2021 Q1 Lesson 11 E. G. White Notes for the Adult Bible Study Guide

Waging Love

Sabbath Afternoon March 6
     Good deeds are twice a blessing, benefiting both the giver and the receiver of the kindness. The consciousness of right-doing is one of the best medicines for diseased bodies and minds. When the mind is free and happy from a sense of duty well done and the satisfaction of giving happiness to others, the cheering, uplifting influence brings new life to the whole being.  {MH 257.1}   

Let the invalid, instead of constantly requiring sympathy, seek to impart it. Let the burden of your own weakness and sorrow and pain be cast upon the compassionate Saviour. Open your heart to His love, and let it flow out to others. Remember that all have trials hard to bear, temptations hard to resist, and you may do something to lighten these burdens. Express gratitude for the blessings you have; show appreciation of the attentions you receive. Keep the heart full of the precious promises of God, that you may bring forth from this treasure, words that will be a comfort and strength to others. This will surround you with an atmosphere that will be helpful and uplifting. Let it be your aim to bless those around you, and you will find ways of being helpful, both to the members of your own family and to others.  {MH 257.2}      

Read Isaiah 58, ye who claim to be children of the light. Especially do you read it again and again who have felt so reluctant to inconvenience yourselves by favoring the needy. You whose hearts and houses are too narrow to make a home for the homeless, read it; you who can see orphans and widows oppressed by the iron hand of poverty and bowed down by hardhearted worldlings, read it. Are you afraid that an influence will be introduced into your family that will cost you more labor, read it. Your fears may be groundless, and a blessing may come, known and realized by you every day. But if otherwise, if extra labor is called for, you can draw upon One who has promised: “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily.”… The prophet is addressing Sabbathkeepers, not sinners, not unbelievers, but those who make great pretensions to godliness… Our souls must expand. Then God will make them like a watered garden, whose waters fail not.  {2T 35.2}   

The work of beneficence enjoined in this chapter is the work that God requires His people to do at this time. It is a work of His own appointment. We are not left in doubt as to where the message applies, and the time of its marked fulfilment… and the nearer we approach the end, the more urgent this work becomes. All who love God will show that they bear His sign by keeping His commandments. They are the restorers of paths to dwell in… This is the ministry which God’s people are to carry forward at this time. This ministry, rightly performed, will bring rich blessings to the church.  {6T 265.2}  

Sunday, March 7: Buy Something Free?
     Not by painful struggles or wearisome toil, not by gift or sacrifice, is righteousness obtained; but it is freely given to every soul who hungers and thirsts to receive it. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat, . . . without money and without price.” “Their righteousness is of Me, saith the Lord,” and, “This is His name whereby He shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.” Isaiah 55:1; 54:17; Jeremiah 23:6.  {MB 18.2}    No human agent can supply that which will satisfy the hunger and thirst of the soul. But Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.” Revelation 3:20; John 6:35.  {MB 18.3}   

As the weary traveler seeks the spring in the desert and, finding it, quenches his burning thirst, so will the Christian thirst for and obtain the pure water of life, of which Christ is the fountain.  {MB 19.2}      

Salvation is a free gift, and yet it is to be bought and sold. In the market of which divine mercy has the management, the precious pearl is represented as being bought without money and without price. In this market all may obtain the goods of heaven. The treasury of the jewels of truth is open to all. “Behold, I have set before thee an open door,” the Lord declares, “and no man can shut it.” No sword guards the way through this door. Voices from within and at the door say, Come. The Saviour’s voice earnestly and lovingly invites us: “I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.” Revelation 3:8, 18.  {COL 116.3}     

The gospel of Christ is a blessing that all may possess. The poorest are as well able as the richest to purchase salvation; for no amount of worldly wealth can secure it. It is obtained by willing obedience, by giving ourselves to Christ as His own purchased possession. {COL 117.1}     

We cannot earn salvation, but we are to seek for it with as much interest and perseverance as though we would abandon everything in the world for it.  {COL 117.2}      

To live for self is to perish. Covetousness, the desire of benefit for self’s sake, cuts the soul off from life. It is the spirit of Satan to get, to draw to self. It is the spirit of Christ to give, to sacrifice self for the good of others.  {OHC 287.3}     

There can be no self-seeking in the life of him who follows the Saviour. {OHC 287.4}     

The true Christian works unselfishly and untiringly for the Master. He does not seek ease or self-gratification, but holds all, even life itself, subject to God’s call. And to him are spoken the words, “He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” Matthew 10:39.  {OHC 287.5}     

Monday, March 8: High Thoughts and Ways
     We do not understand the greatness and majesty of God nor remember the immeasurable distance between the Creator and the creatures formed by His hand. He who sitteth in the heavens, swaying the scepter of the universe, does not judge according to our finite standard, nor reckon according to our computation. We are in error if we think that that which is great to us must be great to God, and that which is small to us must be small to Him. He would be no more exalted than ourselves if He possessed only the same faculties.  {5T 337.1}   

Since the divine law is as sacred as God Himself, only one equal with God could make atonement for its transgression. None but Christ could redeem fallen man from the curse of the law and bring him again into harmony with Heaven. Christ would take upon Himself the guilt and shame of sin–sin so offensive to a holy God that it must separate the Father and His Son. Christ would reach to the depths of misery to rescue the ruined race.  {PP 63.2}     

Before the Father He pleaded in the sinner’s behalf, while the host of heaven awaited the result with an intensity of interest that words cannot express. Long continued was that mysterious communing–“the counsel of peace” (Zechariah 6:13) for the fallen sons of men. The plan of salvation had been laid before the creation of the earth; for Christ is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8); yet it was a struggle, even with the King of the universe, to yield up His Son to die for the guilty race… Oh, the mystery of redemption! the love of God for a world that did not love Him! Who can know the depths of that love which “passeth knowledge”? Through endless ages immortal minds, seeking to comprehend the mystery of that incomprehensible love, will wonder and adore.  {PP 63.3}  

 The closer you come to Jesus, the more faulty you will appear in your own eyes; for your vision will be clearer, and your imperfections will be seen in broad and distinct contrast to His perfect nature. But do not be discouraged. This is evidence that Satan’s delusions have lost their power; that the vivifying influence of the Spirit of God is arousing you, and your indifference and unconcern are passing away.  {OHC 27.2}     

God does not deal with us as finite men deal with one another. His thoughts are thoughts of mercy, love, and tenderest compassion. “He will abundantly pardon.” He says, “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions.” . . .  {OHC 27.4}     

Look up, you who are tried, tempted, and discouraged, look up…. The hand of the Infinite is reaching over the battlements of heaven to grasp yours in its strong embrace. The mighty Helper is nigh to bless, lift up, and encourage the most erring, the most sinful, if they will look to Him by faith. But the sinner must look up.  {OHC 27.5}    

Tuesday, March 9: Fast Friends
     On the Day of Atonement two kids of the goats were brought to the door of the tabernacle, and lots were cast upon them, “one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.” The goat upon which the first lot fell was to be slain as a sin offering for the people. And the priest was to bring his blood within the veil, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat. “And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgression in all their sins; and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.”  {PP 355.3}     

