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Commentary on "Personal Evangelism and Witnessing"

NICOLE STEVENSON

 

Day 1: Sabbath Afternoon, May 5, 2012 - Introduction

 

Overview

Today’s lesson introduces the topic of this weeks study. The objective of the weeks lesson is to review “biblical examples of networking' for Adventist evangelism while considering their connectedness to Jesus and personal influences on those close to them.

The author states that while many will hear 'the good news about Jesus' through a local SDA church's evangelism efforts, the work of the individual members significantly determines the outcome of the corporate church programs. The author writes that those who are 'under the power' of the Holy Spirit are most influential 'in leading people to give their hearts to Christ.'

'Key Thought' for the week: 'Those who have the joy of assurance of salvation will want to lead others to experience the same.'

 

Observation

We will begin this weeks commentary by clarifying a few key items which will make the erroneous teachings through out the week easier to see as we move through the lesson. Of first importance is scriptural clarification of what the gospel is. Following this we will briefly examine the gospel according to the Seventh-day Adventist organization. Next we will look at what scripture says the church is and we will examine the markings of false churches. Finally we will look briefly at the 'Key Thought' for the week in light of the gospel according to Seventh-day Adventism.

 

The Gospel According to Scripture

The most concise definition of the gospel in scripture comes from 1 Corinthians 15:1-5.

'Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you… For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.'

The following passages of scripture help unpack what the above text means for us:

'…Christ died for our sins…' (1 Corinthians 15:3)

'God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.' (2 Corinthians 5:21)

'For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith… It was to show his righteousness at the present time so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.' (Romans 3:23-26)

'Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this faith in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.' (Romans 5:1-2)

According to scripture, the gospel is completed. All that is required for man to do is to choose to either believe in Him and be saved, or to refuse to believe and remain condemned (John 3:18). There is no other gospel by which we are saved and scripture clearly warns that we are not to add to or change the gospel as given to us by the Apostles in scripture.

'But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.' (Galatians 1:8,9)

'But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.' (2 Corinthians 3,4)

 

The Gospel according to Seventh-day Adventism

In his introduction to this quarters Adult Sabbath School Lesson, Joe A. Webb writes of the SDA organization;

'God raised up this church to proclaim 'present truth,' the three angels messages of Revelation 14:6-12.'

Lets consider what 'present truth' or 'the 3 angels message' is according to Adventist theology. Adventist doctrine asserts that Revelation 14 prophesy's of a remnant people (the Seventh-day Adventist people) who will call apostate Christians (those who worship on Sunday) out of babylon (apostate protestantism) and into commandment keeping, which they define as the keeping of the decalogue of the Mosaic covenant. The most significant aspect of this commandment keeping is the keeping of the Jewish Sabbath, which they believe acts as the seal of God for those who belong to God and will be saved from 'eternal destruction'. Seventh-day Adventists believe true christians are to vindicate God's character to watching worlds by keeping the 10 commandments. This message is also referred to by Adventists as 'the gospel in verity'. Mr. Webb writes that the reason for the Seventh-day Adventist church is to use their interpreted knowledge of scripture (derived from the teachings of E.G.W.) to, 'give those who face eternal destruction the opportunity for eternal life' (emphasis mine).

Later Mr. Webb uses the term 'present truth' synonymously with 'the gospel':

'Whether we call it 'spreading the gospel,' 'evangelizing the world,' or preaching 'present truth,' our core business is to tell the Jesus story with the intention that people will accept Him as Lord and Savior and become disciples and even disciple makers.' (emphasis mine)

Notice how Mr. Webb calls the Seventh-day Adventist message, 'the Jesus story'. According to Adventist doctrine the story of Christ's redemptive work for man was not finished the way scripture teaches. There is an ongoing story of redemption that is revealed by their 'present truth' given to them by their prophet, Ellen G. White. This is, by their very labeling, adding to the gospel of scripture.

The investigative judgement, the heart of the Adventist gospel, explains why Adventists do not believe the atonement was completed on the cross. They claim that in 1844 a great 'Investigative Judgement' of believers began. This doctrine was born out of the famous failed prophesy of William Miller's date setting.

Ellen G. White explains this Investigative Judgement in her book, The Great Controversy;

'As in typical service there was a work of atonement at the close of the year, so before Christ's work for redemption of men is completed, there is a work of atonement for the removal of sin from the sanctuary.  This is the service which began when the 2,300 days ended.  At that time, as foretold by Daniel the prophet, our high priest entered the most holy to perform the last division, of his solemn work to cleanse the sanctuary . . . in the new covenant the sins of the repentant are by faith placed upon Christ, and transferred, in fact, to the heavenly sanctuary . . . so the actual cleansing to cleanse the sanctuary. . . in the new covenant the sins of removal, or blotting out, of the sins which are there recorded.  But, before this can be accomplished, there must be an examination of the books of record to determine who, through repentance of sin and faith in Christ, are entitled to the benefits of His atonement.  The cleansing of the sanctuary therefore involves a work of investigation–a work of judgment.  Those who followed in the light of the prophetic word saw that, instead of coming to earth at the termination of the 2300 days in 1844, Christ then entered in the most holy place of the heavenly, to perform the closing work of atonement preparatory to his coming.'

