February 13 - 19
The Uniqueness of the Gift of Prophecy
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Joel 2:28, 29; Acts 2:14-21; Heb. 1:1-3; Rev. 12:17; 19:10.
MEMORY TEXT: "Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper" (2 Chronicles 20:20).
KEY THOUGHT: The gift of prophecy is an identifying mark of the remnant church. Seventh-day Adventists believe that this gift was manifested through Ellen G. White. Her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth, which provide comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction for the church. She testifies that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested. (Based on Seventh-day Adventists Believe. . . , p. 216, and Fundamental Belief, no. 17.)
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE GIFT OF PROPHECY TO THE SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH. A 1982 study in one of the church divisions shows that Seventh-day Adventists who study the writings of Ellen White regularly are more likely to exhibit positive Christian attributes and behavior than members who do not (Administry, July 1982, pp. 226, 227). Many other benefits that have come to the church through the gift of prophecy could be listed. One that is not usually considered is the advantage Seventh-day Adventists have in receiving a contemporary example of how the gift of prophecy works. We have the advantage of being able to know and experience what a modem prophet may say and do.
A study of the Bible records that about eighty people are known to have received the genuine gift of prophecy. Eight of these were women. Approximately forty wrote the sixty-six books of the Bible. This gift is one of the rarest and, consequently, is unique among the spiritual gifts.
Selection of the prophet is the only church appointment God has kept strictly in His own hands. Prophecy comes not "by the will of man" (2 Pet. 1:21). Prophets sometimes prophesied: (1) without foreseeing that they would (see 1 Kings 13:20-22) and (2) when they didn't want to. They could not always do what they wanted (see Num. 23:12, 20; 24:13).
The gift of prophecy often was a calling not desired by those God called. Why? Exod. 4:1, 10-12; Jer. 20:7-9; Jon. 1:1-3.
Ellen White overwhelmed. Being a prophet is not easy. Commenting on the fact that Ellen White had to write out everything by hand, her husband, James, reported her reaction to the new vision of June 12, 1868: "Mrs. White has said more than twenty times since the Rochester vision, December, 1865, upon which she has written several thousands of pages, that in view of the responsibilities of her work, if she could have her choice, to go into the grave or have another vision, she should choose the grave. And since Sabbath evening it has been with difficulty that she has been able to control her feelings of disappointment and sadness in view of her new responsibilities."Review and Herald, June 16, 1868.
Women, as well as men, were called by God to the prophetic office in Bible times. Review the following texts and identify some of those called to be prophetesses:
Exod. 15:20, 21 ___________________________ Judg. 4:4, 5 ______________________
Luke 2:36 ________________________________ Acts 21:9 ________________________
|Were these women given the same recognition as male prophets? Note that in spite of the fact that Jeremiah (compare Jer. 1:2 with 2 Kings 22:3) and probably Habakkuk and Zephaniah were recognized prophets in Josiah's time, Josiah's counselors sought out Huldah the prophetess in order to discover the Lord's will.|
How do the texts listed below support the expectation of a last-day prophetic gift?
Joel 2:28-32Partially fulfilled at Pentecost (see Acts 2:16-21), but the major fulfillment takes place in the last days when the signs mentioned in verses 30, 31 will be seen. The manifestation of the Spirit at Pentecost involved tongues, whereas the last-day promise involves prophecy.
Matthew 24:11, 24Perhaps Jesus would not need to warn against false prophets just before His coming unless the true gift of prophecy was to be manifested.
Ephesians 4:11-14-This text seems to support the idea that there are three different reasons for giving the gift, but actually there is one. Verse 12 literally states: "With a view to the mending of the saints for the purpose of the work of Christ unto the house building of the body of Christ." The last-day gift of prophecy is essential to this purpose and will be needed until we come into "the unity of the faith ... unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (verse 13).
Revelation 12:17; 19:10Note the similarities of Revelation 19:10 and 22:9: In both, John says he fell at the angel's feet to worship. In both cases the angel said, "Don't." In both, the angel began his message with the same words. By comparing the above three texts, we see that the testimony of Jesus is equated with the person and the work of the prophets.
Gift of prophecy given to Ellen G. White. Seventh-day Adventists believe that the Bible prediction of a last-day gift of prophecy has been fulfilled in a remarkable way through the Holy Spirit's work in the life and ministry of Ellen G. White. Concerning her gift, Ellen White testifies: "Little heed is given to the Bible, and the Lord has given a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light. Oh, how much good would be accomplished if the books containing this light were read with a determination to carry out the principles they contain! "Colporteur Ministry, p. 125.