“And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities into a land not inhabited.” Not until the goat had been thus sent away did the people regard themselves as freed from the burden of their sins. Every man was to afflict his soul while the work of atonement was going forward. All business was laid aside, and the whole congregation of Israel spent the day in solemn humiliation before God, with prayer, fasting, and deep searching of heart.  {PP 355.4}   

All [God’s] gifts are to be used in blessing humanity, in relieving the suffering and the needy. We are to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to care for the widow and the fatherless, to minister to the distressed and downtrodden. God never meant that the widespread misery in the world should exist. He never meant that one man should have an abundance of the luxuries of life, while the children of others should cry for bread. The means over and above the actual necessities of life are entrusted to man to do good, to bless humanity. The Lord says,… “Loose the bands of wickedness,” “undo the heavy burdens,” “let the oppressed go free,” “break every yoke.” “Deal thy bread to the hungry,” “bring the poor that are cast out to thy house.” “When thou seest the naked, . . . cover him.” “Satisfy the afflicted soul.” Isaiah 58:6, 7, 10. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15. These are the Lord’s commands. Are the great body of professed Christians doing this work?  {COL 370.1}  

Wednesday, March 10: Fast Fight
     The fast which God can accept is… to deal thy bread to the hungry and to bring the poor which are cast out to thy house. Wait not for them to come to you. The labor rests not on them to hunt you up and entreat of you a home for themselves. You are to search for them and bring them to your house. You are to draw out your soul after them. You are with one hand to reach up and by faith take hold of the mighty arm which brings salvation, while with the other hand of love you reach the oppressed and relieve them. It is impossible for you to fasten upon the arm of God with one hand while the other is employed in ministering to your own pleasure.  {2T 34.2}     

If you engage in this work of mercy and love, will the work prove too hard for you? Will you fail and be crushed under the burden, and your family be deprived of your assistance and influence? Oh, no; God has carefully removed all doubts upon this question, by a pledge to you on condition of your obedience. This promise covers all that the most exacting, the most hesitating, could crave. “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily.” Only believe that He is faithful that hath promised. God can renew the physical strength. And more, He says He will do it. {2T 35.1}      

Seize every opportunity to contribute to the happiness of those around you, sharing with them your affection. Words of kindness, looks of sympathy, expression of appreciation, would to many a struggling, lonely one be as a cup of cold water to a thirsty soul. A word of cheer, an act of kindness, would go far to lighten the burdens that are resting heavily upon weary shoulders. It is in unselfish ministry that true happiness is found. And every word and deed of such service is recorded in the books of heaven as done to Christ. . . . Live in the sunshine of Christ’s love. Then your influence will bless the world.  {ML 165.3}     

The spirit of unselfish labor for others gives depth, stability, and Christlike loveliness to the character and brings peace and happiness to its possessor.  {ML 165.4}     

Every duty performed, every sacrifice made in the name of Jesus brings an exceeding great reward. In the very act of duty, God speaks and gives His blessing.  {ML 165.5} 

Jesus says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” . . .  {SD 147.3}     

The love and sympathy which Jesus would have us give to others does not savor of sentimentalism, which is a snare to the soul; it is a love that is of heavenly extraction, which Jesus exemplifies by both precept and example. {SD 147.4}     

The love of Jesus is an active principle, uniting heart with heart in bonds of Christian fellowship. Every one who enters heaven will on earth have been perfected in love; for in heaven the Redeemer and the redeemed will be objects of our interest.  {SD 147.5}  

Thursday, March 11: A Time For Us
     In the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, the work of those who worship God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth, is specified: “They that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations” (Isaiah 58:12). God’s memorial, His seventh-day Sabbath, will be uplifted. “Thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath [no longer trample it under your feet], from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him,… I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Isaiah 58:12-14).  {2SM 106.3}      

The Sabbath… is to be remembered and observed as the memorial of the Creator’s work. Pointing to God as the Maker of the heavens and the earth, it distinguishes the true God from all false gods. All who keep the seventh day signify by this act that they are worshipers of Jehovah. Thus the Sabbath is the sign of man’s allegiance to God as long as there are any upon the earth to serve Him. The fourth commandment is the only one of all the ten in which are found both the name and the title of the Lawgiver. It is the only one that shows by whose authority the law is given. Thus it contains the seal of God, affixed to His law as evidence of its authenticity and binding force.  {PP 307.2}      

Should God forbid the sun to perform its office upon the Sabbath, cut off its genial rays from warming the earth and nourishing vegetation? Must the system of worlds stand still through that holy day? Should He command the brooks to stay from watering the fields and forests, and bid the waves of the sea still their ceaseless ebbing and flowing? Must the wheat and corn stop growing, and the ripening cluster defer its purple bloom? Must the trees and flowers put forth no bud nor blossom on the Sabbath?  {DA 206.4}     

In such a case, men would miss the fruits of the earth, and the blessings that make life desirable. Nature must continue her unvarying course. God could not for a moment stay His hand, or man would faint and die. And man also has a work to perform on this day. The necessities of life must be attended to, the sick must be cared for, the wants of the needy must be supplied. He will not be held guiltless who neglects to relieve suffering on the Sabbath. God’s holy rest day was made for man, and acts of mercy are in perfect harmony with its intent. God does not desire His creatures to suffer an hour’s pain that may be relieved upon the Sabbath or any other day.  {DA 207.1}    

Friday, March 12: For Further Reading Clothe the Naked
     I was . . . naked, and ye clothed me. Matthew 25:35, 36 {ML 241.1}       Christ . . . says, It was I who was hungry and thirsty. It was I who was a stranger. It was I who was sick. It was I who was in prison. . . . While you crowded your wardrobe with rich apparel, I was destitute. While you pursued your pleasures, I languished in prison.  {ML 241.2}     

When you doled out the pittance of bread to the starving poor, when you gave those flimsy garments to shield them from the biting frost, did you remember that you were giving to the Lord of glory? All the days of your life I was near you in the person of these afflicted ones, but you did not seek Me. You would not enter into fellowship with Me.  {ML 241.3}     

In the professed Christian world there is enough expended in extravagant display, for jewels and ornaments, to supply the wants of all the hungry and clothe the naked in our towns and cities; and yet these professed followers of the meek and lowly Jesus need not deprive themselves of suitable food or comfortable clothing. What will these church members say when confronted in the day of God by the worthy poor, the afflicted, the widows and fatherless, who have known pinching want for the meager necessities of life, while there was expended by these professed followers of Christ, for superfluous clothing, and needless ornaments expressly forbidden in the Word of God, enough to supply all their wants?  {ML 241.4}     

In the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah the work that the people of God are to do in Christ’s lines is dearly set forth. They are to break every yoke, they are to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked. . . . If they carry out the principles of the law of God in acts of mercy and love, they will represent the character of God to the world, and receive the richest blessings of Heaven.  {ML 241.5} 

One with God Through Faith
     That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us. John 17:21 {ML 11.1}      

“I am the vine, ye are the branches.” Can we conceive of a more intimate relation to Christ than this? The fibers of the branch are almost identical with those of the vine. The communication of life, strength, and fruitfulness from the trunk to the branches is unobstructed and constant. The root sends its nourishment through the branch. Such is the true believer’s relation to Christ. He abides in Christ, and draws his nourishment from Him.  {ML 11.2}     

