesn't really miss eating them.
        I think it's also important to remember that one day there will be no more death, which includes our world's animals. One day the Lord will restore us a new Earth and we won't have to use animals for sustenance because we will be like in Eden again. Genesis 1:29-31 "29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. 31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day."
        So even animals will become vegetarians again. There are plenty of character adjustments Adventists need to make to themselves that may very well be a little more important than telling others what food to eat/not eat, so it shouldn't be turned into a salvation issue in my opinion.

  2. We may be worried about external changes while God can see the heart! External changes have to come from within, not the opposite. We seem to try to fit ourselves and others into boxes that we label as such, but we are all different. God sees the heart, and that's the most important thing for Him.

  3. Whether we learn to sit together and listen to each other in the spirit of respect and humility to each other or not, we need to do it any way. That way we can work together in the salvation of others gently nudging them forward into growing in Christ. ABC’s of Church growth. Support, encouragement, humbly working together for others, is much better than funneling requirements. They who work and pray together, stay together. Simple, yet so often ignored.

  4. If the law of God is our delight, it will not be viewed as prohibitive. When we pray as Jesus; "thy will be done", we are saying; "The law of the Lord is perfect", if in fact we have a right concept of God's character, government and purposes. I understand that when dealing with new converts(especially of pagan background) that the law needs to be interpreted in practical terms in order to "teach them to observe all things" Jesus has commanded us. God is seeking by His law to liberate sinners from sin and sorrows, as the apostles state: "which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well."

    When we are no longer filled with pride, selfishness, and love of this world, we will sit together and fulfill the purposes of God according to His will.

  5. The Bible tells us to come and lets reason together. Which means I hear what you say and you hear what I have to say. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give guidance. Listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying and walk in it. He will not lead us astray. His job is to lead, guide, and direct us into all truth. Always remembering that it's not about you and it's not about me; it's about with thus said the Lord.

  6. I am comfused with all this discussion. But i still have hope because we will be saved by grace not because we have been keeping the commandment. Because all have sinned

  7. What practices today have entered the church or are triying to be introduced in the church? Do we remember the danger of compromizing christianity with paganism has cost us a great till now adays? How can we aware of these dangers while like sleeping foolish virgins are unaware and careless of the roaring lion who is always watching to destroy the only church God intended to be glorified in her? May the Lord have mercy on us.

  8. I'm truly blessed that as I transitioned from membership to discipleship I received support from my husband's family as well as from the first Elder and Associate Pastor.
    This support helped to buffer the hypercritical and judgemental comments of
    church members who were just simply unhappy and unloving people.

  9. Maurice Ashton: AMEN! Too often we seem to say, by inference, that we are the Holy Spirit. Whether a convert has been in the church 30 seconds or 30 years it is God who is in charge of growing them up. We often focus their attention on something other than what God is really working in their lives about. Diet reform, dress reform may take a lot longer for some than it did for us. Love them enough to bring them home, find their hobbies, learn to do things with them. Let them ask questions and pray about your answers.

  10. The decision made by the early church listed four things that would be required of the gentile believers. Today, our church lists up to 13 items (ref. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adventist_Baptismal_Vow) new converts have to say 'yes' to in order to be baptised. I have witnessed someone being refused baptism because the person said no to one of these items.

    Are these the new requirements for salvation? Is this meant to be so? I need explanations please..

    • The Word of God does not say whether the "Repentant Thief," on the cross was a Jew or a Gentile. But what did Jesus require from him to accept him into his eternal kingdom?: Only the thief's acceptance of Jesus as his Saviour and Lord.

  11. Great job Maurice! wish you could elaborate some more. you have given us something to think about! but the confused individual would need more to go on.

  12. Queen, why do we have listed points of doctrine in our church? In the histoy of our church people kept asking as wo what adventists believed. So we came out publishing what we confessed as our belief on the bais of scripture. As far as today is concerned, if people want to join our church, to be fair to them, they have to be informed beforhand as to what we believe.

    The doctrines of our belief are not supposed to be conditions of salvation, so as to by keeping all of that we earn our salvation. But, having been saved by grace, we will submit to God`s will as revealed in scripture. I think, you are right in ponting out a misuse of our points of doctrine as a prerequrement of salvation. Thie prejustice I think has to be removed prior to bible studies.

    Winfried Stolpmann

  13. And, always, abide by the Matthew 18:15-17 counsel about anything we may think a person needs to reform on or come in line with! There are three steps to this counsel of Jesus: 1. One on one with the person. 2. One or possibly a second person to assist in the counseling. And 3. Church Business Meeting on the case---"not board meeting" or even some other committee chosen by the board.


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