The ministry of Ellen White. Her ministry extended over a period of 70 years until her death in 1915. During that time she received approximately 2,000 visions and wrote approximately 25 million words. One of the most remarkable aspects of her ministry is the immense variety of topics on which she wrote: education, health, prophecyjust to mention a few.
Imagine a man receiving a letter that makes him so upset that he bangs on the door of the post office demanding that the postal carrier explain why he delivered such a frightening and allegedly unreasonable letter. He loses his temper and gives the postal carrier a hard kick. That wouldn't be either Christian or rational.
Yet in recent years some have been lacking the postal carrierEllen Whitejust because they don't like what she wrote. Of course, there's the fact that she also is blamed for things that she never actually wrote.
Perhaps too many of us as youngsters were whipped into line by authority figures who rested their case on the line "You can't do that because Ellen White says you shouldn't." What a pleasant surprise it is to learn how human, even fun-loving, Ellen White was. She was a pleasant, happy person to be around. There were even times when she almost rebelled against giving some of the straight messages God gave her for people she knew and with whom she worshiped. She was urged to pass them along no matter what personal pain it caused her. Overall, her ministry was one of encouragement, pointing to the loving and lovable Jesus, whom she always sought to represent faithfully.
The Lord powerfully used this godly woman for so many years to guide and lead this church and its members heavenward. Regrettably, some engage in subtle denials of the full inspiration of Ellen White's writings. In order to meet these attacks, we must be aware of the Bible tests of the true gift of prophecy.
Study the following Bible tests of a true prophet, applying them as best you can to what you know about Ellen White's gift:
Test 1-Isa. 8:20 _______________________________________________________
Test 2-Matt. 7:20 _____________________________________________________
28:9 (modified by the biblical principle of conditional prophecy)
Test 4-1 John 4:2 ___________________________________________________
The standard. "The word of God is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested."The Great Controversy, p. vii.
|For reflection: Think of specific passages from Ellen White's writings that have been a spiritual blessing to you. In what ways have they been helpful, and why?|
Study 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21; then list three things that we can do to help us accept a true claim to the gift of prophecy.
If God gave special messages through the prophets in past ages for the encouragement and spiritual enlightenment of His people, why can He not use someone that way in the twentieth century? Is God's power to communicate with His people any less today than it was in the time of Elijah or Jeremiah? Why should we accept the reality of miraculous prophetic inspiration in earlier ages but deny it for our age? If we should discover that the tests of a true prophet are fulfilled in the ministry of a contemporary, how unwise we would be not to accept the messages as coming from God! To reject the counsel of a true prophet is to insult the Holy Spirit.
Ellen White's description of her writing process. A study of the many passages in which Ellen White described her writing process is informative. Here we'll select just two: "When I went to Colorado I was so burdened for you that, in my weakness, I wrote many pages to be read at your camp meeting. Weak and trembling, I arose at three o'clock in the morning to write to you. God was speaking through clay. You might say that this communication was only a letter. Yes, it was a letter, but prompted by the Spirit of God, to bring before your minds things that had been shown me. In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me. I do not write one article in the paper, expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision-the precious rays of light shining from the throne."Selected Messages, book 1, p. 27.
"I am just as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in relating or writing a vision, as in having the vision. It is impossible for me to call up things which have been shown me unless the Lord brings them before me at the time that He is pleased to have me relate or write them."Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, p. 293.
|For reflection: What are the advantages to the church and to you personally in accepting Ellen White's messages? Give some examples. (See 2 Chronicles 20:20, last part)|
One of the major signs of the time of the end will be false prophets whose main work is deception (see Matt. 24:4, 11, 24). Christ has given His true followers spiritual discernment into what is true and what is false: "By their fruit you will recognize them" (Matt. 7:20, NIV).
What did Ellen White claim for herself?. "I have had no claims to make, only that I am instructed that I am the Lord's messenger; that He called me in my youth to be His messenger, to receive His word, and to give a clear and decided message in the name of the Lord Jesus. 'Your work,' He instructed me, 'is to bear My word.... The messages that I give shall be heard from one who has never learned in the schools. My Spirit and My power shall be with you.
"'Be not afraid of man, for My shield shall protect you. It is not you that speaketh: it is the Lord that giveth the messages of warning and reproof. Never deviate from the truth under any circumstances. . . .'
"Why have I not claimed to be a prophet?-Because in these days many who boldly claim that they are prophets are a reproach to the cause of Christ; and because my work includes much more than the word 'prophet' signifies."Selected Messages, book 1, p. 32.
How do Ellen White's claims measure up to the tests of a true prophet outlined in Isaiah 8:20 and Matthew 7:20?