This spiritual relation can be established only by the exercise of personal faith. This faith must express on our part supreme preference, perfect reliance, entire consecration. Our will must be wholly yielded to the divine will; our feelings, desires, interests, and honor, identified with the prosperity of Christ’s kingdom and the honor of His cause, we constantly receiving grace from Him, and Christ accepting gratitude from us.  {ML 11.3}     

When the intimacy of connection and communion is formed, our sins are laid upon Christ, His righteousness is imputed to us. He was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. We have access to God through Him; we are accepted through the Beloved. Whoever by word or deed injures a believer, thereby wounds Jesus. Whoever gives a cup of cold water to a disciple because he is a child of God, will be regarded by Christ as giving to Himself.  {ML 11.4}     

It was when Christ was about to take leave of His disciples that He gave them the beautiful emblem of His relation to believers. . . . A union with Christ by living faith is enduring; every other union must perish. . . . The true believer chooses Christ as first and last, and best in everything.  {ML 11.5}

We are passionate about the Word of God! We want to encourage EVERYONE to read the Bible every day and read through the Bible every year. Here are some plans that will encourage you in your daily journey.

On the night of April 30, 1871, I retired to rest much depressed in spirits. For three months I had been in a state of great discouragement. I had frequently prayed in anguish of spirit for relief. I had implored help and strength from God, that I might rise above the heavy discouragements that were paralyzing my faith and hope, and unfitting me for usefulness. 

That night I had a dream which made a very happy impression upon my mind. I dreamed that I was attending an important meeting, at which a large company were assembled. Many were bowed before God in earnest prayer, and they seemed to be burdened. They were importuning the Lord for special light. A few seemed to be in agony of spirit; their feelings were intense; with tears they were crying aloud for help and light. Our most prominent brethren were engaged in this most impressive scene. Brother A was prostrated upon the floor, apparently in deep distress. His wife was sitting among a company of indifferent scorners. She looked as though she desired all to understand that she scorned those who were thus humiliating themselves.

I dreamed that the Spirit of the Lord came upon me, and I arose amid cries and prayers, and said: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me. I feel urged to say to you that you must commence to work individually for yourselves. You are looking to God and desiring Him to do the work for you which He has left for you to do. If you will do the work for yourselves which you know that you ought to do, then God will help you when you need help. You have left undone the very things which God has left for you to do. You have been calling upon God to do your work. Had you followed the light which He has given you, then He would cause more light to shine upon you; but while you neglect the counsels, warnings, and reproofs that have been given, how can you expect God to give you more light and blessings to neglect and despise? God is not as man; He will not be trifled with.”

I took the precious Bible, and surrounded it with the several “Testimonies for the Church,” given for the people of God. “Here,” said I, “the cases of nearly all are met. The sins they are to shun are pointed out. The counsel that they desire can be found here, given for other cases situated similarly to themselves.

“God has been pleased to give you line upon line and precept upon precept. But there are not many of you that really know what is contained in the Testimonies. You are not familiar with the Scriptures. If you had made God’s Word your study, with a desire to reach the Bible standard and attain to Christian perfection, you would not have needed the Testimonies. It is because you have neglected to acquaint yourselves with God’s inspired Book that He has sought to reach you by simple, direct testimonies, calling your attention to the words of inspiration which you had neglected to obey, and urging you to fashion your lives in accordance with its pure and elevated teachings.

“The Lord deigns to warn you, to reprove, to counsel, through the testimonies given, and to impress your minds with the importance of the truth of His Word. The written Testimonies are not to give new light, but to impress vividly upon the heart the truths of inspiration already revealed. Man’s duty to God and to his fellow man has been distinctly specified in God’s Word; yet but few of you are obedient to the light given. Additional truth is not brought out; but God has through the Testimonies simplified the great truths already given, and in His own chosen way brought them before the people, to awaken and impress the mind with them, that all may be left without excuse.

“Pride, self-love, selfishness, hatred, envy, and jealousy have beclouded the perceptive powers, and the truth, which would make you wise unto salvation, has lost its power to charm and control the mind. The very essential principles of godliness are not understood, because there is not a hungering and thirsting for Bible knowledge, purity of heart, and holiness of life. The Testimonies are not to belittle the Word of God, but to exalt it and attract minds to it, that the beautiful simplicity of truth may impress all.”

I said further: “As the Word of God is walled in with these books and pamphlets, so has God walled you in with reproofs, counsel, warnings, and encouragements. Here you are crying before God, in the anguish of your souls, for more light. I am authorized from God to tell you that not another ray of light through the Testimonies will shine upon your pathway, until you make a practical use of the light already given. The Lord has walled you about with light; but you have not appreciated the light; you have trampled upon it. While some have despised the light, others have neglected it, or followed it but indifferently. A few have set their hearts to obey the light which God has been pleased to give them.

“Some that have received special warnings through testimony have forgotten in a few weeks the reproof given. The testimonies to some have been several times repeated; but they have not thought them of sufficient importance to be carefully heeded. They have been to them like idle tales. Had they regarded the light given, they would have avoided losses and trials which they think are hard and severe.

“They have only themselves to censure. They have placed upon their own necks a yoke which they find grievous to be borne. It is not the yoke which Christ has bound upon them. God’s care and love were exercised in their behalf; but their selfish, evil, unbelieving souls could not discern His goodness and mercy. They rush on in their own wisdom, until, overwhelmed with trials and confused with perplexity, they are ensnared by Satan. When you gather up the rays of light which God has given in the past, then will He give an increase of light.”

I referred them to ancient Israel. God gave them His law; but they would not obey it. He then gave them ceremonies and ordinances, that in the performance of these God might be kept in remembrance. They were so prone to forget Him and His claims upon them, that it was necessary to keep their minds stirred up to realize their obligations to obey and honor their Creator. Had they been obedient, and loved to keep God’s commandments, the multitude of ceremonies and ordinances would not have been required.

If the people who now profess to be God’s peculiar treasure would obey His requirements, as specified in His word, special testimonies would not be given to awaken them to their duty, and impress upon them their sinfulness and their fearful danger in neglecting to obey the Word of God. Consciences have been blunted, because light has been set aside, neglected, and despised. And God will remove these Testimonies from the people, and will deprive them of strength, and humble them.  

I dreamed that, as I was speaking, the power of God fell upon me in a most remarkable manner, and I was deprived of all strength, yet I had no vision. I thought that my husband stood up before the people, and exclaimed: “This is the wonderful power of God. He has made the Testimonies a powerful means of reaching souls, and He will work yet more mightily through them than He has hitherto done. Who will be on the Lord’s side?”