This doctrine cannot be found in scripture. This is an addition to the gospel which also requires the subtraction of the truth of the finished work of Jesus Christ. The Seventh-day Adventist 'Jesus story' told through the proclaimed prophetic visions of Ellen G. White given to her by an angel from heaven alter and add to the gospel of Jesus Christ according to scripture. Seventh-day Adventist leaders venerate her teachings, writings, and visions with scripture allowing for her substantiated errors by claiming that even the word of God is infallible, but not inerrant.

I would like to remind you of this passage in Galatians that we looked at above.

'But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.' (Galatians 1:8,9)

 

The Church According to Scripture

The greek word that scripture translates as church is 'ecclesia' which literally means, 'out-called.' In scripture, the church is made up of all who name the name of Jesus and make up the body of Christ. While today there are different denominations of Christianity that adhere to different traditions within the faith, true Christians stand on the same foundational gospel of Jesus Christ according to scripture, and recognize each other as brothers and sisters. Therefore, the 'out-called' are those who have been called by the Father and brought to life through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ when they place their faith in Him and His completed work of our redemption.

Since the church is simply made up of the body of Christ (born again believers), in order to understand what the church is we have to know what a born again believer is. Lets look quickly at what scripture says concerning the original state of man and the transformation of the born again believer.

State of Man: All mankind are objects of wrath, born in sin with a dead spirit, enemies of God and condemned to hell. No matter ones efforts to be or do good, all fall short of the glory of God. (Eph. 2:1-3; Gen 2:17; Gen. 3:7; Romans 5:10; John 3:18; Romans 3:23).

Born Again Believer: Someone who has heard and accepted the scriptural gospel of Jesus Christ and through the gift of saving faith in Him he repents and is born from above, included in Christ, and sealed by the Holy Spirit who indwells believers and never leaves them (Ephesians 1:13,14; Ephesians 2:8; John 3:5,6; and Ezk. 36:26,27; John 14:6 ). Christian's are adopted children of God (Romans 8:16), and are transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of God's beloved son the moment of new birth ( Colossians 1:13,14). When a believer is born from above he is a new creation, the old has passed away which means this transaction is non-refundable (2 Corinthians 5:17)! This new creation we become in Christ Jesus is not of our own doing or the doing of others but is the work of God (John 1:12-13; Ezk. 36:26, 1 Peter 1:3; John 14:16).

All who have been born from above and included in the kingdom of God are those who make up the church (Eph. 1:22,23).

 

The Markings of False Churches

There are several marks of a false church. I share some of them here followed by either an official SDA quote or a short statement of how I see these markings apply to Seventh-day Adventism.

The first we will look at is radical exclusivism. C. Michael Patton of Credo House Ministries writes;

'Radical Exclusivism is evidenced by those churches who claim that it is only in their denomination or tradition that salvation can be found. They have all the right answers, right practices, and right ordinances/sacraments. Once this is claimed then the institution itself becomes the determining factor of salvation.' (http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2007/09/theology-unplugged-what-is-the-true-church-5/)

Seventh-day Adventist president Ted Wilson;

'With the power of His truth, God has carved out of this chaotic world the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We are to be a peculiar people, God's remnant people, to lift up Christ, His righteousness, His three angels' messages of Revelation 14, and His soon coming…As Bible believing Christians living in the last days of earth's history, we are to be what the apostle Peter called 'a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.' As God's remnant people identified in Revelation 12:17 as those 'who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ,' we have a unique message of hope and a mandate to proclaim God's grace to the world. In the seventh volume of the Testimonies we read, 'Seventh-day Adventists have been chosen by God as a peculiar people, separate from the world… He has made them His representatives and has called them to be ambassadors for Him in the last work of salvation…The observance of the Sabbath is not only a sign of His creatorship in the beginning but will be THE sign of God's people in the last days in contrast to those with the mark of the beast representing an attempt to keep holy a day which God has not set apart as holy..'

A ministry of New Zealand called, 'Truth Watch' ((http://www.truthwatch.info/index.php) defines false churches/religions/cults as having the following characteristics:

 

1) A lack of historical perspective

'…Some groups appearing on the scene make the bold assertion that they alone know the truth, and that everyone should follow them…'

See Ted Wilson quote above.

 

2) A distorted view of Scripture

'The false church will distort the meaning of the Bible although claiming to believe faithfully in it. Often adding to it and placing alongside the Bible some other 'writing' that is claimed as vitally significant and equally authoritative…The fact that so many today are biblically illiterate accounts for much of the confusion. Some groups convince their followers that they are simply spectators who should turn up every week, pay for that privilege and sit down and listen to a fresh 'revelation' from God.'