The consistency of her writings with Scripture. Ellen White's writings teach no doctrine that cannot be substantiated solely from Scripture. Her writings lead us back to the Bible. Ellen White did not teach that her writings should be used as another Bible, nor that they should be added to the sacred canon: "I recommend to you, dear reader, the Word of God as the rule of your faith and practice. By that Word we are to be judged. God has, in that Word, promised to give visions in the 'last days'; not for a new rule of faith, but for the comfort of His people, and to correct those who err from Bible truth."Early Writings, p. 78.
The fruitage of Ellen White's work. The noble Christian character of Ellen White was affirmed by many of those who knew her. (If available, see Arthur L. White's biography entitled Ellen G. White, 6 volumes. These volumes are a rich source of information regarding the beginning and development of the Advent movement, as well as of the work of Ellen White.)
The fruitage of Ellen White's work is demonstrated in two ways: (1) the unique growth of the Seventh-day Adventist work and institutions around the world and (2) the spiritual impact of her writings on millions of people.
FURTHER STUDY: Study the ways in which later inspired prophets served as authoritative interpreters of earlier prophets: Rom. 10:5-10 (compare Lev. 18:5; Ezek. 20:11, 13, 21; Neh. 9:29; Deut. 30:11-14); Rom. 1:16, 17 (compare Heb. 2:4); 1 Cor. 9:9 (compare Deut. 25:4); Gal. 4:22-24 (compare the Old Testament account of Gen. 15-17; 21); Matt. 24:15 (compare Dan. 8:13; 9:27); Acts 2:17-21 (compare Joel 2:28-32); Acts 2:25-28 (compare Ps. 16:8-11).
Excerpts of Ellen White's testimony below tell us how the Holy Spirit enabled her and the early pioneers to arrive at true doctrines:
"We are to be established in the faith, in the light of the truth given us in our early experience.... We would search the Scriptures with much prayer, and the Holy Spirit would bring the truth to our minds. Sometimes whole nights would be devoted to searching the Scriptures, and earnestly asking God for guidance.... The power of God would come upon me, and I was enabled clearly to define what is truth and what is error.
"As the points of our faith were thus established, our feet were placed upon a solid foundation. We accepted the truth point by point, under the demonstration of the Holy Spirit. I would be taken off in vision, and explanations would be given me."Gospel Workers, p. 302.
TERM FOR REVIEW: Spirit of Prophecy. This refers to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the gift that enables the prophets to speak and write for God (see 1 Cor. 12:7-11).
SUMMARY: Seventh-day Adventists believe that the genuineness of a professed prophet can be determined by the application of the tests given in Scripture. When these tests are applied to Ellen White, she is found to be an inspired modem prophet.
Told to Traci Lemon by Delores Thomas Morris
In her haste to arrive at work on time, Delores accidentally left a bag on the busa bag containing her passport and two weeks' wages! She tried to catch the bus but was too late. She took another bus to the bus company's headquarters, where she checked in the lost-and-found office, but no bag had been turned in. Even her Christian co-workers warned her that she probably would never see her money or passport again. But Delores felt confident that God would provide according to His will, if only she had faith.
Delores returned home that evening, still praying that God would watch over her passport and money. At 7:30 the phone rang. The caller introduced himself as Larry. "I have your bag with your money and your passport," he said. "Don't be afraid; the money is all there."
Relief swept over Delores. Thank You, Jesus, she prayed silently. I knew You could do it if it was in Your plan for me.
"But Larry interrupted her thoughts. "I need to tell youthe voice paused for a long moment before continuing. "I was strongly tempted to spend your money. Four times I tried to spend it, but every time the devil told me to spend it, Jesus told me No. You must have a lot of faith," he said.
"I do Delores answered. "And so can you. You mentioned Jesus; are you a Christian?"
"Yes," Larry answered. "Two years ago God saved me from a life of drug addiction. You name it, I used it. Jesus has been so good to me. That's why I can't keep your money.
"Do you remember those stickers you have in your bagthe ones that say 'I love Jesus'? When I saw them I knew you were a Christian. I couldn't keep your moneynot any of it. I can't mess with Jesus. He kept reminding me how much He loves me. I couldn't do this to Himor to you."
'Yes," Delores answered. "God knew my money and my passport would be in good hands with you."
Larry delivered the bag to Delores as he had promised. They talked about the difference Jesus has made in their lives. Delores invited Larry to worship in a Seventh-day Adventist church. Larry now is attending church and has recommitted his life to God.
Delores Thomas Morris lives and works in Silver Spring, Maryland. Traci Lemon is editorial assistant of Mission.
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