I dreamed that quite a number instantly sprang to their feet, and responded to the call. Others sat sullen, some manifested scorn and derision, and a few seemed wholly unmoved. One stood by my side, and said:

“God has raised you up, and has given you words to speak to the people and to reach hearts, as He has given to no other one. He has shaped your testimonies to meet cases that are in need of help. You must be unmoved by scorn, derision, reproach, and censure. In order to be God’s special instrument, you should lean to no one, but hang upon Him alone, and, like the clinging vine, let your tendrils entwine about Him. He will make you a means through which to communicate His light to the people. You must daily gather strength from God, in order to be fortified, that your surroundings may not dim or eclipse the light that He has permitted to shine upon His people through you. It is Satan’s special object to prevent this light from coming to the people of God, who so greatly need it amid the perils of these last days.

“Your success is in your simplicity. As soon as you depart from this, and fashion your testimony to meet the minds of any, your power is gone. Almost everything in this age is glossed and unreal. The world abounds in testimonies given to please and charm for the moment, and to exalt self. Your testimony is of a different character. It is to come down to the minutiae of life, keeping the feeble faith from dying, and pressing home upon believers the necessity of shining as lights in the world.”—Life Sketches, pp. 197-202.

“In order to be God’s special instrument, you should lean to no one, but hang upon Him alone, and, like the clinging vine, let your tendrils entwine about Him. He will make you a means through which to communicate His light to the people.”

SUGGESTIONS FOR PRAYER

1. Ask God to keep you in the simplicity of your first pure faith in Him.

2. Pray to receive light concerning the distractions you may have allowed into your life that keep you from communing with God.

3. Lift up your family members and your church family and ask for deliverance and protection for them and for yourself.

I often interact with ministers of different denominations during the Argentine Bible Society meetings. On one occasion one of them showed interest in the present state of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He was acquainted with our educational and health institutions and expressed his admiration for the way our church was growing in South America. Near the end of our conversation he casually commented, “I only regret that you have Ellen White as a prophet.” Indeed, this is a reservation often raised by our evangelical friends.

What exactly is the legacy that Ellen White left for the Seventh-day Adventist Church? And what is the current relevance of her writings for our church? We will attempt to answer here in a way that can serve as a starting point to reflect on these issues as a church.

Her Legacy

Denying Ellen White’s legacy for Seventh-day Adventists would be like questioning the importance of Luther for Lutherans, or that of John and Charles Wesley for Methodists. Indeed, her significance exceeds the fact of her having cofounded the movement that became the Adventist Church.1 Her writings laid the philosophical and theological bases for the establishment of the very educational and health institutions that have dazzled the pastors of other churches. Without the vision, leadership, and personal sacrifice of Ellen White (in addition to the efforts of James White and Joseph Bates), “there would be no Seventh-day Adventist Church today.”2 What a paradox that the pastor I met praised those institutions while criticizing the person who laid their foundations!

Ellen White was not only a resolute visionary. She also considered herself as “God’s messenger,”3entailing that her call and mission played a key role in the emergence and development of the denomination. This statement was not automatically accepted, however. Her contemporaries, and every new generation of Adventist believers since, have assessed her writings and ministry by applying scriptural tests in accepting a prophet.4 This acceptance is articulated in number 18 of the Adventist Church’s fundamental beliefs.5

Ellen White’s writings and teachings encompass an array of current issues that could be articulated as evidence of their relevance.6 To mention an example: her advice on physical, mental, and spiritual health—aligned with Jesus’ threefold ministry of healing, teaching, and preaching—has made members in the Adventist movement one of the longest-living and most healthy “peoples” on earth.7

Her Greatest Contribution

Translating Ellen White’s work from English into other languages takes attention to detail. Her own words are so intertwined with countless biblical paraphrases and passages she used to support her writings that it is crucial to differentiate her wording from biblical texts, so as to translate only the former, and to transcribe the latter from a Bible version of the target language. This fact highlights the importance Ellen White attached to the Bible as the basis of her messages.

She was aware that her message consisted of applying the biblical message to God’s people at the end of time. Above all, she was clear that her testimonies were “a lesser light,” destined to lead the people to the “greater light” of the Scriptures.8 She assumed that her messages were subject to the canonical authority of the Scriptures, so she invited her listeners and readers to study the Bible and to put her message into practice.9 Speaking to the assembly during her last General Conference session in 1909, she held up her Bible before the delegates and said, “Brethren and sisters, I commend unto you this Book.”10

The best way that we twenty-first-century Seventh-day Adventists can honor Ellen White’s legacy is to continue to be known as “the people of the Book,” a people who love Jesus and exalt the Bible as the standard of faith and practice.

Ellen White was aware that her message consisted of applying the biblical message to God’s people at the end of time.

SUGGESTIONS FOR PRAYER

1. Pray to God for understanding concerning His latter-day prophet, Ellen White, and how the Spirit wishes to influence your life through her words.

2. Ask the Lord for help in dedicating yourself anew to studying His Word daily and applying it practically every moment.

3. Praise God for the extensive testimony He has supplied for our spiritual edification to face the challenges of the end times.

_______________

¹ Ellen White cofounded (together with Joseph Bates and James White) a denomination in 1863, with around 3,500 members, which now has grown to a global church of nearly 21 million baptized members.

2 George R. Knight, Meeting Ellen White: A Fresh Look at Her Life, Writings, and Major Themes (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1996), p. 59.

³ She declared, “For half a century I have been the Lord’s messenger, and as long as my life shall last I shall continue to bear the messages that God gives me for His people” (Selected Messages [Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1980], book 3, p. 71). 

⁴ “Seventh-day Adventist acceptance of the modern manifestation of the prophetic gift [in the ministry of Ellen White] is based on the Bible and its teachings. . . . Ellen White’s gift, they [early Seventh-day Adventists] believed, was a part of the true manifestation of the biblical gifts of the Spirit.” (Theodore N. Levterov, Accepting Ellen White: Early Seventh-day Adventists and the Gift of Prophecy Dilemma [Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 2016], pp. 88, 89).

5 “The Scriptures testify that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and we believe it was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. Her writings speak with prophetic authority and provide comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction to the church. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested. (Num. 12:6; 2 Chron. 20:20; Joel 2:28, 29; Amos 3:7; Acts 2:14–21; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; Heb. 1:1–3; Rev. 12:17; 19:10; 22:8, 9.)” (Seventh-day Adventists Believe: A Biblical Exposition of Fundamental Doctrine [Silver Spring, Md: General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2018], p. 253).

6 Her literary corpus includes more than 20 books (not including compilations), around 200 tracts and pamphlets, more than 5,000 periodical articles, 6,000 typewritten letters and general manuscripts, plus journals and diaries, totaling around 100,000 pages of material from her 70-year ministry (1844–1915). See George E. Rice, “Spiritual Gifts,” in Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, ed. Raoul Dederen (Hagerstown, Md: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 2000), p. 636.

7 Dan Buettner, “The Secrets of Long Life,” National Geographic, November 2005; Dan Buettner, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2008).

⁸ She wrote, “Little heed is given to the Bible, and the Lord has given a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light” (Selected Messages, book 3, p. 30).

⁹ Ellen White made strong statements about the proper relationship between her writings and the Scriptures: “Brother J would confuse the mind by seeking to make it appear that the light God has given through the Testimonies [i.e., Ellen White’s writings] is an addition to the word of God, but in this he presents the matter in a false light. God has seen fit in this manner to bring the minds of His people to His word, to give them a clearer understanding of it” (Testimonies for the Church 9Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948] vol. 4, p. 246.)