'…As Bible believing Christians living in the last days of earth's history…' Ted Wilson

'Consequently, we express our gratitude to God for His gracious gift in the prophetic ministry of Ellen G White. We call upon Seventh-day Adventists everywhere to prayerfully study her messages and benefit from the inspiration and instruction found there. We encourage the teachers and administrators of our educational institutions and the leaders of our health-care facilities and publishing houses to review her counsels for their areas of service. We urge pastors to make use of these writings in their sermon preparation and in their planning with the members for the mission of their churches. We appeal to Church administrators at every level to exert their influence in affirming the importance of these writings for the Church and to continue efforts to make these writings available to church members at affordable cost. And we affirm our commitment to 'believe His prophets' (2 Chronicles 20:20), that we may prosper in fulfilling our mission to the world and thus hasten the coming of Jesus.' (http://adventist.org/beliefs/other-documents/spirit-of-prophecy.html)

 

3) A tendency to major on minors

'Some groups that do not represent historic Christianity are so busy…trying to prove they alone are right, that they lose sight of the overall perspective of biblical revelation. Beware of the false church that gets 'hung up' on minor matters, and tries to impress others with its superior knowledge or ability, or attempts to convince you that you must add some work or characteristic to your faith in order to be saved.'

All one has to do is attend a Daniel and Revelation seminar put on by the Seventh-day Adventist organization to see that they believe to be the only church with the truth, the only one who sees how eschatology ties in with soteriology, and the only one who knows that Sabbath keeping is the seal that saves man. Or really, all one has to do is read the Sabbath School lessons;

'Although experts disagree on the exact number, one thing is certain: many Protestant denominations exist today. Hundreds, even thousands. Which leads to such questions as, Why the Seventh-day Adventist Church? What's our purpose? What relevance do we have? The answer is simple: God raised up this church to proclaim 'present truth,' the Three Angels' Messages of Revelation 14:6–12. Yes, a number of churches exist and many with aggressive outreach and evangelism programs too. But, at last count, there's only one church specifically proclaiming the Three Angels' Messages of Revelation 14. That church is ours–and that's why we're here. Period.' Joe A. Webb in the introduction to this quarters Sabbath School Lesson Guide.

 

4) A return to past errors

'Many false teachers revive doctrinal errors that have long ago been renounced by the church and mix them with their own beliefs. They may, for example, reopen the old Arian controversy that claims that Jesus is not an eternal but a created being. Or they may revert back to the legalists and say salvation must be partly earned. Or they might distort again the truth about God's triune nature or question the humanity of Christ.'

It is no secret that the Seventh-day Adventist pioneers were Arian or semi-Arian for over 50 years! This organization is not built on truth, it is built on heresy and deception and false prophesies and has been morphed into a more evangelical like church through out its existence.

We will see through out the week how even though the lesson is supposed to be covering personal evangelism, the goal of the writer is to use members as recruiters in their personal lives for corporate evangelistic efforts at the local church level. These evangelistic efforts are clearly to bring people into their special knowledge.

 

Key Thought

'Those who have the joy of assurance of salvation will want to lead others to experience the same.'

In Christ's Object Lessons, p. 155, Ellen G. White says:

'Those who accept the savior, however sincere their conversion, should never be taught to say or to feel that they are saved. This is misleading. Everyone should be taught to cherish hope and faith; but even when we give ourselves to Christ and know that He accepts us, we are not beyond the reach of temptation….Those who accept Christ, and in their first confidence say, 'I am saved,' are in danger of trusting to themselves….'

Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 314:

'No sanctified tongue will be found uttering these words ['I am saved'] till Christ shall come, and we enter in through the gates into the city of God….As long as man is full of weakness—for of himself he cannot save his soul—he should never dare to say, 'I am saved'.'

I cannot help but wonder how this statement could be inserted into an Adventist Sabbath School lesson when their 'spirit of prophesy' has spoken otherwise. This type of cherry picking from their prophetess is one example of a double minded institution motivated by public relations. Can they not see that the idea of being assured of ones salvation falls apart when one cannot know if they are saved until Jesus returns and the great Investigative Judgement has ended?

What does scripture say about the assurance of salvation?

'Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.' 1 John 5:10-13

 

Summary Points

  1. The gospel according to scriptures as taught by the apostles is complete and must not be altered or added to, even if seeming to come from an angel!
     
  2. The Seventh-day Adventist gospel alters the gospel of scripture by removing the finality of Christ's finished work of redemption and replacing it with the investigative judgement (one of many ways in which they alter it) and adds to it by creating the Great Controversy world view as taught by their prophetess Ellen G. White.
     
  3. Seventh-day Adventism has several clear and published markings of a false church.
     
  4. It is impossible to experience the assurance of salvation and believe in the doctrine of the Investigative Judgement.

 

GO TO DAY 2

 

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