¹0 Quoted in W. A. Spicer, The Spirit of Prophecy in the Advent Movement (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1937), p. 30.

After a church meeting, a teenager asked this clear, direct question: “Why does God not speak to me?”

The easy answer would be that God speaks to each one of us through the Bible. But this teenager wanted to know why God was not talking to her.

Many believers wonder why God does not speak directly to them today. While it is true that He spoke to us in the past through the prophets and especially through His Son (Heb. 1:1), we may very well ask, Why does He not speak to us in our day? In answering this question, we consider whether the prophetic gift ceased with the closing of the Bible canon, or whether God has raised up prophets since then or will do so in the future.

A Gift That Ceased?

Two opposing views exist regarding the validity of the prophetic gift. Cessationists believe that spiritual gifts, such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, and healing, ceased after the age of the apostles. According to this view, those were supernatural gifts meant to function as a sign in the context of the emergence of the Christian church and the initial spread of the gospel. The opposing view is continuationism, which teaches that the Holy Spirit can bestow spiritual gifts at any time to people who are not the original 12 disciples.

Cessationism denies the possibility of a resurgence of the gifts, appealing to the principle of sola scriptura, insisting on three propositions: (1) the closing of the biblical canon; (2) the infallible and sufficient authority of the Bible; and (3) the perfect adequacy of the Scriptures to guide the church. In other words, they believe that the testimony given in the closed canon of the Bible is enough to guide the church until the time of the end.

Aside from teaching the Word and communicating the will of God as a regular and sustained ministry, however, prophets were often sent into crisis scenarios. In times of hardship, created either by external causes or by internal conditions of apostasy, prophets provided guidance amid conflict and confusion in these special situations or simply brought a special message at a certain point in the plan of salvation.

Some of these prophets did not become part of the canon (for example, Nathan, Ahijah, and Iddo [2 Chron. 9:29]). What the noncanonical prophets said or wrote was authoritative and binding for the people of their time (2 Sam. 12:7-15), because the authority of a prophetic writing is grounded in its inspiration. The prophetic gift of the noncanonical prophets was not given to replace the testimony of the canonical prophets, but rather to satisfy a specific need of the people of God. It must be noted, however, that what such prophets taught was in harmony with God’s revelation to the canonical prophets.

Since the time of John the revelator, the biblical canon has been closed, and other inspired books cannot be added. The question we ask today is Have there been any prophets sent from God since the closing of the biblical canon? And could one rise up in the present or the future?

A Desirable Gift

The New Testament grants a prominent place to the gift of prophecy among the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, on one occasion the apostle Paul gives it first place among the ministries most useful to the church, and on two occasions he gives it second place (see Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). Moreover, he encourages believers to eagerly desire this gift (1 Cor. 14:1, 39), even though the Holy Spirit always gives His gifts as He wills.

Thus Paul points out twice that God has appointed prophets within the church (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). What is more, he affirms that the New Testament church was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20). These are New Testament prophets because, as Paul says in Ephesians 3:4, 5, the Spirit had revealed the mystery of Christ to apostles and prophets who had not been made known to previous generations. We conclude that this manifestation of the gift of prophecy was not limited to the canon.

A Gift for the End-times

Jesus stated that false prophets who would say that they prophesy in His name would appear (Matt. 7:15-23) on this earth. These false prophets would be active in the end time, showing signs and wonders, and trying to deceive even the elect (Matt. 24:24). Jesus gave this warning because a prophetic forgery would appear that would be in contrast to the genuine gift in the end-times.

Speaking particularly of the end-time, Joel prophetically announces the abundant outpouring of the Spirit of God upon His people. This outpouring would manifest itself in young people who will see visions, in older people who will dream dreams, and on sons and daughters who will prophesy (Joel 2:28, 29). How do we know that Joel refers specifically to the end-time? Because this prophecy establishes the time frame for the manifestations of the gift of prophecy. He mentions cosmic phenomena such as the darkening of the sun and the moon turning into blood. He also speaks of disasters on earth, which are cryptically described as “blood and fire and billows of smoke.” All this must precede “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (verses 30, 31, NIV).

The apostle Peter applied Joel’s prophecy to the Pentecost experience (Acts 2:16-21), which links the gift of prophecy to the gift of tongues. Why? Joel’s prophecy of the coming prophetic gift is mentioned in the context of the early and latter rain (Joel 2:23-32). Autumn rains, which allowed the seed to germinate and take root, were called early rain. Spring rainfalls, which ripened the grain and prepared for the harvest, were called the latter rain. The Old Testament uses this phenomenon of the Palestinian agricultural cycle as a symbol of the spiritual gift that God gives to His people through His Spirit (Hosea 6:3).

Peter and the other apostles experienced the early rain. The latter rain would come with the same power of the Spirit, and the people of God will manifest the gift of prophecy in their midst. Today, while we, “the remnant whom the Lord calls” (Joel 2:32), await the soon return of Jesus, we are invited to experience the spiritual latter rain. This outpouring of the Holy Spirit will be more abundant than the previous one. It will make “your sons and your daughters . . . prophesy, your old men . . . dream dreams,” and “your young men . . . see visions” (verse 28).

Jesus gave a warning about false prophets because a prophetic forgery would appear that would be in contrast to the genuine gift in the end-time.

SUGGESTIONS FOR PRAYER

1. Pray especially for insight into the prophecies of the New Testament that speak to our time.

2. Ask God to plant His truths so clearly in your mind that you will never be fooled by a clever counterfeit.

3. Express to God your decision to trust Him to guide you in all things and keep you from the dangers of false prophets.

God’s people have rarely had a good relationship with their prophets. In fact, those called to the prophetic ministry have often been reluctant to accept the call, mindful that people usually rejected the messenger along with the message. Thus bringing God’s prophetic word has always been a costly business for prophets. Jesus pointed out that Christians would be mistreated “in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before” them (Matt. 5:12, NIV). And Stephen questioned the Jewish Sanhedrin, “Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute?” (Acts 7:52, NIV).

This is the kind of poor reception that prophets have had to face. Animosity toward the prophetic word, however, was not the only rejection that prophets have endured at the hands of God’s people. Violent opposition during a prophet’s lifetime resulted in an increasing indifference, which ended with the prophetic message fading into oblivion—from which it often did not manage to escape. And typically, in the wake of the people’s disregard for the prophetic Word, ruin and apostasy followed.

A Genuine Revival

In the worst seasons of apostasy or national disgrace, God rescued the prophetic message from oblivion to generate a revival. Thus, during the restoration of God’s Temple in the time of Josiah, Hilkiah told the chronicler Shaphan, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord” (2 Chron. 34:15). It sounds like a science-fiction story that God’s prophetic message had been gathering dust in some abandoned corner of the Temple!

On hearing what this prophetic scroll said, Josiah acknowledged, “Great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book” (verse 21). And the rest is history. Josiah summoned all the people to listen to the Word; the king and the people renewed their covenant with God; and they celebrated perhaps the most memorable Passover ever, since “none of the kings of Israel had ever celebrated such a Passover as did Josiah, with the priests, the Levites and all Judah and Israel who were there with the people of Jerusalem” (2 Chron. 35:18).

Something similar happened in the time of Nehemiah, when Ezra read the Law before the people. On the same day of the year (the first day of the seventh month—perhaps wanting to repeat the experience of Josiah), “Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly. . . . He read it aloud from daybreak till noon. . . . And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law” (Neh. 8:2, 3). Three weeks later, the revival continued: “The Israelites gathered together, fasting. . . . They . . . read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the Lord” (Neh. 9:1-3).

That revival was followed by a reformation: They “joined their leaders and bound themselves with an oath. They swore a curse on themselves if they failed to obey the Law of God. . . . They solemnly promised to carefully follow all the commands . . . of the Lord” (Neh. 10:29).1 They promised not to mingle with heathen nations, to keep the Sabbath according to the commandment, to help others, to sustain the Temple and its services, and to return tithes and offerings (verses 30-39).

All this happens when we dust off the prophetic Word and put God’s will into practice in our lives.

Dusting Off the Prophets

According to the Global Church Member Survey 2018, 48 percent of Seventh-day Adventists around the world study the Bible daily.2 Although this statistic might suggest a glass-half-full/glass-half-empty scenario, depending on whom you talk to, it is clear that as a church we have room for improvement concerning our Bible-reading habits. Amid the darkness of this world the Bible can bring light and hope to our lives, help us lead others to Jesus, and lighten our way to heaven: “We have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19, NLT).

Our natural tendency is to rely on our own intelligence, strength, or wisdom, forgetting that our heart is deceitful (Jer. 17:9). Hence, our only safeguard is to trust in the prophetic Word: “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed” (2 Chron. 20:20, NLT). Yes, the Scriptures can rekindle our souls, make us wise, bring joy to our hearts, and give us the right attitude toward life: “The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living” (Ps. 19:7, 8, NLT).

Three Shema Principles

Few—if any—of us are exempt from a dysfunctional family past. Unhealthy interpersonal interactions can be traced back to someone who chose to depart from divine counsel. That generates pain and suffering, even when God’s love is a palliative that brings healing and forgiveness to our lives. No one needs to perpetuate those negative inherited patterns, however. We can all be transformed in our character and, over our lifetime, change the trend of an entire genealogy if we decide to break with those negative attitudes and behaviorial patterns in order to live by faith in the light of the prophetic word.

Living by faith means doing the will of God without doubting its direction, even if we do not understand its purpose in the past and cannot discern the path that lies ahead. How is this achieved? “In order to live in the light, you must come where the light shines.”3 The key is to allow ourselves to “be saved by [the light], fully live up to it, and transmit it to others in darkness.”4

When we decided to start our family, we sought to obey the Shema mandate in our daily lives:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deut. 6:4-9).

This text embraces three principles to keep the light of the prophetic word shining in our life. 

First, it talks about priorities. God should come first in our hearts (verse 5).

Second, it prompts us to spend time with the Word of God. We should read it and talk about it from morning to night (verses 6, 7).

Third, it speaks of influences. The Word of God must always be at hand and be the main influence that enters into our minds through the avenues of the soul (verses 8, 9).

Thus if we devote enough time to the right influences from the Word of God, we will get our priorities straight, and God will reign in our life and our homes.

Sure Guidance for Our Time

As Seventh-day Adventists we have a twofold privilege: we have not only the Bible—which is our standard of faith and practice—but also the modern manifestation of the prophetic gift in the testimony of Ellen White. Why is it a privilege? Because almost 2,000 years after the biblical text was finished, we have divine guidance in how to apply the Scriptures to our modern context and mission in the end time.

As a family we have benefited from reading and applying Ellen White’s writings to our lives. Messages to Young People and Letters to Young Lovers encouraged us to pray intelligently for a marriage based on the fear of God. Child GuidanceEducation, and The Adventist Home continue to be a source of solid guidance amid so many human theories about child rearing that are currently swarming all around. In addition, we give full credit to her century-old advice on food and health for our healthy lifestyle.

Plunging into Steps to Christ and The Desire of Ages has been one of the most refreshing, Christ-centered devotional experiences of our spiritual journey; while Mind, Character, and Personality prompted us to raise the bar to strengthen our self-control and keep our habits of thought at bay to please God.

Ellen White’s homiletic applications and biblical interpretations have shaped and substantiated our sermons, while her unique theological approach continues to surprise us for its depth, bearing in mind also that it has helped keep our denomination together under the enemy’s blows throughout the years.

Challenges for the Future

While we continue the struggle to follow the sure prophetic guidance of the Bible and the writings of Ellen White, a whole generation is ready and waiting to be conquered out there. The low reading rate of new generations, added to the fierce competition of smartphones and other screens, makes this challenge more severe.

On the threshold of eternity, however, in a world that is drifting in all kinds of winds of ideas and doctrines, we have a sure anchor in the prophetic Word, as well as the precise coordinates to reach a safe harbor. Let its light shine on our pathway, and that of others, until the Morning Star appears.

Amid the darkness of this world the Bible can bring light and hope to our lives, help us lead others to Jesus, and lighten our way to heaven.

SUGGESTIONS FOR PRAYER

1. Pray to the Lord about your own attitude toward His law and your willingness to obey.

2. Praise God, in the style of David’s psalms, for the light that He brings to your path with His guidance and commands.

3. Ask God in prayer to bring His light to bear on the world and its travails, especially through the prophetic word of the Bible and the writings of Ellen White.

(Endnotes)

                                    ¹ Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

                                    ² See “Reaching the World: How Did We Do?” a partial report of the key findings of the Global Church Member Survey 2018, www.adventistresearch.org/sites/default/files/files/AC2018%20-%20Global%20Church%20Member%20Survey%20Data%20Report.pdf.

                                    ³ Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 4, p. 106.

                                    ⁴ Ibid., vol. 2, p.123.

In Jesus we find an exceptionally interesting phenomenon. In Him, message and prophet merge. He was both the Father’s greatest revelation (John 14:9) and a great prophet (Heb. 1:2), as recognized by His contemporaries (John 6:14; Luke 7:16, 17). “Sir,” even the Samaritan woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet” (John 4:19).

Not only was Christ the revelation and revealer, message and messenger, but He was also a great interpreter of the Scriptures. As a prophet He conveyed direct messages from heaven, and in the traditional, school-of-the-prophets way, He was a great exponent and interpreter of the Torah. Even at an early age He left the teachers of the Law speechless, so that “everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:47). His authority as an exponent of the Scriptures was recognized both by the people of Israel (Mark 1:22) and the religious leaders of Jerusalem, who addressed Him with the title of Teacher sent by God (John 3:2).

Although Christ did not come to change the source of the revelation (the Law) but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17), His mission was to bring the true meaning of the Scriptures to a people who had strayed from both the method of correct interpretation and the true practice of genuine religion. Thus, Jesus constantly contrasted the methods of contemporary interpretation—alluding to what “was said” (verse 27), or what they understood concerning what had been said—with the “but I tell you” (verse 28) of the true prophetic interpretation.

And since Christ was not only a great teacher and prophet but also our example in everything, we would do well to follow His principles of biblical interpretation in our own study.

Did He outline His principles of biblical interpretation in any of His teachings or speeches? One episode shortly before His ascension to His heavenly Father can help us draw out a number of those interpretive principles. Let’s join Jesus on this path that leads us to discover the true meaning of the prophetic word. Let’s walk along with Him to Emmaus and let Him guide us through some principles of biblical interpretation that will leave our minds enlightened and our hearts burning.

The Hermeneutics of Jesus

In Luke 24, while addressing those two discouraged disciples who were returning to Emmaus, Jesus presented them, practically and schematically, with several principles of biblical interpretation that He had already given to His disciples and followers throughout His ministry.

The account informs us that the two disciples were walking along feeling saddened by the recent death of Jesus, because with His death all their messianic expectations had vanished. Then Jesus joined them, although they did not recognize Him. On hearing from their lips the reasons for their discouragement, He replied, “ ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).

From His answer we can draw several principles of prophetic interpretation:

1. The canonical principle. Christ did not interpret the truthfulness of His messianic mission in the light of the first-century reality around Him, nor through Jewish tradition or Greek philosophy, the predominant cultures at that time. On the contrary, He used “what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (verse 27). That is, He used the Scriptures to interpret biblical information—His own role as Messiah. Hence, the information needed to interpret the Bible is found in the canon of the Scriptures themselves. The Scriptures are their own interpreter.

Christ Himself had established the supremacy of the Bible over tradition (Matt. 15:3-6), and other writers underscored the fact that the Scriptures have preeminence over human philosophy (Col. 2:8), human reason (Prov. 14:12), and the so-called knowledge in the world, of which science might even be considered a part (1 Tim. 6:20).

The basic scientific procedure requires that our hermeneutical presuppositions stem from what we intend to understand. The dependence on philosophy to establish theological hermeneutical presuppositions implies a breakdown with the canonical principle. Rather than following from philosophical presuppositions, principles of interpretation must be derived from the Scriptures themselves in order to interpret biblical information.

2. The principle of the unity of the Scriptures. In the first article of this series we learned that although the Bible was written by many writers over a period of many centuries, all Scripture is inspired by the same Spirit and is altogether the Word of God. In this sense a crucial unity and harmony exists between its parts (Matt. 5:17; 2 Tim. 3:16).

Christ emphasized this principle before these two disciples on their way to Emmaus, when, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27, NIV). By referring to Moses (the Pentateuch) and “all the prophets,” Jesus used in His explanation the whole Bible known at that time, the Hebrew Bible, emphasizing this principle of unity of the Scriptures.

3. The Christological principle. One reason Jesus used the whole Hebrew Bible to indicate “what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” was that all Scriptures “testify about” Him (John 5:39). The New Testament endorsed this idea by describing Christ as the fulfillment and the consummation of “the promises made to the patriarchs” (Rom. 15:8), since “all the prophets testify about him” (Acts 10:43), “for all the promises of God in Him are Yes” (2 Cor. 1:20, NKJV).

4. The principle of the salvific purpose. The Scriptures were not written just to satisfy intellectual curiosity, so we should not study them only to win a debate or to show that we have the right doctrine. By pointing out that He was the fulfillment of all the promises of the Scriptures, Christ presented Himself as the Lamb of God who is able to save. The revelation of His salvation is the overall purpose of Scripture and is the foundational interpretive idea as we study.

By using the right principles of prophetic interpretation, Jesus wanted the two men on the road to Emmaus to overcome their spiritual discouragement and go on to rejoice in the good news of a risen Christ who overcame death and brings eternal life. He achieved His goal, since, after the Bible study, they admitted: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).

By following these principles established by Christ, we will not only understand the biblical truths but also let Him light our hearts with the salvation that the Scriptures themselves affirm He came to give us.

*Unless otherwise noted, Bible texts in this article are from the New International Version.

 †Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version.

Christ Himself established the supremacy of the Bible over tradition, and other writers underscored the fact that the Scriptures have preeminence over human philosophy.

SUGGESTIONS FOR PRAYER

1. As you enter into Bible study using Jesus’ principles of Bible reading, pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal links between Scripture passages that bring godly understanding.

2. Pray for growing insight into salvation so that its meaning grows in your relationship with Jesus.

3. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a testimony of the value of the Scriptures in your life that you can share with others.

“What do you think about that woman who claims to be a prophet, whose messages are on YouTube?” an apprehensive brother blurted out while I was greeting church members after the worship service one Sabbath morning.

“To be honest, I’ve never heard of her,” I replied. “Let me watch the videos first, and then I’ll be able to give you a more informed response.”

After watching the videos, I discerned that by all accounts, the woman was not a true prophet. (YouTube has enabled greatly expanded visibility for self-proclaimed prophets.) What drives a person to assert that they have received prophetic messages from God? More important, how can the church assess whether someone has actually received prophetic messages from God? And if they receive those messages, does it make them prophets immediately?

On the one hand, we should keep in mind that God still wants to communicate with us through prophets. The apostle Paul recommends: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:19-21). We make a serious mistake if we disregard the true prophetic message, either the one that God has conveyed to us through the prophets of old or the one that God wants to communicate to His people at the end of time.

On the other hand, Christ warned about the rise of false prophets: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matt. 7:15). They would also aim to deceive even the elect just before the Second Coming (Matt. 24:24). That’s why John’s advice is very clear: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

Tests of the Prophets

What, then, are the marks of a true prophet of God? The Bible shows that the rising-of-false-prophets phenomenon is not unique to contemporary Christianity. It had already manifested itself among the people of Israel in the days of Jeremiah (Jer. 14:14). Jeremiah’s contemporaries were instructed to use the filter of fulfilled prophecies as a test for a genuine prophet: “But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true” (Jer. 28:9; see Deut. 18:21, 22).

Bear in mind that the ministry of a prophet encompasses much more than foretelling the future, and that the principle of conditional prophecy establishes that a change in conditions or in relationships can also imply a change in the predicted future (see Jer. 18:7-10), as happened with Jonah’s prediction about the destruction of Nineveh.

Another test element concerns the internal coherence of the prophetic message. A system of revealed truths consists of a chain of related messages. The same Spirit revealed all the prophetic messages in the canon of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16). Therefore, every new message must be in harmony with the truths previously revealed: “Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” (Isa. 8:20). Christ Himself appealed to “all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27) from the past to show that His message as a prophet and His sacrifice as Messiah were truthful and the prophecies were correctly fulfilled.

Certainly, truth is progressive (new truth is revealed over time), and later prophets add ideas and details to the truths already revealed by earlier prophets, but in no way can the new messages contradict the messages given in the past.

While it is true that what counts is the message, not the messenger, and the prophets are but human beings with all their weaknesses and limitations, Christ calls on us to see the fruit in the life of an alleged prophet when judging their authenticity: “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. . . . Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matt. 7:16-20).

Although sometimes it takes time, a ravenous wolf will sooner or later show its fangs through its mild sheep disguise.

Of course, every prophet has to be Christ-centered, confess the divine-human nature of Christ, and exalt His sacrifice for humanity: “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:2, 3).

Other signs of a true prophet might include the timely nature of their messages (2 Kings 6:10-12); the practical nature of their messages (as opposed to abstractions and generalizations); the fruit in the lives of those who follow their messages; and receiving the revelations through dreams and visions (Num. 12:6). However, we do well to remember that passing the acid test in any or a few of these signs does not make someone a true prophet, just as the divine vision that King Nebuchadnezzar received did not make him a prophet in the whole dimension of this ministry.

The Price of Being a True Prophet

During the years that we have served in the South American Spanish Publishing House we have received more than a dozen manuscripts containing alleged prophetic messages for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Some were sent to us just to evaluate their content. Others came with the supposed divine order to publish them immediately. Being denied that possibility, a number of people condemned us to eternal damnation for not complying with their directive.

We have found out that most of these alleged prophets have something in common: an almost desperate desire to be acknowledged as prophets. Yet when we examine the experience of the biblical prophets, we see that things are the other way around: many of them resisted accepting the call (Jer. 1:6; Isa. 6:5; Ex. 4:10-15), or asked for countless proofs that they should accept that call (Judges 6). The main reason is that, typically, a prophet is unwelcome (Jer. 20:2; 1 Kings 18). The “greatest” of all prophets ended up with his head on a silver platter (Matt. 11:11; 14:1-12). These experiences have taught us to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1), especially when the alleged prophets insist they be acknowledged as messengers of God.

Every falsification implies the existence of something genuine. In fact, the more sophisticated the counterfeit, the more evidence it gives of the value of the authentic version that this counterfeit wants to supplant. That is why Satan tries to supplant true prophets: he is aware of the value of true divine messages. Let’s test the spirits, but let’s not stifle the voice of the Spirit. 

*Bible texts in this article are from the New International Version.

The same Spirit revealed all the prophetic messages in the canon of Scripture; every new message must be in harmony with the truths previously revealed.

SUGGESTIONS FOR PRAYER

1. As you hear messages that come from various people who claim to speak for God, plead with Him to help you be discerning about what they say.

2. Pray for the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit before aligning yourself with any human being who speaks biblical messages.

3. Lift up a prayer to God when “new truth” comes to your attention, and examine it with pleas for the Holy Spirit to show you what is His truth. Allow for the possibility that He does not affirm what you think.

God Wants to Send You a Message

Imagine for a moment that you have never heard about Christianity. Suddenly you come across a book on the street. You pick it up and it just says “Holy Bible” on the cover—nothing about its author. Who wrote it?

The first thing I do when I pick up a book, other than reading the title, is to look for its author. Having worked in the publishing field, I know exactly where to find this information: on the copyright page. But surprise! When you open the “Holy Bible,” the information about the Bible author is not there.

What should the first-time reader—the one who approaches the Bible for the first time—assume? Who wrote it? How did it come to us? Who put it together? Of course, even a layperson in religious matters knows that Christians claim the Bible had its origin in God Himself. Does that mean the Bible as we know it today fell from heaven? Does God have “secretaries” or editors? Was it written by God or by human beings?

A key decision we must make when approaching the phenomenon of the Bible is to determine whether we will analyze it from viewpoints that are alien to it, or give priority to the way in which it defines itself. For us to gather its meaning, it would not be fair on the book and its author (or authors) to disregard what the Bible says about itself and its origin.

One of the most prolific writers in the Bible, the apostle Paul, bluntly noted: “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17)1.

In the same vein, the apostle Peter states: “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19-21).

This biblical self-witness affirms that the Scriptures are “inspired” by God. The prophets spoke as they were “being inspired” by the Holy Spirit. 

These two Bible passages contain a wealth of in-depth information about the origin and nature of the Bible. They state (1) that the Scriptures had their origin in God, and He is the one who takes the lead in revealing Himself in communicating with human beings; (2) that revelation occurs through the phenomenon of “inspiration” (Greek: theopneustos); and (3) that this phenomenon applies to the entire Bible.

When we consider these verses about the origin of the Bible, it is important for us to keep in mind both what they affirm and what they do not. While the emphasis is on God being the author of the Bible, the passages do not assert that He is the writer. The writers, “holy men of God,” were those who recorded the revelation under divine “inspiration.”

So the apostle Peter clearly states that although human beings are the physical agents of the Scriptures, the origin of revelation—the source of the content that is found in the Scriptures—is God Himself. Human activity takes part in the process, but it is not the source from which the explanations, expositions, or interpretations contained in the Scriptures emerge.

How Inspiration Happens

The question remains: How should we understand the relationship between the divine Author and human writers? What part does each of these actors play? How was this process of revelation embodied in the Scriptures?

Even a superficial approach to the Bible as a book is enough for a reader to realize that the writing of the Bible was not a monolithic phenomenon that developed in a short time and in the same way throughout. On the contrary, the Bible, as it has come to us, is the result of about 40 writers who left their testimony over 15 centuries in three different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. A more scholarly approach would show that the many literary styles correlate with the number of authors and the diversity of cultures represented.

So then, how was the Bible put together?

The verses we have briefly analyzed (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21) categorically state that God “inspired” the Scriptures. This term, however, is too broad to articulate an explanation of how the divine method to communicate the will of God in writing works in practice.

Considering the statements of Scripture itself—the Bible in its written form—scholars have tried to understand how the phenomenon of inspiration works. Although as Seventh-day Adventists we reject the theory of mechanical or verbal inspiration (we do not believe that every word of Scripture was dictated by the Holy Spirit), we do believe that the process of revelation and inspiration influenced the words of the prophets. The Holy Spirit guided the prophets in the writing process, ensuring that the prophets’ own words expressed authoritatively and reliably the message they received. Therefore, “words are intrinsic to the process of revelation and inspiration.”2

In fact, God guided the writers themselves, who in turn expressed the divine revelation in their own words. Consequently, the way the biblical writers expressed themselves—the words chosen to convey the divine message—were their own choice, guided by the Holy Spirit. In other words, the writers of the Bible were the scribes of God, not His pens.

While biblical writers used the “imperfect” vehicle of human language, the Word of God is the supreme, authoritative, and infallible revelation of God’s will. Thus, the imperfect human vehicle communicates the truth. However, in the same way that the divine-human nature of Christ is indivisible, also the content and the vehicle cannot be separated in the Bible; it is impossible. In this divine-human phenomenon, God generates information and guides the writing process without nullifying any human individuality or ability, but He makes sure that the result of the whole process is reliable and true to His purpose.

[Pull Quote]

The way the biblical writers expressed themselves—the words chosen to convey the divine message—were their own choice, guided by the Holy Spirit.

SUGGESTIONS FOR PRAYER

1. Pray for insight into the various parts of the Bible and what God wishes to give you from its many parts to increase your understanding.

2. Ask for trust and discernment in the inspiration process through which the Scriptures were given to us.

3. Praise God for the variety of messages given to us in His Word, including parables, proverbs, poems, and prophecies.

(Endnotes)

                                    ¹Bible texts credited to NRSV are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright ý 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission.

                                    ² Raoul Dederen, “Toward a Seventh-day Adventist Theology of Revelation-Inspiration,” in North American Bible Conference 1974 (Silver Spring, Md: North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, 1974), p. 10.